Workshop Update – December 2023

December 21, 2023

Where has the year gone? I can’t believe the end of the year is upon us again; I think next year to save time, I will leave my Christmas tree up as I’m sure I only just took it down!  It may have gone quickly, but as usual it’s been another busy year with our loco.  Whilst we may have had to postpone work on the chassis until our main contractor LMS, are in a position to undertake the cylinder and valve boring, we have been making significant progress in other areas. 

Starting with the tender wheels, after removal of the axle boxes, Timken (the original bearing manufacturer) came to LMS to assess their condition.  As expected, they were condemned due to water ingress, as a result of been stored outside for 40 plus years, without any covers on.  As I write this report I am still waiting (over 3 months now) for the quote from Timken rail division UK to renew them.  Whilst waiting I have been looking at other potential suppliers, including importing the bearings from China. This appears to be a very cost effective solution to the problem although we will need to tread carefully to ensure we get the genuine bearings.  It appears although the design is over 70 years old; the mining industry there still uses this type of bearing, so they are available off the shelf.  My enquiries abroad have been much more positive than dealing with various UK based companies. One of the most challenging problems these days is trying to get most UK suppliers to actually deliver.  My time would be much better spent making and fitting parts to our loco rather than chasing people, it’s frustrating and very hard to believe that the UK once lead the world in the industrial revolution.

Once we finally get the new bearings and they are fitted on the axles (another potential problem which I’m looking into), then the axle boxes can be reassembled together with the new bearing covers. They will then be transported to Toddington for safe storage until we start to fabricate our own tender frames.

Water damage to original taper roller bearings on our tender wheelsets – Picture Andy Meredith

Whilst on the subject of the tender, we have taken delivery of the axlebox guides (also known as horns) these have been cast using a pattern hired from the MHR, who have been building a new build tender for 75079. They have been making excellent progress and have almost finished their tender, so we are safe in the knowledge that the pattern is right.  They will be put into store, for machining at a later date.

One of our new tender axlebox guide castings – Picture: Andy Meredith

The new cab side sheets have returned from the fabricators having had the top radiuses tweaked to align them perfectly with the original cab angles.  The previous attempt, which was done as per the drawings, did not fit.  Obviously the fitters at Horwich had their own take on the standard drawings.  We have now started to reassemble the cab using a mixture of volunteers and paid staff to try and keep the costs under control.  This is likely to take a few months, but this time it will be fully riveted together, painted and all the fittings added, before being returned to the loco’s frames.

Original cab window beading now fitted to the new side sheets. Picture: Andy Meredith

Following a delivery of bronze fittings from Barry Gambles for the steam supply to the sanding gear and cylinder drain cocks, these have now been fitted to the frames ready for the pipe work to be formed once the sandboxes and sand pipes have been made.  2 Extra drip valves have also been made, one for the tender steam brake connection under the cab and the other for the trailing sanders, which originally were not fitted with drip valves (probably because the trailing sanders were seldom used).  These valves are fitted at the lowest point of the pipe work and are open to atmosphere when the steam supply is off.  As soon as steam enters the pipe, then a ball valve closes and closes the valve to atmosphere, enabling the pressure to build in the pipe. This drains the pipe work of any water that may be trapped; meaning when the steam supply is switched on steam, not hot water, is fed to the various systems.

Cylinder drain cock tee piece and drip valve fitted to the frames. Picture: Andy Meredith
Leading sanders, steam supply manifold and drip valve. Picture: Andy Meredith

At Toddington as well as cleaning and polishing of the final parts of the motion our volunteers have been working on fitting the boiler back head cladding.  I have been finishing off the fabrication of the new fire hole door frame and operating linkage to ensure it fits within the cut outs of the newly fitted cladding sheets.  Again when it comes to the cladding the drawings can only be best described as a guide, a considerable amount of fitter’s licence being required, to get everything to fit correctly.

Fire hole door frame and operating linkage being fabricated. Picture: Andy Meredith

Finally the reversing screw assembly has now been completed. The die blocks that lift the reversing shaft have been sent away to be hardened before we can actually fit this item to the loco frames.  This assembly has been a joint collaboration between the GWSR machine shop and Statfold Engineering that supplied the new 2 start acme screwed shaft and nut.  The GWSR machine shop produced the new front bearing housing, together with the covers and stops to prevent the nut over travelling the screw.  It has taken a considerable amount of hand fitting to get everything to marry up and the stops aligned in the correct positions, but I’m very pleased with the result.  This arrangement, which was fitted to all the standard tender loco’s, is so overly complicated for what it does.  I can only think that Robert Riddles and his design team wanted to include parts like this, to try and fool people into thinking their steam loco designs were cutting edge!!!!  With this part of the reversing gear now complete we just need the other end, namely the reversing gearbox for the cab, to finish it off. Looks like I will be chasing more UK suppliers in early 2024.

Completed Reversing Screw assembly – 1: Picture: Andy Meredith
Completed Reversing Screw assembly 2: Picture: Andy Meredith

Can I take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Let’s raise a glass to a fruitful 2024.

 Words and Pictures: Andrew Meredith – TSLL Engineering director