6029 is owned by the Australian Railway Historical Society, ACT Division and the restoration is proudly supported by their tourist operations and by the generous donations of members and public supporters.
The society operates rail tours out of Canberra with our heritage fleet of steam and diesel locomotives and rolling stock every few weeks.
To travel in style on any of our tours, or to learn more about our collection and operations, go to Canberrarailwaymuseum.org

Apr 26, 2016

Summer Repairs

Its been a while since I have said anything here, there has been a lot happening and a few storms have been weathered...

As this is the first update for 2016, we will cover some of the work done over summer on both 6029 and 3016 at the Canberra Railway Museum.

Both 6029 and 3016 had a long list of maintenance tasks to be performed, a list that would, as often happens, challenge both available resources and available time. 3016 had developed some excessive lateral clearance in the axle boxes through years of running, was in need of some maintenance to the air compressor and also needed to have the valve motion worked on to help correct some timing issues and wear in the eccentrics. 6029 had a list of its own, including new bushes in the rear connecting rods, some upgrades to the sanding system to meet the requirements for registration by Sydney Trains, fix the bent throttle pull rod and address an issue that was making the handbrake difficult to use. Multiple other issues were identified and addressed during this period as well.

As the work required on 3016 was by far the most time consuming, one of the first tasks was to get her off the wheels and as you can imagine, that is not an easy task when you don't have a workshop equipped like a 1950's railway workshop, so it was that the loco was lifted by two mobile cranes and set back down onto timber stands in the yard made from old and new sleepers. Looking at pictures, it reminds me of the flying train in Back to the Future Pt 3....

Having the wheels out meant that Ben and his assistants could get on with re-metalling the axle boxes and arranging to have the eccentric straps closed up and re-machined to take up years of wear. Some of the pictures show the process of preparing to pour the new white-metal bearings and to say that there is an art to this kind of work is perhaps an understatement... It is certainly a skill that few have these days.

Once the white metalling was completed, the axle-boxes were sent off to be machined to finished size and while waiting for them be returned, work on 6029 was started with the rods removed from the hind engine unit, the front tank was removed to allow some lubrication issues to be addressed, a problematic injector was removed and really, that is just the beginning. The fact that Ben and some of his helpers are still standing is a testament to their dedication to the task at hand.

Many of the images here show the team at work (some over different days) as we all race the clock to have the locomotives ready for the Festival of Steam and scheduled appearances in Sydney's Central Station.

Should you be interested in travelling on any of tours please go to - canberrarailwaymuseum.org

The next installment will be some pictures and info of the Garratts first tip into Central in some 35 years, along with the 30 class at Thirlmere's Festival of Steam in March

Jun 18, 2015

Winter Safari, and getting some miles under the wheels

Its been a while since I last posted an update on what is happening with the Garratt, but you can be assured that things have certainly been happening. 

Since the first trip to Thirlmere, we have used the Garratt for a couple of trips to Bungendore, including its first night time trip at Easter, and it has had its first unassisted mainline trip from Mossvale to Goulburn and return with a train for 3801 Limited  that originated in Sydney. These trips have been used to both train crew, and progressively prove the loco, with the result of a few areas needing a little attention and improvement.

The mainline trip was a little special as the loco was towed in light steam from Canberra to Mossvale, very early in the morning by a diesel to meet the train, in order to save coal and water, allowing the whole trip to be done on one bunker of coal. Once at Mossvale, the diesel was left behind and the real work started. As the trip from Mossvale to Goulburn and return was unassisted, there was no room for error, and the Garratt proved very capable of hauling a decent rake of carriages on its own.  

Following the success of this trip, focus was turned to preparations and planning for the next big adventure, a trip that was dubbed the Winter Safari, and planned for the June long weekend here in New South Wales. Lots of planning, some last minute changes and lots of maintenance work on the Garratt and our fleet of carriages was planned and undertaken. With this work completed, the cab is noticeably cleaner and safer, and the risk of oil spills and tools floating around on the floor is pretty much eliminated.

One of the biggest undertakings, was to remove the second brake stand from the cab of the Garratt. This allowed us to address one of our major concerns when operating the loco, that of safe storage space for oil cans and crew bags, issues that had shown up on the earlier runs. With this work completed, the cab is noticeably cleaner and safer, and the risk of oil spills and tools floating around on the floor is pretty much eliminated. Among other works performed on the Garratt was the replacement of a number of bricks in the arch that had proven too small for service, our annual boiler exam, the front tank was removed to allow some work to be undertaken on the lubrication system that was giving trouble and some pipework was fitted to allow through train watering on the long trip.

Even then, preparation for the massive adventure to Junee and Wagga Wagga was not restricted to the Garratt or the previous week. Many, many hours of man power was put into the essential checks, maintenance and simple logistics of such a long distance trip. As the Garratt had not performed such a long distance trip in some 30 odd years, it was in the back of everyone’s minds that there were, potentially, many issues that could possibly arise during the tour. Therefore as much as possible, all the i's were dotted and the t's crossed before we left. Coal was ordered and left in Junee for us to use while we were there, even more was bagged and loaded into the old freight car we have, along with wood for light-up purposes. Telehandlers were hired and placed in Harden and Junee and the Harden fire brigade was put on notice to supply water for us as we passed.

Other preparations involved the assembly of one of the largest and longest trains we have seen in Canberra for a very long time. The train would consist of the Garratt, heritage diesel 4403,the Jumbo(aka 44208) and almost every operational sleeper and sitting cars we have, 2 power cars, a water gin and the gondola filled with coal and wood, it was an effort and a half just to assemble it all into an order that would not exceed any limits and still be suitable for passengers. The logistics just to confirm the cars were fit to travel, cleaned, marshalled and then tested as a consist was no small effort – thanks have to go to the train maintenance crew and the various shunters for their efforts in this area.

Come Friday afternoon, the train departed Canberra for the relatively short trip to Goulburn where upon arrival, two key activities were performed. The Garratt was cut off and dispatched to the loco shed for preparation including watering and checking of oil and various other components including a crew change. The second activity was was somewhat larger and more complex. We had arranged to use a number of carriages from 3801 Limited and Goulburn was where we would meet them and combine the two trains into a massive train of some 26 cars with 2 diesels and the Garratt up front for the overnight trip to Junee. The whole train was made up and resulted in a total weight of some 1600 tons and 600+ meters in length...probably the longest passenger train on the road for many decades.

With  4501 and 4403 in the lead and then the Garratt, the consist commenced its journey west at 11.30 pm with many passengers probably not able to sleep due to the excitement despite the late hour. Some will not be named to protect the innocent but are known to have played golf for a short while.

The journey to Junee involved a stop at Harden for crew changes and water changes. The stop was made around 4am in the very cold and misty morning however it did not deter the diehard rail fans. They were on bridges, platforms and other vantage spots along the journey. This was indeed going to be a very memorable “first” for all – a Garratt hauling a long train for a weekend of short runs and two glorious long runs one at night and one during the day.

The Garratt was kept travelling under light steam light for most of the journey to Junee, however with a train this size, the Garratt was called upon to assist at times when the going got a little slow. I suspect a few horses have escaped from the old diesels over the years. Travelling light allowed the crew to assess the Garratt and ensure that not only was coal consumption minimized throughout the night but also that we could as best as possible maintain the timetable set down for us.

The approach into Junee is a long straight run, and mostly parallel to the road. The Garratt did not let the viewers down. Looking back towards the sunrise from the the cab of the 45 one could see a magnificent cloud of steam and light smoke pouring skyward and streaming back over the train against the early dawn light. For the diesel crew, Slim in particular, this was just a brilliant sight. It took some of the volunteers 8 years to get to this point and Slim only 3, but it was heaven on a stick to see!  

The order of the morning upon arrival at Junee was to clean and prepare the Garratt for the day’s shuttles between Wagga Wagga and Bomen. This meant the Garratt was uncoupled and moved up to the roundhouse at the Junee to clear the ashpan, fill the water and oil the loco for the day ahead. While this was happening, the two diesels were left rearrange the train into an order suitable for the days shuttles and to leave the stuff we didn't need in Junee. This eventually saw not much more than the sitting cars coupled up with 4501 while the Garratt was serviced.

Unfortunately we left Goulburn late after needing to allow a wheat train to proceed before us and with the the complex and demanding shunt in a very tricky yard with many catch points, we were not coupled up to the Garratt until quite late. The crews and staff were sorry to be late and felt compelled to apologise to patrons as they had all waited so long for their view of the Garratt. Finally however, we were ready, clearance was given from network control and we were able to proceed down to the station at Junee, pick up some passengers and head south to Wagga Wagga. The Garratt lead the charge into Wagga Wagga for the day.

Our entrance into Wagga Wagga across the viaduct and into the platform for the first shuttle of the day was late, and we apologize to those who had waited patiently for us to arrive at the station. There was a seriously large number of people spread along the platform and the sight of so many people from Wagga Wagga coming down to see and ride on the train was simply brilliant and made us feel very welcome. They did not stop coming all day long, young and old all wanting to ride, but more importantly to see the largest steam engine in the southern hemisphere running on their doorstep! Literally on their doorstep if you consider some of the houses in Harden

Some say that firing and driving a steam engine is a dream come true and it is for every crew who gets the opportunity to get dirty,  and it is an experience never to be forgotten, with such an awe inspiring engineering marvel like 6029. It is indeed all this and so more, but it is also exhausting dirty work. The shuttles required vigilance and hard work for all involved, something that the crews gave happily even though they looked tired and worn out at the end of the day. Seven full shuttles to Bomen and back and a trip to Uranquinty were hard hot work, but we loved it and look forward to possibly doing the same next year!

Thanks as always to Howard Moffat, Bevan and Ross Wall, for the pictures and video content they generously allow us to use on the blog. Without their contribution of time and expertise, there would be very little to see here, and likely no blog at all to keep everyone across what is happening.

Mar 12, 2015

Festival Of Steam 2015

What a weekend, the Festival of Steam saw a number of firsts for the Garratt and ARHS-ACT. It was the first mainline excursion and the first public trip for the Garratt following its restoration, the first time we have taken two locomotives to Thirlmere for the Festival of Steam and the trip pretty much marked the end of the Garratt's restoration and its return to operating condition. Seeing 6029 charge along at the head of a train makes the effort put in by so many so worth the effort!

The weekend started for the most of the crews on Friday when the Garratt and train for Thirlmere was prepared in Canberra and then transferred to Goulburn to overnight before hauling its first public excursion early on Saturday morning to Thirlmere. The preparation for the morning trip started very early in the morning as steam was raised and the loco cleaned. By the time the departure was due, people were everywhere along the mainline hoping to get a glimpse of the train as it sped past. Pretty much any vantage point had someone waiting, it seemed that there were 100+ people at Wingello alone to see a brief 30 seconds of the Garratt as it thundered past, and the motorcade of people chasing the train was something else. Some said that it was the fastest Garratt they had ever seen, but in this day of tight timetables and the requirements to fit in without slowing regular freight and passenger trains, we had little choice but to keep things moving along at a decent clip...

The same network pressures meant that there was no chance of us having the Garratt lead the train into Thirlmere, instead, after leading all the way from Goulburn, it was at the rear of the train, being towed up the hill from Picton by the two diesels that we had brought along, both to assist us with maintaining the tight timetables and also to return our train to Canberra later in the day. As expected, video is everywhere of the trip, here is one from Bevan Wall

That being said, there was no lack of people along the branch line to watch the arrival, and shortly after, the Garratt went on display for most of the day with people lining up to have a look around the loco and visit the cab. There were people of all ages with many who had never seen one in steam. All around were questions of what were they like and the older admirers smiled and began to reminisce of times past and experiences up north and out west where the Garratts were common workhorses in the 1960's. If you have have ever stood next to a 60 class you would understand the appreciation of the size and scale of the loco, in many cases, people expressed disbelief that we had managed to restore this beast of a loco in the way we had. Those that have followed the blog for some time will remember that the first six years or so were spent out in the open year round in Canberra, with not a lot more than hand tools and an oxy torch.

The comments and praise were everywhere, and a few of the more common are noted here by some of the crew who were talking to the visitors all day
 “The restoration took ONLY eight years!”
 “Cleanest Garratt I have ever seen”
 “Enfield never washed them”
 “Are you now leaving 6029 in Sydney" Editors Note: NO...
 “Never thought I would see one run again”
 “Thankyou for doing this, your team is fantastic”
 “You restored 6029 in a railway yard?"
 “What are you restoring next, another Garratt" Editors Note: Watch this space.

Hundreds (well it felt like that number) of people were all very inquisitive and struck with awe! They asked endless questions as Percy Forester, Roger and other 6029 team members worked the crowd on one side and Howard and Greg covered the other.

Later on as the crowds died down, all the locos were lined up for a photo shoot in the yard and for the first time in perhaps 45 years, two Garratts were seen in the same picture. In many ways it was an awesome sight and I don't think there have been as many steam locos, in steam and in the same place as we saw here at Thirlmere this weekend.

After the Garratt and all the other engines were moved to the roundhouse and put to bed for the night, a special night photoshoot was held with the Garratt centre stage and left in the only place she could fit, on  the turntable that was rescued from the old Enfield workshops.

Come Sunday, it was a 5 am start for the light up crews as they prepared 6029 and the other engines for the days work. Some of the early morning photos show the action. Sunday saw the Garratt run four times to Picton and back, assisting 3642 on the first run with the train from Sydney, and then doing a few shuttles from Thirlmere to Picton and back, giving people a chance to experience the Garratt on a 1 in 40 climb. From what I saw, every seat was filled with happy faces, before going back on display for the Sunday crowds to get a close up look at the loco.

A question we heard a lot and one that bears a reasonable attempt at explaining, is that of how much effort is involved and how much does it cost to run the Garratt... Well, without too much detail, here goes...Using our prep for Thirlmere as an example there is a list as long as the connecting rods.

Prep for us took 3 or 4 days work a week for 8 weeks for one qualified, paid person plus help on weekends and some week days in many cases from volunteers. Let’s say that, on average, 10 volunteers had turned up for a days work each week since Christmas. Try and pay those wages plus costs of super, workers comp and so on.

So far then we have just prepared the engine to be 100% fit for traffic, now onto the lightup..

Light up is, as many know, a tough job on any steam loco, but more so on on this animal of a loco... let’s put some detail to it:

Wood required – sleepers cut in thirds, two or three pallets stacked four feet high. All lifted manually into the cab. Let’s say the equivalent of 1 weeks work for one person to gather, cut and load  onto pallets ready to used.
Oil – not vast amounts needed but checking and ensuring all oil cups are full, and that there are no obvious leaks or faults. 1 hour for one person.
Are you getting the picture?
Coal – eighteen tonnes, simple, do the maths - one person to load and one person to observe and protect. Cost per tonne is $61.40 USD  but that’s not retail, we pay almost $400.00 AUD per ton by the time it is loaded in the tender so the cost is around $7,200 per fill and we need a refill to get home so let’s say $12,000 AUD for the round trip if we don't use it all
Expensive so far and we haven’t finished yet...
Cleaning – 107 feet, 14 feet high, hot surfaces, cold surfaces. One wash with soap and scrubbers, rinse with wipe down and then wipe dry. Four men 2 hours total.
One match and an oil soaked cloth – free, well pretty much anyway!
Fire - initially lit at least 24 hours before departure, over night watching and very, very gentle warm up to steam. Two men spread over two shifts of ten hours, both qualified with a minimum of an Advanced Boiler certificate. So just to get it in steam, 4 people on a ten hour shift each, with at least two of them qualified. Add cost of coal and ancillary costs of oil etc. and the cost is already around $13,000 for coal and other consumables like oil before we consider wages, track fees and insurance. Now add in for the duration of the trip a qualified driver and 2 firemen and you can see the ballooning costs just to get it to its destination and back.

Oh, almost forgot, we need to also clean, inspect and shut down and repair any faults afterwards, but you get the picture, the costs are not just the coal, but the back up, maintenance and servicing that happens for each and every trip and we need to put a little money away every trip to cover ongoing maintenance so that we can keep the engine going long after the current boiler certificate expires.

And then someone decided we needed passengers so add in catering staff and associated people for bookings, paperwork and the public face of our heritage operations.

Please keep this in mind next time you look at ticket prices for any steam hauled trip, not just those hauled by the Garratt. Without charging fair prices for the trips, we have no hope of being able to operate trains for the enjoyment of young and old alike into the future.

This is the largest steam engine currently licensed and running on any main line in the world and we do a hell of a lot of it with good will and lots of hard unpaid work. There is no bottomless pit of corporate or government sponsorship so we need to charge enough to at least pay our staff and cover the costs.

I have said it before, but it bears repeating, that this was simply an amazing weekend and a credit to the organizers at Trainworks and all the people involved in the planning of the event, the loco crews and volunteer staff both on the trains and in the museum did a great job of making everyone welcome and creating a great atmosphere for everyone. Simply a great weekend.

Mar 8, 2015

Preparation for Festival of Steam 2015

What a weekend! for those that were there, you will know what I mean, and if you were not, well, maybe some of the images will give you a sense of how big it was... Definitely put it in the diary for next year.

Like most big events, it takes a lot of work in the background to bring them together. For us, the Festival was no exception. We had two locos to prepare, several carriages that needed to be spruced up and that was just the start. 6029 was close to ready, having already been on a few test runs last year, but the list of tasks to be addressed was as long as your arm and then some.

First up, a huge thanks to the organizers and volunteers at Trainworks for making us feel so welcome and making it a great weekend, as I can only start to imagine how much planning and effort work went on the background to make the weekend great for the visiting loco crews and the public alike.

Our prep started months ago at the end of the steam running season, but like most things, the closer we got to the start of the festival, the more it seemed we had to do, and at times, it seemed like we had run out of time.

Before I get into the weekend proper, its only fair to share some of the effort that went into getting ready in the weeks beforehand and some of the to-do list that had to be completed before we left Canberra.

On the Garratt, it had been noted that the air compressor had developed a knock, the new piston rings had arrived and there were all manner of general maintenance tasks to do, not least of which was replace all the brake blocks on the hind unit, lots to polish and paint, and that was just the Garratt. Carl replaced a stay and addressed some other issues in 3016's boiler, the side rods were off to have the bearings re-metalled and we even had to fit a new train control radio to the loco. These things and regular maintenance on the diesel and carriage fleet and its easy to see that we had lots to do in a very short period of time. Its worth saying again that if you want to help out, there will a job you can do, and it doesn't matter what skill level either, there is always lots to do from pushing a pen or a paintbrush, to changing sleepers and working on locos or cleaning carriages, we can always do with more help around here.

Weeks ago, Ben had started work on the slide bars in preparation for the arrival of the new rings, and Alan had started to fit insulation to the cylinders and other steam pipes as now that testing had been completed, it was safe to do so without the risk of having to remove it in the near future. While the serious jobs were going on, so were the important jobs of polishing and painting anything that was not up to scratch. A team of people went from one end to the other polishing brass and copper and painting whatever was left. The results of the work pretty much speak for themselves, both 3016 and 6029 looked great...

In the last week, we pretty much got down to the last tasks, brake blocks on the hind unit were at condemning limits so had to be changed before we went anywhere, packing on a number of cocks needed to be replaced, and issue with the fire grate needed to be addressed while the new name plates and a cover for the main steam pipe had to be fitted. A warming fire was lit Monday afternoon while most of this work went on in the shed.  

The pictures pretty much tell the story, but don't forget that there are carriages to maintain and prepare, a pretty much thankless task that was undertaken by another small group of volunteers, who managed to paint and generally refinish 2 of the fleet on a couple of weeks, and the results were pretty good, and I am sure appreciated by the passengers, who would spend a day in them going to and from Thirlmere.

Feb 13, 2015

Clean, Polish and Rings (Brief Update) Period Ending Sunday, 8 Feb 2015

The pressure is on!

Some say that pictures tell a thousand words and indeed if you view the sequence of photographs this is very true. Unlike previous collections of photographs thisupdate includes many different aspects of volunteering life at the yard at present. It is varied as we are contributing not only 6029, but also 4403 and 3016 to the Thirlmere gathering. This means many varied and interesting jobs for us all.

Carriage maintenance and preparation is never to be forgotten and as the pictures attest, there is a lot going on in repairing and refurbishing the rolling stock.

Painting of the exterior after significant work of the roof of many of the carriages is happening all the time at a fearful pace and the results are very impressive to see. A fine tribute to the work the guys are putting in.

Cleaning and polishing and painting are some of the jobs we need to get 6029 looking slick but wait there’s more! Not only has the essential cosmetic and minor remediation being going on some very major and perhaps significantly more important work has been going on.

Piston rings – all of them have been received and fitted! That is 3 per piston by four and 2 sets of pairs for each valve. Ben has worked tirelessly to get these fitted and seated correctly. Ben has also been noted to swear a lot but he has again pulled a rabbit (or shim) out of his sleeve and aligned the slides for the crossheads on the rear engine. These were seriously out of alignment or wack as was described to the author.

Let’s not forget the new guards and covers on the steampipe that carries steam to the rear engine. These have been delivered for final measure and fit – thanks Jack

Some off site work has had to be done by a third party - one piece of hardware to receive such attention had been removed and sent to Sydney for building up and grinding back to working tolerance.  This repair had been completed and our logistics manager – aka Malcolm – had once again volunteered his transport vehicle – read “Barina” – to transport said arm back to Canberra.

The arm connecting the reversing rod with the reach rod was received back from the workshop after this work had been completed. Essentially it was found that the wear and tear of many years had created so much play that when travelling around corners the front engine’s valve settings would change from the rear engine – not a good thing on a Garratt. All going well the repaired are would be placed back in the appropriate location (under the plates in front of the smoke box) on the following day.

The boys worked hard on Pot Belly Black painting (a change from Super Enamel Black – not) by cleaning the fire grate area and associated pipe work and smoke box. Many hands young and old contributed so a vast area and some 4 pots later all was covered in said paint. With the fresh paint and the judicious polishing of copper pipe work there was a need to step back and admire the work! Again well done guys, nice job done well.

Polishing of the brass work will never cease but preparation of the surface with fine grinding paste and elbow grease means that the lustre will last longer so again the team wire brushed and polished the numbers, the window frames and copper pipes.

Let’s not forget there has been lots of work going on in the shed as well. 3016 has received a enormous amount of work from Carl with redoing all boiler tubes by re-expanding the tubes into the tubeplate to seal each one (some say Carl set up house in the fire box as he spent more time in there than at home but thats not quite true). The rods have been removed so that the bearings could be properly inspected and those needing it were sent away for re-metalling. These have now been received and refitted. Ben has also been noted to be assisting in the work on 3016 as well, in particular the installation of ICE radio antennas etc.

Oh let’s not forget something – to get to the tube ends properly in 3016...guess what! The arch has to be removed, usually with a jack hammer. So that means a new one has to be built and using drawings from old and a calculator of new Mike has built a set of computer cut frames for the molds so that the arch can be poured in situ and repeated exactly the same next time we have to perform heavy maintenance in the firebox.

Combine the above work with a paint job of Pot Belly Black to the smoke box and you will have another fine engine travelling to Thirlmere.

Enough said – enjoy the photos and see you at Thirlmere

Jan 15, 2015

Maintenance, Stabilization and Getting Ready

The New Year has brought renewed vigor as we are challenged to identify, log and correct various items that the testing, load and training runs have identified before we consider ourselves (painted and polished) for the Thirlmere Festival of Steam late in February. So much to do and so little time!

There have been various people providing support, helping to tackle jobs since Christmas. This has included replacing the normal un-sprung bolts holding the rear tank on with new sprung bolts. This is not a simple process as a small jig is required to compress the spring and thus provide enough thread to start the nut on the end of the thread. Various clamps and other tools appeared from time to time as the day wore on.

The air compressor also had an issue recorded in our logs that was addressed. The crews had noticed a knock had developed and this had progressively become worse. So the lower head on the compressor as removed and as predicted by Ben, two valves were blocked preventing air passing into the second stage of the compressor, building up pressure in the low pressure cylinder and causing a knock in the high pressure cylinder due to the lack of air that normally acted as a cushion. The removal and replacement of the lower head was as always noted as being awkwardly positioned and darned heavy on the Garratt's!

Up the other end, the cab lighting has received some attention. Over the years, several of the original electrical fittings were either used on operational locos, or just broke due to age. Some new connectors have been made to replicate the originals and these have been fitted, along with the remainder of the instrument lights that were missing. There should be no issues now in tunnels and during night operations. Given that the new lights are LED based and able to be battery powered, light-ups and general maintenance at night will also be much more pleasant as well.

The front buffer beam has seen a major clean and paint job – again some readers may note as it has been painted many times before – red for the beam and regulation black for the remainder of the visible frame. The hind buffer beam and metal work was also cleaned and prepared for painting. The presentation of the locomotive is of major importance to us as we prepare for the Festival of Steam and the first public outing of the loco.

There were of course some minor mechanical problems to address as well. The piston rods were noted to be running low in their stuffing boxes where they enter the cylinders. Essentially, as explained to the novice author, the slide bars and shims out of position and have likely been like that since the 1960's or even longer. I just thought they were stuffed! To replace and align the rods for the immediate future required the removal of shims, careful and precise measurement and re-attachment. This task would be something you might ignore for a while, as clearly the loco has performed quite well during our shakedown runs, but as the new piston and valve rings have been ordered and are to be delivered within weeks, we need the pistons to be properly located sooner rather than later.

Readers may remember that the Garratt is heavy and therefore all components have a heaviness commensurate with its size.  Add to this the fact that the design engineers did not always think beyond their own drawing boards, worked with slide rules and paper, not computers and modern drafting programs, and its not surprising that bolts cannot always come out unless another item is removed. Couple this with the problem of age, bolts that have not seen the light of day since they were first installed before many of us were born and we were in for a long day.

We should have realized we were in for a difficult and bruising day when even the split pins failed to come out after 10 mins of wrestling!. The slide bars are held to the frame by 8 bolts in total and all we wanted to do was simply add shims on one side and remove some from the other to return the cross-head to the proper position. The correct tools for the job have long since disappeared and we noted that four of the bolts were going to be a challenge. Cutting to the chase, and with a few choice words, the oxy was able to remove all bar one nut. Note that is nuts, not bolts!

The bolts are countersunk and sit just short of flush in the top slide bar. These were, and still are at the time of writing, not one of the author’s best friends. They remain firmly and solidly embedded in their location and do not want to come out. They are not nice bolts and will suffer for thier resistance! Removing these will be next week’s job.

Work will continue for a number of weeks at a feverish pace as there are many jobs and tasks that are interesting, educational and some would suggest fun to complete – brake block replacement, piston rings to install, new gaskets to replace leaking ones on the Cardew isolation valves and so forth, but other locos and rolling stock need our attention as well so its all hands on deck. there is stuff to do for people of all skill levels and most fitness levels, so escape the house and lend a hand if you can.

The Festival of Steam is the 28th of Feb - 1st of March and its going to be a great weekend. If you want to be on the train from Canberra to Thirlmere that will be Garratt hauled from Goulburn to Thirlmere on the 28th, secure your ticket today, not tomorrow as they are selling fast and there are limited seats... get them from CanberraRailwayMuseum.org.

Dec 23, 2014

Big News!

23 of December 2014.

It has been sometime since our last blog report and we have received many enquiries asking for an update. It may appear that not much is happening however this is most certainly not the case.

The last of the testing was competed in September and since then the engineering team has been hard at it completing the test data and repots to finalized compliance with regulation and network standards.

We are now very pleased to report that approval has been forwarded from the national rail regulator (ONRSR) advising that 6029 may now run. After almost 8 years of hard work we are now ready to go, and in some way we are now pinching ourselves... is this actually happening?

To get our overseas friends in the loop, summers in Australia can be extremely harsh and fires are a natural disaster that cannot be under-estimated. Our Christmas is celebrated around the BBQ, and the beach is where a lot of Australians spend their holidays.

The 6029 team won’t be having a break this year as we will spend January 2015 finishing of the list of small jobs to get 6029 roadworthy. We are asking for all available to help out during this time.

We can now announce that the first shakedown run will be on the 28th of Febuary 2015 from Goulburn to Thirlmere. We will be running to the annual festival of steam that by all accounts will be a big event. As this is in effect a running-in trial, available seats will be limited. Tickets will go on sale on the 8th of January from the Canberra Railway Museum ticket office. Visit http://canberrarailwaymuseum.org/ for details.

The purpose of the shakedown runs is to fine tune the locomotive and to iron out any bugs as they arise. We will then plan the first official run most likely at the end of March, dependent on how the weather is shaping up as we come out of summer.

We have penciled in Goulburn as the staging point to run on the main south and we will run a series of short shuttles in May. This will allow passengers to connect with the local services from Sydney.

Our first sleeping car tour will be on the June long weekend to Junee in Southern NSW. This part of NSW features main line operations including the Bethungra spiral. We will also feature local runs between Junee and Wagga Wagga.

I will close off by thanking everyone for their well wishes and support during the testing trails, the interest has been overwhelming.

We would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy new year, that will no doubt be an exciting one for steam preservation.

Alan Gardner

Oct 12, 2014

Taking the Company Engine for a Spin!

What do you do to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the first workday on 6029? Well for those of the team that could make it, you take the company engine for a spin!

Last Saturday was 8 years to the day of the first workday of Project6029 and the start of an 8 year journey that saw us achieve something that many people said couldn't be done, restore Australia's largest steam locomotive to operational order,.  Slim tells the story of the day...

We started at a reasonable hour by lighting the Garratt at around 8 am – a leisurely start in deed as we had no timetables to keep. Some cleaning was commenced on the front engine and it was soon recognized that with the length of this beast, it was going to mean we either had to start 24 hours earlier or get more help! The light up crew and assistants rapidly worked out that the target of a total clean and polish was going to have to be limited to a spotless cab and a light wash of the boiler and front tank.

The initial team were assisted later in the morning as others turned up but it quickly became apparent even to blind Freddie that if we are to turn out a spic and span locomotive that is a credit to the team and the society, that we need to very much work as a team, focused on delivery, stepping up and taking on those often dirty and often thankless tasks. They are actually fun – yes truthfully, fun!

As the loco had been pre warmed Friday afternoon, the lightup was fairly quick and the boiler started to “sing” about 9.30/10.00 after throwing what felt like all the sleepers from Canberra to Queanbeyan through the fire door. The fire became very hot initially and it shortest route to the atmosphere was via the fire door not the chimney so care and respect of the fire was the order of the morning.
Note to author/self ...do not put head in or near fire door when throwing in wood, with no blower operational before steam is raised, there is a tendency to ruin ones hair cut by burning off the outer layers!

Once she had reached the 50 PSI mark at about 10.30 it was surprising how quickly we doubled that and by 11 we could start planning and then moving around the yard shortly after. Our target.., move over to the platform road, couple up to 3016, move her out of the way and return to platform road and couple up to the short two car set that was waiting. What fun using the Garratt as a shunting engine. For the author a rather daunting shunting experience considering the size involved. With skilled driving, the shunt was achieved without incident.

The order of  the day was for short runs up and back along the north shunt. This gave the present contingent of volunteers an opportunity to ride in cab, firing and driving. This locomotive is big, bigger still when you start throwing in wood and realize the fire grate is bigger than some bedrooms. Bigger still when you hold the throttle but biggest yet when you can actually feel all 250 tons accelerate – yes accelerate, this engine is powerful.

Visitors to the museum got a huge surprise to find that their presence at the museum would see them getting short trips up and down the north shunt behind a Garratt for nothing more than the entry fee to the museum, and given that the carriages were pretty much full of families and smiles all afternoon, its pretty easy to see that they enjoyed themselves as much as the volunteers.

The experience of firing and driving is perhaps what all had dreamed of – actually being in the cab after so many hours working in Canberra and man caves, each contributing what they could, there were some very large smiles. The help of Ben and Carl in guiding us through this never to be forgotten moment is appreciated. Regrettably, Alan had to leave early for a family holiday so he missed the smiles on many of the faces.

As usual there were lots of great photos happening care of Howard but he does stand out with the world’s biggest grin on one shot that probably says it all for us all. WOW!

 Unfortunately being volunteers some of the team could not participate as they had family or similar commitments and hopefully they too will have a similar experience in the New Year. Speaking of which we need to prepare and fix all those minor things on the Garratt and start in earnest on carriage work that so badly need to be done, so the regular work days are in place - first Saturday and third Sunday... See you there!

Sep 5, 2014

Load Trials

For those that haven't already heard, Tuesday and Wednesday saw 6029 performing what we hope are the last of the testing completed which will allow us to submit  the change notification paperwork which in turn will allow the network owners/regulators to get on with the process of approving the loco for regular service.

Tuesday saw the braking tests and detonator testing completed between Fyswick and Canberra and Wednesday saw the load test to Bungendore completed.

The load test was required to prove that there were no issues hauling a train over the grades that are to be encountered in service, and meant that we had to take a train, at slightly more than the maximum rated load to Bungendore and back to prove that the load was well within the locos capabilities. In this case we took several of our stainless sleeping cars, two diesels and a couple of power cars to make up a load of almost 600 tons. The maximum load for 6029 in railway service on the Canberra branch was 650 tons. In order to reduce wear and tear and reduce maintenance issues, a decision has been taken to reduce its maximum load by a small amount.

As the weather has been overcast and windy, lighting for pictures was less than favourable, however Howard does have some nice pictures for us, and Bevan's video is as usual, is very nice. An added bonus was a picture taken from a slightly unusual vantage point by Bevan's son, Ross... See if you can work out how he did it. I was told that the train went up the hill so fast that it was hard to get ahead and set up for the next photo, so that alone would suggest that there was no issue with the load.

There have been a lot of inquiries as to when we will be able to start hauling passengers. There is unfortunately, still no way for us to say when this will happen. With the tests completed, we are now in the hands of people whose job it is to sign off and issue us with the necessary approvals and paperwork. The time that this will take is an absolute unknown, and it has been known to take several months. It is now spring in Australia, and if the approvals were to take too long, we will be up against another problem, that of our summer and the fire bans that prevent us from using any steam locomotive for a period due to the risks of starting fires.

As soon as we know of any dates or information relating to when we can start running, it will be posted both here and on the museum's site, Canberrarailwaymuseum.org 

Aug 18, 2014

6029 is now back in the shed having run the 200km round trip to Goulburn. The purpose of the run was to complete the necessary signal interface testing. Goulburn is controlled by signal circuits and it had to be proven that the locomotive can be seen on the track and that it activates the interface circuits. The good news is that the signals engineer was happy with the results and the testing will now move onto the next stage of the plan.

We stabled overnight in Goulburn workshops and it was a very cold start to say the least, at minus five degrees C. Getting out of a warm bed at 5 am was not a good start but the light up crew had to start even earlier. The reward was the start of the run at 8am with the exhaust steam putting on a spectacular sight as we left Goulburn on the way home.

The two day run was a succession of testing and gradually increasing the speed as each test parameter was proven. The last part of the run home was at full speed and we are happy that all went well. Having said that we still have a way to go but at this stage it’s a cautious thumbs up at this point.

We have received some criticism that we were not able to advertise in advance that we would be out on the network. We don’t apologies for this as the testing is a critical element of ensuring and demonstrating that all is well to network and industry standards. We have advertised on our web page that tickets will be on sale soon but we can’t pencil a firm date until the notification of change is completed including testing and network registration.

I have been asked "how do you guys seem to just get the job done with no fuss" both in terms of the rebuild and the roll out of operations. The fact is I am very fortunate to lead a team that is well qualified in engineering, training and operations. That’s not to say things won’t go wrong as they most certainly do and often when you least expect them. Having a team that can fix the issue whatever it might be is critical, but the key word is team.

So what's next? For me, it’s countless more hours in front of a computer completing all the required documentation. We have a full load adhesion load test planed on the Canberra branch in the next few weeks. Again this won’t be advertised and we would like to remind all to please observe the network rules of trespass.

The first runs will be on the Canberra branch and tickets will be available at http://canberrarailwaymuseum.org/ . If you are interested, regularly check our web page and this blog for details as they come to hand.

Our next workday is Saturday 6 September at the museum. Please keep an eye on the web page for advanced ticket sales and please support us by purchasing a ticket or several.