I’m sure that we do other things with the locomotives in our care, but from where I sit at the moment, it feels as if all we do is washouts and maintenance. Maybe it’s because the crews who go out on the railtours don’t send in reports very often, so all I get here at 5305la webquarters in response to the question “how did it go” is a one-liner to say that the tour went ahead. There are honourable exceptions to this – but some trips go by with very little information for me to report to you. Maintenance work seems to be different; either I get reports, or I manage to collar someone for a few details - for instance, Lamiel has had five trips in July, but I've had nothing to share with you apart from details of the move from Clapham Yard (which is sort of maintenance!).
Yesterday a small team of familiar faces went down to Southall to wash out the NRM’s King Arthur No. 30777 “Sir Lamiel”. The three of us have all done ‘field’ washouts before so are completely familiar with the process; arrive late at night, spread out the sleeping bags, get something to eat & drink, have a bit of a chat then go to bed ready for a prompt start in the morning. Next day, get up, start the boiler emptying, meanwhile send someone into the firebox to thoroughly clean the grate, brick arch, tubeplate, stays and ashpans while another member of the team sets to in the smokebox.
Water draining through a washout plug hole. The pinchbar next to the engine has just been used to move her a few feet to allow Tom to get to the plug with a socket - however carefully you stable the engine, there's always a spoke covering at least one of the plugs! But when you are moving an engine with a pinch bar remember not to say "It's moving easily" - she stopped dead and we had to borrow another bar from the support crew next door and even then we only just got her moved far enough before she ground to a halt on a slight dent in the track.
When she’s completely clean and all of the washout plugs are out you can start the long, wet and dirty process of washing all the sludge out of the boiler. Then once that’s done you need to put the plugs back, re-fill with water, put the spark arrestors back and stand back to admire your handiwork – which actually makes the engine look worse than before, because you’ve spilt orange sludge all down the wheels, dripped water everywhere, spread dust all over the front buffer beam and trodden ashy footprints all over the footplate. But she’s clean where it matters – the boiler is sparkling inside with nice clean water, no sludge or scale, the smokebox is clean enough to eat your dinner in (although it’s too wet to sit down!) and the grate is beautiful. Job Done! Lamiel is now ready to be lit up for Wednesday’s “Dorset Coast Express” trip for the Railway Touring Company www.railwaytouring.co.uk from Waterloo to Weymouth.
After cleaning out the grate and getting soaked during the washout, Hugh still manages to look enthusiastic.
Talking of maintenance, Mark, Allistair and the diesel team have been busy recently; the Peak and the Class 33 have both been sidelined for a while for various reasons, but following some injector maintenance (among other things) the Peak is now back in traffic and is due to carry out some testing work for the GCR and we hope that the NRM’s class 33 will be following her out of the sidings shortly – the diesel team have a couple more jobs to do, but we are hoping to have her back in traffic shortly.
More maintenance – well overhaul news is that the Five’s axles have had another coat of paint (Thanks Gary), the axleboxe machining is underway and there’s a good chance that she’ll surprise everyone by being back on her wheels soon. But there’s still a lot to do, so this is intended as a big hint to all 5305la volunteers who read the web news: WE NEED YOU AT LOUGHBOROUGH!
Of course, we’ve got another engine undergoing repairs at the moment: the NRM’s Britannia No. 70013 “Oliver Cromwell” which is at Crewe, Loughborough and Southall. Well, the important part’s at Crewe having repairs to the firebox. Tom gets regular reports from the boilersmith at LNWR as well as visiting the works to see the progress for himself. The work is progressing and we still aim to have her back in traffic to take up some of her planned duties this autumn.