Progress of repairs of 15F No.2914

The newest photos on top
This is the infamous hole in the poor ol’ 15F’s firebox but with an important difference. Notice how shiny the foundation ring is? It has been welded and ground down. We are now ready to proceed with the patching, if we can just fit the stupid patch in to both the radius and the edges. The two rows of rivet holes still need to be reamed out, but all the major cracks are now welded closed. The holes would have needed reaming out anyway There are, in fact, some small flaws still existing but they are from manufacture, and not from decades of operation.
Hott-Nutts settles down to the tedious job of heating up the corner of that thick bar to make it more pliable. It is only made of mild steel, but the chunky mass was quickly ‘sinking’ the heat away. The first attempt involved welding the jig bar to the old cut-plate and bending to fit. But not only was the weld breaking off, there was a risk of deforming the original cut out plate and losing the radius, which would negate the whole point of the exercise.
George wisely adjusts the center line to get the radius right. The jig is going to be screwed on with high tensile bolts through the reamed rivet holes, with all the depot heavy weights such as myself, Robbie, Aidan, Warren, James, Jeremy and Victor – hanging on some long cheaters. Those bolts are going to SQUEAK that plate into place.
We will use the bolts to hold the finished plate in for welding and will then do the riveting. It means when those rivets contract, the plates are already compressed so we’ll get a seriously good seal.
Alan Lawton got involved with operating the press, which meant the work piece wouldn’t cool down too much between operations. George would only have to focus on the mandrel and work piece and not on the awkwardly placed direction valve and relief valve.
Although Alan is generally a sedate and careful worker, George still had to take special care as that press suddenly and unpredictably moves up to an inch when changing direction. George does love steam but would rather not sacrifice any of his distal phalaxes to the loving nip of the press.
Switching from a small block to a cylindrical mandrel made the job easier. But with everything blistering hot, George really had to take care not to grab by instinct. The sizzling hot jig bar is smartly put against the original patch plate, before the heat works its way through the gloves!. The jig was so hot that the oil film on the mandrel was starting to smoke during pressing!
The idea is to bend that cross bar to match the inner radius of the old cut-out. Then the bar will be held to the foundation ring and drilled. The matching bar will then be used to pull the new patch exactly into the corner radius. Looking pretty good. Now the jig bar will need to be cut to length, clamped to the foundation ring (With the cut out re-inserted between) and paint sprayed into the holes from the outside – to get the exact centers for drilling. This was it for the day, as the sun was going down and we had to get ready for the day train to be coming back home.

Working on another template for the 15F 2914 Forebox Patching project.
Gimmie, Gimmie some good news … puleeeeze! Hoddi is looking up hopefully through the cut-out ashpan and where the right rear firebars aren’t. The angle of this photo would be impossible on a functioning locomotive. After a confab in the clinker-box, Hott-Nutts Hoddi squirms his way out. One advantage of a hand-bomber is the easy, wide firebox door. The anaemic ginger-coloured caterpillar above his upper lip is in honour of MO-vember. F04 – Gimmie, Gimmie some good news … puleeeeze! Hoddi is looking up hopefully through the cut-out ashpan and where the right rear firebars aren’t. The angle of this photo would be impossible on a functioning locomotive.
Dawie pulls the compressed and shifted template out in silent disgust. We are allowed about 1.5mm gap on the sides for filling by welding, but those edges need to be chamfered on the final patch. That reduces our tolerance. I had just arrived and the grunts weren’t expecting camera exposure JUST yet. They had flattened out the two existing sheet-metal templates for comparison and Dawie was trying out trimming a third, oversized corner template.
We are going to try a new approach. The lowest corner is to be made up by making a ‘negative template’ for a direct check on the plate. The upper side will be made from a positive which will be then converted to a negative. It should allow for a direct fit without pressing. Both sides are canted slightly inwards, making for challenging fitting. So that’s three dead templates so far and the fellows are getting a tad frustrated. The main problem is getting the length of the sides right as well as the corner radius – As soon as the corner is pressed in – the sides shift and shorten. Because of the thickness of the plates, it is not possible to get a direct match on the radius either.
Apart from the double-canted sides and the inability to directly and perfectly match the radius on an oversized plate (due to the overlap with the thick firebox plates), the springiness and thickness of the templates are also causing difficulty. Notice the template is upside down here. The cut isn’t entirely square, because the original plate was slightly bulged. (The picture exaggerates the angles.) Notice how the edges have already been dressed for welding – clearly seen at the top left of the cut.
George applies a crude shop-made G-Clamp to the foundation ring corner to pull the template in. The foundation ring’s inner and outer radii don’t have the same center, so the diagonal line is longer than expected. They had to tap the fully extended G-clamp into place. OK, now THIS is concentration! Fancy sitting on a firebar and not noticing that you have a rubber mallet stuck under your butt! Dawie ‘Swak Hart’ Viljoen is in between another grinding-pass at the template

Like a bunch of dumb-nutts, we hustled that unwieldy sand blasting hopper all the way over here before we thought to check if we actually had a compatible air supply at this end of the yard. Here, the guys are checking the overhead routes of the compressed air lines. The Little Chipper was tasked to slop some oil on the long-stationary valve motion and especially onto the white-metals of the crosshead guides. He found the piston and valve rods to be frustrating! He took the job quite seriously!
The project started with four of us ‘pinch barring’ the reluctant old rust-pot out into the open. (We were taking turns on the bar.) Notice that Jeremy, as the current ‘kicker’ for this session, has his hand in a yellow tub. It is full of traction sand which we were throwing on the rails and under the pinch bar’s wedge-shaped head for better grip. We had high hopes of getting 15F No.2914 out into this open area, so as to not have abrasive blasting sand and dust spread all over the workshop. But the ‘miz’ old gasket wasn’t having any of it and was quite comfortable where she was, thank you very much. (Even with the tender uncoupled.)
The ex-NBLS Class 24 No.3647 is a privately owned locomotive and is waiting for the next cash injection from owner Greg McLennan. Unfortunately this shed is only one locomotive deep and the adjoining track is occupied by a steam crane, which absolutely cannot be stored outdoors. After much huffin’ and puffin’, and ever more frequent breaks, we finally got her front end out under the gantry crane. The bearings aren’t necessarily dry (but the cylinders and valves probably are) but that grease has probably gotten a bit caked and hard over time.
We gave up shifting the Fat Fraulein when the naked firebox cleared the front end of 15CA No.2056, just behind the yellow trolley on the right. The next job would be to get the sand blasting hopper out as well as the larger air hoses. Here is the sand blasting hopper in its original position in No.1 Road next to the 12AR No.1535. As it still had sand in it from the previous job, it was a heavy bugger to move over all the trackage, especially with that silly little front wheel dropping into every irregularity.
The air supply looked promising so Sir Hott-Nutts came over with the wide-bore sand transport hose. Note that The Mini Mienie isn’t the only Reefsteamers bake-head who sticks his tongue out when he is absorbed on his work. The hoses were easy to figure out with their distinctive fittings, but the valve positions were not so intuitive. Here, Josh is battling with the clawed coupler for the sand pipe – he had the concept but not the strength.
Not really ‘clicking’ that there was a trolley available,. Jeremy moved the 50Kg bags of sand manually. He managed to not blow out his back by keeping those bags real close. I wasn’t going to dare pulling this stunt! With all that grit flying around, having exposed axle boxes and springs isn’t a good idea. George, Robbie and myself had just the wheel lathe’s big tarp up over the wheels on the left side while Jeremy was packing in plastic sheets as dust covers on the ‘downwind’ side of the blast.
We had hardly any air and it turned out the original valve wasn’t opening properly. George scrounged for and fitted a replacement, which turned out to have a wrong nipple screwed in. Here George tries to get that nipple off while Jeremy tries to hold the replacement valve in place. Kids can be useful ... sometimes! With most of us being too fat or too tall or just too old to get in between the frames, we had absolutely no scruples about sending the nimble and compact Joshua in there to make sure the exposed axles got covered up.
You missed a bit! With No.2914 parked on flat wet ground, no one wanted to wriggle under the loco to check for coverage, so I used the handy tilting view finder on my camera as a periscope to look over the 5ft dia. wheels. You can see an exposed axle box at mid-right in the photo. The sand hopper in its final position with all the hoses hooked up and three 50Kg bags of fresh blasting sand standing by. Notice the tarpaulin set-up to cover the wheels, ash pan and bissell gear. With all of the Hoddinott-sanctioned stripping, there wasn’t much left to tie onto!

10 months ago at the start of the job on 14 Jan 2012. The locomotive looks bad now – but no more parts are coming off. The project has turned a corner with parts being made up to fit and improvements starting to be made. A view down the exposed chimney portal. You can easily see how misaligned the chimney stack was by the asymmetric edge of the graphite … and just LOOK at that beautifully formed mounting bolt hole in the foreground. The rearmost mounting bolt holes are actually missing.
Aidan McCarthy made a hopeful start on removing the horrible graphite paint from the smokebox. This stuff had been presoaked in old automotive brake fluid to help brake, er, break up the paint. Aidan used a pneumatic needle gun here – notice the regulator’s clean packing box. Class 15F No.2914 is starting to look distinctly less rusty! Notice that the buffer beam has also had all the thick, encrusted old paint chopped off, ground down and has been redone in the same etching primer.
Work Party. 15F No.2914 is presently being worked on by five people simultaneously, three of whom are visible here. Aidan is de-graphiting upstairs while Victor is wiping away spilt brake fluid and grindings. Jeremy Wood (Left) is reaching around to tickle 2914’s belly with the roller. No one is looking forward to doing the underside of the boiler. But Jeremy is pushing that roller down almost as far as it can go. We are looking for someone preferably small and slim of waist to work between frames and boiler.
‘Chip’ Wood is safely in the manhole aperture while painting and is quite happily getting mucky! Notice the top bracket for the crinoline ring in the middle ground. Also see that the leading of the three boiler courses has its riveted seam and lapping plates in the 12 o’clock position. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than standing on the superheater flues and slapping paint onto freshly de-crusted steel.
Jeremy Wood was the ‘Roller Man’, doing the more open areas of the boiler shell and really slapping it on. Josh ‘Chip’ Wood was doing the seams and flanges – being too small to negotiate the boiler barrel safely. It sucks to paint boiler rivets as you have many more angles to work with. You will notice that this is the SECOND coat to be applied. The circular strips of metal are the crinoline rings that support the boiler cladding.
The Mini-Mienie is a funny chap – he just CANNOT walk past a locomotive without trying to wipe down the work. He’s just as bad with live-steam models – he recently cleaned my 1:12 10BR THREE times while she was raising steam. Here, he is cleaning off brake fluid ‘paint stripper.’ Aidan and Hott-Nutts walk by on an inspection tour, the angle showing the left side of the boiler complete in its 2nd primer coat. A start would be made on de-scaling the firebox a little later on in the afternoon
Taken the previous week. Aidi-Mac is the 7th person assigned to this stubborn paint on the buffer beam and he was the one who finally defeated it - with a hammer and chisel on the hard bits and to cut around the bolts. Dad! There's a hair in my paint!

Here is a close up of the new Bettendorf Hardware-sourced needle gun in action – complete with flying rust! This one has a simple pneumatic reciprocating action and the working end fastens with a bayonet type connection. Aidan McCarthy faces the nightmare of a dusty, crusty and rusty firebox just BRISTLING with the protruding caps of flexible stays. Although he gave the hex-heads a quick clean up, he was concentrating more on the cups and bases. We won’t do the heads until the boiler hydro test.
A view of one of the characteristic split turret manifolds of a Class 15F, with the oxidized bronze whistle still attached. The bolt shanks protruding under the turret flange and the height offset of the crinoline ring readily show the depth normally occupied by the thermal insulative blankets (‘Lagging’) under the outer skin. (‘Cladding.’) These stays are supporting the front edge of the crown sheet. They are amongst the longest of the firebox stays. Contrary to popular belief, they are not made flexible only to prevent cracking and breakage, but also to mitigate the effects of stay-elongation under expansion and subsequent leaks upon cool-down and re-contraction.
These are not true firebox stays. These are the ends of the traverse rods that brace the parabolic arch of the outer firebox wrapper (As typical on a late SAR Wootten firebox.) and they cross the steam space just above the crown sheet. A more general pic of the descaling operation. Aidan is standing on one of several very useful wheeled work platforms – especially as the rear walkways have had their supports cut away with the removal of the cab.


The the cleaned firebox course glowing softly in the evening light. The riveted lap plates are on opposite sides on the alternate courses of the boiler barrel.
The cheek deflector has been removed, exposing the bolted joints of the smoke box saddle, and the frequently forgotten oil cellar (Just behind the broom) that lubricates the bogie pivot.
Small parks were removed. The biggest piece removed was the hydrostatic lubricator, which was safely locked away in the snake pit.
The poor denuded locomotive is looking sorry for herself. Work started the following day on stripping that graphite paint form the smoke box.

Simon and George are levering off the third course of cladding plating on the left side. They would have to pass it over the protruding hand rail stanchion and the mounting pad for the regulator linkage’s guide pulleys. The four bolts that held the turbo-dynamo’s mounting bracket can be seen lower down by George’s big feet.
The cladding plate has flopped over under its own weight and an (unusually) optimistic Aidan is giving it a few tentative tugs to see if it would come free. Note the thermally-insulative boiler lagging is still in place.
George’s other end (the slightly meatier end that doesn’t talk) seen uncomfortably leaning on the main motion.
Hott Nutts uses a Hott Torch while stretching his lanky chassis out to reach those welds and is trying to get them cut with a torch that kept misfiring. His goggles are completely on - it is just the angle of the photo that is a bit odd. On the extreme right is one of the slotted waist plates that are designed to buckle to allow the boiler to expand when it is hot. The pipe in the foreground is the exhaust from the power-reverser.
A healthy shower of sparks seen though the RHS valve hangar.
Planning how to remove the leading hand rail. In the foreground is the front guide sheave for the regulator’s leading pull-rod.
Another winch job, now using ‘Rustie Rosie’ as an anchor.
Another cladding sheet winching in progress – using the adjoining Class 15CA as an anchor.
With boiler-boy 'Swakhart' Viljoen watching, Simon Bennett has the honour of making the first grunts on this project while making the first heave. Simon is levering sideways as they are trying to get the throat plate cladding off – thus he can’t get his weight behind the leverage.
The cladding plate has flopped over under its own weight and an (unusually) optimistic Aidan is giving it a few tentative tugs to see if it would come free. Note the thermally-insulative boiler lagging is still in place.
A view down the drop grate and the ash pan chute, with the trap door open.
Seen through the driver’s window of the 15F locomotive’s decapitated cab, the de-frocking gang consider where to start with the least effort and pain. They picked the rear course, left side for a convenient edge in which to get the ‘gwala’ bars.
Aidan McCarthy holds an awkwardly angled hacksaw as he cuts away the head of a long-rusted pin in an attempt to loosen a stubborn hand-rail stanchion.
After Aidan achieved bagel with his hacksaw, ‘Hott Nutts’ George tries a more direct approach with the same seized-in handrail stanchion, with a mallet. The corroded stanchion snapped off and would be the last attempt at removing a hand-rail stanchion today. Sometimes the game just isn’t worth the carrot.
A view of the cut-out in the firebox and of the cracked foundation ring.
A close up of the marked cracks in the foundation ring. We are still getting the instructions and the approval drawings together before work can re-commence here.

Finally the piece of cracked plate is out View from inside the firebox showing where the plate was removed
Shaun trying to wack the plate loose with the 16 pound hammer but it would not budge, 2914 is being very stubborn. We will have gas again on Saturday so then the plate will come out whether it like it or not. George Hoddinott who is the project leader and driving force behind the project to return 2914 back to service stands proudly with the piece of plate that after a lot of effort has finally been removed
Shaun and George Hoddinott busy doing the final precision cuts at the foundation ring level Section of plate cut all round but as you could see some of the rivets had not been removed fully and even though they had been drilled though the stubborn piece of plate would not come out
George Hoddinott starting cutting out the plate with an angle grinder on 15F 2914 Shaun with George Hoddinott in the firebox doing the last bits to remove the piece of plate.
These are the three foundation rivets that kept us busy late into the night. Once we had removed the first two we found that the outside of the boiler has already been patched on SAR service and the holes on the patch did not line up 100% with the foundation ring holes, so when the rivets were driven in they deformed and that was why they were so hard to remove Closeup to show the crack on the side that was against the foundation ring. Crack is bigger than first thought, but enough plate has been cut out to isolate the cracked section
The rivets were so stubborn that the snap in the rivet gun shattered Selection of foundation ring rivets and flexible stays already removed from 15F 2914 as part of the prep for cutting out the cracked area of the firebox
Shaun hitting the rivet with the trusty 14 pound hammer George Hoddinott having a go with the 14 pound hammer. Unfortunately at this point my camera's battery died, but we did manage to get two of the rivets out and made a start on the third. Thanks to Diana Lynne Sanderson and Victor Louis Mienie for keeping the team supplied with tea and toasted sandwiches.
Shaun Ackerman in the firebox using the air drill to drill out the rivets Shaun cutting the head off the rivet so we could try driving it from the outside
Andrew and George Hoddinott preparing the corners of 2914's firebox for dye testing. After the testing no cracks were found, so the boiler inspector just needs to confirm how much plate needs to be replaced in the one corner Lagging on 2914 has been removed to allow access to the external work area for the internal patch. Stays and rivets need to be replaced so we need external access as well.
Robbie and Johan busy removing one of the turret steam feed valves Due to the reported problems in the past with the boiler the decision has been made to remove all the boiler cladding to allow for full inspection while doing the hydraulic and steam tests. Johan Breytenbach is busy at work removing one of the clacks to allow the cladding to be removed
George Hoddinott at work removing a smoke deflector from 2914 for panel beating and painting also to allow access to the smoke box to make prep for painting easier less one smoke deflector, at this point we ran out of oxygen for the torch so could not do the other side
George Hoddinott cutting bolts to free the cab on 2914 so it can be moved to allow external access to the area where the new piece of plate will be welded into the inside of the firebox George Hoddinott and Colin continue work on freeing up the cab on 2914. Amazing how many pipes, control rods and bolts need to be disconnected to free the cab
Lee Gates and George Hoddinott take strain as the pressure on the buffer spring is increased. Bit of a role reversal for Lee as he is doing the work and I am taking photos. Success ! the draw bar pin removed and the tender split.
We started removing the pipes off 2914 as you can see in the picture, after battling to get the compressor to start which had decided it was on strike. We then decided to remove the piping on 2914! Fred said he would be back to tackle that soon.
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