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Return To Steam

 

 

 

    How Was The Funnel Made?

        It  takes  many  skilled  craftsmen  to  complete  such  a  difficult  project  to   such  a high  standard.  One  of  these  men  is  Mr.  Don  Ross  of  Tinwald,  a  pattern  maker  by trade.  He  is  a  master  craftsman  of  the  old  school;  a  very  clever  man.  He  generously undertook the fashioning of a pattern for the saddle of K88s new funnel.

        Mr.  Ross  cleverly  shaped  the  wood,  expertly  molding  it  with  a  lathe,  and   often carving  by  hand,  to  the  precise  form  necessary.  The  wooden  pattern  that  he  made was  sent  down  to  the  Trans  Rail  workshops  at  Hillside,  Dunedin.  Once  there,  it  was used as a mold in a bed of sand, to cast the base of the funnel from cast steel.

    The Return To Steam

        14th  November  2000.  K88  was  moved  out  of  the  workshop  to  have  the  first  fire lit  on  the  new  fire  grate.  As  John  French  was  the  main  stay  of  this  second restoration everyone gathered there agreed that he was to light the first fire.

    The first steaming of K88
    The first steaming of K88 at the Plains Museum

        It  created  a  bit  of  a  sensation  when  John  struck  the  match  -  He  had  unknowingly taken  diesel  mixed  with  a  high  percentage  petrol.  Dennis  Harris   being  none  the wiser  and  intending  to  add  a  bit  of  humor,    calmly  bent  over  the  rag  as  John  lit  it, with  the  aim  of  blowing  the  match  out.  All  a  normal  proceeding,  bar  the  outcome!

    Dennis  just  about  lost  his  hair  and  eyebrows  for  his  effort.  The  surprise  on  Dennis's face - Golly! How we all laughed. Steam was raised in 2 1/2 hours to 180 lbs.

        22nd  November  2000.  K88  was  steamed  again,  this  time  for  the  M&I   Safety Inspection Services Inspector Graham Dart to issue the certificate.

        The  long  awaited  weekend  of  the  Festival  of  Steam  arrived  in  due  course  on  the 25th  and  26th  of  November  2000.  It  was  another  step  forward  to  returning  K88  to the fine locomotive that her gallant Victorian engine crews were so devoted to.

        During  the  Winter,  Spring  and   Summer  of  2001  work  continued  on  the  'K'.  The last  technical  jobs  to  be  done  were  the  fitting  of  the  pistons,  and  the  lining  up  of  the motion  gear.  The  original  slide  bars  were  to  badly  pitted  from  the  years  of  exposure in the river, so brand new ones were made and fitted.

    Why Russian Iron Boiler Cladding?

        May  2001.  The  final  colour  was  put  onto  the  boiler  cladding  making  K88  look something  quite  different.  Back  in  1878  the  Rogers  K's  were  finished  off  in  a  way peculiar  to  American  railway  practice.  They  used  a  sheet  metal  called  'Russian Iron'  to  clad  the  boiler  barrel.  Coming  from  the  Ural  Mountains  of  Russia,  hence the  name;  it  was  made  by  repeated  hammering  and  heating,  finally  turning  out  iron sheets  with  a  pleasing  metallic  gray  appearance.  Apart  from  its  relative  freedom from  corrosion,  the  most  outstanding  property  was  the  polished  coatings  of  oxides it  contained.  With  the  help  of  Ameron  Coatings  NZ  LTD.  a  paint  colour  closest  to the original appearance was located

    How To Find A Leak

        During  one  of  the  trial  steamings,  it  was  noticed  that  there  was  a  steam  leak somewhere in the smoke box; this proved to be very difficult to locate.      After  considerable  discussion,  a  local  'Sandblaster'  Geoff  Hinton,  who  is  often called  upon  to  do  jobs  for  the  Plains  Museum  from  time  to  time,  came  in  response to John French's plea.

        The  idea  was  to  connect  Geoff  Hinton's  'air  compressor'  to  the  'K'  so  as  to  have  a full  boiler  of  steam  (air!)  immediately,  thus  making  it  easier,  and  more  comfortable to  climb  into  a  cold  smoke  box  to  feel  cold  steam  pipes  for  any  air  leaks.  Doing  it this way, saved lighting the fire.

        Geoff  Hinton  arrived  just  after  lunch  on  the  16th  March  2002.  An  interested group of Plains Museum members stood waiting.  

         Dennis  Harris  called  cheekily  to  Geoff  as  he  climbed  from  the  cab  of  his  small truck:

        "Have you come to pump up the tires (of K88)?"

        "Yes," replied Geoff, full of wit. "I heard they were a little flat."

        Dennis  Harris  spent  some  time  making  up  a  fitting  to  connect  Geoff's  air compressor  pipe  to  K88's  boiler.  Naturally  the  air  was  to  be  forced  into  the  boiler  at a very high pressure, so everything had to be done safely.

        When  it  was  connected,  Dennis  told  everyone  nearby  to  stand  back,  then  he  gave the 'all clear' signal to Geoff Hinton out beside his truck.

        The  air  rushed  through  the  pipes  into  the  boiler,  and  the  pressure  gauge  in  K88's cab rose steadily and quickly.

        The onlookers gasped at the speed with which the pressure rose.

        Don Wilson voiced everyone's thoughts by saying to Geoff:

        "We'll  buy  the  air  compressor  off  you.  It  will  save  lighting  a  fire  to  go anywhere.  We  can  carry  the  compressor  in  K88's  tender  instead  of  coal.  Its  just  the thing we need!"

        As quick as a wink Geoff had an answer ready:

        "Sure! You can have it for fifty thousand dollars."

        When  the  pressure  had  risen  to  140  -  150  pounds,  Don  Wilson  opened  K88's regulator to allow the air to pass through all the pipes.

        John  French  was  head  and  shoulders  into  the  smoke  box  -  only  his  legs  were showing. At last the leak was located, and everyone was happy again.

        Now  that  the  job  was  over,  Dennis  Harris  decided  it  was  time  for  a  bit  of  fun  - but even he did not know the outcome of this 'lark'.

        He told Don Wilson to try and move the 'K' on the air in her boiler.

        The  brakes  were  released;  Don  Wilson  pushed  the  reversing  lever  forward,  and cracked open the regulator a niche.

        The  immediate  result  was  truly  astounding;  with  one  mighty  bark  of  exhaust from the funnel, the sleeping engine awoke to life.

        The  driving  wheels  spun;  the  exhaust  hit  the  roof  of  the  'K'  shed,  of  which  she was inside; and all the witness's cheered with excitement.

        Don  Wilson  lowered  his  tall  figure  from  K88's  cab  and  strode  over  to  Geoff Hinton who had been laughing as merrily as the rest.

        "Air  Pressure  certainly  acts  differently  to  steam  pressure,"  he  stated,  "I  only  just cracked that regulator open; nothing more!"

        Don had a twinkle in his eye as he continued:

        "So  I  think  you  can  keep  the  air  pump.  We  will  stick  to  coal  and  raise  steam  the conventional way."

        Many  was  the  laugh  raised  over  such  silly  trivial  little  things,  like  the  time  when Dennis  Harris  was  busy  using  a  very  small  electric  drill  with  a  special  grinding  tip, to  try  and  smooth  a  few  rough  spots  off  the  top  of  the  Firemans  side  'guide  bar'.  It eventually  had  to  be  taken  off  and  re-machined  to  get  it  down  to  the  correct smoothness.

        While  Dennis  was  doing  the  grinding,  Don  Wilson  was  around  at  the  other  side of  the  locomotive  doing  another  little  job.  He  didn't  say  anything  for  a  start,  but finally the noise of the drill became to much for his 'sensitive' ears.

        He looked up from what he was doing, and asserted quite pointedly:

        "That thing sounds like a demented bee!"

    Bell for K88
    The Story Of The Bell

    One  day  in  mid  November  2001  the  prominent  New  Zealand  photographer  Mr. David  L.  A.  Turner  of  Christchurch  called  in  at  the  Plains  Museum  to  see  how  K88 was  progressing.  He  is  a   man  who  has  spent  many  hours  photographing  the  New Zealand  railway  system.  He  has  recorded   on  film  such  subjects  as  the  Rewanui Incline  and  other  early   steam  era  history.  The  subject  got  around  to  the  brass  bell that  is  fastened  to  her  boiler.  Mr.  Turner  told  us  the  story  of  it  -  and  a  fascinating one it is to.

        Many  years  ago,  perhaps  when  the  early  New  Zealand  settlers  had  their  grudge against  the  new  'K'  class  engines,  the  bell  off  K87  was  removed.  Somehow  or  other that  same  bell  found  its  way  from  the  South  Island  (K87  never  went  to  the  North Island)  to  a  suburban  station  in  Auckland.  It  was  mounted  as  a  platform  bell  where  it  stayed  for  some  years.  Eventually  the  bell  was  taken  down  and  stored  in  a cupboard and forgotten until......

        Mr.  T.  M.  Haywood  the  then  General  Manager  of  New  Zealand   Railways  during the early 1980's came to see K88 when the late Bob Anderson was restoring it.

        Not  being  particularly  fond  of  steam  trains  and  restoration  work  he  could  not believe  that  K88  could  ever  be  restored.  He  argued  with  Bob  Anderson  that  it  was  a a  hopeless  case.  Bob  refused  to  be  disheartened.  Then  the  General  Manager  made an agreement with Bob.

        He  told  him  that  if  he  ever  restored  the  'K'  and  was  ready  to  run  it  to  let  him know  and  he,  the  General  Manager,  would  give  him  a  bell  that  was  similar  to  the original  ones  that  the  K's  came  out  from  America  with  back  in  1878.  Bob  Anderson thanked him very much and that was that. But the trouble came later......

        One  day  near  K88's  completion  Bob  Anderson  contacted  Mr.  T.  M.  Hayward  and told him that as the 'K' was just about finished he was ready for the bell.

        Mr.  T.  M.  Hayward  was  shocked.  Had  Bob  Anderson  really  managed  to  get  K88 back  together?  Well!  What  ever  was  he  to  do?  He  had  never  given  K88  another thought  and  he  had  never  thought  it  could  run.  That  was  why  he  promised  to  supply a  bell  he  never  seen  -  or  knew  existed.  The  next  few  days  were  pretty  hectic because  he  just  had  to  find  a  bell,  and  find  one  just  like  K88's  original.  The  General Manager  scoured  the  country  from  end  to  end.  Nobody  had  bells  of  the  age  he  was looking for to give away.

        Finally  he  started  to  get  somewhere.  In  a  small  cupboard,  in  an  Auckland Railway  Station  he  came  across  a  bell;  and  what  a  bell  it  was  too!  The  bell  was  still attached  to  its  original  mounting  frame.  Even  the  brass  acorn  ornaments  were  still in place.

        So  Bob  Anderson  got  what  he  was  wanting  -  the  bell  was  formally  handed  over at the recommissioning by the General Manager whose promise was kept.

        But  the  story  does  not  end  there  though.  Many  people  believe  the  bell  came  off an  American  locomotive,  as  it  has  a  shape  different  to  that  of  any  other  type.  Its shape also suggests that it could even be off a 'K' class engine.

        Now,  when  Mr.  David  L.  Turner  left  we  were  still  talking  over  the  possibilities, so  eventually  we  decided  to  give  the  bell  and  the  mounting  frame  a  thorough examination.  Imagine  our  surprise  and  delight  when  we  found  stamped  on  the mounting frame the writing, "K 87".

        It  just  shows  how  things  can  happen;  something  never  before  dreamed  of.  And now  K88  will  drive  into  the  future  with  the  bell  off  K87,  an  engine  that  today  lies up in the Arthurs Pass of the South Island.

    The Cab is Fitted

    K88  was  dumped  minus  any  cab.  Since  the  early  1900's  she  had  had  a  steel  one  to replace  the  original  wooden  cab,  as  most  of  the  other  K's  did  too.  This  was  done mainly  because  the  wooden  cabs  were  liable  to  get  burnt  in  engine  shed  fires.  There is at least one photographic example of that with K94 at Gore during 1910.

        The  new  wooden  cab  was  built  of  ash  and   beech  by  a  local  apprentice  cabinetmaker  for  the  late  Mr.  Bob  Anderson  during  the  first  restoration.  The  fitting  of  it was  left  to  the  end,  so  as  to  allow  access  to  the  steam  pipes  and  various  other unreachable parts.

         When  in  place  once  more,  it  lent  a  certain  air  of  Americanism  to  the  overall appearance.

        November  20th  2001  was  another  day  in  the  life  of  the  renewed  K88,  with  her being  steamed  once  more  to  test  for  any  steam  leaks  etc.  The  coupling  rods  were not  in  place,  thus  raising  wisecracks  on  K88s  departure  from  a  2-4-2  wheel arrangement, and the general lack of traction.

        The  only  problems  located  were  an  odd  water  leak  and  incorrectly  fitted  piston rod seals.

    Recommissioning Day

        "So  here  we  go,"  said  Mr.  Trevor  Burling,  President  of  the  National  Federation of  Rail  Societies  in  New  Zealand,  as  he  lent  forward  and  cut  the  commissioning ribbon.  The  scissors  he  used,  were,  so  he  believed,  almost  as  old  as  the  locomotive itself!

        Saturday  30th  March  2002  was  the  most  important  day  in  K88's  recent  history. For  today  was  the  recommissioning!  An  honest  excuse  for  a  day  of  fun  and pleasure, richly deserved after 7 years of hard effort.

        The  great  day  had  broken  clear  and  fine,  encouraging  a  large  crowd.  Speeches were  given  by  Geoff  Geering,  Don  Thompson,  Ron  Hayward,  Ashburton  Mayor  Mr. Anderson  and  Mr.  Trevor  Burling.  By  1.30  p.m.  all  was  ready.  K88  looked  splendid in  her  original  colour's  of  purple  and  gold.  Two  United  States  flags,  the  'Stars  and Stripes'  were  flying  gaily  on  either  side  of  the  smoke  box.  Another  two  smaller New Zealand flags were flying from K88's head stock.

        The  K88  Trust  Board  and  the  workers  on  K88  had  awaited  this  occasion  with enthusiasm.  The  day's  leading  up  to  the  big  event  had  been  full.  Last  minute adjustments  to  minor  fittings  and  final  painting  jobs.  Yes!  Recommissioning  Day, 30th March 2002, was truly a day to go down in history.

        A  great  cheer  arose  from  the  crowd  as  K88  slowly  inched  forward,  gathering momentum.  Cameras  clattered  and  clicked,  whilst  video  cameras  quietly  recorded the historic moment.

        With  the  ribbon  cut  and  the  first  official  trip  completed,  K88  spent  the  rest  of the day hauling excited passengers up and down the 1 mile (2 km) track.

        The  Washington's  colour  scheme  caused  quite  a  few  disgruntled  murmurs.

    Compared  with  the  colour's  usually  seen  in  New  Zealand,  the  rich  hues  came  as  a shock to many people.

        It  has  become  a  firm  belief  that  steam  locomotives  painted  bright  colour's belong  to  the  world  of  'Disney  Land'  and  not  to  our  own  engines  -  even  if  they  were built in USA.

        Surprisingly  enough,  steam  locomotives  were  not  always  'black',  with  'red'  head stocks. Note: the Canterbury 'J' 2-6-0 were painted a 'pleasant green'.

        Another  interesting  point  is:  how  accurate  is  K88's  colour  scheme?  Well,  the evidence obtained by the K88 Trust Board tells of the original layout:

        The  eminent  Charles  Rous-Marten,  New  Zealand's  pioneer  railway  enthusiast wrote in 1878, in an issue of English Mechanic and World of Science:

        '.....Their  appearance  is  somewhat  strange  and  unfamiliar,  owing  partly  to  what struck me at first sight as a redundancy of ornamental decoration.

        'For  instance,  the  Russian  Iron  jacketing  of  the  boiler  and  other  parts  is  neat  and cleanly, but the driving wheels are painted purple, and the spokes richly gilt.

        'The  sandbox  is  placed  on  the  boiler  and  has  a  dome  shaped  cover  of  fluted  iron, painted blue, red, green and yellow.

        'The whole affect is, to use an appropriate slang term "loud,"......''

        At  last  there  is  two  working  examples  of  the  Rogers  K's.  K92  of  the  Waimea Plains  Board,  at  Mandeville,  Gore,  represents  the  typical  Rogers  K  of  the  1903- 1926  era.  K88  in  her  turn,  represents  the  classic  K  of  1878-1880.  Both  locomotives are  as  important  as  each  other  in  their  respective  livery's;  so  it  is  of  little  moment  if K88's  gold  &  purple  makes  one  'feel  sick';  just  have  a  little  thought  for  our heritage!

        John  French,  Dennis  Harris,  Don  Wilson  and  Ian  Smith  all  feel  as  though  they have  achieved  the  impossible.  They  rightly  feel  proud  of  the  Washington,  and  look forward to a 'long rest' before they begin the next project - JA 1260, ahem! 

  

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Last Updated: Wednesday, 05 April, 2017