23rd Feb 2021 in
As the UK vaccination program rolls out across the country and we can all begin to look forward to the easing of restrictions, those of us working and volunteering on The Watercress Line can’t wait to welcome our visitors and supporters back to the railway. At this time we have no idea when that might be so members of the engineering team and loco representatives have got together to whet your appetite with a little reminder of the sort of things we were up to before the current lockdown began. If this proves a popular format then maybe this form of combined blog could become a regular feature going forward. What do you think? Meantime, we hope you enjoy our offering.
During the Summer and Autumn of last year, following reopening of the railway, we spent a lot of time having a thorough sort out of the works – the 2 main aims of this – improvement of working areas/conditions & to improve access around the workshop – this, in short, involved;
demolition of the old stores in the workshop & removal of the 20ft container that in part made it
moving the spring tester (yet to be reinstated in its new position)
revamp of the white metal area
moving & a revamp of our welding area
creation of a new fitting area
thorough clear out down the sides of the workshops to give a better work space
And we aren’t finished yet…
In the machine shop we’ve also had our new lifting beams erected, which we all agree will prove to be very beneficial. Thank you to all those who donated towards these.
On to a loco summary –
The running fleet in the main was routine maintenance for the last 6 months of the year, with the exception of No.1, of which had a regulator valve overhaul and a smokebox door seal modification along with other works around September time.
Project work -
08288 – is progressing steadily – because of the time this has been out of service it has been a project where by more and more repair work has been discovered as we’ve gone through the repair and testing processes, but that’s why we do thorough testing, to get it right before entry to traffic.
Radiator was removed for a steel work repair to the bottom of the lower tank – at the same time a thorough flush through and examination has been done – this has now been refitted
Various bodywork repairs have been undertaken, to name a few bits – patch repairs to the roof panels, new end panels for the battery boxes, cab floor repairs, generator room air filter replacement & doors repaired
On the engine we’ve done an oil change and flush through – a head gasket change on no.4 head (with thanks to the class 50 group for undertaking this), unblocked various oil feeds
One of the most significant parts of this project has been completing the rewire and going through the fault finding stages. The loco has been running for testing purposes and proven to work fundamentally well
A lot of repainting work has been undertaken – chassis has had a full repaint, with just the final coats on the top end left to do.
The tender brake hanger brackets have been a fairly large job recently, where by some had to be removed from the frames for frame repairs, and some have never been bushed before so we’ve had to bore these out for bushes. This was a bit of a challenge because of the design, the bores of the 2 halves must be kept in line otherwise the pin will simply not fit, so a line boring fixture has been produced and used successfully. This job is now complete, with new fitted bolts (where required), bushes and pins manufactured.
Work on machining the new replacement tender horn blocks has been undertaken
The valve gear has also been completed and dispatched to Eastleigh, following rebushing and new hardened pins manufacturing where required. New die blocks were also manufactured.
In addition to all of this, we assisted in some bodywork repairs and undertook a repaint of coach 4423 ready for the Steam Illuminations trains.
All in all, a busy second half to 2020…
'The boiler-shop staff returned from Furlough towards the end of August. Initial work was concentrated on some workshop improvements and tidying up. However before the month was out we were able to lift boiler 1095 for loco 35005's new inner firebox to be fitted into the outer wrapper. Some fettling once back in the workshop and the inner and outer firebox were bolted up tight to the foundation ring. Various checks were carried out including loose fitting of a couple of tubes to check alignment of the tube-plates and all looked good. With the inner box secured a start has been made on tapping the approximately 2,500 stay holes. Initially this has been carried out on the back-head where the plate is new inside and out and would be the easiest place to start and train some volunteers in the process. This progressed well towards the end of the year but has paused in this current lockdown. It is hoped that once restrictions are lifted and people are happy to volunteer again we will be able to push this job on with some new and refreshed tooling and a good team of volunteers.
The other main project in the boiler-shop at the moment is the Urie Society’s boiler 799. This was moved into the workshop just days before the first lockdown so it was good to make a start on this in September. Initial examinations were carried out and work started on removing firebox outer wrapper half sides and throat-plate, which involves the drilling out of many stays and the burning out of many rivets. Great progress was made and with the Urie Society team working on the boiler too we come into 2021 with the throat-plate removed and the new one already ordered and delivered from our friends at South Devon Railway Engineering. One of the outer wrapper sides has been removed and the other side is close behind with just a handful of stays left to drill out. Progress has also been made on the smoke-box tube-plate which has had a section below the rivet line cut out and a new piece profiled ready for welding.
The retube of vertical boiler K3227 for crane DS58 was completed towards the end of the year. This was complicated by the fact that two stay tubes needed replacement and these had to be welded back in, and also the space constraints meant expanding by hand rather than using an air powered roller. However the hydraulic test was successful and soon followed by the steam test. The boiler has now been moved to Alton ready for fitting back into crane DS58.
Just before Christmas, boiler 1219 was lifted from loco 75079 and placed on a wagon. An opportunity arose early January to move the boiler into the workshop in order to carry out some initial cleaning up and testing. A good start has been made on this and more information can be released as we progress with this stage. '
Following on from the previous blog reporting the boiler lift it would be great to be able to report more progress. Sadly the Covid lockdown is essential for everyone’s safety and work is on hold – it is rather like being given an Airfix kit for Christmas and not having any glue.
The main reason 75079 remained at Barry scrap yard 10 years after its sister, 75078, left was the state of the tyres on the driving wheels. In the 1970s, worn tyres meant a loco was deemed beyond repair. Once the South Devon Railway were able to offer a service of replacing and machining tyres, many ex-Barry locos became attractive restoration projects. 75079 left Barry in early 1982 for a new home at the Plym Valley Railway. Fortunately for us, the full restoration was more than they could manage, and the loco was sold to the Watercress Line in 2008. Whatever the thick pink paint the Plym Valley used on the frames and boiler we don’t know but the 15 years-worth of corrosion incurred at Barry did not get much worse. On arrival at Ropley a more tasteful black paint was added.
As indicated in the previous blog, corrosion of the frames of 75079 was much less than it might have been. The years of pouring oil between the frames and the sides of the boiler has slowed the corrosion and helped ensure the boiler was not jammed in the frames. There is some corrosion of the frames which will be repaired by weld infill. Some corrosion between the horns and frames of the centre driving wheels will mean the horns will have to be removed and realigned, but that does not seem to be a major job. The dragbox is very corroded but we already knew that and a new dragbox is virtually complete and only awaits normalisation and machining. The new tyres for the driving wheels are in store at the South Devon Railway so once the wheels have been removed, they will be sent to have the tyres changed.
Our next blog will hopefully include a full assessment of the condition of the frames and boiler. Please keep your fingers crossed that nothing untoward is found. The team would like to thank all the volunteers and engineering staff who have helped over the years and have kept the faith that 75079 will return to steam on our railway. 75079 is truly a local engine, she spent most of her life at Basingstoke shed, 70D, less than 15 miles as the crow flies from Ropley.
Once we were allowed to return to site after the first lockdown our priority was to carry out roof repairs whilst the weather was good. With that completed and when attendance has been allowed, work started on making the loco easier to prep for the drivers especially during the winter months. Internal lights (run off shore supply) were fitted at points along the loco where inspections are required, along with a couple of small heaters in the electrical cubicle etc. This will hopefully keep the damp out during the winter months and reduce the risk of electrical issues when starting and using from cold. General running maintenance was also undertaken for the loco’s use in the Steam Illuminations trains.
Our thoughts are now turning to replacing and improving the cab floors at one end as they are becoming rather tired.
Finally a large number of electrical spares have been purchased, an opportunity too good to pass up.
80150 & 34058
With so much doom and gloom about at the moment, I’m going to kick off with a positive statement.
2020 was an excellent year for our two locos 80150 and 34058 Sir Frederick Pile.
By March, 80150’s cab roof had been expertly fitted out by our friends from the 75079 gang and we awaited fitting it to the loco with great anticipation. Unfortunately, successive lockdowns prevented this from happening, but it is ready and waiting for when the opportunity arises.
Lockdown #1 meant that working parties had to be discontinued, but behind the scenes plenty was happening away from the railway. New parts for 80150 including a fully machined duplex valve, steam heat reducing valve, cylinder cock actuating valve, a new smokebox self-cleaning plate and regulator handle bracket were taking shape, whilst sections of the running board and the gauge glass protectors were being refurbished. A new set of damper handwheels was cast to complete that assembly which had already been freed off and painted.
Once we were allowed back to work on the locos, progress was swift and August was a most exciting month. With a colossal 6-page feature in Heritage Railway magazine, we were national news and things only got better as the new parts started coming thick and fast. As the result of a tripartite collaboration with 76077 group and Loughborough Standard Loco Ltd, 80150’s new smokebox ring has been fabricated with the smokebox door also ordered. With the original smokebox front having been cut off in 1981 whilst 80150 was in Woodhams scrapyard, giving the loco back its “face” will be a major milestone for many of our supporters who have kept us going brilliantly with their donations.
At the front end we were also able to replace long-vanished platework including the centre platform and the two side running board steps, the latter doing much to restore the classic lines of the Standard 4 tank. We didn’t quite manage to get the sloping cover plate under the smokebox fitted before Lockdown #2, but it’s all ready to go.
The “push for parts” for 80150 will continue even through the current lockdown; a kit of parts for a new 4-feed sandbox has been ordered and the chimney pattern kindly located for us by the NYMR has arrived at the foundry. We are pushing ahead with transferring BR drawings into CAD design with new water levelling pipes, shovelling plate and firing plate, steam pipe covers and side sandboxes very much on the agenda.
Down at the far end of Alresford things were also stirring with 34058 and an enthusiastic team were making great inroads with de-rusting and painting the loco which we had recently agreed to take on as a conservation project. By the time we had to stop at the end of October, Sir Fred was well on the way to being transformed from a rusting hulk to looking like a realistic restoration prospect. We look forward to continuing with the job when circumstances permit.
As I mentioned, 2020 was a very good year for our locos – just imagine what we can achieve when we don’t have Coronavirus to slow us down!
2020 was something of a haze to the ULS but in between lockdowns we made an awful lot of progress on the engine. Both motion brackets were riveted back on the frames, it sounds a straightforward job but believe me it wasn’t! Not all the holes are accessible with the holding up gun so those in the top ‘pockets’ required the use of a pneumatic holder-up. In the end all went well, there are a handful of rivets left to do which we’ll get on to as soon as the current lockdown eases. With the brackets secured we then had to lift the extension beams into place. These have to be a tight fit between the motion brackets and an angle section toward the rear of the loco; both fitted perfectly, another sign that we’ve got the new frames right!! The next major job was to start fixing new running plate; prior to this the valence sections were removed from storage for fettling and new angles for the frames cut and drilled….a laborious job in itself. By the end of summer all the angles had been riveted on, the valences were up and running plate over the cylinder blocks riveted on. Subsequently the sections which sit above the extension bars were cut and profiled with a curved piece welded on for the step above the motion bracket…..one of the very visible differences between the Urie S15 and the later Maunsell variant. Once we can return to Ropley, riveting these pieces will likely be one of our first jobs. 2 cylinder cover castings were sent away for specialist weld repair and following their safe return the faces of these and the other 2 castings were machined. All 4 were temporarily fitted to the cylinder blocks to allow completion of the cladding.
A major development occurred in July last year which saw 499 return to the tracks for the first time in almost 10 years. Sadly it was only for an hour or so but it was a critical step as it enabled us to remove the trailing wheelset; we can now access all the horn block liners and axleboxes for repair.
A small but significant step in the sense that we all know 499 WILL steam again is that a couple of the guys have started cleaning up the frames and applying paint! Sadly it’s the side not visible from the running line but then as we told them, you can practice on the side people can’t see, then do it right on the side they can!!!
And finally, 499 now has its own roof! The ULS usually don’t like to name-drop but in this instance I feel I must. Designed and built almost single-handedly by Barry Stratton we are now able to carry on working whatever the weather throws at us. This really will make a huge difference to progress on the engine. When you consider we are all volunteers and most of our on-site time is weekends, how much time must we lose to inclement weather? From now on, even when it’s chucking down with rain, there will still be a reason for us to attend…..our wives are as pleased with that as we are!!!
Works taking shape
White metalling bay
New lifting beams in machine shop
No 1's regulator reassembled
08288's radiator being refitted
08288 being repainted
35005's tender brake hanger brackets being line bored
4423 bodywork and paintwork complete, heading back to the carriage shop for a bogie swap
New firebox lifted into boiler 1095
Removing the old throatplate, boiler 799
Boiler 799's new throatplate pressing with the old one in the background
Removing the LH half side, boiler 799
Strong progress made in a few short months on boiler 799
Tubeplate from boiler K3227 with stay tubes welded in
Steam Test boiler K3227
Boiler 1219 is lifted from the frames of 75079
Boiler 1219 safely loaded onto the wagon
Cutting out tube ends from boiler 1219
Front boiler 1219; rear L boiler 1095; rear R boiler 799
Inside the frames of 75079, looking towards the dragbox
New lighting inside the engine compartment 50027 'Lion'
More new lighting
New roof section 50027 'Lion'
80150, smokebox front removed in 1981
New smokebox ring for 80150 (together with that for 76077)
CAD for left hand levelling pipe assembly for 80150
Conservation work underway on 34058 'Sir Frederick Pile'
34058 LH cylinder block
Lifting a running plate assembly onto 499
499, riveting the LH motion bracket
499's lift to remove the rear driving wheels
499 beginning to look like a steam engine once again
Protecting a steam loco - Urie style!!