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  Enthusiast Activities - Rollingstock Maintenance

Running maintenance and major restoration of passenger cars is carried out a team from our pool of three paid workshop employees and dozens of volunteers from all walks of life.

The tasks involved in the routine maintenance, repair and overhaul of passenger rollingstock are many and varied. They can range from trademens’ work such as welding, fitting, turning, mechanical, carpentry and carriage building to general work such as cleaning and painting.

This page consists of several sections; an outline of the our depot facilities and key personnel, an insight into the role that volunteers can play and a regularly updated report on the present mechanical status of our carriage fleet

Main characteristics and photos of our full fleet can be found [IMAGE]



Depot News


A substantial workshop facility was established at Mt Barker Depot in 1996 following the transfer of our operating base from Dry Creek. Most maintenance,repair and overhaul work is undertaken "in-house" by staff and volunteers under direction of appropriately qualified team leaders. Some more complicated tasks or those requiring special facilities or certification are outsourced. A smaller running workshop is maintained at Goolwa Depot, staffed mainly by local volunteers.

The facilities are described in some detail on our Locomotive Mantenance page

A comprehensive records management system has been established to cover work procedures, servicing and maintenance tasks, worker competency and occupational health a safety. All workshop work is required to be fully documented, carried out in accordance with agreed rail safety and industrial procedures,and formally inspected. Ongoing quality assurance and audit proceduresare mandatory. Certificates of competency are issued where appropriate


Rolling stock management is the responsibility of SteamRanger's Mechanical Services Manager, Craig Dunstan.

He has access to a number of qualified volunteers in the fitting and turning, carpentry, upholstery, painting and decorating, welding and electrical trades.who typically contribute from a half day to several days of effort each week, at mutually agreed times.

Those not qualified in a trade commence by assisting with tasks such as cleaning, painting, assisting tradesmen and general housekeeping and are progressively supervised and trained to undertake more significant tasks as their level of competence rises.

Workshop activities fall into two major categories;

Running maintenance      All rolling stock is mechanically inspected prior to their use on a train service. A schedule of required routine maintenance tasks must signed off to meet accreditation requirements.

Volunteers under the general supervision of the carraige maintenance team are also responsible for necessary internal and external cleaning of cars following movements.

Repair and heavy overhaul      Selected carriages are taken completely out of service as necessary and as part of a forward looking programme to conserve and upgrade rolling stock. Specific components are identified for major maintenance or rebuilding. In extreme cases the vehicle may be completely stripped down and rebuilt. A number of wooden passenger cars have undergone major rebuilding in recent years.

Our photo shows volunteer Ross Vonow working on refurbishing a centenary car interior

Becoming Involved

For more information on becoming involved in this area,
contact the Mechanical Services Manager, Craig Dunstan
Click the logo below and send him an email.


SteamRanger runs a fare concession scheme as an incentive to volunteers who put in many hours of dedicated effort.

Look here for details


Current Maintenance Programme

Work continues five days a week and more progress has no doubt been achieved out since these reports so watch this page for a further update.

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  • Carriages

    Wooden Passenger Cars

    SteamRanger has an operational fleet of seven wooden bodied passenger cars and three baggage/buffet cars dating from the 1910's and which formed the backbone of the SAR's suburban and country fleet up until steel bodied cars were introduced in the 1940's. Up to three cars are based at our Goolwa Depot for use on Cockle Trains whilst the remainder are based at Mt Barker for use on trains from there to Victor Harbor or Strathalbyn

    Early in 2014 Ian Johnston provided active volunteers with a brief breakdown of the current carriage servicing, inspection and maintenance status suggesting that SHR faces real challenges with a lot of the more major and time consuming maintenance tasks. In an ideal world, he suggests that SteamRanger could well use a full time fitter just for carriage work.

    None of the issues compromise the safe operation of the cars until any of the issues cross into the no go zone, although some are getting quite close to that. The issues are prioritised and when circumstances permit, remedial work is undertaken. However the larger tasks are mostly put onto the long wish list which can result in a red card.

    It has been highlighted that one of the more common issues is the carriage wheels which obviously become more worn every time that carriage is used. The more a wheel flange becomes out of shape, the faster the rate of wear. All worn flanges are closely monitored by SHR, some to the extent that the normal 10000 km inspection interval has been cut back to 1000 kms. All easily accessible, useful and suitable spare wheel sets have been used. As a guide Heavymech has recently refurbished (machined the journals, reprofiled the wheels) three centenary wheel sets at a cost of about $5000 each, $15000 all up. Wheels can only be refurbished when there is sufficient tread left for the reprofiling and we do not have an over abundance of those on current operational cars.

    One other key issue is loose draft packages obviously due to years of use and the wear and tear that goes with that. So far we have had four packages refurbished by Industrial Springs at an average cost of $400 each. The cost is not too bad but it takes quite a few man hours to repair the worn stops in each carriage underframe and fit the package.

    His assessments are reflected in an update of the rolling stock availability schedule
    which can be accessed by clicking HERE

    Current Program

    • Baggage 82,     our only wooden baggage car which has been maintained in its original SAR configuration, has undergone a major rebuilding over several years and was returned to service on the Cockle Train for Xmas 2010. The restoration of this car is a credit to our recently retired carriage builder Fred Valstar and his team at Mt Barker Depot.

    • Baggage 83,     one of two other wooden baggage cars modified to operate as a buffet car, has had a cracked bogie centre bolster replaced and is currently working Cockle Trains, but will require transom rectification works in the near future at MB depot.

    • Composite brakevan 4420    has not run for many years has been returned to Mt Barker from Goolwa Depot where Ben Greeneklee had been coordinating a major refurbishment of this car including extensive rebuilding of the framing. The roof has been re-coated with fibreglass resin. Work is continuing on interior and exterior fixings with most exteriors battens fitted. Slight alterations to the running board to platform heights are being performed along with alterations to the side guard's steps to allow for easier access from ground level. Work to complete the addition of a concertina and door, to access to the train via the freight end are being performed. When complete, he car will be useful as a lightweight brakevan for shorter movements.

    What's Involved? - an insight.

    In the July 2005 issue of our bi-montly magazine "Catchpoint" SteamRanger's volunteer mechanical engineer Bob Sexton gave an interesting insight into the rebuilding work.

    Here is an edited version of what he wrote together with some photos contributed by a number of volunteers.

  • From the Bottom Up!

    From time to time our fleet of carriages is upgraded with a newly out-shopped and gleaming car. At first glance you might say "that looks nice" and take it for granted that someone did their job well. Beauty and strength however is much more than skin deep as Daryl Simon and Fred Valstar will attest if you can corner them and ask a few leading questions. Daryl and Fred are the key members of the Mt Barker Depot carriage restoration team and a car is out-shopped only after the thorough and rigorous overhaul/improvement of all of its component parts is complete to Daryl and Fred's satisfaction.

    At ground level. The items to be looked at are the two bogie units. Bolsters must be in top shape, pivot pins renewed where necessary and brake rigging thoroughly overhauled and modified to accept commercially available brake blocks. Incidentally, if you are observant you will note that in the floor of each overhauled car is a screwed panel which when removed allows the pivot pin to be pulled - this enables future removal of bogies without having to jack to carriage halfway to heaven (clever thinking!).

    The underframe then comes under review with crack tests on the trunnion and repairs/reconstruction to the point that sagging end-frames sag no more, and the couplings at each end are true and level with their package assemblies in working order again - just like Mr Bagshaw made them back about 100 years ago. No slack or slop here!

    Now the carriage itself. After many decades of movement and weather, the woodwork in general has seen better days; so most of it comes off. Stripped bare (left) , it looks like a house before cladding, as the framework is invariably rotten in vital areas and rather rickety.

    So steel cross bracing and corner angles are fashioned from flat bar by Daryl (above) , angle iron, and square steel tubing as appropriate and by the time this is all installed the frame is in an acceptably rigid shape. This thought and effort is put into every item right to the top of the roof which is waterproofed, preferably with fibreglass.

    Steel sheet is used extensively, with joints carefully sealed, in order to keep water out of all the places where rot had previously done its worst.

    Then Fred turns to his carriage building skills to re-create the heritage facade.

    New car floors are fitted, with close attention to guarantee flatness, rot resistance, and strength. Linoleum or vinyl is laid and sealed and timbers are oiled appropriately.

    Windows receive careful attention so that they slide easily, and innovative SteamRanger designed drop-down safety stops are installed so that no-one inadvertently jams their fingers. Seats are repaired or recovered and installed, and fittings and labels complete the job.

    Finally the paint work is attacked by Daryl (looking like a spaceman) along with Rex Hoppo (right). Rex is a retired commercial painter who has painted everything from milk floats to wheat silos in his lifetime. The result is a job sprayed or brushed to perfection!

    So there you have it, thousands of hours of thought, planning, and plain hard work so that all you have to do is sit and enjoy the passing scenery, and hopefully admire your stately surroundings!

    Based on a contribution by Bob Sexton to June 2005 "Catchpoint"

    Updated Nov 2009