For those that don’t subscribe to social media, you might have missed the multitude of excellent photos and videos over recent weeks, showing the Garratt undergoing testing by the railway’s Workshop team.

Above, NG/G16 129 blasts off the horseshoe bridge on its way to Menzies Creek whilst below, a pause near Selby allows for a quick ‘feel around’ to ensure none of the bearings are running hot.

On Wednesday 6th November, the Garratt moved under its own power for the first time, making a few runs up and down the workshop road at Belgrave. Following these, further running in trials around Belgrave yard were used to check for leaks and potential clearance issues (Belgrave has a nice selection of sharp curves, steep gradients, and combinations of the two!) whilst allowing the locomotive to start running in.

Several test trains have operated, achieving significant milestones in the locomotive’s testing program:

  • Tuesday 12th November – First test train, which ran as far as Emerald Station. With a consist of only 1 carriage – carrying personnel and equipment – various stops were made to check bearing temperatures, as well as clearances on bends and in relation to infrastructure. In addition, whistle sound and headlight intensity tests were carried out.

  • Tuesday 19th November – The second test train, planned to run Gembrook and return. Problems with the dump grate meant that the trip was cancelled at Menzies Creek and the loco, along with 6 car consist, returned to Belgrave where rectification work was undertaken.

  • Wednesday 27th November – A re-run of the previous weeks attempt to reach Gembrook, the Garratt took 16 cars there and back and the grate behaved impeccably! The aim of this trip was to carry out the remaining tests – measuring braking distances under different load conditions. A suitable straight section of track, on a downgrade, was used to test service and emergency braking under light engine and different laden conditions. With all tests complete, the consist returned to Belgrave, having satisfied the Project team’s requirements.

During these runs, it was noted that the engine appeared to run better backwards than it did forwards. Inspection of the valve setting revealed an opportunity to even things up, and this work was duly carried out. A final test run on Thursday 12th December revealed considerable improvement in the locos performance running chimney first.

With the locomotive essentially finished and ready to release to the Loco Operations Branch for use in traffic, the NG/G16 129 project draws to a close. A few little jobs remained, and were attended to prior to the official launch which tool place today, Puffing Billy’s 119th birthday!