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Supervision and Administration of Locomotive Repair Contracts

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by sleepermonster, Jan 12, 2021.

  1. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

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    A few things recently have caused me to wonder how this is being handled, more important, how it should be handled. I should say at the beginning, I'm not an engineer, but a lawyer and I know only too well the limitations and cost of my profession and the legal system when it comes to litigating a problem. This is about prevention, not cure.

    First of all, a horror story. I don't ask you to pass judgement on it, nor from what I have seen over the years, do we have much call to feel superior, but the photographs are graphic. This was somebody's idea of a boiler repair. The question is not what did happen, but what should have happened - what should an owner have been doing to detect and prevent the problem.

    Case 01-19-0002-2727, Exhibit 21 Sobczynski's Evaluation

    Full file - 35 Pages - 5Mb


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    Don't think it cannot or does not happen here. I have for example, seen a butt weld in a boiler repair where the plates distorted and the section through the join at the weld was more { than |, probably due to incorrect welding technique, and the only solution will be to grind out the weld, remove the plates concerned, and then either straighten them or replace them. Even I could spot that one, but the original contractor seems to have passed it. Not a locomotive with which I have any connection at all and no speculation please.

    If you were carrying out a complex and expensive rebuild of your house, you would do well to engage an architect or a surveyor to supervise and approve the stages of the work.

    How many loco owners arrange for an equivalent qualified competent person to inspect the work and the system of work regularly, and/or get detailed regular reports from the contractors against an agreed scheme of work? Do you know who is working on your locomotive, and what their qualifications are, especially for safety critical work; would you be informed if there was any change? Do the interim invoices identify the work done or are they simply lump sum bills with no explanation?

    I don't wish to encourage a sterile discussion of the past, but what should be best practice for the future?
     
  2. Richard Roper

    Richard Roper Member

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    That is some bloody frightening "repair" work. Looks like they've practically scrapped the poor engine unintentionally...

    Richard.
     
  3. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    I have no experience of supervising locomotive repair contracts but I do of carriage repairs and the principles are the same. The most important step comes before work starts - preparation of a detailed specification that the contractors quote against. After that it should be a relatively straightforward process of , preferably by someone who knows what they are talking about , monitoring progress versus the specification
     
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  4. Eightpot

    Eightpot Well-Known Member Friend

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    In this case it might be easier and better to build a new boiler.
     
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  5. 35B

    35B Resident of Nat Pres

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    I am a contract manager, with experience of working both supplier and customer side, but not in the railway or preservation sectors.

    The above is the key point and, to be effective, it requires the customer to know and understand not just what they want done, but also enough about how it's done to be able to assess work on the way. That requires time and energy up front planning and thinking, which in my world is frequently missed as time consuming/unproductive/expensive, and then an ongoing investment of time and effort inspecting at suitable milestone points. As the OP shows, failure to do it properly just increases the risk of something going badly wrong.

    In my world, there are plenty (though plenty never feels like enough!) of professionals able to get involved as appropriate. I well remember the report into the overhaul of Flying Scotsman, though, and the way that it highlighted that railway preservation engineering is a craft sector. That, to me, means that while contracts are important, the legal and commercial protections that I or @sleepermonster would look for in our professional work are of limited if any use - if I sue you for your failure, your pockets are unlikely to be deep enough to make good what you've failed in.
     
  6. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    In my professional life I became involved with commissioning the manufacture of a pharmaceutical product and it was unthinkable to place an order without auditing the suppliers for the various stages first - full inspection of their facilities and processes and documentation that took a couple of days each. I suspect that this would be a difficult concept for most railway engineering contractors to deal with but I've no doubt it will become increasingly prevalent as the sums involved grow ever greater. Although the example cited by the Op did not occur in this country we have only to think of the stories emerging from the latter years at Llangollen to realise that it might easily have.
     
  7. Richard Roper

    Richard Roper Member

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    I think you are completely right there... How could you ever trust the structural integrity of a single part of that boiler after what it's been through?

    I've just read through 12 pages of comments on a US steam forum about this particular engine, and all I can say is that

    1.) It's a bloody shame for this poor Locomotive to be suffering as it is, and
    2.) Even if I was a tradesman or businessman, no way on God's Earth would I want to set a company up in the USA.

    Richard.
     
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  8. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    I would agree that the starting point has to be a specification which sets out the work required and the applicable standards. It doesn't have to be too detailed but it needs to be suitable and sufficient for the work to be done. It also needs to have suitable clauses to cover what happens if things go wrong. Arbitration, liabilities, abandonment. Without putting a detailed spec on here and at the risk of boring you, my last boiler overhaul had the following Tender specification headings:

    1. INTRODUCTION
    A brief detail about who you are and why you want to do the work to set the scene
    2. SCOPE
    States the what you expect them to do and include for. i.e. supply all the necessary manpower, tools, materials and equipment to carry out the works. You don't want them charging for a ton of coal for the steam test or a crane to turn the boiler.
    3. PRE-TENDER INSPECTION
    Invite them to look at the boiler and, if they don't, anything that they haven't allowed for is their problem
    4. BOILER HISTORY AND CONDITION
    As much relevant info as you can provide
    5. SPECIFIC REPAIRS & WORK TO BE CARRIED OUT
    Detail the work that you wish to be carried out. Everything from descaling the boiler through to a final and satisfactory steam test.
    6. QUOTATION DETAILS
    The information that you require the tenderer to supply in his quotation. You don't just want a price. He may want to do something that you don't want but you also might like his alternative suggestions. You want to know how long he is going to take to do the job and when he can start. You also want his rates for any extra work that may become necessary, including labour, overheads and consumables. Pin him down before you give him the contract. Ask him for any exclusions or limitations. I ask for his proposed payment terms rather than dictate them. If stage payments are required then you need to know what they are. Expect to pay something up front, but not too much (10%?)
    7. ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS
    Boiler work is notorious for requiring more than you expect/hope. Think of all the possibilities and get him to quote at the outset. A new tubeplate or smokebox, stay replacement. Ask for a price to replace (say) 10 stays. You don't have to have this work done but by doing this you minimise the risk. If you don't , he can charge what he likes when the inevitable happens. Remember, these are options. You are not asking him to do the work at this stage
    8. SMOKEBOX TUBEPLATE
    Even if it doesn't require replacing, it is sometimes easier to remove it to gain access. Make sure that it is at his cost and responsibility
    9. DELIVERY & OFFLOADING
    Specify who is responsible for this. Is it you, him or a combination of the two?
    10. ADDITIONAL WORK
    State the terms under which additional work will be carried out. i.e. the rates given in clause 6. State that any additional work required as a result of the contractors activities is down to them.
    11. WORKMANSHIP & MATERIALS
    State that the work has to be to yours and the boiler inspectors satisfaction, plus anyone else who might be involved List all the standards that have to be worked to. Define who is responsible for materials, such as nuts, bolts, gaskets, blanks, washout plugs, etc.
    12. EXCLUSIONS
    Define any exclusions both for him and you.
    13. INSPECTION & CERTIFICATION
    Define who will be the inspecting authority
    14. HYDRAULIC AND STEAM TESTS
    Define who is responsible. There will be a steam test outside the frames but the inspector will want to see it on the loco with all fittings, etc, on. Allow for the contractor to attend, if you want this.
    15. WARRANTY
    Define what you are expecting and who is responsible for any repairs. What happens if the boiler has to be removed for these?
    16. GENERAL
    Where anything else goes.

    And this isn't the end of things. Once you have your tenders in and have discussed everything that's necessary, you have to write the contract. That will be an amalgam of your spec and the tenderers offer, stating everything. But you also need to include more. Insurance, care, representation, timing, use of subcontractors, termination, abandonment, dispute and terms all need to be in there at the very least. There are standard conditions of contract available and it is worth at least looking at these, even if you don't use them.

    Once the job gets underway you need to make regular visits to both look and ask questions. That may influence who gets the job. Giving a contract to someone in Cornwall when you live in Scotland doesn't make sense unless there is no alternative or you have your own private jet.

    The above is what I do, anyway. Others may take a different approach. I know from talking to boiler contractors that they have been given major repair jobs where the paperwork was less than a sheet of A4.
     
  9. garth manor

    garth manor Member

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    Steam restoration expertise in Britain is over the piece more productive than in the USA, apart from the well known professional operations there are numerous small operations normally using diesel with a broken steamer out back, I must have visited close to a ton during work visits, most of the steam shops were run down in the 40s, closing in the early 50s, knowledge and machinery lost in contrast to Britain where some expertise was still alive to pass on. The Getttysburg 1278 maintenance sadly typified the picture at many small operations, Big Fork Scenic was never bothered about this particular loco, its a pleasant ride and doesn't need expensive steam to increase riders.
     
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  10. 30854

    30854 Part of the furniture

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    ..... although it has to be said, the UP's superb team at Cheyenne are pretty damned impressive! :)
     
  11. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    I suspect I have just read the same thread as you ...

    Reading between the lines, it is pretty clear in that case that the standard of work was awful. But that does raise the question, as per the OP, about oversight: it feels to me that the client cannot have been providing any oversight, or had no competence within their organisation to provide the oversight with the correct critical eye. It is not as if there is one sub-standard weld; almost everything that had been done (and a lot was done) looked awful - that situation can only have developed if the client wasn't looking at the work on a regular basis, or else was looking but had no knowledge of what they were looking for.

    Tom
     
  12. toplight

    toplight Member

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    At lot of the problems stem from the fact that individuals requesting the work to be done, don't specifiy what they want.

    I know of an 0-6-0 industrial loco owned by a small railway society. The Engine would run, but was on its last legs, with the chassis, valve gear, bearings etc all very worn and it clanking when it ran.

    The society sent it away to be 'overhauled' by another organisation, paying I understand around £50k ish, but presumably didn't specify exactly what was required. When it came back, at first it looked great with a shiny new coat of paint on many areas, but turned out work had been done on the water tank and a little bit on the boiler, but the chassis was untouched ! and it clanked just as bad as when it left and was more or less unusable.

    I dont think the society were able to do anything as they hadn't specified what they wanted, and had spent the money they had, and in the end they moved it to another railway who offered to do the work for free in exchange for being able to use the loco. What they should have done of course was specify exactly what they wanted doing, down to literally what should happen to each component, but they probably didn't bother to investigate in detail what actually needed doing.

    Personally I don't think it is a good idea at all, contracting whole projects out, better to learn to do the work yourself, then you gradually become the expert yourself. If you must contract out, then just make a contract for individual parts you want doing, not the whole job. Even the A1 trust have control over their own project and contract out specific parts one at a time, so you are in control of what is being done and can identify issues quickly.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
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  13. torgormaig

    torgormaig Part of the furniture Friend

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    I suspect that in some (many?) cases the owners do not in fact know what is needed to repair their loco. In their eyes they send it off to an "expert" (the contractor) who will know what to do and assume that all will be well. Unfortunately these people do not know what they do not know so how can they draw up a detailed and specific contract.

    Peter
     
  14. Steve

    Steve Part of the furniture Friend

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    I'm fairly certain that I know which loco you are referring to. Yes, it is rough but it is still going and clanking merrily away, no different from the condition a lot of industrial locos were in, back in the day. It comes to the end of its ticket in April and needs a lot of mechanical work doing to it but it will be done. Hopefully the boiler work done last time will be enough for another ten years but that decision will have to await it being stripped and closely inspected. The business that undertook the overhaul is very well respected in the heritage movement and receives a lot of good comment but the work done was not the best, even on the boiler, which had a new firebox and tubeplate. It took many hours to eventually stop all the leaks. It was a good paint job, though.
    Did not the operating railway have any involvement?
     
  15. estwdjhn

    estwdjhn Member

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    As someone often on the other side of this problem (I've replied to Steve's tender documents in the past), this can be a fairly thorny issue.

    With boiler work, the final judgment on quality is usually the boiler inspector; a lot of my quotations contain a phrases like "perform a hydraulic test to the satisfaction of your engineering surveyor", with the implication being that if he's unhappy with the work done, he will ask for rectification before signing off.

    This is not a perfect solution, because in some ways it just transfers the problem elsewhere, however at least in theory it does provide for a fairly objective assessment by someone without any conflicts of interest.

    That said, not all boiler inspectors are equal - I've worked with a number who are very competent, but I've also dealt with others where I'm not entirely convinced that they are as on top of their brief as they should be. Choosing a good boiler inspector is probably one of the most important decisions for a loco owner, unfortunately telling a good one from a bad one requires a certain amount of experience, which makes for a rather circular problem for owners without the relevant expertise.

    Part of the more general problem is that it's a cottage industry with comparatively few larger players, a fair number of smaller one or two man bands, generally extremely thin margins all round and often customers who are trying to stretch limited cash as far as humanly possible and then some. Almost no one involved knows much about professional tendering processes, most of the people running these outfits have come from engineering backgrounds, whilst a lot of customers are laymen operating on a voluntary basis. There are also more than a few sharks around - those of us who have been around a while tend to have a pretty good idea who they are, but often that knowledge is painfully aquired.
     
  16. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    This story gets more interesting . I think at the tail of 2020 after arbitration a settlement (eye watering) was agreed

    http://www.rypn.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=45049&start=135 is an interesting thread and the contractor appears to be getting into a public spat . If you thought the some of the somerset discussions got a little fruity this is interesting reading
     
  17. Sidmouth

    Sidmouth Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    I think this maybe the boiler , which the report was written on
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
  18. Richard Roper

    Richard Roper Member

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    Yep, that's the forum thread I was reading too. The boiler contractor seems to be rapidly digging his own grave in the public spat going on there...

    Richard.
     
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  19. Richard Roper

    Richard Roper Member

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    Yes, this is the same boiler. Interesting video, as in describing how the hole for the rivet mustn't be too large, etc... But in the report which @sleeper monster posted, the photos clearly show ragged, flame-cut holes which are both irregularly shaped, and the metal surface undressed, with new rivets having been inserted through them.

    Also, in the video, towards the end, there's a glimpse of the angle ring from the underside, and it clearly shows nutted bolts protruding under the angle ring. I wonder if these same bolts were simply fitted the other way round when the work was done, as the photos in the report show the nuts inside the smokebox, and the text states that it seemed as if the coachbolts had been fitted so as to look like rivets from the outside.

    What kind of fool actually thinks a job done so absolutely hideously will ever pass a boiler inspector's examination? It's stated on the other forum that when filled, the boiler for Y&T No. 14 would not even hold water at atmospheric pressure, and leaked all over the place. Also, what kind of fool would put his name to this kind of job full stop? There's suggestion on the other forum that the job may have been sub-contracted to more local companies, but even so, if you're the main contractor, it's you who's in the firing line if the job isn't completed to a specification to which you know it should be.

    I do hope that the owning group manage to get a boiler sorted for this engine. Having watched the videos of it in action, i's a damned impressive size for an 0-6-0, the overhangs at each end are pretty stupefying to me. A very interesting locomotive, and one which deserves to have a (much better) future.

    Richard.
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Was ... the thread got locked! (perhaps not surprisingly).

    Tom
     
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