Watercress Line

Ropley Loco Weds Gang - The usual, plus a trip to the boiler shop

Let's get my kitchen etc out of the way first – its finished!  And the damage caused by the plumbing leaks is sorted out.  Now we can move on to more interesting matters.

Chuck Berry’s death last week brought back teenage memories of Beatles and Rolling Stones – it wasn’t till a little later that I realised that half of their early repertoire came from Chuck Berry. I saw him perform live in the 1990s – probably the best stage act I ever saw.

The days task list was mainly a continuation of previous jobs, but Andy asked that as many Wednesday Gang volunteers as possible try to attend next week for a more comprehensive briefing.

There were a few tasks to finish off Cheltenham and Thomas, plus another interesting one to adapt a face to fit onto the Class 33 diesel.  I’m fairly sure that someone wants to call him (or her) “Crompton”, but I’m not sure that there is such a character on the Isle of Sodor!

The Wadebridge Tender gang went off to try their hand at fitting vacuum and steam pipes – I didn’t get any pictures but judging by the smiles and the threaded pipe ends, they made good progress.

The Swanage bogie gang carried on from where they were last week. On my travels past bogie central, I was distracted by a device that looked more at home in a medieval torture chamber than a workshop – and the coincidence that Welsh Pete appeared to be attached to it.   It was in fact a Spanish windlass and was being used to pull the axleboxes tight against the horn guides. We had an enlightening discussion about “what did the Spanish ever do for us” and that led into speculation as to whether Catherine of Aragon passed by Ropley on her way to meet Prince Arthur in Eversley. If you know the answer, it’s probably best if you keep it to yourself!

Paul and I were detailed to get on with a task we’ve been looking forward to for a while, and Graham tagged along to help.  Before Swanage’s coupled wheels can go back on, we have to fit 4 oil pipes behind each one.   They deliver oil from trays in the cab down into the axleboxes, and will be impossible to reach once the wheels are in place.  The pipes reach to just outside the wheels flange, where they will eventually be connected to longer pipes that go back to the cab. 

First, we enjoyed a container-hunt in the sunshine and by tea break we’d found all 24 bits of pipe, and surprisingly all 6 pipe clips were in place on the loco.  The pipes will need to have screw fittings soldered to their ends – but the first job was to clean them up, anneal them (heating to cherry red), and then blow out any carbon with an air line. I left Paul and Graham to this and went to sort out drawings for the wooden blocks that fit into the pipe clips.  Once I’d found the drawings and marked them up, I delivered these to the Carriage Shop to be made.

I took advantage of the trip to visit the Boiler Shop where I discovered amongst other things that the computer network needs sorting out again – possibly as a result of Tuesday’s power cut.  AndyN the Boiler Shop foreman gave me a pretty comprehensive explanation of the activity on the three boilers that are in  progress. I find this fascinating, and I hope our reader will be interested too. I’ll do my best to describe what I saw but be aware that my understanding is only as good as what I can remember of the conversation with Andy. 

First to the S15 boiler that will go on 30506. This is at a fairly advanced stage, and AndyW (another Andy) has been fitting stays in the space above the firebox.  These are called sling stays as a series of slings are suspended from ribs at the top of the boiler, and each of these carries 3 stays that attach to the roof of the internal firebox.  Have a look at the pictures and you will see what I mean. These support the firebox roof, which would otherwise collapse under steam pressure. 

AndyW clambered into the top of the boiler to take pictures for me. Thanks AndyW! In the pictures, you will also see the longitudinal stays – these run from the firebox back-plate all the way through the space above the firebox, then through the boiler to the front tubeplate.  Their function is to support the tubeplate and stop it from being forced out by steam pressure.  Note that every 3-inch square of these plates is subject to a ton of steam pressure, so all these normally-invisible bits are vitally important.

AndyN explained that he’d used the endoscope I’d been given to clear out debris from the very narrow space between the inner and outer firebox walls, known as the “water legs”.  By now, you’re thinking about the tubes that people have inserted into them while surgeons do intricate work while watching a computer monitor.  Well, that’s pretty much what happened.  The (very inexpensive) endoscope was plugged into the USB port on an old laptop, then guided into the narrow space. The debris (compacted scale, rivet heads etc) could then be hooked out with a long rod while the computer monitor was used to watch the operation.  You can see the very-narrow water legs in one of the pictures.

Still with me?  Next to Canadian Pacific’s boiler.  The inner firebox has been taken out and AndyN is preparing to make a new one.  You can see the size of this in the pictures.  The thermic siphons are also being repaired.  These provide more heating surface inside the firebox and are designed to improve the flow of cold water from the bottom of the boiler to the top of the firebox.  The new (front) tubeplate has also been drilled, ready for fitting.

A little work is also progressing on Swanage’s boiler. The foundation ring corners are being replaced with new steel, and the new tubeplate has been prepared.

I know this has been hard going if you’re not familiar with the inner workings of boilers, so I’ll leave you to make a cup of tea and recover! 

Before I go, thanks to the folks who donated computers in the last few weeks – much appreciated.

Under Assistant Ropley Scribe


Cake roster for the next few weeks:
12 April            Steve & Keith

19 April            Colin-Austin & Iain

26 April            Paul & Pilot-Pete

Photo gallery