Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Fastest Barrows in Gloucestershire

I popped in briefly on the afternoon of 24th January to see what was happening and it appears that there has been some new concreting going on in the department - a new strip around the far edge of the inside of the David Page Shed and a small section out in the yard on Road 7.
David Page Shed looking neater around the edges

New concrete section on Road 7. Beyond is Mavis (l) and 3850's frame

It also seems as though someone has been busy with the grey primer - I assume this chimney and smokebox door belong to 3850, and will also be sporting black paint at some point in the near future.

3850's Chimney and Smokebox Door in Grey Primer

On Wednesday there was much excitement between everyone, it seems - today was a special day as it marked the arrival of a new fleet! And what kind of fleet, you ask? Well, here they are - get ready to feast your eyes on some new metal and wheels in the Steam Dept: 

New wheelbarrows lined up for action
(Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)

But, these are not any ordinary wheelbarrows - oh, no - they are the special Limited Edition MotoGP versions! Each one is named after a motorbike brand/racing team, featuring exclusive livery not available anywhere else...

"Adds about 50bhp, this does"
On the grid alongside Honda, we have Ducati, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha (other brands are available).

Jokes aside, wheelbarrows in the dept get a hard life - they have to transport heavy and often wet ash and coal, and have to be wheeled over some of the rougher areas of the department. It all means a relatively shorter life span for your average barrow. The old ones required their wheels to be inflated at intervals, but the new ones fortunately have solid wheels so there won't be any need for that these days. However there is no escaping the wet ash during loco disposal at the end of the working day - dry ash on its own is not a problem, but, depending on the sulphur content of the ash, when it mixes with water it forms sulphuric acid which will gradually start to eat away at the steel. Hopefully it will be a few years before we see evidence of this on our new galvanised friends.

It was a big day for a few members of our department - it happened to be a training day for those wishing to operate the JCB Telehandler. Blog companion Chris Blake was one of those being trained today, so no photos from him this week as he was too busy. I hope everybody involved passed with flying colours. 

JCB Telehandler Training
Things are progressing well with the Starfish - buffers were being installed by Clive S and two other gentlemen (I'm sorry I didn't get your names but I didn't want to disturb you).

Buffers going on on the Starfish
Meanwhile poor Dave A can never seem to catch a break from me and my camera. Here he is again, grinding down what look like the last of the rivets on the floor. Now that the Starfish is nearly finished he will need to find somewhere better to hide!

Dave in the Blog again

Where 2807 is concerned, the good news is that the main drag link successfully passed its Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) on Monday after being straightened out last week and it, along with two other links, have received a nice shiny coat of paint.

Three finished links

I've been aware that my own set of overalls have been attracting their own colony of moths lately, as it were. Saturday was the perfect day to change that - I arrived just after 9am and the first item on everybody's to-do list is to stop in the mess coach for a cup of tea, so that's exactly what I did. I happened to notice a new addition to the usual tea and coffee offerings:

Peppermint Tea in the Mess Coach

I will leave you all to research the health benefits of Peppermint Tea but it, as well as green tea, is supposed to be very good for you

After my cup of tea I had some time to catch a few photos of a special delivery. No, not more wheelbarrows - this time it was a very large delivery of scrap pallets, and this delivery, along with small donations by other people throughout the year, is what helps get the locos fired up ready for a day's steaming. These should in theory last an entire season. They're also what keeps Roger the King of the Woodstore and his helpers busy every Wednesday - all of these pallets need chopping up into manageable sizes that are perfect for lighting up locos with!

Neat piles of pallets - there were 26 stacks in all
In the shed I found Ray and Eleanor painting the inside of Dinmore Manor's new tender with bitumen paint. I promised I'd give you an update about how it is generally progressing and after a quick chat with Ray all it needs is one or two coats of gloss black on the exterior and it is ready. I wonder if it'll have a BR logo on it like the current one? It would be very interesting to see it applied.

Almost there: Dinmore Manor's new tender
One of the more dirty and difficult tasks of the winter season is to clean the underside of all the locos. During the course of a year, so much old oil and dirt (and whatever else it's managed to attract) gets stuck to the components underneath. And due to its nature, if left for a long time, it will only get worse. A buildup of all the black gunk not only gets anyone who happens to venture underneath extremely dirty, it also makes the inspection of the components and workings extremely difficult. If the dirt gets into any delicate areas it can cause expensive premature wear also. So, what better time to clean than during the 2 months of down time? 

I ventured underneath Foremarke Hall and found Alex, Tom, and Tom doing just that. Armed with armfuls of rags, brushes, and buckets of diesel and kerosene mix, they were hard at work scrubbing away at a year's worth of dirt and grime. As I was dressed appropriately for the occasion, I also got stuck in myself.

Tom & Tom

Alex. Note the sliding doors now have a coat of primer

If the above photos are anything to go by, it turns out being underneath a loco is a very good place to be if there's a camera about - plenty of places to 'hide'. After they'd been snapped I decided to do a bit of 'spring cleaning' - the below photo paints a pretty good picture of what they were all like. I've no idea what the white fluff was - it certainly wasn't feathers...

A dirty spring

I was using an oversized brush for the job but it was good for getting quite a bit of the diesel and kerosene mix onto the surfaces. It wasn't much good for getting any of the crud off though.

Sometimes, the best tools for the job are those that were not designed as tools in the first place - this piece of metal was just the right size to scrape away the dirt on all the flat surfaces:

Scrape, scrape, scrape...
The best things in life are free...

While I was scraping away at those surfaces, with a bit of luck the mixture I had applied earlier had been doing its job on the edges of the leaves and softening it all up a bit more. It just needed a little precision brushing to help it along: 

I think it might be time to change your toothbrush...

After a wipe over with a rag, the cleaned spring should look a little something like this:

You could almost eat your dinner off that. Almost.
Later in the day I spotted a group of about 8 department members, all scurrying around like soldier ants, busy moving the piles of pallets into the woodstore ready for Wednesday. It takes some doing, moving all the pallets - once deposited by the Telehandler, they are passed over the fence and manhandled back into neat piles to make the most of the available space. 

Up & Over
Elsewhere in the shed I found Mike S, Keith, and Roger T busy trying to take apart 3850's valve head assemblies for a test. It was proving a little difficult! The securing pin and the large nut were both very stubborn.

1 x stubborn pin

Working out what to do next?
With some persuasion, the pin came out....
Time to get the RBS (Really Big Spanner) out
and onto that nut 

Roger gives it a tap to help it along


One of 2807's eccentric straps
(Photo by Roger Molesworth)
During the week, 2807 had her eccentric straps and rods removed so they could all be cleaned and have the wear analysed. The good news is that the straps should last until the 10-year overhaul. There is a mystery however, surrounding the felt pad that sits in the recess indicated below... 

Where has the felt pad gone?
(Photo by Roger Molesworth)
It was expected that it would be sat there in the recess when it was removed, but it was gone - and the story was the same with the other one. Jeff L suggested that perhaps there was something on the sheaves themselves that was shaving away the bottom of the felt pad. The sheaves were cleaned and examined by David, Bruce and Gilbert, but they couldn't see any obvious step that presented a sharp edge, apart from a change in the surface where the two halves meet that wasn't noticeably sharp. New pads were fitted and the eccentrics put back in place - we shall have to wait and see if it happens again. 

She also had her steam pipe cladding re-fitted but I think it may need a little touching up...

I'm not sure that was supposed to happen...
(Photo by Roger Molesworth)

Handrails and parts of the cab also received another coat of 'Deep Bronze Green' - when March comes around she's going to look fabulous for an old girl. 

The Loco/Tender Coupling Guide that was made of wood last week has slowly been evolving over time - John T has taken on the development of this gadget - and as all good designers and engineers do they spend lots of time discussing options and measurements before making their final pieces. By the end of Wednesday he had a piece of steel marked out, ready for cutting. On Saturday, he set about cutting it out (during which many cutting discs expired) whilst Roger M refitted the three drag links. With those back in place it is almost complete - I'm sure we will find out more next week. Perhaps we'll even get a video if it works successfully?   

2017 Season Countdown:
4-5 March, BLUE timetable 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Paint Your Wagon

After finishing the day job at 2pm and then having a meeting in the Flag and Whistle, I rather hoped I'd not been too late to capture the efforts of the Wednesday Gang. I bumped into Ian C on the way in who thankfully told me that there was still plenty going on. Camera at the ready, I spotted Alex in the oil store cleaning the brushes and thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with her about the day's activities. She had spent some of the day painting 4270's coal space and was just cleaning out the brushes:

It seems that the valves theme of last week has now shifted to that of painting - specifically, black paint (mostly). That reminds me of a certain Rolling Stones song - all together now for the Steam Dept version...! "I saw a green spring and I want to paint it black...." oh, never mind. 

Work continues on 2807... read on for more!
2807's tender looking shiny and new 
2807 had its own beautiful coat of shiny black (bitumen) paint finished inside the tender and was looking really spectacular under the lights of the David Page Shed! It's a bit of a shame that some of it will eventually be covered with coal and, inevitably, its dust. The 2807 group will have to chain down 2807 in case of any large and very strong magpies flying in to take the shiny object home.

Still, other parts of 2807 received some paint that everyone will be able to see. Other work on the loco today included lapping in the snifter valves on the steam chest (what a great word snifter is), so the team took the opportunity to spruce up the steam pipe cladding.

Steam pipe cladding received a coat of paint...
...on both sides
Not only that but the handrails and the bottom edges of the cab were given a fresh coat of green paint to bring them up to standard. After years of many hands and feet using them the paint starts to wear off so it'll be good to see 2807 starting the 2017 season looking the part. Well done to John G and Brian from the 2807 group who painted all the parts listed. 

Spot the fresh paint!

On the opposite side of the shed, I found Clive S and Barry L grinding down the rivets on the floor of the Starfish wagon.

Clive on the daily grind
Do you ever find that sometimes, life just grinds you down? 

I found Dave A just behind the wagon and he and Alex proceeded to show me the work they'd done on the various parts of it. They'd all previously received their green anti-corrosion paint and most of the parts had been painted today by them in, yes, you guessed it - black. 

Wagon parts looking good!

Alex shows me their work on the buffers.
I was specifically asked by Dave A to pay special attention to, and highlight the fact, that the buffer parts had been lovingly placed on a sheet of plywood to protect the new floor in the shed. Still not quite finished as wintering the locos had to take priority, the floor will be sealed and painted later in the year. I can assure you however that this paint will most definitely not be black!

In further 2807 news supplied by Roger M from earlier in the day, there was some other work being done on the tender - this time not involving a paintbrush! The drawbar's thread needed to be inspected for quality and it was giving everyone a headache as the nut on the end was proving difficult to remove. Access to this part was via a removable panel in the tender which can be found at the bottom of the coal chute. 
Troublesome pin, troublesome key, troublesome nut.
It was just one of those days.
Photo by Roger Molesworth

The nut is held in place with a key through the bar which stops it from undoing and coming off. The key then has a split pin through it to stop it from falling out. The first job was to remove the split pin - this is a job I normally like to do, especially when it's going well! It's particularly nice when there's number of pins to remove and you end up with a nice little pile of tired pins to show for your work. The less fun part is when the split pin refuses to come out, no matter how much you go in with a hammer and a punch. This is the situation that Roger and Bruce were faced with - it took them an hour to remove the pin and even after that, the key would not come out. Even if the key was able to come out, the next conundrum was how on earth were they going to get a spanner on the nut? There was no room to access the nut from underneath, and it left Bruce and Roger scratching their heads as to how it was fitted in the first place. The only option would be to remove the vacuum cylinder. After  John P inspected parts of the thread that were visible, it was agreed that it looked sound and will have to be a task tackled during the 10-year overhaul.

Bruce and Brian had also climbed up to the top and removed the clack valves, which Bruce has taken for homework. I'm not sure what the homework involves, we shall have to wait and see. 

Roger, Bruce and John T held an impromptu discussion on how to make the coupling up of loco and tender foolproof. After several ideas were suggested, John set about making a wooden prototype:

Photo by Roger Molesworth

"The idea is to fit a gadget to hold the three links on the tender at the correct height and in line with their holes in the loco.  Thus ensuring that they engage instead of bashing the drag box; and the securing pins in the cab can be dropped through their holes instead of down the side of the links (which causes them to get bent when going round a curve)."

After a quick test, the wooden gadget which is yet to be named (link stays perhaps?) was deemed a success with only minor modification needed. It will be removed after the loco and tender are coupled, and, as Roger suggested, it's probably not a good idea for the final version to be made of wood as it might find its way into a loco's firebox! 

Toddington Signal Box on a Frosty Morning (Sat 21st January)
(Photo by Andrew Beale)
According to an email sent out by John C, the management team have been delighted with the turnout of volunteers on both Wednesdays and Saturdays. On Saturday I was unable to make it in but I wish I had been able to - January as we all know can be a very cold month, with freezing temperatures, and on that day it was no exception. There a very high number of attendees on Saturday, at least in the mid twenties, if not more. Overall there was a real team effort, he said, with not a word about the cold. It is a great achievement to have so many turn up on such a cold day but there is no time to rest on one's laurels! There is still lots of work to do before March and next week I plan on getting stuck in myself - I'll be getting my overalls on and hopefully getting my hands dirty for the first time in a while.

One of Saturday's jobs included fixing the 50-ton hydraulic press in the DP Shed, which took Paul, Roger M and Cliff 4 hours to do. As soon as it was finished, the 2807 group were using it to straighten the main drag link. It appears it had become bent because the securing pin had dropped down the side of the link at some time, instead of through the hole, meaning that when the loco went around a corner, it became bent - hence yesterday's wooden modification to keep the links straight and true. In order to further stop the pin jamming down the side, Bruce cut two 'ears' from a length of pipe which David then welded onto the sides of the link, like so: 

Photo by Roger Molesworth

This extra tweak will mean that the link cannot be pushed far enough across for the securing pin to miss the hole.

The first step to straighten the link is to first apply heat, and then let the press do its job and take out the bend in the link.

Applying heat
(Photo by Roger Molesworth)

Now anyone working on 2807 will enjoy trouble-free loco and tender coupling-up for many years to come!

Elsewhere in the Steam Dept, 35006 was receiving some attention in anticipation of her cold boiler exam. Thanks to Andrew Beale for filling me in on the day's activities. 

35006 sitting in the cold winter sun.
(Photo by Andrew Beale)
Photo by Andrew Beale

Her grate was being cleaned and tubes being swept. It's a big job, what with it being such an enormous locomotive. Jobs like this require suitable tools and a long bendy broom is an essential piece of kit to get the job done.

Jonathan demonstrates that you can still lie down and get the task done!
He's doing a 'grate' job.
(Photo by Andrew Beale)

I have also been informed that there was more rubbing down being done on Dinmore Manor's new tender, and ongoing winter maintenance continued on 7903 and Dinmore. I'm unsure as to what stage Dinmore's new tender is at - I shall make that one of next week's tasks. 

2017 Season Countdown:
4-5 March, BLUE timetable 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Full of the Joys of New Springs

As an extension of last week's entry I have some photos from my blog companion Chris Blake who happened to be around on Wednesday 11th January. I was unable to be there with my camera as I was on a short holiday so a big thank you to Chris for these.

In the Steam Department we do not always rely on steam power; for the practical moving of steam locos around the shed and yard there are two 0-6-0 diesel shunters - a Class 04 (11230) that's most often seen in use and also a Yorkshire Engine Co. example, no. 372, known as 'Des'.

From time to time these small but mighty powerhouses require a little love and attention just like their bigger coal-fired stablemates - and on Wednesday it was Des' turn to be looked at by various members of the steam dept.

It needed all of its springs replacing as they were old, broken and generally a bit tired. The Wednesday Gang were organised and had all of the new springs lined up and ready to go:

Ready to Spring into Action: New leaf springs on the pit road
It seems it would help to be a bit of an acrobat while working underneath Des. There's not much room, as the photo below suggests!

Martin peers through the feet of John
New spring in place, ready for fitting...
As the old saying goes - many hands make light work!

Meanwhile Ian and others continued work on fettling Foremarke Hall's ash pan doors. The last blog featured a link to a short video on them opening and shutting but here are some additional photos to complement it showing the doors in open, half open and fully shut positions:

Elsewhere, Brian G, John G and John T were working on 2807, freeing up the valve gear and cleaning off the build-up of dirt on the valve head to aid a smoother movement inside the valve chamber.

Hard at Work!
Finally on Wednesday, there was the job of preparing Dinmore Manor's and 2807's tenders for their yearly two or three coats of bitumen paint. A challenging job in the winter - I remember doing the same job last year with Cliff F and in the lower temperatures it meant many trips back and forth to the mess coach in search of warm water to soften the paint up! Still, as it is generally a job for two there is always plenty of time for conversation whilst painting to make it a little more pleasant.

I'm unsure as to who exactly is in the photographs painting the inside of this tender but one thing is for sure, when finished it will be protected for another year from the weather, the coal, and the fireman's pep pipe!