Saturday, October 2, 2021

Project Report - 2 October 2021

With G233 returned to steam for the 150 years of Railways in Western Australia celebrations in August, work would recommence on S549 with the vision of having her also in steam in 2021 for Rail Heritage WA Railfest to be held on 10 October 2021.

With extensive preparation works in the weeks prior, finally a fire was lit in the firebox of S549 on 2 October 2021 for the purpose of certifying the boiler. All systems were checked and found in good order with only minor adjustments required.

To be present when a locomotive like S549 comes alive is nothing short of extraordinary, with the different sounds, the smells and sense of energy. They truly do come alive. 

S549 is alive, steam "letting off" from one of the three safety valves

Made in Midland - S549

Opening the scum cock to remove any contaminates at the base of the firebox water space around the foundation ring.

Well done to all those involved with the project over the last seven years, unachievable without your help. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Project Report - 2020

A bit of focus would be taken away from S549 during 2020 and reallocated (rightly so) onto 122 year old G233 Leschenault Lady in readiness for the 150 years of rail in Western Australia celebrations to be held in 2021.

Nearing completion - August 2020

All she really needs now is a belly full of water and a cosy hot fire to make her alive again.!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Project Report - 2019

S549 - Under New Management

With progress on S549 as good as stalled in 2018; mainly due to the uncertainty of running again on the mainline, a new leader in Brayden Hesford would take over to ensure the project would eventually be completed. Although progress was still slow, it was however still going forward and strong.

Clothing complete, handrails fitted, pipework installed

Backhead clothing complete, valves & pipework in progress of fitment

Superheater elements being tested in readiness for refitting

Brayden fitting the superheater elements
All bar two superheater elements fitted

Fire grate complete

Starting to look like a complete locomotive

Tender is removed from the engine and placed outside for a high pressure wash

Monday, December 31, 2018

Project Report - 2018

 More progress, clothing almost complete.

December 2018

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Project Report - 2017

The momentum on S549 slowed down a fair bit during 2017 as other priorities took hold.

The fitting of the firebox clothing continues, this time inside the cab.

The new upper backhead sheet is trial fitted - January 2017

Slow progress - upper & lower sheets trial fitted - July 2017

The barrel sheets are progressively fitted
July 2017

August 2017

December 2017

Work inside the firebox
The brick arch is placed back into position - October 2017

The refitting of the fire grate is commenced - November 2017

Tender Clean Out
Drums of ash & waste removed from the coal space

The end result - July 2017

Friday, December 9, 2016

Dowerin Railway Centenary - 10 Years Later

 Dowerin 100 Years of Rail Celebration
Photo - Phil Melling
Its hard to believe that 10 years ago, S549 traveled from Bassendean to Dowerin to help celebrate 100 years of railways in Dowerin, where have all those years ago.?? It all resulted from an inquiry by Greg Ross, the CEO of the Dowerin Field Days Committee, as to the possibility of us being able to supply a steam loco for the event.

The weekend was a huge success and went off without a hitch and I'm sure for most that attended over those couple of days know very little of the amount of work that went into the S to get it there. I'll try and describe below of what lead up to getting her to a condition in which she could travel safely and the stresses on the team also, it was a hard road but the team needs to be congratulated for the end result. This is all based on my memory so excuse me if I omit any detail, it has been ten years. Also an outline of what she and the train did during the visit.

The Lead Up
Five weeks out from the event, word was out that the Shire of Dowerin wanted S549 at Dowerin to help in the celebrations. At first, doubts as to whether there was enough time considering all that needed to be done on the engine to ensure it would not fail en-route to Dowerin especially in the Avon Valley which sees all the traffic to and from the Eastern States, heaven forbid if something went wrong up there holding up trains with precious cargo.
A task list was quickly drawn up noting all the major and minor works required, it went something like this;
  • Boiler
    • Leaking boiler tube; one of the small tubes had a hole in it which allowed boiler water and steam to escape and run backwards to the firebox or into the smokebox - not good.!
    • The boiler had ran out of certification and had to be renewed. 
    • Boiler additives (Soda Ash and Tannin) also needed to be procured.
    • Spark Arrester and Ash Pan repairs.
  • Connecting Rods - As the locomotive was to be towed to Dowerin and not in steam, the connecting rods were to be removed so the pistons would not be working without lubrication. 
  • Cartazzi Axle Box Bearing - The drivers side axle bearing that sits below the cab had ran hot during S549's visit to the Midland Workshops two years earlier to help celebrate the centenary of this facility. The condition of it was unknown and could be a show stopper.;postID=7108504077759938498;onPublishedMenu=template;onClosedMenu=template;postNum=15;src=postname
  • Axle Box Lubrication Pads - The locomotive axles are lubricated by a pad that sits in a oil bath, it is extremely important to ensure they are in good condition as if the axle doesn't get lubricated then the bearing gets hot and cause damage to the engine.
Cartazi Axle Box Bearing
Although all the tasks above were important, one could have been the show stopper, the cartazzi bearing, if it had ran hot enough to damage the white metal or even worse damage the journal surface on the axle then four weeks would simply not be enough time to rectify the problem. 

A call was made to Murray Willmott to see if he wouldn't mind giving assistance in removing and inspecting the bearing, thankfully he agreed. Murray had worked around steam locomotives for a large percentage of his working life so his experience and knowledge in this field was priceless. He advised of the tooling required, mainly a hydraulic jack big enough to lift the axle box and compressing the spring above it and taking the locomotive weight off the bearing.

Hydraulic jacks were borrowed from work and we all met at the museum on Saturday, 11th of November to start work in preparing the Sammy. A large hole was dug under the axle box, a timber block positioned at the base of the hole and the jack then positioned in-between the block and the axle box. Slowly but surely the axle box was raised giving clearance to remove the troublesome bearing. Murray removed the bearing, turned it over and then our hearts sank, the bearing had a large section of white metal missing (had melted away due to limited lubrication), we felt that the show was over, S549 would not be going to Dowerin.!! We simply did not have enough time to arrange for the bearing to be repaired.

L to R Mike, Jeff and Murray remove the troublesome bearing.
We were pretty guttered by the news, but we realised that there was anther S class down at East Perth Terminal and if the bearing on her was close in size to S549 then there may just be a chance that all is not lost. Jeff and myself headed down to see S542 "Bakewell" the following Saturday and after some careful negotiations with the Terminals security officers, they allowing us to remove the bearing. We carried out the same operation in removing the bearing as we had done on S549. S542's bearing looked good, we replaced it with S549's bearing and headed back to Bassendean.

Murray commenced fitting the bearing the following day; it was found that S542 had a larger diameter journal so a fair amount of scraping of the white metal on the bearing was required to make it fit. A bluing paste is rubbed onto the axle journal and the bearing is then placed in position, it is then moved from side to side allowing the blue paste to mark the bearing surface. The bearing is then removed and inspected, the contact surface will show bluing, a perfect bearing should have a wide strip of blue along the crown of the bearing. S542's started off with a very narrow strip so hence some of the white metal needed to be scraped away over the following couple of weeks until Murray was happy with the end result.

As mentioned previously, one of the small boiler tubes was leaking, at first it was thought to just replace it however a suitable tube could not be sourced and even worse expanders were not available to install it. Doug, the boiler inspector gave directions on how to plug the tube, this consisted of a tapered plug for each end of the tube and a connecting rod fitted between them stopping them from simply falling out. A local machinist was contracted to manufacture two sets of plugs (1 set as a spare) and these were then fitted.

Doug returned to the museum on the first day of December and carried out the boiler inspection. This included a visual internal inspection and after sealing the boiler up, a steam test to ensure all the equipment was in good working order. She passed with flying colors.

Repairs were also carried out on the ash pan to ensure hot embers could not fall from the locomotive causing fires. The spark arrestor in the smokebox was also repaired ensuring any sparks would be reduced in coming out of the chimney. Both of these jobs were carried out by Roy and Tony.

Axle Box Lubrication Pads
As seen by the damage on the cartazi bearing, without proper lubrication to the axle can cause enormous damage to the locomotive. So all the lubrication pads were needed to be removed, cleaned and inspected prior to the locomotive going out on traffic. Jeff volunteered to crawl under the locomotive and retrieve the pads. When I say volunteered, I think he was the only one that would fit.! It is a dirty, stinking, uncomfortable job but it still needed to be done. Once all the pads had been removed, several needed to be repaired prior to replacing them.

Connecting Rods
It was decided early in the piece that the S would be towed in light steam so the removal of the rods was not required. A huge relief once this was confirmed.

Whilst the loco team was busy getting S549 in order, others at Bassendean were also busy in making sure the event was successful. The carriage team was busy getting the rolling stock in operational condition, this included the reconditioning of brake cylinders, body timberwork repaired and batteries charged to ensure the train had lighting. Then there was the provisioning of tools, lubricants, spares and the like. The "Heritage Train" as such had not run for decades, so the whole "travelling kit" had to be rounded up and re-assembled.

While the administrative arrangements (and battles) were mainly delft with by Greg Ross and ARG, the locomotive and coaches would need inspections to ensure they were safe to travel. Innumerable hurdles were jumped along the road to making this happen, not the least of which was gaining permission from FESA and other authorities to run steam through the Avon Valley and into the wheatbelt during the fire ban season. ARG came on board in a big way and were responsible for all the train movements, with the "Sammy" moving to Dowerin and return under steam but being towed by a DB class diesel.

If I remember correctly, the red tape was finally cut through only days before she was to travel. A credit for all those pushing the boundaries to make it happen.

Thursday, 7 December 2006
The day commenced with the lighting up of the S class, the ARG steam crew arrived later in the afternoon and moved her under her own power out of the museum and onto the UGL siding coupling up to the carriages already in position. DBZ2313 'Shire of Dowerin' arrived mid afternoon and coupled up to the front of the S, all was now set for a departure at 6.18pm.

Quite a crowd had arrived to see the train leave, and right on schedule and with a blast of the whistle the train proceeded on its way across Railway Parade on its journey to Dowerin. 

On its way - Leaving the museum crossing Railway Parade
 The first stop would be Midland station to check all the bearings, once all was seen to be OK the train again got on its way up the Avon Valley. The train would travel up the Avon Valley at a slow pace, around 30 kilometers per hour but it may have been even slower.

Leaving Midland - Courtesy Perth Trains

Passing through Brigadoon
Murray and myself decided to catch up with the train at West Toodyay just to make sure all was good with the locomotive bearings. I can't recall exactly what time the train arrived but it would have been around 1045pm. It was quite a sight seeing the train appear out of the darkness and pull up in the still of the night. The bearings were behaving themselves so it left us and headed towards Avon Yard.

We followed the train onto Avon Yard, S549 would be watered and oiled here and also the crew would change over. We left the train at this stage and headed back to Perth. A Flat-top was later added to the consist to serve as the stage for the Saturday evening concert in Dowerin, and the train departed Avon at 0400 Friday, stopping at points between there and Dowerin for further checks. The train arrived at Dowerin some hours later and was stabled in the town siding.

Saturday, 9 December 2006
Jeff was the first to arrive at the S class and proceeded to reignite the fire in Greenmount. The crew from Thursday night arrived later in the morning and prepared the engine for traffic. Greenmount would then run up and down the yard solo for the majority of the day to show off her good looks. Great to see her out by herself again.
S549 Greenmount cruising past Dowerin Station - Philippa Rogers 

The S was finally put to bed later that afternoon. Later that evening a street party type festival was put on by the Shire of Dowerin, to celebrate 100 years of rail to Dowerin, with speeches and other formalities and followed by a free Neil Diamond tribute concert.  

Sunday, 10 December 2016
Today was all about giving the visitors to the event an opportunity to ride on a train; many, especially local children had never been on a train before, especially one hauled by a steam locomotive. S549 'Greenmount'/DBZ2313 'Shire of Dowerin' top n tailed a rake of three WAGR coaches on four or five trips from Dowerin about 1.5-2km up the line and back again. Each trip made two runs up and down the line.

Hats off to ARG/Westnet Rail/ARHS/Dowerin Shire for making the event happen, but it was noted at the speeches that the whole event would not have happened without the Minister for Planning & Infrastructure Alannah MacTiernan 'pulling the necessary strings'. After lunch Alannah climbed in the cab of P2516 (after being made to put on safety boots and hi-vis vest), posed for some photos and then went for a ride to Goomalling (light engine).

Alannah giving a wave on her way to Goomalling - Trains of WA
ARG also brought a spotless P2516 'Shire of Coorow' and their driving simulator. Also the free 'ARG a QR Company' frisbees, pens, stubbie holders, baseball caps, rulers, bottle openers, pen knives, drink bottles went down well.

On one of the many small trips - Phil Melling
The ARG crew for the day, Paul and Roy
Its hard to describe the atmosphere that was in the town that day, but what I think lines up is "What a great day was had by all".

Monday, 11 December 2016
Whilst most headed back to Perth on Sunday afternoon, Jeff stayed overnight and prepared the locomotive to return to Perth. In the afternoon The train was moved down to the Dowerin grain silo sidings and assembled into order for the return trip.

The Sammy and train left Dowerin at about 8pm on Monday night. Arrival at Avon was at midnight, after letting Northam know in no uncertain terms she was passing through.

                             Waiting for clearance of the passing grain train prior to departure.

The DB went down to loco for a quick drink, the Sammy dropped off the QUA flat top and then was spun on the turntable. Water was then taken, bearings on loco and coaches checked and oiled, crew changed and the DB placed back at the lead.

The train left Avon about 01 30. It had all of the lights in the coaches and vans turned on
, so it looked much more like a passenger train as I paced it s way across to Toodyay.

We got her in the gate at Bassendean at 04 20, and after shunting and putting the Sammy to bed the DB left the Museum property at 05 45 and got away onto the mainline about 20 minutes later.

It is amazing what can happen when everybody gets together with a common goal and no matter what hurdles are thrown in front of them, and believe me there were more than what is written above, they achieve success, this is a classic example. 

  • Dowerin Shire The spotlight should be on Greg Ross from Dowerin who had the drive and energy to push through the many obstacles. Also generously provided accommodation and meals for the RHWA personnel who assisted at the event.
  • ARG were terrific throughout the weekend, and we express our thanks to the many ARG staff who were involved in the event, from the planning stages through to the steam crews from Avon who couldn't wipe the smiles off their faces all weekend.
  • Dept of Planning and Infrastructure -Jo Stafford from the who worked tirelessly behind the scenes co-ordinating communication between the authorities involved and ironing out the wrinkles.
  • The many people that provided snippets of the above being photo's and text on the Web, hope you don't mind me including these in the above, please leave a comment if you want anything removed or credited.
  • Last but by far not least, the RHWA volunteers and friends who ensured the S class and rollingstock was in a good and safe condition to travel to Dowerin and return without incident. It was bloody hard work with sleepless nights but in the end extremly rewarding.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Project Report - 3 December 2016

Over the last few weeks, the team has been extremely busy manufacturing the new clothing panels for the firebox, some may refer the clothing as the boiler cladding. We are about a third of the way through this task but as you can see be the following photo's the workmanship is first class by the team.
Firebox crinoline bars and angles in situ - the before shot.
Alec and Kirk processing a component.
Alec and Kirk again cutting a component to shape. Note the personal protective equipment being worn by both.
John and Alec fitting one of the large side panels.
The after shot, panels fitted with minor fine tuning required.
The original panel (manufactured in the 50's or 60's) is fitted to the new crinoline bars and then measurements are taken of the differences to the alignment of the crinoline bars. The original panel is then fitted on top of a new sheet, the differences are then transferred to the new sheet and then the panel is cut out. The new sheet is then fitted to the boiler and the bolt, handrail, mounting holes are transferred to it for drilling. Each sheet is put onto and removed from the boiler around half a dozen times for fitting to ensure the accuracy of the new sheet is the best possible we can achieve. The sheeting is the clothing and I feel we are tailoring a new suit....

We have decided to outsource the rolling of the upper side sheets (for the exposed or grey area in the photo above) as the rollers in possession of RHWA are not wide enough, hopefully this wont take too long so we can finish the sides.

Check back to the Blog next weekend as there will be a interesting chapter on S549's history, all shall be revealed....