Monday, 27 January 2014

Meetings - The Practical Alternative to Work

What can I tell you about the steam loco dept's annual general meeting on Saturday?  Well I can certainly say, without the slightest fear of contradiction, that the seats were supremely uncomfortable.  There was absolutely no danger of anybody nodding off to sleep.  Representatives from Guantanamo Bay were on hand to evaluate the use of the seats as a viable alternative to water boarding.  They seemed suitably impressed with the results.  

Mark Young is now officially our new chairman, though in reality he has already been doing the job for a few months as Ian had stepped down early.  The highlight of the meeting for me is the section on the status of all the locomotives on site, I made some notes:

7903, Foremarke Hall:  The strip down for overhaul continues.  The blower ring never did separate from the chimney and eventually the chimney was removed with the blower ring still attached.  Dismantling is progressing well.  Later on in the afternoon, Dan and I spent a while extricating the studs to which the safety valves had been attached.  They'd been there for ten years and had no intention of giving in without a fight.
Where the safety valves should be
Dan coercing one of the studs to come out
Job done
 Unfortunately one of the studs sheared off and will need to be drilled out later.

Neil and Tim (in the smokebox) were working on pressing out the smoke box retaining bolts.  They weren't keen to move either.
Neil on the outside, Tim just visible on the inside
2807:    The ash pan modifications and new safety valve springs had been done, a new regulator valve is still to be fitted.  She remains at Tyseley having her horn guides worked on and is expected to be back in May, in time for the gala.  Something that I wasn't aware of is the WWI commenced on 28/07/1914, so exactly 100 years later they are intending to hold a 2807 supporters day event.

During the afternoon, Bruce, Gilbert and Paul were to be found working on the brakes on 2807's tender (which remains at Toddington):
L-R, Bruce, Gilbert and Paul
8274:    Few problems encountered during the year, a new grate of the same materials as is fitted to 2807 and 7903 is to be fitted.

44027:   A very long written report was presented by Paul, which can be summarised as she is progressing well, the bottom end largely done and she is hoped to be in steam next year.  A recent update as to their progress can be found on their blog.

4270:     Passed in frame steam test, "She'll be done when she's done".
I took a few photos in the cab, she now has a floor, most of a backhead and some of her controls installed since last I looked:
4270's cab floor
Most of the backhead and some controls
The cab layout of 4270 is very similar to that of 5542, except that it's rather roomier.

 35006, Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co:   No report received however it transpired that several members of her team were jacking up the tender water tank a bit to allow the underside to be painted:
"Not to be moved"... well not not be moved horizontally anyway.
Once again, a recent update can be found on the main GWSR website.

7820, Dinmore Manor:  Things are progressing very well.  She'll appear at Toddington in unlined BR black with a borrowed black tender sometime in March if all goes to plan.  She'll go into lined BR green later in the year.

2874:   (Not to be confused with 2807 or 8274).  She has arrived and restoration will commence once Dinmore Manor is finished.  The weather had been pretty foul all day, but as there was a nice break in the clouds just before sunset, I couldn't resist grabbing a couple of photos of our newest arrival:
I won't let the sun go down on me
Reflecting on days gone by.
Mark mentioned that all of our locomotive owning groups would be extremely welcoming of new volunteers to assist in the restoration/maintenance of our steam fleet.  Should you be interested in volunteering at the GWSR in any department, then the details of how to go about it and what to expect can be found on our website.

Aside from the working locos etc, Andy gave a few notes on the upcoming gala in May (24th - 26th).  The theme will be 'Back to Black' and it is intended that the majority of the locos running will be in black livery.  The first guest loco has now been confirmed as being Black Five, 45379 from our friends at the Mid-Hants Railway:
45379 leads 34007, Wadebridge on the Mid Hants Railway
And finally, we had an award ceremony of sorts. The "Percy Pig, hog-of-the-year" for the engineman who has completed the greatest number of turns in the 2013 season. The award was presented by Steve to John who had managed more turns than anybody else (sorry, I've forgotten how many it was now). Mark Young kindly provided me with this photo.

Steve presents John with his certificate

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Welcome 2874

Howard has forwarded me a couple of photos of Tim & Dave at work last Wednesday, who along with Howard finished off painting the containers that face the car park into a fetching shade of brown.  Hopefully now that they are finished, the local graffiti artists can be encouraged to find something better to do with their time than deface them.  Unless of course the graffiti artist concerned is Banksy, in which case we could sell the containers complete with graffiti for an extortionate sum of money.
Hard at work
Dave (left) & Tim, Howard was behind the camera
Paul Richardson has very kindly sent through the following photos of Kev pressure washing the 8F on Wednesday.  Judging by the cleanliness of everything, I expect these are 'after' rather than 'before' shots:
Somewhere under the 8F
Somewhere else under the 8F
A squeaky clean exterior of the 8F
 Not quite everything scrubbed up as well as it might have done though, Kev looked far from clean afterwards:
Kev... in need of a shower.
On to Saturday, plenty more things were going on.  The main piece of work once more was stripping down Foremarke Hall ready for going to Tyseley for her overhaul.
Her superheater elements had been removed on Wednesday
I started off by helping several people remove Foremarke Hall's backhead cladding.  We had been advised that it would come off in just a few parts.  John insisted that the section from the warming plate upwards for instance should be removable as a single piece.  Well, John was right, but it wasn't anywhere near as easy as he had made it sound. Eventually we managed to get the lot off:
Backhead cladding removed
Tim mentioned that Foremarke Hall didn't look anywhere near so good without her cladding.  Somebody else (name withheld to protect the guilty) said "Much like my wife".  Once again I had my handy journalist's tape recorder running to keep track of what was said.  I'm sure that a large well-stuffed brown envelope will be coming my way shortly to prevent the recording getting into the wrong hands. 

I spent much of the rest of the day pressure washing the items that were salvaged from Foremarke Hall as a large team of people bashed/gas axed/cursed carefully removed them.  A selection of the items are shown here:
Regulator assembly
Paul stripping the hydrostatic lubricator
Back head cladding
Ejector and other bits
Just to prove that it is possible to operate a pressure washer and take a photo:
Pressure washing the backhead cladding
You'll be pleased to know that I largely managed to keep myself clean too, unlike Kev on Wednesday.

Not quite everything went to plan though, the blower ring didn't want to separate from the chimney.  No end of cursing cajoling hitting with big hammers or heating would persuade the two to part company.  It will have to be left until Wednesday to be finished off:
Steve and Will at work on the blower ring in the smoke box
The anaconda wrestling team from last week were back in action again:
Ian, Paul and George with the anaconda
I got roped into this myself at one point.  What they were trying to do was get a replacement DMU connecting corridor cover onto the three wire formers that would give it its shape.  The wire formers had been generously lubricated with washing up liquid of all things to help the cover slide on.  Come the first day in service during a rain storm and the DMU carriages will be filled with soap suds and surprised passengers.
Ian shelters from the rain under the anaconda.
The big news, was the arrival on site of ex-GWR 28XX class, 2874.  Howard sent me these three photos of her arrival on Wednesday:
2874 arrives on a low-loader
Fireman's side cylinder
A 'worse for the wear' cab side
So what can I tell you about 2874? Well as for the history, she is a sister to our own 2807 but built slightly later, entering traffic on 30th November 1918, shortly after the end of World War One.  Upon nationalisation of the railways in 1948, she was shedded at Banbury (84C) and finished her days at Neath (87A) being withdrawn on 31st May 1963.  In July 1963, she was sent to the legendary Barry Island Scrapyard and managed to remain there until August 1987, when she became the 191st loco to be saved for preservation from there.  I visited Barry Island Scrapyard in May 1978 (yup, and I'm still only 21), although I didn't take any photos of her at that time, Peter Brabham did though just a few years later.  Note that in the photo that I linked to there, 2874 has no tender.  She left Barry in August 1987 as one of five locos purchased by Terry Rippingale for restoration at the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway.  I have visited the P&BR a number of times over the years and have a few photos in my archives of her during that time:
A poor substitute for a brass cabside number and a small information panel
 Curiously the note on the side contradicts information elsewhere on the internet by claiming that she was withdrawn 19/05/63 and not 31/05/63.  Make of that what you will.
Note, she has now been paired up with a 3500 gallon tender
No buffers...
... and no motion either
As can readily be seen from the above photos, 2874 was never modified to have outside steam pipes, which is relatively uncommon amongst preserved ex-GWR locos, 4270 being one of the others.

No obvious restoration work took place on 2874 during her time at the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway.  On the 3rd of April, 2008, she was moved again, this time to new owners, the West Somerset Railway.  This was a short lived ownership, and she was then bought by her current owners Dinmore Manor LTD and was moved to their private location on 16th December 2009.  Now that Dinmore Manor is nearing the end of her current rebuild, the owning group has shipped her to Toddington for restoration to commence in earnest.

Needless to say I grabbed a number of photos of her during the course of Saturday. 
2874 in her new home.  Note, no tender.
The fireman's side piston rod wasn't disconnected from the cross head with care
 Whilst the motion on the fireman's side was completely missing, the driver's side had fared marginally better:
Not just the whole piston rod, but the cross head too
She even had the mortal remains of one of her coupling rods
Not many cab fittings in the cab.
 I asked Dan if he thought we'd be passed out as firemen before she steamed again.  He thought we'd probably be passed out as drivers by then.
Dan tries out the driver's side of the cab for size.
She still possesses her reverser
Inside the firebox, no grate or brick arch.
The eccentric rods have gone AWOL
I don't think that's a standard Swindon issue safety valve bonnet
Inside the smoke box, some items are missing or hacked about, such as the petticoat, blower, ejector and parts of the superheater.  A surprising large amount was left though:
So that's where the steam pipes were hiding!
 I had hoped to catch up with Mark Young (as he's a member of the Dinmore Manor group) and quiz him about what's happened to the tender, how many of the missing bits do they have in storage and how many more still need to be acquired etc.  Sadly he wasn't around on Saturday, but I'll hopefully catch up with him in the next week or two and get some answers.  Watch this space.  Meanwhile, the links to other GWSR related websites on the right hand side of this blog have been updated to include, not only the newly started blog for the Cheltenham Racecourse platform 2 construction, but several more relating to Dinmore Manor and of course 2874's own blog. 

Edit:  According to the news section of the main GWSR website, the missing tender is currently restored and paired with 9351 on the West Somerset Railway. 

Later edit:  A photo in GWR service has been unearthed here.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Another Brick in the Hall

I'm all for people sending in photos for this blog, especially if they're accompanied by an interesting, informative and preferably amusing description of what is going on.  Why on earth wouldn't I be, it saves me from having to think of something to write about.  This week, I received a few images from Brian Rowe, who along with his children had visited the GWSR for one of the Santa specials.  So far so good.  Unfortunately, the photos all managed to include me. Brian must have a bullet proof camera as it seems that taking photos of me failed to crack the lens.  It's always nice to know that we have had happy customers and to be able to report on it, but pictures of me appearing in here is hardly going to encourage people to visit us, quite the opposite in fact.  My Photoshop skills are basic to say the least, so I had a quiet word with the Photoshop fairy, who is a very good friend of mine.  She knew exactly what to do in the circumstances:
Brian's children
Chris, the Christmas Elf.
Thank you very much to Brian for providing the photos, and I'm glad that the Santa Specials were so enjoyable for you and your family. 

On to this week.  The gentlemen's convenience in the yard at Toddington is not normally a suitable topic for inclusion here, however I couldn't fail to notice that a new sign had appeared on the door:
Time and motion study
 Several people were seen to enter making a careful note of the time as they went in.

My spy in the 35006 camp had let me know that a few more cosmetic touches had taken place during the week:
Driver's side trailing driving wheel is now in final gloss black..
... and one of the smoke deflectors has acquired a black topcoat as well
I noted that an article in this month's issue of Steam Railway magazine regarding 35006, which whilst not being definitive on the subject, at least raised the hope that she might steam again in 2014, 50 years since she was withdrawn.  Like many others, I can't wait.

It's farewell to 2807 for a while too.  She's off to Tyseley for some remedial work on her horn guides.  Access underneath has been improved by the removal of some of the vacuum brake and steam heat piping.  Separated from her tender, she was moved out onto the unloading road in the car park for collection during the week.  All being well, the remedial work on her horn guides won't take too long and she'll be returned to us in time for the start of the new season in March.

2807 being shunted into the car park
Waiting in the car park
  Also in the car park, was the amusing spectacle of a number of grown men who appeared to be wrestling with a giant anaconda. They were in fact trying to get a replacement DMU corridor connecting cover to go over the three metal hoops that would give it its shape.  The anaconda didn't give up without a fight.

Snake charming
Aside from all of that though, most other people were roped into dismantling Foremarke Hall in readiness for shipping her to Tyseley for her boiler rebuild.  In some ways it's a bit of a sad process, but on the other hand, the quicker we crack on with it, the sooner she'll be back with us again.  I started off with Sean, dismantling the brick arch. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that even after a surfeit of turkey and plum pudding at Christmas, I was still able to squeeze myself into the firebox.  It was a bit strange though as most of the items that you depend on to pull yourself back out with were now missing from the cab:
Bare backhead
The brick arch... now you see it...
... now you don't
 I'd always regarded brick arches as being pretty robust items and was surprised at just how easy it was to dismantle.  In what seemed like no time at all, I had removed the bricks and passed them out to Sean on the footplate.

Elsewhere around Foremarke Hall, a multitude of people were busying themselves removing bits.  Most of the bits being removed were in the smoke box, or connected to bits in the smoke box.

John disconnected the steam pipes
Dan in the smoke box disconnecting the blower
 Asbestos hasn't been permitted for use as an insulating material in steam locomotives for some considerable time.  During her rebuild after rescuing from Barry Island scrap yard, Foremarke Hall was put back together with an asbestos substitute, meaning that it could now be removed quite safely without the need for quarantining the loco in a depressurised polythene container and sending in men in space suits to do the work.
Paul removes some of the asbestos substitute
 After removing a few bits of pipe work from the smoke box, I found myself spending the afternoon cleaning bits of Foremarke Hall as they came off the loco.  The pressure washer is a fun bit of kit to play with.
Just about proving that you can operate the pressure washer with one hand
Chris interrupted me briefly and borrowed the pressure washer to clean the JCB.  You'll note that he is rather better dressed for the task than I was. Waterproof trousers were definitely a good idea, the bottoms of my overalls were remarkably damp by the time I had finished.

Chris cleans the JCB
 The price for borrowing the pressure washer was to send me a couple of photos for this blog that you'll find at the end.... and of course he cleaned up one of the panels of Foremarke Hall for me while he was at it.
Somewhere in the foam is a panel from Foremarke Hall
 The pressure washer has a minimum level for diesel in one of its tanks.  There is no mention of what dire consequences await if you allow the diesel to fall below the level of the line, but I chose not to find out and refilled it when it got down to here.
  I had made a pile of nicely cleaned bits in anticipation of an "I cleaned this lot" photo at the end of the day.  Before I'd finished though, Clive, John & Dan started shifting them away for storage, so I grabbed this shot of the ones that they had left behind before they were shifted too.
A small selection of nicely cleaned bits
 Cleaning is only the start of the process of course.  There is still plenty of work left to be done in terms of removing the rust and repainting. 

Meanwhile,  Steve and Matt had a go at removing the petticoat which had so far proved to be rather problematical. 
Steve and Will puzzle out how to extract the petticoat
 Eventually the petticoat was removed and Steve emerged from the smoke box looking rather grubby.  Later on, he remarked on a well known social media site that  "Smokebox internal cleaning also progressed by most parts of me!".  The idea of a 'self cleaning' smoke box is not that you should clean it with yourself.
Steve after emerging from the smoke box
And finally,  as mentioned earlier, the price Chris paid for borrowing the pressure washer was to provide me with a couple of photos that he had taken earlier in the week,  He had been taking part in some winter maintenance on the 8F on Wednesday, work which involved separating the loco from her tender. He was rather surprised to find a quite sizable mushroom lurking on the drag box. His best guess is that OTC have started up their own organic mushroom farm.  It adds a whole new meaning to the expression 'Meals on Wheels'.

Hopefully it's not one of the poisonous varieties.