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.
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.
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
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!"
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.
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.
"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