Monday, 28 November 2016

Twelve Inches to the Foot Gauge

Being a member of the steam loco dept doesn't always involve swanning up and down the line on the footplate of one of our resident locos, or valiantly battling against adversity to keep our venerable collection of locos in running order.  Every now and then we get time off for good behaviour and are allowed to do things that don't require us to shower in Swarfega (other cleaning products do exist) afterwards in order to gain some remote semblance of cleanliness.  Saturday was just such a day, and I found myself getting up at a slightly less stupidly early hour than usual so that I could help man the Dinmore Manor stand at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition" at the NEC in Birmingham.  In spite of the name, there were plenty of other 12" to the foot scale railways and loco owning groups present who had taken out stands.  I have to say, that from the outset I felt rather outgunned by two of the other groups who had chosen to bring along some of their locos to display.
Vale of Rheidol Railway (VORR), number 7, Owain Glyndwr
 Number 7 was of particular interest to me, as I have never seen it in steam.  the good news is that its protracted overhaul is showing signs of nearing the finishing line.

Also present from the Vale of Rheidol was the erstwhile number 9, Prince of Wales, currently numbered 1213
Prince of Wales
 The Great Western Railway were not above a little subterfuge; when the VORR was incorporated into the GWR at the 1923 grouping, the original rather old and tired Prince of Wales (numbered 1213) was sent to Swindon for overhaul and was quietly scrapped and a brand new almost identical loco was returned to the VORR coincidently also numbered 1213.  This kept the bean counters happy who thought that they had only stumped up for an overhaul rather than a brand new loco.  To fit in with the rest of the VORR numbering sequence, she was renumbered as 9 on the formation of BR in 1948.

Not to be outdone, the Betton Grange group had fetched their loco in as well.   The recently fitted boiler that it appeared with (borrowed from 5952 Cogan Hall), is not the one that it will end up with (from 7927, Willington Hall).
Betton Grange
It is the first time that I had seen Betton Grange with a boiler fitted and it looks marvellous.  

Fetching locos into a show like this is an expensive business, Dinmore Manor LTD chose to leave all of theirs back at Toddington.  The main point of the exercise was to drum up support (both financial and for volunteers) for the rebuild of Collett 2-8-0, 3850.
Eleanor & John man person the Dinmore Manor stand.
 Once the doors opened, the crowds flooded in, hunting out the early bird bargains that were to be found on many of the trade stands selling model railway paraphernalia.  Not coming under that heading, we simply watched as the masses scrambled past. John had joined the mad scramble himself and managed to obtain a bargain priced class 73 electro diesel, which he intends to renumber to be E6036, the full size version of which is resident on the GWSR.   A little later in the day, when the all the bargains had been snapped up, business on our stand became a bit more brisk and many interesting conversations ensued.  The number of men who would dearly have liked one of the 3850 replica cab sides, but couldn't work out how to persuade their wives to allow one wall space was surprisingly high.  I tried not to smile too smugly when they said this. 

Broadway in general and the signal box in particular was a popular topic of conversation.  I lost track of the number of people who would like to have the signal box transplanted into their back gardens.  Apparently there is a race on between Broadway signal box and one at Parkend on the Dean Forest Railway, to see which one will be in action first, though I'm not sure that the Broadway team are aware of this fact.

There was no end of the where is 7820/3850/2874/3845 at the moment questions (Toddington for the first three, our private site for the last) and when will 3850/2874 steam again (depends on how well fund raising goes in both cases).  A few recollected driving/firing Dinmore Manor or 3850 at various places, including several from fire and drive courses on the GWSR.  I notice that the dates for 2017 fire and drive courses are now available on the main GWSR website.  Don't be afraid to give it a go, you never know, you might like it so much that you decide to volunteer... I did.

Unsurprisingly, a fair number of volunteers from the GWSR were out and about at Warley, looking for stocking fillers for their kids, or in many cases for the themselves.  Phil was one of the many, his son was happily showing off a model of Thomas that he had just been bought, whilst Phil wondered how he could persuade his wife that a 3850 cab side replica is the new must have wall hanging accessory.  Unfortunately, he recently failed to obtain "management" approval for a replica "Sir Nigel Gresley" nameplate and didn't fancy his chances with 3850.
Phil trying to make off with a cab side replica anyway
 Not too far from the Dinmore Manor stand was one for the GWSR, where a group of volunteers was busy handing out copies of the newly published 2017 timetable  and drumming up interest in supporting the "Last Mile" appeal to finish off the extension to Broadway.  I understand that the appeal has recently topped £900,000, which is well on the way to the final target of £1,250,000. 
The GWSR stand at Warley
In a career limiting move, I managed to grab a photo of the GWSR stand at a moment when the chairman (Alan Bielby) had disappeared off to fetch his colleagues some cups of tea.  Sorry Alan.

I should probably also say that the Warley exhibition included many fabulous model railways in a variety of gauges, including an outstanding one of the Forth rail bridge, which was of particular interest to me as I travelled across the real bridge for the first time just a fortnight ago.  Sorry no photos of the model railways, 

And finally, in what was I imagine a fairly quiet day at Toddington, I can at least report that on Saturday, the newly grit blasted and primed wheels for 3850 were fetched back into the shed for undercoating.
One wheel set returns, photo courtesy of Mark Harding.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Sandcastles and Steam

Chris has kindly sent through four photos taken on Wednesday of the Wednesday gang at work.  The next four photos all by kind permission of Chris Blake.
Mike & John with Foremarke Hall
 Unfortunately, Chris didn't say what was going on with Foremarke Hall, but whatever it was, it proved to be very interesting as Fred and John joined in as well.
Looking for a lost contact lens?
2807 being washed out using the new(ish) pump
Pit steam cleaning on progress, John stands to attention.
As for Saturday, well it was the usual busy day for Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD, the priority task was to get 3850's wheels prepared for grit blasting and moved into the car park.  Grit blasting works best on clean, dry surfaces.  This wheel set (ex-2874, but ear marked for use under 3850) hadn't been cleaned since BR days and still contained a good helping of gunge in many places.  The bearing surfaces on the axles also needed masking off to prevent them being damaged by the grit.
The wheel cleaning team in action
 By the end of the day, the wheels were out in the car park and ready for the attention of the grit blasters.
By the time you read this, they should be grit blasted & primed
 If time permits, the grit blasters will make a start on the frames of 3850 as well
3850's frames being prepared for grit blasting
Foremarke Hall is already well into her winter maintenance programme, with Clive & Ade getting to work on applying the annual bitumastic coating to the coal space of the tender.
Ade wielding a paint brush.
 I noticed in the mess coach that there was an advert for Foremarke Hall's 2017 calendar, should you wish to obtain one, click on the following photo to see it in a larger size and write to the address given.
Jolly good value at £5
I should probably point out that other GWSR & loco owning group calendars do exist, but this is the only one that I currently have the details for.

Keith & myself spent a fair bit of the day needle gunning & priming 3850's boiler.  
Keith, wielding his paint brush in the style of Rembrandt
Significant progress was made.
 35006 was out in the yard, effectively having an oil change on her axle boxes.  For reasons that I'm afraid I didn't manage to establish, she was adorned with a teddy bear on her smoke box.  I'm sure that somebody will write in and say why, but nobody I spoke to on Saturday seemed to know.
If you go down in the woods today...
 Preparations for yet more concrete pours were being made, both inside the shed and on the apron outside.
The hunt for the lost contact lens continues
One of the booked issues with Dinmore Manor was that the front sanders didn't work.  I had thought that sanders were just about never used on our line, the gradients don't really require it.  Nevertheless, one crew on a dismal wet day trying to pull out of Winchcombe towards the tunnel had experienced difficulty in pulling away without slipping and had tried the sanders and found them wanting.  To be entirely honest, I haven't paid much attention to the sanders on any of our locos, they're over on the wrong side of the cab and I'm pretty sure that I have never seen them operated before.  I was only able to distinguish between which was the front one and which one was the rear one by following the actuating linkages back into the cab and seeing which handle it connected to. 

The problem was soon identified, though less easily remedied.  Well to be honest, there were two problems, number one was that the sanders had the wrong type of sand in them:
The sort of stuff you'd find on a beach
 Taking a peek in the sanders in 2807, revealed the nice fine powdery sand that should be used in sanders
2807's much finer sand
 That wasn't the only problem, the sand was not only too coarse, but it was also rather wet.  It is supposed to flow under the influence of gravity.  As a rule of thumb, if it's wet enough to be able to make sandcastles with, then it's too wet.
Oh dear!
 Yes, I know, what child would spend a day pretending to work on the railway by making sandcastles?  The guilty party wishes to remain anonymous, but he would like to say in his defence that it really impressed his 3 year old granddaughter when he told her.  The answer was to remove the offending sand and leave the sand boxes to dry out for a week or so.

2807 not only has nice fine dry sand in her sand boxes, but also nicely lapped in safety valves, as Bruce spent some considerable time working on them on Saturday.
2807, in the shed.
And finally, getting grubby hands whilst working in the steam loco department is practically compulsory, getting a grubby face too is not unusual (in fact I could name at least two people who consider it compulsory as well).  Other body parts tend to remain fairly clean, as they are well concealed under numerous layers of clothing (especially at this time of year) and overalls.  I was somewhat surprised to receive the following photo from an anonymous source revealing that even feet are not always exempt from obtaining a good encrustation of filth & grime.  No plausible explanation was forthcoming as to how this came about, your guess is every bit as good as mine.
This little piggy went to market....

Monday, 14 November 2016

Three Wheels on my Wagon

An anonymous correspondent has furnished me with a collection of photos from the Wednesday gang's activities this week.  A call had been made to get together a group of people to assist with a bit more concreting of road 6 in the David Page shed:
The concrete mixer lorry making a delivery...
...soon being expertly poured and levelled...
...not a bad day's work
 There were other tasks in hand too, 3850's pony truck still had the ATC (Automatic Train Control) shoe brackets attached to the axle boxes.  The brackets wanted separating from the axle boxes, and the whole lot wanted cleaning before putting into storage.
3850's axle boxes, with by this point only one of the two ATC shoe brackets still attached.
Keith (l), Martin (r) and my anonymous correspondent engaged in this task
Keith steam cleaned the axle boxes.
 The water pressure cleaner appears not to have been built to the same exacting standards as our Swindon built products.
Three wheels on my wagon!
 A certain well known social media website has made much today of the fact that 2807 had a failed tube at during the NYMR gala a few weeks ago.  Students of this blog will know from the last post here that the offending tube was removed on the 22nd of October. A new one has been installed and the boiler had a  successful hydraulic test on Thursday. The owning group have now moved on to a variety of cosmetic tasks.
Brian wire brushing and filling the cab beading prior to a touch up of paint
 Several souls have enquired as to the exact nature of the difference between the Churchward wheels (that were running under 3850... a Collett loco) and the Collett wheels (that were under 2874, a Churchward loco).  Well, the wheel swap has taken place, so here are a couple of close ups to help:
2874, now with Churchward pattern wheels
Below is the Churchward pattern wheel, note that the axle and wheel centre protrude by an inch or so.
Churchward wheel
Whereas for the Collett wheels, destined to be used under 3850, the axle and wheel centre are flush.
Collett pattern wheels
Moving on to Saturday, the race trains were operating.  As there are very few available turns in November, the 3 trips on Saturday (morning, takes the race goers to Cheltenham Race Course (CRC), lunch time fish & chip & evening, fetch the race goers back) were spread between 3 crews. I had the pleasure of firing the first trip of the day, taking the horse racing enthusiasts to CRC. 
We didn't start out the day with too much coal
 I wasn't at all bothered about the lack of coal in the tender, there was plenty for me to do the one round trip. The later firemen might well be concerned though.  We have a new machine for loading the coal, and only a few people are passed out to use it so far. Training will doubtless soon catch up, but for now we needed to wait until after our trip before somebody passed to operate the coal loader was available to help.
Dinmore Manor ready to depart to the races
 I was particularly pleased to be on Dinmore Manor again, as according to my records (Yes, I'm the sort of sad muppet who keeps track of these things), it was my first firing turn on her since 4th April last year.  On that occasion, my driver was Jeff, who by coincidence was my driver again now.
 The journey both ways was uneventful and as ever, it was fun passing the cars queueing to get into CRC's car park.
Jeff (l) and cleaner, Roger
No hold-ups for us.
 Should you wish to avoid the usual car park queues and travel in style to the races, then you know what to do next time.
Some of the race goers were as enthusiastic for steam as they were for horses...
...Roger obliged by helping with the souvenir photos
 An unexpected pleasure on the way back was a footplate passenger, Julia, who not only volunteers as part of the On Train Catering team, but also manages the volunteer accommodation bookings.
Jeff & Julia on Dinmore Manor's footplate
Safely back at Toddington
 Once back at Toddington, we handed over to the next crew, Phil & Tina.  Tina was rather dubious about whether or not I had left her with enough coal for her round trip.
Tina contemplates the coal crisis
 Fortunately a driver for the coal loader was found and the crisis averted.
Dinmore Manor on the ash pit, about to be coaled, Roger valiantly attempts to bring me a cup of tea whilst trying to remain out of camera shot.
 Tender restocked with coal, Dinmore Manor sets off with the lunchtime fish & chip special:
Curiously sporting a "Cheltenham Spa Express headboard rather than "Cheltenham Fryer"
 It was noted that the lunchtime crew avoided having to either light up or dispose the loco, rather a nice turn to have had.

The results of contracting a local grit blasting firm to blast & prime various components for 3850 has proved to be much quicker than doing it the hard way with needle guns and paint brushes:
An example of their handiwork, 3850's smoke box door & chimney, grit blasted & primed
 The grit blasting exercise has proved to be so successful with a number of smaller parts, that the same approach is to be taken with the wheels and frames.  To this end, David and Tony spent a while on Saturday preparing the wheels for grit blasting by masking off the bearing surfaces.
Tony (l) and David preparing what are now 3850's wheels for grit blasting.
 It might have been nice to have grit blasted 3850's boiler too, but it's not clear to me how that would have worked in relation to the heads of the copper stays around the firebox, which wouldn't want want grit blasting and would be difficult to mask.  We've started the old fashioned way, so we'll finish that way:
Pete needle gunning 3850's boiler
 One of the extremely hard to remove (I know, I tried) expansion plates has also miraculously come free.  I have no idea who did it or how, but I'm sure that it wasn't easy.
All it needs now is needle gunning, wire brushing & priming... that's what it got.
 A bit of good news regarding 3850's boiler, was that it had been believed that the front section had worn too thin for further use.  A preliminary check by the boiler inspector has revealed that it could well be repairable, so that section too is being needle gunned, wire brushed & primed:
Progress on the front section of the barrel
Foremarke Hall has stopped now for winter maintenance, I'm not entirely sure what the issue was with its reverser, but it has been sent to Tyseley for attention.
A big hole where the screw reverser should be
 Don't worry, she'll be back in traffic for the start of the new season in March.

I noted that the parachute tank in the yard now has the drain stand installed.
Drain in place
Both 2807 and 4270 have recently returned from visiting other railways recently (NYMR and SVR respectively).  Previously both were facing south (in common with all our other ex-GWR locos).  Now both have returned facing north
It's hard to tell, but 4270 is behind 35006 and facing the same way
Continuing on from the concrete pour on Wednesday, a further section of road 6 in the David Page shed has been prepared for concreting by Tim, Eleanor & Jamie.
Steel reinforcement being set up for the next concrete pour
And finally, the GWSR has no trains running on the last weekend of November (the Santa Specials commence in December), so you can have no feelings of guilt about going to other outside events.  Should you happen to find your way to the Warley Model Railway Show, the Dinmore Manor group will have a display stand and will be selling amongst other things some rather nice wooden replica cab side number plates of 3850.
Replica 3850 cab side number plate
Yours truly will be manning the stand on Saturday 27th, do come up and say hello if you're passing by.