Watercress Line

Ropley Loco Wednesday Gang - 7th March 2018 – It’s the Ides of March next week (again)

It’s been a few weeks since the last blog so I decided it was high time for another.  Not that there’s huge amounts of visible progress to report, but just to show that the inmates of the Ropley Home for the Bewildered are still here and still doing great things.

Even through the recent snow flurry we soldiered on (and soldered on!), and sent Arctic explorers up to the headshunt to remove the steam turbine generator from Wadebridge.  That’s dedication for you. They came back complaining about “frozen nuts”, a reference to the bolts contracting in length by about 10-20 thou in the extremely low temperature, making them very hard to shift.  This was made even more difficult by lack of access so they hadn’t spotted that some of the nuts were welded on.  This was done to avoid the problem of loosening in cycles of high and low temperatures and the vibration caused by the steam turbine. They revisited the scene this week, in spring sunshine, and I think they finished the job.

A few words about February’s steam gala.  Right up to the wire we had unexpected faults in 3 of the locomotives that were due to star in the show.  Cheltenham had a firebox leak, 45231 had a failed superheater gasket and 45379 was stopped with a melted ashpan and grate. All of these looked like show-stoppers, but the heroic efforts of the staff and volunteers had them all fixed just in time. The customers on the trains were completely unaware of what it took to make the magic happen – especially the double-headed black fives.

Back to this week. Out in the yard, 45231 was in steam, and I’m guessing that as the support coach appeared in the platform, this loco was probably headed back to Southall.  The 9F seems to have had it’s tyres turned – all except the centre flangeless ones - and there was some work ongoing with the Ivatt Tank and Cheltenham. 

Our Black Five (45379) was still in the wheeldrop shed following the investigation of a second crack in its frames.  Our loco is (I think) the only Black Five that still has the original pre-Grouping pattern of axle horn-blocks and spring mounts whereas all the other Black Fives in preservation had been re-built by LMS/BR with new or modified frames to overcome the difficulties created by a combination of weak design and Armstrong-Whitworths use of chromium steel.  These frames are over 80 years old now and I have a feeling they may need replacing some time in the next 80 years – something that would once have been considered to be impossible.  You can see the later type of horn-block and spring mount in the picture of the 9F below.

There’s been a job on the white-board for a few weeks now, to finish off the modifications to one of the track trolleys, and basically to get the wretched thing out of the shed to make some space. Dave and George were amongst the heroes who stepped forward to splosh paint onto it, and may have made a start on painting the tender lifting gantries. By the time they finish painting those, it will be time to start again at the other end.

The bogie-men were putting the finishing touches to the load-bearing surfaces in S15 30506’s bogie.  Everything has been declared to be level and true and the new plates were being secured into place with allen-keyed counter-sunk bolts.  The wheelsets are sitting alongside, complete with re-metalled axle-boxes so I guess it won’t be long before the bogie can go back on to the loco.

Our happy band of Swanage pipe-fitters has moved over to the dark right-hand side of the loco.  Quite a lot has already been done, but this weeks task was to find and temporarily fit the lower of the two delivery pipes that deliver water from the injectors into the boiler.  These have a distinctive shape and 12 of our lubrication pipes need to be bent to fit exactly alongside them as they run back to the cab under-side. Thus we spent a fair bit of time on a container-hunt then lugging these 2.1/4” pipes back to the loco.  Once there, we found that the enormous threaded coupling wouldn’t go together due to some bruising in it’s brass thread, which required a bit of work with the thread file to get things moving.

This area of our lubrication pipework was designed with a dip so as to achieve a clearance of about 1.5” between the lube pipes and those delivery pipes.  An examination of dozens of photos of Bulleids in BR and preservation service shows a much more pronounced dip alongside this nut, as generations of shed fitters pulled the lubrication pipes aside to get their spanners in. We’ll make a little deviation from the drawing to allow for this, so our tidy pipework won’t have to be disturbed.

There’s still plenty to do, so if you have a hankering to “have a go”,  come along and join us. Despite appearances, this doesn’t all need years of engineering expertise – most of us are drawn from just about every other walk of life and few have touched a bit of cold steel since they left school!

I won’t add the usual lines from the cake rota as Paul is just organising the next 3 months of cake contributions.  We had a cake defaulter this week who shall be nameless (but he has 2 Jags), but we’ll let him off without a forfeit as he regularly exceeds cake expectations, and besides, Dave-the-blog, now known as Dave-1Jag, bought in sufficient Blue Peter Chewy Cake to feed a small army.

Lastly, the railway is in a recruitment process at the moment so I’ll just add an observation about a new piece of BS(Business-Speak). My daughter recently heard of the term “Alchemist Leader” being used at the top of a CV where a senior job was awarded to a relatively unqualified person who claimed to have this virtue. I had the privelege to work for someone who would never have put this term on his CV but managed to turn an idea into a personal fortune of $4Bn. There seem to be quite a lot of “Alchemist leaders” around today with the talent of turning gold into base-metal!

Under Assistant Ropley Scribe

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