Ahh an Xcrapper Mk 3.....the drivers will love that I'm sure,
especially since the Driver who got most of the original
problems fixed is no longer there.
I'm in a bad mood already so get ready for another history lesson....
Whilst it was in its testing stage in 2002, a Ringwood Driver proudly told me there were 72 problems with the new
Xtrapolis train, and it would never be allowed to run, by either the Union or the boys( drivers) at any depot.
The Union graciously allowed a propaganda session for the Minister and media just prior to Xmas 2002, and then it was
back to the drawing board in discussing the heap of junk they were about to give drivers and the public.
Just a week later....it was cleared to run....with no modifications done....there is a conspiracy theory here, but I
won't discuss that !
So what was wrong with 'the 'crapper' ?
SEE THRU SUN BLIND:
blinds are supposed to block out the sun, your home has opaque blinds, your car has opaque blinds, even Tait trains
had solid wood opaque blinds....so what did the Xcrapper have ?
Mesh Sun Blinds.
Just trying to fathom the design stage to manufacturer to fitting them out to our Managers seeing the first Xcrap off
the boat....'ummmm it has got see thru sun blinds' !
But, no...it went thru its 8 month testing period, management, union boys, cab committee, working/testing party and on
its first revenue run, it still had see thru sun blinds. Imagine the first driver leaving Southern Cross heading onto
the viaduct with the sun streaming thru that huge windscreen....he pulls down the 'sunblind'....and he is still
blinded by the sun. A brand new, Year 2000 modern train...with see thru sunblinds !
And did the Drivers run it ? accept it ?......yes !
for months it ran with the driver being blinded by the sun every morning and evening......
It was eventially fixed by a certain driver who by certain tricks of the trade got them to replace it with a proper
opaque sunblind and 9 months after it first started running, we could now see.
FOOT PILOT VALVE
the foot pilot valve is the foot version of the 'dead mans handle', as fitted to Comeng and Hitachi, you could balance
your foot on it, instead of using the hand pilot valve.
The Xcrapper design was almost impossible to use....coupled with fact if it did go off the brakes would savagely
come on....it was not pleasant.
Again it went thru the testing stage......but no one used it, because it was so hard to set it in position.
In revenue running......no one used it, yet the foot pilot valve was a necessary requirement for SPOT (single person
What did our Drivers do...nothing.... they just wouldn't use it.
2 Drivers actually got it fixed by using it !
try and use it, then report it as being faulty....the fitters would respond there was nothing wrong with it....so the
driver would continue to use it, as best he could.....then the passenger complaints would come in for the rough trip
and the driver 'slamming on the brakes every couple seconds'.
Management would then query why you used it, 'if it was defective', you would refer back to the fitters, that said
there was nothing wrong with it.
You would then challenge that a Principal Driver to use it to see if he could run it all the way to Lilydale without
setting it off....of course they could not.....so 9 months after it first started running....they fixed it, by taking
the old foot pilot valve out of scrapped Hitachi trains....no expense spared they just cut it out of the floor, the
wood from the Hitachi floor was still attached to it !
So for every new Xcrap, they had to sacrifice a Hitachi, just to cut its foot pilot valve out !
DOOR CLOSE LIGHT ON DRIVERS DASH
the all important Door Close Light (DCL) indicates to the driver that all doors are closed, vitally important in SPOT
The Xcrap had them placed on top of a raised section on the dash, where the sun shining thru the windscreen would mean
you could not see them ( remember the see thru sunblind )
They actually had a dimmer switch.....dim being almost unviewable and bright being not much better.
Drivers would have to cup their hands over them to try and view it, in sunny conditions.
Again Drivers accepted this for months......the trick to get this fixed was to report it as inoperative.
No DCL means train can't run.
One afternoon I could not see the DCL at Mt Waverly due to the sun shining on it...so I reported it as "inoperable"
lucky as the Station Master came up to ask why I hadn't departed.....so I told him to look at the door operation
lights on top of the dash, and I asked him which one was 'lit'. Of course he couldn't see them and said 'none'.
They are that dull, they are unviewable...proves the point, I can't see them, nor can the SM !
They eventually moved them at a 45 degree angle facing the driver, and brightened them so we could comfortable see
but drivers ran them unviewable for months before.
write out a train defect and a paper copy has to be placed in the clip in the cab.....but they didn't provide one.
If you booked it as "defect clip missing" the fitters would reply that "defect clip in perfect working order"....if
you complained to Management if the fitter can show me where the defect clip was, as I could not find it....you were
told to not be sarcastic !!
Drivers used to use the coathook...I used to bring sticky tape.....took about a year to fix this, they went to
Bunnings, bought a couple hundred clips and self tapping screws and fitted the whole fleet over a weekend.
The cab interior panels were held on only by velcro, but not any velcro it was french velcro and once it was pulled
apart, could not be put back. The rough riding and twisting of the cab body meant the velcro would rip off and the
panels would fall to the floor.
The right hand panel also had the 'emergency stop button' screwed to it, so when the panel fell off, it took the
button with it, putting on the emergency brakes and disabling the train. Used to happen a lot in centre motors.
Took about a year for them to go to Bunnings, buy a tonne of screws and they simply screwed the plastic panels in.
BULKHEAD DOOR LEADING TO SALOON
apart from the cab walls being paper thin, we could hear the passengers and they could hear us, the bulkhead door was
loose fiting with no door closer spring on it.
It was also poorly fitted and a certain driver would delight in plugging all the gaps in it with bits of MX newspaper.
The cheapo lock tongue had about a half millimetre play in it.....as you went around a curve the door would fly open !
into the saloon.....no need for the hoons to 'break in' to the cab, this door would magically open up all by itself.
They eventually put on a spring closer and fixed the lock
WATER STRIPS ON ROOF
As first run in revenue traffic, they had no rain strips. Stop at a station in the rain, and cascade of water would
waterfall down the windscreen. Open the door enroute to do a wheelchair and a cascade of water would drench you.
Maybe it never rained when the Cab committe tested it ?
This was fixed rather quickly !
I can imagine the Cab Committee conversation..."has it got a wheelchair ramp...yes, there it is attached to back
wall", however they never actually used it during testing (???) !
To get it out, it was a 16 step process.....remember the cab door opens inwards..so you have to get ramp first
grab ramp, tuck under chest
stretch over and open (inwards) cabdoor
move drivers seat sideways to make room ( worse when armrests fitted)
shuffle foot first out of door careful not to step down the 45 degreee gap between train and platform
onto platform do wheelchair requirements
getting back in was worse
cab door open
try and slither between drivers seat and open cab door
It was absolutely ridiculous......it wasn't uncommon to have up to 10 wheelchair stops in a single trip, and you had
to do that proceedure for each one.
Drivers did this (without complaint) for years until Xrap Mk 2 had the wheelchair ramp in the box in the saloon.
They were modern pull type circuit breakers in a box in the left of cab dash, where you could not see them, unless you
opened the door, crouched down and shone your torch in !
Even then, they were hard to see if they had tripped.
Even if one was trippped, they did not have names on them , only numbers.
"Oh great circuit breaker 6Q52 has tripped !" What does that do ?
It took several years before they bought a dyno machine and labeled them.
Also a couple of vitally important circuit breakers were located under the train, where only the fitters could access
The headlight and wiper circuit breakers and I think the door control buttons had circuit breakers under the train.
So if they tripped out, the driver could not reset them !
You travelled under 'operationg without headlights' instruction, or hoped it stopped raining or you booted out the
passengers, because the driver could not reset them himself.
So I could reset circuit breaker 6Q52 if it tripped (whatever that does)
but I can't reset headlights/wipers/or door controls.
To when I left...it was still like this....idiocy !!
CAB AIR COND
When first in traffic the air conditioning was pitiful..... a puff of air would be lucky to be felt an inch from the
airvent. Also the airvents were facing the side/back wall...you could not get any airflow on your face.
They actually fixed this with an inner vent and changed the direction of the outer vent to improve it, but it took
about 2 years to fix.
The airflow problem still existed and the almighty Union demanded thermometers be placed in the cab to add to the
proof that it was hot.
Nothing better than annoying and impressing Metrol with the booking,
"cab air conditioner ineffective, currently 50c in cab" (got a photo as well !)
that will show em......
Unfortunately all the thermometers went missing within weeks.....and nothing was done to fix the problem.
Other aircond probs are detailed in this thread......https://www.railpage.com.au/f-t11385916.htm
BIG METAL DASH
big cumbersome metal dash that was freezing to touch in winter, with your hand draped over the master controller.
Promises of rubber coating and actually heating it (!) were heard over the years....up to August 2013 when I left,
nothing had been done.
Also the original Xrap had a higher dash with no edge.....but it was bent down to create a 4 inch lip, to lower its
Of course specifications stated it was meant to be painted flat black to avoid reflections.....so of couse they
painted it gloss black...and every evening you had the sun shing thru that huge windscreen with the sun bouncing off
the glossy dash.
Not fixed up to August 2013
The high dash also meant the driver could not see the couplers when coupling up.
How dangerous is that !! On a Comeng / Hitachi you could see straight down.
So when you did an attach of units, you did it by feel, as you could not see how close you were to coupling up.
"Crash" go the couplers....yep that will do !
Apart from the whole fault light panel being moved 3 seperate times.....they told you very little information.
You could tell Metrol I have a "Major Fault" fault light....."what does that mean driver ???"
"Umm I dont know either"
A flashing door close light meant 1 or more doors were open, when they should be closed.
How did the driver know on this modern train.....he went for a walk to try and find which of the 36 doors on the train
The fault lights told you very little (whereas the old 4D double decker told you everything about the train)
Xcrap Mk 2 had either the headlights put in upside down or were fitted incorrectly, thus on low beam it was the
equivalent of hi beam.....you certainly knew if one was coming towards you...as you were blinded.
If you were running an Xcrap Mk2, Comeng drivers would flash their hi beams at you thinking you were on hi beam then
give you the finger....as would diesels....
This was never fixed.
Cheap and nasty and prone to snapping off. The wiper knob was especially senstive and it could snap off when turned,
thus you either could not turn the wipers on, or they would be on continually
( so you could trip the circuit breaker ??? no no remember the circuit breaker is under the train)
Ahhhh the arguments....it's the track which is rough .....no it's the train......
a comfortable trip to Glen Waverley on a Comeng compared to a rough as guts trip on a Xcrap proved that.
despite that, amazingly still only a handfull of drivers complained......
it sort of went by depot
the Ringwood boys wont put up with that.....they did
the Epping boys wont put up with that ....they did
the Union blokes wont put up wuth that ....they did
the Southside blokes wont put up with that ....they did
I could name the half dozen drivers who did bitterly complain.....and reading the above posts above, 16 years later
it's still exactly the same.
EXTRA CAB HEATING
the heating of the cab was from the roof vents and as stated the air conditioning / heating was atrocious.
The ol Union demanded a separate cab heater.
So the department bought these glorified hair dryer type things, drilled a hole in the right hand cupboard under the
dash and fitted a switch....voila !! you wanted a heater, you got a heater.
Firstly the switches were all defective and you had to twiddle them to make it turn on.
The hot air blew across your leg to the left side, hit the cab door then atomized to the many airleaks in the cab...so
you got no heat !!
In a Comeng it works because your feet are in a well, the heat can't escape so raises upwards, heating your arms and
face as well...lovely.
In a Xcrap it escapes to the nearest air leak in the cab, and does zero in proving any heat.....but it did make a lot
Bizarringly a lot of drivers didn't even know it was fitted !!
I would have it on, they would ask what the horrible noise was , I said it was the fan heater, they said what fan
heater !! Always alert were my fellow drivers !
The Union demanded an armrest, so the department got the most cheap and nasty thing they could find and bolted it on
the side of the seat.
When it was down, apart from being flimsy, it stopped the cab door from fully opening, and when trying to get the
wheelchair ramp out, if you didn't fold it up, before you swung the seat around it would get you in the gonads !!
not very pleasant.
Talking to the fitters at Upper Ferntree Gully one evening ( "ahhh, so your Mclaughlan, what's your problem, we have
you on our dartboard at Bayswater")
they had a go at me "why do you drivers accept such garbage...look at this flimsy armrest it's a disgrace...why do you
put up with this train"
Well, I didn't, thats why I was on the Bayswater Shops dartboard !!
So good luck on Xcrapper Mk3 fellas.