Monday, 24 July 2017

All Change Please!

It seems that Donna has found herself gainful employment somewhere up north (I hear it's grim up there) and has had to relocate away from the railway.  I am sure that her regular readers since she took over the day to day scribing duties at the beginning of the year, will join me in thanking her for her tremendous contribution to this blog and also to wish her well in her new career.  I am informed that she will still be making regular visits to Toddington, so we haven't lost her completely.

So what happens now, I hear you say?   Well the honest answer is that I'm not quite sure.  For the time being, your original blogger has been dragged kicking and screaming out of a very happy retirement to once more put pen to paper fingers to keyboard and keep you posted regarding what we've been up to.  Never fear, a longer term solution, involving rather more witty, erudite and informative correspondents than I, will be found for your reading pleasure.  Watch this space.

I can at least provide a bit of an update on what has been going on lately, however since I retired from the blog, I have got out of the habit of bringing along my camera, or breaking off from whatever I've been up to in order to make notes on what everybody else in the steam dept has been doing. As a consequence many things of note are sure to have been omitted here, for which I can only apologise.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

I can at least inform you that 35006 has returned safe and sound from her very successful trip to the Mid Hants Railway's gala a week or so ago.  Previously, she was facing north, and the opportunity has been taken to change her direction:
35006 facing south for a change
I have spent much of my time lately on the footplate or working on the various Dinmore Manor (DMLL) related projects.  For a start, Dinmore Manor's old tender (T1761) has been lifted off of it's wheels.  The axle boxes have been removed for refurbishment and the wheels cleaned and primed, ready to go to the South Devon Railway for turning.  They will go there on the back of the lorry that brings 3850's wheels back, thereby saving on transport costs.
Mark, preparing to raise the tender with the recently refurbished lifting jacks
Going up!
 Sometime later:
Wheels primed and ready for turning
Some good news regarding the axle boxes and journals, is that although the tender had been in service for twenty years without any major work, they were all in remarkably good condition and will require relatively little work to return them to good order.

The news regarding 3850's boiler is not so good though, the quote for getting it turned round and ready to steam again landed with an extremely loud thump when it came through the letter box.  The decision has been taken to remove the boiler from 3845, which is apparently in far better condition, and use that instead.  That means that we're back to square one on the boiler preparation front, but it will hopefully work out for the best in the long run.  3845 is stored at DMLL's private site, and work has taken place there to free the boiler from the frames in preparation for being lifted out by a crane:
3845, hiding in the undergrowth
 3845 shouldn't be considered as a donor locomotive, it is still intended to steam it again in its own right, however it is firmly at the back of DMLL's restoration queue.

Lifting a boiler from a steam locomotive is not the easiest of tasks, if the boiler has been in situ for any length of time (3845's will have been in place for in excess of 50 years), then the rust between the firebox sides and the frames will be enough to grip the boiler firmly in place.  Should you hire a crane in to lift the boiler, the rust bond would likely be sufficient to cause the crane to lift both the boiler and the frames at the same time... if you're lucky, as otherwise the boiler may fail to go up and the crane will go down.   Neither of these scenarios are desirable.  The trick is to loosen off all the boiler fixings/mountings, then carefully jack the boiler up and down a few times in the frames, to remove the layer of rust.  In 3845's case, the task had been made a lot easier by the fact the the smokebox was scrap (the chimney had been removed by brute force, ignorance & gas axe during its time in Barry Island scrapyard), so there was no need to remove the bolts at the smoke box saddle, just cut the smoke box through.
Keith prepares to operate the jack at the front end of the boiler...
Bob sets up another jack under the firebox
 Students of this blog will know that Bob is really a member of the 35006 group, but he has some previous experience of lifting heavy objects with jacks, and very kindly volunteered to help us out.
To further his assimilation, we even gave him tea in a Dinmore Manor mug.
 After a day of jacking, packing & pivoting, we eventually achieved something like a four or five inch gap between the mounting plates at the firebox end.  Not expecting to be writing a blog post, I didn't take a picture when we got it to the maximum height, so this interim shot will have to do:
Just an inch or so at this point
 I rarely visit DMLL's own site, but it's worth pointing out that a small engineering team are usually to be found there working on the collection of parts that until recently were on 3850.  At the moment they are busy re-bushing the various elements of the brake linkages.
Various elements of the brake linkages
The brake beams, re-bushed and in undercoat
Neatly re-bushed
An item worthy of note is that Dinmore Manor is expected to hit the 100,000 miles in preservation milestone in the next week or two.  She is currently running on the West Somerset Railway for the summer season and various members of DMLL will make the trip down there to ride behind her on the day in question.

And finally, the floor of road 6 in the David Page shed has been painted and sealed. 
Looking good
The southern end of the shed still needs to be concreted, but the ongoing flooring project is slowly drawing to a conclusion.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Merchant Navy Sets Sail for the Watercress Line

No less than about 3 weeks after Dinmore Manor left us for a summer down at the WSR, the magnificent Merchant Navy 35006 is also packing her bags to be one of the starring locos at the Watercress Line for their summer gala, commemorating fifty years since the end of Southern steam. By the time you read this she will have already left and arrived at her destination!

As always at the GWSR we pride ourselves on the appearance of our locos and this is certainly no different when they visit other lines - making a good impression is always at the top of the list so a plea for a willing gang of volunteers was requested for the weekend, to make her look as good as possible.
P&O sits in the yard on Friday afternoon having a scrub-up and a polish.
Injector pipes shine in the afternoon sun!
A handful of us (myself, Roy, David, Ash, and another gentleman whose name I didn't get) turned up on the Friday to start the process of beautifying this lovely southern engine - cleaning the frames, springs, wheels, and rods... anything that was dirty. I took to the Brasso and set about polishing up quite a bit of the copper pipework on the outside - and there is an awful lot of it on this engine, in comparison to her GWR stablemates.

A work in progress
Ash arrived a little later in the afternoon and set about polishing the outside of the boiler. 

Ash polishes the boiler

One of the jobs that needs to be done prior to transportation is the splitting of the tender from the engine. The draw bar on this engine about 6 feet long - at the tender end of the bar sits a very large nut which Chris had slackened off in preparation. To get to the connection on the engine side, an access panel on the cab floor needs to be lifted up - once done, this is what you are greeted with:

The top of the pin that forms the connection between tender and engine
This long and heavy pin had been thoughtfully made to include a convenient lifting eye which makes removal so much easier. I looped some string through it whilst Chris went underneath the loco and prepared to hammer away at the bottom of the pin so that it could be freed.

It's important to take the weight of the pin whilst freeing it up, especially when it starts to move as there's a danger it could fall back down into its original position, meaning you have to start all over again - not ideal for a heavy and slightly awkward job. Once completely free, it's a good idea to move it to the one side as soon as it comes out to stop it from falling down the hole from whence it came.

Pin out and safely moved to one side

This short period of being out of action in readiness for transportation also gives the department a chance to fix any small issues that have arisen since being in service - in particular, the front damper handle assembly had come apart and was in need of some careful disassembly to make sure nothing fell out into the deepest depths of P&O's inner workings never to be seen again... namely, a small grub screw used to keep the collar fixed in position.

The damper handle in question

The first job was to remove the four nuts from the studs that hold the bracket down, being careful to keep everything in the same orientation as when it was removed. 

With instructions from Andrew Marshall, one of the main engineers behind P&O,  Chris and I set about taking it all apart. With the brackets removed it was possible, with some assistance underneath to push up the damper door, to unscrew the handle from the shaft, revealing the collar underneath.
Handle off, it was time to locate the grub screw
Feeling confident that we hadn't heard anything drop, we started to hunt for the grub screw - only, it was nowhere to be seen. It was not on the cab floor, nor was it buried in the grease on the collar. On closer inspection of the collar, to our surprise there was no provision for a grub screw anywhere on it! So, it was time for a clean-up of the collar in preparation to have a grub screw fitted over the next few days before she went away to the Mid Hants. 

Is your collar as clean as this one?
On Saturday, work continued on sorting out various small jobs...

P&O looking fantastic on Saturday
Photo by Dan Wigg

The ash pan was cleaned out, as was the smoke box, and the boiler was drained which was completed by Dan and Chris S. In the workshop, some axle box packers were being machined up ready for when the loco is transported on the HGV.

On Wednesday it was time the big move from Toddington to Alresford, a journey of roughly 95 miles or so. It was quite a tense move for all involved, this being the first time that the loco has been out of Toddington since its restoration began in 1983.

P&O sat happily in the Mid Hants yard after her big trip
Photo by Dan Wigg
As always though, the move went well and P&O can currently be seen running alongside an impressive lineup of locos at the Summer Gala.

35006 at the Mid Hants Summer Gala, commemorating 50 years since the end of Southern Steam.
34052 Lord Dowding (Battle of Britain Class) can be seen in the background
Photo by Dan Wigg

If you'd like an opportunity to see P&O for yourself scampering on the 10 miles of the Watercress Line, the gala continues this weekend of the 8th and 9th of July.

Meanwhile at Toddington, there have been preparations to get more of the shed floor cleaned, sealed and painted after much of it had been concreted over the last couple of years.

Now that most of Broadway canopy has been assembled and moved, one of the last sections of the shed floor is now empty. It has been very thoroughly cleaned and was looking like new as of last Friday!
A clean shed floor
Once again there was a call for volunteers to help out with sealing (Thursday 29th) and painting (Friday 30th). I came in on the Friday afternoon to get stuck in. I found Roger T busy mixing the next batch of paint.

Roger mixes the next batch of paint

The morning gang, David H and Martin G, had already painted a third or halfway down the three sections by the time myself and fellow afternoon painting companion William N arrived.
You've missed a bit!
With three of us on the rollers it didn't take very long at all. Happy to report that this time around, no rollers snapped during the painting of the floor - which is what happened last time - I have memories of having to finish most of the floor on my hands and knees!

All done - just one more small section left to concrete

The coming week at a glance at the GWSR

Tuesday 4th July Blue Timetable 7903 Foremarke Hall
Wednesday 5th July Blue Timetable 7903 Foremarke Hall
Thursday 6th July Blue Timetable 7903 Foremarke Hall
Saturday 8th July Red Timetable TBD
Sunday 9th July Red Timetable TBD