Sunday, 11 March 2018

First Steam to Broadway

The big news this week is that Foremarke Hall has become the first steam locomotive to arrive at Broadway station under its own steam in the heritage era.  She went there on a gauging run on Friday.
Foremarke Hall at Broadway (photo copyright Jack Boskett)
Foremarke Hall at Broadway (photo copyright Jack Boskett)
Jack is in the happy position of being able to make a living out of photography, if you want to now more about the services he can offer, please follow this link.

Saturday marked the first running day of the new season, with Foremarke Hall rostered to pull the first train:
The view from the footplate at Cheltenham Racecourse (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
I have received a few more photos of the steam test last Friday showing the work done by the select band of volunteers who battled through the snow

Dinmore Manor's snow covered safety valve bonnet (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
Winter wonderland in the shed (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
2807 & Dinmore Manor in steam (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
Warming up injectors in a snow filled pit (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)
The drive home (photo courtesy of Chris Smith)

Those of you who have been keenly following the progress of 76077 will be pleased to know that the frames and wheel sets have now been ferried off to Loughborough where they will be converted into a rolling chassis by LMS (Locomotive Maintenance Services).  The boiler has remained with us, work won't start on that until the rolling chassis is further advanced.
Waiting patiently
 For some locos, Saturday marked the final day of winter maintenance, with Dinmore Manor finally receiving her new bogie spring hangers.
Spring hangers being fitted (photo courtesy of Keith Smith)
The 2807 group have also been running their winter maintenance programme up to the last minute, and have ticked off the various snags that needed attending to, such as missing split pins and a leaking steam feed to the driver's side injector.  One thing that was on the list was that the inner locking arm of the smoke box door had come adrift from its centre ring and needed welding up.  I happen to know who the culprit is (obviously doesn't know his own strength). 
2807's locking arm, in more bits than it should be.
Name withheld to protect the guilty.

And finally, Dinmore Manor (along with Foremarke Hall and 2807) will be hauling the first public trains to Broadway commencing on Friday 30th March (tickets sold out for the Friday, but later dates in the Easter weekend are still available).  To make sure that she is looking her absolute best, she has been lined out.  
Looking smart
 Dinmore Manor first entered traffic in 1950 in lined black, before converting to unlined black in 1955.  It is appropriate therefore that she retains the early crest on her tender.
Cycling lion
 She even got dragged out into the sun on Saturday:
Dinmore Manor, all lined out and basking in the sun (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Keeping the Home Fleet Fires Burning

 The boiler inspector had been expected on Thursday, most of our home fleet being due their annual boiler inspections.  There was a late change of plan, and the inspections got deferred until Friday.  Yours truly, along with Pete had been rostered to turn up and bring the locos into steam on Thursday, in the event, all that was required was to put warming fires in.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few days, lurid headlines regarding "The beast from the East" and the rather less aggressive sounding "Emma" (How did we get to storm Emma?  We have already had storm Eleanor and even Georgina this year.  Doesn't the Met office know the alphabet?).  Regardless, it was certainly cold enough to have ensured that any self respecting brass monkeys had long since headed far south for the sun rather than face the  certain emasculation that accompanies such low temperatures.

The beast from the East and Emma had conspired to deposit a lot of snow on the marquee that 76077 is hiding under, its temporary home looking rather like an igloo. Inside, snug and warm, 76077 is now looking rather smart, with pretty much everything that needs to be painted now in top coat
Gloss black frames... on the inside...
...and black driving wheels.
 It's looking very smart indeed.  We are now getting very close to the time that much of what you see in the photos will disappear off to Loughborough for the necessary mechanical attention.

The winter wonderland conditions looked rather delightful, but there were a few drawbacks.  The first of these was that there was no running water in the mess coach, all the pipes were frozen.  This is of course a calamitous state of affairs, it is well known that the steam loco dept is utterly incapacitated without tea.  Disaster was averted by Andy M kindly delivering 6 large plastic bottles of water.
Mike filling the kettle from a bottle of water
 Every cloud has a silver lining of course... no water meant having a good excuse to not do the washing up.

In anticipation of the steam test, 35006 had been in steam on Wednesday with a view to setting her safety valves.  Having been left overnight to cool down, and with still 20 PSI on the pressure gauge, it was a little surprising to discover that she was coated in a mass of icicles
From her motion...
... to her steam heat pipes...
...and even her cylinder drain cocks.
 The first task of the day was to do the usual pre-light up checks on Dinmore Manor, Foremarke Hall,  35006 and 2807.  Nothing noteworthy was discovered, except that on testing 2807's water gauge, Pete noticed that the water in the glass didn't drop as it should have done.  The cause unsurprisingly was that the water had frozen in the glass.  Fearing that the pressure of the ice would have compromised the integrity of the glass, it was decided to change it. 
 Changing gauge glasses is something that I have never had to do in anger... and to be honest I don't fancy changing one when a loco is in steam.  Changing one whilst the boiler is cold is a much more appealing prospect.

Not everything is best done cold though, the new spring hanger bolts for Dinmore Manor's bogie had been machined and once we found where they had been hidden, they wanted painting.  Paint doesn't work very well when there is a wind chill of -11 (neither do I if I'm being honest), so a cunning plan was put into place.  First, some of the precious water was boiled and poured into a bucket.  The paint tin was then placed in the bucket, and after a few minutes, the paint had warmed up sufficiently to flow as it should.
Green primer warming!
 The next step was to paint the spring hangers, but not in one of the containers or even the shed, it was still far too cold to paint out there.  The cunning plan was to arrange the spring hanger bolts above new the radiator in the mess coach, where the paint would dry nicely in a fairly short time.
Pete applies primer
 Later in the day, I returned to apply a layer of grey undercoat.  The stock of water was much diminished by this point in time, so I dispensed with the nicety of warming the paint in a bucket of boiling water.
Soon be ready for a top coat
 There was no escaping it though, at some point I would have to forge a path through the Toddington tundra and brave the frozen wastes of the David Page shed to tick off a few more items on Dinmore Manor's winter maintenance schedule.  It may come as something of a surprise to you, but it seems that the roof of the David Page shed is entirely unable to prevent the ingress of snow.  If you look carefully at the photo below, taken fairly early in the day, you'll note that snow is falling and settling on the running plate of Dinmore Manor, exactly where I intended to work.  By the end of the day, it was much deeper.  The worst thing was, that if you leaned forward a bit to work on something, the snow flakes made their way down the back of your neck... highly unpleasant.  The inside of the shed in a number of places owed more to the frozen wastes of Antarctica than it did to the Cotswolds.
Snowing in the David Page shed
I started off with the straight forward task of refitting the steam heat gauge.  After that, the fireman's side piston valve had been inserted into its cylinder last weekend, it needed it's end cover fitting, packing at each end, lubrication fittings attached and the valve spindle crosshead re-installing.
Piston valve in its bore...
...front cover fitted
...packing in place and lubrication fitted.
 You may recollect from a recent blog that the 2807 group are considering fitting a lubricator similar to the above to the valve spindles on their loco.  The Churchward 2-8-0's didn't have them and the spindles tend to wear prematurely.
Valve spindle cross head fitted and ready for further service.
 There was no time to refit the section of running plate that gave access to the piston valves, it was time to pull out the locos onto the apron and commence the warming fires.  A minor hitch was that 35006, which had appeared to have enough water to put a warming fire in when checked first thing, had by now cooled down considerably since then and the water level was now too low and wanted topping up.  At this point, the recently installed hydrants capable of delivering water at a commendable rate of knots would have been pressed into service, however there was a slight issue, no water issued forth when the tap was opened
Oh dear!
 A couple of kettles full of the ever diminishing precious supply of bottled water were poured over the hydrant to try to thaw it out, all to no avail.  Eventually we tumbled to the fact that it had been winterised (can't imagine why, Thursday was the first day of Spring) and when the supply was turned back on, all was well.
Pumping water into a connector attached to 35006's blow down valve
 The serious matter of getting the locos nice and warm for their boiler tests on Friday could begin.  Although the fires were lit out in the yard, it was judged kinder to the locos to fetch them back into the shed when the worst of the smoke had died down.
Foremarke Hall, warming up back in the shed
Dinmore Manor, just lit up out in the cold
 35006's injectors were still frozen up at this point in time, a brazier was lit up nearby to help thaw them out.  It acted like a magnet for the poor frozen souls present at the time.
(l-r) Dan, Mike and Mark trying to warm up.
All warming fires lit, I beat a hasty retreat home, which was not as uneventful as I might have liked, the sight of a car pirouetting down the middle of the motorway in my rear view mirror was mildly disconcerting, the lorry that I passed on a hill with its driving wheels spinning furiously, yet still rolling backwards was quite alarming.  I was extremely grateful to my better half for letting me borrow her 4x4 for the day.
Apparently the boiler inspector braved the elements and made his way to Toddington on Friday, and now all of our home fleet with the exception of 4270 which is still at Crewe have successfully passed their annual assessments.  The following selection of photos from Friday's boiler test are all courtesy of Mike Solloway.
The home fleet (minus 4270) in steam
Dinmore Manor's bogie, with the broken spring hanger bolt that will soon be replaced
Foremarke Hall and 35006
35006's injectors needed warming through
Just getting into the signing off point was a challenge
 And finally, I mentioned a while ago the existence of the L Shed, the repository for artifacts that were not currently being publicly exhibited at the M Shed (previously better known at Bristol's Industrial Museum).  I finally managed to get enough stars in alignment to be able to pay it a visit during this last week.  I was rather privileged to be in a tour party of just one person, with a very knowledgable chap called Dave as my guide.  It was jam packed with interesting items, several Douglas motorcycles, horse drawn carriages etc and of course a wide variety of GWR railwayana.  If they were to auction it, they would make a small fortune.  The collection of name plates included the obvious Bristol connection in Colston Hall, though Edward Colston is nowadays a controversial figure as although his philanthropy is well known, so is the fact that he made his fortune from the slave trade.  The name plate at the top in the photo below, "Inkermann" is an Alma class 4-2-2 broad gauge locomotive which had a relatively short life from 1870 until 1892 when broad gauge was replaced by standard gauge on the GWR. 
L Shed nameplates
 There were numerous other items of railwayana, cast iron signs, wagon plates, station signs of various sorts and of course a selection of cab side number plates, including our own 3850.  I asked the obvious question of course, but apparently the curator would be highly unlikely to want to part with it.
3850 and friends
For the benefit of those who may not be able to remember all the numbers of GWR steam locomotives, 5923 was the number of Colston Hall and 4008 was the number of Royal Star. Umberslade Hall's cab side (4975) doesn't appear to be in the collection.  The price of admission was very reasonably priced in my opinion at absolutely free, and a tour is available on every Tuesday to Saturday..

Monday, 19 February 2018


Sam sent in a few photos a week ago, within half an hour of me posting the last blog, of the various things that he had got up to on the Sunday::
The exposed part of Dinmore Manor's throat plate was painted...
...3850's drag box was undercoated...
...and more of 3850's frames were wire brushed & primed.
All the above photos courtesy of Sam Perry.

Moving along to this weekend, further progress was made on painting 3850's frames and tender T1761 by Anthony and Roger.
Anthony wire brushing 3850's frames
Roger applying top coat to tender T1761
Saturday morning turned up a treasure trove of photo opportunities in the mess coach.  First, and by no means least, new wall mounted electric heaters have appeared.  The mess coach was toasty warm, and it proved hard to extract the volunteers from the kettle and the heaters to go and do some work.  No doubt when the powers that be realise that the electricity bill has gone up and productivity has gone down, then the heaters will disappear, never to be seen again.  We'll enjoy them while we can. 
A most welcome addition!
 As you may dimly recollect from school Physics lessons, white is a poor choice of colour for a radiator from the ability to transfer heat into a room point of view. Never mind, after a few weeks in the mess coach, they will doubtless change to a coal shade of black

An item that I have been most remiss in failing to mention is the our beloved mess coach is soon to be superseded by a nice shiny new "Welfare Building"... translated from management speak, that is a mess coach without wheels.  The plans have been on the mess coach wall for a few weeks now.  The good news is that it will be in brick and will continue seamlessly on from the goods shed in the same style.  There is no bad news, except that if the diagrams on the wall are anything to go by, we'll have to change out of our overalls and put on pin stripe suits and carry about brief cases and umbrellas.  Some have noticed that there is considerable attic space available and are plotting immense model railway layouts (though why bother when there is a 12" to the foot version right outside the window).  Others have noted the opportunity for setting up a barbecue and watching the trains go by on the raised platform at the south end.
Pin stripe suit, brief case & brolly
 A feature that appeared in the shed a little while back and received little publicity on this blog, was the fire hydrants.  Not fire hydrants for the purposes of putting out fires... we usually like to keep them going here, these are for filling boilers and tenders.
A hydrant in use...
...filling Foremarke Hall's tender.
 Whilst on the subject of Foremarke Hall, John C was keen to point out a modified feature (well it is a Modified Hall after all) that John H had recently installed:
Foremarke Hall's pep pipe handle
It looks like any other GWR pep pipe handle, however it is a slightly larger body than usual and has been stuffed with Klinger (no, nothing to do with Captain James T. Kirk's arch enemies) packing, and has been tested and found to be drip free, even with 450 PSI applied to it.  Should the boiler pressure actually reach 450 PSI, you'll know by the fact that I will be running away from it at great speed!

The excesses of the Yuletide turkey etc have yet to disappear from my waistline, so when Mike said "You're nice and slim, I've got just the job for you", I was suckered in and fell for the flattery.  The task was to investigate Dinmore Manor's tender and find out why it appeared to mildly flex occasionally.  I've been inside tenders before, not the nicest of jobs.  "It is dry in there isn't it?" I asked... "Oh yes, perfectly dry, it's been drained since the end of the season".  This turned out to be a new usage of the word "dry" with which I was not familiar.  Needless to say, I had also turned up in a freshly washed pair of overalls.

For those of you who have never experienced the unbridled joys of entering the water space of a tender, it is divided internally into a number of compartments to minimise the water sloshing around and upsetting the stability of the tender whilst in motion.  The holes between compartments are of course designed for malnourished Victorian waifs and strays who had only just been barred from cleaning chimneys from the inside, and not well fed middle aged men.  Crawling around on your hands and knees and attempting feats of contortionism that would be more suited to a teenage gymnast is the order of the day. 
Not for the claustrophobic
 My inspection was inconclusive, no welds had given way and everything appeared to be rock solid
I went all the way to the float chamber in my fruitless endeavour.
To make matters worse, Eleanor, who was on the footplate at the time dropped a large piece of wood into the coal space of the tender that had until recently taken on the function of a comfortable seat for the team rebuilding the grate in the firebox.  This caused some amusement to others present on the footplate suggesting that it would have deafened me.  She claims to this day that she didn't know that I was inside the tender.

For your amusement, this is how you look after emerging from the sludge at the bottom of the tender:
My legs were wet for much of the rest of the day
The big task for the 2807 group on Saturday was to press in the bushes into the coupling rods and start to re-fit them to the loco.
A highly visible Graham and 2807's coupling rods
 Cleaning the rear faces of coupling rods is a tricky and as nobody ever sees them fairly pointless thing to do, so they are usually protected from the elements by a good coat or two of paint.  The face presented to the public when 2807 reappears in traffic will of course be the bare steel currently on the underneath in the above photo.
Pressing in one of the bushes

 By the end of the day, one of the coupling rods was back in place.
Trailing coupling rod re-fitted

The cylinders that the piston valves live in can be re-bored rather like a car engines cylinders can be.  To accommodate the larger bore size, the heads for the piston valves come in two sizes, A (small) and B (large).  Although Dinmore Manor's fireman's side has been bored out large enough to warrant a B size set of piston valve heads, none were available at the time, so she has run with the A size heads.  A set of B size heads have now been sourced and will be installed for the new season.  My next job was to dismantle the piston valves and put on the B size heads 
A size heads in place
The steam side of the B size heads in position.
 The merry band of people painting 76077 in the marquee in the car park have made excellent progress, with much of it now in a second undercoat (the orange/brown colour in the photos below), with some of the wheels even progressing into a top coat of black.
Cliff undercoating 76077's frames
 I had noticed that in several places, there were black crosses marked.  Apparently this doesn't signify the location of buried treasure, just that no more paint should be applied.
X marks the spot!
Top coated wheels.
 You may recollect from this blog a few weeks ago that a side fire bar from 2807 had a split in one part of it.  A new one was quoted as having a lengthy lead time, so a decision was taken to repair the old one as an interim solution and will at least allow it to be steam tested in the near future.

Before it could be welded, it needed to be heated up
Eleanor heating the fire bar...
...and Joe welding it back together again.
 Next stop for Dinmore Manor was out in the yard to get coaled up.
Jeff dropping the first of a number of bucket loads of coal
 Meanwhile, John finished off installing the mud hole doors.  The tried and trusted method of warming up the neoprene sealing rings in a tea pot full of boiling water was employed.
I'll stick to peppermint tea thanks.
John installing one of the less accessible mud hole doors.
 The other major task taking place was the extraction of the regulator housing from 3845's boiler.  This is not a simple task, it's a pretty heavy lump of cast iron securely affixed to the smoke box tube plate and from a health and safety point of view, you really don't want it to come crashing down on you when you finally pry it loose, the paperwork involved would be horrendous.  It probably wouldn't do the casting any good either.   The trick was to gas-axe the nuts that held it in place off, whilst using the forks of the telehandler to make sure that if it did break free, that it couldn't fall. Once the nuts were all off, the next step was to heat the casing cherry red, stand well clear and let the telehandler give it a few nudges to free it up and then lift it down.
Heat being applied...'s coming free...
...regulator housing in flight...
...and left to cool down for a while.