Blog Archive

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Rising From The Mud


The more eagle-eyed reader of Puffing Billy's in-house magazine, 'Narrow Gauge', might have noticed a dramatically photo-shopped representation of Belgrave yard plateau lurking in the centre spread of last September's edition. The photo gave the impression of a clean, dry and level yard!



Sadly, at the time, this didn't reflect reality; the mud, the dirt, the hastily dug drainage channels to empty the puddles of oily water.



However, things can change in a short time, particularly with planning and the right allocation of resources, and thanks to some hard work by Jason Bell and the W&W boys, we now have a nice new concrete hard standing, covering all 3 workshop roads. This includes grid covered surface drains, designed to control run off and ensure a much more pleasant working environment for workshop staff, loco crews, or anyone simply trying to cross from one side of the yard to the other.



Not only that, but the Belgrave locomotive running shed has had new front doors manufactured and fitted. Not before time too...the old ones must have virtually fallen off!

It's All backwards, What's With That?



The discovery of a broken side control spring on G42's hind engine unit was soon followed by the dawning realisation that with the engine facing the 'Down' direction - towards Gembrook, as all our engines do - the workshop wasn't long enough to get the pony truck in question over the drop-pit in the workshop.

This necessitated a stopover at Emerald whilst the loco was  carefully placed on the turntable and turned to face the 'Up' direction. Luckily, at that time, the 2.30 departure from Belgrave terminated at Emerald, giving plenty of time and some added interest from the passengers.


Obviously this was more exciting that we realised, and Social media was a-Twitter with photos and comments from local Puffing Billy fans!


After turning, the loco crew were faced with the rare challenge of not only running "backwards" all the way to Belgrave, but then having to dispose of the Garratt the wrong way round.

Above, a rare photo of G42 - facing the "wrong" direction - poking out from behind the new boiler of NG/G16 129, and below, the pony truck suspended in mid-air over the drop-pit whilst the spring is replaced. 


The new spring awaits fitting (above). Note the design, with one spring inside another; the original spring design and material section would be prohibitively expensive to replicate today, so we have achieved the same result using two springs of different diameters.

Below, Senior driver and G42's biggest fan Graeme Daniel, poses with the Garratt on the turntable at Emerald shortly before backing onto the train for the trip back to Belgrave.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Carriage Project Part I - Calculations & Concepts



I think it’s safe to say we can skip the why’s and wherefores’! Anyone familiar with Puffing Billy will know that passenger numbers are through the roof and our little trains are struggling to cope with the ever-increasing demand. At the same time, as much as we try and dissuade them, our marketing department insist on jetting off to the next growing overseas market, building relationships with tour operators who send us yet more passengers!

Two years ago, the Rolling Stock Branch, looking ahead as always, published a paper which identifies the current capacity constraints, and when they occur. The report, put together by Rob Reed, a Puffing Billy fireman and engineering student on work experience, details the times when all rolling stock is utilised, and during those times, how often we reach full capacity, as well as various operational ideas to increase capacity without the availability of more carriages.


The remainder of the report involved calculations to try and ascertain the maximum practical carriage length, and how this compared with the existing carriages in terms of capacity, weight and cost. If you consider that every carriage must have two bogies, 2 sets of couplers & draft gear, and 1 Westinghouse combination brake unit, then if you are trying to keep the train weight down whilst maximising passenger accommodation, you would try to make your cars as long as possible.

The cost of all these parts in comparison to the total cost of a carriage is also considerable, so there are several potential benefits to an increased length.


At this point is should be mentioned that, whilst reducing weight is beneficial, losing too much can have a detrimental effect. The Nadal formula, or L/V ratio, relates the lateral force of the flange against the rail to the downward force exerted on the rail by the wheels. If these forces are not considered at the design stage, there may be a tendency for vehicles which are too light to climb the inner face of the rail and come off the track.

So, where did that leave us? The report was issued to management and the Board, with a recommendation that the any new rolling stock be of a standard 11 metre length, some 4 metres longer that the original VR carriages, and giving a seating capacity of 42 passengers.


Our existing wooden bodied NBH carriages weigh somewhere in the region of 5 tons, with a capacity of 28 people, giving a mass per person of 178 kg. An 11 metre carriage with a capacity of 42 passengers would give an approximate mass per person of only 177 kg, despite the change from timber to steel construction.

At this point we were asked to put come concept designs together, based on the previous steel-bodied NBH cars, open carriages being considered the most popular with our passengers. This we duly did, and feedback received was that 11 metres was thought too much of a jump in length from our existing rolling stock, and would look out of place within a consist.


Back to the drawing board – or 3D CAD software in this case – and the result was a 9-metre carriage, this being the same length as our existing extended NBH carriages, 51 & 52, with seating for 34. An NBHC variation was included, combining an NBH with a guards compartment and wheelchair accommodation.

Various options were put forward at the concept stage but not incorporated into the final design, including:
  • Two seating options, the first with longitudinal bench seats as per the existing cars, and the second with 2+1 transverse seating and end doors to allow for walk-through functionality. The walk-through option would allow for future inclusion of food and drink service on the trains, access to toilets, and maybe even a buffet or bar car. It was also considered advantageous to make access to seating easier, particularly for people with reduced mobility. 2 + 1 seating would negate the need for squeezing along the narrow gap in front of a bench seat already occupied with adults, kids, bags etc.
  • End windows, which you might have picked up from the images, were originally just added to the disabled access end of the proposed NBHC type carriages. It was envisaged that these combined guards/disabled access vehicles would operate with the guards compartment on the in-board end, creating the effect of an observation end, and hopefully a much-improved visual experience for our disabled visitors.
  • In a further iteration, and for consistency, these end windows were added to both ends of the NBH and NBHC type vehicles, with a view to increasing passenger security and safety. Whilst we can’t have a conductor in every carriage, guards and conductors must be as vigilant as possible, and these end windows would potentially allow staff to keep a better eye out along the train.


As part of the Rolling Stock Branch project control process, all groups and individuals considered to be stakeholders in the project were consulted, including the management team, Emerald Tourist Railway Board, Passenger Operations, Traffic Branch Committee, Puffing Billy Preservation Society Executive Committee, and the Heritage Advisory Committee.

Several consultation meetings collected much useful feedback which was taken into consideration as the concept design was firmed up into a final iteration. In particular, much discussion surrounded the layout of the guards compartments in the NBHC, seat layout and design, access and egress issues, and, most importantly, classification and numbering!

After many months of work, the Emerald Tourist Railway Board approved the detailed design, costing and manufacture of 12 new passenger carriages, 8 to be of the NBH type, and 4 to be of the NBHC type, all mounted on a standardised, light-weight 9 metre underframe and newly manufactured 'Fox' type bogies.

To be numbered 24 to 31, the new NBH carriages will weight approximately 6400 kg, and accommodate 34 passengers, giving a mass per passenger of about 188 kg.

The 4 new NBHC carriages will be numbered 1 to 4, and have an approximate mass of 6650 kg. With a capacity of 24 people, or 12 and 6 wheelchairs, this gives a mass per person of roughly 275 kg.


General Arrangement - NBH Class Carriage


Floor Plan - NBH Class Carriage


General Arrangement - NBHC Class Carriage

Floor Plan - NBHC Class Carriage

Part II - Coming Soon!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Garratt Happenings: The NG/G16 129 August Update

Work moves on apace with NG/G16 129, including the following tasks:

  • Removal of boiler from the cradle to enable final installation of all the steam, exhaust and water pipework, as well as insulating and cladding the boiler.

  • Superheaters and main steam pipes have been fitted in the smokebox (above and below).

  • Work on the sanding gear; sandboxes, air sand traps and pipework.

  • Overhaul of cylinder and linkage for the rocking grate, including manufacture of new components as required.

  • Refurbishment and manufacture of components for the lubrication system, including overhaul of the Wakefield Lubricator (above) and assessment of dividers, atomisers etc. for the lubrication lines (below).
  • Manufacture and fitting of blowdown valve linkage.
  • Riveting of the running boards to the boiler cradle, and grinding back of rivet heads.
  • The manufacture of pins and bushes for the valvegear continues, with many parts trial fitted to the engine units.
  • Installation of tank support timbers, engine unit footplates and lubricator mounting plates.
  • Final assembly of steam and exhaust pipework on the engine units, including steam expansion joints.
  • A custom-designed lifting bracket for the rear of the boiler has been fabricated and load tested, reducing the time and effort required to sling and balance the boiler when lifting.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Neat Space Saving Feature


One of the things we have an eternal struggle with at Puffing Billy is a lack of space, whether that be offices, workshops or just undercover storage in general. 


Nowhere is this more evident that the carriage workshop at Emerald; with barely enough accommodation for 3 carriages, this facility is responsible for the annual mechanical and body maintenance of all the railways rolling stock.


With a heavy maintenance schedule, it was thought desirable to improve the way components were stored before being refitted to the carriage or wagon. Bogies in particular take up a lot of space, particularly when they are complete with wheelsets.


This simple frame was developed as a means to stack bogies for storage.

Manufactured from profile cut steel plate, lengths of tube and threaded rod, the design is simple but effective, allowing pair of bogies to be stored in stacks, freeing up floor space for the staff working on maintenance.


Above, one of the frames assembled and ready for use, and below, two frames in use as intended, storing bogies.


The frames have even come in handy when transporting bogies between the workshops at Emerald and Belgrave!

216 NQR; The Finishing Touches


Hugh Markwick and the workshop volunteer team have now completed work on the restoration of 216 NQR. Above, 2 of the team pose in the sun at Emerald with the finished wagon.


The bodywork, drop doors, drawgear and fitting up of the air brake pipework all took place in the Belgrave workshop.




Once complete,  the wagon was transferred to the Emerald car shops where it was lifted for an undergear exam, after which it was passed for traffic.



After a final coat of paint, sign writer Colin Campbell visited Emerald to apply the finishing touches; historically accurate Victorian Railways style numbering and lettering, and a fantastic job he made of it.





The above series of photographs show the process of marking out, prior to applying the lettering.

The following video shows Colin applying the final layer of paint, all by hand - No stencils here!


216 NQR has been out and about recently, helping share the load on wood collection trains, and is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the Rolling Stock branch volunteer team, and the staff who helped out along the way…..a job well done!