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Ropley - July 13th

Ropley, Wednesday 13th July; my oldest daughters birthday; she’s 39; God, I feel ancient... Still, I’m well at home and not out of place here with the other Wednesday regulars at the Ropley Home for the Bewildered..

The day started fresh and relatively cold but soon turned into the traditional British Summer day of heavy showers interspersed with bright bits.. Right, that’s got weather details and birthday greetings out of the way; what did we actually do today I hear you ask?

David from admin joined us for early tea and suggested a few jobs we might like to consider; a different and welcome approach we decided; Matt and Paul needed a few of us to assist with weighing the Black 5 tender as it had had a bearing and a spring replacement fairly recently, Weighing the tender? Or the loco, for that matter; what’s that all about then?

Whereas it sounds a bit odd, it’s all about making sure each axle has weight distributed evenly side to side, and that each axle is similar in loading to the others, thereby helping prevent any spring damage through unequal distribution of weight. Sounds simple enough really and the technique for doing it, though fairly laborious, is quite simple too. It involves placing two small jacks which are held tight to each wheel in turn against the rail; a hydraulic ram with a calibrated gauge then is used to lift that wheel just a few thou clear of the rail (as measured by sliding a thin steel rule between the wheel and the rail) and the gauge records both the hydraulic pressure needed to lift it and, more importantly, how many ton’s that represents. Each wheel is weighed three times, to ensure a consistent reading and the results recorded.

The recorded readings indicated quite a variation in weight on each wheel varying from 6 ton’s to 10.5 ton’s so a plan was formulated to correct this. Paul and Matt using their combined experience decided by how much each of the two big adjusting nuts on each spring hanger needed tweaking and left us to adjust and repeat the whole process over again. As I said, a fairly slow process. After each set of adjustments, the loco and tender were towed up the yard then back into the shed to “settle” the springs before measuring again. In all we did this four times which took four of us all morning with Paul and Matt hovering nearby to check we were being consistent with our techniques; it’s fairly easy to get a mistaken reading which would have made the whole exercise pointless, but at the end of it all, everybody was happy.

Of course, grovelling about on my hands and knees meant I didn’t really get to see to much of what everyone else was up to, but there was certainly some more tender moments going on outside the machine shop where the new frames for Wadebridge’s new tender have resided for some time; today four of the guys were doing a practice fitting of the newly cast horn stays which involved lifting the heavy items into place and sliding them down into the frames; so far as I know, the were successful before removing them all again and storing.. Not entirely sure why they didn’t leave them fitted but there must be a reason I guess..

A couple of shifty looking characters were ducking and diving beside and behind the oil tank and a pair of boots was sitting minus their owner beside them; I just had to ask..

It transpired they were rubbing down and priming the back of the steel tank which, as it stands close to our boundary with a farmers field is fairly muddy; the mystery boots then belonged to a wellie wearing volunteer wielding the wire brush and paint brush! Such multi-skilling here at Ropley; it’s frightening...

Talking of multi-skilling, the cakes (which are, with a couple of exceptions, made with our own grubby hands) have reached new heights recently; we’ll be competing with the local Mothers Union (do they still exist?) soon if we carry on with this.. Which of course leads nicely to the cake rota:


July 20th; Dave the Print and Pilot Pete.

July 27th; Keith and Richard.

August 3rd; Graham and Dave the Blog.

August10th; Aussie John and Petersfield.


I won’t be here the next couple of weeks as it’s Hungary straight into German GP’s so until August 3rd (my cake duty day) that’s all from me, your Ropley Scribe;


Photo gallery

  • One of the six horn stays fitted

  • Continuing the tender theme

  • Paul supervising

  • Some spring tension adjustment before re-weighing

  • These two look a bit shifty!

  • Especially as boots have been discarded

  • New spring for Black 5 loco being delivered for Thursday Gang

  • Tyres on sack barrow look a bit soft my offer to pump them up was declined

  • Stuart weilding the hammer on number punches