The International Steam Pages

El Tren del Fin del Mundo (The Train at the End of the World) - Part 1

This is a brief summary (25th May 1999) of events (mainly connected with the engineering section) that have taken place at Ushuaia in recent weeks. See also the July 1999, February 2000, March 2000, April 2000, September 2001, November 2001 and 5th March 2003.updates some of which have pictures. Also check out the railway's website.

Locomotives. Winson Engineering built locomotive (2-6-2T) Camila has been stripped down to essential components in order to facilitate overhaul and modification. Following the failure of the main driving axle on 6th March, it was decided to replace the two remaining driving wheel axles of this locomotive whilst time and funding is available. The original design of these components is poor to say the least and there is no point in risking such for the coming main operating season. The work will be carried out the Rio Grande workshops of Musin (Rio Grande is 250 km. to the north of Ushuaia and is the main city on the island), where the first axle was manufactured and replaced with respect to this locomotive to a modified design and it is hoped that this work will be completed by the end of June. In order to bring this locomotive up to an acceptable standard of performance the following modification work will be carried out this winter - Redesign of combustion system (new oil burner, modified panplate and stainless steel brick arch) and manufacture of required components. Redesign and manufacture of exhaust system. Many readers will (I am sure) realise that the exhaust system is the very heart of the locomotive and every available oportunity should be made to perfect it (these are the words of L.D. Porta spoken many years ago and which have often fallen on deaf ears - especially in the UK!!!), for example, try and imagine an athelete attempting to run a marathon with well developed legs but less than half the required lung capacity! The result would be somewhat interesting as the person would simply not have the capacity to perform the work required and maintain the oxygen intake required along with the expulsion rate that is needed to complete the cycle. The steam locomotive is the same and the reason behind improving exhaust systems and the streamlining of steam circuits is simply to raise the breathing capacity of the locomotive in order to perform a specified task. The specified task in the case of Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino (Fuegan Southern Railway - literal translation but sounds better in Spanish! The abreviation FCAF is normally used) being the need to pull heavier, longer trains as passenger figures continue to rise on this little gem of the southern hemisphere. The combustion system and the exhaust system should be treated as one (indeed as is the rest of the locomotive - prospective designers of such please note as designing by commitee does not produce an A1 result!) and hence careful design and calculation of this area is taking up a great deal of effort at the time of writing these notes. Streamling (as far as possible within the given confines of this existing design) of the steam circuit. In order to achieve better results it is necessary in this case to replace the existing main steampipes (bore and route) and as a result a section of the right hand water tank will have to be removed and replaced by a box section in order for the steampipe to take a straight route at a higher exit point from the smokebox to the steamchest. The left hand tank already provides such as a large section is already free of water due to the battery housing (batteries being used to power the locomotive headlamps rather than a turbo generator - turbos in their present form are all well and good but are an excesive consumer of steam so if the use is minimal it is preferable to use batteries - a current project is to develop a design for a more efficient turbo generator, this of course will take time and money to achieve, but when complete it is intended to use such at FCAF and other associated projects in Argentina), note that these locos are right hand drive; if such can be qualified since they are single manned?!!

The exhaust system will take the form of the best available system proven in service to date, this being the Lempor exhaust system (The Lemprex exhaust is being developed as an inherent design however is far from the point of perfection, therefore the Lempor system will be cast into the hardware for the time being and at a future date maybe more advanced systems can be applied to these machines) along with allied chimney which will change the external appearance of this machine somewhat. Modification of valves and valve gear so as to improve distribution of steam. Design and application of sanding gear. Improved ergonomics so as make the drivers life a little easier under one man operation. Introduction of advanced water treatment. The lubrication system of this locomotive is far from adequate in its present form and it is planned to alter such, proportional drive of the lubricator in order to provide proportional feed regulation will be a feature of the altered system (in this case proportionality being with respect to power output). The drive for such will be taken from the valve spindle. This of course is nothing new and two well known examples of this design principle are (were!!!!) the SAR class 26 locomotive and ACR class NGG 16 A locomotives.

This is really a few words to describe quite a lot of work and really such only represents the first phase of modification work, a second stage will be necessary in order to achieve much better results in traffic and such will include superheating the boiler (high degree of superheat) which will require the lifting of the boiler (believe it or not a steam locomotive was designed and manufactured in 1995 without the application of superheating!!), replacement of the present steamchests which are far from adequate in terms of swept volume. It is hoped to be running trials with this locomotive in modified state during late August/early September.

Garratt locomotive Nora is at present hauling passenger trains with diesel locomotive Rodrigo as spare (diesel is used on engineering and less busy passenger trains). Once Camila has returned to service then Nora will be brought into shops for maintenance work prior to the busy season which begins in November. It is planned to carry out routine repair and maintenance and modification work as time and money allow.

The next major event on FCAF will be the arrival of new diesel locomotive "Tierra del Fuego" and it is expected that this machine will be offloaded onto the rails at Ushuaia in late July. The overall design is similar to the type of diesel locomotive manufactured by Hills and Bailey (2 foot gauge, 160 HP) during the late 80s in the Pant workshops of the Brecon Mountain Railway, 3 examples of this design are in service on narrow gauge railways in Wales (Brecon Mountain Railway, Festiniog Railway and Vale of Rheidol Railway). This 500 mm adaption is being manufactured by Girdlestone Rail of South Africa and will be finished in a blue livery. On the subject of colour schemes it is worth mentioning that both steam locomotives will receive repaints this winter and will be outshopped in slightly different paint schemes though still retaining the same base colour. Once Tierra del Fuego has undergone running in and all drivers are familiar with its operation, locomotive Rodrigo will be restricted to engineering and shunting duties with TdF taking over as the main line diesel.

Design work for the 2nd Garratt locomotive continues (essentially a modified version of Nora as the basis of this locomotive is a kit of spare parts that was in store at Ushuaia) and work on the shop floor should commence in July with completion expected to be early in the year 2000. The new locomotive, 2 - 6 - 2 T, 2 cylinder compound is still on the drawing board but detail component design should commence in the near future. Such will be undertaken by engineers Porta, Girdlestone and McMahon, the extent of each of these peoples involvement being dependant upon time available taking into consideration their specific roles allied to FCAF and other associated steam locomotive projects.

Tranex Turismo will be represented at the forthcoming EcoVapor conference in Cuba which will serve as a platform for the present steam loco projects in Argentina.

Much of the engineering departments time is spent on routine day to day maintenance, remember that the coach heating system cannot be neglected in the freezing conditions experienced in this part of the world! The workshop heating system has recently been extended to the station booking office and café which has made life somewhat easier for passengers and traffic department staff! Passenger figures are still rising with the tours from USA proving to be very popular, prospective groups from Brasil also look to be verry promising. Aproval for the extension of the railway to the city has been gained and the prospective route is being surveyed at the time of writing. The land where the extension will pass through is mainly municipality land however a critical section is privatally owned, an airport link is planned. In the old days the line ran all the way to the prison at the eastern end of the city, upon completion the total route length will be 17 kilometres as opposed to its present length of 7,5 km.

Shaun  McMahon. 23 - 5 - 99.


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Rob Dickinson