Flagships?

 
  route14 Chief Commissioner

Probably because R766 had been converted to oil fired?

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  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
If they had to change Warnambool bound train R class at Geelong in the 1950's, how come West Coast Railway ran their Rs on scheduled Saturday services the whole distance at the turn of this century? Was it the improvements that have now, sadly, been removed like the double chimneys, etc?
Bogong

The day I travelled on the footplate of the R class, express from Spencer St to Geelong, we had an S class banker so the R class wasn't doing all the work..I think this was probably the usual arrangement.

Mike.
  kuldalai Chief Commissioner

In early 1950 s VR only had few R so they were kept close to Melb plus 4 on two Overland consists. So R only ran Geelong Melbourne in those days and A2 and K or J ran beyond Geelong .  WCR R was oil. whereas VR early 1950 s were coal fired.
  route14 Chief Commissioner

So is an oil fired R class able to run all the way to Warrnambool without an S class booster engine?
  overlander Station Master

R711 often ran solo and could complete the return trip on a tank of oil.  It was usual to take water at Colac on the down and up journeys.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
In early 1950 s VR only had few R so they were kept close to Melb plus 4 on two Overland consists. So R only ran Geelong Melbourne in those days and A2 and K or J ran beyond Geelong .  WCR R was oil. whereas VR early 1950 s were coal fired.
kuldalai
The Overland alone would have occupied near enough to 10% of the R class fleet.
  The Vinelander Minister for Railways

Location: Ballan, Victoria on the Ballarat RFR Line
So is an oil fired R class able to run all the way to Warrnambool without an S class booster engine?
route14

The correct term is banker...
  route14 Chief Commissioner

Thanks.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
So in the 1950s trains bound for Warnambool hauled by R class locomotives changed engines at Geelong, whereas at the turn of this century the R class went the whole distance, often solo without the assistance of a diesel 'banker'.

Was this because:
  • The modifications installed by WCR like double chimneys, etc. made the R class a more efficient and reliable machine?
  • The V.R. of the 1950s was overstaffed and unaccountable, so they could get away with feather-bedding operations?
  • Oil firing reduced the build up of ash, clinker and gunk, allowing a locomotive to go further without having it's innards cleaned?
  • Other reasons?
I've listed them roughly in the order that I suspect applies, but I'm not a mechanical engineer, so I'd be happy to be corrected.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
So in the 1950s trains bound for Warnambool hauled by R class locomotives changed engines at Geelong, whereas at the turn of this century the R class went the whole distance, often solo without the assistance of a diesel 'banker'.

Was this because:
  • The modifications installed by WCR like double chimneys, etc. made the R class a more efficient and reliable machine?
  • The V.R. of the 1950s was overstaffed and unaccountable, so they could get away with feather-bedding operations?
  • Oil firing reduced the build up of ash, clinker and gunk, allowing a locomotive to go further without having it's innards cleaned?
  • Other reasons?
I've listed them roughly in the order that I suspect applies, but I'm not a mechanical engineer, so I'd be happy to be corrected.
Bogong
From a Q&A with West Coast Railway driver Bob Buttrims in "Anatomy of West Coast Railway's "Super" R Class" in Steamrail Victoria's "Stack Talk" magazine, Issue 2, Volume 12 (August 2001):

Q: What was the general brief for modifying a steam locomotive?

A: The criterion set out by the owners was that R711 had to maintain a diesel schedule on the normal Warrnambool passenger train.
...
We knew we would not have time to clean fires on the Warrnambool line and a coal burner would not make it through without cleaning the fire. Power output however was a problem, particularly due to the Geelong tunnel. We knew we would have to take eight cars through from a standing start. An ordinary R class would have been lacking to take it through.

...
The biggest difference the [modified] front makes to an R class is the method of driving. R711 handles its best, and is designed to be driven, at full throttle with as short a cut off as possible. If driven like this the power difference between a modified R class and an ordinary R is phenomenal, however if driven on the throttle with a long cut off the power difference is much less pronounced. This of course raises the question of how good is R711 in comparison with an ordinary R class. The simple answer is that we do not know. By feel and my manual calculation there would seem to be a 23 or 30 per cent increase in power, but without a dynamometer car it is impossible to say. What I can say is I would happily take R 711 and eight cars through the South Geelong tunnel from a standing start at Geelong and have done it many times. It would worry me with an ordinary R class.

...
Q: Regarding the tender. People have spoken of the remarkable range of your modified R class. It seems to go a long way on a tender-full of fuel and water. What sort of range are we talking about?
...

A: The tender capacity has been changed a little, but not by much. R711 will run Melbourne to Warrnambool with a light train on a tender of water but, on say eight cars, it will be down below the crossbars at Colac. It is hard to judge if the water consumption is better than an ordinary R or not.
Anatomy of West Coast Railway's "Super" R Class
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
So in the 1950s trains bound for Warnambool hauled by R class locomotives changed engines at Geelong, whereas at the turn of this century the R class went the whole distance, often solo without the assistance of a diesel 'banker'.

Was this because:
  • The modifications installed by WCR like double chimneys, etc. made the R class a more efficient and reliable machine?
  • The V.R. of the 1950s was overstaffed and unaccountable, so they could get away with feather-bedding operations?
  • Oil firing reduced the build up of ash, clinker and gunk, allowing a locomotive to go further without having it's innards cleaned?
  • Other reasons?
I've listed them roughly in the order that I suspect applies, but I'm not a mechanical engineer, so I'd be happy to be corrected.
Bogong
Just spent an hour of comments on this post that Railpage gobbled up and deleted under some pretext or other.

Couldn't be bothered doing it all again except for the following:

I am disappointed at the term featherbedding. There were bludgers, of course, especially in the workshops but also some damned fine tradesman. There are bludgers in the industry even today.

I knew railwaymen of the 1950s (all dead now) who worked 13 shifts a fortnight for months at a time. Annual leave arrears covered years. These blokes worked for ages under these conditions providing a level of service to the community that the current so called operators have never heard of.

In the 1950s the VR ran a network that covered almost the whole of Victoria where one could travel and/or freight goods and parcels from Mildura to Walhalla, send homing pigeons from Glenroy to Frankston for release on arrival or could send blankets to the Lost Dogs Home c/o the SM at Macauley. Basically, one could send just about anything from anywhere to anywhere.

The VR did everything for itself, rolling stock construction and maintenance, tracks, signals, operations, ticket printing, sales and accounting, refreshment rooms etc etc. These things do not just happen without people. Remember that there were fewer alternatives to rail in those days. No such thing as 'bustitution'.

The VR was still recovering from WW 2 and was chronically affected by the poor coal available for locomotives.

The drafting modifications made by WCR to their R class may have made it marginally (?) more efficient but not more reliable. They still threw at least one rod.

Oil firing is a bonus but oil became more expensive than coal in the 1950s. This is about the only one of your assertions with which I agree.

West Coast steam was a niche (gunzel) operation that ultimately went bust.
  route14 Chief Commissioner

Thanks for that.  Just as a matter of interest, what sort of communication did they have between the R class leading locomotive and the S class diesel banker?
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Thanks for that.  Just as a matter of interest, what sort of communication did they have between the R class leading locomotive and the S class diesel banker?
route14
Didn't WCR R class have a diesel control stand so that the diesel could be driven from the R?
If the foregoing is correct was the diesel banker/train engine completely without crew?
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
Just as a matter of interest, what sort of communication did they have between the R class leading locomotive and the S class diesel banker?
route14
They used a bog-standard Multiple Unit cable that linked into a diesel control stand inside R711's cab.
  Trainplanner Chief Commissioner

Location: Along the Line
Like other Railpagers I too have been critical of some of the lost opportunities that cost cutting Regional Fast Rail and recently RRL projects have caused thru short term thinking on what are ultra long term infrastructure projects.  Those deficiciencies etc have been well aired on this and other threads.

I too decry the "slowing" down of many v/Line trips and I think section running times on state owned infrastructure should be developed and overseen by the ultimate owners to prevent these sorts of practices.

Even so whilst I was home I recently undertook a run on the 1658 Bendigo Flaghip with a colleague who monitored the following.   It is by any measure for a regional/rural passenger trip impressive:

Melbourne-Bendigo 92min. 03 sec. with 2 stops – 162km = average speed 105.7km/h.
·        Melbourne-Castlemaine 73min. 26sec. with 1 stop – 125km = average speed 102.2km/h
·        Footscray-Castlemaine 64min. 46sec. non-stop – 120km = average speed 110.8km/h
·        Sunbury (non-stop)-Castlemaine 36min. 54sec. non-stop – 87km = average speed 141.5km/h
·        Sunbury (non-stop)-Bendigo 55min. 31sec with 1 stop – 124km = average speed 134.1km/h.

Imagine if the route had been upgraded throughout to 60kg/m rail with concrete sleepers and no 65km/hr turnouts on loops etc, etc.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Thanks very much Lance, that was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. It's a real shame we don't still have the "Super Rs".

I should apologise to YM-Mundrabilla. By using the term possible "feather-bedding" in the 1950s, I didn't mean that most staff may not have worked hard, I meant inefficient engineering and work practices resulting in people not being deployed effectively.

I was thinking of the parallel of the unlamented old SECV when they had a monopoly of electricity generation in Victoria. After that monopoly was broken up, it famously became a case study for bad job design and work practices. The ordinary employees probably worked harder than most, but the way the company was run and the employees were deployed meant that average productivity per person was shockingly low at the SECV. After it was split up, reviews of how labour was deployed resulted in every single one of the new stand-alone generating companies producing as much (or more) electricity with significantly less employees.

I just had a gut feeling that the VR 60 years ago, might have suffered from the same sort of management incompetence and poor job design that the SECV infamously had and it was wrong for me to describe that as (possible) feather-bedding.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
Thanks very much Lance, that was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. It's a real shame we don't still have the "Super Rs".

I should apologise to YM-Mundrabilla. By using the term possible "feather-bedding" in the 1950s, I didn't mean that most staff may not have worked hard, I meant inefficient engineering and work practices resulting in people not being deployed effectively.

I was thinking of the parallel of the unlamented old SECV when they had a monopoly of electricity generation in Victoria. After that monopoly was broken up, it famously became a case study for bad job design and work practices. The ordinary employees probably worked harder than most, but the way the company was run and the employees were deployed meant that average productivity per person was shockingly low at the SECV. After it was split up, reviews of how labour was deployed resulted in every single one of the new stand-alone generating companies producing as much (or more) electricity with significantly less employees.

I just had a gut feeling that the VR 60 years ago, might have suffered from the same sort of management incompetence and poor job design that the SECV infamously had and it was wrong for me to describe that as (possible) feather-bedding.
Bogong
No probs Bogong - keep smiling - as I said it was a different world then with double line block, electric staff, staff and ticket, few diesels, many steam locos, mechanical signal boxes, manual level crossings and the in house maintenance thereof. All of these were labour intensive and very many were 24/7 rosters.

Not saying that there were no technological improvements possible but it was largely a case of 'keep going as best we can'. Even morse code was in limited use until about the early 1960s. I agree that the complete dieselisation was a chance for some staff reductions but many other systems and operations were still little improved from the 1950s.

If we jump to the 1990s when there had been considerable infrastructure improvements such as signalling, CTC, mechanised track maintenance and concrete sleepers as well as the closure of a heap of branch lines, we come to the so called huge improvements of privatisation according to the Kennett bible and we know where we stand with that. Clearly there have been major staff reductions in the VR as we knew it but it would be interesting to compare total staff numbers of the Metros, DoTs, PTV, Regulators and the host of contractors collectively providing the operation and maintenance of everything that was the VR of the time.

Another thing to remember is that, as a vertically integrated system, there was one bottom line representing the (profit or) loss for the entire operation. Now every two bob contractor to Metro, Vline etc has to make a profit, pay dividends and employ various management staff. Take rolling stock maintenance, for example, we have the likes of EDI, Bombardier, Gemco and others all of whom must maintain and pay for engineers/consultants etc who would otherwise have been employed by the VR for the benefit of the entire network. It is in these areas that a greater than generally realised level of capex and opex are buried leading to the outrageous cost of everything transportwise in Victoria.

Gone, too, as result are 100s of years of experience plus the training of so many apprentices.

All that matters now is being able to spin lies, half truths and misleading announcements etc for political purposes.

One day someone will do a Phd or something and spill the beans but I think that a Royal Commission would be better before we are all dead.

End of rant!Rolling Eyes
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Well I sort of agree with the latter part of your post. Yes there are "economies of scale", many of which you point out. BUT any monopoly in any industry is liable to get fat, lazy and inefficient, no matter who owns it. I reckon there needs to be an element of competition to keep all players on their toes.

So I'll suggest that in theory, a small number of large players competing with each other is preferable to the inefficiencies of either a single huge monopoly or a multitude of small outfits.
  Clarke Hudswell Junior Train Controller

I have just finished reading a very informative book "Fire and Steam A New History of the Railways in Britain" by Christian Wolmar (called 'Britain's most astute transport observer' by the New Statesman newspaper) which gives some relevant figures of the cost of privatisation of Britain's railways. He says in 1987/8, state owned British Rail had a subsidy of 495m pounds "which is far lower than anything achieved under privatisation". He goes on to say "Privatisation also brought with it a lack of transparency about the financial affairs of the railway, making comparisons difficult, but a reasonable estimate of the cost to taxpayers (is) 5 billion pounds annually". Even allowing for inflation, that is a huge increase, by a factor of at least 5.

I have not seen figures for Victoria, but newspaper articles I have read indicate a similar scenario here, i.e. privatisation has resulted in a substantial increase in the cost to us from privatisation of the rail system.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik
I have just finished reading a very informative book "Fire and Steam A New History of the Railways in Britain" by Christian Wolmar (called 'Britain's most astute transport observer' by the New Statesman newspaper) which gives some relevant figures of the cost of privatisation of Britain's railways. He says in 1987/8, state owned British Rail had a subsidy of 495m pounds "which is far lower than anything achieved under privatisation". He goes on to say "Privatisation also brought with it a lack of transparency about the financial affairs of the railway, making comparisons difficult, but a reasonable estimate of the cost to taxpayers (is) 5 billion pounds annually". Even allowing for inflation, that is a huge increase, by a factor of at least 5.

I have not seen figures for Victoria, but newspaper articles I have read indicate a similar scenario here, i.e. privatisation has resulted in a substantial increase in the cost to us from privatisation of the rail system.
Clarke Hudswell
That is what I was trying to say in my last post or so but puts it much more succinctly.
Time for a Royal Commission or for the Auditor General to return from holidays.
  YM-Mundrabilla Minister for Railways

Location: Mundrabilla but I'd rather be in Narvik

Q: What was the general brief for modifying a steam locomotive?

A: The criterion set out by the owners was that R711 had to maintain a diesel schedule on the normal Warrnambool passenger train.
...
We knew we would not have time to clean fires on the Warrnambool line and a coal burner would not make it through without cleaning the fire. Power output however was a problem, particularly due to the Geelong tunnel. We knew we would have to take eight cars through from a standing start. An ordinary R class would have been lacking to take it through.
...
The biggest difference the [modified] front makes to an R class is the method of driving. R711 handles its best, and is designed to be driven, at full throttle with as short a cut off as possible. If driven like this the power difference between a modified R class and an ordinary R is phenomenal, however if driven on the throttle with a long cut off the power difference is much less pronounced. This of course raises the question of how good is R711 in comparison with an ordinary R class. The simple answer is that we do not know. By feel and my manual calculation there would seem to be a 23 or 30 per cent increase in power, but without a dynamometer car it is impossible to say. What I can say is I would happily take R 711 and eight cars through the South Geelong tunnel from a standing start at Geelong and have done it many times. It would worry me with an ordinary R class.

...
Q: Regarding the tender. People have spoken of the remarkable range of your modified R class. It seems to go a long way on a tender-full of fuel and water. What sort of range are we talking about?
...

A: The tender capacity has been changed a little, but not by much. R711 will run Melbourne to Warrnambool with a light train on a tender of water but, on say eight cars, it will be down below the crossbars at Colac. It is hard to judge if the water consumption is better than an ordinary R or not.
LancedDendrite
At the outset let me say that I am not doubting anyone's words or experience but would like to ask the following question.

Can someone with experience of steam please clarify for me how, given identical boiler pressures, driving wheel diameters, cylinder diameters and stroke make such a difference between the performance of the West Coast drafting modified R and standard R classes on the short climb up the Geelong tunnel?
  Daryl Junior Train Controller

Location: Carrum Downs
Does the morning Up service ex Ararat and Maryborough still join at Ballarat with passengers onboard?
potatoinmymouth

On the recent up Echuca, we had to detrain at Bendigo whilst they attached another three cars
  Clarke Hudswell Junior Train Controller

YM-Mundrabilla, of course you are doubting someone's word, and that is healthy. Imagine if we all believed everything politicians told us!

The claims made by WCR regarding the performance of their modified R class were never backed up by any form of testing, or at least nothing was ever published to substantiate their claims. A golden rule of engineering is to modify, then test, then adjust and test again if necessary. I don't think WCR ever had any professional engineering staff.

It should be noted that later, in their official response to the Rail regulator after R 711 bent a connecting rod in service, WCR stated that their modifications had not resulted in any additional power (I read the report at the time, but no longer have a copy to quote from). So which version does one believe?

You are correct, YM, the ability to lift a train up a short steep grade (such as out of Geelong) is determined by the (low speed) tractive effort and the adhesive weight. Higher horsepower, such as both claimed and denied by WCR, only starts having an effect at speeds over typically 30 km/h for a big wheel steamer. Tractive effort is determined by the cylinder stroke and bore, the driving wheel diameter and the boiler pressure, none of which were changed by the WCR mods.

The only mod that could have some effect on the loco's ability to lift 8 cars up the 1 in 50 grade out of Geelong is the oil burning, and then only if a comparable coal burning R had such a dirty or poor fire that it could not maintain boiler pressure for the short time it takes to climb the 700 m long grade.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I entirely concur with Clarke Hudswell.  The WCR modifications would not have made a blind bit of difference to the R's capability from a standing start through the tunnel.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

I'm fascinated with variability in steam loco performance - especially when coal fired.  On some days they steam terribly, and at other times they're a completely different beast.  There was a post back in Oct 2012 with some interesting figures - everything from around 1500 to 2200 H.P for the R-class locos.

Some recent anecdotal and subjective examples:
Oct 2013 Maldon Steam Spectacular with R761 and K190 - pulled into Gisborne on the Down with R761 really struggling to raise steam (approx. 140 psi).  On the Up (with D3 639), really struggled to Malmsbury, then smoked us all out and next thing you know we're hammering thru Kyneton and Woodend.
Oct 2015 SRV Members train with R711 and K153 - similar consist to 2013 trip and it rocketed thru on the Down.
Oct 2015 R707 to Seymour with a big load and high-speed - no worries.  I imagine good draw-through under load?

So lots of variables - weather, coal quality, driver, load.....

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