Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Full of the Joys of New Springs

As an extension of last week's entry I have some photos from my blog companion Chris Blake who happened to be around on Wednesday 11th January. I was unable to be there with my camera as I was on a short holiday so a big thank you to Chris for these.

In the Steam Department we do not always rely on steam power; for the practical moving of steam locos around the shed and yard there are two 0-6-0 diesel shunters - a Class 04 (11230) that's most often seen in use and also a Yorkshire Engine Co. example, no. 372, known as 'Des'.

From time to time these small but mighty powerhouses require a little love and attention just like their bigger coal-fired stablemates - and on Wednesday it was Des' turn to be looked at by various members of the steam dept.

It needed all of its springs replacing as they were old, broken and generally a bit tired. The Wednesday Gang were organised and had all of the new springs lined up and ready to go:

Ready to Spring into Action: New leaf springs on the pit road
It seems it would help to be a bit of an acrobat while working underneath Des. There's not much room, as the photo below suggests!

Martin peers through the feet of John
New spring in place, ready for fitting...
As the old saying goes - many hands make light work!

Meanwhile Ian and others continued work on fettling Foremarke Hall's ash pan doors. The last blog featured a link to a short video on them opening and shutting but here are some additional photos to complement it showing the doors in open, half open and fully shut positions:

Elsewhere, Brian G, John G and John T were working on 2807, freeing up the valve gear and cleaning off the build-up of dirt on the valve head to aid a smoother movement inside the valve chamber.

Hard at Work!
Finally on Wednesday, there was the job of preparing Dinmore Manor's and 2807's tenders for their yearly two or three coats of bitumen paint. A challenging job in the winter - I remember doing the same job last year with Cliff F and in the lower temperatures it meant many trips back and forth to the mess coach in search of warm water to soften the paint up! Still, as it is generally a job for two there is always plenty of time for conversation whilst painting to make it a little more pleasant.

I'm unsure as to who exactly is in the photographs painting the inside of this tender but one thing is for sure, when finished it will be protected for another year from the weather, the coal, and the fireman's pep pipe!

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Fog

It's safe to say that this week has been very much all hands on deck. All the locos are tucked away in the shed, currently undergoing their winter maintenance, and there is a lot to do. Of course there are always other areas of the Steam Department that need attention from time to time as well - when I arrived on Saturday lunchtime I was greeted with a sight that resembled something out of 1980s horror film, The Fog:

There's something in the mist...

...nothing to fear, it's just Jonathan steam cleaning the old pit
This was one of those really mucky jobs that needs to be done at least once a year to try and keep residual oil and dirt etc down to a minimum. Jonathan told me that he spent the morning by starting to clean the inside of the pit, only to realise that quite a bit of dirt was sitting around the apron so it made sense to clean that first and then see to the rest of the pit afterwards. When I left a couple of hours later he was still steam cleaning - I'm sure it will look fabulous when it is finished. 

The main theme of the day it seemed, was piston valve assemblies. 4270, Dinmore Manor, and 2807 were all receiving some attention in these areas, with the ultimate goal being to have the valves removed and ready for inspection, with adjustment to follow if necessary. 

Valve assemblies littered the floor like abandoned weights in a gymnasium
Under the spotlight: 7820 Dinmore Manor and one of her valve assemblies
Foremarke Hall sits next to stablemate Dinmore Manor. Foremarke Hall was the only GWR loco here today
to not be receiving attention to her valves
Dinmore Manor's Fireman's Side valve was already in the vice with the seal opened up:

Empty driver's side valve housing on Dinmore Manor
Meanwhile, 4270 was being shunted out into the yard (35006 came out for the ride also). The crew working on 4270 were ahead of the game, both valves out, and the grate had been removed. 
35006 and 4270 brought out from the shed

There something missing here! Holes where the valves should be
Now that the grate had been removed from 4270, it was time for Angela to go into the firebox with the electric wire brush to clean everything up ready for its boiler inspection, while Adrian S and a small team attempted to remove the injector waste pipe:

A pair of legs (I'm not sure who they belonged to) and a stubborn injector waste pipe

Due to a different (older) design, 2807 was rather at a disadvantage when it came to the valve removal race. The crosshead would have to be removed before the valve could come out and it was putting up a very good fight.

Bruce's report from the weekly 2807 News bulletin describes their day:

"When we arrived there was already a gang of people working on Dinmore as well as 4270.  It seems that valves are the flavour of the month as that is what they were removing from both locos.  Strangely, we were also intending to remove one of our valves.

We were a bit thin on the ground today, only three of us, so we all worked on removing the LH valve.
Gilbert, John T and Bruce started by removing the running boards at each end of the cylinder to give better access to the crosshead and front cover.  John then concentrated on removing the valve front cladding followed by the front cover.

At the rear end the cotter was removed and the crosshead split from the valve rod but try as we might the valve spindle did not want to be parted from the crosshead.  We pulled it, we bashed it, we even tried our splitter but all to no avail, the valve rod that connects the crosshead to the rock shaft always seemed to get in the way.

At this point we adjourned for lunch to regain our strength and discuss tactics.  Perhaps, if we crept up on it we could take it by surprise and it would come out easily; alas, no.  Perhaps if we could get the valve rod out … but the motion was not in the correct position. Fortunately by moving the reverser to the full forward position the rod just cleared the motion bracket and came out.  Now with better access the stubborn taper was released, so the crosshead could now be removed followed by the valve spindle.

We were ably assisted by Tim P and Jamie throughout the day; they provided some of the brute force as well as moral support."

Gilbert (l), Jamie, and Tim P trying to remove the crosshead
Crosshead still on the spindle
And finally, it's off!
The valve assembly can now be slid out to the left for removal now that the
crosshead is not obstructing it
The offending article

After the crosshead was finally removed I went to see what else had been going on elsewhere.

Starfish Wagon - Now with more rivets than before
Now fully de-rusted, these Broadway Canopy parts sport a fetching coat of green anti-corrosion paint

My last update for this week's blog is that of Foremarke Hall's sliding ash pan doors! 

When I arrived I found Joe busy making the last sections of the linkage to finally get the doors working. I went underneath the loco into the new pit, thinking it would be finished in no time at all so I could take more photos but had a rather longer wait than I anticipated! So in between admiring various parts of Foremarke's underbelly and watching what was happening with Dinmore Manor, I was able to get these shots from between 7903's wheels of Joe using the angle grinder:

Joe blazing a trail
Sparks fly!
Linkage waiting to be finished

When it had been completed, I was able to make a quick video showing the doors in operation - you can find it by clicking on the following link:

And finally, it appeared that on 2nd January Dinmore Manor had in fact been the rostered loco but unfortunately it was failed due to a blown gasket in the injector feed pipe, which explains why 2807 was out instead.Thanks to Roger M for that piece of information. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

The Romance of Steam

Monday the 2nd January was the very last day of trains running on the line for the 2016 season and it occurred to me that I made a small error in my last post - I thought Dinmore Manor was out for the final day but in fact it was 2807. I knew that, honestly. My apologies to anyone who came expecting a 4-6-0 but actually got a 2-8-0. Still, 2807 is not be sniffed at of course, it's a very fine example of the breed and is the oldest GWR loco in service in private hands.

Ray was able to capture some beautiful photographs of 2807 in the winter sunshine during this final day.

Leaving the Shed

At Chicken Curve

Next to Toddington Signal Box

A Stunning Sunset Shot, at Gotherington
2807 silhouetted against the winter sunset. The crew, John, Clive and John are just visible.
Whilst Ray was busy capturing the Romance of Steam, something marvellous was playing out on the footplate during the last round trip. You know, one of those things in life that just work out so perfectly that it couldn't possibly have gone any better - such as having just enough milk for that one cup of tea, or, in this case, just the right amount of coal.

Now I assume that on the return from Trip 2, 2807 was running a little light on coal and required a bit of a top up. On any other ordinary day I imagine that the JCB would be used but on this occasion there was little point filling it up just to take it out again so a less traditional method was used:

To Me, To You: Trainee Fireman John passes up a bucket of coal to Tim.
Photo courtesy of Ray
The grand total of 6 bucket loads were passed up, and at the end of the day 2807 returned for disposal with an empty tender! Very well judged, John.

The big news this week, that can be found on the GWSR Boardroom Blog, is that the Railway has passed the 100,000 visitors mark for 2016. This is a fantastic achievement, 13% more than 2015 which was in itself a record-breaker. Long may this continue into 2017!

On Wednesday afternoon I popped in to see what the Wednesday Gang were doing. As soon as I stepped through the gate I could hear the sounds of tools and machinery being used in the shed and in the machine shop. A sure sign that Christmas is over and everything is getting back to normal - and that my job as the person with the camera to be avoided at all times blog writer is going to get a bit busier!

In the mess coach it was nice to see that someone had left some fizzy drinks, mince pies and a Christmas cake for all the volunteers of the Steam Dept. I failed to get a photo, but thank you to whoever brought them, I am sure they were very much enjoyed.

Tim on De-Rusting Duties
The first person to fall victim to my camera on a Wednesday was Tim B, who was busy de-rusting parts of the Broadway canopy. He'd nearly finished them when I arrived and they were looking pretty good.

Inside the shed I found Neal cutting steel for the intermediate rafters, and he can be seen measuring up in the background of the photo below.

Lengths of steel for Broadway canopy, some assembled, some awaiting the de-rusting treatment

Elsewhere in the 'shop I found Andrew M, who was working on these lovely brass electrical fittings for the lamps on 35006 P & O:

Throwing some light on the subject (eventually)
Personally I cannot wait to see them working, it's going to be a neat finishing touch to the project that has taken 30 years to complete. Andrew tells me that hopefully 35006 should be ready for the race trains in March.

I then went to see how things were progressing with Foremarke Hall's sliding ash pan doors but instead of seeing ash pan doors, there on the bench was one of the damper doors instead. I believe these were suffering with the same problems as the ash pan doors and they were in the process of being strengthened also.

One door closes and another one opens...  hopefully!
A quick trip underneath showed where the ash pan doors had got to - there they were, installed, and waiting for the operating mechanism to be finished, which Joe was working on. Perhaps we will see them operating in the next blog post?

The Starfish Wagon was also getting some attention - the noises I had heard while elsewhere in the shed confirmed that there was some riveting going on today. As riveting is quite an intensive process I didn't want to disturb anyone while they were working so I only managed to capture this shot. Maybe I'll be able to get a bit closer to the Starfish later in the week for a better look.  

Riveting on the Starfish Wagon continues
On the plus side I was able to capture this nice shot of a rivet being heated up, ready for insertion: 

...and also this shot of Dave A framed by the riveter. He spotted me and my camera but luckily for him I missed him posing - maybe next time!

Dave having an absolutely riveting time
(Sorry - couldn't resist)

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Something Witty Goes Here

As you all may have read from last week's blog post, your humble blogger of many years has decided that it's time to hang up his proverbial blogger's cap. I've now taken the cap off the peg, and I'm wearing it at a jaunty angle and looking forward to reporting on all things Steam Loco Dept.  

I am sure you will agree that he has done an excellent job over the last four years, providing updates on everything from everyday maintenance to excellent day-to-day coverage of the ever-popular Galas that we hold each year.

I have some very big shoes (well, steel toe capped boots) to fill.

Thankfully though I have been gently led into the shallow end as by the time you will read this most of the Christmas trains will have finished and the locos will be tucked up inside the David Page Shed for the winter. When I arrived for a brief visit on New Year's Eve morning, Dinmore Manor was out on the line hauling one of the last of the services and there wasn't the usual hustle and bustle of activity in the yard. I imagine that most of our members were at home with their families, preparing to see in 2017.     

'New' and Old: 3850 and 2874's boilers
 While strolling down the track down by the machine shop I came across both 3850 and 2874's boilers sat waiting for attention. It's nice to see that most of 3850's boiler has had some needle-gunning treatment and quite a bit of it has had some green anti-corrosion paint applied.

Meanwhile 2874's boiler still in 'Barry' condition, provides a beautiful contrast. A fine layer of mossy growth still coats it. Maybe soon it will look as good its neighbour?  

Inside the shed I found Joe working on Foremarke Hall's upgraded ash pan doors:

Joe measuring twice
2016 was Foremarke's first year back after having her heavy overhaul. During this first year back it came to light that the ash pan doors were liable to buckle with the heat, making them difficult to work with, and the only way to overcome that was to make a set of thicker doors with bigger stiffening braces.

Guides for the sliding doors can be easily seen
Underneath the loco you can clearly see the guides where the doors can slide along. I believe they are all going to be connected to a single lever and so should all operate at the same time. It should make disposal at the end of the day a quicker and easier process too.
Out with the old: 7903's old ash pan doors
Elsewhere in the shed I found Roy and Terry emptying 4270's coal bunker:
Coal flinging - an Olympic sport?
Once emptied, the bunker will receive two or three coats of bitumen paint to protect it from the elements and stop it from going rusty.  
Keith (left) and John carefully cutting the braces
In the machine shop I found out where Joe's handiwork was going to - Keith, John C and John (whose last name I didn't get) were busy cutting the steel braces to size, to fit to Foremarke's ash pan doors.

Waiting for the saw to cut is a very laborious process and I can tell you that much tea of varying degrees of strength was consumed in the process.

In the yard I spotted 2807 looking very clean and being tended to by Roger Molesworth and Bruce.
Sitting pretty: 2807
It was a quiet day on New Year's Eve for 2807 - Roger and Bruce spent the morning checking the issues log and investigating them to see what needed to be done over the winter period. Steam locomotives are by their very nature old and with old technology there is generally always something that needs a little attention to keep it working as it should. The following text and images were taken from Roger's report from the few days prior, covering a few of the items that need attention:

Wednesday 28th December

"Gil..and Bruce removed the bottom of the Mason’s valve, which reportedly was leaking steam.  They then tightened up the nut holding the left-hand whistle to its steam supply - which Sam and I had noticed was leaking when we lit the warming fire last week...

...I think Gil must have spread grease around somewhere, because I got red grease on my glove!  Bruce, being concerned that the pivots in the other compensating beams are seized, attempted to persuade some oil to seep between the pin, bush and beams.

Ray and I investigated an older reported issue that, after we had fitted new brake blocks, the tender brakes were dragging.  A couple of them are still fairly tight, but not dragging as such.  There is no sensible way of adjusting the brakes individually.  One would have to heat the rods that link one to another, and either stretch or compress (as appropriate) to effect an adjustment.  Alternatively, you just wait until they settle themselves in!"

Saturday 31st December

Piston Rod Lubricators (Photo by Roger Molesworth)
"Bruce had a play with the piston rod lubricators, because I noticed a pool of oil on the top of it, and then discovered water running out when I waggled it!
 We should examine these and see if the felt pads are soaked with water, and make sure they are rubbing on the piston rod."

The drip that shouldn't be there: Top valve on gauge frame blowing. Valve needs repacking
(Photo by Roger Molesworth)

There is certainly plenty to keep everyone busy over the winter season, not just with 2807 of course but with all of the home locos. I hope to be bringing you updates every week covering this and everything else in the Steam Loco Dept.

Finally, tomorrow (2nd Jan) is the final running day of the season and Dinmore Manor is due out*, so if you feel like a trip on the friendly line in the Cotswolds before season's end, then tomorrow is your last chance!  

Happy New Year!

*Subject to availability!