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

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.