The International Steam Pages

Steam Overhauls for RFIRT, Argentina 2015

The following is based on press releases prepared by Shaun McMahon for Locomotives International and are reproduced here with Shaun's permission. The first dates from the end of June 2015 and the second the end of August 2015. Pictures of the restoration work have previously been posted on this site and there is a further October 2015 update available with the locomotive in steam.  See also a November / December 2015 update.

The following pictures of the re-assembly off 119 were taken on 8th September 2015:

Click for full size image. Click for full size image.

Update on current project work in relation to steam locomotive rebuilding, Sentinel S6 restoration and passenger carrying stock rebuilding.

Work is continuing rapidly in Buenos Aires in relation to the rebuilding of RFIRT locomotives 107 and 119, along with the Sentinel S6 steam waggon, whilst further south in the province of Chubut, the rebuilding of three original Rio Turbio Railway passenger carrying coaches, as well as other new passenger stock, also continues to make steady progress.

Locomotive 119 of the second series, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Engineering during 1963 and delivered new to the RFIRT during the first half of 1964, was the first to receive attention by the company contracted by the Argentine national government to carry out the work; G&G Metalmecánica of Lanús, Buenos Aires. Due to the relative enormity of the job in hand, G&G Metalmecánica has subcontracted areas of the work, including skilled staff and workshop space along with engineering equipment. 119 includes modifications built in to the design at the point of manufacture which are an improvement upon the first series, manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Engineering during 1955 and delivered to Rio Gallegos in 1956. The L.D.Porta modifications that were applied in Argentina to the first series and more extensively from the outset to the second series have been in the main eliminated over a period of time, this downgrading commenced in 1975 once Porta was not able to visit the railway as he had been able to do regularly via his position at INTI between 1960 to 1974; Porta having been the full time General Manager of the railway from 1957 to 1960. Porta reappeared at the RFIRT in August 1977 as part of a joint INTI-United Nations project summoned by the national government of the time in order to investigate and plan the complete upgrading of the railway, including new modern steam motive power and heavy haul rolling stock; all on the existing 750 mm gauge. Much work was carried out on design of the new Mallet locomotives in order to get such to the point of public tender, however by the early 1980’s the government had bigger problems to deal with nationally and with Porta’s departure from INTI and Argentina to take up the position of Vice President of Engineering Design and Development with American Coal Enterprises in the United States, the upgrade of the RFIRT was never carried out.

One goal of the current rebuilding scheme is to at least get the locomotives in question back to ex works condition. Though quite evidently in run down state from detailed on site inspection and data collection test use of 107 from 2004 to 2007, the real extent of the poor state of the locomotives only came to light during the stripdown and overhaul/renewal stage of the work. Remodification will be carried out in the workshops at Buenos Aires as time allows, however it is important to remember that this particular phase of the project is dictated by a political timeline rather than a technical schedule as this years sees national general elections for executive posts such as national president, provincial governors and town mayors as well as 50% of the legislative body in the upper and lower houses of national congress. As a result of this, 119 has been worked on first with a view to sending it back to Rio Gallegos in rebuilt and working condition (even if not fully remodified) by September of this year. At this point in time full remodification is planned to be undertaken in Rio Gallegos once the locomotive has spent a period of time in service. During October it is planned that it will be run in over the line and then haul test trains prior to operating a local passenger service as well as charter trains during November. 107 will follow suit along with the Sentinel S6 steam waggon, so as to be on site and working by November of this year. The initial batch of passenger carrying coaches that are being rebuilt and built, in the province of Chubut will also be sent down to the neighbouring province of Santa Cruz in order to make up the consist of the local passenger and charter trains.

119’s boiler is reaching the stage of completion having received inner firebox repairs and full retube (smoke tubes and larger superheater flues). The number 1 tubeplate (firebox end) has been patched due to concentrated heat flux damage suffered in service, the said damage having been caused by inadequate maintenance followed by the final complete removal of the brick arch during its last years of service on the mainline between Rio Gallegos and Rio Turbio. The Kylpor exhaust system has been retained for obvious reasons of high efficiency (high smokebox vacuum allied with low internal back pressure), however most of the system has been renewed due to excessive corrosion suffered whilst laid up outdoors on site at the Rio Turbio locomotive depot since 1997. On the mechanical side of matters, 119 has been stripped down to bare frame condition followed by full sandblasting at the same time as the boiler was sandblasted. Once clean and all components removed work could begin on the evaluation of the state of the chassis.

119 was involved in a head to head collision on the mainline of the RFIRT with locomotive 107 and as a result both engines were sent to the ASTARSA ship building yards in Tigre, Buenos Aires during the early 1980’s for repair work to be carried out; ASTARSA having had a rail repair and manufacture division active until its shutdown during 1994, the same year as the RFIRT was privatised. The fact that both locomotives are once again under rebuild in Buenos Aires is pure coincidence. As a consequence special attention is being paid to the condition of the bar frame chassis of both 119 and 107 during this rebuild. Driving wheels have been re turned to profile as well as crank pin repair and renewal. The brake gear has been fully rebuilt, indeed brakes on the locomotive were non existent during the final years of steam operation, such was the poor state of repair and maintenance. Suspension has been overhauled and both leading and trailing pony trucks rebuilt. Valve liners have been renewed. The modified valve heads have been overhauled and the piston heads renewed along with valve and piston rings. The second batch have modified, multi ring piston heads and valves fitted in order to maximise efficiency. The motion and valve gear have been overhauled as well as all ten driving wheel axleboxes.

At the time of writing, the stripdown of 107 has started. Boiler cladding along with what was left of boiler insulation has been stripped so as to begin evaluating the general condition of the boiler shell prior to removal, sandblasting and full radiographic inspection and resulting repair work being carried out. Smoketubes and superheater flues have been removed so as to allow some initial internal cleaning and inspection work to begin. Superheater elements are being hydraulically tested and repaired as required. Once the reassembly of 119 has reached an advanced stage and the boiler is re fitted to the chassis, the removal of 107’s boiler can take place. As for 119 the whole mechanical assembly will be stripped and rebuilt.

The tenders of both locomotives are being completely rebuilt in parallel and work is now at an advanced stage. Extensive platework renewal has taken place and the Daihatsu mechanical stokers have been fully overhauled. Underframes and drawgear have been repaired as required. Tender bogies have been fully stripped and overhauled including wheelset tyre turning, journal profiling, brass bearing renewal and axlebox overhaul. Suspension has been fully rebuilt and the bogies are now reassembled and painted waiting to be refitted to the tender bodies.

The Sentinel S6 steam waggon is currently having its motor overhauled. Upon stripdown a severe lubrication failure during its final years of service was detected hence special attention is being paid to all component parts. Chassis overhaul and control gear rebuild is taking place in parallel to this work. Once 119 has been sent back south to Rio Gallegos, locomotives 105 from the first series and 113 from the second series will be dispatched from Rio Turbio and be delivered to the workshops in Buenos Aires for rebuilding by G&G Metalmecánica. It is expected that this work will take place during 2016 and that will be more time in order to carry out a full remodification to the Gas Producer Combustion System (GPCS) on site in the national capital city.

During the past two months work has continued apace with the current rebuilding of RFIRT locomotives 107 and 119 along with the Sentinel S6 steam waggon. Specific work has included the following:

Locomotive 107.

The boiler has been removed, together with tubes, superheater flues and elements. Fittings are all removed and under repair and renewal. The exhaust system has been removed and is being renewed. The No.1 (firebox end) tubeplate has been completely replaced by one which was in stock at Rio Turbio YCRT workshops. This tubeplate corresponds to the first batch boilers which retain the original number of 108 small tubes rather than 88 small tubes of the second improved batch, likewise the first batch boilers retain the original lower boiler pressure which was raised from the outset on the second batch. Evaluation of the boiler barrel has been carried out and according to non destructive ultrasonic spot testing it is within limits, Dearborn type boiler water treatment has been used throughout the locomotive’s working life but once it is back in service at Rio Turbio Porta Treatment will be applied. The inner firebox has had a multitude of patches welded in place over a number of years as well as a number of defects relating to the “T” shaped water circulators, two of which are fitted to each locomotive firebox since new, and as a result the circulators and inner firebox sidesheets have been completely replaced. The self cleaning type ashpan has been removed and will be completely replaced as with 119. All boiler cladding sheets have been scrapped and will be replaced with thermal insulation of better quality than the previously fitted type. The chassis is in the process of being fully stripped down and all work that was carried out to 119 will be repeated on 107. The cab has been removed and sent to a specialist repair shop for full structural overhaul and cosmetic attention so as to return it to as new condition. The security and comfort of the cabs is very important due to sub zero gale force winds that are experienced at latitude 51 degrees 30 minutes, where gusts of wind can be well in excess of 100 mph near to the spring and autumn equinoxes. The tender bodywork outer panels corresponding to the upper coal sections have been cut out and are being completely replaced.

Locomotive 119.

At the time of writing the chassis assembly is complete and the boiler was refitted onto it on 26th August. Insulation and cladding of the boiler is taking place. The final structural repairs to the inner firebox consisted of welding in place two newly fabricated T shaped circulators. 119’s cab is complete and awaits refitting to the locomotive. The overhauled mechanical stoker is complete and awaits refitting along with the stoker motor. Full reassembly will take place between now and mid September followed by static steam trials in Buenos Aires before being sent down to Rio Turbio during the first week of October complete for running in on the mainline of the RFIRT.

Sentinel S6 steam waggon.

The cab structure has been sent away to a specialist body repair shop for structural overhaul and cosmetic attention. The semi water tube boiler is complete and has been hydraulically tested. The tipper section is in reasonable condition and will be sandblasted, sectionally repaired and fully repainted before refitting to the chassis. The overhaul of the motor is continuing, but whilst the severity of the wear caused to this complex major component by running in service at Rio Turbio after failure of the lubrication system is delaying progress to some extent, the intention is to bring it back to ex works standard. The chassis is undergoing a full strip down and rebuild.

Rob Dickinson