Having finally got the NRM’s Pacific No. 70013 “Oliver Cromwell” finished off, weighed, transported, prepared and sent out on her first main line trip of the year, the team have turned their attention to the NRM’s other steam engine in our care: No. 30777 “Sir Lamiel”. This week an email went round to all our regular volunteers asking for assistance to get the Arthur put back together and steam tested ready for her imminent visit to the West Somerset Railway. So today, Kevin was joined by Peter Maynard, Gary Foster and Alison & Hugh Milton to put back various parts that had been removed during the winter maintenance period. I’m sure that I have said here before that the Arthur is unusual in that every part of the engine seems to be over-engineered, and far heavier than you would expect; she may look dainty and graceful from a distance with her huge wheels, shiny nameplates and open cab, but in reality she’s built like a battleship and any engineering work on her takes far more muscle power than anyone would expect, and is usually rather more complicated than you would imagine. A good example of this is that the fire-hole door opens inwards so that the flap of the door forms the baffle plate. On other engines there is a removable plate inside the firebox which diverts air entering the firebox down towards the firebed instead of allowing it to hit the tubeplate. On the Arthur the door flap itself carries out this function, and like the baffle plates on other engines, it gradually burns away and needs renewing on a regular basis. Re-fitting the door was one of the winter tasks; the door assembly was taken off and had a holiday on the work bench while a new door casting (we have a supply of spares!) was drilled and fitted. As you will have guessed, the door assembly isn’t lightweight and taking it to a workbench meant that in order to re-fit it it had to be lifted back up onto the footplate and it’s far from light. The actual fitting of the door assembly onto the boiler is a simple job – it’s one that we carry out every time someone has to go into the firebox (i.e. for boilerwork or to clean the grate): Because the door flap forms the baffle plate it means that for anyone to get inside the firebox the door needs to be removed and re-fitted afterwards.
Another job on the finishing off list for Sir Lamiel is to re-varnish the engine to give her paintwork a new lease of life for the summer season. We are also re-painting the cab sides so that the numbers can be renewed. For the last couple of seasons the numbers have been getting steadily more weathered and were starting to look very tired indeed. It’s amazing how much difference a coat of varnish gives to the paintwork – she looks lovely (despite the rather terrible photo!).
We took a break from putting the Arthur back together at about one o’clock to go down to the back of the shed to catch a glimpse of the Brit coming through Loughborough on a trip to Lincoln. The view from the canal bridge at the back of the shed isn’t the best – on a good day you can catch a glimpse of coaches and a wisp of steam – but that was all we needed to see, just enough to confirm that ‘our big green friend’ was out there earning her keep. We didn’t want to hang around too long wasting valuable spannering time, so Kevin phoned one of the support crew on the train for an update on their position and we were able to cut our trainspotting time to the minimum.
The view from the canal bridge of 70013 passing Loughborough.
While we were busy with the Arthur inside the shed, Neil Burden and Mark Bretherton were similarly engaged on the pit outside the shed with D123. They had managed to find an unoccupied pit and took the opportunity to bring her down to the pit to carry out some maintenance.