Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Things that go bang

The last few weeks at the GWSR kicked off with something of a bang.  Now there are good sorts of bangs and there are bad sorts of bangs.  Fireworks on bonfire night for instance would come under the heading of good bangs.  Connecting rods in air compressors busting out through crank cases however would definitely come under the heading of bad bangs.  Given that it is February rather than November, guess which type of bang that I'm referring to. Mercifully the GWSR has more than one air compressor, but this particular one has probably compressed its last.
Little end gone big, big end gone bigger, con rods gone bang!
Norwegian blue air compressor, pining for the fjords
"It's not pining, it's passed on. This air compressor is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late air compressor. It's a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn't nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies. It's rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-air compressor."

The winter maintenance programme on Foremarke Hall took a step forward on Saturday as numerous members of the steam loco dept busied themselves on the outstanding tasks.  Adrian refitted the injector cones and Clive refitted the firebars into the grate.  2807 has now been fitted out with Chrome alloy firebars which should, if they do what they say on the tin last the rest of her 10 year boiler ticket.  This of course means that there were now plenty of firebars available for Foremarke Hall.
Spotlight on Clive, centre stage in Foremarke Hall's firebox
Clive refitting firebars
Meanwhile up at the pointy end of Foremarke Hall, more people than were strictly necessary were busy refitting the valve covers.  I'll confess to have lost the plot a bit as to the exact sequence of events now however the left hand one went on, came back off and then went back on again.  
Phil keeps a close eye on the valve cover's nuts and washers
Paul Greasing the valve cover gasket
Ben fitting the valve cover and the fingers of  the otherwise camera shy Sean
Having removed it again, replacing one of the bushes
Steve refitting the valve cover again
Foremarke Hall being taken to the water tower... you can lead a Hall to water but you can't make it drink
Elsewhere, 8F, 8274 has had her valve gear refitted and Nick was to be found cleaning up the connecting rods prior to them being varnished and refitted.
Nick cleaning 8274's connecting rods
Sometime during the preceding week, work has been done on the coal dock with works to add an ash pit to the end of it.
Coal dock & ash pit taking shape
Yours truly found gainful employment on the external refurbishment of the mess coach.  Over the years, the mess coach has become.... well messy.  The clue is in the name really.  The task in hand now is to turn it out in a tasteful chocolate & cream livery in time for the Cotswold Steam Celebration gala  in May. It was far too cold to permit any painting to take place (snow flakes fell but failed to settle for most of the day) however there was nothing to stop a concerted effort in sanding down the coach's exterior in readiness for painting when warmer weather arrives.
Jamie rather noisily sanding what is allegedly a quiet coach
Tina applying rust inhibitor.
Dan applying rust inhibitor too, though for some bits it's a bit like closing the stable doors after the horse has bolted.  I find the 'No Brakes' notice a little disconcerting
Andy Beale taking a break with some 'thirst inhibitor'
Speaking of Andy, he was collared a little later in the day whilst walking past our resident Merchant Navy.  In his own words, this is what transpired:

"I made the mistake of walking past SR 35006 just as one of their team was trying to manhandle a long irregular pipe into the cab. Was I doing anything for a few minutes.... 2 hours later we had satisfactorily installed that and many of the steam pipes from the boiler manifold to the injectors? These had been bent to shape a couple of years back and some were finally going on for their final fit. Unfortunately a certain 25 mm odd conduit pipe which houses the whistle actuating rod now fouled two of the injector steam delivery pipes so some more tweaking is required. It's now coming on week by week with the painters doing their bit as well, with the main driving wheels now receiving attention."

Andy also noticed something which had eluded me.  Ex GWR, 2-8-0T, 4270 now has a chimney attached.  He even kindly took a photo to prove it:-
4270, now with chimney. Photo courtesy of Andy Beale

Monday, 18 February 2013

8F 8274 Winter Maintenance Update

Like all the rest of our operational locos, Stanier 8F, 8274 (TCDD 45160) has been undergoing winter maintenance.  She was the last loco in service over the Santa/mince pie special season, running the bulk of the turns between Christmas and New Year.  The fact that the other locos effectively got off to a head start on winter maintenance has spurred the members of the Churchill 8F group on to catch up.  On Saturday I caught up with Mike Hoskin and his team to bring you a report on what the progress that has been made.

The first thing to note is that she is now back in her LMS guise as opposed to Turkish one.
Istanbul not Constantinople, 8274, not 45160
Aside from the cosmetic changes, the rocking grate has been removed and cleaned ready for reassembly. most bars show signs of burning but the grate has performed very well requiring only a small number of replacement segments Most of the segments are still the originals from 2010 when the loco first went into traffic.
Mostly removed rocking grate
Ade Showell rebuilding the grate (photo courtesy of Paul Richardson)
Paul Richardson & Chris Brooks passing parts of the grate into the firebox for reassembly
All the rods have been removed for attention to the thrust rings and new rings are being produced and to a different design to try and resist wear. Work is still in progress and will take another few weeks yet. It's quite complicated and precise work.
Removed rods
New bush on the right trailing wheel
The dome cover has been removed and the regulator valve assembly lapped in and steps taken to reduce the wear on the pilot valve seat. this has now been reassembled and signed off.
Dome cover removed
The removal of the right hand cylinder valve to replace a suspected broken ring revealed one of the ring stops had worked free resulting in not one, but two broken rings. The opportunity was taken to give the whole valve spindle a makeover, the work of which is now complete and is ready for reinsertion into the valve chest.
Valve chest awaiting the return of the valve spindle

Various other small tasks have been undertaken such as the repainting of the running plate and the inside of the tender.
Repainted running plate

The tender
For reasons that were not clear to me, 8274's tender was included in a shunting operation taking place on Foremarke Hall, every time I went near it to grab a photo it seemed to be on the move again.

Hopefully she'll soon be fully back together again and looking just as good as when she first entered traffic in 2010
Running as 45160 in the 2010 winter gala

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Foremarke Hall latest

It's a month now since the last update on the winter maintenance programme being carried out on Foremarke Hall.  John Cruxon, Foremarke Hall's locomotive manager has kindly provided an update on where things are at the moment:

"Saturday 2nd February saw the buffer swap, then several members of the steam dept needle gunned the buffer beam back to bare metal, before it was given a coat of anti-corrosive primer. It will soon be finished painted, but it is too cold at the moment. The displaced buffer is undergoing refurbishment in my garage at home."
"You will also see the buffer beam is in primer with one red buffer. The red buffer is an overhauled buffer to replace one that looked as though the spring was suspect.

Wednesday the 6th February, George Forrest took John Hancock and myself to Tyseley to collect the new valve assemblies and various other bits.

Saturday 9th February saw a massive team of members help to refit the valves and pistons and start the reconnection process.

Wednesday 13th February saw the completion of the majority of the work to reconnect the pistons and valves to the motion."

"Saturday the 16th February will involve the checking of the valve timing to ensure the motion is timed correctly to the pistons etc. Once the timing is complete the few remaining bits can be fitted and the engine prepared for her first steam test."

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Penalty for improper use £50

Last Sunday saw me back at Toddington to learn more of the theory of operation of steam locomotives.  Meanwhile, other members of the steam loco dept were having fun in the car park, being instructed in the dark arts of driving the various mechanical diggers/fork lifts etc that we have scattered around the place. Apparently we need all the drivers in the dept to be able to load coal onto the locos using these things.  Given that the alternative is to fill tenders/bunkers by hand, I'm all for this.  Shoveling coal from tender to grate, then the residue from the ashpan/smoke box to the ash pit is hard enough without having to shovel it from the coal dock into the tender as well.  Soon various drivers were to be seen performing graceful balletic manoeuvres in a fork lift truck around the car park.  Not being completely stupid, I manoeuvred my car well away from the scene of the crime before they started.
Ian Butler in the fork lift
Mike, Ian & Andy watch Rod shifting a blue crate
Students of fashion will doubtless be interested in this season's range of hi-viz clothing; Mike (fork lift instructor) has gone with lime green, Andy Beale has selected the more traditional for railways orange, whilst Ian Butler has chosen 'stealth black'.  Several blog entries ago, I reported on the new path from the wood store to the pits and that Ben, Clive & Sean had created it. As it turns out I was wrong, Ian Butler, Andy Webber & Neal Cooper had in fact made the path. My apologies to all concerned.  Ian as it turns out is not just our new dept head, path maker and fork lift driver (yes he passed), but also an advanced practitioner of the ancient Japanese art of origami. He was to be seen later on demonstrating his skills in the mess coach.  The absence of paper didn't deter him and he soon enthralled all present with his creation using some left over silver foil.  Sadly no cameras were on hand to record the event for this blog.

In the afternoon I thought I'd make myself useful with whatever was going on around the railway. As it happened, most of the steam loco dept members present were giving one of the DMU cars its equivalent of an MOT.  Why do various members of the steam loco dept own a DMU you might well ask?  Well the answer is to be found on the Cotswold Diesel Railway LTD's website.  Anyway, today was the day for car 51405 to receive its equivalent of an MOT.  There was plenty to be done. My first task was to take a grease gun to the grease nipples on each of the 3 hinges on every door.... there are hundreds of doors on these things.  I've decided that DMU stands for Door Moving Unit.
51405 and just one of its multitude of doors
Meanwhile Dan discovered that just like old cars, they're prone to leaking oil.  With old cars, you end up with a black patch on your drive or in your garage.  With a DMU, if you happen to be stood underneath it in the inspection pit, you end up with a black patch on your face.
Dan now knows not to loiter under DMUs
George was also underneath, I think at this point changing the oil filter, but I could be wrong.  Note he is wisely wearing oil drip proof headgear.
George can afford to smile as he is safe from oil drips
I asked Ian to pose alongside 51405 in a proprietorial manner however he decided that he'd prefer to be photographed doing something.
Ian at work
Andy was also on hand, again, I'm not entirely sure what he was doing here, but by the look of it he's having a little trouble undoing a bolt on one of the rocker covers.
Andy at work
Finally I spent a little while with Ian going through the checks in the cab on the controls, testing the emergency brake etc.  Best of all was getting to  pull the emergency chain (penalty for improper use £50).  I have always wanted to do that.

This was something of a coincidence as the class room instruction in the morning had made reference to footplate crew responsibilities in the case of alarm chains being pulled. Unfortunately there was no 'butterfly' outside the carriage to be reset, the reset mechanism was in the cab itself.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Youngest Fireman

For this the second in the series of interviews of the 'great & the good' of the GWSR's steam loco dept, I picked on chose Ben Evason. Ben has just given up his job as a Train Manager (Guard in old money) with Cross Country Trains to become a trainee driver with First Great Western.  
Ben with an early GWSR DMU, he'll soon be driving more up to date examples
 I understand that you passed out as a fireman on the GWSR at the earliest possible opportunity, your 18th birthday, how did that come about?

I passed out on the GWSR the day after my 18th birthday, yes the earliest opportunity to do so. I had been involved with the GWSR ever since the visit of Kinlet Hall a long while back. After the engine left I stayed. Got to know a few people and got stuck in with the work. After proving myself I was asked to begin my fireman training, but advised I couldn't become qualified until I turned 18. Needless to say I got the bug and 8 years on I'm still as passionate about steam.

You have subsequently passed out as a guard and only last year passed out as a driver on the GWSR. Are there any other roles within the railway that you aspire to?

I think for the time being I'll stick to the operating side of things. Its was a big year last year for me. Finally being trusted and privileged enough to drive a steam locomotive is such an amazing feeling, especially as I had to wait until being 25!  In my previous job I was a train manager, so becoming a guard was just another way I could help the railway. I am interested in signalling but over the next year I have a massive career move so I need to focus on that really.

Congratulations on having been accepted for driver training with First Great Western. What are your ambitions in your new job?

I loved my job as a Train Manager / guard, but have always wanted to be a driver. I have been chasing this dream for a couple of years, being prepared to move anywhere to achieve this. Then suddenly it was my time, a stroke of luck. A phone call on 21st December revealed I was offered a post at Bristol, I'm sure you can imagine my reaction!
I have worked through the ranks to get this driver's role and have a tough year of training ahead. I can imagine that when I have the controls for the first time on my own it will feel much the same.

You have an active role in the support crew of Kinlet Hall, what does that entail?

Kinlet Hall is the nearest I will get to calling an engine mine! Being a relatively small share holder, I may have claim to a bolt or two! I got involved with 'Gertie' 9 years ago now when I used to be a cleaner at the West Somerset Railway. I guess some might say I was poached! I then gained my PTS and was allowed to go mainline. There's something about an engine doing 60mph mile after mile after mile that makes me keep wanting more, a kind of addiction. Although we don't do a huge amount there is still an awful lot of work to do, and a lot of minding when she goes on her gallops. So 9 years down the line we have been many places and I have learnt so much but my thanks also goes to my best mate and fellow 4936er Andy Beale. Without who I wouldn't be where I am today or have had such a fab time 'on the road'.
Ben on the footplate of Kinlet Hall
For anyone that is interested on March 23rd come see Kinlet,  double headed halls  up the Lickey!
Kinlet Hall departing Williton on the West Somerset Railway
Kinlet Hall at Minehead
 You are part of the organising committee of this year's  Cotswold Steam Celebration Gala   in May. Tell us more about what is being planned, and your specific role on the committee.

GALA = STRESS. When you go to a gala you think oh that's nice engines going choo choo, lots of things to do and oh look they're running late! Now being part of the organising committee for the Cotswold Steam Celebration I know how much has to go into a gala. My personal role is to create a timetable that is useable, look after Winchcombe site and sort out loco diagrams. Plus anything else that is thrown my way! It has been challenging at times, but we have a good team and we work well together. Highlights will be trains passing at every station, freight trains, brake van rides, steam to Laverton and of course our high profile visiting engines. It's not long to go now and things are coming into place nicely. Not going to lie, I'm a little excited already. I strongly feel that this will put the GWR firmly back on the map with the big boys.

You have just taken on the role of roster clerk and instigated online rostering. How is that process working out?

Bringing the steam department into the 21st century..... Sounds a little ironic to me. But yes I am now wearing my roster clerk hat! Fact, no one likes change. But online rostering will make things so much easier. It will take time for everyone to adjust including myself. With my new job I thought I could take on a role that would not require me to spend extra time at the railway. I can completely work from home. So having now posted the March roster, when I next go to Toddington I can see if people are happy or not. As one department member said to me ' you will be the most hated person at the railway'. My response was eeekkkk, I hope not. I am very much looking forward to challenge that rostering will be!

Ben is wrong on that last note, the most 'hated person on the railway' will always be the fool that edits the blog, whatever you say you will offend somebody, and quite possibly everybody.   Trawling through my own archives I have turned up a couple of photos of Kinlet Hall during her visit to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway in 2005, which is quite probably her visit to the railway that got Ben started here.
Kinlet Hall at Toddington
Kinlet Hall between Winchcombe & Toddington on a demonstration freight