How it Works - Phoenix Log Hauler

A typical"tech tuesday" video post has received a great deal of attention in the past week. Posted Tuesday, July 12, on CSR's Facebook Page, the video [embedded below] of Wabeno's Phoenix Log Hauler has received, as of Friday, more than 170,000 views in three days. The unique vehicle, largely unknown to those outside of rural northern Wisconsin, is most likely why the video has been so popular.

That uniqueness is also what attracted CSR President Davidson Ward to visit Wabeno and attend its annual "Steam Up Days" festival the weekend prior.

"I had run across the Phoenix Log Hauler parked and under cover when driving through the town on a road trip two years prior," explained Ward. "When the opportunity arose to visit friends in the region and see the 'Phoenix' in action, I couldn't say no."

The Phoenix Manufacturing Company of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, manufactured the unique piece of steam history in the early 1900's for use by the G.W. Jones Lumber Company at its mill from 1909 to 1935.

The machine is a unique mixture of steam locomotive, steam tractor, and treaded-excavator that was used to haul long sleds of logs from the forests to the lumber mill in Wabeno, Wisconsin. It was used in both summer and winter, with two skis attached in place of the wheels for winter operations. Interestingly enough, the device burns hardwood scraps and uses water picked up along the way (or from snow), and it could thereby be an example of "old school sustainability." Click on the diagram below to get an enlarged view of the machine.

The "Phoenix" was donated to the Town of Wabeno in 1944 by the lumber company, and a group of citizens restored it to operation in 1965. The unique machine is one of only a few similar to it operating today, with the majority of other surviving machines having been made by Lombard in Maine (Lombard licensed components of its invention to Phoenix for the manufacture of this and about 200 other units made by the company).

Each year on the weekend after the Fourth of July, Wabeno hosts a "Steam Up Days" to show off its unique, operating piece of history and host a bunch of other lumberjack-related equipment. It is a good time and an event not to be missed!

Be sure to follow CSR to stay up-to-date on interesting innovation and preservation news:

Axles vs. Axis - Memorial Day 2016

The U.S. railroads banded together with the nation to help win the Second World War, and a large portion of that included promoting war bonds and recognizing the accomplishments of the railroad in supporting the Allied war effort. This ad shows many pieces of the "Axles vs. Axis" of the ATSF, including an engineman lubricating the driving box pedestals of ATSF 3460. 

On this Memorial Day, CSR remembers and honors the ultimate sacrifice given by so many in support of freedom - from those who rode to the front lines behind ATSF steam locomotives to those who have defended our freedom before and since. To all, we are forever grateful.

NEW NRRI Paper - Use of Biomass Fuels with a Focus on Biomass Pre-Treatment

This new paper by CSR research collaborator Natural Resources Research Institute was authored by Don Fosnacht, Ph.D (a CSR Board Member) and his colleague David W. Hendrickson. It provides a very in-depth look at the way in which pre-treatment of biomass can be used in steam boilers to make electricity (or, in some cases, propulsion for trains). It is of great importance in serving as a "bridge" fuel to transition from coal to cleaner energy, lowering conversion costs at power plants.

The following executive summary provides a good overview of the paper, which can be downloaded in its entirety here.

The desire to fire biomass for electric power generation has recently been amplified by President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan with a call for a 32% cut in power plant emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels.

With carbon-capture and sequestration technology still developing, many coal plants are looking for alternative ways to reduce the CO2 from larger scale fossil fueled power plants. Some utilities have started mixing their coal with a cheap material such as woody biomass that could help them meet the expected EPA targets. Co-firing with wood and coal is becoming a viable ‘bridge strategy’ for increasing the use of renewable resources while reducing atmospheric CO2. Worldwide, over 200 test burns have been completed for co-firing wood with coal at large-scale coal fired power plants to show the feasibility of this technique to reduce CO2 in plant emissions.

Compared with fossil fuels, biomass has not been widely utilized in the electric power generation industry due to its relatively low energy density. Biomass pre-treatment technologies have therefore been developed to densify biomass into forms that can be stored and handled in a manner consistent with coal usage at power generation operations.(2) The biomass industry is currently focusing on biomass pretreatment technologies for either pelletizing raw biomass fuels or pelletizing torrefied biomass fuels. The wood pelletizing process for production of wood fuel pellets is a well-developed technology worldwide. The torrefied wood industry, however, is in a ‘development stage’ in that many torrefaction processes are being researched and refined, with no one technology perfected or preferred as yet.

The global electric power industry is thus seeking ‘refined’ renewable fuel products to partially or fully replace coal as its fuel source in order to reduce carbon and other significant emissions. ‘Refining’ is a generic term for different fuel processing technologies including steam explosion, torrefaction, and hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) (also called wet torrefaction). Through the use of torrefaction ‘mild pyrolysis process,’ a significant improvement in the suitability of biomass for co-firing in coal fired power plants is produced while providing the potential to enable higher co-firing percentages of biomass versus using untreated wood pellets. The quality of the torrefaction process depends on the balance between temperature and residence time to preserve a maximum of energy density to achieve certain fuel properties like grindability and hydrophobicity.(3) While the lignin content in wood is usually enough to bind pellets, other forms of biomass require special conditioning to strengthen them. Sometimes binders such as starch, sugars, paraffin oils, or lignin must be added to make the pelletized biomass more durable.(4) Pelletizing into a highly water repellent pellet or briquette is required for the torrefied wood industry to produce an acceptable coal replacement product that can be shipped in bulk in open containers and stored in a manner similar to coal. As of 2015, emerging biomass torrefaction companies have significantly improved their ability to produce high quality products with pellets of comparable durability to conventional wood pellets. Key areas of work remain, and these include: densification with and without binders to enhance the bulk density of the produced fuels, development of moisture resistance regimes to allow avoidance of indoor storage, optimization of the shape and size of the fuel products, and the degree of pretreatment required to reduce ash content and to achieve the desired fuel values in the products.

Southern Company, at its Gulf Power subsidiary, successfully tested the use of ‘white pellets’ that had undergone torrefaction in a mobile torrefaction facility. Even though the produced materials were not of ideal physical quality, the company showed that up to 100% coal substitution could be achieved. The company concluded that the use of torrefied materials was a straightforward path to substitution of increasing amounts of coal in power generation. Ontario Power in Canada has converted two plants in Western Ontario to completely use biomass materials. In one case, they modified the power plant to utilize white pellets, and the capital costs for this modification were estimated to be C$170,000,000. In the second case, the power plant decided to use advanced wood pellets produced from steam explosion processing methods (Zilkha or Arbaflame), and the capital costs to allow the materials to be used was only C$5,000,000. The capital cost reduction illustrated that the advanced wood pellets could be used like coal in that second plant example. Finally, a European economic analysis indicates that considering all aspects of potential fuel use, advanced wood pellets compared to ‘white pellets’ have a significant economic advantage when logistics and actual cost of use at the power plant is considered.

Modifications in Mainline Steam - The Red Devil

[Click to Enlarge]

South African Railways (SAR) Class 26 number 3450 (nicknamed the "Red Devil"), is the product of mechanical engineer David Wardale’s 1981 rebuilding of a Class 25NC 4-8-4 steam locomotive.  The rebuilding, performed at the Salt River Works in Cape Town, South Africa, was based on the works of the Argentinian mechanical engineer L.D. Porta, with whom Wardale corresponded during the modification.

The SAR Class 25 and 25NC 4-8-4’s were a group of 140 locomotive purchased by the South African Railways, delivered between 1953 and 1955 by Henschel and Sohn as well as the North British Locomotive Company. These locomotives featured all the then-contemporary American improvements: one piece cast steel frame with integral cylinders, roller bearings on all axles and motion, as well as mechanical and pressure lubrication.  The last built Class 25NC, number 3450, entered service in 1953 built by Henschel and Sohn, construction No.28697.

Even though SAR management had already decided to replace all steam traction with electric and diesel-electric power, Wardale was determined to show that the efficiency of steam locomotives could be greatly increased.  With the help of Argentinian mechanical engineer L.D. Porta, Wardale set about on a major modification program including the installation of the Gas Producer Combustion System (GPCS) to improve combustion efficiency and the Lempor exhaust system to improve the power output of the cylinders.

At the end of 1979, the rebuilding of number 3450 to Class 26 began.  Several SAR mechanical facilities were involved in producing new parts of modifying existing parts, including: Salt River in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Beaconsfield in Kimberley, Koedoespoort in Pretoria and Pietermaritzburg.  The modification work had three main goals: 1) improve the combustion efficiency and increase the steam production, 2) reduce smoke emissions and 3) eliminate clinker problems in the firebox.

Following is a list of the principle modifications to the locomotive:

  • Double Lempor Exhaust;
  • Closed Type Feedwater Heater;
  • Enlarged Steam Chests;
  • Enlarged Branch Pipes;
  • Larger Superheater and Front-End Throttle (From a SAR Class GMAM Garratt);
  • Superheat Booster;
  • New Design Piston Valves;
  • Articulated Valve Spindles;
  • Cooled Valve Liners;
  • Diesel-type Piston Rings;
  • Improved Steam Ports;
  • New Design Cylinder Liners;
  • New Design Pistons;
  • Modified Valve Gear;
  • Tender Coal Capacity Increased by 2 Tons;
  • Lengthened Smokebox;
  • Air Sanding;
  • Self-Cleaning Smokebox;
  • New Design Valve and Piston Rod Packings;
  • Cutoff Proportional Lubrication;
  • Modified Insulation;
  • Exhaust Deflectors and
  • Bright Red Paint.

During testing, the locomotive proved capable of achieving nearly 5,000 DBHP, believed to be the highest output attained by any locomotive on Cape Gauge (3'-6").  In comparison, the Red Devil was capable of the following improvements against a standard Class 25NC:

  • 28% Reduction in Coal Consumption;
  • 30% Savings in Water Consumption and
  • 52% Increase in Drawbar Horsepower.

Equally impressive is that the locomotive ended up being cheaper to maintain and operate than diesel-electric locomotives on the railroad, due in large part to its modern construction, the low cost of fuel, and the application of advanced water treatment.

The following table provides a comparison between the Red Devil and other locomotives in operation today.

CATEGORY Southern 4501
As Rebuilt by
TVRM in 2014
SAR Class
25NC
(Unmodified)
SAR Class 26
No. 3450
"Red Devil"
ATSF 3751
As Rebuilt by
ATSF in 1941
General Classification 2-8-2 4-8-4 4-8-4 4-8-4
Cylinders, in. 26.625 x 30 24 x 28 24 x 28 30 x 30
Drivers, in. 63 60 60 80
Boiler Pressure, lbs. 205 225 225 230
Grate area, Sq. ft. 54 70 70 108
Engine weight, lbs. 272,940 214,400 222,400 478,100
Heating surface, Sq. ft. 3,231 3,390 3,104 5,634
Superheater, Sq. ft. 600 630 1,014 800
Drawbar horsepower, hp. 2,150 2,091 4,023 3,600
Power/Weight (dbhp/ton) 15.8 19.5 36.2 15.3
Tractive effort, lbs. 53,900 45,360 52,000 71,719
Builder Baldwin Henschel +
North British
Henschel Baldwin
Date (Rebuit) 1911 (2014) 1953-1955 1953 (1981) 1927 (1941)

It was announced earlier in 2016 that the Red Devil was moved from storage at Monument Station in Capetown to a restoration facility for restoration to operation. The locomotive is set to be used in conjunction with the Ceres Rail Company excursion operation, hauling trains on the mainline between Cape Town and Wolseley. It is unclear whether the locomotive, which had been significantly de-modified, will be rebuilt as a Class 25NC or converted back into a Class 26.

New Mainline Steam in the South?

New not-for-profit seeks to rebuild unique steam locomotive, CSR's Ward assists in the process

The Nashville Steam Preservation Society announced today its intentions to seek a lease agreement with Metro Nashville to move, inspect, and rebuild to operation Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis 4-8-4 type steam locomotive number 576. The newly-formed group is comprised of some of the most respected and experienced steam preservationists in the industry.

CSR President Davidson Ward has assisted the group from its nascence. In addition to designing the logos and graphic standards of NSPS, Ward has been involved in negotiations with Metro Parks regarding 576, has served as a strategic advisor to matters ranging from fundraising strategy to facilities designs, and is involved in many of the strategic planning matters undertaken by NSPS.

The "Stripe" with a few of the NSPS folks in front of its 70" driving wheels. From left to right: Jim Wrinn [Editor of Trains Magazine & NSPS Board Member], Shane Meador [NSPS President], Jason Sobzynski [Steam Mechanic and NSPS Advisor] and Davidson Ward [CSR President and NSPS Advisor]. Photo: S. Ward

The "Stripe" with a few of the NSPS folks in front of its 70" driving wheels. From left to right: Jim Wrinn [Editor of Trains Magazine & NSPS Board Member], Shane Meador [NSPS President], Jason Sobzynski [Steam Mechanic and NSPS Advisor] and Davidson Ward [CSR President and NSPS Advisor]. Photo: S. Ward

Built in 1942, locomotive No. 576 was designed and built utilizing the most modern technology of the day. Before its preservation, it roamed the southeast pulling freight and passenger trains, most notably during the busy years of World War II.

The restoration of No. 576 will enhance the locomotive’s value to Nashville and the region as a living historical artifact instead of a static park display. Passengers and spectators will be able to ride behind it and experience the sights, sounds, and impressions of a major steam locomotive in operation.

To reach this goal, the organization must reach a lease agreement with Metro Nashville, move the engine to a shop at the Tennessee Central Railway Museum, and raise a significant amount of money before embarking on the work.

NSPS President Shane Meador also serves as a technical advisor to CSR. Photo: D. Ward

NSPS President Shane Meador also serves as a technical advisor to CSR. Photo: D. Ward

“We are excited about this proposal to help secure locomotive No. 576’s future, and are looking forward to working with Metro Parks, the Tennessee Central Railway Museum, and the Nashville and Eastern Railroad to bring this Nashville Icon back to life to educate and operate it for the good Citizens of Nashville,” said President Shane Meador of the preservation society. “As a native of Nashville, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue returning this one-of-a-kind locomotive to operation.”

Once operational, No. 576 will pull the Tennessee Central Railway Museum’s restored passenger cars on the Nashville & Eastern Railroad, also used by Nashville’s “Music City Star” Commuter operation. Excursions would originate downtown.

A 14 car-long matching stainless steel TCRM railway excursion, behind its fleet of first generation diesels, rounds the curve near Mt. Juliet in March 2016. It would look nice with a 4-8-4 on the point. Photo: D. Ward

“The locomotive 576 has been an important part of Centennial Park since 1953. The Park Board will be thoughtful in their assessment to ensure that any lease honors the intent of the original donors, retains public access, and provides for responsible stewardship going forward. The opportunity to ride a steam train out of Riverfront Park could be a much richer experience than the current static observation available in Centennial Park and is worthy of consideration,” said Parks Director Tommy Lynch. If approved by the Park Board, the agreement would next go to Metro Council for approval.

“Having worked on more than 20 steam locomotive restoration projects, I am excited about this proposal to return such a unique technological marvel to operation for the Citizens of Metro Nashville,” said steam locomotive expert Gary Bensman, a member of the organization’s board of directors. “Given the condition and disrepair of the locomotive following more than 60 years of being exposed to the elements, this proposal comes at a critical time to ensure the locomotive can be preserved for future generations.”

NSPS plans to raise $3 million to restore the locomotive, which will take place just a couple of miles from downtown Nashville. The organization is also seeking an additional $2 million to construct a permanent, visitor- friendly home and facility for the locomotive that will allow for its continued maintenance as well as to provide an interactive educational environment.

The organization has already received pledges of more than $200,000 to launch this campaign, and will continue seeking private and corporate supporters. After an agreement is reached with Metro, the locomotive will not be moved out of Centennial Park until an initial capital goal of $500,000 is reached to ensure funding throughout the first phase of this six phase project. In addition, the Nashville & Eastern Railroad has sent a letter of commitment stating that it will allow the locomotive to run on its tracks, and the Tennessee Central Railway Museum has pledged the use of its fleet of vintage, restored passenger cars. This proposal also provides a set number of free tickets, annually, to children and seniors of Metro Parks sponsored Community Centers for excursion trains once the 576 is operational.

In Memoriam - Phil Girdlestone

Lastly, of course there are the locomotives themselves, magnificent machines that were the true inspiration
— Phil Girdlestone, 2012

Girdlestone shows off a newly-manufactured lightweight multi-ring piston valve from an ACR NGG16. Photo: ACR

Within the past decade, the last revenue-earning steam locomotives have almost entirely vanished from the Earth. While there are thousands parked in municipal parks and museums, the few that remain in operation today are primarily for the tourist-hauling public – a reminder of the trains of yesteryear.

However, a small group of dedicated mechanical engineers and steam technicians have spent years working to make the steam locomotive as mechanically and thermodynamically efficient and reliable as possible. Three of the leading experts, David Wardale, Shaun McMahon, and Phil Girdlstone, are disciples of Argentinean modern steam locomotive expert Livio Dante Porta. Each of them worked directly with Porta on a number of projects on five continents, and following Porta’s death in 2003, they were left to carry on his legacy. One of the most accomplished and senior members of that group, Phil Girdlestone, has died this week at the age of 61. 

Phil Girdlestone (1954-2016) was born in London and, like many children, he became fascinated with the steam locomotive. He spent many hours as a child watching the mainline steam locomotives of the British Railways chuff by, and he also witnessed their replacement by the diesels and electric locomotives that rule the rails today. Girdlestone believed that the steam locomotive still held promise but in a more refined form. In the words of Bob Harris, former Assistant Works Manager at the Ffestiniog Railways Boston Lodge Works: “Phil is a man who firmly believes in his own vision of steam locomotives, born twenty years too late!” 

Girdlestone  started his railway carreer on the 1`-11 ½`` gauge Ffestiniog Railway in north Wales in the summer of 1970 as a volunteer fireman at the age of only 15. By 1977, he had qualified as one of the very few (in those days) volunteer drivers on the line. In January 1979, Girdlestone joined the permanent staff at FR's Boston Lodge Works, and he was soon appointed to the position of Technical Assistant. This allowed him to develop the steam locomotive fleet so as to incorporate modern cost effective enhancements. Brought up in the Allan Garraway-era of the FR, Phil was a keen and disciplined engineer, and he always insisted upon the highest standards when out on the mainline.

This 1984 photograph of the Boston Lodge Workshop shows a 30 year-old Girdlestone (center with paper in hand) as well a 19 year-old McMahon (second from right in the back row). Photo: collection of S.T. McMahon

This 1984 photograph of the Boston Lodge Workshop shows a 30 year-old Girdlestone (center with paper in hand) as well a 19 year-old McMahon (second from right in the back row). Photo: collection of S.T. McMahon

In the 1982, Girdlestone began correspondence with David Wardale and L.D. Porta regarding modern steam development work in South Africa and Argentina. By 1981, the advanced steam improvements to a South African Railway Class 25NC 4-8-4 number 3450 (nicknamed “Red Devil” due to its paint scheme) began to make news. Wardale and Porta had engineered and rebuilt the locomotive to include the latest in thermodynamics, resulting in a steam locomotive that was more powerful, cheaper to maintain, and cheaper to operate than all diesel-electric locomotives on the railroad. In raw numbers, the narrow-gauge 4-8-4 generated more than 4,400 drawbar horsepower (43% higher than standard 25NCs), could travel faster than 75 mph with a 22 car passenger train, and saved 30% in coal and water compared to the unmodified locomotives.

The evidence of modern steam application was staggering, and Girdlestone sought to bring modern steam to his native Great Britain. By 1983, he had been appointed Works Superintendent at Boston Lodge, and he began applying a much heavier set of improvements to 2-4-0 saddle tank tender locomotive (STT) No. 590, a Hunslet Engine Company-manufactured steam locomotive built in 1893.  He and his crew, including a young Shaun McMahon, converted the 2-4-0STT named  “Linda” from oil to coal with an advanced “Gas Producer Combustion System” and Lempor exhaust, much of the same improvements made to the “Red Devil.” After initiation into service in 1985, Linda quickly proved its worth, able to haul longer trains than in its previous configuration as an oil burner, with less than 70% the operating cost of an oil-burning locomotive. Ultimately, a significant drop in oil prices in 1986 resulted in the engine being re-converted to oil, making again a homogenous fleet at the Railway.

Girdlestone (forefront in the cab) with "Linda" post conversion on the Ffestiniog Railway. Note the new smokestack with reinforced gussets along narrow portion. Photo: G. Rushton, collection of S.T. McMahon

Girdlestone (forefront in the cab) with "Linda" post conversion on the Ffestiniog Railway. Note the new smokestack with reinforced gussets along narrow portion. Photo: G. Rushton, collection of S.T. McMahon

The work at the Ffestiniog Railway a technological success, Girdlestone moved to live and work in South Wales at Hugh Philips Engineering Ltd. and worked on the Sudan locomotive modernization program, which included modernization of the locomotive fleet by applying Lempor exhausts and a modified rotary oil burner. Prior to this, Phil had been on standby to move to the U.S to take the position of chief draughtsman on the ACE 3000 project alongside Porta and Wardale. To that end, Porta often described Phil as “the best draughtsman he had ever come across in all of his working years.”

During the summer of 1988, Girdlestone was contracted for a three month period by the Brecon Mountain Railway to design new boilers for their existing fleet as well as consult on the forthcoming purchase of the Vale of Rheidol Railway in mid-Wales by the same company.

Also in 1988, the then-recently-privatized Alfred County Railway in South Africa had begun steam-hauled freight service. The two-foot-gauge ACR hauled logs, produce, and some passengers over its 75 mile-long railroad. The line used a fleet of NGG16 Class 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt locomotives to haul its trains, and management, aware of the successes of the “Red Devil” and work Girdlestone had undertaken in Great Britain and Sudan, hired him to serve as its fulltime Chief Mechanical Officer.

Moving from Great Britain to South Africa in September 1988, Girdlestone immediately began modernization work on locomotive 141. The 40 foot long, 62 ton locomotive was significantly larger than “Linda,” carrying a boiler pressure of 180 PSI and generating 21,360 lbs of tractive effort, complete with superheat. Girdlestone and his crew rebuilt the locomotive with a GPCS, Lempor exhaust system, self-cleaning US-style Master Mechanics’ smokebox, computer-designed light weight piston valves with multiple rings (to save steam consumption), and additional improvements.

Girdlestone (middle with arms crossed) and the shop crews at ACR stand before locomotive 138 in February 1996. Photo: collection of S.T. McMahon

Girdlestone (middle with arms crossed) and the shop crews at ACR stand before locomotive 138 in February 1996. Photo: collection of S.T. McMahon

Reclassified as NGG 16A, locomotive No. 141 rolled out of the shop in a bright red paint scheme in August 1989, and it showed immediate improvements (it too was soon nicknamed - based on its coloration –as the “Red Dragon.”) The rebuilt locomotive saved more than 30 percent on coal, generated 10 percent increased pulling power, and significant maintenance cost savings.  The modifications to the Red Dragon resulted in 90% availability, and the cost of the improvements was paid off in less than 12 months.  A similar rebuilding of ACR No. 155 was undertaken in 1990, resulting in equally impressive results.  In addition to developing the NGG 16A class locomotive, Girdlestone went on to design both the NGG 16B and NGG 17 class locomotives for use on the ACR and other South African two foot gauge railways on the national system.

Girdlestone leans out the cab of ACR 141 as it powers up Wilson's Cut. Note the lack of smoke from the stack. Photo: ACR

Girdlestone leans out the cab of ACR 141 as it powers up Wilson's Cut. Note the lack of smoke from the stack. Photo: ACR

While at the ACR, Girdlestone hired Porta disciple Shaun T. McMahon as Assistant CMO of the railroad. Girdlestone hired McMahon to assist during a time of ACR business and the planned takeover of the Port Elizabeth branch. This provided McMahon an opportunity to gain significant experience hands on in the advancement of steam technology.

While at ACR, Girdlestone was co-opted on to a committee to determine what fuel options were open for a partial retention of steam on the 3'-6" gauge SAR mainline (soon to be converted into semi-privatized Spoornet). At that time, steam was still in service only between Kimberley and De Aar and in switching services on the Reef. The result of this initiative was the first oil-fired SAR steam locomotive since an experiment in 1946. This was 15F class 4-8-2 No.2916 which was converted at Germiston depot using equipment from East African Railways, and Girdlestone was brought in to help supervise the tests and tuning up.

This 1991 photograph shows Girdlestone (second from left) shown with other crew involved with conversion of SAR 15F Class 4-8-2 No. 2916 from coal to oil firing. Photo: P. Girdlestone courtesy of H. Odom

This 1991 photograph shows Girdlestone (second from left) shown with other crew involved with conversion of SAR 15F Class 4-8-2 No. 2916 from coal to oil firing. Photo: P. Girdlestone courtesy of H. Odom

The application of the East African "American-type" trough burners to No.2916 was not particularly successful and Girdlestone suggested an alternative. As a result he was asked to design equipment for the conversion of a 25NC class 4-8-4. The impetus behind all this work was to equip locomotives for work during the dry season, the formation of Spoornet having seen elimination of steam in normal service. It was now operated on behalf of the Transnet Heritage Foundation and normal line clearing and the making of firebreaks had ceased. The new burners were circular with superior atomising characteristics and the first was applied to a 25NC of Beaconsfield depot at Kimberly. It was subsequently applied to a second 25NC No.3417 and retrospectively to 15F No.2916 with success.

Girdlestone remained at the ACR through 1999, some years before the railroad shut down operations due to increased truck freight competition, issues with the national railroad board “Spoornet,” and the washing away of a large rail bridge in a flash flood. 

West Coast Railway Class R 4-6-4s numbers 711 and 766 undertake a light engine move from Ballarat to Newport on May 11, 2004. Photo: Tony 'Ashcat' Marsden

West Coast Railway Class R 4-6-4s numbers 711 and 766 undertake a light engine move from Ballarat to Newport on May 11, 2004. Photo: Tony 'Ashcat' Marsden

In 1996 , Girdlestone opened “Girdlestone and Associates,” which undertook contract advanced steam engineering and retrofitting work across the globe.The first major project for G&A took place with the modernization of West Coast Railway (Australia) Class R 4-6-4 type locomotives numbers R 711& R 766, for which Girdlestone provided detailed engineering drawings via correspondence. The retrofits included application of a dual Lempor exhaust, conversion from coal to advanced oil firing, addition of power reverse, and additional detailed improvements to allow the locomotives to maintain speeds on regular steam-hauled excursions between Melbourne and Warrnambool, maintaining a 3 hour and 13 minute schedule along the 166 mile route. The WCR reported a 30% improvement in power and a 30% reduction in fuel consumption compared with standard R class 4-6-4s.

From 2003, Girdlestone (second from right) stands with some of his crew members beside the two foot gauge Class LSN he was building from scratch for a customer in the UK. Photo: collection of S.T. McMahon

From 2003, Girdlestone (second from right) stands with some of his crew members beside the two foot gauge Class LSN he was building from scratch for a customer in the UK. Photo: collection of S.T. McMahon

Between 2000 and 2003 G&A designed and manufactured the main bulk of a two foot gauge modern steam locomotive for a UK customer, denominated Class LSN.  The firm was also hired by Spanish based company ARMF for a number of years so as to carry out locomotive modification work. 

Girdlestone stands in front of P36.0032 after installation of the dual Lempor. Photo: Collection of P. Girdlestone

Girdlestone stands in front of P36.0032 after installation of the dual Lempor. Photo: Collection of P. Girdlestone

Following the engineering work in Australia, Girdlestone took on work modernizing a broad-gauge Russian P36 Class 4-8-4 number P36.0032. The locomotive is owned and operated by Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, a company that operates luxury passenger trains in Russia. They hired G&A to design and construct an advanced dual Lempor Exhaust system for the large passenger locomotive. The one-ton assembly was manufactured in South Africa and air-freighted to Saint Petersburg, Russia, where it was installed on the locomotive in 2004. The train operator realized significant power improvements post-installation, and the locomotive maintains the exhaust system today.

Around the same time, G&A was hired by Argentina’s Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino, a 500 mm gauge operation that hauls tourists in the southern-most city of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. G&A built an 0-6-0 diesel hydraulic locomotive based on a UK design and, later on during 2005, built an 0-4-0+0-4-0T Garratt locomotive from a mix of spare components left over from a spare Garratt that was never completed and a range of new major components, including a new boiler. The small locomotive included the utmost in modernizations and went into service in 2006. It has operated with diesel-like availability and cheaper-than-diesel maintenance and fuel costs since entering operation.

FCAF locomotive "H.R. Zubieta" on a revenue train. The locomotive was built from scratch by G&A in South Africa and shipped to Argentina in 2006. Photo: FCAF

FCAF locomotive "H.R. Zubieta" on a revenue train. The locomotive was built from scratch by G&A in South Africa and shipped to Argentina in 2006. Photo: FCAF

Up until his death, Girdlestone had been focusing on authorship, including having recently published a book detailing the history of SAR Class 25 Condensing and Non-Condensing 4-8-4s (Camels and Cadillacs, Stenvalls 2014 – ISBN 978-91-7266-185-1). He also had a hand in multiple projects advancing the state of the art in steam technology. It is worth noting that his autobiography is complete and awaiting publication. 

Girdlestone was dedicated to steam technology, traveling the world in pursuit of its advancements pushing the state of the art. It was his passion for technology, science, railway development and, above all, the steam locomotive, which drove Phil Girdlestone to dedicate so much to the iron horse.

Phillip R. Girdlestone, locomotive engineer, born September 1, 1954; died April 20, 2016