On track for the first trip

LET’S meet X18, the loco that’ll be the first leaving the New Norfolk platform when time comes to getting the Derwent Valley Railway’s rolling stock rolling again. Some vital statistics first.

This yellow beauty weighs in at around 70 tonnes spread over a 13m frame. She was built by the English Electric company; over the years, dozens of trains of this type rolled off the company’s assembly line in Warwick, in England’s West Midlands. A significant number ended up in Tasmania. And although locomotives like X18 were made into the 1960s, they were designed to last well into this century.

She’s powered by a diesel electric motor – the diesel engine creates power for electric traction motors to drive the wheels – a kind of hybrid system that existed long before they appeared in modern cars.

That hybrid configuration, coupled with a low rev rate and the extended longevity common to diesel engines means she’s got plenty more life beyond her 60 years. X18 is one of two diesel electrics now being restored by the Derwent Valley Railway, a team of some 140 volunteers who are painstakingly restoring a series of locos, tenders and carriages for when passengers can again start taking trips towards Mt Field National Park.

That restoration process draws on the hard-earned skills of myriad tradespeople. The carriages alone, most with old-fashioned wood frames as well as decorative details, demand the touch of carpenters and builders. The X18 locomotive on its own is a huge project, demanding attention from multiple mechanics and diesel fitters, welders and electricians.

Greg Robinson, deputy chair of the railway, is one of those skilled pair of hands. At a bench, he’s working on one of the six pistons from X18, its aluminium casing in need of replacement because of deep scratching. Close by, new piston rings are being fitted to each of the massive pistons before they’re reinstalled in the heart of this yellow giant. Everything about the engine is huge.

Each of its six cylinders is some 15.4 litres or nearly 1000 cubic inches in size, and each produces as much as 213 horsepowerwhile revving at a leisurely 700 to 900 rpm. Elsewhere, the railway is working through the National Rail Safety variation in its accreditation, the final step needed before DVR can achieve its immediate goal of the short journey for which X18 is being prepared.

That initial journey is expected to be just some 500 metres from its base on Station Street.

Mr Robinson says he expects with the pace of refurbishing the diesel heart of X18, that first outing should be in about July 2023.