Monday, 28 January 2013

35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co

Everything about 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co,  from its name onwards is big.  Stand next to it in the David Page shed at Toddington and you can't help but be impressed by the sheer size of it.  
35006 in the David Page shed at Toddington
 Rescued from Woodham's scrap yard in Barry Island in 1983, and brought to Toddington, restoration of this giant of steam has been progressing now for 30 years, which is rather longer than she was actually in the gainful employment of the Southern Railway/British Railways.  A report on how the restoration works are progressing was delivered to the Steam Loco Dept's AGM on Saturday by Andrew Marshall.  Normally such reports are a list of the things that have been done since the last report by a loco owning group, which is nice, but which gives you no real idea of exactly where it is in the grand scheme of things.  Andrew's report broke that mould by basically listing the five main tasks that need to be done before she will be ready for traffic.  No time scales were given however a reiteration was made of the fact that she will be hauled out of the shed to be publicly displayed during the Cotswold Steam Celebration gala at the end of May.  Without further ado,  here are those five tasks:

1) Fitting out the smoke box & installing the 3 main steam pipes 
2) Making up the copper water feed pipes and the clack valve feed pipes
3) Fitting the valve gear & con-rods
4) Making up the tender brake gear  (already 1/2 complete)
5) Brick Arch installation

Fixing up the electrical conduit would be a 'nice to have' too, but won't prevent her entering traffic

Some work was taking place on the water feeds on Saturday afternoon:

Steam & water feed pipes to the injectors
As for the valve gear and con-rods, apparently fitting them is regarded as being a relatively straight forward operation, although these are pretty hefty con-rods that we are talking about here.
Space where a con-rod and some of the valve gear linkages should be
The tender brake gear is apparently half done already however the remainder will require some skilled machining work to be undertaken.
Half braked tender, note some electrical conduit in place for the tender lights
Other odd jobs were on the go as well, such as modifying a section of the running plate to fit:
The brick arch is probably not such a big job, but I thought that I'd poke my camera into the firebox and take a look at the space where it is supposed to go:
Cab fittings & fire hole door
The firebox, complete with thermic syphons, but missing a bit of its rocking grate and all of its brick arch
The grate on the Merchant Navy class of locomotives is vast, 48.5 square feet, compared with the 27.1 square feet of 2807 or Foremarke Hall, or the 28.65 square feet of the 8F, 8274.  Most of this extra space is achieved by having a much wider grate.  Most of the railway's firemen are wondering how they are going to cope with keeping the back corners filled or just how much coal that they will need to shovel into the firebox just to light it up in the morning.  They're all looking forward to finding out though.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Instructed in the ways of righteousness

A week ago Sunday, your intrepid correspondent was busy learning the rudiments of locomotive anatomy, fascinating stuff, but not exactly the sort of thing that sets fire to the pages of a blog.  After that, I took a peek in the shed to see if there was anything going on that I could help out with.  It seems that most of the working parties are active on a Saturday, so whilst there was plenty of evidence of locomotives in varying states of disassembly, there was little actively going on.  Ian Carpenter however was looking for someone to help with the cosmetic restoration of a small 0-4-0ST that he intends to use as a 'gate guardian'.  He had been spending some time on the wheels stripping off the rust and applying new paint.  The next task on his list was to strip the paint off of the coupling rods, so I spent the rest of the afternoon with an angle grinder removing red paint.  Quite a satisfying job in the end when the paint had been removed revealing nice shiny steel underneath.
Shiny con rods
Unfortunately the angle grinder seemed to transfer most of the red paint from the con rods onto my overalls, I had to wash them by hand before I could risk putting them in the washing machine when I got home.  

Having established that the weekend part of the winter maintenance programme was taking place on Saturdays rather than Sundays, I turned up last Saturday to see what needed doing.  First off was cleaning out the firebox of Foremarke Hall which consisted of removing all bar a few of the firebars then brushing  off the accumulated soot from the firebox walls & roof.  I managed to get quite grubby in there, in fact if I didn't know better I'd have thought that I'd cleaned it using myself rather than a brush. When I emerged from the firebox, I was likened to a 'Black & White Minstrel', whatever one of those is..... long before my time :-)   Needless to say I was hot foot across to the mess coach afterwards to wash the soot & grime off before anybody could get a camera out and demand that I include a photo on these pages.
It was rather dusty in the firebox
You could have eaten your dinner off of it by the time I had finished
A group of people were doing something interesting to the valve gear of 2807.  I should have collared one of them to find out exactly what they were up to, but I'm afraid that I didn't.  I would have done, but John Cruxon interrupted my journalistic instincts and playfully berated me for wasting time taking photos.  Apparently you just can't get the staff anymore. 
Doing something interesting to the valve gear of 2807
John Cruxon cracking the whip
Speaking of 2807, it  was due for a boiler washout.  Ian Carpenter is the GWSR's 'Boiler responsible person' and after draining the boiler of water was to be found extracting the mud hole doors.
Ian Carpenter at work
Oops, he's spotted me
No he wasn't looking for Peter Pan, Wendy and the lost boys.  The hook is actually a cunning tool which threads into the spindle attached to the mud hole door so that if it is accidentally dropped, it doesn't fall right down inside the boiler between the firebox & the outer wrapper.  My penance for taking his photo was to assist him for the rest of the day with the boiler washout, and to be "instructed in the ways of righteousness".  In this case, the "ways of righteousness" included dismantling the gauge frame, removing the ferrules around some of the washout plugs that were blocking access for the removal tool and finally cleaning up the mud hole doors & washout plugs using a bench grinder.  We started with the gauge frame.  "Now imagine that you're running along the track and the gauge glass breaks, what are you going to do?"  Just in case I couldn't imagine what a broken gauge glass would look like, he helpfully assisted by smashing it with a tommy bar that he happened to have in his hand.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that the locomotive anatomy lecture by Steve Oddy the week before had included a strip down & reassembly of a gauge frame, but I quickly shut the gauge frame down (pointless as the boiler was empty, but I was getting into the role playing aspect of this) and started slackening off the relevant nuts and removing the glass etc.  "Now what are you going to do with the broken glass?".  I had been going to put the broken glass tidily on the warming plate along with the rest of the bits that I'd removed, but no apparently it was supposed to be thrown into the bucket of water kept on the fireman's side of the footplate.  This came as a bit of a surprise to me as only the week before, Steve Oddy had said that the primary purpose of the bucket of water was for first aid, should you get burnt on the footplate, you have a source of cold water to douse the affected parts with.  The prospect of getting burnt on the footplate and then finding yourself applying broken glass to the wound is frankly not an appealing one.  I'll be taking up the idea with the management that all locos should have corridor tenders fitted and fully trained young and attractive nurses on hand in the leading coach ready to assist in case of medical emergencies on the footplate.  In the event of no actual medical emergencies taking place, the nurses could always make themselves useful by fetching cups of tea & bacon butties.  Of course knowing my luck I'd still manage to burn myself whilst running tender first.
The now dismantled gauge frame
Whilst transporting arm fulls of washout plugs from the workshop where I'd been cleaning them, to the boiler shed, I bumped into Ben. 

Now ordinarily I'd have said something about his hat or the fact that he appears to be parked on double yellow lines however as he is now the roster clerk, I'll have to start being nice to him so I won't mention either.  Instead I did as he bidded and grabbed a photo of the walkway that he, Clive and Sean had just constructed from the pits to the wood store.
The new path to the wood store
I have to say this is a marvelous bit of work.  Before this pathway was in place, you either had to try to bump a wheelbarrow load of wood across the tracks, losing half of it in the process or just give up and cradle as much wood as you could in your arms and carry it. In the process you'd probably find out the hard way that much of the wood not only has sharp splinters but also many nails sticking out.  Now you'll be able to fill up a wheel barrow and propel it with ease over to the locos waiting to be lit up on the pits.  All we need to do now is to make sure that nobody parks any rolling stock on the tracks across the walkway.

Other things that happened during the day that I noticed in passing, was Andrew cleaning up the end of the cylinder casings of Foremarke Hall, the drain cocks having already been removed by Paul Gosney.  Somebody had also applied a nice coat of paint to one of the cylinder end covers too.
Foremarke Hall's newly painted cylinder end cover
Andrew cleaning up one of Foremarke Hall's cylinders

Monday, 14 January 2013

Foremarke Hall update Jan 2013

All of our operational locomotives are currently undergoing winter maintenance at the moment.  John Cruxon, the locomotive manage of Foremarke Hall has been kind enough to provide a report on how the works are progressing so far on his engine:

"Winter maintenance has now started at a pace with both sets of valves and pistons removed on Wednesday 2nd and Saturday 5th respectively.

The engine has been off beat for sometime and at certain times steam has been roaring up the chimney when trying to move the engine. This all suggested a valve ring(s) blowing by. In reality what we have found is the right hand rear valve rings had become damaged and loose so was certainly passing steam, which would have given the engine the off beat sound. On removal of the right hand piston we found broken piston rings. This may well have happened though as we removed the piston as it dropped out with a bit of a bang, as the front cylinder cover was being decidedly stubborn to remove. 

On the 9th we stripped both valve assemblies and cleaned all the various parts whilst removing all the wide and snap rings that go to make up the valve head. In the next few days or so a contractor is coming to Toddington to bore out the valve liners in the cylinder block to remove any wear that has taken place. They will then take the valve assemblies away and manufacture new wide and snap rings to fit the new valve bore and fully reassemble the two valve assemblies. These will then be returned to Toddington. 

The plan is we will refit the valves etc as well as refitting the pistons, with new piston rings and generally get the engine back together. In the meantime the tender coal space has been cleaned and Clive Norton has given it a first coat of bitumen. There are also various other small jobs to be attended too and we have to achieve all this by the end of next month so the pressure is on to keep the job moving.

This last weekend, the cylinder drain cocks have been removed to allow any machining swarf from the valve reboring to be washed out. If it gets into the drain cocks it could cause significant damage to them so prevention being better than cure? Whilst off they will get stripped cleaned and re-assembled ready for refitting.

One saving grace about having to do this work is that when the engine stops for her ten yearly overhaul this is one piece of work that will not require doing again at that time, at least we hope so.

Today’s activity, our spare buffer head being heated up by our blacksmith & shareholder Nick Peppit at his workshop near Newbury. This was so as we could hammer out the distortion on the edge of the buffer.

I have to say so far volunteer turn out to help with the winter maintenance has been excellent with almost more bodies than work. However we can always find you work so please keep attending in this critical period otherwise we will not have any engines for the start of next season as all three engines are having some heavy repair work this winter."

Friday, 11 January 2013

Changing Guard

The steam loco dept's management team elect a chairman on an annual basis.  Approaching the end of his tenure as chairman is Andy Meredith who has kindly submitted to torture by interview.  Having twisted his arm to being interviewed, I found that I had made something of a rod for my own back as I struggled to come up with any sensible questions to ask him.  The likes of Michael Parkinson or Jonathan Ross have nothing to fear from me.  Mercifully Andy managed to come up with sensible answers to the questions anyway, so here they are:
Andy Meredith on the footplate of Foremarke Hall
 Andy, for those who don't know you, please could you give us a short biography?

"Name        - Andrew Meredith (Yes their is a Welsh connection in the name)
Age            - 35 years Young !!!!!
Married ?  - Happily Not - But living with my long term (suffering) partner Jane

Fulltime occupation - Locomotive Fitter, based at GCR Loughbrough, working for, Locomotive Maintenance Services.

Previous employment:

                    - Theatre Engineer, Electro mechanical engineering for stage productions
                    - Railway Maintenance Technician For Bombardier Transportation, Working 

                       on the then "Virgin" fleet of tilting and non tilting DEMU's
                    - Steam Locomotive Fitter, Moveright International, worked for 5 years on the
                       rebuild of 4270 from Barry scrap yard condition, and assisted with operating 

                       Andrew Goodman's austerity loco No15 and NRM loco 3440 (3717) 
                       "City of Truro".

Joined Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway - 1994
Passed out as GWSR steam loco fireman - 1996
Passed out as GWSR steam loco driver - 2002

Hobbies - (Anything to do with railways and steam engines), Model Engineering, Travel, Gardening

In your time as chairman of the steam loco dept, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

"I would not say that I have personally achieved anything, but as a team WE, the department, have achieved much. I would like to think that I have acted fairly and tried to steer a safe passage for the department through another difficult year, I hope that I have helped each volunteer gain more of what they want from their railway. In the past few years the railway has struggled, indeed it has had to fight for survival, but with the efforts of everybody, we have come though the most challenging of times and I hope our volunteers can feel proud."

What has been the most challenging thing for you to cope with and how did you deal with it?

"In the preservation movement there are one or two real characters, who can sometimes appear (I'm sure they're not) to be on a totally different track (no pun intended), trying to work with them, through problems and make decisions based on what is best for the locomotive department can be a very difficult thing to do. We all have our own aspirations for the department and railway, but we must not lose track of the fact that as well as a fully functioning heritage railway we are still a hobby for all of our volunteers, without which the railway could not exist. I found that the best course of action when dealing with this dilemma was to ensure that I listened to each persons point of view. From these I could pick out common points that could be grouped together into new ideas and or problem solving, basically I would act as an ear piece for individuals and try to find a way of incorporating their suggestions into actions."

You have a long commute from Derbyshire to the GWSR, can we hope that you will remain as actively involved as you have been, or if not, what do you intend to do with your free time?

"Yes I do have a long commute of approx 200 miles, so I have to limit myself to attending every other weekend. By doing a Saturday and Sunday I can at least say that I have managed 1 full day on site each working week.
In addition to this onsite work I generally have spent each Friday working on department paperwork, communicating with other members and organising management meetings etc, trying to ensure the department runs smoothly. Evenings can also be taken up with answering emails and making telephone calls although, as I work long hours during the day, then some time in the evening to relax and socialise with my long suffering partner Jane is greatly appreciated (by both of us).

I do not intend reducing my commitment on site, indeed my main other role on the management team is Mechanical Responsible Person. With this role I am responsible for communication with loco owning groups, carrying out special investigations, ensuring repairs are carried out to a good standard and examining the locomotives to ensure they continue to operate safely on the railway for everybody to enjoy. Having more time to devote to this will be very beneficial during 2013 as we will have more operational locos arriving during the year and visitors for the steam gala. I have been fortunate during 2012 in that the loco owning groups themselves and several dedicated persons have helped me out when I was unavailable due to my chairmanship duties, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in again working on the locos where I belong.

At home I will hopefully gain much more free time, I can resume my model engineering activities which this year, have had to be shelved due to my workload. I currently have waiting for me 2 x 7 1/4" gauge railway wagons which need completing and a 7 1/4" gauge Great Western Collett Goods loco No 3205 which I was well on the way to having running on air. My 7 1/4" gauge GWR 1366 class locomotive also needs some small repairs and a boiler test and then hopefully I can visit some miniature railways around the country next year and have some fun."

If you weren't involved here, what would you have done instead?

"I started off with Model Railways, gradually progressing up the scales until I started model engineering activities, I was lucky in the days before Health and Safety replaced common sense, to be given the opportunity to work on, and drive miniature steam locomotives, even driving public passenger trains at 12 years old, something that would certainly not be allowed today. So if I had not turned up to the railway back in 1994 I guess I would still be working with steam, but to a different scale."

Given a big enough lottery win, which engine would you buy/have built from scratch and why?

"If I was lucky enough to win the lottery and assuming their would be anything left by the time my partner had completed her travel plans (she loves to travel - I love to come home!) then I would give serious thought to building a batch of GWR Collett Goods locos. The railway was fortunate enough to have 3205 based at Toddington a few years ago and she proved to be a star performer. the loco was big enough to do anything asked of her, but simple to work on and she looked good too!! - what railway fitter could ask for more. Its a pity only one example of this class of loco survived, as in my opinion they are perfect for a preserved railway."
3205 by Toddington coaling stage in 2004

3205 approaching Toddington from Winchcombe in 2005
What would you say to commend the GWSR to anyone considering volunteering here?

"If you are prepared to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in to working in the locomotive department, building yourself a good reputation and rapport with working volunteers, then the opportunities to make your own dreams a reality are within your grasp!!"
If you could offer just one piece of advice to your successor in the post, what would that be?

"Listen to everything people have to say, and where possible act on it. Give praise to others where it is deserved and encourage them, this should ensure volunteers go home happy and eager to come again. Our volunteers are everything."

Since interviewing Andy, it has been announced that Ian Butler will take over the mantle as department chairman. On behalf of the department I would like to wish Ian well in his appointment and to extend grateful thanks to Andy for all the hard work and dedication that he has put in on our behalf during his time in office. The fact that Andy is a fan of Collett 2251 class locos is all the excuse that I need to wheel out a couple of shots of the surviving member and if you can find 26 minutes to spare, you can find a rather excellent bit of footage filmed on the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway by the late John Betjeman which heavily features the class, by following this link.

3205 on the South Devon Railway

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A hard day’s shunt

In my last post you may have noticed that Austerity, Earl David had a warming fire in her.  I neglected to say why, for the simple reason that I had no idea why.  The following message and photos that I received from Jonathan Perks explains all:

"January 2nd was a busy day at Toddington with large numbers of volunteers starting the winter maintenance regimes for 2807, 7903 and 8274 (AKA 45160).  At the same time three of us were preparing Wemyss Private Railway No 15 Earl David for a day’s work.  The loco, a Hunslet designed War Department ‘Austerity’ 0.6.0ST has recently been returned to traffic at Wishaw and was on test prior to a visit to the Avon Valley Railway later in the year.  This tied in with a need to do a bit of shunting and rather than use a diesel, Earl David was to earn its keep for the day.

Firstly we tripped a parcels coach to Winchcombe and placed it in Carriage & Wagon’s yard, then doing a bit of shunting in the permanent way yard on the far side of the line, extracting a mermaid wagon from the depths of the back siding. Earl David then pushed the mermaid back through Toddington and all the way to Laverton, right into the headshunt.  Whilst steam has been to Laverton Loop in the last few months, this is the furthest (by a few yards at least) that steam has been since the line closed.  After well over an hours shunting in order to release some wagons for further track work, Earl David proceeded to work a rake of flat and ballast trucks back up the hill to Stanton where the wagons were left for the benefit of S&T. 
Earl David with the ballast train
A number of the road and footbridges enjoyed the noise of our engine digging into the climb.  Having uncoupled from the wagons which will be filled with ballast before being returned to Laverton by a diesel, Earl David returned to Toddington light engine for disposal.  
Disposal at the end of the day
 The end of a busy day which saw an Austerity doing exactly the sort of work it was built for."

The Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway has many unsung heroes amongst its volunteers, who do large amounts of work for little credit yet without whom the railway couldn't possibly function. The Permanent Way gang are high on that list of unsung heroes, and I personally find Nigel Black's pages on the flickr photo site to be an invaluable resource.  It was here that I first found out about the track work on Chicken Curve having been completed and the work on the run round loop at Laverton.  Nigel has kindly allowed me to include a couple of his photos of Earl David at Winchcombe with the mermaid wagon as mentioned above by Jonathan Perks.
Earl David with mermaid and 2 milk wagons
Steve Oddy on the footplate of Earl David with the mermaid. Jonathan Perks (trainee fireman) and George Forrest (driver) are out of view on the other side of the footplate.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Year

Well that's 2012 all done and dusted. Those passengers who could find the room to force down a mince pie or two on top of all the turkey from Christmas have now done so and all the locos have been safely tucked up in bed until the 2013 operating season kicks off for steam on March 9th (diesel railcars Feb 9th).  However for the crew of Stanier 8F, 45160 this morning, there were no mince pies and the mess coach was down to its very last tea bag.
Solitary tea bag in the tea pot
I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that this was a disaster worse than running out of coal, in fact nearly as bad as running out of beer.  A volunteer walkout was narrowly averted when Clive Norton managed to rustle up some emergency supplies of tea bags from deep within the bowels of his kit bag.

This Season’s Santa Specials have exceeded our previous best  in spite of the fact that we managed to sleigh Santa  and of course, the past year has been significant in the railway's history; the million pound appeal reached its target and the works to reinstate the line at Chicken Curve after the landslip of 2 years ago have been completed, culminating in the reopening event on October 30th.
Historically, Chicken Curve has been one of the most popular locations for line side photographers to congregate. This shot kindly provided by Paul Stratford of a beautifully back lit Kinlet Hall at Chicken Curve is an example what can be achieved here.
4936 Kinlet Hall on Chicken Curve (pre-landslip)

It would be easy to lean back on our laurels at this point in time and relax thinking that the hard work is over and done with.  Nothing could be further from the truth of course, there is still all the winter maintenance to be done, not just on the locos, but for all departments of the railway, be it permanent way, buildings, signal & telegraph, carriage & wagon etc. Mike Hoskin of the Churchill 8F group has already sent out an extremely lengthy email outlining all the work that he is looking for volunteers to assist with over the next couple of months.  I have no doubt that the 7903 and 2807 groups will be doing likewise in the near future.  Somehow I rather fear that what many rashly assume to be the ‘quiet season’ will actually turn out to be the busiest.

Our return to Toddington this evening found Andrew Goodman’s Austerity, Earl David stood on road 9 with a warming fire in her. I thought that the 8F and Earl David made quite a nice contrasting pair of ex-war dept locomotives, especially with Mike Hoskin symbolically blowing out the lamps of the 8F for the last time in what was still technically the 2012 season.
45160 & No 15,  Earl David
Finally, thanks are due again to Clive, Adrian, Paul & Mike for permitting me to join them during the course of the day. Thanks are also due to Karl for helping out with the cleaning of the 8F this morning.  They epitomise the warm, friendly and welcoming volunteers that I have had the privilege to work with over the course of the last running season.  Here's looking forward to a very happy new year for the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway, its volunteers and all of the readers of this blog.