Monday, 21 December 2015

What Happens When You Run Out of Coal?

We may be hurtling towards Christmas at a rate of knots, but there has been no let up in activity for the steam loco dept.  To start off with, I received this report from Foremarke Hall's loco manager, John on the progress with her overhaul at Tyseley.

"Whilst the work is taking longer than I had hoped progress to completion at Tyseley is well on the way.

The overhaul of the bogie was completed on Friday by a small gang of us from the Steam Dept. The bogie has had a full axle box overhaul as well as tyres turned. The bogie pressure pads have been repaired and generally given some TLC. We also witnessed the final bit of tube plate caulking as the boiler is now full of water.

Saturday saw us at Toddington sorting out the grate and its various bits ready for movement to Tyseley for the Steam test.

More info on the 7903 Foremarke Hall website"

The bogie, ready for installing (Clun Castle in the background), photo courtesy of John Cruxon.
Rolling the bogie under the front end, photo courtesy of Steve Jones.
The bogie in place, photo courtesy of John Cruxon.
Firebox tube plate, photo courtesy of John Cruxon.
Tube plate caulking in progress, photo courtesy of John Cruxon.
 It's not just Foremarke Hall that has seen major activity, the tank for Dinmore Manor's own tender was collected from DMLL's private location and placed on the tender chassis during the week:
Collecting the tender tank, photo courtesy of Roger Tipton.
Delivered to Toddington, photo courtesy of Roger Tipton.

Being lowered into place, photo courtesy of Roger Tipton.
Looking much more like a Collett, 3500 gallon tender now, photo courtesy of Roger Tipton.
 Meanwhile, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the GWSR, with Santa specials in full swing.  We are running the DMU at Toddington (round trip to Laverton and nearly to Winchcombe), with Santa on the train. Added to that, we have a steam hauled service from Cheltenham Race Course to the North Pole (AKA Winchcombe) where Santa has his grotto.  He's a busy chap at this time of year is Santa.
Frances seems to think that Chris has been a naughty boy.
 Saturday evening saw the SLD Christmas dinner, at the Corner Cupboard in Winchcombe.  There was a quiz (no railway related questions) and the annual festive jumper competition.  In the face of stiff competition was finally judged to have been won by Phil (front row of the photo below with the illuminated Christmas pudding on his jumper).
Festive jumper competition entrants
 Many thanks to Tina for organising the Christmas dinner.

It was whilst at the Christmas dinner, that I was informed that my steed for the following day's Santa specials, 5542, had a few issues.  That the ash pan hopper door couldn't be closed properly wasn't a surprise, it can be difficult when hot, but is fine when it has had a chance to cool down.  That was sorted in a few moments when arrived in the morning.  The other issue was that one of the steam heating bags had exploded rapidly disassembled itself.  They go with quite a bang and a lot of escaping steam when they go, so I dare say that it caused the crew some concern when it happened.
That won't be much use
The remainder of the steam heat bag
After the reusable items had been salvaged.

 I suspect that for the return journeys to Cheltenham Race Course were a little bit chilly for the passengers.

In best SLD tradition, the steam heat bag was replaced by pilfering another one to use in its place.  On this occasion, the unwitting donor was 2807's tender.
Dinmore Manor and 5542 being prepared for service
 I noticed a suitably festive item in the pile of cleaning rags and couldn't resist using it as a light up rag. 
One Christmas stocking that won't see any more presents
Before long, Dinmore Manor was off as train 1 to shuttle children from CRC to the North Pole, we would follow soon after.
Dinmore Manor sets off, 5542 waits her turn.
 I'd stayed at Toddington on Saturday night, and listened to a howling gale rip through the place from the sanctuary of the crews accommodation units.  Not only was I pleasantly surprised to discover that the locos hadn't been blown over, but that Sunday was a surprisingly nice sunny day.
Blue skies and steam
 My driver for the day was Steve, who had gone to the trouble of wearing a Santa hat.  I own several, but had managed to forget to bring one with me.
Steve Claus
 The timetable involves large periods of waiting around, Steve knew how to deal with the inactive moments
A relaxing day in the office
The hat even doubled up as a pillow for a while.

 The long breaks whilst the children were seeing Santa (funny how they all claimed to have been 'nice') weren't all spent snoozing, these breaks were ideal for lunch on the shovel.
Pork and apple sausages... nothing but the best
Steve and Roger tucking into the first of several lunches
Roger cooking second lunch, bacon butties!
There was a plentiful supply of tea and mince pies from the cafe at the North Pole too, I'm surprised that I could fit in the cab of 5542 by the end of the day.

Roger is relatively new to the joys of operating steam locos and had a little contretemps whilst filling the tanks with water
Roger filling the water tanks...
...never mind, his trousers were soon dry again.
Roger also had a stab at firing for one round trip and made a good go of it.
I think we were onto a third lunch by this point... I lost track to tell the truth
 I had suggested that another bucket load of coal in the bunker before we set off might be a good idea.  Steve considered what we had to be ample, so we didn't bother taking any more.  By the time we got back to Toddington, we had precious little coal left in the bunker, and almost all of what there was, was slack.  During the day, one of the many children to visit the footplate asked the question, "What happens when you run out of coal?".  Roger made mention of a pile of logs that he had noticed at a certain spot along the line, mercifully we didn't end up needing to use them.
Most of the way down the bunker by lunch time.
Another memorable quote, this time from a distinctly older visitor to the footplate, who asked of me was "Did you use to do this for a living?".  He seemed to think that I could pass as being old enough to have crewed steam locos back in the days when BR were still operating them on the mainline.  I'll never hear the end of that one when the rest of the SLD finds out. 

One of the bonuses of firing at this time of year is that you get to do some of it at least in the dark.  As the timetable had slipped a bit, we ended up doing rather more than expected in the dark.
Sunset at CRC
Crossing Dinmore Manor at Gotherington, Neil prepares to exchange tokens.
 And finally, 35006 having had all necessary work on its centre con rod during the week, was ready for a test run with all three cylinders operational.  Today, was that day, and she set off for a few test runs up and down the yard at Toddington.  The diesel shunter attached was to provide braking assistance, as the tender's brakes on 35006 have yet to be fitted.
Cliff, trying out the driving seat for size, photo courtesy of Dan Wigg
In the parlour road,photo courtesy of Chris Crump
Dan, lighting up 35006, photo courtesy of Steve Parker
On siding one, photo courtesy of Steve Parker
By the ash pit, photo courtesy of Steve Parker
The generator, photo courtesy of Steve Parker
The crew, Jeff (L) and Dan, photo courtesy of Steve Parker
A few of the restoration team, (l-r) Dave, Andy, Steve & Ian, photo courtesy of Steve Parker
A few words to accompany the photos from Steve:

"As you can see from the smiles on their faces everything went very well, we only did a few adjustments i.e. freeing off the valve rod and gland to one of the injectors and adjusting one of the cylinder relief valves which was blowing off a bit early.

Checks on all the running gear bearings/bushes etc. with an infrared meter showed all axle boxes and motion joints were fine."

Simmering in the shed at the end of the day, photo courtesy of Dan Wigg

Monday, 14 December 2015

Beware of Amorous Reindeer

The Santa season is now in full swing, the duties being shared between the Planet's Favourite Prairie, 5542 and Dinmore Manor.  It's a long day for the crews, starting in the morning long before day break and finishing long after dark.  Mercifully for the crew of Dinmore Manor, the forecast rain held off on Saturday.
5542 and Dinmore Manor being prepared for Santa duties
Raising steam
 2807 has been suffering of late from excessive oil loss from the fireman's side pony truck axle box.  A new set of underkeep castings have been made to rectify the problem and work is now underway to fit them.
The pony truck axle boxes
2807 with her pony truck pulled forward

The new underkeeps, awaiting fitting.
All that is of course in addition to the usual winter maintenance, Clive and Cliff were busy painting the coal space in 2807's tender.
 Carrying on with the theme of GWR 2-8-0's, Martin & Sam were at work on 3850:
Sam at the rear and Martin extricating 3850's sanding mechanism
Little work was in evidence on Dinmore Manor's tender, however Dan, fresh back from his studies was to be found cleaning up the steam heat connectors:
Dan at work
 The postman failed to deliver my copy of the Cornishman (why can't he just forget to deliver the bills?) so I popped into the shop on platform 1 to pick up a copy.  It's a dangerous place to visit at the moment, all of Santa's little helpers were on hand.  No sign of Santa though, which is a shame as I have a long list of very expensive things that I'd like him to deliver on Christmas day.
The Snowman, more TTI than abominable
Santa's little helpers.
Elf 'an Safety, AKA Chris & Frances
 Last week, one of our recently qualified firemen sent out a message asking for the hat that he managed to leave on the footplate of one of our locos be rescued.  His cap is now hanging up in the mess coach.  When last seen, it also had an emergency lump of coal attached to it, just in case he should run out... again!
If the cap fits...
The big news of the weekend relates to progress with a certain large, green pacific.  The big news, isn't that it has had its speedo fitted...
...even though it has
Dan, making himself at home on the fireman's side of the cab
 Or that it has had its brick arch fitted...
...though that has happened too.
The big news, is that the centre con rod big end bearing was now machined and ready to fit:
The big end, ready for trial installation...
...well, ok, nearly, Steve did a little last minute fettling
Jeff used the FLT to deliver it into the pit
I have always considered the fitting pf 35006's centre con rod to be best undertaken as an observer rather than an active participant.  That con rod is a significantly large chunk of steel and more than capable of doing some serious damage.  You'd probably notice if you dropped it on your foot for instance, steel toe-caps in your boots can only help so much.  Anyway, it was against my better judgement and my instinct for self preservation that I found myself caught up in the proceedings.

The con rod was to be fitted the hard way, a deceptive statement, as there is no easy way to fit it.  It was first manhandled into what was judged to be the correct spot in the pit, and 35006 was shunted over it, being brought to a halt when the crank shaft was in what was believed to be the best position to facilitate fitting the con rod.  35006 was then moved out of the way again, the con rod shifted again to what really would then be the easiest spot from which to manoeuvre it into position, then 35006 shunted back over it once more.  After that, a series of lifts using several sets of block and tackle commenced, starting from a position nearly, but not quite under the ash pan and shifting the con rod, up at a fairly steep angle, through the counterweights on the crank shaft and over a couple of frame stretchers to finally join up with the cross head of the centre piston.
Steve using a block and tackle
Dan peering down from a spot near the cross head
Slowly progressing through the counter weights
Tantalisingly close at the little end
 Inserting the gudgeon pin through the little end proved a little tricky, as we were fighting against a wood ruff key that didn't quite want to line up and a very heavy con rod that wouldn't locate in quite the right position.  "Just think of it as gynaecology for beginners" was the less than helpful quote from Andy (I'm not saying which one, there were at least two Andys present).
Not that I'm any expert, but nothing like gynaecology.
Finally, gudgeon pin inserted and secured in place
That just left the big end to be located onto the crank shaft.  The blocks and tackle needed re-setting up to permit the required movement, and the con rod and piston pushed as far forward as they would go.
 Andy setting up a block and tackle, yet again
Once the con rod was fairly close to being in the right place, we split the big end and removed the bearing.  Even splitting the big end required the use of a sledge hammer.
John giving the big end securing pin some therapy with a sledge hammer
Dan's turn with the block and tackle
 The trick now, was to very carefully shunt 35006 just a little bit backwards, to bring the crank into the jaws of the big end.
The crank at the top, big end at the bottom.
Much closer, post shunt.
 Then it was a case of easing the con rod back and up, whilst keeping the front half of the bearing in the right place with a few blocks of wood
(l-r) Andy, Dan & Steve manoeuvring the big end bearing into place
 Bearing in place, it was now a simple case of refitting and securing the end cap.
John continues with the sledge hammer therapy
Job's a good 'un!
One fitted centre con rod
It turned out to be a very long job, not finishing until long past the usual clocking off time, and at various times, perhaps as many as a dozen people were involved.  This is of course another significant milestone passed.  Although this was only a trial fitting, the bearing surfaces at each end will require some fettling over the coming weeks, there will be no need to completely remove the centre con rod again, just temporarily disconnect each end, one at a time, fettle the bearing and then reconnect it again.  The major jobs left before 35006 can enter traffic are still considerable, but mostly centre on the tender, the tender brakes being the most significant mechanical work left to be undertaken.

I received the following in an email from Steve of 35006's owning group.    

"Could you please put on the blog a "BIG THANK YOU" to all the steam department, including yourself, who helped get the centre connecting rod in place today underneath P & O."

I hesitate to mention the names of those involved, as I didn't write them down at the time, but they all know who they are.

And finally, at around the time that the work on 35006 was approaching a conclusion, 5542 returned for disposal. She had to remain on the ash pit overnight, as 35006 was still on the pit on road 9 and unable to be moved. All had gone well with the Santa Specials, many children had been to see the jovial philanthropist in the red suit and get presents (strange how they all turned out to be on the 'nice' list), and the adults had been filled to bursting with tea and mince pies. Only one small issue had arisen, one of the lamps had been struck by a low flying reindeer's hoof (it was more than just Rudolph's nose that was red) and had fallen to earth with a bit of a bump. The inside glass had broken and the top was no longer as well attached to the body as it should be. The theory that Rudolph had mistaken it for a lady reindeer because of the antlers was never quite discounted.

The lamp, after Rudolph's amorous advances.
 A spare lamp was obtained from the lamp store, and Jamie set about transferring the antlers from the broken lamp to the spare.  I did wonder if he was planning to use it as a  decoy, with a view to having venison for his Christmas dinner.
Jamie, attempting an antler transplant
Well, it had to happen didn't it!