Of course you may have been wondering if there is anything to report other than the refurbishment of the Museum forecourt? Well the good news is that “There is” and hopefully the following pages will provide plenty to interest everyone! Project Manager Bruce Coxon has prepared a great article for your enjoyment on the massive infrastructure upgrade that occupied his time for the last two years and led to the Museum’s six week closure. Progress has been made on many other fronts and as usual many volunteers have contributed across all departments since DD118.
In common with similar organisations around the world, the challenges of keeping the wheels turning are best met by sharing the load. We also share the need for renewal and succession planning. If as a member you have skills that can be put to good use at the Museum, please have a chat to Membership Officer Jeff Russell on 4751 2471 straight away, don’t delay! If you know anyone who is not a member, but has skills that are compatible with the Museum’s objectives, please let Jeff know! Make sure you include younger candidates when searching your brain. Also if you know of a likely group that we can target with an appeal for volunteers, please contact Jeff. The Museum always benefits from the input and impact of new arrivals and different ways of problem solving. All welcome!
I welcome back Bruce Coxon to the ranks of our executive committee as Large Exhibits Manager. (Bruce is well known to most of you as a committee member for many years and Chairman during 2015–17 — Ed)
The THNSW Board meeting was held at The Valley on 27 February. The actual Board meeting was held in the cafe/shop while giving Board members also a bit of an opportunity to observe a work in progress. Site inductions took place and given current activity, all movements for a closer look were escorted and restricted to safe areas. I provided the Board with an overview of our plans and progress in relation to other projects as well as WHS issues. I think the report was well received!
The latest news is that Sydney Trains are looking at it more positively with dates being considered in the May–June 2018 window (coinciding with a main line shutdown).
After years of negotiations, reams of paperwork and substantial amounts of friendly and gentle persuasion, the Civil Depot was transferred into the Museum’s custody. The Keys were ceremoniously presented by Sydney Trains' Barry Palmer to past Chairman Ted Mullett who passed them over to current Chairman, Henk Luf via previous Chairman Bruce Coxon who did most of the paperwork prior to the handover on 11 April. (A small but excited band of volunteers from across the years attended this impromptu but important event, before the mysteries of the roller door remote control had several of us practising the limbo!—Ed)
The Civil Depot will house some historically important railway items currently located within the Museum roundhouse, a process that by all accounts will take some time.
Henk Luf, Chairman VHLDHM
Members who have not paid their 2018 renewal fees are now unfinancial.
To pay your fees, please visit our website
infobluemountains.net.au/ locodepot/ membership
and read the information on the right hand side of the page.
You can also contact the membership officer at
jeff.russell@ valleyheightsrailmuseum. info
or 0414 764 178 and a form will be posted to you.
If you have visited the Museum recently or seen our Facebook page you will have caught up with the fact that the forecourt refurbishment project has been completed, a project that we are all very pleased with. Three major issues have been resolved:
The management team thought we had been very thorough in our planning allowing for what utilities may be uncovered and what future needs (like ducting from the roundhouse to the turntable pit) should be provided for, but we were somewhat taken aback by the task of how to replace this drainage and maintain the heritage look. What we found was that in bays 1 to 5, the railways probably in the 1970s had remediated this section with some PVC piping but bays 6 to 10 had no drainage pipes left at all. Further to this, the roof downpipes emptied into a box drain which had a further pipe at the bottom taking the water away to the main outlet. It was essential to keep these box drains to preserve the original look of the system but nearby excavation meant they literally just fell to bits! They had been constructed with a very weak concrete mix and a few pieces of brick and rocks.
The two photos below show the new PVC piping and an example of a new box drain. The photo on the right is of bays 1 to 5 where we could save some of the box drains but from 6 to 10 they were all replaced. As you have seen in the completed photos, the finished project looks exactly the same from a heritage perspective as the original drains.
Of course we would rather have not touched any drainage but this failed system was found to be the root cause of all our damage!
There were other challenges along the way and one was the issue of how to weld standard 53 kg replacement rail to the original small 41 kg rail coming from the roundhouse. This took the specialist welders some time to perfect but the pictures below show how it was achieved. Most rails were severely corroded and were replaced. The railways had previously done some rail replacement and had used transition bolted plates but it was felt that to drill new holes through the very old original rail would produce a weak joint and welding was the way to go!
Concrete sleepers were mainly used in the project but of course where the rails converge at the turntable, these were not functional as they cannot be cut to length and would foul the adjacent sleepers where they intersect. Timber could of course have been used but has limited life so the picture above shows a composite sleeper (made from recycled soft drink bottles!) that can be cut to length and fixed to the rail with coach screws.
Other interesting heritage items discovered included the original brick facings to the entrance of the roundhouse roads. The picture below shows an example of this brickwork installed c1913, during the depot’s construction. Great care was taken to not damage this infrastructure, some previous decay is shown.
As you can see it was a most interesting construction that took 21 working days to complete. Prior to this, two year has elapsed during preparation to arrange funding and tenders while heritage approvals from Sydney Trains and the Office of Environment & Heritage took place in order for work to proceed.
The project also had a number of issues that the team had to resolve, these included:
There were a number of smaller day-to-day issues that we had to overcome but all volunteers and contractors worked together to come up with an excellent finished product that will serve the people of NSW and beyond for many years to come.
There are many volunteers and contractors to whom we owe a great deal of gratitude for both their expertise and their willingness to do a great job:
Thank you to all!
A big job for sure but when you see the smiling faces of young and old as they ride the trains on Museum Open Days it proves it was worth it!
Sunday 14 January was a perfect summer’s day for a crowd of interested visitors to enjoy the Museum in the ambience of a non-running day. (With good fortune, I hope this will be the last time I need to use that term in years to come as our diesel shunting loco X206 is closing in on its unveiling as a revenue earner!) We welcomed a return visit by over 20 members of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) led by Division 7 Superintendent, Les Fowler. A guided tour was conducted for the group, including areas normally off-limits on Open Days.
The plan to offer steam rides across the Australia Day weekend was thwarted, due to a minor technical hitch on the Saturday. This was resolved later in the day and in good time for normal service to be resumed on Sunday 28th. During the week prior, “Stevo” was smartened up with the reinstated covers being given a preliminary paint job ready for its first run of the year.
Sunday 11 February saw the return of the popular Trains, Trams & Ts event. A high profile publicity campaign had been conducted across various media channels and although reduced to one day this year to aid preparations for the forecourt upgrade, the event was highly successful, with over 200 visitors.
Many familiar activities were again on the program: the talented Kate Woolfe Trio; the Model T Ford Car Club; the Nepean District Historical Society and the Sydney Morsecodians. We also welcomed back the Nepean Family History Society (NFHS) after a three year absence.
A high turnout of cars made for a colourful spectacle and provided plenty of photo opportunities for members and the public alike. Blessed with hot, but fine weather, the many family groups that turned up mingled with flappers and crooners in their 1920s gear, ready for the period dress competition. Andrew Tester was on hand to capture their best angles, with impartial judge, Judith McCleod, NFHS treasurer, making her decisions mid-afternoon. The band played in the middle of the day for the keen music followers who showed their appreciation of the fine jazz on offer at every occasion including a set on the tram.
On Thursday 15 February, a large group, many from the Museum, joined the outing to the Newington Armory kindly arranged by David Lewis, STARPS membership officer, and Museum member. Another warm day saw a full load of 40 board the narrow gauge train after an introductory guided tour of the buildings and infrastructure. A fascinating insight into the behind the scenes activities that were conducted at the Armory over many years was followed by a tasty lunch in the Mess Hall.
Several Museum members were spotted at the Festival of Steam at Thirlmere on the weekend of 3-4 March. Saturday marked the unveiling of 3526 in its VERY bright green livery—a great paint job. Five locos were in steam and provided a wonderful opportunity for families and enthusiasts alike to enjoy the sights and sounds of yesteryear.
Ted Dickson and I helped at the Day Out With Thomas at Thirlmere on 17-18 March. Ted managed family groups doing cab inspections of 3642 and I spent the morning on the main gate and then taking umpteen shots in all manner of poses of those wanting pictures with the Fat Controller in front of Thomas. Despite hot and windy conditions, the hundreds of excited children were well catered for and all seemed to have a good time. If you’ve never experienced one of these days up close, it’s quite an eye-opener!
Steam returned to Valley Heights on Sunday 25 March after a six week break and Stevo was “all fired up” chugging up and down the line to enable visitors to gaze from above on our latest major project!
On Tuesday 27 March, we hosted a group from the Western Sydney Division of Engineers Australia. Following Devonshire Tea in the café, prepared by Eileen Ward, the requested technical tours were guided by Ted Dickson, Ted Mullett and myself. Three groups of seven were escorted to various exhibits and infrastructure, including some not normally accessible to the public. Experts were on hand to discuss their pet subjects: Ted Dickson—steam loco 5711 and ash tunnel; Terry Matchett—diesel shunter X206 and workshop; Steve Corrigan—electric loco 4601 (featuring the first “public” demo of the simulator!); Henk Luf—model layout; Ray Beharrell —1950s layout. Feedback from this special interest group was very positive and they plan a return visit in 2019. If you are a member of another group or know anyone who is and may be interested in a mid-week visit, please let me know on 4751 4174.
On the first Sunday in April, standard goods loco 5461 was trialled in a new coat of water based Brunswick Green to match 3214. As it was then realised that there were too many green locos in service already, Ross Stenning kindly agreed to wash off the paint the next day.
The “Transport across the Mountains” themed Glenbrook Park Junior Playground was officially opened by Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) Mayor, Mark Greenhill on Saturday 7 April. Other councillors plus Federal MP Susan Templeman were also in attendance and I, along with other contributors (including the Men’s Shed) had the chance to speak briefly. The items donated by the Museum were mostly in place, but some work remains, including the mounting of interpretative plaques. The park appears to be well received by those using it, especially the children! Council awarded a certificate of recognition to the Museum and it is on display in our shop until a permanent home is found.
Sunday 8 April turned out to be a great boost to the Museum’s fortunes with healthy visitor numbers and good shop sales. The day was the first of our Seniors “One-for-one” days and many of the seniors who turned up brought other family members along.
The day was enhanced by a pre-booked birthday group of 30+ who enjoyed rides and made good use of our gas BBQ. As a nice touch, they also provided their own musician, local Rob Spark, who fitted in well under one of the two shelters we provided and performed with great skill for several hours. Thanks to all who helped with the preparations for this large group.
The Museum participated in the first airing of the Stronger Families Alliance in conjunction with BMCC and other service providers. One of the objectives is to “Coordinate information about low cost/free school holiday local activities for families living in the Blue Mountains in one accessible calendar”. We are one of the few “commercial” activities involved in the program but only opened on our regular day during these school holidays (Sunday 22 April). A survey was conducted on site so that Mountains residents could provide feedback to Council. A link to the holiday calendar has been added to our website and other activity organisers are doing likewise as a condition of engagement. If this program looks promising, we’ll consider opening as a non-running day on the two Thursdays during the July school holidays.
Andrew Tester and I joined an introductory meeting at Katoomba with Council’s new local museum adviser, Gay Hendricksen, that was also attended by representatives from Glenbrook Historical Society, Blue Mountains Historical Society, Linden Observatory, Bygone Beauties, Woodford Academy, Mt Wilson/Mt Irvine Historical Society and several from Council. Gay is a founding partner of The Rowan Tree Heritage and Cultural Services and has a long career in the museum and galleries sector. We have already submitted our response to a questionnaire about our current status. The meeting heard of the aspirations and challenges of the various organisations, many common with ours! One item of interest was discussion of the cataloguing tool eHive and Andrew is looking into that, possibly as a way of managing information about our large exhibits. Gay visited the Museum in April for the BMACHO meeting and we were pleased that she joined the group for the guided tour.
Friday 6 April saw the Museum host the monthly meeting of Blue Mountains Association of Cultural Heritage Organisations (BMACHO). After morning tea, kindly arranged by Grant Robinson (our delegate), debate kicked off amongst the large group of 16, including Gay Hendricksen, as well as Henk and myself as observers. A guest speaker from “Friends of the Paragon” outlined that group’s views on the recent history and future of that building/business at Katoomba. Meetings such as this provide an opportunity for us to showcase the Museum to a new batch of business people and policy makers who have input into heritage issues across our area. The meeting closed with a well patronised 30 minute guided tour.
Andrew Tester, Grant Robinson and I have been working on a revamp of the Museum’s website. This involves making the content more accessible and relevant and also more user friendly for those viewing via mobile phones or other devices. This is a key element given that a large proportion of our target audience uses devices, especially smartphones as their sole channel for receiving news and information. This is a work in progress and will be submitted to our Committee before any changes are made.
The “bogie sign” has been moved for the duration of the corridor fence project to its temporary home adjacent to the cement hopper.
Most of you will have heard of the world of “Twitter”. The Museum now has an account and love it or hate it, in the same way that our Facebook following has accelerated over the last few years, we are hoping that the same will happen to our Twitter account. Morsels of news, information and comment are now going out to the world and will bring about increased exposure and a higher level of awareness with about 50 “followers” so far. These are from many countries with a strong representation in North America & Europe. There are some “odd” ones: a laundry in Denver and a Nepalese restaurant in Wales! Although our engagement with the process is still minimal and we have a lot to learn, there is every confidence that Twitter will be another string to our bow. If interested to see what is being said about your Museum, you don’t have to join up—just visit: https://twitter.com/@heightsrail
Attention has returned to the engine with it receiving a well-deserved clean up and paint as it is now 24 years since its last coat. This involved high pressure water cleaning but the ensuing paint job is for preservation only of the locomotive fabric. My thanks go to Chris Troy, his son Sam, Ross Stenning and Steve Dive for their assistance, in the process using over 40 litres of paint and solvent. (Ted Dickson)
Damaged seats in the U-boat were repaired or replaced. This involved the removal and refitting of a number of seats to improve the appearance and comfort level for visitors.
All recent work relates to development of the driver experience simulator. The recent acquisition of a set of brake handles suitable for the 46 class has focused attention on finding a way to interface the actual brake handle/brake valve assembly to the simulator. The simulator has three brake functions: Release, Lap and Service Application. These are the same as the independent brake in the 46 class, as opposed to the Automatic (train) brake which has at least five positions (Release, Running, Lap and Service and Emergency Application). This fact, in addition to the physical design of the independent brake valve, meant that the Independent brake was the best suited to interface to the computer.
A further challenge was to carry out the work in such a way that no modifications at all were carried out on either the brake valve or handle, ruling out any drilling or cutting. An additional requirement is that the handle can be removed in the normal manner when not in use, enabling safe storage. A functional solution was implemented using a wooden “collar” which is fitted over the top of the valve, secured in place using adhesive Velcro. Micro switches attached to the collar are then actuated when the handle is either in the fully left (Release) or fully right (Application) position. Lap is achieved by wiring in series the normally closed contacts of both switches in series, so that the Lap signal is on when the handle is in the mid position. A gap in the collar permits the handle to be lifted out in the normal manner when not in use. Connection from the brake valve to the computer interface in the No 2 end High Tension compartment is via a terminal block in the main control stand and thence via existing wiring. This will facilitate easy change back to the original arrangement of using the regen brake handle should the need arise. During testing, this arrangement has worked very well, but the main disadvantage is its “inelegant” appearance, thus providing the next task!
Bruce Coxon writes: My main goal in taking on this new role as Large Exhibits Manager, is to restore the van which I see as a valuable asset that can be used on the Valley Heights Mixed. As I have to prepare a budget, Conservation Management Plan, etc. before setting up the work area and gathering a crew, it will probably be much later in the year that we actually start work on the van.
I have also learned that we can proceed to carry out the test day on the new mechanical controls on X206 as the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator (ONRSR) has no objection to the change. I am in discussion with Alan Gardner (THNSW) about having this test day during April. Alan believes there will be no issue and we will be right to go leaving only the accreditation by STARPS which is well underway. Driver re-training will commence in April/May this year as our original licence qualifications expire soon.
In the meantime, we are considering creative plans to reconfigure the layout of the roundhouse, which will separate large display exhibits from work-in-progress areas to make it easier for visitors to move around. Trikes will be moved into the fettlers' shed when finished and other items to the Civil Depot when ready. Care must however be taken to ensure that the proposed work zone doesn’t just create another safety issue with lots of containers, tools, power leads and other equipment just left lying around! .
If there are gaps in your railway library, Blue Mountains Journeys and Sydney Rock (supplied by Blue Mountain Education and Research Trust), Central West Express and Byways 32 are back in stock at the time of writing. Buy now while stocks last.
Steam Action Part 4, Branch Lines, Steel on Steel and Recent Steam in the Mountains are all popular titles that turn over quickly. Drop in on open day and bring your cash/credit card.
STARPS have supplied a number of children’s Thomas and Engineer caps for sale.
John’s brother Warren has donated to us all of John’s model railway locomotives, rolling stock and also modelling tools and spare parts. This is quite an extensive collection and includes many models that John was working on and had not completed. I am sorting through the boxes to catalogue the items.
A metal pit cover was fitted to the eastern end of No 3 road, following the roundhouse pits being identified as a potential hazard by the safety committee. Following this successful installation, units have been ordered for other designated pits. (See update in Safety matters—Ed)
The fuel injection pump again failed on road/rail unit “Mario”. It was removed and taken to the repairer who found the malfunction, and repaired it under warranty. The pump was refitted, and vehicle is now functioning normally. (Our love/hate relationship with this very useful but time-consuming piece of equipment continues!—Ed)
Mid-week events, although needing extra planning and volunteer support, are always welcome. Valley Heights is the perfect site for special interest groups and attractive rates can be negotiated for birthday parties, wedding photography, film shoots, and so on. Please contact Keith Ward at the Museum on (02) 4751 4638 (leave message) if you know anyone who might be interested.
Safety is the first priority in any workplace. As an organisation we are responsible to ensure that we provide a safe working environment for our volunteers and contractors as well as ensuring the Museum is safe for visitors.
It is just as important to us as it is to your family and friends that when you finish working for the organisation at the end of each day, that you return home in the same healthy state that you were in that morning.
Please be conscious of the Notice Boards displayed at the entrance to the Amenities and Training Room (a.k.a. Meal Room). These are regularly updated and while every effort will be made to communicate when a new item is posted on the board. It is ultimately your responsibility to check regularly for new notices.
There are improvements being noticed in this area but we need to stay on top of this. SafeWork NSW can and have sent inspectors into workplaces unannounced, to conduct random audits of safe working practices in any workplace. Hefty fines can apply to individuals and organisations for breaches of the WHS Act especially for repeat offences where breaches have been identified in the past.
Just a reminder about housekeeping in our workplace. We need to ensure we clean up after ourselves at the end of each day. This includes cleaning work benches, putting power tools away, tidying and storing extension cords and not leaving out flammable liquids where they can cause harm.
We sometimes work in areas that are accessible to the general public so it is important that we don’t leave our equipment out where it could cause harm or even be stolen when not in use.
As reported in Depot Diary 118, the refurbishment of our roundhouse forecourt was imminent. We are very pleased to announce the work has now been completed. Rhomberg Rail commenced the work on Monday 12 February, and it was completed on Monday 12 March. A full and comprehensive report with photos is included elsewhere in this edition.
The new surface has removed the major trip and fall hazards that existed with the exposed rail heads and has improved accessibility for the mobility impaired, wheelchairs and families with prams.
Our thanks are extended to the contractors, Rhomberg Rail, for their expertise in completing the work and to Transport Heritage NSW for supporting and funding this project through to fruition. Finally, thanks go to former Chairman Bruce Coxon, for the long hours invested over an extended period of time in preparing the various applications, engaging contractors and negotiating with authorities to achieve this outstanding outcome.
We currently have some areas that have unsatisfactory edge protection (fencing) where falls are a possibility. A team of volunteers are currently working towards addressing the first area of concern with a start being made along the top of the retaining wall that extends from behind the fire shed to the Ash Tunnel.
The current work is being made out of material on hand at the Museum to keep the cost to a minimum. The attached photo shows progress to date and I am sure you will all agree the work looks terrific.
Additional fencing beyond the Ash Tunnel towards our eastern boundary and on the side of the footpath leading from the DLE’s Building to the former upper car park adjacent to the mainline is likely to need funding assistance and quotes are currently being sourced to do this work.
There are a number of matters currently on the agenda of our Safety Committee. The table below summarises the status of some of these matters:
|Safety issue||Current Status|
|Housekeeping||Permanent Agenda Item—Ongoing|
|Tagging & Testing of Electricals||This is an ongoing task of which we need to maintain currency. Members will soon undertake training in the Testing & Tagging of our equipment.|
|Local Risk Register||Draft has been developed thanks to David Honer, THNSW. This is a live document and ongoing maintenance is to continue.|
|Emergency Response Procedures||Document is currently being drafted.|
|Sleeper Retaining Wall||Investigation into its replacement. Survey of the wall has been undertaken and a report is imminent which will determine the next course of action.|
|Rail Corridor Boundary Fence||Some good news here with quotes and a contractor engaged to replace the last section of the boundary fence which runs between the eastern and western boundaries parallel to the main line. This project needs to be completed by 30 June 2018. Stay tuned for updates!|
|Pit Covers||All new pit covers to fit across the front of exposed inspection pits in the Roundhouse have now been received and fitted in place. This eliminates the risk of falls into these pits.|
|Managing Oil Spills||The Museum in conjunction with STARPS is currently trialling the use of reusable absorbent matting around the locomotives during lighting up process. Strips of matting down each side and underneath the locomotive are laid to catch and absorb oil spills. This assists with managing environmental safety issues and reduces the risk of spoiling the new forecourt surface.|
|Access to ETB 6039||Following the forecourt renewal and with this carriage back in its usual position, improvements have been made to public access to the “U-boat” A safer set of steps has been positioned allowing access to the carriage from a platform at the top of the steps. The steps formerly used for visitor access are now at the other end of the carriage—to be used for emergencies only.|
We would like to acknowledge and thank the invaluable support of Transport Heritage NSW for their help, guidance and assistance in addressing the safety at Valley Heights.
We welcome the following new members:
Your fellow members hope you enjoy all the activities and facilities at your Museum.
Teddy Bears’ Day Out. This highly successful event will be held on an extra Open Day—Sunday 20 May. Children with teddies are admitted free and can enjoy some extra treats—the “Teddy Bear Express”, the “Hidden Teddies” competition, a pack of “Gummi Bears” and a hoped for return visit of “Mama” and “Papa” Bear! Make sure that all the children in your family and circle of friends know about this one!
Please share Museum news with friends, relatives, workmates and neighbours.
Keith Ward, Eileen Ward, Andrew Tester, Bruce Coxon, Grant Robinson
We wish to thank our important sponsors:
Which Scottish village shares its name with a NSW village associated with the Ampol bitumen tanker NTBF 4716 at VHLDHM and what is the connection (with the tanker)?
Depot Diary 118 Trivia Quiz answer:
With only ONE entry received in the competition for last edition’s quiz, the judge’s decision was made very easy! Grant Robinson correctly named seven TrainLink stations that included a female name, in keeping with the conditions of the question and has been awarded the prize.
The full list is:
Dora Creek, Greta, Hazelbrook,
Helensburgh, Lisarow, Mount Victoria, Penrose, Point Clare, Victoria Street, Unanderra (correspondence welcome!)
Check the question at infobluemountains.net.au/ locodepot/ depot-diary
Copyright © 2018 Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.