The Rebuild Begins!
Fowler 16341 of 1924, Tully Sugar Mill Number 5 finally arrives at her new home for a 'little' while on the 10th December 2019.
With Christmas out of the way and the loco safely installed under the crane we got started dismantling the loco.
Day one went extremely well. Martyn, Dave & John started the ball rolling by lifting off the cab roof and removing all the ‘lose’ bits that were stored in the bunker and smoke box. The next job was to remove the badly rusted through bunker and cab sides (with integral water tanks) so that we could get to the boiler to lift it out of the frames for stripping and inspection. The platework is all beyond reasonable repair, so Dave used the gas axe to chop a couple of lifting holed for the crane to hook into and we cut through the odd bits of rusted metal holding the bunker to the loco enabling us to lift it all off.
The Bunker was a later addition as you can see from the works photo, and we intend to restore the loco more or less as originally built. The back of the cab is original, and so we removed and saved the pressed angle iron and the external beading for re-use on the new cab back platework when we make it. The vertical angle iron frame is just simple straight bits of 2″x 2″ angle, and badly rusted at the ends, so it makes sense just to use new metal there too.
The tanks and cab sides were originally open topped coal bunkers with sliding doors to the footplate. They had tops welded on and were turned into additional water tanks at some point in the locomotives life. The Tully Mill railway system expanded rapidly from its initial 55km to the 280km system that it is today, and it was quickly found that a greater water and coal capacity was needed. Hence the addition of the bunker to take the coal on the back instead of in the cab. The tanks are very badly rusted through as well, and again, we will have to make new ones to the original coal bunker design, but we removed all the brackets and beading to re-use when the time comes.
With the tanks out of the way there was only the front end really locking the boiler onto the loco. The firebox end was retained only by the two expansion bracket clamps on the sides of the box, which only had 3 bolts each. The smoke box separated from the saddle relatively easily, a couple of bolts just needing to be warmed with the gas to free them up. The two main steam pipes inside inside, connecting the boiler to the cylinders were a different story! We worked in there for a good while and managed to remove the nuts from the two flanges at the top manifold, but the bottom bolts were hidden deep under a thick bed of hardened saw dust in the hollow saddle casting. Even after digging that all out to get at the bolts, they were extremely corroded, and so the cutting torch was used to liberate the pipes. The boiler was now free to lift, and indeed it came with relative ease.
Day two got off to a flying start, the mission being to remove the cylinders, valve gear, ashpan and as many other bits and bobs that we could, ultimately working toward a bare set of frames that we can shot blast, crack test, repair and paint in readiness for the restored bits to go back on. The left hand cylinder and valve gear is ostensibly complete. The Die block is missing, and most of the motion pins, but apart from that it's all there. It all appears to be original too, although interestingly the cylinder block has two little 'lugs' cast into the top webs that aren't shown on the original works drawings. The right hand side is a different story!
From the photos of the loco taken in the 1960s relatively soon after retirement, it is visibly clear that the right hand radius rod is badly bent. We are working on the assumption that the damage to the rod (presumably caused by a stuck or broken valve) was the reason for the locos retirement. However, the loco as it stood had further damage, including a broken valve rod bracket, missing cylinder covers, piston, rod, slide bar, and crosshead. The studs in the cylinder are also badly bent.
It seems that whilst at Lachlan Village in the 70s, a preserved Bundaberg Fowler sustained damage to it's right hand cylinder and valve gear. The damaged components were removed from the Bundaberg and swapped for the undamaged ones from the Fowler. It seems that although coincidentally the same side and area, the original bent radius rod is nothing to do with the rest of the damage present. So what we think we have is a Bundaberg copy of a Fowler cylinder on the right hand side, with a Bundaberg valve (of quite different design to the original Fowler valve on the left). We think that the broken Valve bracket is the one from the Bundaberg loco (as it's subtly different to the one on the left), as is the valve rod it's self. Hopefully we will be able to use the cylinder casting it's self, although we need to check all the measurements to find out if that's going to be viable. Certainly it seems that the Fowler cylinder fitted the Bundaberg, so hopes are currently high. We've also made contact with the current owner of the Bundaberg fowler, so it will be interesting to see if there is anything possible there by way of reuniting each loco with their original parts.
Day 3 passed without any major issues appearing. Dave, Ian and I got stuck into removing all the foot plates. The angle iron supports were substantially in good condition, and riveted to the frames, so we’ve decided to retain those and leave them in situ. There is a portion under the centre of the rear of the Loco where it is thinned quite badly so we plan to set in a fresh piece of strip locally there.
The smoke box saddle was released when we unbolted the cylinders, the fitted bolts locking both to the frames. We lifted the saddle out and the plan is to send that off to the shot blasters to bring it back to fresh metal. It’s a beautiful and complex casting with integral steam passageways,.... it must have had impressively convoluted core boxes! Sadly it’s cracked at the front and rear, possibly all the way through. The front of the frames have quite a large joggle in them too off to the right hand side so it seems the Loco has been impacted very hard on its front end, bending the frames and cracking the saddle. Repairs were made by bolting on steel plates to the front and rear of the saddle and the buffer beam was presumably straightened and re-attached using steel wedges to account for the weird angle of the frames. We plan to keep the reinforcement plates in the saddle (they are part of the locos history), but we will probably repair the casting as well. The frames will need to be straightened, so that’ll certainly be tackled shortly.
The springs were also removed, and work was started stripping down the brake gear in readiness for the frames to be lifted off the wheels.
Watch this space for updates on progress as we go!