The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)
A Railway Man on Holiday — A Tour of Australia
Having returned from a visit to Australia I feel that my fellow railwaymen might be interested in my impressions of the country, more particularly as regards railway matters.
On arrival in Melbourne I was impressed with the size of the Flinders Street station, which I was told is the largest railway station in the world. Two thousand electric trains and two hundred and fifty steam trains carrying two hundred and ninety thousand passengers arrive and depart daily. The facility with which this huge volume of passenger traffic is handled speaks well for the management.
At Spencer Street station, from which the interstate and other long distance trains depart, uniformed officials, with the aid of loud speakers situated on a raised platform, direct the passengers to the various trains. This method is of assistance to strangers and eliminates confusion.
The carriages (which hold ten passengers in each compartment) are very comfortably appointed. At various places along the line the glass water decanters are removed and fresh filled ones put in their places. This idea is more hygienic than the filter.
Having letters of introduction to the Railway Commissioners of the various States, I visited, while in Melbourne, the Newport Workshops where I was courteously received and shown over the works.
The machine shop was the first shop visited and I was much interested in one of the latest wheel lathes doing wagon wheels of a diameter of about 3 ft. 6 in. The output averages about 24 per day. Along the same track were other wagon wheel lathes and opposite these were heavy milling and drilling machines, also a large cylinder boring machine on which was a new cylinder of 23 in. bore. Here the majority of the heavy machines were located, and a travelling crane with a jib, electrically controlled, lifted all work in and out. Passing on to near the finishing benches I next inspected the brass lathes doing boiler mountings and other brass work. One machine was making “Grecian” injectors which seemed to be a very solid type of injector, not so liable to get knocked out of order as our “Sellars.” They are fitted to the face plate of the boiler, and I was informed that they are eminently reliable. All motion work, side rods and brasses are done in this part of the shop. The split brasses, some of which are milled while others are done in sharpers, are first bored and afterwards fitted to the straps. The centre coupling pin holes are all ground out in a vertical grinding machine. The motion and Westing-house pump cylinders are done in a horizontal grinding machine, which has a range from ½ in. to 18 in. diameter. It is a splendid type of machine for any locomotive shop. I next inspected the turret lathes. They are all put down at an angle to the main shaft so that the rods of metal will go through the hollow spindle allowing the lathes to be placed close together. I then saw the Bullard boring machines which I considered were some of the most useful machines in the shop. These machines can put a cut right through axle boxes larger than any we use in 18 seconds. All classes of work and jobs for which shapers were previously used can be done more expeditiously on these machines.
A large number of axles for 20 ton wagons were being made in the shops at the time of my visit. These axles were forged in the smiths shop, then sent to the machine shop where one machine faced and centred them and another did the journals and the wheel seat. The axles were afterwards sent to the wheel press where the wheel centres were immersed in boiling water before being pressed on the axle.
One planing machine, intricate and neatly finished, attracted attention. At the end of each stroke the tool reversed and there was no lost time in travelling over the work.
In the fitting shop, engines were in all stages of repairs—the schedule method being followed. The most notable thing I saw in the erecting page 41 shop was a small engine worked by compressed air for driving cylinder boring bars. I noticed also that in this shop the overhead cranes travelled very fast.
Passing on to the boiler shop I saw all manner of boiler repairs being carried out. In the smiths' shop some of the hammers were steam driven while others were controlled with air. In this shop a tremendous number of drop forgings are made and the blacksmith of old is gradually being superseded by the modern methods of doing work with dies. In this shop was an electric butt welding machine which makes a very neat weld. When I saw it, it was welding 1 ¼ in. × ¾ in. material which welding can be done more quickly than in the fire. In the spring-makers' shop was another interesting machine used for taking off buckles.
The best engineering appliances that I saw were the die sinkers in the tool room. In this room are kept all the shop tools and here also are made the dies for the manufacture of malleable brass forgings. Tooth bevel pinions (about 2 ½ in. diameter), carriage door locks, plugs for Westinghouse pumps, isolating cocks, window catches, etc., are all made out of extruded metal, heated and drop forged. These dies require very accurate workmanship and plenty of patience. Some of them take about three weeks to make, but perhaps four or five hundred forgings can be made off one die. In the case of locks and window fasteners these forgings require very little fitting. Forgings of the kind are superior to cast brass in all respects.
Another feature which impressed me was the well laid out grounds in front of the manager's office. Through these grounds paths lead to the casualty ward where a nurse is always in attendance. Adjoining the casualty ward is the dining room where daily a ninepenny threecourse meal is served to about twelve hundred men. Almost every man is seated by 12.5 p.m. and at 12.20 p.m. most of the men have left the dining-room. After the first sitting was over I was invited to partake of dinner and can speak only in praise of the excellent meal provided. I afterwards inspected the kitchen and found it equipped with every modern labour-aiding device for cutting up meat, cleaning potatoes and washing dishes. Owing to time being limited I had to leave without inspecting the car, paint or moulding shops.
When in Sydney I visited the Eveleigh Shops and found the plant there in many respects similar to that at Newport. Surface grinding machines were more numerous at Eveleigh and one particularly attracted my attention. It had a plate beneath which were wire coils and when the current was turned on, cotters, etc., could be ground up without the necessity of bolts for holding down purposes. In this shop was an automatic Alfred Herbert stud lathe turning out 5/8 in. studs. The production was so fast that studs ran from the machine like grains of wheat from a bin.
The tool room was well equipped, and one lathe—a German machine—had an attachment like a cam which is put in the saddle rest for cutting clearance on the threads of taps and cutters after the flute had been put in. Taps and cutters made by this machine are easily operated.
In the blacksmiths shop was a three-thousand ton press, operated by hydraulic power on the down stroke and by steam on the up stroke. This combination of hydraulic and steam power makes for faster operation of the press.
In the smiths' shop there were approximately twenty “olivers” all worked by compressed air and operated by the feet. They are stoutly built machines for turning out light forgings, making eye bolts, pins, and knobs for stanchions. Just outside the smiths' shop was a rivet making machine which turns out these articles at the rate of 68 1 ½ in. rivets per minute. In these two shops a number of oil fires are used for drop forging and bolt making. Connected with the tool room are a number of gas fire furnaces which are used for tool tempering, and they are all equipped with gauges for taking the temperature which is so very essential for correct tempering.
Another noticeable feature was the extensive use made of white metal. Eccentric straps after being bored out to a diameter greater by ½ in. than is required are “run up” with this metal. They are then bored to suit the pulleys. Axle boxes which have been machined to the correct size, have the necessary tin liners fitted before the metal is run on. There is no waste metal in this method, all cuttings going back to the foundry for page 42 re-melting. Crosshead slippers also are treated in a similar manner. This metal stands up well to the hard usage to which a locomotive is subject and it appears to be a very economical method of taking up ordinary wear and tear.
I also had the pleasure of a hurried visit to the Westinghouse works at Concord, over which I was conducted by Mr. Shelley, Chief Engineer. We started in the pattern shop and went to the moulding shop, where a large amount of moulding is done with compressed air instead of the old style of hand ramming. In the machine shop most of the plant is specialised for its particular work. The finished product is tested under working conditions and those parts (triples, brake cylinders, pumps, etc.) which have fulfilled the conditions of the test are sent to the store. Striking rods and valves are all tested with gauges before being sent into the store.
In Australia some of the locomotives carry two Westinghouse pumps which can be worked independently of each other. While in the Westinghouse brake shop I was shown a compound pump in course of construction which is to be given a trial. It has, I understand, 8 in. and 14 in. steam cylinders.
Manga-o-Rewa Valley and Town of Te Kuiti.
My trip was very interesting and highly instructive. I was well repaid by an increased vision of practices in the leading workshops of Australia.
He rang in a little sooner than his fellows in the shop; he remained a little longer when the whistle ordered “stop.” He worked a little harder and talked a little less; he made every little movement his efficiency express. He saved a little money in a hundred little ways; he banked a little extra when he got a little raise. A little working model took his little leisure time; he wrought each little part of it with patience most sublime. Now it's very little wonder that he murmurs with a smile as he clips his little coupons: “Are the little things worth while?”