Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Santa Comes Down 2874's Chimney

I recently mentioned that Margaret (John's wife) was in the process of baking a Christmas cake for the Steam Loco dept, during the week I got the following text and three photos courtesy of John Cruxon,

"For the last four or five years the last Wednesday before Christmas has become an activity of eating Christmas cake. This all started when my wife’s Christmas cake for home was put in the wrong baking tin and therefore came out too thin. Instead of throwing it away it was iced and delivered to the Steam Dept. on the last Wednesday before Christmas. The tradition was started and has continued ever since although all subsequent cakes are cooked especially for the department. This year Chris’s wife joined in and made us some scones and a Victoria sponge cake."

The Christmas cake...
...The sponge cake...
...The disappearing act
Needless to say, it was all so good that the whole lot had been scoffed by the Wednesday gang and not a crumb was left by the time that I arrived on Saturday morning.

Speaking of Saturday, loco prep was well advanced when I arrived, I noticed that Dinmore Manor was adorned with a new to the department "Not To Be Moved" board which featured an integral red flashing light.
A carefully timed photo to catch it when it was on.
Dinmore Manor had for reasons that were never made clear to me acquired a passenger in the form of an elf on its middle lamp bracket.
Surely this violates elf & safety regulations!
Once the locos were off to ferry the young children from Cheltenham Race Course Station to the North Pole, it was time to clean the pits
Dan wields a new long handled shovel
Steve hoses down around the pits
As mentioned last week, 2807 is now out of traffic for the remainder of the season. Approximately 5 tons of coal needed to be removed from its tender:
Dan on the shovel once more
There is a broken water column in the shed at the moment, the plan is to refurbish it and put it up on the north side of Toddington station, beyond the road bridge in a position that locos can stop right for water when they have 8 carriages in the platform.  There is already one just to the south side of the road bridge, but stopping there with 8 carriages behind means that you end up blocking the barrow crossing, so it's of limited use nowadays.
One day this will deliver water again.
35006 heads off with the empty coaches to Cheltenham Race Course
For the 2807 gang, the day was back to the grind of removing pistons and the remainder of piston rings.
Gilbert ferreting around in one of 2807's cylinders
 Despite being so close to Christmas, the Dinmore Manor group had plenty of people on site, though as their loco was running, they had to content themselves with working on the various parts of 3850.  Winter maintenance won't be able to start on Dinmore Manor as early as previously hoped, as the DMU has failed with an unhappy bearing, so Dinmore Manor will substitute for the DMU on some days.
Martin painting brackets from 3850's tender
Kenneth wire brushing various bolts
David (L) & Mark reaming out a bolt hole on 3850's pony truck...
...which turned into something of a spectator sport.
 Tony, Mike & Sam all continued with the task of scraping tender bearings
Sam rotates a bearing on an axle already coated with engineering blue...
...and then scrapes down the high spots.
 Scraping bearings is a long and tedious process, but it has to be done if hot boxes are to be avoided.

3850's frames have now been levelled to within 10 thousandths of an inch, and the plan is to correct even that.  Looking at it from the front, bearing in mind that the frames are to all intents and purposes level, the buffer beam is definitely listing to port, evidence of a prang by a previous not so careful owner.
With a new cylinder block & frame extensions, it will soon be back as Collett intended.
The recently removed sand box has been given a coat of primer
Amongst the many items on the list for Dinmore Manor's winter maintenance schedule is to have her valves rebored, a team of people from Tyseley will be hired in to do the job on site at Toddington.  It makes a lot of sense whilst the kit is on site to get 2874's valves rebored at the same time.  Today's task for Keith and I, was to get 2874's valves stripped down.  On the fireman's side, our task had been made rather easier by somebody or other who had removed the whole lot when the loco was in Barry Island Scrapyard.  Doubtless this little lot is now in use on another loco or at least in store awaiting installation on another restoration project.
Fireman's side valve bore, devoid of anything bar rust.
 At least they left the piston and the valve link behind, though the piston rod has been bent and cut in the process.
Valve link dangling, piston rod cut through.
The driver's side has fared better, the valve link, valve crosshead and the piston valve are all still in place.  All will need to be removed, including the back cover for the reboring to take place.  The piston, slide bars & cross head can all remain in situ however.
The valve link still connected to the valve spindle cross head towards the top of the picture
The front valve cover had already been removed.
Noticing Bruce nearby, who had been through the process of removing 2807's valves a couple of times in the last few weeks, I thought it prudent to obtain some advice on the order to remove things.  As the valve link  was still attached to the rocking shaft, but the rocking shaft had no caps attached to keep it in place, the possibility of successfully disconnecting the valve link was deemed to be a non-starter.  We would need to disconnect the valve link from the valve spindle cross head, then the valve spindle from its cross head and then remove the valve spindle's slide bar.  One of the less well known differences between a 2800 and a 2884 class of GWR 2-8-0 is that the later class's valve spindle slide bar is held above the valve spindle rather than below as is the case here.  This means that when you need to regrind the main slide bars, you don't end up needing to shim the valve spindle slide bars at the same time.
Bruce indicating the order of disassembly.
Martin taking pictures of me taking photos for this blog, that he will use in the DMLL working party email
Bearing in mind that everything that we were about to do hadn't been touched for at least half a century, I am happy to report that it all came apart surprisingly easily.   Step one was to push the valve back inside its bore to the furthest point of its travel
Just the job for the hydraulic ram
Then detach the valve link from the valve spindle cross head.  The split pin came out with unexpected ease and the nut/pin removed.
Valve link (top left) disconnected from the valve spindle cross head
The valve spindle is a taper fit in its cross head, with a cotter pin to anchor it in place.  Again the cotter pin came out with little effort however the taper joint remained extremely tight.
Valve spindle inside its cross head.
For the first time, we required a bit of heat on the cross head to augment the 10 tons (from a hazy memory) of pressure available from the hydraulic ram.
Mark applies a touch of heat...
...which did the trick in no time.
Flushed with our success, we moved on to what I thought would be the toughest job of the lot, removing the valve spindle cross head and its slide bar.  The two bolts that anchored it to the main slide bar were in part obscured by three nuts from above, all were coated in 50 plus year old grime.  Removing split pins under such circumstances would usually best be described as challenging, or at least that's the best description that I can provide for a family friendly blog anyway.  Nobody was more surprised than me when the split pins came off quite easily and the nuts undid without heat being required. 
To access the one at the bottom, you also have to remove the one at the top... of course
Keith undoing one of the nuts.
Pushing the main cross head back with the hydraulic ram allowed the 2 bolts securing the valve spindle cross head in place to be pressed down through the main cross head.
Securing bolts being removed
Presto, the valve spindle cross head and its slide bar were now successfully removed and awaiting tagging and putting into storage in anticipation of eventual refurbishment and refitting to the loco.
Valve spindle cross head and slide bar removed.
There was no stopping us now, why not go for broke and remove the valve itself? Not the easiest of the day's tasks, but once we had worked out how to anchor the hydraulic ram and cleaned up and lubricated the bore, it was a fairly simple case of just pressing it out.
The valve head emerges into the light of day
Mark (L) & Keith pull the valve out the last bit of the way
The back cover for the valve was the next target.  I was astonished to find that all bar three or four of the nuts holding it in place could be undone by just a bit of brute force and ignorance using the right sized socket.  The remainder required a bit of heat to coax them into submission, but in the end all nuts were removed.
Mark applying a bit of heat to one of the recalcitrant nuts
In the end, the cover although undone, didn't want to come off the studs in a hurry, so as the light was beginning to fade, we called it a day and headed off to the mess coach for a brew. 

That isn't all for 2874, I had hoped to be able to announce the following for 2874's one hundredth birthday a few weeks ago, but I've had to wait for the official wording from what is now one of 2874's sponsors, the Heritage Lottery Fund. In their own words:

Heritage Engineering Skills Training

The 2874 Trust wins National Lottery support

Today, the 2874 Trust has received a National Lottery grant of £57,400 for an exciting heritage project, Skill and Expertise building through practical work projects on historic steam locomotives, at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on ensuring the vital heritage mechanical engineering skills needed to maintain and operate steam locomotives can be both developed and passed on to a new generation of volunteers. Work projects will start early in 2019 and will be based around the restoration of a 1918 built steam locomotive.

Supported through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the project will enable local people of all ages to become involved in heritage engineering either hands-on learning new skills or developing existing expertise to ensure there is a skilled workforce available to keep alive Britain’s steam heritage. Work projects will range from an introduction to restoration, for example, saving badly worn and rusted metalwork, to the highly technical manufacture of components from base castings, working to the drawings from more than a hundred years ago.

The 2874 Trust is an organisation set up to operate historic railway locomotives and provide training in the practicalities of their operation. The aim is to promote public appreciation and understanding of the historic, cultural and scientific aspects of this machinery. The Trust has purchased an ex GWR Heavy Freight locomotive no 2874, built in 1918 and aims to restore and hire it to Heritage Railways for the enjoyment and education of the general public.

Steam Heritage is one of Britain’s iconic industries and working steam engines are a key component of the very successful and important tourism sector. It is crucial to the continued operation of Heritage visitor attractions that suitable working locomotives are available. The sector needs skilled volunteers capable of maintaining these locomotives and this project will help ensure a new generation gains the required experience.

Commenting on the award, David Foster, Chairman of the 2874 Trust said: “We are thrilled to have received this support thanks to National Lottery players and are confident the project gives us opportunities to extend heritage skills and introduce them to a new generation helping to ensure a long-term future for Heritage locomotives and perhaps along the way we can encourage some to make a career in engineering.”

So there you have it, not quite in time for 2874's one hundredth birthday, but an extremely welcome Christmas present instead.

Wishing all our readers a merry Christmas & a happy New Year from the GWSR Steam Loco Dept.


  1. well done getting the grant from NLF , that's the first for the GWR as I recall , more to follow I hope , tell us your secret . Happy new Year to all Loco Dept john M.

  2. I hope no-one will be too dismayed by the picture of 2874's fireman's side as I believe Dinmore Manor Ltd already have a number of the parts needed to rebuild this area. That reminds me: I still have a few small parts to drop off if I can get to Toddington some time - oil pots and suchlike. Delighted to see the driver's side coming apart with relative ease - this area was liberally dosed with lubricants while the loco was at Blaenavon so I hope this may have helped. All the best for 2019.

    Terry Rippingale

  3. Congratulations on receiving that most welcome grant!

    With so many other contenders all applying for funding, it was a great piece of positive news to read that the grant had been awarded. This is what perpetuating steam traction and its repair, build and maintenance is all about.