Thursday, 27 June 2019

Regal Reminiscences

A little progress has been made with 2874's cab.  As you may recollect, the side & front sheets were rather the worse for wear and had to be replaced, whereas the rather thicker angle brackets/hand rails etc have survived in a state fit for further service.  New front/side sheets had been ordered as per the original Swindon drawings, all that was required was to marry up the old and the new into a serviceable cab. Where complex shapes occur, such as the rail around the cab side, you would expect some fettling to be required.
Angela trims the cab side to allow a side rail to fit
With both side rails in place, it was time to try the rear roof support for size.
Rear roof support temporarily clamped in place
Unfortunately, all didn't go quite to plan, the side sheet at the rear was too tall, if the rear support sits where it is supposed to, then the side sheet will prevent the roof fitting correctly.
That's not going to work!
 Slightly baffled at this turn of events, the obvious thing to do was to compare 2874's cab with 2807's.  The fact that 2807 was busy at work on the line was only a minor setback, we just had to wait for it to arrive at Toddington and take a few quick measurements.
Confirmation that we had the roof support in the right place
Angela & David take measurements whilst Andy (2807's driver) watches on.
The Swindon drawings show the top and bottom of the cab to be parallel, i.e. the top of the cab is level.  The cab of 2807 however has a roof that slopes downwards from front to back by 18mm (yes, I told them off for using metric measurements and docked them a week's wages!).  This slope makes sense if you think about it, as it would encourage rain to drain off the roof.  It looks like we are going to need to take a bit of a wedge out of the new side sheets on each side to make them fit as intended.

It turns out that it's not just the side sheets that are a bit adrift, the hand rails on the side don't fit in the holes drilled as per the drawing.
David offers up a hand rail, the holes are to narrow by about an inch
Nothing is ever easy in the world of steam locomotive restoration!

My correspondent from the Wednesday gang has sent photos of the new oil store being kitted out with the kerosene, steam and motion oil dispensers.
Kerosene dispenser being installed in the new oil store (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
A stock take of our fire bar spares was also carried out. (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
You may recollect that for a brief while, our home fleet has been rather depleted with 4270 at the Epping & Ongar Railway for their gala, 7903 at Didcot Railway Centre for the launch of the Saint and 7820 at the Dartmouth Steam Railway.  Whilst 7820 remains away, both 4270 and 7903 have returned.
4270 in the shed
7903 on the unloading road on Friday
 4270 has already been in service since returning, Foremarke Hall will be running this coming weekend.

I had a firing turn on Friday on 2807, an email the night before had suggested that oil/kerosene/lighting up wood might have been relocated and suggested places to look.  The existing wood store is falling to pieces and the area to the south of the goods shed is about to be cleared to allow the foundations of the new mess facilities to be built, hence the current upheaval.
Inside the new oil store
A nice tidy bench for prepping the lamps
2807 had been left without much by way of coal
Won't get far on that
The King needed coal too
It's not just the locos that need fuel either ;-)
Neil attended to the signal cables for Broadway
We acquired a couple of footplate passengers... here's one.
Graham grapples with a large elephant's trunk...
...and then, Graham (top) and David (somewhere underneath) grapple with smaller, but no less recalcitrant elephant's trunks.
Our second footplate passenger.
I made a bit of a school boy error, I went to the GWSR on both Friday and Saturday, two of the three days of the real ale festival.  A nice beer after signing out at the end of two very hot days was extremely appealing, however Mrs Blogger stayed away both days and having to drive myself home afterwards, I had to avoid the beer tents.  Note to self, plan this better next year.
Beer tent at Winchcombe.
We had to make do with cake instead:
David scoffing cake.
Crossing 6023 at Winchcombe.
Moving on to Saturday, I was back again to help out with 3850.  There was a long list of mostly extremely grubby jobs wanting doing on her tender.  I started off with trying to free up the water level gauge.  My task was made no easier by the fact that Ken & Keith were also inside the tender valiantly hammering/chipping/scraping away the accumulation of scale & rust that it had acquired.  This is on top of the fact that the inside of the water space of the tender is divided up by a series of baffle plates to minimise the sloshing around of water when the loco is on the move.  The ideal candidates to negotiate their way through the various small orifices between the tender's internal compartments would be young, supple and lithe as well as highly proficient in the arts of limbo dancing and contortionism.  Suffice it to say, I don't quite meet all of those criteria, in fact if the truth is told, I don't get remotely close to any of them.
Keith inside the tender, waging war on the scale & rust
Keith was inconveniently occupying the compartment with the float that I was trying to get at, fortunately, the actuating mechanism was all on the other side of the tender.  It turned out that the float arm, which slides up and down in a slot in the longitudinal baffle plate had simply rusted in place.  A subtle blend of psychology and beating hell out of it with a hammer freed it up.  Keith was a bit surprised to find himself being accosted by what he had previously considered to be an inert float.
Keith being molested by the now freed up float.
Some therapy with scrapers removed enough of the rust and scale to enable to float to move quite freely in the end.  There was an issue however, the float arm, where is passes through the slot in the longitudinal baffle plate had worn quite thin.  Ultimately it was deemed not fit for a further 10 years or so of service, and it would be advisable to take it out now and fix it, rather than have it fail in several years time in service, at which point it would be much more difficult to correct. 
The view from my side
I spent a while examining the mechanism, looking for an easy way of removing the float arm, but it would have involved removing brackets that were held in place by extremely corroded rivets that had absolutely no intention of moving, along with extracting a tapered pin which had rusted through the the arm and the rod that it was pinning together.
The other end of the float arm.
In the end, I agreed with Mark's initial suggestion of simply hack saw the arm off in the middle, so that he could build up the worn bit with weld and grind back into shape and then weld the two halves of the arm back together inside the tender.
The removed float arm, highlighting the worn bit
 Meanwhile, outside the tender, Roger was busy painting on a coat of anti-corrosive primer.
Roger in his prime!
The tender isn't the only bit of 3850 to have received attention lately, the front drag box which had seen some dubious BR era repairs has been looked at and cracks in the welds noted for attention:
Weld here!
The 2807 group's loco was in service, so they spent their day working on their boot scrapers.  Their task would have been easier, if their trolley for transporting boot scrapers on hadn't developed a couple of punctures.
Roger pumping up the trolley's tyres.
The workshop has benefited from the addition of a couple of cranes to assist with lifting heavy items on and off the various machines. 
One of the cranes...
...and the other one
As of last Saturday, they still hadn't been wired in to the mains, but that shouldn't take long.

And finally, last week, on one of the days that I was out on 2807, Mike was out driving 6023.  In Mike's own words:  "Weird day today, finally managed to organise taking my late grandfather's good friend Dennis Herbert for a trip on 6023. This was the first time he had been on the footplate of a King since 1962 and the first time back on a full size steam loco since he drove Union of South Africa in 1973 on a farewell to the Gresley's rail tour; a career railway man until his retirement in 1994, around the time I first met him. Felt somewhat odd to be under the watchful eye of a man of such experience but he seemed to really enjoy himself. Though now 85 he had a little go with the shovel and certainly didn't seem to have forgotten anything...! Grateful thanks to my fellow crew members Tom and Harry for making Dennis feel so welcome and to Reece for bringing Dennis down to the GWSR, himself also enjoying a ride out on the King."
Dennis on the footplate of 6023 (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
Mike & Dennis with King Edward II (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
Mike even provided this photo of Dennis in 1962:
Dennis and 6018, King Henry VI in 1962
The photo came with the accompanying text from Dennis:

"This locomotive came on to Tyseley shed when I was on shed duties and had to put in readiness to go into the factory for repairs. The photograph was taken by Dick Potts , a lifelong friend.  When I signed on duty a while after at 08:00am, the shed foreman instructed me to prepare the ‘King’ and take it to Birmingham Snow Hill to work the 1.00pm departure Pullman train, as the blue diesel train was out of service. Whilst I had ample time to oil the engine, when I saw the work that had been done in the factory, I did question the wisdom of rostering the engine on such a prestige train without a lighter running in turn first. The Pullman stopped only at Leamington Spa and Paddington; in addition, the ‘Wells Fargo’ coaches make a very heavy train. The work done in the factory had involved all the valve gear being re-metalled, along with connecting rods and crossheads. These were now bone dry and every cork was missing. The foreman shrugged his shoulders, saying, it would have to go.

 The foreman had also paired me with a young fireman who was well known for his contrary attitude, nevertheless, I asked him not to make a big fire up in the engine too early; we did not want this big boiler blowing off in the shed.  However, within forty minutes the safety valves lifted at 250lbs per square inch and the engine blew off for the next two hours inside the shed. The ear shattering noise continued whilst I walked to and fro to the stores to refill the oil bottles. I had to be absolutely certain every working part on the four cylinders was lubricated.  I finally got the engine outside to finish off and left the shed just after mid-day.  Just before we left the shed however, my mate decided he needed to replace the coal watering pipe, something he had four hours to get right!

Whilst I was really concerned that the engine may develop a problem, I had no repercussions.  This was little doubt, down to the wonderful skills of the artisans in the Tyseley factory.  A factory that was shortly to be demolished."

Dennis sent a very nice thank you note to Mike afterwards, which I have included here:

"Dear Mike 

Thanks for the great photos and a lovely day out. I was really impressed with how you all coped and the professionalism everyone acted upon. I was amazed too at the quality of the coal that you were burning, I am certain that the National Coal Board unloaded all it’s rubbish on British Railways knowing no one ever checked. The last time I got off a ‘King’ my wrists were so painful I had to wrap my arms around the handrail and fall onto my feet on to Snow Hill platform. I then had six weeks off work ! We had worked the ‘Up’ Inter City from Snow Hill to Paddington, returning with the 8.10pm to Birkenhead for the previous three evenings. Stafford Road Shed was earmarked for closure and in their wisdom management decided to clear the coal stack from the ground, which I fear had been there since the nineteenth century. The coal was a dirty brown and looked like you would have seen in the’ Merry-go-round’ trains to Didcot Power Station in later times. There was not a lump to be seen and the digger had picked up with it clinker, ash, ballast and discarded baked bean tins. The final trip was a nightmare, much of the brick arch was missing, it appears they had none of the correct bricks in the stores, there was no long fire-irons on the engine and the shovel had a cracked blade.   The G.P. I saw next day had recently done a spell in a hospital in Kings Cross and knew when he saw my swollen arms exactly what my problem was. He had often seen it occur on footplate men of the Eastern Region. However, he sent me to hospital where my arms were put in plaster. Whilst we were never paid for being off work, I did get Industrial Injuries Benefit which was rarely paid to anyone. We had 6026 King John on the’ Inter City for three evenings, which was in super condition, but it had worked up from London on an earlier turn and had been coaled with this awful coal, obviously the fire was getting clinkered when we took over. The 8.10pm engine had also worked an earlier turn to Paddington and also had the same coal with a very dirty fire. So we couldn’t win."

Monday, 10 June 2019

B1 to the Rescue

Cast your mind back to the Saturday after the gala, the DMLL group were in the final throes of preparing Dinmore Manor for her summer holiday on what used to be known as the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway, but which these days has been re-branded as the "Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company".  I ended up re-fitting the spark arrester in her smoke box:
Dinmore Manor's spark arrester fitted
 There was also the little job of lifting a selection of spare firebars onto Dinmore Manor's tender:
Neatly stashed alongside the replacement springs that had been there for a while.
 Dinmore Manor also had a booked leak past one of her clack valves, some brute force and ignorance was required to undo the clacks so that the valve could be ground in again.
It really didn't want to budge
Ralph got busy getting a shine on the brass work
Alex made the running plate clean enough to eat your dinner off
And Martin buffed up the safety valve bonnet until he could see his face in it...
...job done!
 Even new-starter, Emily, got roped in to clean Dinmore Manor's motion.
Emily cleaning a connecting rod
Dinmore Manor, ready to go to Paignton, all she needs now is her bucket & spade
By the end of the day, Dinmore Manor looked like she had just emerged from Swindon Works after a heavy general overhaul.

This was the first weekend after the gala, and we had two of our visiting locos out on the red timetable.  Train 1, the Cotswold Express, was hauled by Thompson B1, 1264, and train 2, was hauled by Collett King, 6023, King Edward II.  Yours truly was rostered as the relief fireman for 1264, meaning that I took over after the first round trip.
6023 & 1264 on the pits before starting work for the day
 1264 pulled into Toddington, bang on time at 1264 and I took over from Eleanor as the fireman.  I found not one, but two owner's reps on the footplate, Barney & Jane.
Jane & Barney.
A B1 is the LNER equivalent of a Hall or Black 5, a 4-6-0 mixed traffic engine built in volume.  In comparison with Foremarke Hall, there are a number of strking differences for the fireman.  The first one that you notice long before you get onto the footplate even is that it has a long parallel boiler with a round topped firebox.
Round topped firebox
The belpaire fireboxes and taper barrels on GWR locos are much more forgiving of high water levels and the water levels don't change quite so markedly on changes of gradients or when under heavy braking.  On the B1, keeping the water level nailed at around three quarters of a glass would be a bit more of a challenge.

Upon gaining entry to the cab, the next thing that strikes you is the famed LNER letterbox for firing through.
Letter box in the closed position...
...and latched open, ready for firing.

 I had at least once before fired through one of these things, and with the right kind of shovel it is easier than it looks, it took just a few shovels full to get the hang of it again.  The grate is long and narrrow and slopes from a knuckle about a third of the way in, rather like the Swindon number 1 boiler carried by Foremarke Hall.   I had fetched along my own Bulldog shovel forged in a midland pattern, which was ideal for the task. I'm not sure how other GWSR firemen who chose to use the GWR pattern shovels that had been put on the loco will have fared.

Other departures from GWR practice are of course the presence of 2 water gauges and the blower valve being tucked somewhere inaccessible behind the regulator.  Care had to be taken when using it as several rather hot items were placed nearby as a trap for the unwary.

Paul, hand on the handle and ready to set off.
A feature that I rather liked was the electric lighting, which meant that we had cab illumination for passing through the tunnel and changing the lights at each end of the loco was a case of simply flicking a few switches.
Illuminated water gauge
In Gotherington loop
A feature that 1264 had, that none of our home fleet come equipped with is a holder for a staff.
The staff, securely held and nicely on view
An anomaly common to most LNER locos that I have come across is that the cylinder drain cock lever is located on the fireman's side of the cab.  This is a bizarre state of affairs as only the driver will really want to operate them.  I imagine its a hangover from the days when the LNER switched from right hand drive to left hand drive, I'm sure that somebody out there rather more knowledgable in LNER practice will explain why this is.
Cylinder drain cock lever
The upshot is that the driver has to ask the fireman to operate them whenever he needs to use them.

Needless to say, I had a marvellous day on 1264, I'd certainly welcome her back again.  

The day turned out to be slightly longer than planned.  6023 at this point hadn't had spark guards fitted in her ash pan, the 1st of June was hot and dry and there were a number of small fires reported along the line.  When we arrived back at Toddington for what had been expected to be the last time, we were informed by Mark, the Duty Operations Officer, that 6023 had started a fire in the Broadway section, and once it arrived, we were to head off into section and put the fires out.
Before all that, Mark was curious about the letter box and gave it a try
As it turned out, there were 2 fires to deal with, neither of any real size and quickly dealt with.
Mark beating out a fire...
...then Aaron applied some water.
They'll have to repaint it in fire engine red now.
The local fire brigade will be pleased to know that Karl from the 6023 group turned up that evening to fit the spark guards in 6023's ash pan.  Hopefully there will be no more repeats.  The fitting of spark guards is rather like getting out the BBQ though, it pretty much guarantees that we will have a wet summer.

Last Wednesday, with only 2807 left on shed (419 and 1264 having been sent back to their respective home railways), the Wednesday gang got on with erecting the platforms and ladders for the new lamps in the yard.
Ladder erecting team in action (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
One lamp with platform at the top, awaiting its ladder (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
We don't have the lantern heads to place on the stands.  A pair of new ones will cost £3,000. Should you wish to contribute towards the cost, then please send an email to steam.chairman at  (just replace the " at " with the @ symbol)
Des has been re-wheeled and has trundled up and down the yard again (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
The ballast spreading machine has appeared once more. (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
Your humble scribe's day job took him to Reading all last week, commuting on the train (sadly no longer steam).  Friday was the launch of Didcot Railway Centre's back conversion of 4942 Maindy Hall into Saint class, 2999 Lady of Legend. As I was passing the door (literally) and escaped from work early on Friday, it would have been rude not to call in and support the event, especially as our very own Foremarke Hall was guest of honour.  The weather was far from conducive to a successful launch of a steam locomotive into traffic, in fact the launch threatened to become a sinking, but it all went well in the end.

One of the Churchward Saints (2925, Saint Martin) was converted by Collett to be the first Hall (4900, Saint Martin). Later, Hawksworth modified the Hall's to create the Modified Hall class.  It was appropriate therefore that Didcot lined up Lady of Legend outside their shed with 5900, Hinderton Hall and 6998, Burton Agnes Hall (Modified Hall) to display the lineage from start to finish.
L-R, 2999, 5900, 6998
Lady of Legend in steam
As 6023, King Edward II is with us at the moment, it's not a bad idea to remind ourselves of some of the obstacles that had to be overcome to return her to steam, this being the well known cut through wheel set butchered after a shunting accident in Barry Island scrap yard.
Beyond salvage
A certain prime minister of a few years ago famously once said of herself in a speech "The lady is not for turning".  Well, it appears that in this case at least she was wrong as as Lady of Legend took a few turns on the turntable at Didcot.
The Lady, being turned
A recent gala visitor for us, 1450 was in action too
Foremarke Hall on the demonstration line
7903 joins 5900 & 6998, 2999 passes by on the demonstration line
2999 on the demonstration line
For a while, they even double headed Lady of Legend and Foremarke Hall, which with a rake of just two carriages wasn't strictly necessary, but it looked good anyway.
2999 and 7903 double headed
The sun eventially came out at the end of the day, L-R, 7903, 2999, 5900 & 6998
A few photos came my way from Foremarke Hall's locomotive manager, taken in the even poorer weather in the morning:
L-R, 2999, 5900, 6998 & 7903, (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
Foremarke Hall being turned (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
7903 in front of the coal stage, wish we had one of those at Toddington (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
Moving on from the launch of 2999, Lady of Legend, I have some good news from the 2874 Trust; Eccesiastical Insurance has awarded them £1,000 again as part of their "Movement for Good" campaign.  The 2874 Trust would like to thank everybody who voted for them.

And finally, Chris Eden-Green has released another you-tube video in his "Locomotives in Profile" series.  If you are not familiar with his work, he combines footage of various locomotive classes and gives his personal opinion on how effective they were at what they were designed to do along with historical information. It's all rather more informative than anything that the mainstream tv companies come up with when dealing with heritage railways, yet he still manages to make it interesting.  The reason that I am mentioning it is that this time he has profiled the Thompson B1 class and used some footage shot at Toddington the day before the "Northern Soul" gala started. 
Chris Eden-Green capturing some footage of 1264...
...and speaking to camera
 It's well worth 16 minutes of your time and having to skip over a couple of adverts at the beginning to watch it.  Click on this link to see for yourself.