Friday, 28 December 2012

Spring arrives early in Toddington

Sunday had been spent in the company of Adrian and Paul on the Santa specials on the footplate of 8F, 45160.  
Paul on the 8F
45160 had been intended to run on Christmas Eve and then on every day from Boxing day until New Year's day, however,  during disposal, Adrian became suspicious about the health of one of the suspension springs and after a conference with several other people, technical terms were eventually uttered to the general effect that it was broken. This would put her out of action until the spring could be replaced.  The morning of the 27th was chosen as the date to change the spring and so it was that I turned up at Toddington at a much more civilised time than the usual 05:30 which would have been the case if I'd been down for a cleaning turn.  Having a few minutes spare before meeting up with Mike & Kev to help swap the spring, I thought that I'd be sociable and show my face in the yard and see how the preparation of Foremarke Hall was going in readiness for the mince pie specials.  It turned out that the crew was Adrian & Paul again, however Foremarke Hall had decided to forego her usual breakfast of wood and coal and chew up her firebars instead.  Fire bars are not exactly light weight objects and replacing half of them in a warm loco is not a great deal of fun, but that is what had to be done so Adrian and Paul had set  about doing it and were just finishing off when I arrived.
Foremarke Hall with a stack of broken fore bars in the foreground
Foremarke Hall with replacement fire bars, fire lit and a fair head of steam
Apparently they were just 10 minutes late off with the first train and had recovered 5 minutes of that by the time of the second train.  I could name at least one mainline train operating company who couldn't get anywhere near that level of time keeping in far less demanding circumstances.

Anyway, I digress.  The real reason I was here was to help swap the broken spring on 45160.  The first task was to jack up the front end a bit to take the weight of the loco off of the springs.
A pair of 40 ton jacks under the buffer beam
Once that was done, the next task was to get underneath and drop the broken right intermediate spring out.
Removing the broken spring
Yes,I know what you're thinking, it doesn't look broken to me either. The break as it turned out was inside the buckle in the middle resulting in the spring taking a very slight 'W' shape when under tension.  This spring is the last but one of the springs that were on the engine when she was repatriated from Turkey in 1989.  Sadly the replacement springs that we have had not been manufactured exactly to the drawings, necessitating Kev to have to perform a little remedial work:-
Kev correcting the replacement spring
It's not just steam locos that smoke
Meanwhile, Mike performs a modification to the gudgeon pin, which is now to be held in place by a bolt rather than a split pin. I was pleased about that, as the original split pin had proved to be remarkably difficult to remove.
Mike modifying the gudgeon pin securing arrangements
All that remained to be done was to install the new spring and tension it up correctly.  By this time Adrian and Paul had returned from their shift on the footplate and were able to assist in barring up the spring from the outside in order for Mike and me to get a trolley jack underneath it and inch it into position.
Mike tensions his end of the replacement spring
Job done, and time for a well earned cup of tea before helping with the disposal of Foremarke Hall when she returns with her afternoon crew of Steve & Andy.
Foremarke Hall simmers gently alongside the 8F
The GWSR is rather like a swan, graceful and serene on the surface, yet beneath the water line the legs are working like fury to propel it forward.  Next time your train on the GWSR is ten minutes late, don't curse, spare a thought for the poor crew who have been hard at work behind the scenes since some ungodly hour of the morning moving heaven and earth and indeed quite possibly a couple of dozen fire bars or an extremely heavy spring in order to get the train to you at all.


  1. The Loco Dept. blog has opened up a completely new perspective for me (and no doubt others too) on maintaining and operating the locos. As an IT man by profession but an engineer at heart, leaf springs and gudgion pins are are music to my ears! Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi Bill, Thank you very much. I too am an IT man by profession, but an engineer at heart who wishes he could discover a way to make a living out of steam. Anyway, I'm glad that you're finding these ramblings interesting. Best wishes for a happy new year.