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Ropley Loco Wednesday Gang - 18th March 2020 – Beware, the Ides of March (again)

Well, here we are again in the middle of March – a traditional time for writing a blog about the goings-on in Ropley workshop by the world-famous Wednesday Gang.  What’s that? “World Famous”? Surely not!  Well, dear reader I can assure you that while on TTI duties I regularly meet visiting railway enthusiasts from all over the English-speaking world, who have read our blogs.

I write this with a heavy heart as I’m now in self-isolation, and missing a Wednesday at Ropley for the first time in a very long while.  As many of the Wednesday Gang members are in the same unhappy state, this may be the last blog for a while. 

I’ve mentioned before that we seem to be have been undertaking long-term projects for a while, where it’s not been possible to make an exciting blog out of what looks like inchingly-slow progress. But a few milestones have occurred since my last effort.

First, I can report that Les-and-the-bogiemen have run out of bogies to overhaul, and have moved up in the world (by about 2 feet) to sort out the geometry of Swanage’s coupled-wheel horn-guides. They have been getting those horn-blocks parallel to one another, and perpendicular to the other side of the loco, to get exactly the right centres for the axle-boxes – a painstaking task involving a lot of thous and some specialised kit.  The axle-boxes have been white-metalled, and blue-ed and scraped to make a perfect fit on the axles journals, and after a visit to the wheel-drop, Swanage is now sitting on it’s coupled-wheels again for the first time in a long while. 

Having achieved that, Les&Co have now been drafted in to sort out the brake-hanger-brackets on CanPacs tender.  CanPacs heavily-repaired tender chassis had some new brake hanger brackets made where part of the internal chassis plates were replaced, but this left us with some alignment issues and the difficult decision about whether to try to bush the worn–out brackets in place in the chassis, or take them out.  In the end, it was decided to get the brackets out, drill and ream them, and fit bushes, then re-fit them. Les&Co are well into this job now, and my ears are still ringing to the sound of a large hammer in use.

My little group have just about finished making and fitting the bushes into CanPacs tender’s brake rigging, and we’re just making our last couple of the 150 bushes and pins that we’d identified as being required.  We still have some work to do on various bits that can’t be bushed as there’s just not enough metal for that. The holes will be filled with weld and drilled/reamed to the right clearances.  There are a few bits of work required on some of the things attached to these bits but we’re close to the end of that job. Mrs Trellis of North Wales has written in, asking whether the cunning centring jig mentioned in the last blog was successful.  I’m pleased to report that it revolutionised the drilling of holes for split-pins – it’s now a treasured possession and lives in my Waitrose bag.  Alan and I now seem destined for  a spell making the bushes for the brake hanger brackets and the fitted bolts to re-attach them, while Mike and Richard finish off some of the odds-and-ends.

Another member of the team (Dave) has been assisting Steve with the development of a pattern for casting the new middle cylinder for Swanage.  A lot of the CAD work for this had been done by an outside contractor, but a review of this revealed that some more work was necessary to make this successful.  A part of this work will require the existing middle cylinder to be lifted out, so that machining dimensions can be finalised, then we should be ready to get the pattern made and the casting produced.

CanPacs tender chassis was turned upside-down a few weeks ago now.  This makes it easier for Les&Co to get at the brake-hanger brackets, and will allow the new dragbox to be assembled by Dave-2Jags’s tender gang.  New axlebox horn-blocks will also need to be fitted at some point.

Meanwhile, other Wednesday Gang regulars have been doing a variety of large and small jobs that are just as important, ranging from electrical work, to pit-emptying and construction of a new wood store.  And in my spare time, I’ve been upgrading all the PCs on the site – which is just about complete.

Alongside all of this, gangs from other days have been working on a spring-clean and preparing for some improvements to the shed.  This includes moving the lathes in the old machine shop, re-laying the concrete floor around road 3, installing a hoist and rack near the hydraulic press, and probably a few other things. 

Just before I close, some of you will know that we have a new Chairman and a new General Manager.  I'd like to put on record my appreciation for their communication to the workforce since they were appointed. Well done, chaps!   Well, that’s about all for now, until the coronavirus makes it possible to return to Ropley.  Stay safe everyone.

Under Assistant Ropley Scribe

Photo gallery

  • An old friend - 92212 is now out of ticket and going into store

  • Swanage is now an 0-6-0 and looks better for it.

  • Some of Canpacs brake cross-beams have been bushed, others await weld-and-drill. They have been moved to a new rack near the press, which will also be used for storing connectings rods etc.

  • CanPacs brake adjusters, pull-rods and brakeshafts are in a more convenient location in the large machine shop

  • ...... Which allows the old location behind Swanage to be cleared

  • The end of pin-making is in sight. An old one from Swanage, and two new ones in progress for Swanage and CanPac's brake rigging

  • CanPacs tender chassis is now upside-down, making it easier to work on the new dragbox, brake hanger brackets, and horn-blocks

  • The bottom part of CanPacs tender’s new dragbox, waiting to be fitted .....

  • It will go into this space in what is temporarily the top of the dragbox

  • One of the newly-made brake hanger brackets, with one of the pins I made a few months ago

  • Is it a new character in Chuggington? No, it’s the completed new inner firebox for CanPac (upside down). The “eyes” are the ends of the thermic syphons and the “nose” is the tubeplate.

  • A cosy new shelter for this Standard 4 bogie. It’s the newly completed cab roof for 80150.

  • A new hoist to be positioned alongside the hydraulic press and the nearby rod rack - it should be really useful

  • This enchanting little dwelling is where the wood-fairies live. These little people break up pallets which they take into their wood-store home until needed for fire-lighting

  • The spring-clean has revealed some surfaces not seen for many years - I've rather spoiled the image by putting my cup of tea in the picture