Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A new era.

The new month of August saw a major change in the Diesel Department. Kevin Jarvis, who has successfully served as Department Head for the last 3 or so years, decided to stand down due to a higher calling from his other great passion - Newport RFC, the mighty 'Black and Ambers'! Kev has joined the Board of the B&As and no longer has the time to juggle work, the B&As commercial arm and keeping us unruly lot in check! He continues as Treasurer of the Growler Group and will continue volunteering in the Department around his rugby commitments. In to the breach steps Andy Durham as our new Head of Department. Andy has 28 years experience of working with diesel engines and is primarily a member of the Cotswold Mainline Diesel Group. He can usually be found working on the Class 26 or the Class 45 and, like myself, is a Secondman in the Department. I hope you will all share in commiserating, I mean, congratulating and welcoming Andy as well as also extending a huge thanks to Kev.

After the successes of the Summer Gala the heavy work on 5081 and 47105 has recommenced. Last weekend saw a team of five of us removing the remaining six cylinder liners from 47105 and fitting new CO2 fire extinguishers into 37215. The pistons had all been removed and were in various stages of cleaning.
'A' Bank pistons from 47105.
After positioning both locomotives under our gantry lift in the yard work started on 47105 first. With Tim and Matt in the engine room, myself, Mark S and Andy M took turns in operating the lift. The lift is manually intensive which was pretty heavy going on the arms!
One of 47105's 'A' Bank liners. 6 were removed in total.
With most of them removed Tim then went to fetch the JCB so we could transport them back into the shed ready for cleaning. Despite being the best part of a couple of decades old they were all in pretty decent condition...no pitting, dents or warping noted on quick inspection. Matt quickly set to work with the wire wheel clearing the outer layers of dirt and grime.

Andy M and Mark S load up the JCB being careful not to dent the liners.
With the liners removed 47105 was shunted back to allow 37215 under the gantry. The CO2 extinguishers that were in 37215 had faulty firing pins that required replacing. The new bottles have a slightly revised set of firing pins that are a little more sturdy. With no.1 end of 37215 under the gantry the older bottles were removed and the new ones hoisted up and set in place.

Four new bottles waiting to go in to 37215.

Two of the removed bottles removed and ready for disposal.

Elsewhere, DES was receiving a bit of TLC. Formerly one of the shunters at Allied Steel and Wire in Cardiff (now Celsa), DES, or 372,  has been out of action for a few weeks with a few issues including suffering low power. Chris was present undertaking some fault finding and rectification within the engine compartment. This has meant that the Class 04 has been pushed into more shunting duties across the yard, despite itself having some issues that need sorting out.
Shunter 372, or DES to friends!
When on song this little engine packs a punch having been used to shunt heavy steel wagons around ASW, Cardiff before retirement.
During the following week Class 26, D5343, was readied for another of its many excursions away from the GWSR. The destination this time was the Ecclesborne Valley Railway for their diesel gala and a chance to test itself on the fearsome 1 in 27 gradient. This would certainly be giving the Sulzer engine a workout as the steepest ruling gradient at 'home' is a more sedate 1 in 175!

D5343 awaits its lift to the Ecclesborne Valley Railway. (Courtesy: Rob Davidson)
From the photos on social media, and a quick chat with Andy Durham on Sunday just gone (13/08), the trip appeared to be another great success. Here's to a few more!

This past Sunday (13/08) was a very quiet day. Myself and Mark S were both rostered on 37215 on the red timetable and, other than Chris and his partner from the Brush Type 4 group, we were the only ones about in the diesel shed. Our colleagues in the DMU group were also in doing more work on the Bubble Car. During the week more work had occurred on 5081's wheelset and all the springs have now been removed. In order to get the last one out the frame had to be lifted slightly and it now rests on a pile of wooden blocks. Several of the motor gear casings have also been taken back to the metalwork ready for repainting.

5081's wheelset. Slightly lifted in order to get the last spring out.

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A collection of expired springs.

 A gleaming motor gear case from 5081 fresh from a date with the wire wheel.

With jobs thin on the ground, Mark S set about fitting the CO2 extinguishers in 37215 to the fire suppression pipework. I, on the other hand, set about draining D6948's bed plate of waste fluids.
Have buckets....will travel!

Towards lunchtime we also had a group of Australian tourists request a tour around the sheds. A very interested group of 10 were shown around the diesel shed before being taken around the steam side as well. Full of questions and enthused by the strength of railway preservation in the UK, they had been to Didcot Railway Centre and Swindon STEAM on the Saturday and had been shown around their workshops so were very happy that they could see what we were doing also. A number had worked for Australian Railways and all had some interest in railway preservation. One had even traveled behind 'Pendennis Castle' when she was sold to an Australian Iron Ore company in the 1970s. A few questions were also asked around the differences between the XPT and the HST and also why a Class 20 only has one cab but two driving positions! After about 45 minutes a very happy group made their way to the station in order to enjoy a trip behind P&O. Its always good to get appreciation and praise from members of the public, even more so when from the other side of the globe!

It was then onto prepping 37215 for the final round trip of the day. After a really sunny, warm day the clouds had started to gather although there would be no rain. Quite a pleasant end to the day.

The 'old girl' ready to head out once more.
There is always light at the end of the tunnel!!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Gala Week!

Its been a number of weeks since my last visit to the MPD; a combination of work and family commitments rendered a lot of my free time obsolete. However, like all things, life moves on and preservation stands still for no one. Since my last tome work has progressed at pace on all our long term projects.

The bogie overhaul continues on Class 24, 5081. After managing to get the bogie over a pit the remaining motor casings and the traction motors were removed ready for cleaning. More cleaning and debris removal as well as the remaining brake rigging has been removed. A few springs remain in position on the bogie, it's hoped that these can be taken off in the coming weeks.

The general overhaul on Class 47, 47105 has seen the remaining six cylinders removed and these are currently hanging up in the shed awaiting overhaul. More cab furniture has been refitted after repainting and renovation as well as additional engine work on the six refurbished cylinders.

Finally, the 'bubble' car has also seen a lot of progress made on the body work with some re-plating and sanding going on around the cab areas. One particular area of celebration was the refitting of the characteristic twin exhausts. As an additional goal, it is hoped for the engines to be restarted in the next few weeks.We also had an 'unexpected' arrival to the DMU stable in a 'new' Class 117 DMBS....W51372. Not quite sure where she came from or the reasons for arrival, but apparently, there is also another one on the way!

Class 117 DMBS W51372 is eased off the low loader in the car park at Toddington.


........the major focus of the last week has been the 2017 Summer Diesel Gala. The major event of the year for the department, where we can show off our fleet in full and the steam engines can take a deserved breather. This year saw the 60th anniversary (almost to the day of Day 1 of the gala) of the introduction of the English Electric Type 1 - later to become the Class 20 under TOPS. In the diesel era these distinctive locos were common visitors to the Honeybourne line in pairs on coal trains from the East Midlands to South Wales. It was only fitting that our first guest should be D8098 courtesy of owners, The Type One Locomotive Company, and the Great Central Railway. The loco was paired with our own D8137 after arrival and, after testing, it was decided that they would run in multiple...truly representing how they would have appeared on our line.

D8098 after arrival from the GCR.
Demonstrating its Scottish heritage....Inverurie Works 7/2/67
Our second guest, also from the GCR, courtesy of the Northampton Type 2 group was Derby Type 2 (Class 25) D5185 in lieu of our laid up Class 24. Another class of locomotive that would have worked on the Honeybourne Line from the London Midland and Western regions, although D5185 (or 25035 under TOPS) spent the majority of its life in the North West of England and in Scotland. Through the weekend she would occasionally be paired with our resident Class 26, D5343, to recreate a very Scottish scene in the heart of the Cotswolds.

D5185 on shed after arrival.

McRat and Rat together on Toddington MPD

D5185's co-owner and GCR Traction Inspector, John Pepper. I was lucky enough to accompany John on the Sunday at the gala as his Secondman. A very knowledgeable and enthusiastic preservationist and all round top man!

Our guests enjoying some early morning sunshine on the Thursday before the gala.
But, before all the fun, we had to do a major tidy up! As you can imagine, the shed area gets really filthy. Near 60 year old locomotives leak.....oil, diesel, lubricating fluids, water.....you name it, it ends up on the floor. On Wednesday morning myself and Tim set about cleaning the floor around Road 11 which would be the main public area. One of the biggest problems we have is caused by leaking Motak. When at operating temperature Motak is like oil. At room temperature it is like extra thick treacle and it sticks to everything! It also causes the concrete to blister and can only be removed by scraping it off the floor. When you have a 200 ft plus length of floor to clear you can imagine the effort needed to clear even half of it!

The before shot! Scooping up all the absorbent granules used to soak up oil, diesel and liquid motak. After removal the floor was steam cleaned, power washed and brushed.
Thursday would see an extension of the shed clean, however I was able to escape with Richard G and Tim to undertake the shunt of the yard.
Spares donor, 20035 is placed into the car park as a static exhibit.

D8098 and D8137 are paired up and the multiple working checked ready for the gala.
W55003 is prepped ready for its move onto Road 10 to be part of the restoration display with D5081 and 47105.
W55003 sees the light of day as it is moved into position.
After giving D5081 and 47105 a careful nudge back, W55003 is placed on Road 10 and just about clears the doors.

One of the more unusual pieces of railway stock we currently have on the railway is a 'Ballast Brush'. In order to free up 20035 to be moved into the yard we had to move the 'Ballast Brush' and a number of vans around. The Brush unit has no couplings and, in order to move it, you have to use a bar - similar to that used on HST's when attaching a locomotive to the nose end after a failure. Tim, having worked with HST's at Old Oak Common was well versed in the use of these and was able to assist with the coupling to DES.

The Ballast Brush being moved. The coupling bar is clearly visible bottom centre.
Nearly 9000hp of engine power lined up at Toddington MPD. L to R: 45149, E6036, 47376, D5185 and D6948.

D6948 awaits its call to arms.
With the shunt and clean up completed the anticipation started of what the weekend would bring. As with most outdoor events the biggest concern is the weather....and the good old British weather forecast didn't disappoint. Depending on who you spoke to, news report you watched or website you perused, the weather forecast ranged from glorious to world ending! In the end, over the three days, we had pretty much everything except snow. Luckily, most of the rain held off until the later stages of Saturday and Sunday although Friday saw almost constant, niggling drizzle. It takes a lot to dampen the diesel enthusiast and patronage, especially on Saturday and Sunday, seemed reasonably good - although, perhaps not to the levels we saw last year. All feedback, though, was excellent and all locos ran faultlessly. We do seem very blessed in this department and loco failures at all the galas I have been involved in have been rare. That said, we had a few 'issues' but nothing that required a loco to be stopped. Edit: 45149 did suffer a compressor flashover on Sunday afternoon but still finished its schedule using its other compressor.

More photos of the event........

D8098 and D8137 head away from Toddington on 30/07/17. (Malcolm Ranieri)

D8098 and D8137 arrive at Winchcombe on 29/07/17
D6948 waits for 47376 to depart with the next service to Buckland before heading via P1 to Toddington MPD.
Rat on a Rat. D5185's mascot looking out towards Broadway.
47376 'Freightliner 1995' approaches Toddington on the 30/07/17 with a service from Cheltenham Racecourse. (Malcolm Ranieri)
English Electric Type 3s D6948 and 37215 shatter the peace of Sunday morning as they head towards Hayles. The cows are totally uninterested as they sadly prove the old wives tale to be true. Not long after this the first of many showers made their way over Cleeve Hill. (Malcolm Ranieri)
BRCW Type 2 D5343 heads the next down service towards Hayles. The cows equally uninterested as the clouds gather. (Malcolm Ranieri)
Visiting Derby Type 2 D5185 heads towards Stanway heading a Buckland to Cheltenham Racecourse service. (Malcolm Ranieri)
45149 heads towards Stanway with a Buckland - Cheltenham Racecourse service on 30/07/17. (Malcolm Ranieri)
In an all too brief moment the gala for 2017 has been and gone and it is back to the normal timetabled services and routine maintenance although planning for the 2018 Gala, as the first to include Broadway, is already underway. We still have the remainder of this running season as well as the Autumn Gala to come. We are very privileged to have D5185 staying with us through August and she will be running a number of days throughout the month. Sadly, D8098 returns to the GCR later this week. Her visit, and subsequent running in multiple with D8137, proved very popular - in an ideal world it would have been good to keep both for a little longer.