Friday, 8 February 2019

Return of the King

No, the blog title has nothing to do with the final instalment of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, but of course the fact that 6023 King Edward II will be paying us a visit for the Cotswold Festival of Steam gala for a second time.  
6023, King Edward II in action a few years ago on the Great Central Railway
 OK, so perhaps not the best kept secret in the world, but I can at least confirm that it is official now, contracts signed etc.

Keep tuned in to this page, we anticipate being able to announce a second guest for the gala in the near future.

Yet again, the day job will keep me far from the GWSR this weekend, but I do have a few photos that have come my way from Wednesday, all photos hereafter courtesy of Peter Gutteridge which focus on the winter maintenance of Foremarke Hall.  The fireman's side injector was a bit of a pain to get to run clean last season, so I'm pleased to see that it is receiving some attention.  John was silver soldering a new seat in place.
John, silver soldering.
A new spring was fitted
Fred wire brushing one of the vacuum brake pipes.
As I'm sure that you're aware, practically everybody on the GWSR is a volunteer. We employ just a handful of people, the bare minimum, everybody else is a volunteer.  It should come as no surprise then that we're often in need of new faces around the place to fill the shoes of those who have retired.  Should you be interested in joining in, then please follow this link to find out more about the recruitment events on the 16th of February and 16th of March.  Go on, you know you want to!

And finally, I was both shocked abd saddened this morning to hear of the death of Steve Adkins in a road traffic accident on Wednesday.  Steve was a fireman on our railway when I first started as a cleaner, though he fairly soon afterwards transferred his volunteering to the Battlefield line which was much closer to home for him.  He was only 43 and leaves behind his wife Teresa and children, Archie, Poppy and Ruby.  Steve & his family will be remembered in the thoughts and prayers of many members of the steam loco dept

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Coming Up For Air

You may be forgiven for thinking that nothing has been happening in the Steam Loco Dept since the New Year commenced by the lack of recent blog posts.  Nothing could be further from the truth, the winter maintenance of our locos is now in full swing.  The sad truth is that your humble scribe contrary to popular opinion, is far too young to get a pension and still has to go out and slave away at a day job. Of late the day job has extended into evenings and weekends as well.  This should be a temporary aberration, normal service will hopefully be resumed by the end of February.

I'm afraid that I need to commence with some errata, those of you who have obtained the latest issue of Steam Railway magazine (issue 489) will have no doubt spotted an article on page 16 that 6023, King Edward II and Douglas from the Talyllyn railway would be visiting for the Cotswold Festival of Steam Gala on the late May bank holiday weekend and for the War Time in the Cotswolds event (April 27th & 28th) respectively.  The announcement for 6023 can be described as slightly premature and is yet to be confirmed. Confirmation will appear on all the usual GWSR channels when contracts have been signed etc.   The announcement regarding Douglas running on temporary track at Toddington is simply wrong, I spoke to one of the organisers of the War Time Weekend only this morning and he had no idea at all where this rumour could have come from.  The War Time Weekend is a marvellous event and well worth taking the trouble to visit, but if you do come, the only narrow gauge locos running will be on the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway as usual.

As far as the gala is concerned, we are awaiting signing of contracts on two locomotives (including 6023) with negotiations on a third one close to being concluded.
6023, King Edward II a probable gala visitor for 2019
Douglas, definitely not going to be a visitor at Toddington
 Douglas is of course a very interesting little loco, like most of its stablemates at the Talyllyn Railway, and if you want to see any of them, Tywyn is the best place to go.

My absence from the railway does not mean that my spies haven't been sending me through odd snippets of information, they have, what follows will be a trimmed down potted history of the last month.

On the first Wednesday of January, I received the following 5 photos all courtesy of Peter Gutteridge recording the activities that day
Foremarke Hall's injectors removed for refurbishment
Replenishing the completely empty wood store
Keeping 35006 warm
Emptying the tender of coal
Removing life expired fire bars from Foremarke Hall
I was able to pay Toddington a visit on the 5th of January, but no time at all since to write it up... a number of people have mentioned that I am being over-worked at the moment, though most of course are far from sympathetic.
A steam leak on Foremarke Hall's ejector being attended to
The final valve cover from 2874 had been removed
Dinmore Manor's extensive winter maintenance programme includes having the valves re-bored. They had been removed for the purpose.
Fireman's side valves removed.
Also in the plan for Dinmore Manor was to remove the pistons and change the piston rings, a task which involves splitting the piston rod from the cross head.  This isn't normally too difficult a task, but even using the special tool to press the piston rod out of the cross head, along with plenty of heat and coaxing with a variety of soft-metal hammers, neither side wanted to budge.
Heat being applied...
...Mark providing "therapy" with a lead hammer...
...John stepped up to have a go...
...lead hammer applied, scaffolding pole on the pushing tool to get extra force...
...but the only result was demise of the lead hammer...
...and indeed the copper one
Chris wisely cleaned the con rod and chuckled at our fruitless exertions.
The cross heads both split with ease a day or two later... I'm sure that steam locos just do these things just to spite us!

I had a stab at un-boxing Dinmore Manor in advance of her next wash out, all the washout plugs and hand hole doors above the water line needed to come out.  I had removed washout plugs before, a fairly straight forward task, but not removed the hand hole doors before.  The key thing of course is to use the special coat hanger like tool which threads into the hand hole door to stop it falling into the boiler... a sure fire way to make yourself unpopular.  I struggled to get the first one out through its hole, and discovered on the subsequent ones that they come out so much more easily if you remove the gasket first.
The first one out... complete with special tool and the gasket
The hole it emerged from
Eleanor meanwhile dismantled the water gauge
A collection of washout plugs and hand hole doors tidied away
Shortly after all of that, a chap came down from Tyseley with the valve boring equipment.  In an as many birds as possible with one stone approach, whilst he was on site, he bored the valves on 2874, Dinmore Manor and 2807.  The valve re-boring kit attaches to both ends of the valve bore and has to be accurately aligned. Once in position it is driven by compressed air.  
Valve borer at the front...
...and attached at the rear.
The valve reboring gear attached at one end of 2807's valves...
...and the finished job (photo courtesy of Roger Molesworth)
The swarf was removed by use of strong magnets which proved be be so much easier than other methods.

I received a few photos of our resident Peckett, John which has had its boiler and cab trial refitted.  The boiler has yet to be overhauled.
Boiler fitted in the yard... (photo courtesy of Tom Wright)
...John, with boiler and cab in the David Page shed (photo courtesy of Tom Wright)
 Those of you following the overhaul of 3850 will be pleased to know that the final measuring has taken place and the cylinder block complete with frame extensions has now been separated from the rest of the loco.  From here on, the disassembly is pretty much complete and and it is simply a case of putting it all back together again... OK, perhaps the word "simply" is stretching it a bit.
As is traditional, heat was applied to the fixing bolts...
...the bolts were extracted, in this case by Mark & Sam...
 ...the hydraulic ram was used to push the block from the rest of the loco...
...along with some pulling  from the front...
The...and presto, the two are separated.
The previous five photos are all courtesy of Keith Smith.

So far my spies have reported very little regarding 35006, perhaps I need to double their salary!   I did get this photo of its tubes being cleaned out
35006 being tended to (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 35006 is of course unique amongst our home fleet of locos in many respects, and one of those unique features is that is has thermic syphons in its boiler to assist the transfer of heat.  The thermic syphons have washout plugs on the throat plate that of course need to be removed for washouts.
The holes for the washout plugs on the throat plate...
...and a new freshly machined pair of washout plugs
There is nothing in that last photo to give a sense of scale unfortunately, however they are far larger than normal ones.


And finally, I managed to keep one day this month free to get to the GWSR; the new rule book is now published with a number of detail changes regarding how we operate.  Yours truly attended a MIC (Mutual Improvement Class) this morning in the Tim Mitchell building at Winchcombe to learn about the differences and then straight afterwards sit an exam on the rules.In case you were wondering, yes, I did pass.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Happy New Year

Even in the Christmas holiday season, nothing is ever easy when it comes to operating steam locos. 35006 popped a gasket on her rear injector delivery pipe and had to be failed on Christmas Eve.
The failed gasket
 Mike & Steve removed the delivery pipe, trued up the faces and annealed the pipe.  Apparently there shouldn't have been a gasket in there anyway.
Mike (l) & Steve, annealing the delivery pipe
Mating faces lapped in
 One successful steam test later, 35006 was back in traffic and ready to run again on the day before the mixed traffic gala.

An item noted on the same day that had eluded me hitherto, is that at the back of the shed, there is a nice shiny new backhead for a Swindon number 1 boiler.  There are a lot of candidate locos on our line that it could be for (7903, 3850 or 2874 for instance), but in fact it is for 2807 in anticipation of her heavy general overhaul to come at the end of 2019.
2807's new backhead.

 As mentioned in the last blog post, the DMU has been withdrawn from traffic for a while, to permit the change of a roller bearing that is giving up the ghost.  That left a hole in the timetable on several days between Christmas & New Year.  On the 27th, one of the diesels hauled a rake of coaches on the DMU's path.  For the 28th & 31st however, the timetable was changed from a blue (1 x steam & 1 x DMU) to a purple (2 x steam).  This of course meant that extra crews needed to be allocated in a hurry.   I ended up firing Foremarke Hall on the 28th at rather short notice. This was one of those wheels of Karma things, as I had helped John clear the ash pan the day before, which made my life considerably easier when it came to prepping the loco in the morning.
Having some water space to play with would have been nice though.
 The mess coach is usually a fairly unlikely source of subject matter for a blog post, and the two changing rooms therein even less so. People are not supposed to leave their overalls in the grubby changing room overnight (widely flouted) and not to wear them at all in the "clean" changing room.  I was struck by the flagrant disregard by one of our members regarding taking overalls into the "clean" changing room, if you are going to do it, then leaving overalls with your name printed on them is probably not a good idea.
It amused me anyway.
 The Santa Specials didn't go behind steam up as far as Broadway, so this was the first time that I had been up there for a few months.
Waiting for 35006 to head off to CRC, before we could aim for Broadway...
...note the nice new aqueduct...
...and this is one of a number of new signal posts
 I believe that S&T had been testing a few of the signals the day before.  There is still much to do before the signal box, points & signals are ready for use, and even then, we'll need to train enough signal men to use it (as yet, we have no signal women, but don't let that put you off if you want to apply). 
We'll still be running round the hard way for a while longer.
The cleaner, Matthew getting in some shovelling practice
 Aside from the short notice of assembling a crew, it was looking like being a fairly normal day with nothing much happening out of the ordinary, when suddenly, somewhere in the vicinity of Bishops Cleeve there was a rather loud bang followed by an unhappy sound of escaping steam.  Words such as "Oh dear, what on earth could that be?" were said.  It was quickly established that shutting off the steam heat caused the noise to abate, and a quick check at CRC revealed that the steam heat connector between the loco & tender had split.
Steam where steam should not be
The white scar on the pipe tells its own tale
 There wasn't much that we could do about that I'm afraid, and so after less than one round trip we had to call it a day on the steam heat.  Steve (driver) phoned back to the Duty Ops Officer and requested that a new pipe be made available.  Sure enough one was to be found in the mess coach when we got back at the end of the day and John turned up long before dawn on the 29th to fit it before the mixed traffic gala started.
Steve polishes off the last of his Yule log
 In spite of the lovely late afternoon sunshine, there were no photographers about, a shame really as I'm sure that it would have been worth their while.
Late sun at Gotherington
Crossing 35006  at Winchcombe
Steve cranks the starting handle opens the ash pan doors
Back again today (New Year's Day) for my first turn of 2019/last turn of the 2018 season. I had the prep turn on a green timetable, arrive 05:30, prep both 7903 & 35006, then crew 7903 for one round trip of the line. There is an element of confusion at the moment regarding ashing out.   We are due to switch to ashing out in the mornings in the new season, however many crews have already given up on evening disposals.  Bearing that in mind, and that Foremarke Hall is much easier to do when it is cold, I elected to turn up half an hour earlier than the suggested time to give me more opportunity to ash out if it proved to be necessary.  As I suspected, there was a message on the notice board letting me know that 7903 needed a full disposal before the day's work.  Just as well I had allowed for that.  Roger, the king of the wood store had calculated exactly how much wood was going to be required for lighting the locos up and had cut no more than that at all.  If we'd had to fire up one more loco, we'd have had to break up and burn the wood store itself.
The cupboard was bare
 Lighting up two locos is a bit of a chore, especially when one of them needs ashing out.  I wasn't exactly distraught when Steve (cleaner) suggested that I supervise him lighting up 35006.  He did a pretty good job, completing all the safety checks, nipping up a weeping gauge glass and getting it to a sensible pressure to hand over to the day crew.
Steve launching one of the last few bits of lighting up wood onto the fire
He seems to have found a bit of the old Scottish coal in there
Meanwhile, back on Foremarke Hall, the replacement steam heat pipe was looking good
John was the prep driver, seen here oiling up 35006
The previous day's crew hadn't left us much by way of coal... and I knew that under that thin veneer of lumps, was a mountain of dust.
Not much to go on.
 To be honest, there was plenty enough for me to do my one round trip, but the afternoon crew would definitely be wanting more.  One more bucket full was forthcoming.

Heading off into the shed to collect the lamps, I was a little surprised to find that one of 35006's lamps was still lit.  They are capable of spontaneously reigniting shortly after being blown out it seems.  This also explains why we no longer keep the lamps in the oil store.
The Olympic flame?
Steve drops off the token.
Crossing the class 37 at Winchcombe
Steve has a go at firing
We too had a bucket full of Scottish coal, the smoke is the give away
They must have been burning Welsh coal in this hut at Gotherington
 All too soon, our one round trip was done, and it was time to say goodbye to Foremarke Hall as it scurried off down the line with its afternoon crew.
Foremarke Hall sets off into the New Year
 Well that's the 2018 season done and dusted, we opened the line as far as Broadway and our passenger numbers have increased considerably.  2019 beckons, but before the new operating season can begin, we have to put all of our locos through their winter maintenance programmes. As a department, the closed season is our busy season.

Happy New Year!