Sunday, 11 February 2018

How Many Kings?

As I'm sure you're aware, we're well into the winter maintenance season now, in fact quite scarily we have less than a month before the start of the 2018 season.  As a consequence there has been much beavering away at the various operational locos lately.   That isn't to say that the operational side has taken a complete back seat, many people turned up on Saturday, unrecognisable in normal clothes rather than grubby overalls to take their biennial rules & signals exams.  Last week, there were plenty of people similarly attired in normal clothing to have a mutual improvement session on the changes that will take place to the rule book and also a little on how the Broadway section will operate.

The winter maintenance on the operational fleet hasn't precluded a limited amount of work on 3850, work has started on wire brushing and priming sections of the frames.  I received this photo from Sam almost a fortnight ago now showing that the drag box had been primed:
3850's drag box (Photo courtesy of Sam Perry)

On Saturday, I noted that the drag box was now in grey undercoat and a section of the frames has received primer:
Slow but sure progress
 Tony & Devindra continued the process
Tony wire brushing 3850's frames
 I even did a bit myself:
The other side of 3850's frames
Dinmore Manor's driver's side piston valve had been reassembled and was ready to be reinstalled
7820's piston valve
 The recent weather had caused significant condensation in the valve bores, which had in its turn caused a light glazing of rust to appear.  In order to remove the rust prior to reinstalling the piston valve, Tony gave the bore a quick rub down with some very fine grade wet & dry paper.  The far end was out of reach, and the hole for the spindle to small to admit a hand, so the wet & dry paper was secured to a piece of wood by a cable tie and the far end could be treated.
Tony removing rust at the near end...
...then at the far end.
Later in the day, Will returned the piston valve back into its bore and attached the lubrication mechanism to the end of the spindle.
Will attaching the valve spindle lubricator
 Remember the presence of the valve spindle lubricator, I shall return to that topic in this post.
Will and Donna refitting the covers on the running plate.
Mark measuring tolerances on the fireman's side piston valve.
As mentioned earlier, not all the work on the go at the moment is related to winter maintenance, the Peckett, John, is still being slowly worked on by a small team, mostly working on Sundays.
Tom refitting the Peckett's slide valves
 2807 is making sound progress towards being ready for the start of the season:
Bruce refitting the innards of one of the injectors
 One of the double width fire bars has been discovered to have a crack through it, a new one is on order.
It might get welded and held in reserve as a spare
 I mentioned above that the topic of valve spindle lubrication would be returned to.  Due to excessive wear on the valve spindles of the 2800 2-8-0's, when Collett introduced his 2884 class (essentially an upgraded version of the 2800), amongst the items that he added was a lubricator on the end of the spindle.  The modification wasn't retrofitted to the earlier 2800 class.  Wear has been noted on the valve spindles of 2807, and the owning group are mulling over the idea of modifying 2807 to incorporate a suitable lubricator.
No lubricator here, compare to the photo of Dinmore Manor back up above somewhere.
Gil & Bruce, weighing up the pros and cons
 The change if it were to be made would be noticeable externally, note the raised bump in the valve inspection cover on Dinmore Manor to accommodate the lubricator, and the small oil filler pot on top of the running plate.
Something like how it may end up looking
35006 has her springs refitted now and is back down on her wheels again, but there is still plenty to be done.
Jamie was refitting the washout plugs...
...whilst the buffer beam accoutrements were being refitted
 Steve was keen for me to point out to our crews that the front coupling should be stowed as shown in the photo below when not in use... apparently not everybody gets it right.
Like this!
The painting of 76077 before its departure to Locomotive Maintenance Services in Loughborough has been coming on very well.  The frames, wheels & pony truck have all been primed and mostly put into grey undercoat by the start of Saturday, and by the end of the day, much of it had gained a second undercoat, this time in brown.
Pony truck...
...and wheels, in grey undercoat
 Towards the end of Saturday:
Chris H, finishing off the grey undercoat...
L-R, Ade, Gwendolynne & Chris I putting on brown undercoat...
...the fruits of their labours later on.
And finally, reverting back to the story of last week's blog, the (subject to contract) booking of 6023, King Edward II for our Cotswold Festival of Steam gala on May 26th - 28th, I'd firstly like to say thank you to Steve O, who burnt some midnight oil in making the web pages fully visible.  Our website (yes, the recently updated and "improved" one) is still rather painful to upload information to, and my efforts as it turned out were only partially successful.  You will find that much more information is now present and correct.  Advance ticket sales for the Cotswold Festival of Steam Gala have just become available, click here to order yours now.

The second point is that several people have come up to me enquiring about were there really 30 Kings made, or 31?  For reasons that I shan't bore you with, this is a topic that is of interest to me and a number of years ago I spent a little time researching it.  The confusion arises from the Shrivenham Railway Accident of 15th January 1936.  The official report, linked to above is an interesting read and explains why having tail lights fitted onto the ends of trains is so important, and why signalmen should check that they are present and correct when trains pass their signal boxes.  In short, 6007, King William III at approx 05:30 on the morning of 15th January 1936 crashed into the back of a five wagons and a brake van that had become detached from a preceding goods train hauled by 2802.  Apart from being a cautionary tale regarding the duties of signalmen & guards, it is also a reminder that coupling hooks need to be manufactured to a high standard.  It's a little hard to track down these days, but "Peto's Register of Great Western Locomotives Volume one" is probably the definitive guide to what happened after the accident as the late Bill Peto was working with the benefit of the having the archives of the GWR available to him.  The accident itself was covered on page 36 and on page 37 he goes on to list the substantial number of damaged items to both the locomotive and its tender.  He goes on to say that for accounting purposes, the loco was condemned on the 5th of March and a new locomotive was ordered under lot 309 at a cost of £4,393.  Conclusive evidence that there were in fact 31 Kings you may think, but not so.  The "replacement" loco, also numbered 6007 and named King William III incorporated the frames and even the boiler of the original 6007, in fact there was no need to even remove the boiler from the frames to effect the repairs necessary.  She was even returned to traffic on March 24th 1936 paired with the same tender.  Laurence Waters' book "The Power of the Kings" covers the accident on pages 14 & 15 in rather less detail than Bill Peto, stating "No 6007 was nominally condemned on 5 March 1936 but was in fact rebuilt using the same boiler, frame and tender, being returned to service at Old Oak Common on 24 March 1936."  Kevin McCormack's "Haynes Great Locomotive Series, Great Western Kings" on pages 49 & 50 reports  "As a result of the necessary repairs which exceeded that or a normal overhaul, a new lot number was issued and, for accounting purposes, the locomotive was officially condemned on 5 March 1936 (i.e. the company's asset was written off).  This seems to have caused some people to conclude that an entirely new locomotive was constructed but, as can be seen from the accompanying photograph, the engine was certainly not destroyed. Many parts were re-used, including major items such as the frames, boiler and tender".   The photograph referred to above is the aerial photo which appears on the Shrivenham Heritage Society's website.  
It just goes to show that you can't always believe what you read on the web, even on normally reliable sources like Wikipedia.   Just in case somebody decides to change it on the strength of reading this, it currently says:

Monday, 5 February 2018

A Regal Gala Visitor

I can now confirm that we are in negotiation with the Didcot Railway Centre, and subject to contract, I am more than a little pleased to be able to present to you the first guest engine that we can announce for the Cotswold Festival of Steam "Give My Regards to Broadway" gala on the 26th - 28th May in the shape of 6023, King Edward II.

The King class, was Collett's upgrade to his own already extremely successful Castle class, which in turn was an upgrade on Churchward's Star class, all of a 4 cylinder design and 4-6-0 wheel arrangement.  The King's were of course the most powerful class of locomotives built by the Great Western Railway, a total of 30 (not 31 as is erroneously held out in some quarters) being built for working crack passenger trains between London Paddington and the Midlands, and the South West.

6023, King Edward II was built under lot 267 in 1930 at Swindon and spent most of its life based in Newton Abbot or Plymouth Laira, from where it would have been engaged in hauling expresses between Plymouth and London Paddington.  Its final shed was Cardiff Canton, from where it was withdrawn in June 1962 (the year that all King's were withdrawn).  

Post withdrawal, both 6023 and 6024 (King Edward I) were used as dead weights to test a bridge near Caldicot, and after that were sent to the legendary Barry Island Scrap Yard for disposal rather than Swindon.  That of course resulted in them both being saved for posterity, though 6023 suffered the ignominy of having a driving wheel cut through after a derailing incident in the scrap yard.  For this reason, many potential rescuers deemed it too difficult a restoration project and it remained at Barry until December 1984, becoming the 159th departure after waiting for 22 years.  She had been acquired by Harvey's of Bristol, who moved her to the fish dock at Bristol Temple Meads station for restoration, and it was subsequently purchased in 1990 by the Great Western Society based at Didcot Railway Centre.

The King that 6023 is named after, was the fourth son of Edward I, born on the 25th of April 1284 and dying on the 21st of September 1327, succeeding to the throne in 1307. As King's go, he fared poorly, aspersions were cast about his personal life and in particular the possibility of a (for that time) improper relationship with Piers Gaveston.  He famously lost the battle of Bannockburn to Robert the Bruce in 1314.  After a civil war led by his wife Isabella & her lover Sir Roger Mortimer against him, Edward II was forced to abdicate in 1327, dying later that year in suspicious circumstances whilst being held prisoner in Berkeley Castle (not 4085, but the building in Gloucestershire).

Although two other Kings survive, 6000, King George V and 6024, King Edward I, 6023 is the only one at the time of writing that has a current boiler ticket.  She is turned out in the attractive BR passenger blue livery worn by the class in the early BR period and sports the early lion and wheel crest on her tender.  In BR ownership, she wore this livery from August 1950 until March 1952. The restoration project by the Great Western Society took over 20 years to complete, with 6023 finally moving under her own steam again in 2011.  

Kings were originally built to a loading gauge of 13'1", which is too tall for use on the mainline today, so she has been trimmed down a few inches by lowering the cab roof and safety valve bonnet, as well as canting the whistles over to one side. As built originally, 6023 had a single chimney, which was replaced by a double chimney in June 1957.  She now has a single chimney again in keeping with her early 1950's livery, although she now sports a four port blast pipe in her smoke box to aid performance.

Eagle-eyed readers of this blog will have noticed that in September 2017, 6023 was a guest at the Old Oak Common open day, displayed alongside our own home fleet engine, 7903 Foremarke Hall.

6023 & 7903 around a turntable at Old Oak Common in 1960, photo courtesy of Dick Blenkinsop
 Note the double chimney in the above shot, which 6023 acquired in June 1957

6023 & 7903 together again at Old Oak Common in 2017, photo courtesy of John Cruxon

Further announcements regarding the details of the gala and further visiting loco announcements will be made on this blog and the main GWSR website nearer the time.  The official gala pages on the website went live about 5 minutes before this blog post, and can be found by clicking this link.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Three new headboards

I received a few photos from an anonymous correspondent on Wednesday,  76077 was progressing on from having been shot blasted to being coated in primer:
76077's frames, now in primer
Dinmore Manor was being washed out
 The fact that the external funding is still being negotiated hasn't stopped a few odd jobs progressing with 2874, in the machine shop, a set of bolts to secure the eccentric rods to the eccentric straps were being machined.
Eccentric bolts being turned.
 The billets to form the new bogie spring hangers for Dinmore Manor were in the workshop and in the queue for being machined.

3850 has been sidelined a bit by DMLL whilst winter maintenance on Dinmore Manor is carried out, but that hasn't stopped some jobs progressing, a new ejector ring has been in stock for some time, and is now being machined ready to be fitted on the loco when the time comes.
3850's ejector ring in the machine shop
 Edit - Apparently this isn't 3850's, it's a new one for Foremarke Hall.

The patterns for 3850's new cylinder block have now been examined and the casting is now imminent.  A video of the patterns has appeared on the DMLL facebook page and can be seen by clicking on this link.

Rod has been busy turning up new fusible plugs for our running fleet.  Each of our GWR locos requires two fusible plugs in the crown of the firebox, whilst 35006 requires six.  The ones for 35006 are rather larger too.
A GWR fusible (centre), the remainder for 35006.
On Saturday, Rod moved on to the task of leading the fusible plugs for 35006, being more than a little nosey curious, I watched with interest.

The starting point for leading the fusible plugs is a small crucible.
A small crucible...
 ...the fusible plug is inverted and placed in the crucible...
...heat is applied...
...soldering fluid (other brands do exist)...
...soldering fluid is dabbed into the bore of the fusible plug...
...lead is melted into the bore...
...the bore full, more heat is applied
...until the lead runs out at the top of the crucible
 At this point, the fusible plug is left to cool down, and when finished, a pillar drill is used to remove lead form the bore of the fusible plug to the specified depth.
Drilling out the excess lead
 After that, the plug of lead at the top of the fusible plug is machined to a nice clean finish
Fully machined examples at the rear, two awaiting machining at the front
 Once all six have been machined, the fusible plugs are then ready to be installed in the firebox crown of 35006.

Foremarke Hall has been receiving a little bit of fettling to the pipe work associated with her ejector
New pipe being offered up for size
Ejector pipe being annealed
 2807's tender was in for a second and final coat of bitumastic paint
Stuart at work with a paint brush
It seems that the build up of limescale in the boiler of 3845 is still an issue, with harder to reach bits on top of the firebox crown proving troublesome.  A local contractor was on site to see if spraying it with pulverised glass would have the desired effect.  It appears to be doing the trick, and the contractor will return in the near future to finish the job.
Either the contractor at work, or a scene from a sci-fi movie!
 Every time a safety valve lifts, and vents steam into the atmosphere, the high pressure steam flowing past cuts a little into the metal of the safety valve and the seat it sits on.  After a period of use, the cuts in the safety valve/seat become enough to allow a constant leakage of steam, which of course accelerates the wear even further and of course wastes steam and therefore coal... which us poor firemen are constantly reminded isn't cheap.  I'm only surprised that nobody has suggested putting a direct debit on our bank accounts to cover the coal bill.  Anyway, the safety valves and seats need lapping in, or if particularly worn, re-cutting on a regular basis. On Saturday, Dinmore Manor's went to the machine shop for re cutting, and whilst the lathe was set up for the task, 3850's were extracted from the relevant container and sent for machining too. 
Safety valve being turned in a lathe...
Before (r) and after (l)
 3850's were loosely put back in place for safe keeping, whilst Dinmore Manor's are awaiting refitting to the loco.
3850's, safety valves, returned to store
 Later on, John demonstrated how to lap in the safety valve seats on Foremarke Hall:
John lapping in Foremarke Hall's safety valve seats
It's not just 3850's safety valves that were receiving some TLC on Saturday, Stuart was to be found putting a coat of primer on its brake hangers.
Stuart wielding a paint brush again
Needless to say, much more painting was going on out in the marquee in the car par, with 76077 being the recipient of the TLC in this case.

The shot blasting had only been able to remove most of the accumulated grime on the wheels, the bits tucked in behind the balance weights had proved to be difficult to access, so that was having to be done by hand.
Ade removing grime from behind a driving wheel balance weight
 The frames had fewer hard to get at locations, and good progress was being made with them, as they had moved on to being undercoated.
Frame undercoating in progress
 A problem that had been experienced, was that the large temperature fluctuations in the few days since shot blasting and associated condensation had caused some of the shot blasted areas to start rusting again.  It was only a light coating of surface rust, but it did need to be removed before the painting could begin.
Jonathan removing rust from the pony truck wheels
The shot blasting process had revealed some interesting details, such as this writing on one of the driving wheels indicating that it had been manufactured in December 1955
Just in time for Christmas!
Later on, Tim painting the pony truck wheel set.
One of the driving wheels in primer
 There were a pleasingly large number of people present in the marquee where 76077 is lurking, and I'm sure that it wasn't all down to the fact that there was a heater in there to help keep them all warm:
Nice and cosy
 If only the David Page shed came equipped with such luxuries!  I know that it's short notice, however for any members of the steam locomotive dept with time on their hands on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, there will be further working parties getting on with 76077.  Do help out if you can, it needs to be out of the car park in a fortnight's time.

The group working on 35006 appear to have turned to religion in their bid to refit the springs to their loco.
Facing Mecca!
 Here's something that you don't see everyday, a Merchant Navy flying a foot above the ground
More of a plane than a steam locomotive
 The leading pair of springs had been refitted on Wednesday, I'm not sure how much progress was made with the driving springs on Saturday, it's not an easy job.
Springs being manoeuvred into position
 The various clack valves on Dinmore Manor also need lapping in to make them steam tight for another season.  The well known ones at the top of the safety valves were lapped in, as well as the rather smaller ones at the injector end of the feed.
Eleanor lapping in one of the clack valves
 In the good old days, before cars were all of a jelly mould shape and contained mysterious "black boxes" under the bonnet, you could service them yourself without the need for too much by way of specialist tools.  Slightly before that again, in the days when lubrication oils and petrol didn't have a bunch of additives to prevent carbon deposits gumming up your engine, one of the service tasks would be to de-coke it.  Valves, piston rings cylinder heads etc all acquire a layer of coke and your task was to remove it in order to keep you car or motorbike's engine running efficiently.  I'm sure that many of this blog's readers of shall we say more mature years are now fondly reminiscing about spending their weekends de-coking whatever old banger they desperately tried to keep running reliably back in the first austerity period in the hope of being able to impress the young ladies of the day.  All these years later, said young ladies having long since married the chaps with the cars/motorbikes, are probably wondering why they ended up married to men who seem to enjoy spending their leisure hours getting grubby by working on steam locomotives. Whether or not they are simply grateful is it means that it gets them out of the house and from under their feet is a different matter altogether.    As usual, I digress, the point is that steam locos are very good at building up carbon deposits too and those deposits need removing on a regular basis to keep them running at peak efficiency.  The photo below shows one of the piston valves of Dinmore Manor being given some TLC by Jeremy & David
Jeremy (l) and David
 Martin on the other hand was trying to do one all by himself, and his was still in situ, which doesn't help much as you can't rotate it to get at the underside.  The scraper in use is not a specialist tool, just a broken off old hack saw blade.
Martin, scraping carbon deposits off of the other piston valve
 The valves are designed to expand in their bores and break down into a surprisingly large number of parts
Jeremy has separated his valve head out
 The nut that secures the outer valve head assembly in place came apart quite easily for Jeremy, the one at David's end was less cooperative. Those useful standbys, brute force & ignorance were called into play once more:
John applies some therapy with a big hammer
The GWSR arm wrestling team practicing their sport
John wasn't going to be beaten
Who needs to pay gym fees when you could work in the steam loco dept for free?
You'll be pleased to know that after a little more "gentle persuasion", it did finally come apart and the de-coking exercise could continue.

The oil store isn't the most obvious of locations to paint up three identical new headboards, but that is what was happening on Saturday.  The fronts had already been done, and Chris was painting the backs.
Three new headboards.
 I'll leave it as a guessing game for the time being as to what the boards said and why we want three identical ones. Answers scribbled on the back of twenty pound notes only please and forwarded to me.

Sunday saw me back at the railway again, my medical examination was due.  The hearing test was made rather more difficult by the sound of the conversations in the Flag and Whistle next door, by motorbikes out on the main road and by the clock ticking somewhere behind me that I hadn't noticed until I put the headphones on.  Before my next medical comes round, we'll have a nice shiny new and more importantly sound proofed room to have the medicals in.  I'm not sure if the sound proofing is to keep the external noise from getting in, or to keep the screams of the victims patients from getting out as the electrodes for the ECG are ripped off... and that was even after having had most of my chest hairs unceremoniously shaved off.  Fear not gentle reader, I will spare you from the horrors of any photos. 

And finally, another photo from my correspondent on Wednesday, Foremarke Hall was being used as a makeshift door stop.  Storm Georgina had been passing through and rattling the shutters of the David Page shed, so a suitable length of wood was wedged between Foremarke Hall's buffer beam and the roller door to fortify it against the wind. You may recollect that another storm had caused significant damage to this shutter a few years ago.  I somehow doubt that Frederick Hawksworth had this particular use in mind when he designed his Modified Hall class of steam locomotives, but it seemed to do the job very well anyway.
Georgina spited!