Saturday, 8 June 2019

Arrival and departures.

The end of last week at Toddington saw the steam engines that had been guests at the Cotswold Festival of Steam in May leave for their respective home lines but the Diesel Department saw an arrival......the agreement for which had been on and off the table a few times.

At the end of 2018, the Cotswold Mainline Diesel Group (CMDG) were approached by the Llangollen Diesel Group with regards to their Class 26, 5310. Their Class 26 had suffered a failure with its No2 Traction Motor and this would require a loco lift. The LDG were looking for somewhere to undertake the work that had lifting facilities and the CMDG not only had access to lifting equipment but also had a spare, refurbished Traction Motor and the expertise to help. An ongoing dialogue ended up with 5310 appearing at Toddington on Thursday.

Class 26, 5310, on its home track at Llangollen. (Courtesy of Terry Pic
Part of the agreement is that the loco can, hopefully, take part in our July Diesel
Gala along with the CMDG's own Class 26, D5343, in order to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Class starting on British Rail. However, this is dependant on a large number of factors - not least that it can be fixed and there are no other issues. Further updates will, I'm sure, be made in due course.

The last week also saw another of our long term maintenance projects reach a conclusion. Our ex-ASW shunter, 'DES' was refitted with its rods on Wednesday 5th after 18 months out of traffic due to a severely damaged centre bearing rings and axle box. It was also given a quick shunt - the first time it had moved under its own power since being taken out of traffic. Photos are courtesy of Paul Jones.

'DES' wheels are prepped ready for the rods to be refitted. 
With the wheels all centred members of the 'Wednesday gang' get to grips with fitting the rods back onto the mounts.

Growler Group Technical Officer Paul Good checks the tolerance levels on the centre pins.
Paul hammers the flange back into position on one of the wheel mounts.

For the first time in 18 months 'DES' sits on complete axle sets prior to a brief run around the yard.
The next, and final stage, will be the shunters' Fitness to Run exam and loaded test run which will hopefully see the locos return to action in the very near future.

Sadly, things weren't so rosy for EE Type 1/ Class 20, D8137, which has been removed from the active roster with a power issue. The locos owner, Steve M, had identified during a run up at the end of May that the 'Chopper' was having trouble powering up. Investigations into a possible Traction Motor issue have started but, as the Gala gets closer, time is of the essence to get it fit for its rostered turns.


Friday, 31 May 2019

Getting some air!

A short tome but an answer to a question pitched in the last blog.....did Class 24, 5081's light engine test run go well? The short answer, yes! So much so that on the 19 May a further test run was arranged, this time with Class 26, D5343 (the rostered loco on the PURPLE timetable) and 8 Mk 1 coaches as a decent load of some 350 tonnes. 5081 was added as pilot loco after D5343 had arrived back from Broadway and led to Cheltenham without incident. It was good to see it in full flow again after nearly 3 years of inactivity and, despite slight issues with its batteries, the loco looks set to hit the rosters again in June to rack up some mileage before the Diesel Gala in July.

5081 being prepped ready for its maiden loaded test run after its bogie overhaul.
D5343 hits a major birthday this year, along with the Class 26 and 27 fleet. Although planned in 1956 and the build starting in 1958, both classes entered service with British Rail in 1959 thus making it 60 years since acceptance to BR stock. On its run from Broadway, D5343 was suitably adorned with a commemorative headboard courtesy of the owning CMDG.


After returning to shed we were greeted to the sight of Class 47, 1693, being propelled up the unloading road and into the car park at Toddington by Class 04, D2280. Considering it has no roof it seemed to be an odd move given the weather was very changeable. However, the reasoning was sound. The Monday morning would see a lorry arriving laden with the refurbished radiators for 1693 as well as a crane in order to lift them back into place.

D2280 pushes 1693, in its coat of many colours, into the car park.
With the jacks now free it was time for another of the diesel fleet to go for a ride into the atmosphere of the David Page Shed. Class 37, 37215, was booked in to utilise the lifting gear on Tuesday 28 May in order to remove the bogies so that work could start on the issues that had been flagged just after Christmas. This includes replacing the traction motor bellows, bushes and dampers. Sadly, I wasn't present, but the job was completed in the day and when I was rostered again the day after the bogies were resting under covers in the shed and 37215 was sat on Road 10 on a set of very horticultural accommodation bogies!

37215's bogies await the work to start on the repairs. 

The accommodation bogies for 37215 to rest on. Some interesting flora and fauna present!

As with 5081 some interesting graffiti adornes 37215 bogies. These obviously once sat under sister machine 37165.

The new traction motor blowers sit in the box of new bits.


This is one of the reasons why the bogies were removed. Well past their best!

With an hour or so spare I get sweeping some of the loose dirt away ready for the bogies to be power washed.
The lift of 37215 was conducted with the help of the Bo'ness Railway Class 37 group who lent the Growler Group the lifting brackets. Cooperation between groups is always key - not just on your own railway but across the preservation globe.



Monday, 13 May 2019

Death and Resurrection

I know it is a slightly depressing, morbid tone to take with the title of the blog but it is what a lot of preservation is about....taking something life expired and, where possible, giving it a new lease of life. Where we can't give a new life, we use parts to donate to keep others running.

With this in mind we start with the rapidly diminishing skeleton to Class 20, 20035. With Class 37, D6948, down at the West Somerset Railway for a holiday (more on that later) Steve M has had the carcass of the Class 20 back into the shed to start breaking down the remaining body work. At the back of the shed are several containers of spare parts that will be tested, graded and, where possible, used as spares for other locos - including Steve's operational Class 20's, D8137 and 20228 (currently at the Barry Tourist Railway) and Class 73, E6036.

The remains of the 'nose facing' control desk taken through what is left of the cab walls. 

Another view of what is left of the cab.
Now the resurrection! The extra room in the shed has seen the warflat containing the roof section and radiator fan from Class 47, 1693 returned to the dry confines of the shed to allow some welding work to be conducted.


The Warflat returns to the warm and dry.
One of the areas that the Brush Type 4's really suffered with throughout their operation was the ingress of water along the join of the roof section with the body side causing severe corrosion. You can see the effects on sister loco, 47376, where the body work has started blistering and the roof section is starting to rust. The BT4G have taken the decision to fit gullys at certain points to the roof section to aid water run off.


One of the new panels of sheet metal welded to the roof of 1693. You can see one of the new gully channels running just above the grill. 

One of the new gullys welded to the roof of 1693.
An opportunity was also taken to remove the old paint from the radiator fan ready for a new coat of primer to be added before a new top coat and reassembly.

Radiator fan housing down to bare metal. 

Radiator fan down to bare metal. 
The cabs of the Type 4 have also had more primer added and have been smoothed down. Safe to say the bodywork will look immaculate when it is completed.

No. 2 end cab. Smooth as a baby's behind!
Wednesday, 8 May was another busy day at Toddington and one that I could grace again as I could borrow the car from my partner. Mine is still in the garage! 4 months and counting! I was rostered on Class 47, 47376 'Freightliner 1995' on the PURPLE  timetable along with 'H' and Bryan P. We also had a number of others milling about getting on with some of the smaller jobs around the shed. Some bits and bobs had arrived ready for Class 37, 37215's impending date with the jacks and the work required on its dampers, traction motors and bellows. Paul G had taken delivery of 7 of the 8 new dampers to be fitted. Christ only knows where the errant one has disappeared too!!

There should be 8!! Hopefully it'll turn up soon!
However, the important task that was at hand, and the main reason that Paul, Martyn and Mark S were present, was to give the Class 24 a shakedown after its bogie overhaul. 5081 had also had a refurbished triple pump fitted, the cabs cleaned, seats cleaned and a few smaller, niggly issues dealt with whilst out of action. Sadly the loco had suffered from its near two years of inactivity and it appeared that the batteries were affected and not keeping sufficient charge. The plan was to charge the batteries fully and then, if a path was available, to take it on a test run to Winchcombe and back to check the ride quality as well as the braking when running at speed and not at 5mph in the yard!

5081 on charge before being pulled out of the shed to be prepped for a test run to Winchcombe.

5081 sits at the end of siding 1 waiting for a path to be available. Taken from the rear cab of 47376.
Sadly, I am not sure of the outcome of 5081's test run as I was crewing 47376 however, the loco made it back to the shed safely so I would hazard a guess that it seemed to go quite well. Further good news is that the Class 24, barring any other issues arising, has been rostered for use in June. It will be good to see this popular loco back in service.

Another loco on the comeback trail is DES, our shunter. More work has been completed on refitting the centre axle and the brake rigging. The axle casing had gone on well and the loco was dropped onto its wheelset with little fuss. At the beginning of May the small group had managed to get DES over the pit in order to check everything was where it should be and to take some measurements to align the brakes. It will then be on to jacking one end of DES in order to rotate the wheels to align the crankpins before refitting the rods. Photos are courtesy of co-owner Paul Jones.


The axle box back in place and greased up. (P. Jones)

Chris checks that everything is where it should be. (P. Jones)

A sight the everyday punter never gets to see. (P. Jones)

Just the rods to go back on! (P.Jones)
DES getting close to being back in service is timely as there are ongoing issues with both of our Class 04 shunters. 11230, our Class 04 lookalike, has had ongoing issues with its gearbox with several gears unavailable or difficult to engage. This has now got to a point where it is affecting its ability to operate properly. D2280, our 'real' Class 04, was quickly rushed into service to cover for DES and is in need of a proper overhaul and a check on its wheelsets. It has been restricted to yard work only since arriving with its owner trying to get work done inbetween it being used quite extensively. DES' imminent return will allow pressure to be eased on the other shunters and allow them to be removed from service to have corrective maintenance.

Elsewhere on the 8th May, Tony R was the sole representative of the CMDG on site (others had been around the previous day) and he was busy removing items and clearing out the groups Fruit D van which had been loaned from one of the railways early benefactors. He is wanting the wagon back so the CMDG have purchased a new container for storage and as a workshop. While I was waiting for crew time I wondered on over to give him a hand.
The CMDG's temporary storage and workshop van. A former GWR Fruit D van.


Some of the spares for categorising and logging.

Spares, rubbish and general stuff.


The new container/workshop. 
The new container will allow the group to undertake work in a cleaner and drier environment as well as having more space and light. This will include ongoing work with the Class 26, D5343 and Class 45, 45149. A long way from the conditions of D5343's restoration. The following photo is courtesy of Andy Bright and the Glory Days of Diesel Facebook group. Thanks Andy.


26043 fresh from Inverness awaiting its restoration. (A. Bright)
We also had a visit from one of our volunteers who continues to prove that, regardless of ability, there is a role or task for everyone at the railway. Jamie is the son of another of our volunteers, who has links with many of the original members of the Diesel Department and across the railway. Jamie has moderate learning difficulties but, when he can attend and help out, whether with his Dad or, as in this case, with his Mum, he enjoys nothing more than throwing himself into whatever tasks need doing. There are always a number of odd little jobs that suit Jamie down to the ground and gets him helping out towards the bigger jobs undertaking by the more skilled and knowledgeable members of the department.


Jamie gets to grips sorting out nuts, bolts and washers. It really does show that there is a role for everyone within railway preservation.
As I mentioned earlier, I was rostered on 47376 for a Driver Training turn with 'H' and Bryan. Before we hooked up to the back of the 'Cotswold Express' we had to reposition one of the coaches from Train 1 back into the rake. It had been removed earlier in the day for some attention to its axle - duly completed in the David Page shed - and now needed recoupling to the rake. We were tasked with doing it. Cue panicky discussions about the process for operating buckeye couplings! Luckily a member of Carriage and Wagon was on hand to oversee it. As they are the ones who deal with the coaching stock more frequently they retain and use the knowledge much more than those of us in the Diesel Department. For me, it was a challenge that I had never faced before. I have coupled to stock many times but not coupling a coach to a coach. Luckily, I did it without problem. Even getting a 'nicely done' from the Operations Manager, who was watching from Platform 2 at Toddington! No pressure there!


Bryan struggles to remember how the buckeye works! He wasn't alone as its not something we tend to do very often. 
Finally, D6948 is certainly proving popular with crews and passengers on the West Somerset Railway. It seems really strange not having an operational Class 37 at the GWR at the moment but we have been blessed over the last 5 years with the reliability of 37215 and, latterly, D6948. Still, not long before we should have them both back! In the meantime, visit the WSR for a run behind D6948. Its running days, and some cracking photos, can be found on the Growler Group website, the Growler Group Facebook site and on the WSR website. This pic courtesy of Kev Jarvis.


The 'Green Machine' awaits the road from Williton on the WSR. (K. Jarvis)



Monday, 29 April 2019

D6948 heads on its holiday.

Today, 29th April, our EE Type 3, D6948, was collected by Allelly's for its 10 week (or so) holiday to our friends at the West Somerset Railway. With the current restrictions that the WSR have on its infrastructure D6948 will give some flexibilty on diesel availability as well as be a star attraction at their Diesel Gala. Thanks to Kev Jarvis for the photos:


The heart in mouth moment begins........


Careful, now! 



Messr's Stanley and Jarvis who oversaw the delicate loading operation.

Below are the provisional running dates, courtesy of the Diesel and Electric Preservation Group......

Sunday 5th May - vice DMU
Monday 6th May - vice DMU
Sunday 19 May - vice DMU

Sunday 2 June - vice DMU
Saturday 8 June - WSR 40th Anniversary (Workings to be confirmed)
Sunday 9 June - WSR 40th Anniversary (Workings to be confirmed)

Saturday 22 June - WSR Diesel Gala (Workings to be confirmed)
Sunday 23 June - WSR Diesel Gala (Workings to be confirmed)

Sunday 6 July - vice DMU

The loco returns to Toddington on Tuesday 8 July.


Thursday, 11 April 2019

So much for the plan!

Well, the title of my last blog was 'I love it when a plan comes together'. Well, the euphoria of having two long term projects on the home straight was brought down to Earth with a metaphorical thump on Sunday (7 April). Luckily nothing to do with the two projects that are now within touching distance of the finish line but more to do with the best laid plans.

The Sunday was due to be a meeting of our Department management team however a number of people had already offered apologies but, Andy, our HoD, was keen to crack on. On arrival I found a very stressed Andy who was in the throes of calling the meeting off. Neil C had been sequestered to be replacement DMU Driver for the day leaving just the four of us. The decision was well and truly taken from Andy about 5 minutes later as James Edwards (our Ops Officer for the day) came thundering through the mess room door; equally stressed. 2807 had been declared a failure with a hot bearing and was limping back to Toddington, therefore James was after a diesel crew to fire up a replacement. The only Driver in attendance (other than Neil, already on the DMU) was Steve M however only the Class 73 had had its return to service protocols finished that Steve was cleared to Drive. Just as we debated E6036 being fired up for a rare passenger foray Mark E, who is a Class 47 Driver, pulled up and was quickly volunteered to fire up 47376 'Freightliner 1995', the only other loco that had had all its exams completed. I joined Mark as Secondman and we ventured out to meet the ailing steam engine and continue the service on to Broadway.

In the murk of mid-morning 47376 heads off shed to take over from an ailing 2807.

At Broadway ready to depart with the 'Cotswold Express'.
The chaos didn't end there! A couple of signal failures,and trespassers on the line meant that, by the end of that day, everyone had certainly been through the wringer! On getting back to Todd, Mark had to shoot off for an engagement so I disposed of the '47'. In the yard Steve, Andy, Tony along with two 'newbies', John and Dave were completing a mammoth shunt with D5343 and E6036. At some stage a collection of VAA and Ferry Vans had been brought down from Broadway. Although not necessarily owned by the groups, these contained a lot of spares for a number of the locos in our fleet and, with storage space now being more readily available at Toddington, they were brought down to be emptied before being returned to Broadway. One of the vans was to stay at Toddington but needed to be shunted out of the rake. It also meant moving around a new arrival!

Andy at the helm of D5343 propelling the CDRL's new acquisition.

Andy positions the new TSL, W59505, onto Road 6.

The mortal remains of 20035 sit awaiting their fate.

Even at 6pm the murk was still hanging around. D5343 and E6036 tick over as the shunt progresses.
During the previous week the Cotswold Diesel Railcar group announced the arrival of a new vehicle. TSL W59505 arrived from MOD Long Marston although mystery surrounded why it had arrived. Would it form a three car unit with the two power cars (Class 107 DMS, Sc52029, and Class 117 DMBS, W51372)? Or would it go into the present three car rake and make it a four car? Well, it would appear that it is the latter that will happen although when this will happen is not known. The vehicle is in fairly good condition externally although it will need a fair amount of work internally. With DMS W51405 still due back at Carriage and Wagon to complete its refit it could be some time before the three car becomes a four car.

Another announcement from last week was the news that English Electric Type 3, D6948, is due to head to our friends at the West Somerset Railway at the end of April until July to take part in their Diesel Gala but also to give the railway a few more options with its diesel fleet. For those of you that haven't been keeping up with developments in all things heritage, the WSR have had a rough time of late and have seen their axle loading severely reduced due to problems with their infrastructure. It has meant that a fair number of their motive power fleet are now not clear to run. As one of D6948's owners is also a member of the WSR an agreement has been reached for it to go on holiday. However, it will travel without its boiler which has been removed to survey the extent of the damage done at New Year and to sort out a repair strategy. The boiler had been removed a few weeks previously and had been carefully stripped to gain access to the coil. This was the cause of the problem........
How can something so small cause so many problems?!! 

The boiler coil removed from D6948.
Luckily, it should be repairable and should see D6948's boiler back in steam for the autumn/winter with all things being well. With its impending use in service and then its visit to Bishops Lydeard confirmed, my job on the 30th March was to clean the outside. With the weather set fine I had the loco dragged outside into the sunshine. Armed with rags, hose and steps I set to work. I must admit I hate cleaning my car....having to clean 109 tonnes of prime Class 37 was no picnic either, but it is an essential part of ensuring the locos look their best but, as you are up close and personal, the process can also be used to identify any possible issues with bodywork and the underframe- definitely not a problem with D6948!

BR Green always looks good in the sun!! 
Elsewhere on the 30th, Class 26, D5343, was out in the yard fresh from its corrosion repairs. Several members of the owning group were present making a start on the Fitness to Run and 'B' Exam. The batteries were also charged.

D5343 has its batteries charged in company with the 'Manor'.
Tim L was also present, initially with David M on the ongoing restoration of 1693. David had spent the last few weeks prepping the bogie frames for their first coats of new paint. He had already sprayed on the first lot of primer and was now occupied with the first layer of undercoating.

David M gets to grips with the paint sprayer on 30/3. 
1693 has had a lot of its sanding and filling completed around the cabs and has had the metal work primed and there is also more progression with the preparation and corrosion repairs on the roof sections. Tim had helped me to extract D6948 from the shed and, at the same time, we had dragged 47376 out into the sunshine so that Tim could complete the 'B' Exam. A rather fortuitous move as it turned out!!

'B' Exam in the sun for 47376. The 'real' Class 04, D2280, sits on the adjacent road.
37215 was resident at the back of Road 10, a spot that 5081 had called home for the best part of 18 months. Preparatory work had been carried out to allow the loco to be moved to the David Page shed quickly when the jacks next become free. The Growler Group had sent an SOS to the SRPS at Bo'ness to borrow their lifting brackets as the GG ones had disappeared but the securing mechanisms and brake chains have been disconnected in readiness. SRPS kindly agreed and they arrived today (11/04) - many thanks to all at SRPS.

37215 unsecured from, and resting on, its bogies before its scheduled lift.
We also had Class 24, 5081, back in the shed after its reintegration with its overhauled second bogie.

5081 back on its own, overhauled bogies. Plenty of work still to do before testing can be undertaken. 
The drop went well but now everything has to be put back together. In the picture, above, you can see the new slack adjusters on the ground which, along with the rest of the braking system, needs to be refitted and calibrated before more rigorous tests can be carried out. Still on track for the gala, though!

We now fast forward to this week. Wednesday (10/04) saw a third visit in two weeks for me - a rarity so far in 2019! I was rostered on D6948 with Peter Smith, who was being assessed by Kev Jarvis. We would be out on the PURPLE timetable - the last trip of the day. Also present were members of the Brush Type 4 Group - Tim, 'H' and Mark S - who were going to make use of the continued fine weather and get 1693 under the small A Frame crane down in the yard. 'H' had already fired up D2280 and, with the process of getting the Class 47 out of the shed requiring some shunting about, Tim decided that a full shunt of the shed to get all the locos in the correct places for the coming weeks would be prudent.

In its coat of many colours, 1693 is pulled out of the shed by the Class 04.
With things being shunted about, it wasn't possible to get on and prep the loco early or to clean the cabs that had accumulated a number of scuffs, boot prints and various other marks. By the time the shunt was completed it was nearly time to get ready for service, so a quick walk around the loco followed by an early lunch.

Something is missing......but, can't think what it is!
In the engine room of D6948, the void left by the removed boiler. The electrical conduits haven't seen the light of day (or dimness of the engine room) since sometime in 2015! It did strike me just how much room the boiler does take up, although, with 37215 having no boiler, it shouldn't have been too much of a surprise.

Elsewhere, Tim, 'H' and Mark had disappeared into the David Page shed. Earlier in the day, Chris (from the 'DES' team) had popped into the messroom to ask if anyone was free to operate the jacks. Over the weekend 'DES' had been shunted into the steam shed and on to the jacks to have its centre wheel refitted. Sadly, the job wasn't completed, so Chris had come up to see if anyone could lend a hand. As I wandered in to have a nose, the four of them were easing 'DES' down towards its refurbished centre axle. Having helped drop 5081's bogie frame down onto its axles I wasn't surprised that it was an inch by inch job in order to line everything up as it should.

'DES' propped up on its lifting beam.

Tim and Chris (hidden by Tim) survey the lining up of the axle box with the frame.

Checking it is going in straight and true. 
At this point I had to leave to go and get ready for duty but, on returning home, I had a Facebook notification from the 'Yorkshire Engine Co 2760 (DES) Restoration Group' (to give them full credit!) announcing that the loco was successfully lowered onto the axle during the afternoon. This is great news for the small group who can now look forward to refitting the rods and brake gear before giving it a test. Keeping fingers crossed.