Tuesday, 20 September 2022


....so screamed Dr. Frankenstein when his monster started to move, and it is a bit of a similar feeling when  a locomotive belches back into life after a long overhaul. The weekend just gone was the turn of Class 26, D5343 to get a first start up in nearly 2 and a half years and a significant engine overhaul. 

If you cast your mind back to early 2020, before the world went temporarily insane about a virus, the Cotswold Mainline Diesel Group were preparing D5343 for a visit to the Somerset and Dorset Railway at Midsomer Norton when it was identified that the liner seals in the engine were leaking significantly and needed replacing. 

Back in early 2020 our HoD, Andy D, helps to ease out a liner from the block of D5343

At the same time the group decided to combine the engine work with a bodywork overhaul. The ravages of the Cotswold weather had caused quite a bit of deterioration to the bodywork and it's supporting metal work, despite original restoration only being finished in 2013. BRCW locos and rolling stock were well known for their tendency for rot and corrosion, and their Scottish service life didn't help. 

As can be seen from this picture showing one of the cabs of D5343, the state of the metalwork on the loco was pretty shocking. 

Fast forward to the present, and a significant amount of work has got the loco to advanced stages of its overhaul. After having it's engine integrity tested after many parts had been removed, cleaned, repainted and refitted, the loco's Sulzer lump was started for the first time since 2020. The video is from Alex Raybould. 

The body work and underframe has also made strides towards completion and it is looking more likely that the loco will make a very welcome return to service in 2023.

No. 1 end bogie has now had a full coat of primer, and the body has had it's first coat of blue undercoat. (Courtesy of Alex Raybould)

Work has also continued apace on Class 37, D6948. The long awaited body lift occurred a few weeks back and the Growler Group team have thrown everything at getting the jobs completed in double quick time. The traction motor brush boxes have all been cleaned and damaged elements replaced from spares - including the dampers. The bogies have had a bit of a wash and brush up, getting rid of some of the dirt and grime, whilst the traction motor gear is to be cleaned through of carbon deposits. 

From a few weeks back, Paul G and Keith get to grips with removing and replacing the old dampers. Not a job for the faint hearted!

As the season winds down we see less running for the diesel fleet, with an increase in the DMU running during the week. However, Sunday, 25th September sees Brush Type 4 Fund utilising the PINK timetable to celebrate the 60th birthday of the ubiquitous Class 47.

47105 and 47376 'Freighliner 1995' sit together at Winchcombe during our Santa Specials in 2021.

Both BT4G locos, 47105 and 47376 'Freightliner 1995' will be in service on the Sunday in a mixture of double headed and top and tail formation over the three round trips. 

Hope to see a lot of you there. 

Monday, 5 September 2022

Deadlines, deadlines!

It's not often we start with the DMU fleet on this blog, but today reverses that trend as we start with the latest on our Class 122, W55003, and it's ongoing restoration. 

If you recall, the 'bubble' had to stay at Winchcombe after completion of it's repaint after it was found to still contain a quantity of asbestos under it's flooring. This has remained hidden and undisturbed since the vehicle entered preservation and, had been perfectly safe to remain there - asbestos is only dangerous when it is disturbed and fragments. However, the DMU Team were hoping to replace some of the flooring that had become rotten but this would mean coming into contact with the remaining asbestos. This would require a substantial amount of specialist safety equipment, specialist contractors...and a huge cost...so the decision was taken just to remove the asbestos

W55003 sits outside Carriage and Wagon whilst having it's asbestos removed. You can see the protective blue tent that has been erected inside to contain the work area and prevent any contamination.  

This was completed during mid-August and the 'bubble' was returned to Toddington so the Team could make a start on the new flooring. Before it left Winchcombe, however, the Team used the opportunity whilst at Carriage and Wagon to check through the electrical systems and clean around the inspection hatches. 

Two of the inspection hatches opened up. (GWSR DMU Facebook Page)

Both driving desks were both energised which allowed for the control checks on the correct relays and solenoids - something that needed doing to ensure nothing had been inadvertently disturbed during the asbestos removal. 

Outside the vehicle, and under the solebar, a number of electrical boxes hold wiring, solenoids, switches an assortment of circuits and fuses. (GWSR DMU Facebook)

Onto the last week (w/c 29/08) and the DMU Team continued with some of the electrical testing on the 'bubble'. They also took the opportunity to treat both the Class 122 to some new batteries. 

W55003's new batteries. (GWSR DMU Facebook)

The BR Blue Class 117 DMBS, W51360, was also treated to some new batteries and the engines run up to ensure that the vehicle is mechanically sound - just in case it is needed if one of the power cars in the main set fail. It will also need some cosmetic work to be ready after it had repairs to historic crash damage.

W51360 back in May 2021. The damage to the DMBS can be clearly seen on the 'secondman' side pillar. This has now been repaired but still needs to be painted. The restoration of the 'bubble' car has pushed this a bit further down the pecking order. 

The group also managed to get some work on the Class 117 set completed in readiness for the start of the BLUE timetable at the end of September. It has had the odd run out in August during the 'steam ban', but, as the season winds down, it will find itself out pretty much everyday of the week. 

On one of it's last outings it was reported that the number 1 engine on Class 117 DMS, W51405, was making a strange noise. Sunday's work gang stripped down one of the heads, despite the best efforts of a reluctant stud! The heads were cleaned, checked over and gaskets replaced, before being re-assembled - although this wasn't fully completed due to the heavens opening! It is hoped that the Wednesday Gang will have the work completed and the engine sans strange noise! Some more pics courtesy of the GWSR DMU Facebook page. 

As you may have seen on our socials, and in the last blog, we were finally able to proceed with the body lift on our green Class 37, D6948. This job had been on the waiting list for nearly 2 years as we needed to borrow the lifting eyelets from our friends at the Scottish Class 37 Group at Bo'ness. With the bogies now out from under the loco and the underside of the body accessible, it meant that it was all hands to the pump as we have a tight schedule to get the work completed.

The lift team pose for a seminar shot. (Courtesy of Kev Jarvis)

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week (w/c 29/08) I was rostered out on the Class 20 on the PURPLE timetable so was able to make a rare foray into the midweek team's working before heading out on the footplate. On the Tuesday, myself and Keith made a start on removing the remaining accessible traction motor brush boxes from the wheelsets. A start had been made over the previous weekend and some of them had already been cleaned both by hand and in our new oil bath. 

Three of the already removed brush boxes from D6948. The two on the upper left have both been cleaned. The one on the bottom right is awaiting it's dip in the bath. 

Also propped up on the bench was the offending main res air pipe - one of the main reasons for the lift. This was causing instability in the air supply through the loco and had caused quite a lot of 'leak off' when in service. 

It's amazing how something so small can cause so many problems! The hole has been enlarged slightly to see whether the structure of the pipe was stable enough for a patch, but this was quickly dismissed and a new pipe will be fashioned. 

The pipe was removed to check to see if there was enough stability in the pipe to affect a repair but this was dismissed and the decision to create a new piece of pipe was taken. Thankfully, the railway has a number of very talented pipe makers and smiths within the collective motive power team and, a couple of them have agreed to help with the new pipework. One of the pair has previously worked on D6948 - Neal Cooper, who fashioned the steam heat pipes for the loco during it's restoration back in 2014. The second is Eddie Arnold, from our Steam Department, who has manufactured the cone ends for the new pipe. 

Mr. Arnold proudly shows off a couple of the cone ends he has kindly fashioned for the new main res air pipe for D6948. Proper inter-department team work! (Courtesy of Kev Jarvis)

Back to the brush boxes, and it was into the Steam Shed armed with sockets, ratchets and plenty of elbow grease. The brush box access covers don't allow for a lot of access making this very much a two man job. This generally means that one has to stand on top of the wheelset to lift the top sets out when the bolts are removed, or to be down in the pit on a step ladder (or podium) to support those that are at the bottom of the motor. This job was mine! 

One of the access hatches with the brush box clearly visible to the right of the wheel and with the cables still attached. As you can see, there is a lot of surface dirt and carbon deposits that need to be cleaned away. 

With the steam engines back on the timetabled services, the David Page shed had the unusual sight of nearly more diesels that steam engines inside the shed with D6948 joining Class 26, D5343 in there.

Along with D6948, Class 26 D5343 remains in the David Page shed during the continuing body and engine overhaul. 

Wednesday would see a bumper turn out with 10 of us eventually present to undertake a multitude of tasks. Keith and I had completed removing all the accessible brush boxes on the Tuesday, so this meant that work could continue on cleaning them up alongside a number of other tasks. This included assessing the condition of the traction motor bellows and removing the rivets from those that were salvageable for refitting or spares (Andy T took on this task), cleaning out the centre casting pivot points and checking for damage (Frank R took on this one), with the main bulk of the work being to remove and replace the dampers on both wheelsets. 

Tools of the trade for changing the dampers on a class 37. Mini-jacks, ringlets, the actual dampers and lots of wooden blocks. Ready to be wheeled around to the David Page shed. 

Andy T admires the flame cut from 37096 while he takes a short break from drilling out rivets in the removed traction motor bellows. 

More traction motor brush boxes that have been cleaned and await assessment. 

Frank gets to grips with the centre pivots on the bogies. 

GG Tech Officer, Paul G, and Keith get to grips with the dampers. In the background, the Class 26 has received more BR Blue undercoat. 

By close of play on the Wednesday all the dampers had been changed successfully and another big job was ticked off the list. It is hoped to have D6948 back into action before the end of the year. 

The overhaul of Class 26, D5343 continues to inch along. The ruse of the hastily applied Civil Engineers 'Dutch' section of bodywork during the Gala put the livery-lovers into overdrive, but this has now given way to the dark blue undercoat ready for the eventual repaint in BR Blue. Personally, I would have liked to see it back in 'Dutch' but, not being a member of the CDMG, my opinion is just that! Maybe one day! However, with the work the team are putting in to the loco it will still look awesome when it is back in service. 

Most of the bodywork has been completed on the sides with only elements needing completing around the cab fronts. The engine also continues to move towards completion and it won't be too long before the engine is ready to be fired up and the integrity tested of the new seals and liners. 

The ongoing saga surrounding our blue Yorkshire shunter, DES is moving towards a conclusion that will hopefully benefit all parties. Paul J, the current owner has agreed to a partnership with Pete and Andrew Bridden that will see DES moved to the Bridden's own maintenance facility and a full re-wire and generator swap will be undertaken. Once completed, DES  will return to Toddington in a shared ownership deal. This will hopefully see three operational shunters at Toddington again in the near future. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

It's all been a bit exciting!

Nearly a month on from the Gala and things are only, now, just starting to calm down a little in the department. A lot has been going on - changes to the timetable because of the weather, a one-off celebration event as well as trying to tie in ongoing maintenance. 

We have seen the incredibly successful 'DELTIC DAY' on Friday 19th August which was run in conjunction with the Deltic Preservation Society (DPS) to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the first two production Class 55's entering preservation. 

BR Blue heaven!

The fleet has also been called upon to run all our normal timetabled services - ending on 21st August - because of the fire risk caused by the extremely dry weather, demonstrating the flexibility of the department staff who, at the last minute, were asked to take days off work and crew services all day in very high temperatures. As a positive, all of this has further enhanced the standing that the department has on the railway. It has also led to some high praise from visitors and fellow volunteers alike...including the picture below, which is now hung up on our shed notice board!

Thanks to Rory for taking the time to draw us this. It is greatly appreciated and is nice to know that our efforts are recognised. 

So, lets rewind and take a look back at things post-Gala and bring you up to date. 

As it stands, we haven't had any concrete financial detail from the GWSR Board as to how successful the Gala was. However, anecdotally, it would appear that a significant return has been generated through ticket sales, food and retail sales. In one conversation with a Station Master at Toddington on the Sunday, it was proudly stated that they had taken over £3000 by the lunch time on Sunday just in ticket sales at Toddington! Sunday, historically, is the quietest day of the Gala! Organiser, Peter Smith, was also heard to remark that we had broken even on the event by the Friday lunchtime!!   

37215 and 47376 'Freightliner 1995' sit in the sun at Toddington during the 2022 Gala.

After the Gala, focus was then due to shift to the 'DELTIC DAY' that had been scheduled for Friday, 19th August. However, due to the continuing dry and hot conditions, the railway took the decision to withdraw steam traction after consulting with Gloucestershire Fire regarding the increased risk of large scale fires. The decision meant that the diesel fleet was pushed into action at very short notice to run timetabled services from the 10th August. 

Domino Day!! Thursday 18th August saw one-time Cardiff Canton stablemates, 47105 and 37215 operating services.

The timetable was recoloured to GREEN to reflect the change to diesel traction, although there would be no change to timings that we run on other timetables, with a RED timetable on Sundays to allow the running of the Class 117 with one diesel hauled rake on our quieter day of the week. These changes allowed our locos to stretch their legs a bit more than usual, covering 84 or so miles each per day and earning more for their respective owning groups/owners. Some excellent feedback was received from the 'non-crank' public, with one couple actually commenting to me on the 18th that it was good to see the diesels out on normal services. 

It also meant that we could make a bit more use of the visiting Class 55 'Deltics' over the weekend of 19th - 21st August. Of course, the crowning day was the 'DELTIC DAY' on Friday, 19th August. It was pretty special to be asked by the DPS to hold their 40th Anniversary bash at the GWSR - there was only one answer! 

DPS Sales Officer, Darrell Marsh (l) and GWSR Diesel HoD, Andy Durham, cement the contract signing for 55009's visit. (Courtesy of Nigel Lacy)

Although you may not be a fan of the class (I'm certainly not!), they have an immense following amongst the enthusiast fraternity, but also amongst the general public, and this would be a master stroke and bring the railway a large injection of prestige as well as cash! 

Our second visitor arrives at Toddington from the GCR on the afternoon of the 18th August. 

55009 'Alycidon' arrived at Toddington from it's stint on the Great Central Railway on the 18th August, causing quite a spectacle as it sat on it's Allely's low loader adjacent to the station building. The loco couldn't be offloaded until the car park had cleared and the tractor unit could swing around and point the loco towards the unloading road. At 70-odd feet long, a very large turning circle was needed and, although the car park offers the room required, it needs to be reasonably empty to provide the clearances. An advanced party from Allely's had arrived with the ramp and this had been constructed on the unloading road.    

55009's arrival draws some attention.

With the car park emptied the low loader could swing around and the delicate operation to get the 100 tonne, EE/Napier Type 5 onto the rails again. Once off the trailer the loco was shunted onto the shed apron and over a pit so that the Fitness to Run exam could be completed by Tim L, Peter S, and DPS Loco Managers, Mike Hallam-Rudd and Fiona Napier-Page. 

Sadly, I couldn't make it to the 'DELTIC DAY' as I was working, but it is safe to say that all the feedback heard has been glowing. As with the Gala, we still wait for specific financial details from the Board, but speaking with people on the Sunday following, the income generated seemed to run into significant numbers.....Toddington, alone, was rumoured to have taken £6000 in 'on the day' ticket sales!

55019 and 55009 prepare to work the final service of the day from Cheltenham Racecourse back north - the slightly diverted 'Flying Scotsman'! (Courtesy of Andrew Stratford)

The day saw one-time Finsbury Park resident, 55009 'Alycidon' and Haymarket's 55019 'Royal Highland Fusilier' operate a two train timetable, giving 168 miles of Deltic haulage, before finishing with a double-headed round trip in the evening. It had been hoped that this would enlist all 14 coaches of the main rakes, however, this was vetoed for some reason and only the chocolate and cream rake was used. There have been some absolutely stunning photos and videos uploaded on to the various social media platforms, so do make sure you take a look!!

But, that wasn't all! The following days of the weekend also saw 55009 in use on the Saturday (along with our own 37215) and on the Sunday (alongside L425 and crewed by yours truly, along with Tony R as Secondman, and Andy Pepper from the DPS/GCR). Although I am not a fan of the Class, I can safely say that it was an incredible experience to crew the loco and to get a taste of what it would have been like to work these iconic locomotives! 

Preparing to awaken the slumbering beast! Andy P and Fiona, from the DPS, had already completed the preparation ready for the day.

After prepping and starting the loco, it was soon time to look at heading around to the stock in Platform 1 at Toddington. As the DMU was the second train it meant that there was no rush to release a second loco as there usually would be. The first service is usually an ECS to Cheltenham, however, on this occasion it ran as 1C01 - non stop express to CRC. 

One thing that strikes you about the prep and disposal of a Class 55, compared to any loco in the GWSR fleet, are the noises the 'Deltic' power plant makes when starting up and shutting down. On start up, it makes a 'whooshing' noise followed by a 'belch' of exhaust when the engine fires into life. On shut down, it is even more dramatic! Not wishing to be derogatory, but it is the only way to describe it, when stopping it sounds like someone has just poured a bag of spanners into a cement mixer! However, it is worth remembering that the 'Napier Deltic' engine is a two-stroke engine (Class 55's have two of them but only run on one when on heritage railways or when under a certain speed on the mainline) whereas most other locos - including all on the GWSR - are four stroke. 
Awaiting departure from Broadway after the first run from CRC. These beasts are not the easiest to couple up or run round and it took confidence to do it as fluidly as Andy was demonstrating!  

After the first arrival at Broadway, Fiona remarked that 55009 was throwing out a large amount of oil. Deltics were well known for their oily exhaust when in BR service, however, Fiona explained that '9' was still set up for it's mainline exertions and therefore wasn't keen on idling. The oil starts to build up and, when it starts to power, the engine needs to get rid of it! 55019 is less prone as it has been set up to be more efficient on heritage lines. 

On arrival at Broadway on the second run; a trip that Andy very kindly allowed me to take the controls and experience the loco at first hand. It is a very different beast to the Class 37, although the cab controls are very similar. 

After another 84 miles, it was time to park the loco up on shed and travel home. Firstly, though, we had to position 55009 on the unloading road ready to be transported up the road to our friends at the Severn Valley Railway, where it is due to star in their Autumn Diesel Gala, as well as having some work on it's second engine conducted at Kidderminster. The Allely's wagons had been parked up at Toddington all weekend so that a quick load up and get away could be facilitated on the Monday morning. 

55009 sits on the unloading road after it's Sunday exertions. With Andy having done the disposal, Mike and Fiona cleaned away the oil that had continued to be thrown from the exhaust as we all talked about how successful the visit of both locos had been as well as the relationship now forged between the DPS and the GWSR Diesel Department. 

The GWSR Board had, in the meantime, announced that Steam traction would return from the 23rd August as the weather was due to change and the fire risk had dropped. This meant that things return back to the advertised PURPLE and PINK timetables until the start of BLUE midweek timetables from the 20th September. This also means that a return can be made to the ongoing maintenance that has been paused a little due to the increase in running. 

On that score, our Class 122 'Bubble Car', W55003, has remained at Winchcombe after it's repaint into BR Green as it was identified that the floor space still contained asbestos! Most items, when sold from BR stock to preservationists, had the asbestos removed however it seems that quite a few items of rolling stock 'slipped the net'! However, quick identification and then sourcing a removal firm, meant that the 'Bubble' was deemed 'asbestos free' by the 21st Aug and members of the CDRL could head down to Winchcombe and start to plan the next stages of the vehicles refurbishment. 

The protective tent can clearly be seen inside the 'Bubble' on Thurs 18th Aug as the asbestos removal team head towards the conclusion of removing the remaining hazardous material. 

A collective sigh of relief was also exhaled by members of the Growler Group last week when the eyelets that had been requested to be borrowed from our friends at the Scottish Class 37 Group at Bo'ness finally arrived. These are needed to enable to long awaited lift of D6948 so that repairs to it's air system and maintenance of the traction equipment can be completed. The Growler Group don't own their own (they would cost about £25k to have manufactured!) and have historically borrowed them from the SC37G, however they have had a significant amount of work to complete on their own Class 37s before the Growler Group could borrow them. Frustratingly, this work was delayed a number of times but the frustration was finally released with their arrival. 

The long wait is over!! The eyelets have arrived from our friends at Bo'ness. (Courtesy of Kev Jarvis)

It also enabled the Group to react quickly and secure some time on the jacks during this week to lift D6948. This took place today (Wednesday 24th) with a hearty team supporting the work alongside Growler Group Chief Engineer, Paul Good and one of the owners, Kev Jarvis. It is hoped that the work can be completed quickly so that the 'Green Machine' can be back in service after a near three year absence from the roster.  

With the timetable back to normal, the roster currently looks like this for the next month - 



Loco Allocated

Tues 23 Aug



Wed 24 Aug



Thurs 25 Aug



Sat 27 Aug



Sun 28 Aug



Mon 29 Aug



Tues 30 Aug



Wed 31 Aug



Thurs 01 Sept



Sat 03 Sept



Sun 04 Sept



Tues 06 Sept



Wed 07 Sept



Thurs 08 Sept



Sat 10 Sept



Sun 11 Sept



Tues 13 Sept



Wed 14 Sept



Thurs 15 Sept



Sat 17 Sept



Sun 18 Sept



Tues 20 Sept



Wed 21 Sept



Thurs 22 Sept



Sat 24 Sept



Sun 25 Sept


47105 and 47376

Tues 27 Sept



Wed 28 Sept



Thurs 29 Sept