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ULS Blog June 2018

Firstly my apologies to those of you who do like to be kept abreast of progress on both 506 and 499. Every month I fully intend to provide an update and every month business gets in the way; it’s an unfortunate symptom of too few people trying to do too many things. As almost 6 months have passed since the last update I’ll bring you up to speed as best as I can but please forgive me if I omit anything, unfortunately the old memory isn’t what it used to be! If I realise later that I’ve missed things out, they can be highlighted next time.

Work on 506 is now largely in the hands of the MHR engineering team. With the running fleet to be maintained as well, work may sometimes appear sporadic but the guys are pushing on with the overhaul as best they can. Certain jobs have been done/are to be done by our own guys but to start splitting out who’s done what seems a bit daft…..we’re all working together as one team to try and ensure 506 returns to traffic later this year. So, to summarise the work done by all parties since my last post:

New brake hangers are now riveted to the frames

New piston and valve cover studs have been made

Brake rigging has been refurbished; crossbars and pull rods.

Brake weighshaft has been machined

Mating faces for the blastpipe and main steam pipes have been faced up

Blastpipe infill pieces have been finished and fitted

4 axleboxes have been machined and white-metalled

Leading and centre driving wheelsets are in

1 new axlebox has been completed, the other is machined and awaiting white-metalling. The axleboxes have proved a bit of a saga. Some of you may recall that 2 of our original boxes were u/s so the plan was to replace these with a pair of new castings the Society had made some 15 years ago. Unfortunately once the MHR guys started to machine them it became clear they had more air holes than a swiss cheese. There was no option but to scrap these and start again with brand new castings. As you can probably imagine we were all hugely frustrated by this backward step, not only because of the time needed to obtain more 2 castings but also because after such a long period of time we have no recourse to the foundry for the first ones.

The front bogie is now completely refurbished and awaiting final assembly.

Wear in the bores on the coupling rods has been built up with weld.

The boiler casing is undergoing repairs as necessary

A special tap has been made to re-cut the steam pipe studs in the cylinder blocks

Whilst all this has been going on, the frames and cab sides have been prepp’d and painted; it’s all looking pretty good!

Planning ahead, the tender has been moved into the yard for finishing. For those interested in the detail, this is the new tender tank (on the chassis rescued from Eastleigh works) built to ultimately run with 499; 506’s own tender is u/s with thin tank sides and a question mark over the frames. Ultimately we plan to build another new tender using frames we have from 30825 – just need a few more hours in the day!


Up on 499 things have really started to move on. The L/H cylinder block was hung on the frames a while ago but nothing could be done until we had a 33mm reamer to fit our mag base drill. Enter our new friends at Redmayne Engineering in Lymington and all was resolved. In recent weeks the frame holes for the L/H block have been reamed to full size, the block removed from the frames and the R/H hung ready for the same treatment. Some of the R/H holes had been drilled slightly oversize so our mindset was this could take some weeks to sort out; in fact a couple of weeks and all were finished. Theoretically the next task is to remove the block and locate the centre casting, but we are putting this on hold until after our open day – we want to share the sight of 499 with a cylinder block on with our visitors. In the meantime the opportunity has been taken to refurbish the area around the bogie pivot; you may recall from previous posts that this area was badly corroded so has been built up with weld which is now being ground down and filed level. Once we hit July, all hell will break loose! It will be a case of block off, casting in, ream more holes, casting out, clean swarf, casting back in, begin riveting. It’s a massive ask, but we’re aiming to have the front end rebuild (blocks, casting, running plate, valence, buffer beam and centre platform) virtually finished before Christmas – did I really just say that???

Whilst the reaming has been going on, a couple of us decided to grind off a few firebox stay heads on boiler 799 as a bit of an ‘in-fill’ job. In fact, things have gone so well that the boiler has become a project, at least 1 year ahead of schedule. Most of the stays below the grate will have to be removed. The outside heads of these have been ground flush to the steel plate and pilot drilled to a diameter of 8mm. Inside the firebox the stays marked for removal have been ground flush with the copper plate. This grinding requires much more care than the outside – nick the steel and a simple weld repair sorts the problem; nick the copper and it’s a whole different issue!! Those who have been to Ropley lately may have noticed that the smokebox rivets have been removed from boiler 451 (nearest the yard). To allay any confusion, boiler 799 IS the one chosen for 499 on the basis of economics – 451 requires a new copper crown. However, because it is sited nearest the yard and the easiest to work on, we are removing the latter’s smokebox to enable us to use the barrel as a template for a new smokebox. I have seen a comment on one of the chat rooms about the type of smokebox door we intend to use. Clearly we would love to have a proper Urie style door made, but because of the shape it is currently looking cost-prohibitive. The ULS doesn’t give up easily though, we will keep looking for a way round this and I will keep everyone informed of progress. In the meantime, should any of you win the lottery please contact the Urie Loco Society……….!!

Back to the ‘here and now’, we will be holding our 3rd annual open day on June 30th this year. Yes, it is all about fundraising to keep our projects on track, but it is also a day when the engineering team stays clean and we make ourselves available to meet members and visitors and answer any questions they may have. If you can spare a few hours, why not come along for a chat and see the work we do close up. You will have access to both loco’s; 506 is currently a 4-4-0 but is likely to be an 0-6-0 come the 30th?! The rear drivers are ready to go in soon, the accommodation bogie will be taken out but the refurbished bogie won’t go in immediately…..we need access to the cylinder bolt nuts to do a final check for tightness (in other words we need to get in there with a large spanner and hammer!). Return to a 4-6-0 is likely to be during July. Back to the 30th, you’ll be able to browse the books for sale in our sales cabin, see our photographic record of the work done since 2011 and watch archive footage of 506. We will be showing some of the components we have made and there may also be 1 or 2 surprises for you to see this year. Maybe you could consider taking out a membership or signing up for the 499 Appeal; remember, this is a unique project to return the loco to her 1920 as-built condition and you can be part of that. Also in attendance on the day will be our President, Bob Urie – grandson of the great man – and our Honorary Patron Mark Collins, radio presenter on Wave105 and renowned railway enthusiast; both will be delighted to meet you.

My thanks to everyone for your interest and support, hope to see as many of you as possible on the 30th.


Photo gallery

  • Refurbished front bogie for 506 awaiting final assembly

  • Deep contemplation Urie style on 506!

  • 506 blastpipe infill pieces finished and fitted. Blastpipe mating faces faced up_

  • Ropley wheeldrop in use to fit 506's leading drivers

  • Refurbishing around the bogie pivot on 499's centre casting

  • 499's RH cylinder block is lifted into place

  • Reamimg cylinder block bolt holes in 499's frames

  • Pilot drilling firebox stays to be removed on boiler 799

  • Burning out smokebox rivets on boiler 451