Around The Twist

With all pressed metal sheets in place, we must now manufacture curved timber mouldings to cover the joint where the main roof sheets and the end vertical sheets meet.

The art of bending and re-shaping timber is rather specialised and typically utilises purpose built machinery. We’ve got the next best thing – an 1880s railway workshop!

This is how its done:

Step 1: Take some timber that is either green or poorly seasoned. Machine your chosen profile.

Step 2: Cut timber to the correct dimensions, then soak each length in boiling hot water. We used this piece of conduit, which is strapped to a piece of timber to avoid the pipe bending due to the heat of the water (we learnt the hard way!). Allow to soak for 15 mins, top up water as it is absorbed by timber.


Step 3: Form timber by laying on bench and forcing a round template, ensuring to support the timber all the way. Not enough support, and you’ve got (another) broken piece of timber for the firebox.


Step 4: Installation is a 2 stage process. First we install the base strip, which is then followed by the dressed strip. This provides sufficient coverage of the join.

Step 5: A light sand and a coat of undercoat sees us out for the day.


Its time to call the painters again to apply the final coats.

Ashes to Ashes, Panels to Cars

Our car builder Davo has been very busy preparing the Australian red cedar panels for the final fit out of the “Lounge” end of L516. These panels were salvaged from the former NSWGR sleeping cars at the Zig Zag Railway (which were set for scrap) and Dave has done an outstanding job bringing them back to their former glory. It is sad to think that the cars at Zig Zag have since been reduced to a pile of ashes following the recent bushfires in the Blue Mountains, but it is great that this panelling has been saved and put to such a fitting use.

One of the refurbished panels was test fitted between the window frames.

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Our weekday volunteers have also been making progress with the former Attendant’s compartment, which we plan to make into a toilet space. Work completed includes a small repair to the timber near the roof vent, while the window, sills and shutters have been installed along with associated timber panelling.

Painting of the pressed metal roof started with a coat of etch primer, followed by the installation of the wooden light bases (using a string line to install them in a straight line).

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Outside, the our carpenters continue rebuilding the timber work around the door frame and upper ends. Some cosmetic work had been performed here a few years back, but a closer inspection revealed that some additional attention was required to replace rotten timber panelling.

It doesn’t take the boys long to have it looking brand new. Taking the time to do this work now will help to ensure the car has a long low maintenance life in service.

Meanwhile, Ross’ engineering expertise was called upon to replace some corroded steel stud plates used to hold the gangway curtain in place. These will be refitted in due course.

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After lunch, focus was turned to building out the corridor section near the toilet. Brett took the lead starting with a sturdy timber frame and a wide grin!

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…before installing the Masonite sheeting…

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…followed by fitting the original pressed metal sheets, which were then painted with etch primer.

Next step is to manufacture the moulding to cover the join. See “Around the twist” post.

Before Too Long

Restoration of heritage rolling stock requires many diverse skills, and the 3801 Limited team called on the wood turning expertise of Michael from the Men’s Shed at Engadine. Michael used his workshop lathe to turn up several timber discs which will form the bases for the light fittings prepared previously (refer “Lights and Vents” blog update). As the car ceiling is curved, Steve ran the discs through the band saw to cut the angle to match the pitch of the ceiling.


We under coated the discs ready for installation.


Todd kept things moving along inside the car, cutting the holes through the metal sheets for the vents.


Before test fitting 2 of the vents to check that they fit and see how they will look.


We use a flexible gap filler to ensure a smooth transition between the joints in the metal sheets. At times, it’s a tedious job, but the results are worthwhile.


After the BBQ lunch, the work group got busy manufacturing a batch of rubber washers to replace life expired ones. These go between the glass light shades and the metal light fittings. We use two different sized Wad punches, one to cut the outer edge of the washer, and the smaller cuts out the inner hole.


To put that another way, here is step 1:


Followed by step 2:


At the end of another successful work day, we can cross more jobs off the to‐do list. It is amazing what a dedicated team of young and old volunteers can achieve in their spare time.


Can’t wait for next weekend. More updates soon.

Time for a road trip!

With lighting now installed in the gutted end of L516, our weekend warriors focused their attention on furnishing this end of the car. This will be a top down approach, starting with the roof and light fittings. Ritchie Bros cars were synonymous with elaborate pressed metal roof mouldings, which remain in the sleeping compartments at the other end of L516.


Sourcing the original pressed metal roof moulding pattern quickly proved difficult, and copying an existing pattern was prohibitively expensive. After a great deal of research, Jean Morrison from Heritage Ceilings ( suggested we use their Lily pattern, which retains the flowing floral patterns of the original style.


Experienced carpenter and volunteer car builder Chris was happy to provide his Ute to collect the pressed metal sheets from the factory at Bathurst. Although we may have taken a slight de‐tour…


Could this be the first time “4901” has been in poll position at Bathurst?


Down at the factory, Todd ensures that the precious cargo is safe and secure for the return trip to Sydney.


Back at the shed, the Saturday working bees have the sheets installed one at a time and before long we start to get a feel for how it’s going to look. The strings provide additional support during installation, to avoid creasing the sheets. You don’t normally use these in HO scale!


Standing back to admire our handy work, its clear we have a long way to go!


But the work group have it all in hand. Chris starts by pre drilling the screw holes in the sheets.


Then, with the sheet partially screwed in place, the hole is drilled for the light fitting. Eye protection is important when drilling sheet metal.


Then the light globe is re‐installed.


At the close of Saturday, several sheets are installed.


It will take a number of work days to complete this job, but its well worth the wait.

Lights & Vents

With the metal roof progressing well, its time to think ahead and get the jewellery ready for the next part of the restoration project. Our friends at the Zig Zag railway kindly allowd us to salvage whatever fittings we could from the three former NSWGR sleeping cars which are set to be scrapped. These cars have been used for accommodation during steaming weekends at Zig Zag, but are sadly at the end of their life.


These cars pre‐date L516 (TAM502), with their timber frames and Pullman body work, but the light fittings and vents are basically the same.


Back at the Rowling workshop, cleaning started with the lamp shades


But wait! There’s more!


Before the glassware was paired up with the metal light fittings.


The vents have attracted over a century worth of soot and cobwebs, but a bit of elbow grease and they come up real nice too! Nickel plated brass was the most common type of vents.


These sleeping car vents incorporate a louver mechanism, which can be opened or closed depending on ventilation needs.


Different cars, different eras, different styles. Somewhere along the track, this plain copper vent must have been in fashion. We’ll find a place for it in L516.


When the roof is finished, this jewellery will be installed. Till next time.

Overhauling a Carriage Part 3: New Battery Boxes

Often overlooked, the battery boxes are an essential part of a well maintained heritage train. While the work is far from glorious, this sort of maintenance work needs to be done.

An old (spare) box in storage at Eveleigh was stripped and metal components treated for corrosion. Due to the years of acidic fumes, the timber was mostly beyond salvage, with new origan planks used in place. The Tuesday work group applied 2 coats of low sheen black paint, and the box was fitted to SFN2182. Who knows when we’ll have to look at this one again?

The cells look pretty snug in there!


The opportunity was taken to clean the terminals as part of 6-monthly maintenance, which is usually conducted by our Tuesday volunteers.

Pre clean:


Post clean:


With the doors fitted, its another job done! Onto the next one.


Overhauling a Carriage Part 2: Bogie Work

The following is a selection of photos were taken from our mechanical team showing some of the key steps in
a complete overhaul of one of the bogies on SFN2182.

With the carriage body hydraulically lifted and layed onto temporary stilts, the Bogie is removed from the carriage and the stripping out of brake beams and components


The Yoke and Draft Gear are inspected for wear and cracks.


Springs and components are removed for inspection and requalification/reclamation.


Swing plank removed in preparedness for overhaul, inspection and bush renewal.


Swing plate and leaf springs are re-fitted.


The Bogie Bolster which holds majority of the carriage weight is replaced after crack testing.


With the Bogie replaced and the brakes connected up the carriage is now ready for air brake testing before being allowed to return to service.


And with this work on the second bogie (the other one was completed earlier) this completes the overhaul of SFN2182.

Overhauling a Carriage Part 1: First comes the elbow grease

The overhaul of the car body on SFN2182 was completed late in 2011 and the following is a selection of photos showing the completion of the job.

Following the treatment of any corrosion, the sides of the car were sanded back.


The toilet windows were removed to ensure all areas were properly prepared prior to any painting. There was no escaping the candy colours, which were from the State Rail Authority days of the 1980s.


Speaking of which, the recent arrival of 42101 also retains signs of the Candy era, and would likely have hauled cars like SFN2182 on the main south in its heyday. The 421 is privately owned and restoration work is being finalised pending reactivation for use on primarily heritage work.


2 coats of metal primer was followed by the first coat of Indian red.


Car internals were dismantled to get in and treat some troublesome corrosion. But before too long, it’s looking pretty good.


…and the new sills have been machined and test fitted.


The Rowling workshop at Engadine had the new sills varnished and polished.


The top-coats were completed a few weeks later, and our resident car builder Dave Mathews went about re-fitting the windows and sills. Cheers Davo!


There is nothing like a deadline to focus ones attention, and with the Sydney Special Children’s Christmas Charity trip bearing down on us, the final touches were applied in readiness for this important annual event.


Away from the carriage body, the car was also lifted and the bogie overhauled.


I think we can safely say that the results speak for themselves, a grand effort by a dedicated team of volunteers.


That was easy! What was all the fuss about??


With a steam loco on the front, SFN2182 is again part of the active 3801 limited fleet. Here ARHS ACT’s 3016 sits proudly at Central Railway Station with the Special Children’s Christmas Charity train in December 2012 before departure to the Rosehill Gardens. The SFN is the second carriage behind the steam engine.


The greatest satisfaction (for us volunteers) is seeing something you worked so hard on travelling all over the state being enjoyed by the people, both passengers and line-side photographers.


Before long, SFN2182 is back in familiar territory, overlooking the big blue Pacific Ocean on the Cockatoo Run.

Wiring the Gutted End

With excellent progress being made in the compartments of L516, a move was made to installing a functional lighting arrangement (with heritage value) in the gutted end of the car.


A survey of the roof beneath the masonite sheeting showed reminants of the old compartments. The luggage racks were located on the left (see faded Manilla painted tongue-and-groove panelling), and the compartments were on the right in this space. Clearly visible is the location of the partition between the 3rd and 4th compartments, shown in the center of the photo.


The original cloth insulated wiring was evident, and the holes through which they run will be re-used. Note the chalk markings, presumably measurements in inches.


We chose for a fourth option to those considered previously, which will give the best throw of light. This option utilises existing cable runs, and is probably the closest to the original style.

The wires were run by carefully removing some of the timber planks before the circuits were soldered and globes installed.

With the masonite roof back up, it’s the end to another very satisfying volunteer working bee


Now we have to find where we left the lamp fittings.

It’s all in the detail!

Big jobs like this need to be broken down into smaller bite-sized pieces, and so we’ve been trying to work our way through the compartments one at a time where possible.


But its the small jobs that seem to occupy the time, and new timber mouldings needed to be manufactured to replace the old ones that were removed during re-wiring work.

At the Rowling workshop at Engadine, the wood machinery was set up to machine replacements, and the results are a good match.


Several lengths were machined.


Back at the shed, they receive a coat of undercoat.


We also undercoated the air vents at the same time. These were removed to access the cable chases through the roof line, and will be topped off with Manilla prior to re-fitting.


The roof was sanded prior before applying any undercoat.


In some places, this revealed the original red cedar under the paint work.


For a while there, the roof was looking like patch work, with light fittings dangling from the roof…


But patience pays off, and one by one, the lights are re fitted.


And then the shades were added.


One of the original berth light fittings were refurbished, and fitted in place to remind us of where we are heading…and what we’ve to look forward to.


From the outside, its also looking good.


But there is always more to be done.