Monday, 22 May 2023

Mid-May Update and Gala Announcement

The last month has seen a number of the maintenance tasks completed on a trio of our fleet, allowing all three to return to the active roster - or be close. Class 20, 20137 returned to the active roster at the beginning of the month after completion of its B Exam during April. The 'chopper' would make it's 2023 debut on the 1st May.

20137 sits in the yard at Toddington on 11th May 2023. The loco is now back on the roster after having its B Exam delayed.

The second loco to return to the roster is the BT4Fs Class 47, 47376 'Freightliner 1995', which had been out of service since the end of 2022 whilst the group caught up with a couple of outstanding maintenance jobs, including some attention to the exhaust system, and took the opportunity to give the engine room a refresh and repaint. The 47/3 returned to action the day after 20137 on the 2nd May. The loco, along with sister and fellow BT4F loco, 47105 would take part in the railways' first 'Double Up Sunday' on 7th May which would see both 47s working services in double-headed and top and tail formations throughout the day.  

47376 (l) and 47105 sit at an overcast Cheltenham Race Course station after working down from Broadway at the 'Double Up Sunday' event on 7th May 2023 . (Courtesy of 'RDD Driver')

Having run round, the pair await the 'RA' to head back to Broadway on 7th May 2023. (Courtesy of 'RDD Driver')

would also work a solo trip on, what was heralded as a very successful day. There is another chance to savour two Sulzer 12LDA28-C engines through the Cotswolds on Sunday 3rd September when both Class 47s will be paired up again for a whole day on the 3rd installment of the 'Double Up Sunday'. Details -

Finally, the last loco that is nearly back on the roster, is Class 37 37215. '215' was taken out of service so that both of its compressors could be removed and replaced with an overhauled set that the owning group had in reserve. Back in 2021 it was identified that both compressors were leaking and that efficiency was starting to deteriorate, so it was decided that both would be replaced. However, with D6948's repairs taking a lot longer to progress than imagined, '215' had to soldier on - until more pressing repairs were required at the beginning of 2022. 

Evidence of the leak on the top compressor of 37215.

With the green one back in traffic, '215' could be taken out of service to get the compressors swapped, along with a couple of other jobs. So, on successive Wednesdays during late April both ailing compressors were removed. 

Keith gets to grips with the A-Frame as he gets ready to remove the top compressor from the nose of 37215. (Courtesy of Kev Jarvis)

It's not an easy job to remove both compressors and just as difficult to slot in the new ones due to the restricted amount of room in the loco nose and the use of a manual A-Frame gantry. 

With the top compressor removed Hugh gets to grips with the bottom compressor, attaching it to the A-Frame chains. (Courtesy of Kev Jarvis)

...And out it comes! (Courtesy of Kev Jarvis)

Fast forward to the 3rd of May and the 'Wednesday Gang' made a start on getting the 'new' bottom compressor into place and, on the 10th, the 'new' top compressor was lifted into situ. 

Growler Group Tech Officer, Paul Good, oversees the lift of the top compressor on 10 May.

The lift on the 10th was to be a race against the weather as the previous day, and the forecast for the 10th, was to include lightning, thunder and hail. Not a great combination when working outside, using a gantry crane or having the hatches open on the top of the loco.

With Keith in the nose, Paul guides the compressor in through the hatch. Phil B and Andy D are in charge of the chains.

Luckily, the weather held off whilst the top compressor was winched into the nose and most of the pipe work was refitted. 


Phil B prays to the Compressor Gods as he helps to line up the top compressor with its support slots.

But, after lunch it hammered down with incessant thunder and hail the size of raisins. Definitely not the time for working outside! Sadly, yours truly was the designated fetcher/carrier and several trips to and fro from the loco to the shed meant that, by the time we finished, I was drenched! Phil, Keith and Paul continued to refit all the pipework under torchlight. 

And, down it comes! Thankfully, we closed the hatches before it started!

With everything back together, Paul wanted to test the system which meant prepping the loco for start up. With the prep complete, the brake selector in 'air pass', the Battery Isolation Switch (BIS) in and the controller in 'Engine Only' (EO), the oil pumps were started to prime the engine and allow a start up. Fingers were crossed that the compressors would kick in about 5 seconds or so after the engine fired. 

With the engine started, the compressors kicked in as we'd hoped although air was leaking from a connection that had not been sufficiently secured. Paul, armed with a set of Stillsons, made short work of tightening the nut. However, even with the escaping air, it was a surprise to see the 'Main Res' gauge already creeping past 50 psi....then 80, then 100. Everything was going to plan. 

The next checkpoint was to see if the safety valves would kick in at around 150 psi and return the main reservoir level to the normal operating pressure of around 120 - 135 psi. As the gauge hit 152 psi the valves kicked in and returned the pressure to 125 psi. Perfect. 

The last check point was to see if the loco would be capable of completing a quick shunt and returning to shed under its own power. After conducting a power and brake check - something that is done as part of the service prep - 37215 completed the shunt and returned to shed without problem. Only the buffers are outstanding on the loco, but it is now fit for traffic. 

D6948 sits in the yard after acting as shunter and before its rostered turn on the 10th May 2023.

D6948 continues to get mileage back under its belt after its own return to service. The fuel filters have been cleaned or replaced and the fuel starvation issue seems to have been corrected. The Class 37s will also have their own 'Double Up Sunday' on Sunday 6th August. Details -  

However, before then we have the '1960s Green Livery Day' on Sunday 11 June in which D6948 will be rostered alongside the Class 117, L425 and 'Modified' Hall, 7903 'Foremarke Hall'.

'1960s Green Livery Day' - Sunday 11th June 2023. Details -

There is also the small matter of our 2023 Diesel Gala over the weekend of July 7th - 9th, of which this years' visitor has been announced recently. There had been talk of where to go after having 50035 'Ark Royal' in 2019 and then 55019 'Royal Highland Fusilier' (along with 55009 'Alycidon' a month later) in 2022. Top of the wanted list has been a 1000 'Western' for a number of years but there are logistical and cost implications of using road transport to get them to the GWSR, therefore it remains a pipe dream for the time being. 

Could we, one day, replicate this view - minus the instances of trespass - one day in the future? Class 52, D1052 'Western Viceroy' sits at CRC on 29th March 1975 with the 1Z58 'The Western Sunset Tour' by the Plymouth Railway Circle. (Courtesy of 'OlympusOM1'/Flikr)

That is also the case for looking at getting a bigger sized loco in for the gala, as transport costs continue to rise meaning less financial margins for bringing in big locos by road. Sadly, we are not able to look at the multiple engine convoys that arrive at the SVR, Swanage or WSR. However, we have a guest that has visited before but not for a long time - late 1990s, I believe! Our home fleet will be joined by Class 25 'Rat', D7659 (25309 under TOPS) courtesy of Waterman's Railways Heritage Trust and Peak Rail. 

WHRT's Class 25, D7659 after overhaul at Peak Rail.  

D7659 has returned to the heritage rail scene after an overhaul that has taken 23 years to complete due to many false dawns, having last worked in 1998. The loco was the final locomotive built at Beyer Peacock in Manchester before becoming the first preserved diesel to be re-certified for mainline use. The 'Rat' will compliment our home fleet nicely given that Class 26, D5343 is still out of action. Keep your eyes on our social feeds and the GWSR website for more up to date information on the timetables, ticketing and any changes that may occur between now and July. 

Another loco that has made a triumphant return to the preservation world, that has links to the GWSR and Toddington, is Class 50 50021 'Rodney'. 'Dave', as it is colloquially known in the preservation world (a nod to the sit-com 'Only Fools and Horses') made it's new 'debut' at the Swanage Railway during their Gala and Beer Festival over the weekend of 12-14 May. 

A resplendent 50021 'Rodney' makes its long awaited return to traffic at the Swanage Diesel Gala and Beer Festival on 12 May 2023. A credit to the new owner and the 50021 Team. As a further nod to Only Fools and Horses, the bit of paper in the Secondmans' window says 'Tax in the Post' - although 50021 is infinitely better than the yellow Reliant from the sit-com.  

'Rodney' entered preservation in 1994 when bought by two private individuals and was moved to the GWSR at Toddington under the custodianship of the fledgling Diesel Department. The loco was fully restored and worked at the railway for around 18 months before being moved to Bo'ness. It would go onto suffer a catastrophic failure and be dumped at Tyseley. Back in 1994 the GWSR only ran for a couple of miles so it would be great to give 'Rodney' the full run of the line, if we can organise a visit in the near future. 

Class 24, 5081, will hopefully be back in time for the Gala as well. The engine governor, that was removed and sent away for repair, has now been returned and is due to be refitted very soon. Hopefully it will see the long standing power fault resolved and the popular Sulzer can return to traffic.

5081 at Gotherington during the 2022 Diesel Gala.

Its fellow small Sulzer, D5343 is starting to reach the home straight regarding the metal work at no. 2 end. New metal sheeting has been welded to the front and has been secured to the sills that were manufactured through our friends at the SRPS at Bo'ness. Initial stages of applying primer has begun as well as the application of filler in areas that require it. 

The new steel plate on the front of D5343 now sits in place on the solebar utilising the new sills that has been manufactured through the SRPS.

Whilst the welding and cutting has gone on on the cab front and sides, the engine room has also been having an overhaul and repaint. This has included having the engine room doors removed so that they can be repaired, primed and repainted. The oil and water pipes have already been completed in the appropriate colour schemes, as has the pipework in no. 2 cab. 

Jon and Tony get to grips with the bodyside engine room door, preparing it for repainting.

D5343 will be on display during the Diesel Gala giving punters an opportunity to see the progress being made on the loco. It is also likely that Class 20, 20228 will also be on display. 

Lastly, 'Peak' 45149 has been enjoying the sunshine as the rostered loco for the Sunday just gone. It worked its first PINK timetable day on the 21st May, racking up 84 miles. 

'Peak' 45149 basks in the late spring sunshine at Winchcombe as it waits the passage of the steam-hauled service on Sunday 21st May 2023. (Courtesy of Neal Whitehead)

Monday, 24 April 2023

1970s Freight and the season begins.

In the last blog we had a nice extract by Tom Cullimore shedding light on the 1971-2 Summer Working Timetable for the Honeybourne - Cheltenham line and the passenger services that had been timetabled over the route during that period due to engineering work on the Lickey Incline. Well, it wasn't just passenger traffic that continued to be routed over the line during the late 60s and into the 70s. A number of freight services traveling into the Western Region from the Midlands were specifically routed over the line to keep the old LM line through Bromsgrove clear for passengers services. So, here is the final excerpt from Tom showcasing the Working Timetable for 1972.

Brush Type 4, 1727 (47135, 47664, 47819 and 47784 under TOPS) passes the British Legion Club at Bishops Cleeve with a special Class 8 coal train on 20/12/1970. (Photo by Bill Potter, courtesy of Tom Cullimore)

"Special freights ran on an 'as required' basis, and the Honeybourne Line had a fair share of these traveling along it in the last decade of usage judging by the photographs and memories that exist. The photo above being one such example. Having acquired a working timetable from 1971/72 I was able to compile a list of the scheduled freight services that were pathed over the line. This covers a 24 hour period of the Monday - Friday timetable that commenced on the 6th March 1972. Times indicated are departure times from place of origin.

Another from the prolific lens of the late Bill Potter is this gem depicting EE Type 4, D316 heading out of Winchcombe towards Greet tunnel with a loaded coal train, probably for Severn Tunnel, sometime in 1970. Class 40s, as the EE Type 4 became under TOPS, were not regular visitors to the Western Region, and probably even more rare on the Honeybourne Line, so this was a fantastic capture. (Courtesy of Tom Cullimore)

UP (Northbound) Services:
8E38 22.50 Cardiff Long Dyke - Sheffield Tinsley Yard
8E67 02.52 Severn Tunnel Junction - Sheffield Tinsley Yard
8E63 04.55 Radyr - Scunthorpe 
8M19 12.50 Gloucester - Washwood Heath
8M22 14.25 Severn Tunnel Junction - Washwood Heath
8E55 11.40 Radyr - Penshaw
8E52 15.25 Radyr - Treeton
8E46 15.50 Radyr - Normanton Park
7E08 20.12 Bristol, Temple Meads Yard - Sheffield Tinsley Yard
DOWN (Southbound) Services:
8V95 22.18 Toton Yard - Bristol, St. Phillips Marsh
8V52 00.54 Washwood Heath - Gloucester
6V72 19.59 Leeds, Wellington Street - Bristol, Temple Meads Yard
8V49 00.58 Washwood Heath - Severn Tunnel Junction
8V50 05.24 Washwood Heath - Bristol, West Depot
8V62 08.41 Washwood Heath - Gloucester
8V66 03.20 Normandy Park - Cardiff Tidal
8V69 10.49 Washwood Heath - Bristol, West Depot
7V63 11.15 Sheffield, Tinsley Yard - Severn Tunnel Junction
8V71 15.11 Washwood Heath - Severn Tunnel Junction
8V77 18.17 Washwood Heath - Bristol, West Depot
8V54 17.15 Toton Yard - Westbury
8V85 09.40 Tees Yard - Severn Tunnel Junction
8V84 15.15 Normandy Park - Severn Tunnel Junction
6V23 18.46 Tunstead - Margam Yard
8V43 22.10 Washwood Heath - Severn Tunnel Junction."

As you can see from Toms' article, even without last minute diversions and re-routed services, the Working Timetable for 1971/72 shows that the Honeybourne Line continued to see a fair amount of traffic traverse its rails - if all the trains shown above ran then there would be a minimum of 25 trains a day. This activity is very much on a par with the steam era, although the 'fast' and freight services during the steam era would be supplemented by the local passenger trains until 1960. This continuing traffic level could account for the permanent way always seeming to be in a very good state in every photo seen from this period.  

A final one from the lens of Bill Potter, this time from 27/12/1967. We see 'Hymek' D7090 dropping down from Cheltenham Malvern Road towards Lansdown Junction with a scrap metal train running as 6Z34. (Courtesy of Tom Cullimore)

So, we now fast forward to 2023 and the new season at the GWSR. At the end of March, the Diesel Shed received a bit of an update to the facilities. One of the bug-bears of the shed was the heavy roller shutter doors the lead out into the yard. Since the shed was built the doors have been wholly manual which had meant spending an obscene amount of effort - especially first thing in the morning! - manually raising the door by means of a chain. To lower them was even more troublesome, as a slip in your technique and the door could come crashing to the ground. So, back in 2022, the railway agreed to help fund automation of the raise/lower function. On the 29 and 30/03 this was completed on both doors courtesy of a couple of guys from Mercian Industrial Doors.

Cheers to Mercian Industrial Doors for making our lives so much easier!

Doing any work over that period requireing movement of the locos was not possible so other tasks needed to be undertaken. I tagged along with John G whilst he did his checks on the lifting jacks. We have the jacks inspected, along with other elements of lifting equipment, on a 6-monthly basis and, with the jacks, this means having to lower each jack, checking the motion and movement, removing the pins and given a visual check to make sure there is nothing untoward. It was interesting to see, and get involved, in this vital task.
John tries to remember how the panel works for the jacks.
The mainline locos made their entrance to the rosters on April 1st when EE Type 3, D6948 made it's return to passenger services after three years out of traffic. It was given both days of the weekend, working the Pink timetable on the Sunday. I was lucky enough to get the job of crewing the Sunday, with John G, and a great day was had getting the mileage back into the wheel of the 'Green Machine'. We were joined by a number of Class 37 aficionados, including a number from the Growler Group to share in the event. 
D6948 sits at Winchcombe waiting to cross the southbound service, as the cloud starts to break overhead on 02/04/2023. 

D6948 has taken the lions' share of the turns for April as it continues its return to traffic, although, as expected after so long out of traffic, there have been a couple of small issues identified that will need to be investigated, most notably a very intermittent loss of power. This was highlighted on the 2nd April on the locos last round trip, although no fault lights were illuminated in the cab. After a quick conflab with one of the owners of the loco once we were back on shed, a likely cause was whittled down to the fuel filters being clogged causing some minor fuel starvation. The fuel filters were not changed/cleaned before the loco entered service so it is likely that, given its proximity to dust, dirt and grime whilst in the David Page shed, and when 47105 was in the final stages of its overhaul. When D6948 has a lull in its duties then the filters can be removed and cleared of any mess. There are also a couple of oil leaks that need to be looked at, including the one below....

A small leak has appeared in the pipe in the centre of the picture. The pipe comes from what is thought to be an oil feed from a pressurizing valve for the turbos, but this needs confirming by GG Tech officer, Paul Good.

However, nothing is imminently likely to cause the loco to be withdrawn from traffic and it will see more action in May, although this is probably going to be shared more equally amongst the serviceable fleet. D6948 is also due to star in the railways' first '1960s BR Green Livery Day' on Sunday 11th June. The loco will be joined by our Class 117 set and BR 'Modified Hall' 7903 'Foremarke Hall' to showcase the varieties of BR Green liveries in the 1960s. There will also be displays on the environmental challenges facing heritage railways and how the GWSR is working to meet these challenges. More details can be found here ==>>
With the mainline diesels out to play on the Purple and Pink timetables, the Class 117 team have had some time to catch up on some of the outstanding maintenance tasks. The no.1 engine on DMS W51363 has been reported as not starting. This was diagnosed as a faulty switch in the fire system that was preventing the engine from starting. This was replaced and, after checking over the coolant and oil systems, the engine started up and worked without any further issue. 
Up close and personal with a DMU! (Courtesy of the GWSR DMU Facebook page)
Engine Stop/Start relays on W51363. (Courtesy of the GWSR DMU Facebook page)

At the other end of the set, DMSL W51405 has still had issues with its no.1 engine. Several parts had previously been removed and changed and, on this occasion, the team decided to replace the leaking fuel lines and give the contacts a good clean. When inspecting the rocker covers and dipstick, a large amount of milky oil was seen. As anyone who has worked on an engine knows, this is not a good sign. The engine did crank and fire but it was further identified that the head gasket on the right hand cylinder head had failed completely.   

W51360 has also received a little more attention with the cooling fan relay being replaced and having its engines run up for a few hours. The 'bubble car', W55003 has also had more woodwork completed alongside the flooring, with the fitting of the step timbers around the door frame. 

More new wood on the 'bubble car'. (Courtesy of the GWSR DMU Facebook page)

Along with D6948, the April diesel rosters have also seen Class 47, 47105 and Class 45, 45149 racking up the early season mileage on the Purple and Pink timetables.
'Peak' 45149 is readied for service on the 20th April 2023. (Courtesy of Neal Whitehead)
Both locos have operated without issue throughout the month and, will soon be joined by Class 20, 20137 which has had its B Exam completed after winterisation, and Class 47, 47376 'Freightliner 1995' which has had some minor repairs completed as well as a refreshing of the engine room environment. With a B Exam to be completed, the 47/3 should return to service in May.

47/3, 47376 'Freightliner 1995' in repose inside the diesel shed. The loco will hopefully make a return to traffic in May after some repair work.  

One loco not receiving much love at the moment is our Class 24, 5081, which is currently stabled at the back of the David Page shed while it waits for the return and refitting of an overhauled engine governor. This was removed last year after the loco had developed a power fault that had proved troublesome to diagnose. The governor was sent away for professional overhaul but the return has been delayed. Hopefully, once this work is completed, the popular Type 2 will be back in traffic soon, especially as our Gala is drawing ever closer. More on that later. 
'Celebrity' Class 24, 5081 sits in the David Page shed awaiting its turn for maintenance and a return to service. 

Elsewhere, 37215 is still awaiting the return of its round buffers from overhaul however, the two compressors have now been disconnected and are ready for a sufficient point in time that they can be lifted out and the two newly overhauled ones can be fitted in place. in the meantime, the loco is unserviceable while its sister takes the turns. However, in the meantime here are a couple of nostalgic photos of 37215 when still in BR Green with full yellow ends and wearing the number 6915. These come courtesy of Roy Honke.
Wednesday 25 April 1973, 6915 propels EBV through Mexborough. The Driver keeps a keen eye forward as it approaches the signal at the end of the platform. Note the BR Blue info panel below the number. (Courtesy of Ray Honke)

With a 'yellow' aspect, 6915 propels its brake van away from the station. (Courtesy of Ray Honke)

Class 26, D5343 continues to have bits removed and bits added. Painting has continued in the engine room with the engine room side door now carrying its grey top coat. More has gone on around the walls of the engine room over subsequent weeks.
The engine room side door, resplendent in its new coat of grey.

Gareth J gets to grips with more paint removal and cleaning of the engine room wall.

In subsequent weeks, the cab front at no.2 end has had new steel welded in place above the solebar and around the drivers side of the cab. This has now been primed courtesy of David M. The solebar has also received a new coat of red oxide ready for its top coat and the application of the lower skirt. 

New plate added to the cab side and now primed.

The first section of new plate has been welded in place on the secondmans' side of the cab front by Dave S. (Courtesy of David Stanton)

More steel to plug the gap. (Courtesy of David Stanton)

After smoothing off the tacks, the new steel has been primed courtesy of David M. (Courtesy of David Stanton)

With the cab front now sealed some of the attention returned to the cab where the Secondmans' desk has been dismantled with the frame and panels cleaned and primed. 
The Secondmans' desk in no. end. The panels have been removed for cleaning and priming. The frame has been primed and you can see that the air pipes have received a new coat of white paint. (Courtesy of David Stanton)
The internal engine room doors have been removed, cleaned and primed. A top coat should hopefully be on them before the end of the month. 

One internal engine room door - all cleaned and primed. (Courtesy of David Stanton)
D5343 will hopefully be available for viewing at our Gala in July.
On the subject of the 2023 Diesel Gala, details are now starting to be made available and tickets are now available for purchase. Don't forget the date has changed from previous years - this year it will be over the weekend 7, 8 and 9 July. You can access details as they become available on our social pages but also (especially for tickets) on the GWSR website via this link ====>>
There will be a guest loco - details will be announced when contracts are signed - and it is hoped that the majority of the home fleet, including the DMU, will be in action across the weekend with 4 rakes of stock being utilised.Those locos not in service will be available for viewing and/or cab visits. 

As for the May roster, the allocations are below. Usual caveats apply. 

Mon 01 May



Tues 02 May



Weds 03 May



Thur 04 May



Sun 07 May


47105 and 47376

Mon 08 May



Tues 09 May



Weds 10 May



Tues 16 May



Weds 17 May



Thur 18 May



Sat 20 May



Sun 21 May



Tues 23 May



Weds 24 May



Thur 25 May



Sat 27 May



Sun 28 May



Mon 29 May



Tues 30 May



Weds 31 May



45149 runs back towards the shed at the end of its day. (Courtesy of Neal Whitehead)