Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Steam Crane progress and hidden treasures

When I left Shildon last night, Richard and the team had managed to get the crankshaft and hoist drum back on the body of the crane - excellent progress and good to see it going back together. Pipework has been lagged and is going back on too.
After a meeting with the APT-E support group today: I grabbed a quick sandwich before leaving York to come back to Shildon, and on my convoluted way out, popped into the Warehouse to check on the exiles from the Great Hall whilst exhibition construction work is going on. The two locos are "Hardwicke" and "Aerolite", looking strangely at home amongst the cornucopia of smaller objects from the collection. Behind "Aerolite" is the loco preparation bay, where "Tornado" was being steamed ready for a steam test tomorrow and a test run out on Saturday.

I arrived back in Shildon just in time to see the boiler being replaced on the Smith steam crane, it makes a real difference and allows us to keep plumbing up the myriad pipes which came loose with the machine. We'd better not put the chimney on just yet as it won't fit out the door otherwise. Now for the jib and new ropes...

Monday, 25 January 2010

Lunch wanderings at York

In between meetings at York today I took a walk around the museum and took a couple of pics I thought I'd share. Here are two East Coast thoroughbreds, side by side after recent shunting operations and making a super contrast in front ends. It's been a while since "Mallard" and the Stirling Single have been so close, but don't they look good?
Recently returned from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for bodywork and other repairs, Class 37 No. D6700 stands is the triangle area awaiting entry into the workshops once "Tornado" has gone back on the main line.
In the workshop itself, "Tornado" was separated from its tender this morning to allow the loco to be moved within the works, whilst in the foreground, Rod Lytton, Chris Beet and Dave Leyshon prepare to lift one of "Flying Scotsman"'s wheelsets to investigate further the recent issue we have found with the uneven back to back measurements on the engine.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Over the hills to Appleby

Back in October, I went to Tyseley to see progress on the South African Sharp Stewart loco which David Shepherd brought back from the Zambezi Sawmills Railway in 1975. It returned with a sleeping/day coach built by the Midland Railway Carriage & Wagon Company in 1927. Since 2008, the coach has been under restoration by Tony Vollans at Appleby Heritage Centre, and today, Richard Pearson & I went over to see how he is getting on with the rebuild. The coach is in a purpose built workshop and Tony & his team are working wonders on it. We're now at the repair and replacement stages, but I was rather taken by this emergency stop handle on one end, it destroys the vacuum in the brake system and the brakes come on, stopping the train.
Here's a general view of the coach in the workshop; you can see how little new material has been required during the course of the rebuild, but all window mechanisms have been repaired and interior fittings are going back in. With luck, at the current rate of progress, it will be ready in the middle of the year, giving us the challenge of where to put it, until NRM+ is ready for it!
At the back of the Heritage Centre is a polytunnel just long enough for a coach. Walking over to it we found our friends from the Furness Railway Trust working hard on Great Eastern Railway saloon No.5. There is some fantastic work being undertaken on this, including some ingenious repairs to the teak panelling, which I have filed away in the memory bank for future reference. If all is well, this is another coach that will be ready for service this summer.
At the entrance to the site, the Furness Trust's Great Western Railway Hall Class No. 4979 "Wootton Hall" stands, publicising the Trust and the Heritage Skills Training Centre as it waits its turn in the restoration queue.
We stopped off at Appleby main line station for Richard to drop off some NELPG railtour publicity, and in the booking hall I noticed this - a Midland Railway loco chimney, recovered in the 1980s from the embankment near Dandry Mire viaduct by Terry Sykes, and now displayed at Appleby. There are numerous stories of buried engines, on this occasion nothing was attached, but a fascinating exhibit which I didn't know was there.
We didn't come away empty handed! At the Centre was a complete 5 inch gauge railway in store which hasn't run for a long time. We have agreed with Tony to borrow it to see if we can get it to work for use on site at Shildon. It consists of this battery powered 08 diesel shunter, one coach behind it and 160 feet of steel track. Another challenge for Richard and the workshop'll be fun if we can get it going!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Woolmer comes home

Last Friday we loaded "Woolmer" on to a low-loader for her return to Hampshire and display in the railway goods yard at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke. After an overnight stay in the Midlands, the engine arrived at the museum on Sunday afternoon and once there had been a quick press call, Andrew Goodman and his team from Moveright International set to work unloading the engine in the 1930s street. It was lowered on to a skate upon which it would be rolled on steel plates across the tarmac and cobbles, fortunately Senior Curator Gary Wragg and his staff had worked hard to prepare the environment, removing road vehicles and fences so that the loco had an unimpeded route across to the goods yard.
Having got the engine on to the skate, here it is being skidded sideways on the steel plate so that it can be squeezed through the Council Yard from the 1930s to the 1910s. The whole operation was being filmed so that a DVD can be made documenting the engine's return to Hampshire.
About 9pm on the Sunday night, "Woolmer" is moved through the Council yard, evoking a few memories of lines such as the Weston, Clevedon & Portishead Light Railway which ran through street sections!
I had to leave to return North at lunchtime on the Monday, by which time the loco was moving round the corner past the tram which had been removed from the rails to allow "Woolmer" to pass. Elected members from Hampshire Council which runs the museum were viewing the loco at this time so for safety, work stopped for an hour to allow the Moveright team a much needed break.
And finally at around 9pm on Monday night, "Woolmer" was finally lowered off its carrying skate on to the rails in the goods yard at Milestones. After a clean and replacing of fences and all other exhibits displaced to make way, the museum re-opened on Tuesday morning for the public to see "Woolmer" back in Hampshire for the first time in four decades, and I am indebted to Curator Stephen Hoadley for kindly sending me this picture of "Woolmer" on display today for use in this blog. Stephen has worked long and hard organising this move and his effort has paid off. Without him, Gary Wragg and Andrew Goodman, the move would not have happened, and we are delighted that there is a new loan venue for a National Collection locomotive. Do please go and see it - it looks very much at home there!

Mid Hants meanderings

This last weekend saw me return to Hampshire, firstly to drop off a driving wheel spring at Ropley for "Lord Nelson" - seen below, and also to oversee the installation of Avonside saddle tank "Woolmer" into Milestones Museum in Basingstoke. Here's 850 getting some cleaning attention in Ropley yard on Sunday morning.
I was met and taken round the shed and works by Bob Millard and driver Chris Smith, there's some really good stuff going on and excellent quality engineering - of which maybe more in a couple of weeks. In the end of the shed beyond the wheeldrop, the restoration of Black 5 No. 45379 is in its final stages - just look at the work on that backhead!
Chris Smith & I have known each other for years as Talyllyn footplate volunteers, and he was kind enough to arrange a footplate ride for me on his engine for the day, 9F class number 92212, here we accelerate out of Ropley past the new workshops and boiler shop heading up the hill for Medstead and Alton. I was particularly keen to do this trip as I've never managed to ride on the Mid Hants line yet, and the last time we looked in at Ropley yard was 1987!
After a quick run round at Alton, the 9F attacked the climb up towards Medstead, the gradients showing why the line's nickname is "The Alps". Here, Passed Cleaner Alex gets busy with the shovel as Chris takes the engine up the hill with great style. It was a bit warm!
After changing ends of the train again at Alresford, I left the loco at Ropley so I could head on to Basingstoke to await "Woolmer"'s arrival. On the way back to the van, I paused to get this picture of the other MHR train in service, a 108 class DMU leaving for Alresford.
Woolmer's move comes soon...!

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Freeze continues, but work carries on.

I can't believe that it's now a month since the first snowfall, but inside the Shildon workshop, Richard Pearson and the apprentices and volunteers push on with the steam crane restoration. This week they have removed the cover of the other ballast box and cleared it of rust before leeting it dry out and then applying primer. The hoist and winch drums have now been painted red, and elsewhere in the workshop, the crankshaft and connecting rods have also been painted. John Shiel has worked like a trojan cleaning the underside of the crane and painting it, his work will not be seen by many but is a vital part of conserving this machine. Here's the crane as of Tuesday night.
A long but necessary NRM+ meeting was held on Wednesday at York, after it I popped down to the workshop to catch up with the team, and Chris Beet & Rod Lytton in particular. I picked up a spring to take to the Mid Hants Railway for "Lord Nelson" and had a chat with Chris about the work on the NRM's class 36, D6700 which was in transit to York as we spoke, returning from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for bodywork over the winter months. As I left, I grabbed this picture of Tornado, now re-united with its front bogie, but with plenty of work still going on.
Thursday morning saw Richard and I take the van into Darlington for servicing, on our way back we called into Hopetown works to see NELPG's J72 No. 69023, which you may remember we recorded having its boiler refitted back in November. Progress has been excellent and steaming is but a matter of a few weeks away, before the loco is transferred to us at Shildon for running in and lining out. Here's the view from the cab window, something I hope to see a bit more of in the coming months!At lunchtime on Thursday, our Education Officer at Shildon, Tony Attle, launched his exhibition "Railways At War" which runs until the end of February. Tony has worked hard with his colleague Sarah Goldsbrough from Darlington Railway Museum to produce this very effective display which incorporates memories from folks involved, one of whom, Alan Holmes, was principal guest. Alan was a fireman at Darlington during World War Two and some of his stories are amazing, including his experience of being a fireman on a train chased into Darlington by a Messerschmidt - where the train took shelter under the station roof whilst the aeroplane was forced to fly up and away before it hit Darlington power station's cooling towers. Tony, Sarah and Alan have produced a booklet of these stories to complement the exhibition and this will be available from Locomotion once printed. The display will tour County Durham and hopefully wider after it has been on show at Darlington Railway Museum. The photo shows (from left), Sarah, Alan & Tony at the launch event. Do come and see it - it's well worthwhile seeing alongside our other temporary exhibition "The Art of Robert Stephenson".
Finally for this week, we were up early to say goodbye to the first locomotive restored in the workshops at Shildon back in 2007, the Avonside saddle tank "Woolmer" built for the War Department's Longmoor Military Railway. "Woolmer" is returning in its centenary year to Hampshire and from Tuesday next week will be on display at Milestones Museum in Basingstoke Here you can see "Woolmer" being winched onto the lowloader as Johnny Molloy from the workshop follows it up the ramp with a chock. It's sad to see the engine go in one respect, but good that the restoration will be appreciated by more people - and of course it gives us a little more space to work with for the collection. I hope that we can get pictures of it in position sent to us in time to put them on the blog during next week.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Steam Crane discoveries and the Sneltic

Richard and the workshop team at Shildon continue to make good progress on the steam crane restoration despite the weather and a multitude of tasks which they tackle with vigour! The crane body has been turned through 90 degrees to allow access to the ballast boxes and frame for cleaning and painting.This morning, Johnny took off the cover to one of the ballast boxes so it can be cleaned out, allowed to dry then corrosion addressed, the box painted and the ballast replaced.
Here's what he found when he emptied the ballast box - all sorts of bits of iron: rail chairs, fishplates, fire grates, broken cast boiler washout plates, handrails, nuts and bolts - plus two bin loads of rust! These parts will all be pressure washed and stored before being replaced. We also found that the cranes frames have rotted through in places so will need repair before painting.
Yesterday, staff at York made a snow "Mallard", and the challenge went out to us to follow it up, so this afternoon, we set out for an hour's "team building" in the arctic conditions! Here, Dale, Johnny, Richard, Pam, Jason and Sharon get down to making our creation.
Just around 3pm, we were able to launch our snow loco - the SNELTIC (Snow DELTIC). Here's most of its' creators in front of the museum with it. Well, it's something like!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Tornado in the Works

Having been daft and made it down to York yesterday for a meeting, I had just time for a quick trip afterwards to see the workshop team before fighting the snow on the A1 back north. I found another A1 taking shelter - "Tornado" is having its winter maintenance programme this month in the NRM workshop before going main line again in February. In front of it you can see "Flying Scotsman"'s frames moved forward so 60163 can use the wheel drop.
On the workshop floor, Peter Neesam (left) and John Graham (right) discuss progress on the front bogie, which has been removed with the aid of the wheeldrop and is being worked on elsewhere in the works. Look out for "Tornado" visiting Locomotion at Shildon from 24th April until 6th May!
Outside, York enjoyed some winter sun before another few hours of blizzards, very good for Christmas Card photos, but not so good for visitor numbers - this was the car park at 2.50pm yesterday.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A Freezing New Year

2010 is upon us and I'd like to wish all a Happy New Year, though after 3 weeks of snow and ice now it's not been particularly joyous for many. On Boxing Day we went for a steam fix and took the girls for a ride at Tanfield, where a good time was had by all - once points and brakes had been unfrozen! There were a good number of folk around and the complimentary mince pies were very welcome, here No.49 at the rear of the train awaits departure for East Tanfield.

Signalman Neville Whaler exchanges the single line token at Marley Hill, where the warmth of his signal box awaits until the passing of the next train.

Meanwhile back at work yesterday I popped into Rail Restorations North East to see this Class 122 "Bubble Car" in the first stages of restoration - the LMS BG having moved to Weardale a few weeks before Christmas.
Another local call this morning in the snow was to see Michael Bowman, a good friend, who runs Vintage Vehicles Shildon which whilst concentrating on road vehicles has some with railway connections and also this Fowler diesel shunter on loan from the Furness Railway Trust, built in 1939 and known as "Fluff". If you have an interest in wider transport heritage, do call into this friendly museum when you visit Locomotion, there is a very modest entry fee and lots to see.