Although the public rarely see them running the railways two V class diesel mechanical locos are the backbone of operations around Lakers siding. Used almost daily for shunting items around the workshops they have laboured for years with little to no maintinance and as such have become a little tired.
The V class were the TGR’s first diesel locomotives, made for shunting yards. 14 of them were built between 1948 and 1968, and were very successful. Most lasted in service until 1987 and remarkably, 10 of them still exist today.
Class leader VA1 (built 1947) came to Queenscliff in 1983, and V8 (built 1955) arrived in 1988 having been the last of its type in TGR/AN service.
200hp Gardner 8L3 motors were originally fitted to all of the V class. This type of engine was quite significant at the time as it was more economical and easier to operate than the steam power it replaced in many industrial uses, from paper mills to tug boats.
The Vs are unusual for diesel locos, having a mechanical drive through a gearbox instead of electric motors. The gearbox is a semi-automatic epicyclic type, connected to the motor hydraulically in place of a clutch. There are five speeds and a reverser, allowing the engine to reach a bone shattering 30mph in either direction. Like a steam engine, the wheels are driven by coupling rods, which go into the gearbox at one end.
In 1958, V1 and V8 were reclassed VA and fitted with smaller 153hp 6L3 motors and four speed gearboxes, which halved their top speed to 16mph. VA8 later reverted to original configuration with an 8L3 Gardner motor and a 5 speed gearbox.
V8 has a number of coolant leaks as well as a set of wheels that are in need of a turn and numerous other issues that prevent it from being used out on the mainline, but VA1 just needed a fair amount of rust work and a replacement gearbox to be fitted and it could be once again returned to hauling passenger trains for the public. To that end a working party consisting of youth volunteer group members and David Price have spearheaded a works program to return the loco to a condition that is functional and presentable.
The loco entered the workshop in mid March after we gave V8 a quick tidy up and to date has had extensive rust repairs and the replacent gearbox fitted. During disassembly it was discovered that the drive flange on the input shaft of the reversing box has been fretting due to incorrect installation in the past which has required that it be stripped down for repair. We are going to fit a new cab floor and a fresh coat of black and yellow paint in the coming months and hopefully everyone will be able to enjoy the sight of VA1 running down to Queenscliff at the head of our heritage Tasmanian carriages soon. Thanks to everyone that has invested their time in this significant locomotive.