Keep K163 Going

July Update – 2021

Since the engine has been lifted back onto it’s wheelsets, there has been significant progress made in many areas and also a number of new challenges revealed, before the engine can start testing & commissioning

Brake rigging

All of the brake rigging, hangers and blocks have now been refitted. The rigging and hangers were all overhauled by the railway’s Mechanical Engineering team at Moorooduc. The team work at Moorooduc in our small but capable workshop with basic facilities such as lathes, a mill, press and general tools. All bushes were renewed in the brake rigging and hangers as part of this overhaul and pins cleaned up and replaced as required.

Below: The Mechanical Engineering team working at Moorooduc (pre COVID-19 restrictions)

Once the rigging and hangers were refitted to the locomotive adjustments were required to the hangers to compensate for the smaller tyre diameter (since all wheels were turned on the underfloor wheel lathe). Long rods were adjusted for correct brake piston travels. As we are reusing the existing brake blocks (still plenty of life remaining) there will be some running in required for the blocks to fully seat on the tyres, this will be completed during the testing phase within the Newport workshops.


With the engine back on it’s wheels, the tender was shunted into the workshop after being stored around the Newport turntable for some time.

While the tender was outside, John Farrell and John Meadows have replaced the tender/engine power connection with a suitable plug. This will provide a significant improvement for us, as previously these connections were hard wired and had to be re terminated each time the engine/tender was disconnected. The system now uses the same fittings as both K153 and K190 also to standardise ‘the fleet’ of preserved K classes.

Below: New power connection between engine & tender

The tender was then coupled up to the engine, draw bar pin inserted, air and water hoses connected and chains secured. With this work complete many repairs to the tender were commenced.

The two trailing tender bogie springs were replaced with reconditioned spares. This has now resulted in the tender ride height being corrected and measurements taken in all four corners have proven satisfactory.

Unfortunately however, once the tender was filled with water many leaks, at least 12 were identified. Although small pin hole leaks only, these required repairs which was un planned for. Generally, the tender is in good serviceable condition aside from some areas of Oxygen pitting in the water space. These areas have been cleaned back, inside the tank and patches welded on the inside to seal up. The holes were then welded over externally and the welds dressed back. Because of this repair work, the paint job on the tender was spoilt and thus it was decided that a repaint would be required. Preparations for painting have now commenced and will be completed before the locomotive returns to service.

Below: Chalk marks identifying numerous small holes in the water space area of the tender and
repairs underway


While the tender repairs were underway, preparations of the boiler for its annual inspection/certification commenced. During 2019/20 a number of minor defects had been identified with our brick arch. The brick arch is located within the firebox and purpose is to increase the path of the volatile gasses from the coal bed before it reaches the tubes and increase the opportunity for this fuel to mix with secondary air for proper combustion. The arch also serves to protect the rear tubeplate against cold air admitted from the Firehole door and retains heat from the fire to achieve a more stable and uniform firebox temperature. The brick arch in K163 was constructed during 2009/10 by life member of the Society, Ken Spillett. It has lasted 10 years of continual operation so far, and with a few minor repairs this year, we are hoping it will continue for many more years into the future, as testament to Ken’s quality work.

In addition to the brick arch repairs the two fusible plugs were also re leaded. The fusible plugs protect the vital part of the boiler (the crown sheet) in the event of a low water event. The plugs are lined with lead which has a relative low melting point and will fuse, providing a warning to the crews that the crown sheet has been exposed if the water level has fallen below safe levels. The lead requires regular renewal as it is erodes away by the circulating water within the boiler.

Below: Withdrawn plug showing signs of normal erosion (required renewal of lead)

The process of re leading the plugs involves removal of the existing lead, sand blasting the interior surfaces to remove all contamination, tinning the surface for proper bonding of the lead, pre heating and the pouring of the replacement lead material. The plugs are then refitted within the firebox, which is a critical job that can only be performed by someone who can fit through the fire hole door! In this case Robert drew the short straw.

Below: Robert emerging from the firebox, thoroughly covered in ash.

Next steps

In the next update we will provide an overview of the works underway to refit the overhauled motion gear (coupling rods, connecting rods) and valve gear. In the mean time we would appreciate your continued support to Keep K163 Going. Our volunteers continue to work every weekend and during the week in their spare time to bring this major project to a conclusion as soon as possible. As always funding is limited and thus any donations via our Gofundme campaign would be greatly appreciated.