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Testing Times

Over the last month in the carriage workshop, it has been testing times in both senses of the phrase. We’ve been testing things… but also finding some other things a little testing.

The big news was bogie lifts on both carriages, which in general went very smoothly. As we don’t have the capability to lift carriages other than with a steam crane, which is not a very efficient way of doing the job, we employed a specialist company to do the lifting for us. The guys came in and you could really tell it was their bread and butter, no fuss, just got the job done!

First up (no pun intended) was the MK1, whose B1 bogies had been out from the carriage for a number of months, and overhauled by Rob. To do this, Bulleid 1456 was moved out of the workshop so the guys could have a clear run at the MK1 with the lifting beams manoeuvred in by our fork lift. Although the workshop looks all square, the tracks do not run parallel through it, meaning there are a few pinch points, and getting in would have been problematic with the Bulleid in the other road, but it was no problem to shift it out.

The MK1 lift went very smoothly, and soon enough it was the turn of the Bulleid. 1456 was already sat on the correct bogies, but we had a few bits of work we wanted to do on them, and this was only possible by their removal. The problems we had been having were twofold, firstly the bogies did not have enough spring movement, but also the buffer heights were sitting high. The lifting guys were able to leave the coach jacked for a week while we did the work we needed, and then came back to set it back down on the bogies.

The testing times began when we set the coach back down, as we had cured the first problem of the movement (the coach bounces around very happily now), but the carriage was (and still is) still sitting too high. There is not enough adjustment to sort it out in situ, so it will mean another lift. This is really annoying, but to be honest this is simply one of those things which happen when you’re restoring old things. It needs chalking down to experience, learn from it and move on.

Strangely, something that has helped us on the road to getting it right has been the troubles Rob had when overhauling the B1 bogies underneath the MK1. This proved a challenge because documentation and set-up information was proving elusive. Partly with the knowledge of where he went to get that info, but also the fact that B1 bogies and the SR1 bogies underneath the Bulleid carriages have some major similarities (and of course some help from our friends in the wider preservation world), we’re quietly confident that we know how to sort these troubles out. It wasn’t quite the outcome we wanted from the bogie lifts, but we will get there sooner rather than later.

We have made other tests which have gone very well though. Last week, 1456 was wheeled out of the workshop so it could be connected up to a steam locomotive! The honour fell to the Ivatt tank, 41312, and the reason was to test the steam heating system. With the usual few connections which needed nipping up to form a steam tight seal, the system worked very well, and it was nice and snug in the two saloons. The Ivatt tank had to disappear to go and work a train service, so the Class 20 came into the yard to help us test the vacuum brake system. I hadn’t realised this test was happening, and looked out of the workshop to see most of my colleagues sat on the ground staring intently at the underframe of the coach, and not moving at all (see photos). I naturally assumed they’d all gone mad, but I soon found out what they were up to and joined in the sitting and staring. The movements of the brake gear are very small, and difficult to see on a moving train so it isn’t something you see very much, even when you’re working on these vehicles. It really did look like the carriage was coming alive, and good to know that not everything is wrong with the bogies!

That just about wraps up the fun for one month, thanks for reading.


Photo gallery

  • MK1 16083 up in the air

  • Something’s missing…

  • Back on terra firma

  • Up the Bulleid!

  • Underframe detail for all you modellers out there

  • Lining up the bogie centre pins ready to bring the carriage back down

  • Buffer height issues were accentuated during the lift

  • Back on the bogies, and testing the steam heat system

  • A tell-tale wisp of steam

  • Testing the brake system (I saw them all sat here and assumed they were all having a rest! Then when I realised what was going on, I joined in)

  • Well… maybe when Butts bridge is reconnected, eh?

  • Finally getting to work on a proper railway

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