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Vicsteam.com | To build and operate a Victorian Railways, Vauclain compound cylinder, V class, 2-8-0.


Why did you choose to build a V Class?

Here in Victoria most railway enthusiasts that you talk to say “If I had the money, I would build an S class!” Well, as much as that would be a brilliant locomotive to build and indeed a very exciting project, the VSLC firmly believe that the secret to success of constructing Australia’s first new-build steam locomotive is to be realistic and choose a different class type that is not too big and complicated, yet is unique and missing in the preservation of steam. The V class is one of the many steam locomotives that is missing in Victoria Railway’s preservation. It is the only 2-8-0 locomotive that is missing in VR preservation, and being the first of that wheel arrangement in this State, we feel that it has high historical significance.

Why not just take an existing locomotive and restore that?

In Victoria there are many steam locomotives that are still unrestored that can be found in parks across the state. These are mainly of three types: D3 classes, K classes and J classes. There are several K and J classes that have been restored and are running, and even though there is only one in operation, there is a restored D3 too. The idea of restoring another of these classes doesn’t appeal so much, because as far as preservation in Victoria goes, they are common place locomotives. Choosing to build V499 is far more interesting because it will reintroduce a long-forgotten class to the railway preservation scene.

Where are you going to build V499?

We are currently assessing several options and locations to base the project and build V499. Things that are taken into consideration are:

  • Easy access for road vehicles
  • Optimum workshop space
  • Testing facilities

Once negotiations have been made and decided upon we will announce the location of the build.

Why are you building V499 as a compound and not a simple expansion?

Simply, because it is highly unique to Australia, and railway preservation at large. There is currently only one operational Vauclain Compound locomotive in the world that is in working condition and that locomotive is based at Pikes Peak Mountain Railroad in the USA. V499 will be the second Vauclain Compound locomotive to be in operation anywhere in the world and it will also be the only one of its kind not just in Australia, but in the Southern Hemisphere. The Vauclain Compound cylinders are very challenging in this modern world, and we are doing everything we can to make sure that V499 will use these cylinders. If however this proves to be just to difficult, then building the locomotive as a simple expansion will have to be decided upon.

Are you going to cast or fabricate the compound cylinders?

We will be slowly researching if it is indeed possible to fabricate the Vauclain Compound cylinders. Casting them still seems to be the way to go, however this is not stopping us from our research of the strength and reliability of fabricated cylinders.

Isn’t the V class structurally weak at the front end?

Once you’ve seen the drawings you will see that they are quite sound indeed. The frames of the V class are almost identical to those on the NA class at the Puffing Billy Railway. Having said that, we are looking into ways of improving the design to the front of the locomotives frames to strengthen them even more, enabling satisfactory operation in either direction of travel.

When will the public start to see some progress on the locomotive?

In July 2017 the cab of V499 was built and delivered to our work site at the Victorian Goldfields Railway. This is the first brand new component of the locomotive and can be seen at Maldon, upon an invitation to inspect the work site.

You’re using Split-Spoked wheels on the tender. Aren’t wrought iron wheels an issue?

There are surviving Split-Spoked wheels, and yes they were made from wrought iron way back in the early 1900s. As they are made from this material we will not be allowed to use them on the tender unit. To get around this issue we will eventually make a pattern for the wheels and have them cast with modern metals to keep up to the standards of today’s requirements.

Isn’t this project going to be impossible to achieve with today’s bureaucracy?

Any project, not matter what it is and where it is, has it’s challenges road blocks and obstacles. These challenges, road blocks and obstacles are simply meant to be overcome. Yes, there will be heaps of paper work and meetings and regulations, etc to meet, but we will work through them all as they come up. Failure is when you give up on something completely, and failure is not an option for the V499 Project.

What colour will the locomotive be painted in when it is built?

No decision has yet been made regarding the livery of V499. However we can say that as the locomotive is built, it will more than likely be painted in works grey and shall remain that way until the build is completed and all testing and running has been carried out. Have a look in the Photo Gallery pages at the livery suggestions we have uploaded.

Where will V499 run when it has been completed?

V499 will be based at the Victorian Goldfields Railway, however as it is being built for tourist line use, it is hoped to have the locomotive running on several other preserved railways across Victoria too. It will also be possible to transport V499 to Newport Workshops to take part in events such as the Steamrail Victoria Open Weekend.

Is V499 going to run on the main line?

Although V499 will be built to modern standards, there are no plans to operate on main line. There are several reasons for this:

  • The VSLC wants to be able to let volunteer crews use the engine, and this is just not allowed in Victoria on the main line.
  • Being a Vauclain Compound locomotive, there is a fear that main line locomotives crews will misuse the locomotive and operate it like a simple expansion one, thus creating a surge in maintenance costs. One of the reasons the V class were converted to simple expansion between 1912-13 was because of misuse of the starting valve.
  • Vauclain Compound cylinder locomotives historically had high maintenance to their cylinders due to uneven wear. If the locomotive is based at a tourist railway it will be limited to 25Mph running and at this top speed the cylinders will have a longer life between major overhaul. If the locomotive was running on the main lines at speed of up to 50Mph, then the cylinders will wear faster.
  • Being a project that will cost several million dollars to finish, we want to make sure that V499 can operate successfully and as problem free for many decades, and being based at tourist lines will allow this.

Are you building V499 in Standard Gauge to run all over Australia?

Simply: No. Although the V Class had boilers that were mounted on top of the bar frames, the locomotive will not be built to Standard Gauge. This is because it is a locomotive that was unique to Victoria and it will also be a tourist line engine, and as such shall be built as a Broad Gauge 5’ 3” loco.