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R707 “CITY OF MELBOURNE” - RESTORATION

The origin of R707's restoration goes back to 16 July 1971 when it hauled a special train, consisting of blue and gold air conditioned sitting cars and the 'Murray' dining car to Ballarat on the occasion of the 16th Annual Convention of the Legal Profession. The engine performed superbly with its 310 tons (315.0 tonne) trailing load, up the long 1 in 48 grades of the Ingliston Bank between Bacchus Marsh and Ballan. Following this trip, many favourable comments were made about the performance of R707 by the passengers, some of whom were judges from faraway England. It was these comments which eventually led, some nine years later, to the formation of 'Plan R' on 11 July 1980, six years after R707 was withdrawn from service.

'Plan R' consisted of a committee of six people to formulate the many and varied tasks which lay ahead. An inspection was made of R707 which was by then stored along side the Erecting Shop at Newport Workshops. It presented a sad and sorry sight after sitting idle for just over six years, but a closer inspection revealed this was largely superficial. On 06 October 1980 a meeting was held with the Chief Mechanical Engineer of VicRail and a proposal forwarded on to the Secretary's Branch and to the General Manager.

On 17 October 1980, a meeting was held with the Chief Workshops Manager, a date was arranged with the Workshops Manager at Newport, and on the afternoon of 28 October 1980, R707 was towed to the Erecting Shop. It was later towed to the old Tarpaulin Shop where work on the restoration of R707 by the all-volunteer workforce commenced on 7 February 1981. This initially involved the separation of the engine from its tender and the removal of all boiler fittings along with the cladding and lagging from around the boiler and firebox. Further work involved the removal of all tubes from the boiler in readiness for the inspection by the Department of Labour and Industry (DLI) boiler inspector.

On 18 December 1981, R707 was transferred over to the former V/Line Workshops at Spotswood where work continued. All cab fittings such as the hydrostatic lubricator (which supplies oil lubrication to the stoker motor and air compressor), stoker motor and associated fittings, stoker control valves, steam gauges, air pressure gauges, firebox door operating equipment and operating treadle, and all boiler fittings and associated pipe work were overhauled and re-fitted. The interior of the boiler was needle gunned and cleaned in readiness for inspection by the DLI boiler inspector who also checked the condition of the rigid and flexible stays, and the firebox including the thermic syphons. Following this inspection, repair work was carried out on the firebox and boiler barrel. New boiler tubes and flues were installed; he exterior of the boiler was needle gunned and painted to prevent rust corrosion and the cab (having been removed sometime earlier) was sandblasted and undercoated. Meanwhile, the tender was cleaned internally with protective paint work applied, and the exterior sandblasted and primed after repairs were carried out.

Mechanical overhaul involved fitting new bull, valve and piston rings in the cylinders; renewing or re-conditioning all the springs on the locomotive drive wheels, leading bogie and trailing truck as well as the tender bogies; and overhauling the mechanical lubricators and oil lines (which supply lubricating oil to the cylinders and other parts). New brass bearings were cast, filled with white metal, machined and fitted to the motion gear. The air compressor was completely overhauled and re-fitted to the engine and the turbo generator, which supplies 32v DC power to all lights and radio equipment, was overhauled and all wiring renewed.

The work required a large amount of money (around $55,000 overall). Some came from fund-raising activities of the volunteer group, but most from individual donations (about $30,000). On 20 December 1983, a grant of $18,000 was received from the State Government to assist in the final stages of restoration.

Stages of the boiler repair work were regularly inspected by the DLI inspector, who, when satisfied that all was well, gave approval for the boiler to be hydrostatically tested. This initially involved a cold water test with the regulator valve in the steam dome blanked off and the boiler completely filled with cold water pumped to a pressure of two and a half times the normal operating maximum steam pressure of 210 psi (1450 kPa). This test is used as, due to the absence of heat, there is no expansion of the boiler and tubes that might seal any small leaks.

Late in 1984, R707 was steam tested in the presence of the DLI inspector. At this time the safety valves were set and the regulator opened to blow out the steam passages through to the cylinders to clear them of any foreign matter before the installation of the piston and ring assemblies into the cylinders. All that remained was the final fitting of the various parts and fittings, boiler lagging and cladding, more steam tests and 'running in' around the yard. Last but not least, came the painting of R707 in its colours of gloss black with red engine headstocks, smoke deflectors and a band along the sides of the engine and tender. New builder’s plates, in polished brass with black background, were mounted on the smoke deflectors. Cab radio equipment was fitted to enable crews to communicate with train control bases along with a 'Hasler' type speed indicator and recorder ( in addition to the existing 'Flaman’ type) driven by cable from the left hand side of the trailing bogie under the cab.

In honour of the city in which R707 has been based since November 1968, the locomotive was named the 'CITY OF MELBOURNE' and as such, carries the name plates mounted on the running plates along each side of the engine,.

The big day finally came on 20 July 1985, when R707 made its triumphant return to service on its re-commissioning trip to Bacchus Marsh. During a short running in period, R707 was used to haul the 9.40 am Tottenham Yard (in Melbourne) to North Geelong goods train, a sight which has not been seen since the 1960's.

As the name 'Plan R' had outlived its original purpose and to cater for R707's future service, the name '707 Operations Inc.’ was adopted.

Following the restoration and return to service, the former V/Line Workshops (located opposite the Electrical Workshops in Melbourne Road, Spotswood) became the home of R707.

Last Updated: 13 November 2008

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