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75079 Preservation - Cinderella did go to the Christmas Ball!

The Standard 4 75079 has always been rather a Cinderella despite being fully owned by the MHRPS and one of the potentially most useful locos for the Watercress Line.  Luckily, not just one, but two Princes Charming (Messrs Ellick and Drinkwater) realised that she really was rather special.  Having spent as much time in the corner of the shed as she had spent working for BR, she was, at last, going to get ready to go to the ball!


Despite all the restrictions imposed by Covid and the extra pressures it has placed on the Ropley Engineering staff, 75079 has made tremendous steps forward this year.  In June the refurbished bogie went back under the loco and she became a 4-6-0 again.  She was also on the move and spent some time in the wheeldrop and then moved to the main shed again, but this time in the centre.  The new container arrived at Ropley followed closely by a flurry of activity to remove cladding, crinolines and other fittings to prepare for a boiler lift.  By mid-December she was ready for the boiler to be taken off.  Crane Day was set for Tuesday 22nd December. 


Build up to Crane Day was wet and cold, but the day arrived and the rain had stopped, there was no wind, and it was pleasantly warm for December.  The Sparrows’ crane arrived and the small team assembled for a briefing.  Mark Drinkwater and Martin Buckell had worked together in the past and both are experienced engineers with confidence and knowledge of doing heavy lifts.  The organisation of the day was discussed with the crane driver, and as the least experience member of the team I was given the instruction to do what I was told when I was told to do it, to concentrate on what was happening, and to keep clear as much as possible except when required to assist.  Hard hats were put on and activities were under way.


The boiler was going to go on the GWR sleeper wagon which had been prepared with baulks of timber and a cross beam with holes to take the ash pan securing pins that projected from the foundation ring.  The loco was pulled out of the shed by the “08” shunter with the sleeper wagon between 75079 and the 08.


The crane driver had set up the crane and checked everything was secure for the various lifts.  The boiler was to be lifted by four chains secured around the balance point of the boiler.  The chains were secured and a test lift of a few inches carried out to check the boiler was free to move and to find the balance point.  The boiler was free but it took several, probably near 10, test lifts before Mark and Martin were satisfied that the boiler was balanced and safe to lift.  The boiler was raised and the 08 moved forward putting the sleeper wagon directly under the raised boiler.  The boiler was lowered, the support beam adjusted and the boiler allowed to come to rest on the wagon.  Timber baulks were placed under the front of the boiler and under the back of the firebox.  75079, minus its boiler, was pushed back into the shed, uncoupled, and the boiler moved back into the yard.


All had gone according to plan so the next lift was discussed.  The next lift was to move the new tender frames from the edge of the yard onto two four-wheel rail trolleys to enable the tender frames to be moved into the shed for riveting and further work.  This was a straightforward lift.  We now have a mobile set of tender frames.


A short break and a discussion of the next set of lifts.  The boiler had been lifted out of the frames with the smokebox, including the chimney still attached, to give a well-balanced lift.  Now secured on the sleeper wagon, the chimney could be removed.  The bolts securing the chimney were burnt off, the chimney lifted and gently placed on a pallet.  The crane was than attached to the smoke box and very gently the weight of the smokebox taken without disturbing the rest of the boiler.  Using the cutting torch, Mark cut around the smokebox just in front of the front tube plate – checking at frequent intervals that nothing he was doing disturbed the security of the boiler.  A final gentle lower and lift with the crane and the smoke box was free.  The smoke box was then moved to where the tender frames had been.  Now on the ground, removal of the smokebox door ring and odd brackets will be much easier. 


The final lift of the day was to enable the timber baulks on the sleeper wagon to be rearranged to lower the front of the boiler.  The boiler was then secured with chains and shackles loaned by the boiler shop.  Just as we were finishing off and the crane driver was packing up his gear, the rain gently started.


What next for 75079?  The loco frames are now accessible to cleaning up and further work.  The driving wheels can now be removed without having to worry about the weight of the boiler.  The boiler can be properly assessed to see how much work is needed.  The boiler history indicates that it has only ever been on the Southern Region and has only had one overhaul; hopefully the boiler inspector won’t be too unhappy with what he finds.  The tender frames, now being mobile, can be worked on under cover.   There is certainly plenty to do now!  The 75079 team and Cinderella herself would like to say a huge thank you to the Princes Charming for a wonderful Christmas present.  


POSTSCRIPT for anyone interested in wagons.  The boiler has been placed on a GWR 18 ton sleeper wagon dating from WW2.  These are unique among GWR wagons in not having a code name.  They were built to carry 160 chaired sleepers from the creosoting works in Hayes, Middlesex to wherever they were needed in GWR territory.  In the wheeldrop there is another wagon with a crane boiler on it – this wagon is a Lancing built Flatrol SB built in 1958 and derived from the innovative WW2 Bulleid designed 20 ton cast steel well wagon. 


Roger Burt, December 2020

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