The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 2 (June 1, 1932)
The Railways on the Air
The Railways on the Air
On the 23rd May a surprise visit was paid by 2YA Wellington, when it “switched in” to the Thorndon Locomotive Depot, where the Locomotive Foreman was interviewed by the Publicity Manager of Railways (Mr. Geo. G. Stewart.)
Five Seconds of General Hubbub.—
“This is the locomotive depot of the New Zealand Government Railways Department at Thorndon Station, Wellington, and the assorted noises you have been hearing are all made as part of the day's work in this place of ceaseless activity for men and machinery. No one sits deedless here. The murky night is lit up by powerful beams from the floodlighting tower, high overhead. More than a score of locomotives are daily prepared and despatched from this stable for iron steeds. Power of every kind—steam, air, and electric—is used to make the monsters of the steely way ready for the road.
“But we have here Mr. Burd, Locomotive Foreman in charge of the movements of all locomotives to and from this depot, and we shall ask him to explain the true inwardness of these strange noises of the night.
“Now, Mr. Burd, can you tell us something about getting the engine ready for the road?
Washout Hose.—“Do all tubes have to be cleaned out?”
Mr. Burd: “Yes. In an express engine boiler—Ab type—there are 110 tubes each 15 feet long, through which the heat is drawn from the fire—these tubes are in the boiler, and so 700 gallons of water can be brought to steaming point in two hours after the fire is lit.”
Lighting Up.—“What is that dungareeclad cleaner doing?”
Mr. Burd: “He is lighting up the engine. He uses oily waste, past use for cleaning, and long kindling wood. As soon as steam is raised, coal is put on.”
Firing.—“Is that Tommy Donovan, the fireman?”
Mr. Burd: “Yes. He has just come on duty, and is shovelling some coal on the fire to have plenty of steam for the big climb out of Wellington with the night goods train. This engine has to haul 180 tons over the steep grades of the hills to the Manawatu. The fireman has to test the water level in the boiler on both gauge glasses. Then he examines the fire and spreads it evenly on the grate.”
Examining.—“Who is that doing the tapping now?”
Mr. Burd.—“That is the fitter who had to be called in to fix up a disconnected sand pipe. I cannot let any engine out of this shed until I am satisfied that it is in every respect perfectly equipped for the job that is in hand.”
Engine Starts Out of Shed.—“Now you hear the chu-chu of the big locomotive as it starts from the depot.
“For, as the children sing, we're
'Down at the railway
Where everybody's busy—
See the lively locos,
All in a row.
‘Man on the en-ju-ine
Pulls a little lever—
Off we go!’
“The enginedriver is in his place setting this big machine to work. But, perhaps Mr. Burd will tell us how this is done.”
Mr. Burd: “The driver has a reversing lever that controls the direction and length of stroke of the valve; and a steam throttle that controls the quantity of steam admitted to the valves. He sets the lever in the direction he wishes the engine to go, then opens the throttle, and the wheels instantly respond.”
“Can you tell us something about the other gadgets in the engine cab?”
Mr. Burd: “Yes. There is the lubricator, which admits oil to the valves and cylinders. There is the steam blower, to create a draught to the fire whilst the engine is standing; that is the Westing-house brake rotary valve over there, and, also the steam valve for operating the Westinghouse brake pump.
“The enginedriver's life is full of responsibility. Before he takes the engine out he goes all over it, oiling up and seeing that everything is in order before ever the engine is coupled to a train. This examination is performed by every driver, and is one of the important factors in securing for the railways of this Dominion their world's record in the safe conveyance of passengers.”
“What is that record?”
Mr. Burd: “Well, it is certainly something to be proud of—150 million passengers carried in the last six years without one fatality.”
“I see another engine running on to the turntable. What next, Mr. Burd?”
Mr. Burd: “The driver runs his engine to the centre of the turntable to balance the weight of the engine, then he sets an air motor going.
Sound of Turntable Air Motor.—“This turns the table so that the engine is reversed, and headed north—towards the country where it has to do its work. The air motor does away with the older method of men having to push the turntable round.”
Now We Hear the Sand Drier and sifter at work.—
Mr. Burd: “When the rails are slippery through rain—‘greasy,’ the drivers call them—a supply of sand is turned on through special tubes to the rails, from a sand-box mounted on the top of the boiler, and this enables the wheels to grip. Here we have an automatic sand-sifter and drier at work. After drying, the sand is run up in an elevator and discharged into the sand container on the locomotive, thus providing an overhead means of filling sand-boxes.
“After coaling up and taking water, the engine is fully ready for the road. It is taken in charge of a shunter to the train it has to haul, and then the driver's full responsibility develops. Once on the road, amongst other duties, he has to watch his air and steam gauges, and must be constantly on the alert to give immediate response to all signals.”
“So, Mr. Burd, I suppose you would say that minding the train was the best way of training the mind?”
Mr. Burd: “Yes, if you would accept as true the other well-known railway belief that a man never properly misses the train if he properly trains the missus.”
Starting Whistle.—“That is the train commencing its run. Just one more question, Mr. Burd. How many locomotives are there, and what is their full job?”
Mr. Burd: “There are over 600 locomotives running on the railways of the Dominion, and they run fifteen million miles in the course of a year. So the average distance each locomotive runs yearly is 15,000 miles. But besides running themselves, these engines have to haul six million tons of goods and over twenty million passengers. The best of these locomotives have been made by New Zealanders, in the Dominion's own workshops, and some that were built twenty or thirty years ago are still in perfect condition for express train service.”
“I am sure that the information Mr. Burd has just given us will supply listeners-in with a more comprehensive idea than they ever had before of the vast complexity of work that goes into the running of a modern railway.page 55
“At this hour, in every railway centre of the Dominion, just such locomotives as you have been hearing about, are either working, or being worked upon. Some, like the engines of the four expresses that daily link up Auckland with Wellington, are out on the track running happy passengers—swiftly, comfortably, and safely—to their destinations. Other locomotives are plugging their way solidly along with heavy loads of goods for tomorrow's markets. Others again are either being groomed after a hard day's hauling, or are being prepared for another turn on the track.
“In the scheme of railway organisation, every cog fits.
“Fifteen thousand men, all under one management, are constantly at work in this business, an intricate business which keeps going the whole round of the clock, supplying essential transport service for the people of the Dominion. For these are the people's own railways, and both public and staff have every reason to be justly proud of them.”