Obtaining a coal supply
Until now, the Hunslet “Torpedo” had been steamed using cut firewood obtained locally, split as required to be more manageable for the firebox. A very small amount of coal had been obtained last year from the Illawarra Light Railway at Albion Park on the South Coast, followed subsequently by a slight larger amount from the Central West. This latter coal had been stored in my trailer… but unfortunately, my gardening contractor (not realising what the coal as for), subsequently used the trailer to move soil and waste around my yard. Despite sieving and what-ever, the coal could not be adequately separated from the soil and garden waste and so “Torpedo” steamed very poorly.
Although Australia is a coal-rich country exporting millions of tonnes annually, it is no longer a simple matter of purchasing lump coal locally for domestic use. In years gone by, every town had its local Coal and Coke merchant, while in mining towns where the miners always had their own personal supply, there was a constant aroma of burning coal from chimneys all around the town. Twenty years ago, when I resided at Loftus (in southern Sydney), lump coal or run-of-mine coal in smaller amounts (such as trailer loads) could be purchased from a mine at Coal Cliff, about 30km away. With infrequent steamings, that trailer load of coal lasted me for several years – but the Hunslet really loved it, almost coasting uphill with a firebox full of glowing-red coals. But no longer – that particular colliery has since closed, as has the adjacent coke works. Just-about all coal these days is pulverised, suited only for power station use, while steam locomotives including the Hunslet require lump coal. It is economic (if you can call $250-300 a tonne economical!) to purchase truckloads of coal for main line locomotives in 20-25 tonne lots. Earlier, I think 3801 Limited and the Rail Transport Museum used to obtain individual BCH wagon loads, but now, I believe that most is pre-bagged in loads of about a tonne for easier handling/loading use cranes.
Accordingly, on-and-off for the past year, I had been in discussion with Lachlan Valley Railway about the possibility of obtaining a ton or so of coal. Actually, more off than on!!! Initially coal was available at Cootamundra, but following the transfer of LVR’s 3237 to Goulburn and 5917 to Branxton for extended maintenance, there was no longer any left. It was thought that there was a small amount of surplus coal available to Goulburn Roundhouse, but it appears that this may have been utilised for test steaming of newly restored shed shunter 1076 (previously a Z18 class 0-6-0 tank loco). Finally, Matt has able to locate some coal still stored off site following LVR shuttles on the Richmond branch. This time, I completed purchase negotiations and with Matt offering to drive to Richmond to collect same, PHR came good with fuel costs etc to collect same.
I will now let Matt continue with the story…
Report by Matt
On Sunday afternoon 27/8, Caleb and I drove to Sydney and picked up a Ute load of coal (approximately 1.4 tonnes) which was unloaded on Monday morning.
On Tuesday 29/8 “Torpedo” was once again lit up. Steam was raised using old fence palings (we need more, please!!!) until 30psi was on the gauge – so the fire could quickly be dropped in case the regulator developed a leak or from the flange on the dome. There were no leaks so the blower was turned on and coal added to the fire. When working pressure was reached I put the engine into back gear and gingerly applied pressure to the regulator which moved freely. The repair had been successful, so a very enjoyable day of running followed, with the engine steaming freely on her new diet of Whitehaven coal.
The Fireman’s Lunch – or was it Rhys’ lunch?
Rhys had been pestering* Peter for some time about a coal fired breakfast, so at lunch time bacon, eggs and sausages were cooked on the shovel in the firebox – Rhys had his wish. The day ended on a high with a smoky spirited trip around the railway for Peter’s waiting camera.
Around 1600, the fire was dropped and following a large blow down to ensure that sludge didn’t accumulate up in the boiler, the engine was stabled.
It was a very productive 5 days on the PHR.
End of Matt’s Report
I must admit that we all enjoyed the fireman’s lunch, with all of us going back for seconds. Matt made an excellent chef, so we have booked a further similar lunch for our next light-up.
Unfortunately, a couple of kinks started to develop on the new section of track after it emerged from the house lawn, so that section had to be booked out of use until some adjustments could be made. Matt tried realigning the curve using his utility… this was not successful, so I arranged a brief return by Mario – to be covered in my next Progress Report.
Until then – Cheers,
* When reading a draft of this Report over my shoulder on my computer, Rhys claimed that he didn’t “pester” me for a coal-fired breakfast – then continued over successive days “pestering” me to change the word! So, I haven’t!!!!