It’s not turned a wheel for more than two years.
"But heritage railway bosses hope their trouble-prone diesel
loco, unkindly dubbed The Cabbage, will be fixed and working
again later this summer or by the autumn.
And the boss of the island’s public transport system has defended the decision to buy the machine, which was bought and shipped from the United States at a cost of almost £420,000 in 2013.
The diesel-electric loco was designed to recover broken down trains, operate the fire train, assist heavy trains up the bank at Douglas and to haul works and special trains including commuter services.
Transport bosses claimed it would pay for itself in 13 years and help make savings of almost £40,000 a year. But it has only pulled 34 passenger trains since it was delivered. Shortly after its arrival it was consigned to the sheds with engine problems. A new engine was fitted under warranty. But teething troubles continued involving the air intake.Then around TT in 2015 it was taken out of service with a loose tyre and has not worked since.
Director of public transport Ian Longworth told the Manx Independent: ’The problem with the diesel loco occurred two years ago at TT. We spent some time analysing the problem and undertaking some detailed investigations.’We went through the procedures to let a contract to do that which assisted us on understanding what work needed doing. We then let a contract for the work to be undertaken.’Some items we needed to have manufactured and had very significant lead times, such as wheels which are on almost 12 months’ delivery.’
He added: ’We are expecting the work to be completed and the loco back in service at the end of the summer, early autumn.’ The work is being undertaken by a number of specialist companies and the project management has also been contracted out. Mr Longworth said part of loco’s trucks and motors were more than 40 years ago. He said: ’When we stripped them we realised there were a number of components that we should overhaul or renew whilst it is in bits. The original problem was a loose tyre. It is difficult to judge why the tyre came loose and that will be subject to a discussion with the company that did the overhaul and not the original manufacturer. ’The company doing the overhaul only did minor refurbishment to the motors and wheel sets and the remainder of the trucks are long out of manufacturer’s warranty.’
Mr Longworth defended the loco’s purchase. He said the project had been in the Budget pink book long before he arrived and when it was progressed it was found costs had spiralled to the point of being unaffordable. It was the Treasury that decided not to increase the budget by inflation and for the railway to acquire a secondhand locomotive instead, he said.
A worldwide search found two possibilities - one a Russian design
in Romania and the second a series of US-built locos that can run
on variable gauges.
Mr Longworth said: ’On balance the secondhand American loco was better value in terms of the number running and the knowledge that people had of them.’The money for refurbishment was mainly spent on the body of the locomotive to have the drive system re-engineered so we got a new engine, new alternator and new control system. These are the big ticket items under warranty.
’The trucks were simply re-gauged by changing the wheels and the motors were given a light overhaul to ensure they were in reasonable condition.’ Mr Longworth added: ’Since we have stripped the trucks to get the wheel sets out we are taking the opportunity to look at all the components and decided that some could be prudently changed at this point, whilst it was in bits. ’This did not happen as part of the process in America as we had no funds left to do it and was the area of least risk. One modification we will make for example is to change the brake block from American to UK pattern.’
Mr Longworth did not give a figure for the cost for the works which he said will be known when they are finished and can be split between repairs and further refurbishment. ’We have not, at this stage, finished spending,’ he said. He added: ’We went into this deal knowing that we were buying secondhand but serviceable equipment. We may never know why the wheel sets failed but we will have had a good go at finding out.’There is a possibility of a manufacturer’s error as the tyre has an interference fit on the wheel centre. It may be the behaviour of the trucks on our track and by doing the other work we now have in hand we will eliminate the chance of that reoccurring.’ "