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Ropley Loco Wednesday Gang - 10th April 2019

It’s been a while since I put finger to keyboard, so here’s a quick update on the Loco Wednesday Gang’s activity since February.  Since then, we’ve seen the Ides of March, All Fools Day, the beginning of the (train) running season, and most importantly, the start of the picnic season.

Almost the whole gang has contributed to the overhaul of S15 30506, which is now nearing completion.  It’s often been unpleasant work, needle-gunning, scraping, cleaning and painting, with the occasional container-hunt thrown in to keep morale high.  But we’ll all have the pleasure of seeing it run in the next few weeks.

In a far-away workshop, a new middle cylinder pattern has been made for Swanage. It’s an interesting process requiring the BR hand-drawn drawing to be converted into a CAD 3D model, which can then be “sliced” into small sections in the computer.  Each of these is then milled from a polystyrene block using a CNC milling machine, then all the slices are stuck together to make a mould ready for casting.  Assembled together it’s very approximately a 4ft cube, but two people can lift it with ease.  The rivets and fitted bolts have been removed from the life-expired cyllinder and when the new cylinder is cast and machined, the front buffer-beam will be removed allowing the frames to be spread apart slightly, and the cylinder can be replaced.

Les-and-the-bogie-men have run out of bogies and trailing-trucks and we’ll have to find a new name for them.  They have now started on Swanage’s axle-box horn-guides to get them flat and true, using a machine invented by one of the Thursday gang.  The machine drives a rotating  cutter and has feed mechanisms to move the cutter vertically and horizontally.

I’ve been digging out the springs that came from Swanage when it was dismantled. Some were in good order and were tested, with a few being out of spec, whilst others had broken plates and we’d stored them behind the containers.  The damaged ones have been retrieved from the buddleia that had engulfed them, and given a bit of a clean so they can be sent for repair or replacement.

Two weeks ago, Steve asked us to get Swanage’s coupled wheels in from the yard, so 6 of us set off to give them an almighty push.  I did this with some trepidation as the last set of wheels I moved (from the Black Five) had massive balance weights and got a little bit out of control.  But these Bulleid-Firth-Brown wheels are much lighter, and the front and rear ones have tiny balance weights that seem to balance just the the crank-pin – not the weight of the coupling/connecting rods. As a result, the front and rear wheel-sets were almost perfectly balanced and behaved really well.  The middle set has the crank-axle for the inside connecting rod, and much larger balance weights, but was still much more manageable than conventional coupled wheels.  Perhaps Mr Bulleid got that aspect of the design right!  In one of the photos you can see the dust-shield and the sprocket drive for the valve gear, although it’s covered in protective tape.  The insides of the wheels are being scraped and cleaned, ready to be painted.

The CanPac tender gang have now finished removing the wasted and damaged parts of the tender chassis, and the axle-boxes and wheel-sets have been removed.  CAD drawings have been produced for replacement sections of steel plate, and the supplier has cut and delivered them. I imagine there is quite a lot of drilling required and as the mag-drill is showing signs of intensive use, it’s going away for an overhaul.  I’m sure I’ve heard how the replacement horn-blocks are going to be made, but as I can’t remember that part of the plan, it will have to wait for another blog.

The CanPac tender brake-gear team formed up last summer to assess the state of the hangers, linkages, cross-beams and brake-block holders. After several weeks of measuring and reaming, we’re now well under way with making the 89 bushes and 45 pins required.  It’s slow work as we’re trying to get the components as uniform as we can and the bushes need to be an interference fit in the holes.  Luckily Alan and Dave are experienced machinists so they are making most of the bushes, but we’ve had a bit of help from Henley College where they’ve made part of a set of brake-block-holder pins and bushes. We’ll assess those next week.

Some time ago, we had a set of parts made for 3 West Country centre ash-pans, and one remained in the stores.  This was retrieved last week and a group of us pushed a trolley back-and forth to deliver the bits to the Boiler Shop, where Ed is going to assemble the ash-pan.  This is evidently a trial run in preparation for another kit being CAD-designed and cut to make the larger ashpan required for CanPac. Hopefully it will be a bit more straightforward than assembling a flat-pack shoe-cupboard!

And lastly, the housekeeping work at Ropley has gone on while all this was taking place.  Equipment was repaired, computers were fixed, pits were dug out, bits shifted around and tidied up, pallets broken up, and so on.   All this takes place without a picture being taken, but if we didn’t do it, the skilled staff would have to; so its just as well we’re there. Perhaps the most memorable job was cleaning the wheel-drop shed door using the new refurbished steam cleaner.  None of us could remember the last time we saw the door’s green paint!



Under Assistant Ropley Scribe

Photo gallery

  • The pattern for Swanage’s new inside cylinder casting. Cylinder and valve openings are facing us and steam ports are on the top

  • The underside, giving an idea of it’s size and complexity (thanks to Precision Patterns for both photos)

  • Les-and-the-bogiemen have started on aligning Swanage’s coupled-wheel horn-blocks. The cutter is just below the oil pipes

  • Swanage’s wheels have now moved into the shed for cleaning, painting and checking journals

  • The front and rear coupled wheels have tiny lead balance weights

  • Bigger balance weights on the middle wheels. The chain sprocket drive and journals are covered with protective tape.

  • CanPac’s tender chassis - the tender team have removed the wasted platework, the cracked horn guides, and the wheels/axleboxes.

  • New plates have arrived to replace the buffer-beam and part of the inner frames

  • The brake-gear team have made and fitted several bushes to the tender brake hangers – its painstaking work but we’re getting there

  • Henley College have helped by making some of the brake-block holder bushes and pins

  • A flat-pack ash-pan kit moved to the Boiler Shop by these fine fellows

  • Kieran enjoying a sauna whilst cleaning the wheel-drop shed door. We didn’t know it was green!