Progress Report 72: Torpedo Returns to Steam!

The Short Version

Image 2022.1104: Alive again! “Torpedo” is again in steam.

After almost two years out of use owing to COVID, “Torpedo” has been steamed again, passing trials with flying colours, thanks to a number of valued supporters of Pete’s Hobby Railway.

The Longer, Detailed Version


As covered in our previous Progress Report 71, “Torpedo” (otherwise described as a 2-ft gauge 0-4-2T Hunslet steam locomotive, B/n. 1187 of 1915) underwent boiler inspection on Easter Saturday, 16th April last, receiving a clean bill of health and passed for a maximum operating pressure of 1100 kPa (or 159.5415 lbs per square inch, or close enough to 160!). Despite the steepness of the grades on PHR, we keep the operating pressure down to 130 lbs psi, which easily meets all our operating needs.

Reassembly took place slowly over the following weeks. Yours truly wire-brushed the various washout plugs clean of accumulated gunk prior to their re-installation in the same locations from which they had been removed earlier. There was some consternation as the wash-out plugs in the smoke box had been numbered 10, 11 and 12, but there were not twelve washout plugs! Only resolved after I had spent considerable time searching for the non-missing plugs! These were all reinstated by our steam fitter Bill (Matt’s dad) who fortunately resides locally in Junee.

As previously covered, Matt has relocated to Bathurst where he is fully employed driving “big” trains, while his assistant Rhys is also in full time rail employment in the Sydney area – leaving a major hole in our maintenance and restoration programme.

The fusible plug, removed for a gander by the Boiler Inspector and passed as okay for further use, was reinstalled by Lucy, Bill’s wife. Lucy is also steam orientated, having “done her time” of the Zig Zag Railway at Lithgow. Young daughter Polly at this stage is not too sure about steam locomotives, however, hopefully this will change as she gets older! She did help dad by passing over the fire-bars for refitting to the bottom of the firebox. Finally, the grate could be refitted.

Phil, also a fitter, took over the responsibility of the manufacture and fitting of a new gasket for the dome. Fortunately, I had previously purchased a supply of new gasket material which will keep PHR stocked for many, many years.

Image 2022.1012: Phil prepares the dome gasket for cutting. The bolt holes have already been marked.

Phil very carefully cut the gasket to the required circular shape and marked precisely the locations for the 22 bolts required to attach the dome to the boiler. Although not essential, I accepted a recommendation that all the existing bolts should be replaced. Fortunately suitable high-tensile bolts were available from a specialist supplier in Wagga Wagga, and for each a spring washer, a normal washer and of course a nut!

Image 2022.1094: Phil and Bill tighten the bolts to secure the dome.

Once the dome was refitted and bolted home, Ben could pay his attention to the refitting of the replacement whistle valve and whistle. The original whistle valve had broken some years ago, however had been wired up so it could still be operated until a replacement had been sourced from a steam specialist supplier in England. It was not until installation that it was found that while both were of one inch diameter thread, the valve itself was non-compatible American NPT while the rest of the fittings were English BSP thread. Fortunately, a couple of trips to another specialist supplier in Wagga Wagga with the offending non-fitting parts, finally resulted in suitable adaptor fittings. The end result doesn’t look the best, but at least “Torpedo” now has an operating whistle!

Image 2022.1101: Ben fits the offending whistle valve to the top of the dome.

Steaming! Day 1

An initial stationary steaming trial was undertaken on Sunday, 26th June. The day had dawned sunny with some cloud, but no rain.

Image 2022.1100: Light-up wood in the cab, Lucy with additional timbers in the barrow and young Polly looking after Dozer, the elderly supervising watch-dog!

Ben was on hand to take charge of the Ruston diesel, which hauled “Torpedo” from the shed to a position with the back of the locomotive over the de-ashing pit.
The fire was lit at the respectable hour of 10.45 in the morning. Josh had cut up a respectable barrow-load of light-up timbers, the side-tanks were again replenished. In the meantime, Bill was all around “Torpedo” with both square oil (for axle-boxes etc) and round oil (for cylinders and other steam-affected areas).

During the light-up lit up, a little more than half of Josh’s cut timbers were used until coal could be added. As the boiler water warmed up with a higher-than-usual water level in the boiler (just over a half-glass rather than our usual one-third), and in no-way being forced, boiling point was reached an hour and a half later, then by 12.50pm, there was 80 lbs psi on the gauge, more than sufficient for the injector to be worked to put water into the boiler.
Ahhhh! That lovely smell of burning coal. Once smelt, always sought after!

Pressure was allowed to build up until the safety valve lifted at 125 lbs, resetting at 108 lbs.

No problems were identified, apart from a couple of minor wisps which either took up with or without adjustments. Bill was more than satisfied, so the fire was dropped and the boiler allowed to cool, preparatory for running trials on the following day.

Steaming — Day 2

Monday, 27th June… Light-up took place to the same schedule, using up more than the remainder of Josh’s lighting up timbers. For the occasion, Bill had brought over a load of heavier cut timber, which was also happily devoured as the day progressed.

Image 2022.1117: Ben takes the Ruston for a light engine trip over the main line, just to ensure that the track is all still there and in operational condition! Note the depot plate attached to the cab side.

The initial steaming had been undertaken without the dome cover so that to confirm that there were no leaks – this was installed for today’s running.

Once steam was raised, Bill opened the drain cocks and slowly eased “Torpedo” back into the shed and over the inspection pit, so that the inside valve-gear could be well and truly lubricated. Once completed, “Torpedo” streamed out and on to the turntable, to be rotated one road for the departure track. Unlike on previous running days, the loco continued funnel-first around the track and up the 1 in 18 ruling grade to the truncated outer terminus.

Image 2022.1126: “Torpedo” steams out of the Shed, with the Ruston on the adjacent track.

Several light engine runs were made to the current outer dead-end, only metres away “as the crow flies” from the departure point, but several hundred metres as the rails go! Ben had abandoned “his” Ruston diesel to join Bill in the cab of the steam locomotive as second person, but was that only to keep warm next to the firebox! Despite being another sunny day, the winter air made it rather cool! Yours truly was kept more than busy recording the scene for inclusion in this Report.

Image 2022.1135: Framed under an obliging tree branch, “Torpedo” is seen running bunker first back towards the depot. Bill and Ben are in the cab.

With Bill more than satisfied, it was now time for actual load trials. Various complicated shunting manoeuvres (mostly by hand) were required to make up the test train, with two carriages located on 3 Road off the turntable and the flat wagon on 4 Road, but boxed in with the side-tip skip from Cullen Bullen, while the third passenger car (incorporating a guard’s compartment and hand-brake equipment) had been earlier shunted on to 8-Road (the extension of 2 Road on the opposite side of the turntable.

Meanwhile, the Ruston was utilised to make up the test load of three carriages and a flat wagon. These were then shunted, two vehicles at a time, on to the turntable, rotated and placed on to “Torpedo”. A couple of runs, with “Torpedo” propelling back from the outer terminus, before it was decided that “Torpedo” would haul the train out and the Ruston would bring the cars back.

Image 2022.1148: What’s missing? Clue — look at above the dome.

Eagle-eyed followers may have observed that while the whistle valve had been refitted to “Torpedo”, the whistle itself had not. We had omitted to obtain adaptor fittings for the exhaust side of the whistle valve! This had not affected the initial trials, although the sound of escaping steam when the whistle valve was operated was not exactly the same as being expelled through a proper whistle. This was resolved by another trip to Wagga on the Wednesday afternoon, with reassembly on the Friday morning as a further steaming took place.

That was not the end of the whistle affair … we have two whistle valves for the loco – one gives more of a “hoot”, while the other sounds not unlike a Victorian Railways Na class (“Puffing Billy”) whistle. I know which I prefer, however you can guess which one was fitted. This will be remedied in due course!

Steaming — Day 3

Unlike the first two days of steaming, Friday 1st July was total cloud, rather cool and with occasional light rain which got heavier as the day progressed.

Dave was on hand for some of the day, SSR having kindly provided him with a rare convenient “book-off day”. Rob was also able to drop around for a few hours, while we were also able to welcome Michael and John from the Kerosene Creek (no Facebook or web page yet!) who gave close attention to our home-made rail-bender for possible use on their track at Hartley Vale near Lithgow.

Image 2022.1228: Dave is stretched to the limit as he manually re-coals “Torpedo”.

There is little to report from today’s steaming, except to say that the heat emanating from the firebox was enticing to keep the engine in steam for several hours!

Image 2022.1232: Bill quells the raked-out hot ashes with the garden hose while Ben makes sure “Torpedo” won’t move, one hand on the hand-brake. Steam is expelled from the open drain cocks as pressure is reduced.

In due course, with Bill more than satisfied, the fire was dropped, followed by the boiler water once the pressure had dropped to zero. The Ruston was used to push “Torpedo” back to under-cover storage within the Shed on 2 Road, to await in next steaming, hopefully under warmer weather conditions.

However, before this can take place, it is desirable that some track maintenance works should be carried out, for which volunteers would be appreciated!

Image 2022.1234: It’s an eerie scene with escaping steam enveloping “Torpedo” as the boiler pressure is reduced.

I wonder when I will next smell that wonderful aroma of burning coal!
In the meantime, Ben wants to take up a small leaking in the blowdown cock, while I want to change the whistle.

Until next time — Cheers.

SM Loftus

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