Saturday, 18 April 2020

No work and no play......

Nearly four weeks into the Covid-19 lock down and the world is very odd place! Having to adapt to a very unusual set of circumstances has put a lot of people, myself included, into situations that we would never have envisaged in a month of Sundays. With us all being told to stay at home the fleet has been isolated as well and no work has been allowed to be conducted. So, what to do with the blogs?

We are very lucky within the department, and in the wider GWsR community, to have a number of volunteers who have a huge array of photographs obtained either through their own photographic talents or through gifts or purchases. Having been a volunteer for a relatively short 7 years, I always find it fascinating to look at photos from 'the archives' so, for this tome, I thought I would ask around to show off some photos from fellow volunteers of the locos of years past as well as some of the current fleet at the GWsR in earlier guises.

Special thanks to Dean Tabor and Andy Smith for allowing me to use these pictures.

Firstly, we have a loco that has returned to capital traffic since its time at Toddington. 37099 arrived at the GWsR on the 18th April 1999 after withdrawal from Transrail in 1997 and purchase by a private individual. The loco was placed into custodianship of The Growler Group and work started on returning it to a former guise in BR Blue as 37324 complete with its 'Clydesbridge' nameplates - a number it wore when allocated to Motherwell TMD as one of its Ravenscraig metals pool. Here are a trio of pics from Dean Tabor on the day of its arrival at Toddington - still wearing the Civil Engineers 'Dutch' livery.

37099 (37324) arrives on a low loader from its first, brief, home on the North Norfolk Railway. (Courtesy of D. Tabor)
Easy does it! (Courtesy of D. Tabor)
Safely on the rails again at Toddington. (Courtesy of D. Tabor)
The loco stayed on the railway until March 2013 when it was moved to the East Lancs Railway. It stayed there until 2016 when it was purchased by Colas, reinstated to mainline traffic as 37099 and renamed 'Merl Evans 1947 - 2016'.

Next up we have a few pics from Andy, a Guard and Duty Ops Officer on the GWsR, showing a couple of the current fleet in action as well as a couple of long departed locos from way back in the mid-1990s.

Class 31, D5541, arrives at Winchcombe in March 1996. (Courtesy of A. Smith)
Brush Type 2/Class 31, D5541 (31123 under TOPS) was withdrawn from BR stock in 1992 and arrived at the GWsR sometime in 1994 being repainted into BR Green and having its 'D' numbers reapplied. Sadly, the loco only saw a few years service before a serious engine failure saw it being sidelined from 1997 for a number of years whilst repairs were discussed and planned. They were to never happen and the loco was sold to the A1A Group as a spares donor for 37271 and 31418. The loco was finally cut up in 2006 at Booth's.

Class 20, 20137 passes the site of Hayles Abbey Halt in August 1995. (Courtesy of A. Smith)
EE Type 1/Class 20, 20137 arrived on the GWsR at some point in 1994 having been withdrawn from BR service in December 1992 and purchased by a private individual. Initially running in its final BR guise of Railfreight Grey with Red Solebar, but minus its 'Murray B Hofmeyr' nameplates, the loco was eventually renumbered to D8137, repainted in to BR Green with small warning panels. It now resides in workworn BR Green with full yellow ends.

24081 heads through Dixton Cutting at somepoint in the mid 1990s. (Courtesy of A. Smith)
Another current resident, Sulzer Type 2/Class 24, 5081 (24081 under TOPS) arrived on the GWsR in 1995. The loco is a bit of a celebrity as it was the final representative of its class still in use by BR, not being withdrawn until October 1980 and then entering preservation immediately. 5081 is back in full service after its bogie overhaul and some electrical work.

One of three Class 14 'Teddy Bear' locos that have been based at the GWsR prepares to take the plunge in the yard at Toddington during March 1996. Class 26, 26043 is seen to the left, still wearing its 'Dutch' livery. (Courtesy of A. Smith)
The GWsR was once home to three Class 14 Hydraulic locomotives with D9537, D9539 and D9553 all arriving during the early 1980s and being the mainstay of diesel services during the early years. The final example to be based at Toddington was D9553, which was privately owned, moved to the Vale of Berkeley Railway in 2016 having last run in 2009.

Photographic contributions of the fleet, past and present, as well as diesels on the line prior to 1976, are always greatly received. If you want them to appear in a blog (or in an eventual book/brochure) then email them through to me, with details, at

Finally, the GWsR is still running a fundraising campaign so that the major landslip between Gotherington and Bishops Cleeve can be fnished. At last count the amount raised stood at around £165,000 of the £250,000 needed to complete the work. If you would like to donate to this or to help with the railway's finances during lockdown, then click here to go to the GWsR website.

Stay safe.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020


As we all have probably heard the country is pretty much on lockdown and this is, sadly, no different now at the GWsR. Not only have all services been cancelled but access is now restricted and so no work can be conducted on the locos until furhter notice.

Lucky, then, that the last weekend was captured in some form. Special thanks goes to Alex Raybould who provided a brief overview and a number of pics to mark the last working day before shutdown.

First up, work was continuing on Class 26, D5343 and its leaking engine components. Having had the cylinders removed earlier in the month it was now the time to park the McRat under the gantry crane and lift out the liners. In a 12 or 16 cylinder loco this can be a really difficult task due to the clearances involved but the Class 26 has a 6 cylinder engine and a large roof hatch. This gives a reasonable amount of space to work in.

Andy, with the aid of the overhead gantry, eases a cylinder liner out of the Sulzer 6LDA28-A engine. (Courtesy of Alex Raybould) 
 Outside the loco the conditions were much more inviting!

Under a watchful gaze, and in some nice spring sunshine, Tony eases another liner to earth. Simon casts a quick glance over the first two to be removed. (Courtesy of Alex Raybould)
Elsewhere, the ongoing restoration and overhaul on Class 47, 1693 passed a major milestone. After putting bits and pieces back together you always wonder whether it will still work. I remember the anticipation and nervousness of watching D6948 fire up for the first time after its resotration! 1693 was also dragged out into the sunshine so that this could happen (hopefully the vid works! Courtesy of Alex, again).....

1693 is allowed outside to enjoy the sun. (Courtesy of Alex Raybould)

According to Alex this was the 3rd start up for 1693 and, judging by the video, everything has gone to plan. Certainly sounds like a Class 47! For Alex, it wasn't all photos and videos. He, along with Harrison (another graduate from our Youth Group), got to clean some of the older rocker heads. A great job when the weather is warm but not so much if its chilly!

(Both courtesy of Alex Raybould)
What will happen from here is anyone's guess. Hopefully things will rectify quickly and we can get back to maintaining nd running these fine locos.

As an aside, the enforced shutdown means that some of our capital projects have had to be put on hold. One of the major works ongoing through the shutdown is the repair to the major slip at Gotherington. With no money being generated it means that the railway is short of the final sum to complete the work. An emergency appeal has been put out on the GWSR web page and on social media asking for help. You can get more information of the appeal here. Every little helps, as they say!

Saturday, 21 March 2020

'This town is coming like a ghost town'.... went the lyrics to the Specials' song 'Ghost Town' and the last few weeks have certainly seen the railway become a bit eerie due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak. However, things had got off to a fairly bright start to March in the Diesel Department and, heavy maintenance work is continuing despite the fact the railway has decided to suspend passenger operations for the foreseeable future.

One of the biggest events during the early part of the month is the Cheltenham Festival services. Although no diesels are utilised on services it doesn't mean that there isn't the odd appearance of members of the fleet being utilised on other work. This was certainly the case on the Saturday of the Cheltenham Festival where Class 73, E6036 made an appearance at Winchcombe during the Growler Group AGM on the 14th March. The ED was being utilised to move empty stock around and had brought the 3rd rake to Winchcombe from Toddington under the control of Neil C.

E6036 arrives at Winchcombe on an ECS.
The ED pulled into Platform 2 before pushing the rake back into the Engineers Sidings. In the picture below, the loco has not propelled back through a signal at Danger. The entrance to the yard is controlled by ground disc. Class 37, D6948 had been utilised earlier in the week to bring the stock up from Winchcombe.

The ED pushes the 3rd rake back into the yard.
Work also finished on our resident Class 26's cab corrosion repairs and repaint at the end of February however, whilst being checked over for its visit to the Somerset and Dorset at Midsomer Norton, a serious engine issue was found that would require more substantial work to be carried out. D5343 had also been announced as a guest for the Severn Valley Railway gala but this new found issue meant that this was quickly cancelled (Class 24, 5081 was agreed as a substitute but Covid-19 has put paid to that event, along with many others in preservation). On running the engine up a leak was found in the liner seals of the cylinders. This can lead to engine failure so the owning group took the early decision to remove D5343 from traffic completely in order to remove the cylinders and rectify the problem.

It could almost be Haymarket TMD in the 1960s.....well, maybe not! 5310 and D5343 in the yard at Toddington in 2020.

D5343's 6 cylinders are laid out on the floor of Toddington Diesel Shed after removal.
With this issue now identified it is likely that the BRCW Type 2 is likely to be out of traffic for most of the year.

Toddington's other Class 26, 5310 on extended visit from Llangollen, inches closer to a return to its home base in mid Wales. With 'Shunty' (Class 04, D2280) having finished its stint on the jacks the Traction Motors that had been removed from 5310 for refurbishment were ready for refitting. In early March the loco was shunted back into the David Page shed so that it could be lifted and the motors resited on the bogie frames.

The intrepid GWR/Llangollen Diesel team that worked on the refitting of 5310's Motors. (Courtesy of the GWsR Facebook site)
Its a shame that, despite its extended stay at Toddington, 5310 won't run on GWR metals, with D5343 now out of action and the railway closed the intended double header to celebrate the class' 60th birthday will not happen. The loco will be returning to Llangollen in the near future, when transport can be arranged.

As mentioned, 'Shunty' or D2280 has come off the jacks and now sits in the yard. Bodywork repairs are in full swing as can be seen with the cab in primer and the engine doors stripped back to metal. 

With the lifts for both D2280 and 5310 finished the next big job requiring the jacks was to lift Class 37, 37215, and return it to its refurbished wheelsets. The work on the Traction Motor bushes, dampers and the tyre re-profiling had been completed and it was time to get the loco back on its own bogies. The dates were set for the 18th and 19th March and a group of 8 of us descended on Toddington early on the Wednesday morning to conduct the work. Not only was the loco to be lifted, the accommodation bogies needed to be removed before the loco's original bogies were resited, the loco lowered, brake blocks changed and then all the electrical connections reinstated....all in 2 days!

Wednesday is usually a very busy day. However, with the Government advice being to stay at home and prevent too much social contact and, the railway having abandoned services for the foreseeable future, the yard was incredibly quiet! Eerily so! Under the guidance of Growler Group Chairman and Technical Director, Paul Good, we set about getting the loco into the shed and the jacks into the correct positions. This is a precision job which, if not conducted accurately would end up with a serious incident. The jacks had been purchased from BR a number of years ago by the Diesel Department for use by the Motive Power department and had been refurbished in order to allow big lifting jobs to be undertaken in house. Over the last couple of years they have been worth their weight (pun intended!) having lifted 5081, D8137, 5310, D2280, DES and now 37215 with D6948 waiting in the wings.

Class 37, 37215 is shunted into position in the David Page shed.

The jacks are moved into a rough position ready for the lifting brackets to be placed on the loco. 
With the loco shunted in to the David Page shed the lifting gear was prepared ready for the raising of 37215 off its accommodation bogies. In order to lift the loco, a set of brackets need to be fitted to the specific lifting slots which are then secured to four synchronised jacks. The lifting brackets being used were very kindly loaned to the Growler Group by the SRPS at Bo'ness. A very big thanks to all at the SRPS.

The lifting jacks loaned to the Growler Group by our friends at Bo'ness. These attach to lifting points on the loco body before being secured to the jacks. 

With the lifting brackets attached to the loco and the jack, everything can be lined up and the pins put into place. 
With the brackets lined up and pinned, the lifting can begin.
With brackets in place, the jacks were man-handled into position before Paul checked to make sure everything was in the right place before the slow process of lifting the loco skyward could begin. All 4 jacks are synchronised therefore being able to lift together, at the same rate, from one control panel. With Mark S manning the panel, instructions were given to start the lift. It is always a heart in mouth moment as you are moving 50-60 tonnes of locomotive into the air.

Dan keeps an eye on no.4 jack as it raises 37215 skyward.
The loco is inched off the accommodation bogies.

Ever wondered what the bottom of a Class 37 looks like?
Once the jacks hit 16 feet it was time to stop the jacks and prepare to roll the bogies out from underneath. But, first, one of the most important things of railway life comes first.....

....did someone say TEA?!
After a brief stop to replenish energy it was back to it. The next order of business was to move the accommodation bogies out from under the loco before moving the refurbished set back underneath the loco. This bit needed the manpower as the bogies would have to be manually pushed from under the loco body. At 20 tonnes a piece this was no easy feat. Once clear of the loco body and jacks, the forklift could then be used to move them to the front of the shed where Class 04, 11230 could take the bogies back into the yard for storage.

'Who's going to push it?'

With the 2nd bogie also clear the forklift, driven by Ian C, is hooked up to drage the 2nd bogies to the front of the shed. 

Mark S, in control of 11230, gingerly pulls the accommodation bogies down the yard. 
Whilst the bogies were being repositioned down in the headshunt siding Dan and I started the final preparations on the refurbished wheelsets back in the diesel shed. The final bits needed to complete the bogies for refitting centred around cleaning up and greasing the required friction points and adding copious amounts of Copa-slip to resting points.

When lowered, the loco body rests on a centre bolster with four friction points on each bogie - two front and two back that allow the loco and bogies to swing to take corners. Above, is one of the friction pads showing the shock absorber (centre right, a rubber pad with a metal sheet on top) with the cap (bottom, centre left). The bottom of the cap is greased before being placed on the pad. The loco body then rests, lightly, on the metal plinth.

Day 1 finished with the Copa-slip being applied to all the friction points.

One of the mounting points with Copa-slip applied.
Day 2 was even more quiet. As with Wednesdays, although quieter in the yard, there would usually be services running with cars and coaches all over the car park. But, with everything suspended it was even more noiseless than Wednesday. First order of business was to ready the bogies to be moved from the diesel shed to under 37215. One of the jobs needed doing was to clean and lubricate the bush covers to be refitted when bogies were back under the loco. A quick run over with a wire brush and then to lubricate the pin that holds it in place.

One of the traction motor bush covers.
Whilst cleaning the covers Mark S had fired up 'DES' and had entered the shed to transfer the bogies from the diesel shed to the David Page shed.

'DES' is hooked up to the first of the two bogies. John, Mark S and Paul oversee the movement.
Once the bogies had been carefully manouvered into the David Page shed, the forklift was fired up once more to assist in pushing the bogies back into position under the loco. Again, precision was paramount so that the underframe of the loco, or the bogies, would not sustain damage when the loco body was lowered. With the bogies in situ and as accurately positioned as possible with the naked eye, the loco body was cautiously lowered.
John G keeps watch as 37215 is carefully lowered. 

Nearly there!

With the loco back on its own wheelsets it was dragged forward slightly over the pit so that work could get started on replacing the brake blocks and reprofiling the brake rigging. Working in pairs, Andy, Dave, John and I started working on replacing all the brake blocks....24 per bogie and all have limited accessibility. A taxing job even for the most patient of people!

Head of Department, Andy, gets to grips with the brake blocks on a Class 37.

Cue cursing, swearing and bruised fingers!

Paul, John and Phil have a quick conflab about the brake blocks. 

'This is how hard you need to whack it!'
As the brake blocks were re-fitted I was following behind with Paul and Dave re-assembling the brake rigging and setting the slack adjusters. Paul, Mark and Dave also fitted some of the new bushes to the dampers and, with Phil, gave everything the once over to check that everything was in the right places. By the end of Day 2 the loco was back where she belongs in the Diesel Shed after a number of months in the yard. Next jobs include wiring the traction motors back up to the electrical systems, securing all the blower conduits and getting rid of the flies in the engine room! However, with no services running the urgency level for having the work completed has lessend slightly but it also enables the possibility of organising a test run without having to worry about affecting passenger service.

At the end of two very full on, but rewarding days, 37215, back where she belongs. 

Sunday, 23 February 2020

A Hive of Activity

As we head ever closer to the start of the new operational season attentions are being turned to getting all the locomotives and rolling stock into the right conditions for the middle of March. That has meant that the Diesel Shed has been incredibly active with lots of work going on to complete 'B' Exams and de-winterise all the serviceable fleet. Today (Sat 22 Feb) was no different with attendees into double figures and work going on with a large section of the fleet.

Having not been to Toddington for over a month it was a surprise to see the progress that has been made on Class 47, 1693, which is now almost completely in primer with the body sides looking very smooth and almost ready for the start of undercoating.

1693, the body work now at an advanced stage of restoration.
Lots of work was progressing throughout the day on the loco with Dave M, Tim and Ian R being present. Rivetting of the roof sections to the body work was being completed by Ian during the first part of the day before he ventured on to completing a few small tasks on the bogies.

Ian R gets to grips with a small task on 1693's bogies. 
The rest of the work centred around the engine room where a lot of work has gone into overhauling some of the bigger engine parts. Later in the day the noises eminating from the engine room would suggest that some testing was being carried out.

From the vantage point of D6948's nose end doors, a very strange place to keep 1693's rocker covers!
More work was also being carried out on the bogies of Class 20, D8137 where a small group of three, led by owner Steve M, were busy with a variety of jobs including clearing out the remnants of the oil and motak from the motor casings, refitting parts to one of the refurbished traction motors and checking for tolerance as well as everyone's favourite job....needle gunning!

Steve, along with Ian C and one other, get to grips with one of the traction motors replacing a part that had been removed for cleaning and testing the tolerance level. 
Steve is still very much hoping that D8137 will be fighting fit for the Gala in July however this is very much dependant on the availability/time frame for getting the loco on the jacks. Speaking of locos on the jacks, Class 04, D2280, is still resident on them as its refurbishment continues. The wheelsets have been refitted to frames and attention has turned to the body work. As you can see in the picture below, the 04 has had its body side doors removed, revealing the Gardner 8L3 engine and Wilson-Drewry gearbox, for paint removal and the remainder of the body has been taken back to metal and then primer added. Some areas still need filling and sanding and the running boards need to be treated in due course.

Class 04, D2280, minus doors, sits on the jacks during its overhaul. 
Outside in the yard, the hardy souls of the CMDG - Simon, Andy, Tony R, John, Dave S and  Richard G were busy braving the storm force winds and intermittent lashing rain in the yard preparing Class 26, D5343 for its trip to the Somerset and Dorset in early March. The loco had been squirreled away in the David Page shed and this was the last weekend the loco could utilise the indoor facilities. The extensive work to the metal on both front ends had been sucessfully completed and yellow top coat had been applied. The discs had also been cleaned, repainted and refitted with them being treated to an embellishment that, apparently, was very Scottish Region.

D5343 after being moved out of the David Page shed. The front ends are resplendent in a new coat of yellow and the discs have been cleaned and repainted - complete with black trim, something that a lot of Scottish locomotives received. 
Some minor work was also completed, alongside the general tidy up ready for its first holiday of the year. Also in readiness for its trip the loco was hooked up to the battery charger with a view to running up and its final checks before, all things being well, leaving for the S&D on the 2nd of March.

Also out in the yard, Class 122 'bubble car', W55003 sat awaiting the call to be put back in the shed where the remaining work can be done to the external conditions of the unit.

After a hard day of graft the 'bubble' has the perfect suggestion for unwinding!
Class 117 DMS, W51405, is also still in the yard. The DMS still has a few bits and pieces to be finished by the CDRL team before it can take its place back in the 3-car rake. It recently had its 'M' Exam (the DMU equivalent of a 'B' Exam on locos) and had no.2 alternator replaced and a gear selection fault is currently being rectified.

W51405 gets prepped to be moved in the yard. 
A date for Class 37, 37215, to be reunited with its bogies has been provisionally set. The 'Wednesday' team have nearly completed all the required work on the bogies and so the tentative deadline has been set for the lift. It is hoped that everything will go to plan so that 37215 can be brought back into service before the Gala and allow sister, D6948, to be taken out of traffic for its own lift to rectify the long standing Main Reservoir air leak.

Almost there. 37215's bogies await the date of refitting.
As for D6948, well my tasks for the day revolved around a few bits for the 'B' Exam that had been started earlier in the week. The Driver's windscreen wiper at no. 1 end had been identified as having split and therefore needed replacing. With a new wiper blade found and the tools acquired a quick change was completed. If only it was that easy to change a wiper blade on my car!

One nut and bolt. Simples!
The tools of the trade!
On removing the blade, it wasn't just the fact that the blade had split but the arm was also bent. This meant that only part of the windscreen was being cleared effectively.

No wonder it wasn't clearing the windscreen. 
Within a few minutes the new one had been fitted and cleared on the exam sheet.

We'll be able to see clearly when operating in the rain now!
Next job involved unlocking the louvre doors on each nose and replacing the old filters with new. After delving around in the container for the right box of filters it was back to the loco to remove the old ones.

Its amazing just how much dirt is sucked in through the vents in a year!
Dealing with these filters is like dealing with loft insulation...within minutes you are itching all over! But, it is an important job that allows the compressors and exhausters to work effectively. If they were to get clogged with dust, dirt and general detritus then they couldn't work effectively and the loco would lose air pressure.

Behind the filter cages, the fire bottles and traction motor blower of no.2 end. 
With the old ones removed the new, clean and white ones can be fitted. 
With the filters changed, another job is crosed off the list. The final task was to make a start on cleaning of the exterior of the loco. With the sanding of 1693 going on in the shed over the last few months all the locos have ended up with a layer of dust and filler material over them. On the BR blue locos, such as Class 24, 5081, it isn't so noticeable but on the green locos it is very noticeable. Therefore armed with a bucket of water and some soft cloths it was off to, carefully, give D6948 the railway equivalent of a sponge bath!

You can clearly see where D6948 has been out in the rain that the dust has started to streak down the body sides.
Cleaning 109 tonnes of Class 37 is a lot more of a challege than cleaning your car and, sadly, there isn't an old garage being used as a Car Wash around the corner that you can take a railway loco too! No2 end (the end in the photo) was cleaned, along with the windows but as fast as the dust was cleared it would resettle elsewhere. Very annoying!

As mentioned the 2020 running sesson is only a matter of weeks away. The DMU gets the early outings in March, bar a Purple day in the middle of the month. Running days are as follows:

Blue Timetable - DMU (3 round trips)
07/03, 08/03, 14/03, 15/03, 28/03, 29/03, 31/03

Purple Timetable - D6948
22/03 - 1C21 1510 Broadway - Cheltenham and 1T22 1625 Chelthenham - Toddington