Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Final Furlong

Saturday saw feverish activity at Toddington to finish off the winter maintenance programmes on the operational fleet of locos in readiness for the commencement of steam services this coming Saturday and the Cheltenham Race Course Festival on the 12th -15th March. In fact it's worse than that, as there is one of the ever popular Fire & Drive courses booked for Friday, so at least one of the tender locos needs to be ready for then.  Before we get into that though, I'm informed that not everybody is as well clued up on Monty Python as they should be and part of the blog entry entitled Things that go bang will have gone whizzing over some people's heads.  Don't fret, the concept of Norwegian blue air compressors pining for the fjords will suddenly make sense if you view the dead parrot sketch. You get good value for money on this blog, steam and comedy classics too.  What more could you possibly ask for?

Anyway, it is a while since we had any news of 2807 and her progress this winter.  When pressed on the matter, Geof Adlington obliged by swiftly producing a written report within minutes of being asked.  If only all of my journalistic endeavours met with such a prompt response.
2807 basking in a rare bit of sunshine on Saturday
Works this winter on 2807 have included replacing the safety valve springs.  During my occasional forays onto the footplate, I've noticed that several of our locos are prone to blow off light and there is something of an art to knowing just how close you can allow each loco to get to the red line on its pressure gauge before you really do need to get the injectors on.  Sometimes that is quite some way before the red line is reached.  Points are definitely deducted if you allow a loco to blow off, so I'm pleased to be able to report that the new springs were checked during a steam test and were seen to start lifting at 220 psig and fully blow at 226 psig.  Of course I'll have no excuses now.
The new safety valve springs
Apparently they have some even stiffer square section springs to hand which they'll fit later this month.

The valve gear was inspected, but found to be perfectly ok and simply put back together again.
Inspecting the valve gear
Similarly measurements on the con-rods revealed no wear had taken place, though a loose lubrication pad was found on the left hand cross head which was replaced and which will hopefully cure the excessive oil consumption that had been a feature of the last season's running.

Steam heating is regarded by passengers as more of a necessity than a luxury at this time of year and prospective customers will doubtless be relieved to learn that the Mason's valve which failed late last season has now been stripped down and fixed.  

A broken tapered pin that secured the reversing arm to the wayshaft was allowing to much side play in the reversing arm.  It should have been a simple job but turned out to be quite problematic.  Part of the job involved replacing a bush which had to be heated cherry red before being inserted and then being allowed to cool and contract into place.  Unfortunately nobody thought to take a picture at the time, so you'll just have to make do with this view of the finished article.
Finished reversing arm and wayshaft
The winter break hasn't allowed the renewal of all the tapered motion pins and the expansion link bushes however at least the right hand side has been done.
As an experiment, 2807 is being kitted out with chrome alloy firebars, which if they are as good as the manufacturers claim will not only last the life of the boiler, but in all probability clean the grate as they go.  I was rather disappointed to discover that chrome firebars don't shine like the chrome plate on bath taps and showed absolutely no sign at all of being self-cleaning.
Non self-cleaning chrome alloy firebars
Finally as regards 2807 and continuing with the theme of this season's hi-viz fashions, I think we have finally found a winner.  Geof.... at least I think it's Geof in there, models the very latest  sensation on Toddington's equivalent of the cat walk. 
And you thought that shoulder pads were over-done in the eighties!
There you have it, the latest in designer fashions, Churchward's finest.  If the chap who runs the shop on Toddington station's platform 1 has got his wits about him he'll be placing an order for dozens of these as they are sure to sell like hot cakes!  Rumour has it that a certain Kate & William have placed an advance order.

Elsewhere about the department, the coal dock and ash disposal dock are taking shape.  Several more posts were required to be concreted into place.  Mark Young commenced the proceedings by trimming an unwanted flange off of a girder that was going to be pressed into service as a post.
Flange removal in progress
 Concrete sleepers are just a little too heavy to be easily manhandled into place, so a little mechanical help was employed.
Dropping a concrete sleeper into place
Ade Showell seems to be happy that the new post is vertical
Meanwhile work was still progressing on Foremarke Hall, which is where I ended up spending much of my day.  The right hand buffer needed some work doing to it, so in best Blue Peter tradition, rather than work on it, here is one that John Cruxon had prepared earlier:
Being too heavy to cart about in one piece, John had fetched it along as a kit of parts that just needed some minor reassembly.  I'd always been curious as to how a buffer was constructed and how they come apart, well now I know.

Getting the old buffer off wasn't too difficult, the bolts that held it in place however required some gentle persuasion.
John Cruxon being persuasive.  Note the broken lead hammer which had turned out not to be quite persuasive enough.
Cliff Faulkner cleaned up and primed the area previously concealed by the old buffer
It was a bit too cold for painting really, but needs must etc
The firebars that Clive had fitted last week were apparently not fitting too well at the front and didn't have quite enough room to expand.  As a result they all had to come out again, a new support had to be crafted for the front end and then everything needed putting back together again.  

This involved some cutting...
.... and some welding
Part of the process involved fetching one of the new long chrome alloy firebars out 2807 to check out if it fitted ok.  After all the turkey & so on back at Christmas, I am pleased to be able to report that I can still just about squeeze myself in through a GWR firebox door with only minimal recourse to mild expletives.  I didn't even need to apply grease to my overalls to help me slide in.

And finally,  Sean Nielsen, the GWSR's senior firing instructor informed me that he would have no difficulty at all in eluding my camera all day.  Well how could I resist a challenge like that! After a few half-hearted attempts with my point and shoot camera to lull him into a false sense of security, I sneaked off to the boot of my car where I had rather more serious weaponry stashed away.  The result:
Oops, he spotted me
Doing his best to spoil the shot
Eventually, what passes for normal
Yes, yes, I know,  I've shot myself in the foot as regards any hope of becoming a fireman, however if Sean was to be believed I didn't have much hope anyway.


  1. Some of your close-up shots are useful to modellers. Do you mind if I use them please? In this case the two, one of the safety valves and the other of the covers being held by the male model.....

    1. Hello Howard,

      Of course not, no problem. If you'd like the photos in larger sizes, send me an email address and I'll forward them on to you.