Now that the year has turned and the days are getting longer work, on the engines in our care is starting to gear up towards the spring season. The program of railtours for the steam locomotives is being finalised, and details of the trips will be on the events page shortly. So if you fancy a trip behind one of the Nation’s finest steam locomotives why not book for one of these trips. The first trip in the calendar is just three weeks away and is to be a St. Valentine’s Day trip for 70013 from Victoria to Canterbury and Folkestone returning to Victoria. Although the Brit’s still in pieces, there are fewer pieces now than there were at the start of the year. Actually there are fewer pieces today than there were at the start of the weekend; bits are flying back onto the engine at a startling rate and we are on the home straight.
Just two weeks ago the cab was still off, the back truck had just come out so that the wheels could go south for re-tyring and the back-head cladding was being re-fitted.
On the 6th of January the cab was still outside and the boiler still unclad.
By the 9th of January, Mark O’Brien was welding cladding sheets together.
While Rob and James were re-fitting part of the crinoline, wearing their retro-reflective bump caps more for warmth than anything else, or maybe it was to fool the flash?
And the two Toms were taking advantage of the extra legroom provided by the lack of the pony truck to give them more space for working under the cab floor.
Meanwhile, at the front of the shed, the Arthur was getting some serious polishing.
Over the last two weeks a lot has changed: The cab is back on the engine, and the back truck is only waiting for the re-tyred wheels to come back from the South Devon Railway later this week. While the truck’s out we’ve taken the opportunity to give the truck a thorough clean and a new coat of paint. Several people worked on the cleaning and painting of the truck, and even the local fox helped; making a lovely set of paw prints in the wet paint overnight between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
There’s an old joke among long-term volunteers and staff at the GCR that it’s colder inside the shed than it is outside and that on cold days we open the doors to let the cold air out – but it’s not really a joke, it’s genuinely colder inside the shed, partly because we keep it full of cold damp steel. We just joke about it to keep us going, and periodically go to the mess-room to warm up with a cup of tea, or find a job that will take us outside into the sunshine or a job that needs heat. In this case, Tom and Gary needed to anneal the Brit’s pipework before it was re-fitted to stop the metal work-hardening and cracking in service. So periodically through the weekend, Tom and Gary warmed the shed a tiny bit as they annealed pipes.
Before they can be annealed, any lagged pipes need unwrapping, then they need to be re-wrapped, it’s a nasty itchy fiddly job, so we are very grateful to Steve Lockley for spending so much time making a tidy job of the re-wrapping.
Owen and James, two of the newer volunteers at the shed, offered their services and were given a lump of ‘something to clean’. But they didn’t know what it was, or even which engine it was off. We couldn’t have that, so by the time it was cleaned and dismantled they knew that it was the steam-brake lubricator pots and their associated steam pipe. They’d picked up a few tips about taking stubborn pipes apart, and they also knew more than they even thought possible about the types of joint used to connect steam pipes, a little bit of railway folk-lore and were encouraged to find out about the ballad of John Axon, a railwayman who was awarded the George Cross posthumously for his heroism dealing with an accident caused by a failed steam-pipe joint. And they thought they were just cleaning up a lump of metal!
It wasn’t just the NRM’s Britannia that our volunteers were working on either; Luke and Liam Calladine were busy at the back of the shed working on Support Coach number three (17055), putting their professional experience to good use, aided and abetted by their father Lee and by Hugh Milton who was officially on “Spare Driver” duties, but filled in the time between escorting visitors around by cleaning up and fettling the buck-eye pins. By the end of Sunday the vacuum cylinders were both stripped down and were going back together, and the buckeyes had been off, been cleaned up and were back on the coach. A very good day’s work thanks Lads.
An action shot of Liam and Luke stripping off the buckeye.
One of the stripped vacuum cylinders in the gloom of the shed.
Neither of the other four engines in our care were in traffic yesterday, but all of them were on display to visitors to the shed, and both the Five and the NRM’s “Sir Lamiel” were shining examples of how a locomotive should be presented.
45305 gleaming outside the shed, while 30777 stands behind the shed door, but visible to visitors.
And that’s not all that’s been going on in 5305la world, the newsletter has just gone out to members – Gerry has put together an issue which includes Tom’s account of trying to defrost the five as the steam pipes froze on an engine in steam, as well as a series of reports on main line trips last year as well as historical articles, diesel reports etc. As you know, Gerry and I have an understanding; I don’t pinch his material and he doesn’t use mine, so if you want to know what’s in the magazine you have to be a member, you can download a copy of the membership form from the Members’ page.