Watercress Line

Ropley Loco Wednesday Gang - A Safe Haven from Home

Well dear reader, we often refer to Ropley as being mildly chaotic but we appear to have done it an injustice - at least in relative terms.  For the last 4 weeks I’ve lived through a kitchen re-fit at home, and after this, Ropley seems like a haven of order and tranquility by comparison.  We have at last got a floor and a sink and all the appliances working now but there are still plenty more tradesmen to traipse through our lives. Grrrrr!!

Andy-the-boss walked us through the long list of tasks on the whiteboard and we selected the ones that would enliven and enlighten our day.  There was eager anticipation of tea-break when we would tackle the biggest cake-eating challenge of the year so far – Andy had succumbed to pressure and made us all a cake in addition to our scheduled cakes. Very nice it was too!

A lot of the list referred to preparation for the gala which starts on Friday.  One gang went off to erect plastic fencing to keep our customers safe from falling down into the cow-field or into the pit, while another kept the warming fires in the locos going, and wound the lubricators to get oil into the bearings.  Most of them (the locos, that is) hadn’t moved since New Year so it takes a while to get oil flowing to the right places.

Keith has made a temporary escape from Les’ bogie overhauling gang – he has taken charge of stripping down Swanage’s steam reverser.  As far as I know, apart from Beyer-Garratts (where I can see the point), steam reversers were not widely used in the UK except on LSWR/SR locos. BR and the other pre-nationalisation companies seemed content to use the much simpler, lighter and more reliable screw reverser where the reversing gear is wound backward or forward using some form of screw thread and gears.

The steam-powered reverser works by steam pressure from the drivers controls moving a piston in a small cylinder. This movement is locked and/or damped by another cylinder where another steam pipe opens a valve allowing oil to move between one side of a piston to another.  These pistons are linked by a spindle which also moves the three sets of miniaturised Walschaerts valve gear contained in the oil bath.  Simplicity itself!!!!  Until a seal gets leaky or the oil isn’t topped up, which can cause the thing to change gear or even change direction without warning.  This was removed when the Bulleids were re-built. 

Anyway, back to Keith – he was stripping and cleaning the whole unwieldy assembly and he showed me the piston and its seals that operate in the damping/locking chamber. These were originally made from leather in the days before O-rings, but neither of us could work out just what material had been fitted in Swanage’s gear.

Bob-the-welder and Mike were busy re-claiming white metal from axlebox bearings whilst another gang were shifting four newly delivered CanPac springs to the planer for modification to spec so they can be used interchangeably with the old springs that are being re-used.

I spent part of my day dealing with IT issues and copying drawings files for various reasons.  One batch of these was the last remaining item in our paper-drawing cataloguing project – a manual for the governer on Sulzer diesel engines comprising 120 pages of complex instructions, graphs and diagrams.  A related job was to help Morley locate the electrical drawings for Merchant Navies and West Countries that applied to the batches of locos that include CanPac and Swanage.  The rest of my day was spent on locating bogie springs for Swanage. These are coil springs, and some of those fitted to the loco were broken, while others were life-expired, so we’ll need to order some more to make up a set of 8 springs.

Whilst up in the carriage shop, Billy showed me the CK coach that he and his apprentice are overhauling.  As usual the toilet cubicles were in poor condition with the steel floor supports badly rusted by the effects of 50 years of  - er - spillages.  Our customers really like corridor coaches so It will be good to get this one back into service in overhauled condition.

Under Assistant Ropley Scribe


Cake roster for the next few weeks:
22 Feb 17           Alastair & Stewpot
1 Mar 17             Dave-the-scribe & Iain
8 Mar 17             Welsh Pete & Les-the-bogieman
15 Mar 17             Paul & Petersfield
22 Mar 17             Pilot Pete & Dave-2Jags
29 Mar 17             Colin Morris & Alastair

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