Monday, 23 February 2015

Pirates, Pandas and Pictures of the Past

 It was another busy day at Toddington on Saturday.  Permanent Way were working hard on reinstating the track in the station area and the Steam Loco Dept was in the throes of getting the home fleet serviceable for the coming season.  Just to give you an idea, here is a view of the car park, remember that this was a non-operating day, all those cars will belong to volunteers.  It takes a lot of hard work to keep a railway like the GWSR running.
Sometimes I think we need a bigger car park.
 Last week I mentioned that Steve was in the workshop creating a tool to clean the superheater headers.  I received an email during the week pointing out that it was a tool to polish the superheater element seats in the header, not the inside of the superheater header itself. Well now you know. That job has since been completed.

Whilst we're on the subject of Foremarke Hall, most of her front coupling has been replaced, as well as the front draw hook.
In the machine shop, about to have the shackle pressed and pinned in place
Later on, after pressing, complete  with the new draw hook
 I didn't need to ask if it was one of the run of draw hooks manufactured by Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD, the draw hook told its own story.
Fitted and ready for painting.
 As you're probably aware, 4270 is about to pack her bags and head off to the Llangollen Railway for their Steel, Steam & Stars IV gala.  What we hadn't been aware of, was quite how imminently she would be departing.  Needless to say, there were still plenty of jobs that needed doing to get her ready. The large red button with the friendly word "Panic" on the front was pressed.  Apart from anything else, 4270 was still "winterised".  I joined in with helping de-winterise her.

 The first task on the list was to get the sanding pipes fitted at the sand boxes at the front end of the loco.  I had thought that the sand boxes would be outside the frames and easily accessible.  Well the rear ones are, the front ones are between the frames and a bit more tricky to get at.
One of the sand boxes, awaiting the fitting of a sand pipe

Post-job, all sand pipes present and correct.
 We never bother with putting sand in the sand boxes as our gradients aren't steep enough to warrant using sand to aid adhesion to the rails.  The Llangollen and West Somerset Railways that 4270 will shortly be visiting on the other hand may well appreciate the fact that the sand pipes are now in place.

The next job on the list was to refit the injectors. After a bit of a hunt, they turned up in one of the tool boxes in the cab.  Once again, access to the injector bodies was a little restricted, but we got them fitted ok.
Injectors hiding in a tool box.
 A warming fire was required prior to a steam test on Sunday.  It's usually considered good practice to fill the boiler with water before lighting the warming fire, so we got a hose pipe attached to the blow down valve to make that happen.
Blow down valve.
 Filling the boiler with a hose pipe takes a remarkably long time. That gave us an opportunity to crack on with a few more odd jobs such as refitting the fireman's side window which had been re-glazed.  Once again, it turned out to be one of those jobs that sounds simple, but in practice turned out to be a bit fiddly. 
The re-glazed window, ready to be refitted
 I'm only guessing here, but I suspect that the window was broken when somebody closed it whilst one of the fire irons that lives on the fireman's side water tank was protruding back into the cab, you can see how it might happen.
The hole awaiting the return of the window.
 The fiddly bit was that the three holes for the lower hinge to be attached to were largely concealed by one of the water tanks.  The gap between the water tank on the left and the cab on the right was much smaller than I would have liked.  Ian suggested the the best method was to use a pair of pointy nose pliers and insert the bolt from the outside.  I tried this, dropping the bolt into the gap three times and managing to find it again only twice, once it ended up on the apron between the pits, and once in the pit itself.  Heaven knows where it finished up the third time.  After that, we switched to plan B, Ade inserted the bolt from inside the cab and I waited outside with a nut held in the jaws of a pair of pliers.  Amazingly this worked, we didn't drop a single nut or split washer.
Finally, lower hinge bolted into place
Window fitted, Ade looks pleased with a good job well done
 With the boiler finally filled, it was time to light a warming fire.  Jonathan needed the practice, so all I had to do was watch him and make sure he did it right.  There is a long list of things to check before you can light a warming fire, one of which is that that the grate is intact and free of foreign objects.  Well in this case, one of the fire bars has been lifted and was lying loose on the grate.  There was nothing for it, Jonathan would have to go in and refit it.
Jonathan trying to refit the fire bar.
 After around ten minutes of hearing profanities emerge from the fire box, but no Jonathan, I went in to investigate for myself.  I spent a further ten minutes without any joy, the gap was too narrow for the fire bar no matter how much you hit encouraged it with the coal pick or tried to shuffle the fire bars around etc.  There was nothing for it, but to remove half the front row of fire bars and take a grinding wheel to the bits of clinker that had built up on sides of some of them which was preventing them from going back into place.
Jonathan grinding clinker off of the fire bars
 I took pity on Jonathan and went off to fetch him a cup of tea, when I returned a few minutes later, he had somehow persuaded Steve and Martin to finish off the grinding for him, Steve even refitted them back into the grate.

Lighting a warming fire usually requires coal, the bunker was empty as the insides had recently been repainted.  I fetched a couple of wheel barrow loads round, Jonathan shoveled them up onto the footplate.
Jonathan shoveling coal, Martin holds the wheelbarrow
 Not too much later, and we finally get smoke at the chimney.
Sending smoke signals to the Cotswolds
 Phil is supposed to be Jonathan's firing instructor, so really he should have been watching him start the warming fire.  He turned up at the very end to make sure that everything was as it should be.
Jonathan looks happy now that he's finally got the fire lit, Phil just looks happy.
 Work has continued on Dinmore Manor's tender, the main work was riveting several brackets in place.

Step 1, heat rivet until cherry red
Mark with the flame thrower
Tim takes the rivet and passes it to Ian
Ian inserts the rivet
Mike uses pneumatic press to turn over the end of the rivet
 The pneumatic press was louder than a Motorhead concert, ear defenders were very necessary.

 Some time later, when the noisy tasks had abated, Chris and Tim cracked on with applying grey undercoat onto the tender frames.
Chris (l) and Tim.
 Towards the end of the day, I was summoned to take a picture of the tender frames with brackets riveted in place and the two replacement plates in place, but not yet riveted.  It was even suggested to me that a perch on top of Foremarke Hall's tender might provide a better view.  Whilst I was scrambling up on the tender, everybody disappeared from view as they didn't want to appear in the photo.

Dinmore Manor's tender frames
 The two new plates are the two just beyond the drag box that are not parallel to the frames.  Deliberately not parallel I should add.

Once they thought I had finished, Mark, Mike & Ian returned to admire their work.
Well I couldn't miss an opportunity like that could I.

View inside the frames of riveted bracket and new piece of plate.
 The 2807 group has come up with a fund raising plan.  It came to my attention as they had placed an advert for it on the wall of the gents in the yard at Toddington.  Not everybody is going to see it in there, at least, I'd like to think that not everybody would see it in there.  Hopefully it will get a bit more attention by posting it here.
2807 prize draw
 I should point out, that most of our locomotives have owning groups that would be delighted to sell you shares, as well of course as the GWSR share scheme.  I plan to do a feature in the not too distant future outlining how you would go about obtaining shares if you wish.

You may recollect that the 35006 gang moved the centre con rod about in the shed last week.  It was in a pretty grubby state.  They have spent a lot of time polishing it until it gleamed.  To be quite honest, nobody other than the driver when oiling up underneath will see it anyway, but it does look good now.  If any of our passengers get to see it when 35006 is running, then something will have gone seriously wrong.
35006's centre con-rod.
 I reported last week, that the 35006 gang were hydraulic testing the cylinder drain cocks, well that's what they told me they were, apparently they were the cylinder pressure relief valves.

Clive had a good day, he started off as a pirate, only one leg
Ready to walk hop the plank
 Clive is in charge of the oil store and has arranged for new oil tanks to be installed to replace the old oil bunds which have been found to be very wasteful of oil.
New oil tanks
 The colour coding, green and red is nothing to do with traffic lights.  Green is for motion oil, red for steam oil. At least I presume it's that way round, I should have asked one of them.

During the course of the day, hand pumps have been fitted to allow the oil to be extracted from the tanks
Steve (Not to be Moved), Clive & Ade fitting the pumps
 There are of course now colour coded oil cans on each loco.

New steam oil can on 4270.
Finally, after an afternoon painting the inside of 2807's tender, Clive emerged looking like a panda.  There were no end of suggestions as to how he might have a acquired what appears at first sight to be a black eye.
On the plus side, his missing leg has miraculously healed itself
 Not long before clocking off time, the weather closed in for a while, cold, wet, white stuff descended on us.  It only did so briefly, but there was an impressive rainbow once it had passed by.
Sadly no pot of gold was discovered.
And finally, a bit of a treat.  I am greatly indebted to Len who has managed to unearth the following photos of our line from back in the days of its previous ownership.  Not only that, but he has made contact with the copyright holder and obtained permission for me to use them here.

All photos from here on are courtesy of Roger Carpenter.   Please do not take any of these and repost them elsewhere.  Should you wish to purchase copies, then Roger can be contacted at:

Roger Carpenter
407 Highters Heath Lane
B14 4TR

Toddington downside waiting room 1952
Toddington downside waiting room 1952
Toddington 21/08/60, facing Cheltenham
Toddington, 1952
Toddington, facing Cheltenham, 1952
Toddington,view from road bridge adjacent to station towards Stratford-Upon-Avon, 1952
Churchward 2-6-0, 5332 at Toddington, 22/04/54
Winchcombe 1950, facing Cheltenham
Winchcombe, 21/08/60, Collett, 0-6-0, 3203, Northbound engineer's train

Monday, 16 February 2015

Even Steam Locomotives Bleed

In my world, deadlines have an irritating habit of sneaking up on me.  Whilst I do enjoy the whooshing sound they make as they go past, it's generally not considered a good idea to miss them too often.  The same is true of the steam loco dept, the first trains are due to run in a few short weeks time and we're currently panicking working frantically to get everything ship shape and Bristol fashion for the start of the season.  The starting job for Saturday was to get 2807 presentable.  The boiler had been washed down on Wednesday, but the tender still wanted doing and then the boiler wanted some wax treatment to bring her paint work up to a high shine.   

I noted before I started that the buffer beams at each end had been painted on Wednesday too:
Neatly repainted buffer beam
 The numbering on the front buffer and the "Great Western" logo on the tender sides is apparently going to be repainted by Stu on Wednesday.

Paint drips are rather unlikely in the arctic less than tropical temperatures that we have been experiencing lately, so I can only surmise that 2807 has had a bit of an accident and has bled over her coupling. Even steam locomotives bleed you know.
I hope 2807 filled in an accident report form
I also noticed that a DIY brick arch kit had been delivered ready for installation in 2807's firebox:
Suffocating a brick arch
It looked a bit like a giant jigsaw puzzle.

Martin and I kicked off by washing down the tender sides.  I made the schoolboy error of washing the tender from ground level, whilst Martin worked round the top.  This meant that I ended up catching the drips.
Martin washing 2807's tender
 We were joined by Eleanor on her first day volunteering at the GWSR
Eleanor cleaning 2807's tender
 Ade & I waxed one side of the boiler, whilst Eleanor and Martin did the other.  Clive tackled the top of the boiler.
Clive cracked on with waxing the top of the boiler.
Ade waxing the side of the boiler
Two coats of wax and she was gleaming like a new pin

Brian of the 2807 group had the nerve to send social media messages saying how much he was enjoying sunning himself on a beach in Melbourne, Australia whilst we were all working hard on his loco. Given the results of the England v Australia cricket match that he attended a little later in the day, I think we had the last laugh.

Meanwhile, inside the smoke box whilst the loco was washed, polished and waxed all around him, Bruce was busy grinding in the regulator valve.

Bruce at work in the smoke box.

Much of the work that can be done on Foremarke Hall before she goes to Tyseley to be reunited with her boiler has already taken place. Cleaning the inside of the superheater header was one of the tasks left and Steve was to be found in the machine shop creating a tool to help do exactly that.
Steve at work on a lathe.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that the shed code on 4270 was being changed from NPT to EBBW as it was believed that is what was correct for Newport Ebbw shed.  Well it turns out that NPT was correct all along.  Andy has revisited his artwork and reverted it back to NPT.  
Clearly doesn't stand for "Never Painted Twice"
 I was asked recently if 4270 had been repainted with "Great Western" logo rather than GWR.  Well the answer as you can see below is no.  When quizzed on the subject, Ian replied that it is still in the plan, but for the "medium term".  Don't expect anything to happen on that front for a while yet.
GWR... "God's Wonderful Railway"
Ian also mentioned that during the week he had been working on the fittings for the pep pipe on 4270. It's not all plumbed in yet, but the target is to have it ready for the start of the season.

The 35006 gang were busy hydraulically testing the cylinder drain cocks

Cylinder drain cocks awaiting testing
Applying some high pressure water
 I had expected water to issue forth in a powerful spray and made sure that I was stood well clear before the hydraulic testing started.  I needn't have been quite so concerned
A disappointing trickle
 Whilst I was busy chatting to the 35006 gang, my attention was directed towards the nice shiny new actuating arm for the tender brakes and the neat bit of welding at the end.
Tender brake actuating arm
 More work continued on Dinmore Manor's own tender, the railway's footplate inspectors Jeff & Chris were busy needle gunning off what there was of the old paint and applying new.  
Jeff (l) and Chris.
 Meanwhile out in the yard, the concrete apron around the pits was coming in for a bit of attention with the pressure washer.
How many people does it take to operate a pressure washer?
 I asked what the plastic barrels were for and I have since forgotten the answer.  Possibly something to do with the water treatment?  My suggestion that it might be the departments secret home brew kit was categorically denied. 
Eleanor and Ade pressure washing the home brew water treatment barrels.

Shortly after that, it was time to give the "Planet's Favourite Praire" a bit of love and attention, well it was St Valentine's day after all. Cleaning the boiler and water tanks is simple enough, cleaning the roof is quite a different matter. It's one of those spots that never gets cleaned during normal service and it's quite difficult to access safely. Ade improvised by using a wet rag attached to the end of a broom.

Ade extends his reach with a broom

Whilst we were up on top of 5542, we noticed the 35006 gang sneak up and wheel off the centre con rod on a trolley. I have no idea when they plan to fit it, but hopefully it won't be too far off now.
Lifting the con rod onto a trolley
Towards the end of the day, I took a peek up in the station area to see how the Permanent Way gang are getting on with reinstating the track in the platform area.  It seems that somebody has gone to great lengths to get hold of one of our signals.  I presume that it was the Signal and Telegraph dept looking to provide it with some TLC.
Spot the missing signal.
 The Permanent Way gang have made considerable progress over the day, only a few panels left to replace before they get on with ballasting and tamping everything. 
Permanent Way hard at work.
 Note that the barrow crossing has been moved a coach's length further on, which hopefully means that trains in the platform will no longer foul the crossing.
Pathway to the new barrow crossing in the background
Nigel from the Permanent Way gang had the nerve to suggest that they were only replacing the ballast because the steam locos had got it all mucky.  As if!  It's a well known fact that steam locos operate with their drain cocks fully open as they leave the stations for the express purpose of steam cleaning the ballast.  Why else would they do it!
A recent photo of 2807 diligently steam cleaning the ballast at Toddington
 And finally, if you're sat reading this from the comfort of your own home and have been given to wonder about finding out how the GWSR operates at first hand rather than depending on the somewhat deranged view presented on this blog, then your luck is in.  The GWSR is holding its first ever recruitment fair on March 21st and 22nd.  Point your interweb browser at this link and then point your feet towards Toddington.  You won't regret it.