3rd Mar 2019 in
There hasn’t been a Blog from me for a while on this website as I usually reserve them for the really big news. Well we have plenty of that now!
Our Cab Roof appeal continued to attract funds even after its initial target was reached and after quite a bit of research we were ready to start on the design work. With the BR drawing available, this would seem to be an easy task, but the world has moved on since 1956 and manufacturing processes and materials have changed.
It soon became clear that we would not be able to manufacture the roof in one piece, since 1/8” thick steel plate has long been superseded and its nearest metric equivalent of 3mm was not available in a plate size suitable for a roof nearly nine feet square. We also needed to find a supplier with a minimum 3 metre roller which could produce compound radii, since the roof is not a constant curve.
The upper window runner castings which support the roof at the sides, although expensive, were relatively straightforward to obtain, since patterns already existed and their arrival gave us a boost as did the offer from the 80097 group at Bury to let us see the CAD design data for their roof.
We had originally planned to exhibit the loco in the cattle dock at the MHR Open Weekend and with the help of Richard Bentley and his team, 80150 was moved out of the Alresford Down siding in early September 2018.
Although the recently freed bogie side-control moved as we hoped it would, the move was eventually scuppered by the unsprung front and middle driving axleboxes moving in the horns with the result that the loco sat down on the front end, lifting the rear bogie off the rails. This was quite unexpected since it was reasonable to assume that those axleboxes were likely to be seized which was not in fact the case. In the event, 80150 only made it as far as the Alresford CAT siding, but being visible from the main car park, we were able to put in on display after all with the bonus of knowing that the driving axleboxes are in better order than expected. We have since levelled the front and middle axles out with blocks which should facilitate future movements.
Having drawn admiring glances from our Members and Shareholders, many of whom would never have seen it before, 80150 was now in a good place to start on Phase One of the Cab Roof Project, namely the repair of the cab itself. I had started repairing the cab front plate which we removed a while ago and this was continued by our friends from the 75079 Group who made a new cover plate for it to replace the missing one. The rear cab bulkhead which sits above the crew lockers was unfortunately a write-off being irreparably bent and decayed, but with a bit of CAD wizardry from our Restorations Manager Steve Humby, a new one together with parts of the R/H window and tank were soon on order from a laser profiling company.
Across three days in mid-October our contract welder Rob Turrall was busy fitting all these components; first the rear bulkhead which fitted like a dream and then the much more complex rebuilding of the decayed front window and the rear of the tank top it sits on. Eventually we were finished and with the cab front and back replaced and now secure, the first phase had been completed.
Phase Two, the design and manufacture of the roof itself was also progressing nicely with our resident CAD (Computer Assisted Design) expert Peter Reeves making genuine headway and pulling together all the threads from the BR drawing, the 80097 CAD data and measurements taken from our own loco and from 80151 and 80064 at the Bluebell.
We had heard about a company in Dorset (Somdor Engineering) with large rollers and welding capabilities and following discussions with them, they were able to quote for a two-piece roof welded in the middle before rolling which they could supply assembled with the necessary lifting lugs and strengthening strips plus other loose parts needed for the eventual fitting. As Ropley Works closed for Christmas, we placed the order with plenty of optimism for the New Year.
And 2019 has certainly not disappointed. Mild weather meant we could continue with descaling, painting and removal of parts with an early victory being the removal of the 4-feed sandbox, a complicated operation spread over several days which involved getting a very large, heavy and awkwardly-shaped object out through a very small hole. It is now at Ropley awaiting repair, and other components such as the water levelling pipes which connect the water space in the tanks and bunker will follow soon.
And so to the last day of February when we awaited the arrival of the roof with great anticipation. As I wandered across Ropley footbridge, the lorry from Somdor was already there with the roof and our works manager David Sibley appeared with the Merlo telehandler to unload it. It soon became obvious that getting the roof supplied with the Eastleigh pattern lifting lugs modification already welded on was an excellent idea and we quickly had the roof in the air suspended on chains. Getting it to the front of the shed was pretty straightforward, but what to do with it after that was less obvious given the great weight of the item and the need to lift it over CanPac's bogie and truck to its destination in the middle of the shed.
The Ropley Thursday gang regulars had the answer in using the roll-along gantry with a block and tackle, and with Mr Sibley's genius idea of putting the whole thing on four empty oil drums, we soon got the roof to where it needed to be. Somdor seem to have done a great job with the fabrication of the roof but there are still a few jobs to do on it at Ropley including fitting the various "bells and whistles" and applying primer and paint, which will take place over the next few weeks.
The week’s excitement didn’t end there and the very next day a team of film students from Southampton Solent University arrived at Alresford to make a short film about our project (BOLSO - The Movie?), coming soon to a Youtube channel near you. Naturally it will show the cab roof in all its glory and should be a great promotional tool for all that we are trying to achieve.
Next up comes Phase 3, the fitting of the roof to the loco, but that will be a story for another day...
So all that remains is for me to say a huge "Thank You!" to all our supporters for “delivering the goods” and making this happen. Our MyDonate page is still live so let's see, what shall we do next?
If you’re not an Internet fan (no, me neither), traditional cheques or cash to MHRPS (80150 fund) at Alresford Station are of course always gratefully appreciated.
Best, Martin Orford