Monday, 25 January 2016

How to Change a Tyre on a Bulleid Merchant Navy

Circumstances prevented your humble blogger attending Toddington on Saturday, but thanks to the good offices of both Paul & Mike, I can at least bring you some sort of report.  I managed to get along for a while on Sunday to see for myself what had taken place.

The winter maintenance schedule is now progressing well, with all resident home fleet locos receiving some attention at the weekend.  The white board in the mess coach has a long to do list on it, which is slowly but surely shrinking.

Paul was one of a group of 10 or more people who tended to the Planet's favourite Prairie (PFP), 5542 on Saturday.  The grate has been replaced with a new front carrier and a cold boiler exam has taken place along with the usual mechanical checks.  Her running contract with the GWSR is not far from being over now, yet she was still being lovingly cleaned and polished (including being steam cleaned underneath where it doesn't show).
The PFP receives some TLC (photo courtesy of Paul Richardson)
Even the inside of the tool box under the cab, used to contain the oil cans came in for a clean up.
Not usually anywhere near as clean in here (photo courtesy of Paul Richardson)
I am a great believer in getting people interested in volunteering at an early age.  Without new people coming through and acquiring up the necessary skills, operational steam locos will be consigned to the history books in just a few generations time.  Paul evidently shares that view and now regularly brings along his son Dan to help out.
Dan having cleaned the tool box (photo courtesy of Paul Richardson)
Good news for the 2807 group, the wheels from their pony truck have come back from the South Devon Railway, where they have been turned.  They had discovered that one wheel had been ground to a slightly different diameter to the other one back in BR days and have just had it corrected.  Unfortunately when delivered on site, it had been dropped of the wrong way round.
Brian guards the newly arrived wheels (photo courtesy of Paul Richardson)
The fork lift truck was used to turn it the right way round (photo courtesy of Paul Richardson)
When I was around on Sunday, Brian had put on a coat of primer to the wheels, before they get painted black (not Crimson Lake).
Freshly primed wheels
 Meanwhile, the rest of 2807 is progressing nicely, with the new pony truck axle box under keep castings having been machined and trial fitted in place
2807 and the pony truck
An inverted axle box with the new under keep casting in place
Just for good measure, here is the other one
35006 had just one person working on it on Sunday, it looked for all the world like he was about to jack it up and change a tyre:
Trolley jack in place, that should do the trick!
The trolley jack would of course have proved unequal to the task of lifting 35006 far enough to change a wheel, but as it turns out, it was just right for taking the weight off of the brake hangers, allowing the pins to be removed and given a coat of copper-slip.  First time they'd been off in 20 years apparently.
Extracting one of the brake pins
I'm never too sure what to say about the bubble car, yes it's owned by a consortium of people, many of whom are members of the steam loco dept, but it's not steam or part of the infrastructure of the department.  Anyway, regardless of whether or not it's part of my remit, it is in the David Page shed for a major refit at the moment, and the gallant team of volunteers who work on it mostly do so on Sundays. At the moment, most of the internal fittings have been removed for refurbishment and the windows are being replaced after attention where necessary to the window surrounds.
The bubble, 55003.
Back to Saturday, Dinmore Manor was receiving some attention.
Mark stripping down the safety valves prior to the annual exam (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
Nigel paints the front buffer beam (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
Roger was keen enough to help clean Dinmore Manor on Sunday as well as Saturday
7820's coupling rods with bearings removed for checking/replacement
Three of Swindon's finest (l-r) 5542, 7820 & 4270
And finally, I am advised that there are just a couple of spaces available on a photo charter that will be running on the line with 4270 on March 22nd using the freight train.  If you're a budding photographer, and fancy joining in, the full details can be found by following this link.
4270 with the freight train during the 2014 gala

Monday, 18 January 2016


As usual, the year has kicked off with the Steam Loco Dept AGM, held in the village hall. It's not appropriate to reveal too much regarding what was said during the course of the meeting, however, Mark has come to the end of his one year tenure as chairman of the SLD management team, 24 months after taking it on, and has now been succeeded by John.  Yours truly had to pop up to the front and say a few words about the gala.  I noted when I returned to my seat that my phone had been rung, it turns out that Phil was trying to catch out all the speakers by ringing their phones as they were talking.  Only one person was caught out by having their phone on, our new chairman.
Ben speaks, Ade listens, Clive tucks into a packet jelly babies, out of view, Phil rings Ben's phone
The coveted annual "Percy Pig" awards for the most turns covered were awarded:
Steve (l) did the announcing, John (r) hands the second place award to Ade
As usual, 1st place award was for John P (l) who receives his award from John C.
If memory serves, John covered 43 turns in 2015.  Both recipients looked disappointed when they found out that the prize didn't include a year's supply of bacon sarnies for breakfast.

After the AGM had drawn to a close, it was off back to the David Page shed, to continue with the winter maintenance of our home fleet.

The 2807 group are working through their winter maintenance schedule, On Saturday, the hanging link bearings were coming in for some attention
A third John, with one of the hanging link bearings
Where it came from
Dinmore Manor had no less than 22 people working on it on Saturday according to Facebook.  I didn't count them all myself, but there certainly seemed to be quite a few people.
Kenneth working on the brake hangers
David, lapping in the hydrostatic lubricator shut off cock
Andy checks the tolerances on a big end journal.
Martin cleans the wheels
Mike, thwarted in an early attempt to get a photo of me for the Facebook page
Happy to be relieved of his role as chairman of the management committee, Mark assists Andy in checking various tolerances around the loco
Mark (l) and Andy
There was also a concerted effort to clear out the tubes of accumulated soot. 
Stuart (l) and Aaron feed in the cleaning rod
Aaron borrowed my camera and took this photo of Cliff in the smoke box
Cliff in the smoke box
Meanwhile, Paul was cleaning out the firebox
Rob cleaning the wheels/frames
Eleanor was delighted to find that some kind soul(s) had turned up on Wednesday to continue the needle gunning of the coal space in the tender.  It was deemed to be likely to be too anti social from the noise pollution point of view to finish the needle gunning on Saturday, so instead she put a coat of rust inhibiting primer on the bits that had already been done.
Eleanor priming the coal space of Dinmore Manor's tender
Ben, fresh from speaking at the AGM helped clean Dinmore Manor too
Mark cleaned up the boiler cladding
The 35006 group had been hard at work on their loco too, the fitting of the electric lights was the task for Saturday.
Five of the six head lights in position
The head lights are electric, powered by a generator located below the cab on the driver's side.  The lights themselves come in rather tasteful brass cases. 
Brass head light
I understand the Southern Railway used the six head light positions to indicate the route to be taken by the train, rather than what class of service the train was.  Sadly none of the codes that I could discover were to Broadway, never mind Laverton, Toddington, Winchcombe or Cheltenham Race Course. 

And finally, my appeal on behalf of a friend who wishes to model Toddington station has not fallen on deaf ears, and a number of people have come forward with signal box diagrams and even a scaled drawing.  Many thanks indeed to Graham, Anon, Neil & Mike who all provided very helpful information.   Any period photos of the cattle dock, the fruit packing shed or the yard crane (actually in the yard, there wasn't one in the cattle dock as there now is) would be gratefully received.

Monday, 11 January 2016


Saturday saw the running of a Mutual Improvement Class (MIC) on assembling and disassembling GWR gauge frames.  As with other MICs in recent years, it was held in the cafe at Winchcombe station.   Upon arrival, I was bemused to spot the following notice:
"Locomotives running today"

Curiously, this appears to be the reverse of that perennial Flying Scotsman Train/Locomotive confusion in the mainstream media.  Regardless, the permanent way team were hard at work replacing the track between the platforms, so running trains or even just locomotives at Winchcombe would have been more than a little tricky.

Removing the track from platform 2

When it says STOP, it means STOP.

Anyway, that wasn't what we were there for.  

Stuffed and mounted gauge frame (borrowed from 3850)

 The gauge frame confused Ed, who thought he might just be able to squeeze a drink out out of it.
The pub with no beer!
 You might be forgiven for thinking that once passed out as a fireman, you should know how to change a gauge glass, and of course you should, but unless you keep the details of how to do it relatively fresh in your memory, you're more likely to struggle with it when facing the situation for real.  It never hurts to have a refresher course.

 Clive made the mistake of turning up fairly early on and had his arm twisted by the inspectors, Jeff & Chris, into talking people through it in groups of three.
Clive(l) demonstrating how to change a gauge glass to Paul, Andy & John
 Whilst the gauge frame dismantling and reassembling exercise was taking place, Jeff held a quiz for the rest of us on the differences that we could expect to encounter when our Merchant navy, 35006 joins the running fleet in the new season.  For instance, at 48.5 square feet, the grate on 35006 is heading on towards twice the area of our next largest locos, 2807, 3850 & 7903, all with 27 square feet of grate.  I suspect that rather more shovelling will be required to keep that adequately covered.  The low level of the crown of the firebox below the bottom of the water gauge and the fact that it won't take much over the top of the glass before water carries over into the cylinders will require some finesse when it comes to boiler control.
Ade is so adept at it, that he can reassemble the gauge whilst simultaneously holding a conversation with Clive

Later on, back at Toddington, although it wasn't actually raining when I arrived, there was strong evidence that it had been.
The ash pit was more like an outdoor swimming pool
 Winter maintenance continues apace, Brian was to be found steam cleaning the cylinder covers of 2807...
As if there wasn't enough water about.
...correspondingly, in the shed, the piston valves were being inspected for wear
One of 2807's piston valves being extracted for inspection
Piston valve extracted
Meanwhile, Bruce was checking out the pony truck axle boxes
Bruce at work
There was no sign of activity on 5542 on Saturday, but according to its Facebook page, 5542 had a boiler washout during the week, and the con rods and coupling rods were removed for bearing inspection and found to be in good order.

On Dinmore Manor, the big end bearings were being taken out for replacement
Manoeuvring a con rod on a hydraulic platform
Steve, preparing to press out the big end bearing
Mike(l) and John watching as the bearing is pressed out
 It was Mike's birthday too, dedication above and beyond the call of duty!

The tender that Dinmore Manor is currently paired with is the one that arrived with 3850.  Ten years of salt air down at Minehead has taken its toll, and there is a fair amount of rust in the coal space.  It needs to be needle gunned back to clean metal and painted with rust inhibiting primer before bitumastic paint can be applied.
Somewhere under all that PPE, Eleanor needle guns the rust away

Thanks to David, there was a consignment of biscuits in the mess coach, along with a large quantity of mince pies left over from the MIC earlier:
Well there was, George has sniffed out the biscuits
In fairness to George, I might have had a biscuit or two as well.... and perhaps the odd mince pie.

And finally, more excellent news from the Foremarke Hall camp, the first warming fire was put in the boiler last Thursday, a full steam test will follow shortly.  All photos from here on, courtesy of John Pedley.
John starting the fire

Evidence of combustion