Watercress Line

Eastleigh and the New Swindon

This week’s update on progress on Canadian Pacific is rather different than previous blog posts.  We take a glimpse into the specialist work required to re-profile CanPac’s driving wheels.  This work will be carried out at Buckfastleigh, the headquarters of the South Devon Railway and home to its impressive engineering works.  What was once a quiet branch line station, is now one of the few places in the country or indeed Europe where re-profiling work on such big (6'2") driving wheels can be undertaken.

Happily the departure of the driving wheels to South Devon has coincided with this author’s holiday in Devon, giving an excellent excuse to have a look behind the scenes.  Unfortunately it was not a perfect coincidence to see CanPac’s wheels being worked on, but nevertheless the timing was very fortuitous!  A big thank you goes out to the staff and volunteers who took the time to show me around.

The wheel lathe that will be used on CanPac’s driving wheels was in use on a different set of wheels.  The machine is around 100 years old and built in Leeds by Fairbairn, Macpherson.  It turns the wheels that are mounted on the lathe up to a speed of 15rpm, with each tyre worked on separately.  I’m sure you’ll agree that this is an impressive machine!

The Engineering facilities at the South Devon Railway’s works have led to some people to call it the new Swindon.  Given the rivalries between the former Great Western and Southern Railway’s, it is quite ironic that today a southern locomotive being overhauled in Eastleigh requires specialist working with its formal arch enemy.  As a result of this historic rivalry, there was much well humoured banter from the line’s friendly staff making the visit even more entertaining!  The irony comes full circle when looking at another machine (a journal turning lathe) to be found in Buckfastleigh’s engineering facilities, as this was once used at Eastleigh’s works.  Interestingly the GWR/SR rivalry is more than skin deep, as there are differences even in how the wheels are constructed, which requires a different methodology when re-profiling.

Some pictures are included below of some of the machinery and work being carried out at the South Devon Railway.  The works have been expanding as their workload increases, with work coming from numerous heritage railways and even from commercial operators of class 08 diesel shunters.  If you would like to see more, the website http://www.southdevonrailwayengineering.co.uk/ is well worth looking at.  We would also like to add that like us, the railway is always looking for new volunteers and so if the work being carried out here is of interest, do get in touch with the railway to find out how you can contribute.

Finally, I would also like to ask our reader’s to help us complete restoring our Merchant Navy class locomotive 35005 Canadian Pacific.  We still have to raise another £200,000 for the £1.5million project. The project will see not just the overhaul of 35005 Canadian Pacific but also 2 wooden Bulleid coaches. The boiler work alone is expected to exceed £100,000; so anything you can give will be gratefully appreciated, no matter how small you think it might be.

Please click here to contribute towards the fund via secure online payment.

Click here to download the appeal form.

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