The International Steam Pages

Ferroccarril Austral Fuegino's Garratt Locomotive  No.2 rebuilt, modified and renamed

Though Argentina is suffering an economic slump at present, steam locomotive development has been continuing apace at the southern tip of the country. Some mention had been previously made of the modifications carried out to Winson Engineering built FCAF No.3 'Camilla' during 1999 which have resulted in lower fuel and water consumption allied with an increase in drawbar horsepower. Likewise the Rio Turbio Railways 'Santa Fe' class locomotive No.l 17 was restored to traffic during 2001 with a view to using such on a tourist service between Rio Gallegos and Punta Loyola. The First World Tourist and Steam Trains Conference is now likely to take place in a country other than Argentina. However the conference is still scheduled to include Livio Dante Porta, David Wardale, Phil Girdlestone and Shaun McMahon as 'steam locomotive modernisation' speakers, delivering papers on their most recent steam locomotive development projects world-wide.

February 2001 saw the beginning of such a project at Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino (Tren del fin del Mundo) in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. K Class replica Garratt locomotive No.2 'Nora', which was the first steam locomotive to be completely designed and manufactured in Argentina during 1994 at Tranex Turismo's Carupa workshops in Buenos Aires, was due to undergo major overhaul and first stage modification work during 2002 - thus allowing sufficient design time during 2001 in which to carry out the necessary calculations and drawings. However during late February of last year, this locomotive suffered severe mechanical failure in traffic due to original manufacturing errors and had to be withdrawn from service. The decision was taken by the company to rebuild and modify the locomotive one year early. Work began immediately and upon close inspection of the locomotive following a full strip down more inherent problems came to the surface.

The railways Chief Engineer, Shaun McMahon, is one of the few engineers with experience of modern steam locomotive development and has been responsible for the redesign work and supervision of the actual rebuilding. The latter is something of a feat in itself as such was carried out in what is tittle more than a running shed! The rebuild concentrated on eliminating problems that had been associated with No.2 since it entered service at FCAF during late 1994 at the same time raising drawbar efficiency. The following work was carried out during the rebuild and modification in order to achieve these aims:

1. Replacement of original boiler with spare that was already in stock. The new boiler was modified in order to incorporate a foam height indicating meter and new oil firing system, which features a rotary burner rather than the former Mexican trough type. Safety features were also attended to at the same time. The boiler has been insulated to exaggeration levels in order to raise efficiency and such allows this engine to keep steam pressure overnight thus saving on preparation and standby costs. The chance was also taken to raise the position of the boiler by 450 mm so as provide extra firebox volume and space for primary air entry allied with a primary air heater. Such positioning allows for better alignment of live and exhaust steam pipes, described below.

2. Overhaul of power units. Work included - replacement of driving wheels and axles, provision of high adhesion tyre profile, rebalancing of wheelsets, redesign and replacement of drive cranks, provision of extended and proportionally fed mechanical lubrication, redesign of flexible steam pipe couplings between boiler and units, condensing flange lubrication, rail cleaning steam jets, replacement of piston and valve rings, provision of new design eccentric rod big end roller bearings, provision of pilots to new design allied with redesign of large snowpiough (remember that FCAF steamers have to operate in conditions of 17 degrees below zero with 2 meter snowdrifts!). Redesign if piston and valve rod gland packing. Full insulation of cylinder blocks and section of live and exhaust steam pipes between the frames. New air operated sanders are provided in bi directional mode combined with de sanding gear.

3. Steam circuit and exhaust system - The live and exhaust steam circuits have been enlarged and smoothed in order to minimise back pressure allied with a high degree of insulation in order to minimise heat losses. The exhaust steam pipes from both units culminate in a Kordina exhaust splitter above which is fitted a 'Lempor' exhaust ejector. A De Laval blower is also provided along with a much taller tapered 'Lempor" chimney thus dramatically altering the overall appearance of the locomotive.

4. Water tanks have been increased in size so as to more than double the water carrying capacity of No.2. Not only does this increase the working range of the locomotive but also provides 'ballast' weight in order to improve the power to weight ratio. A new large capacity fuel tank was also designed, manufactured and installed allowing the locomotive to work for a number of days without taking of gas oil fuel should the need arise.

5. The cab has been redesigned and rebuilt in order to provide better crew comfort during the very dry, dusty and windy summers and harshly cold winters that are experienced here at the southern tip of the American continent. Attention was also paid to cab control layout in order to improve conditions for single manning of this locomotive. A footpedal is provided for sanding. Overall cab height was raised by 500 mm.

Argentine locomotive engineer L.D. Porta celebrates his 80th birthday during March of this year and the opportunity has been taken to mark this occasion by renaming FCAF locomotive No.2 Ing. L.D. Porta', thus replacing its old name 'Nora'. The renaming ceremony took place in Ushuaia on December 11 with L.D. Porta himself present at the gathering. Though SAR Class 26 Red Devil was named L.D. Porta upon outshopping in 1981, it is felt important that a modified locomotive should be named after the legendary engineer in his own country. The Garratt locomotive has been redesignated Class KM (K remaining due to its origin being based on K1 with M signifying modification of the class) and entered traffic a few days after the naming ceremony in a temporary bright red livery. At the time of writing it is undergoing in service trials to determine fuel and water savings along with increases in power output. Concurrently the opportunity is being taken to optimise various features of the design changes. Following the high season No.2 Ing. L.D. Porta' will be withdrawn in order to complete detail design features that were not completed due to time constrictions at the end of last year, one change will be the renewal of the current axleboxes as a severe defect was found with the original design during strip down, the new boxes will feature full automatic adjustable wedges. An ex Rio Turbio 'Santa Fe' 2-10-2 class reversing screw will be fitted along with throttle valve, both of which came from Rio Turbio No.l 17 and kindly donated by the RFIRT.

Design work is already underway for stage 2 modification work for both of the FCAF steamers No.'s 2 and 3 'Camilla'. In general this will involve: Provision of new boilers featuring a high degree of superheat, redesigned motion and valve gear allied with new lightweight multi ring piston valves and provision of fully compensated spring gear. Design work for the new LVM 803, 2 cylinder compound locomotive FCAF fleet No.6 is well underway.

1. Live and exhaust steam pipe 'Y' pieces. Original design constrictions of 'Nora' allowed us to open up the live steam circuit to 2 1/2" diameter as opposed to the former 2". As can be seen here the exhaust steam pipes are somewhat larger as we were able to increase the diameter to 4".

Y pieces

2. Live and exhaust steam circuits under construction at FCAF. Ushuaia. During the rebuild the boiler of No. 2 was replaced with the spare that was in stock due to the crownsheet of the original boiler showing signs of bulging upon inspection last year (readers should take into account that both boilers were originally designed with only one gaugeglass and NO fusible plug) and when fitting took place the opportunity was taken to raise its position by 450 mm thus allowing for sufficient space in order to 'straiten' the steam circuits. As can be seen in this view, conventional high-pressure connections allow the rigid parts of the live steam circuit to be joined to the flexible portion. Some trouble was experienced with the flexible pipe "blowing off during initial testing when working at full throttle; this was resolved by increasing the depth of the 3 retaining rings.

Circuits under construction

3. The same circuits at a more advanced stage of manufacture. Care had to be taken so allow clearance between the front unit live steam pipe connection and rear unit rigid exhaust steam pipe.

Circuits under construction

4. The completed circuit with respect to photos 1 to 3.

Circuits under construction

5. A front end view of the live and exhaust 'Y' branches in position (front unit) and exhaust steam pipes leading to the Kordina.

Exhaust branches in position

6. Initial stages of fitting the Kordina inside the smokebox and the extension of the branch pipes so as to mate with the rigid parts of the exhaust circuit. Below this can be seen the initial setting up of the front power unit live and exhaust 'Y' branches, such being done prior to the fitting of the front unit to the engine.


7. The same circuit viewed from the same angle at an advanced stage of manufacture with the front power unit fitted to the engine.


8. From the same angle - circuit completed!


9. Initial stages of fitting No.2's Lempor exhaust system. As recommended by Porta over the years, the exhaust manifold is fitted at the lowest possible point in the smokebox.


10. Lempor exhaust manifold and Kordina as fitted to FCAF No. 2 Ing. L.D. Porta'. Note the integrally cast blower ring and stainless steel De Laval blower nozzles, the blower steam supply connection can be seen on the right. In keeping with Camilla's design the diverging sections of the exhaust nozzles have been manufactured to a 'round shape' rather than 'egg' shape.


11. On the left is No.2's old exhaust system and 'flat' burner; on the right is the new exhaust system along with new rotary swirl burner.

Old and new exhaust systems and burners

12. High adhesion wheel profile as turned into No.2's new wheelsets. The main driving wheels have been made larger in diameter as such are prone to wear out quicker than the coupled wheels - this is a very important part of locomotive design theory and practice.

Wheel profiles

13. No.2's axleboxes during strip down, August 2001. The mounting bolts holes were found to be very close to the inner bore!


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Rob Dickinson