Saturday, 24 September 2016

Ceremonial Lower Darwen Coal Fired 76084

Back in July 2013 at the Return to Steam speechifying our President, Steve Davies MBE carried with him a carrier bag and with the phrase "If 76084 cannot go to Lower Darwen then Lower Darwen has come to 76084" he proceeded to take a brick out of the bag. The brick he assured us was from the site of the former Motive Power Depot.

So Steve is no stranger to scratting around the undergrowth above Ewood Park next to the Blackburn to Bolton line. He even took your author up there on one occasion just to show me how easy it was to find old relics from the past use of the site. Another geological dig around the site of the coaling stage of the former home of 76084 revealed several pieces of coal that had been hidden there for over half a century. Steve found another carrier bag and left the site with the coal.

Making himself available for the Loaded Test run on Tuesday, 20 September 2016, what better way to start the day than by ceremonially shovelling his Lower Darwen coal into 76084's firebox.

Steve Davies about to feed 76084 with Lower Darwen coal.

And so a momentous day for 76084 and all involved in her restoration, return to steam and now return to the mainline loaded began. There are numerous videos of the Loaded Test Run around the Carnforth - Blackburn - Carnforth loop on the internet. Click here to view a playlist.

The Class 37 was in the consist for insurance against breakdown. She did not at any stage assist 76084 on either of the test runs except during shunting moves.

The next day 76084 travelled over to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to take part in their Autumn Steam Gala. She will return to the North Norfolk Railway at the end of March 2017.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Ready for the 'Mainline'

76084's winter maintenance this year was not just her annual maintenance to keep her running through this next season but a concerted effort by the Maintenance Team to do all that AND get her ready for the 'mainline'.

The list of jobs for the latter item was quite extensive and has been covered elsewhere in this blog. One item that couldn't be finished during the Maintenance Team's Jan/Feb visits was the fitting of self-cleaning equipment in the smokebox. Steam locomotives running on the mainline have to have this fitted for amongst other things it reduces the possibility of them causing lineside fires. The self cleaning equipment was subsequently fitted by the staff at North Norfolk Railway's Weybourne Shed.
SC Plate now fitted to 76084

The background to this is as follows: British Railways Standard Classes of steam locomotives (and some big four classes built/rebuilt during BR days) used a simple technology, where a robust mesh grille was incorporated into the smokebox, forming a filter between the front tubeplate and the exhaust. Any large pieces of 'char' passing through the boiler tubes would tend to be broken up on impact with the mesh, creating finer particles that would be swept up the chimney instead of accumulating in the bottom of the smokebox. This did not negate the need to clean out the smokebox but reduced the amount of work that had to be done. In the best case, smokebox cleaning could be avoided between boiler washouts, typically at intervals of two weeks.

To inform shed staff that less work was required on the smokeboxes of locos so fitted an 'SC' plate was affixed underneath the shedcode plate as shown in our photos.

Now here's the rub. I have seen misguided comments in online photograph libraries saying locomotives carrying an 'SC' plate had a Scottish connection as 'Sc' stood for that British Railways Region. I have recently been asked whilst stood by 76084 'What is 76084's Scottish connection?' So I duly explained there was none.

Standing on Holt Station awaiting time I was stood leeward of 76084's chimney chatting with interested onlookers last week as a light covering of ash settled on heads and shoulders indicating that the self cleaning system was working satisfactorily.

76084 is ready and even eager to work over the national network metals and that day is exactly 6 weeks away (subject to availability as always) as I write this article. 

10 August 2016 will be another notable milestone for the locomotive and the Company. Thanks to all shareholders, supporters and our partners - the North Norfolk Railway - for getting us this far.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Overhead Powerline Protection

Footplate crews work in quite a warm environment and our cab is equipped with a roof ventilator to ease the crew's discomfort in really hot conditions.

One precaution we have to take when going main line is to prevent our crew poking something through the open aperture when under the overhead power lines on electrified lines and causing what could be a fatal short circuit. 

Our photo shows the just painted cab roof ventilator guard prior to fitting.

Photo courtesy of Ian McNally, North Norfolk Railway

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

What we achieved in Jan/Feb 2016

Having fitted and passed all three main line safety systems fit for use we have turned our attention to 76084’s mechanical soundness for main line running. Not having the experience within 76084 Locomotive Company Limited we enlisted the assistance of other engineers more accustomed to maintaining main line steam locomotives to give our little ‘Pocket Rocket’ an assessment to identify anything that might need repairing or replacing prior to a main line debut.

We did ask and were quite surprised when the job list came back and was over 80 items in total. Granted some of the jobs were small and could be completed in a short time with little expense but there was the other extreme. One job that typified this was to check and test all locomotive and tender springs - 12 in total. The tender springs are on the outside of the tender frame and are physically smaller than the 6 locomotive driving wheel springs which are inside the loco frames and much more difficult to handle being larger and therefore heavier.

We had thought of paying someone to do all the work but financial considerations prevented this. So our Engineering Team with assistance from the North Norfolk Railway set about tackling the list of jobs in mid-January 2016 (Week 1)at the Weybourne Workshops of the NNR. 

All the 12 springs mentioned above were removed by John Riley, Roger Norris, Mel & Malc Rutter. Two were found to have broken leafs. There is one school of thought that puts this down to the loading and offloading of the vehicles when being moved from Railway to Railway as undue strain is put on the springs during these operations. After steam cleaning the heavy springs they were palletted and sent off for repair and testing.

All the wheel axles have to be MPI tested for soundness and this could only be done with bare metal surfaces so all 7 had to be stripped of paint in Week 1 (well done Malc Rutter), tested and repainted in mid-February by your author during Week 2.

The motion had to be checked thoroughly so was taken off and carefully measured at the time in Week 1 with Dave Rollo doing a superb job of the measurements under the watchful eye of our VAB Inspector John Graham. The cylinders were re-bored too. This is a specialist job and Ian Riley & Son were employed to do 76084’s.

After the hard physical work of Week 1 various parts were ordered, under the guidance of Dave Husband and Mel Rutter, such as piston rings for the loco steam brake cylinder and new bushes for the expansion link trunnions. These would come together for Week 2 in mid-February.

During Week 2 with Roger Norris, John Riley and me affectionately know as the 'Spring Team, all Loco and Tender springs were refitted with tender springs receiving coat of paint to spruce them up. Whilst Dave Husband and Mel Rutter put lots of effort into refitting both Mechanical Lubricators and Atomisers after they had been serviced. They were tested and refilled with correct lubricant. All Driving Wheel and Pony wheel axlebox underkeeps were drained, cleaned and new side felts fitted. New ‘Armstrong Oiler’ Pads were also fitted.

4 new Expansion Link Trunion bushes having been manufactured and have been fitted to the support brackets by NNR staff.

The 'Steam Brake Cylinder' was removed in Week 1 and refurbished before refitting in Week 2. This is so very easy to say in one sentence but the effort taken to do the refurbishment and refitting was huge. I can now point to a steam break cylinder on my OO gauge model of 76084 and inform those in earshot how much work goes into fitting what looks like a tiny piece of equipment.

The front end of 76084 was not overlooked during this Winter Maintenance with a new Front Draw Hook purchased and fitted, this was followed by a modified AWS guard plate being fitted to protect the equipment from impact damage by the front screw coupling. The Front buffer beam was rubbed down by ‘Billy Wizz’ and repainted by Brian Ashby, NNR Painter to a very high standard. The fitting of the new Smokebox 'Self-cleaner' components has been started by NNR staff.  This is an important piece of kit as it will minimise the possibility of lineside fires in hot weather on the main line – something that Network Rail are REALLY sensitive about.

In the cab a Roof Ventilator Guard has been manufactured and fitted. This is to prevent footplate staff poking anything up through the open ventilator, when operating beneath the 25Kv Over-Head  Centenary. Above the Driver’s position the technical details that the Driver needs to know have been painted.

In the case of the tender taking on water on the main line is fraught with issues so low level fillers have been completed by NNR and the pipework given several coats of paint during Week 2. All 6 Tender 'Timken Bearings' have been carefully greased.

A lot more has had to be done on 76084 during this Winter Break on the NNR than any other. I’m really pleased that for once I could assist and get my hands dirty during Week 2. I wrote daily articles during the week but time was limited as we had to spend long evenings on missionary work in the various Public Houses in Sheringham. 

I love Suffolk Cider which is one reason to go to East Anglia any time of year but to go and work long days on 76084 and drink cider in the evening in great company even in mid-winter was an experience I will treasure for sometime.

Footnote: There are images of the work done by the Engineering Team and NNR staff and volunteers (special thanks to Nicky Carter) during this Winter Maintenance period on the 76084 Standard 4 Flickr account (https://www.flickr.com/photos/76084standard4)

Week 2 Engineering Team
From left to right: Mel Rutter, Dave Husband, Alex Scott (91 yr old celebrity Driver) Roger Norris and John Riley with me kneeling in front.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Winter Maintenance 2016 Week 2 Day 5

Sorry this is 2 days after the event but am now returned home and been somewhat busy with other matters. 
Our last day was memorable for a number of reasons:

  1. We had a visit from 92 year old Alex Scott who we met in the pub last night (Thursday). He had us in stitches with his less than politically-correct jokes and enthralled by his railway tales. On his visit to the Workshops he brought us each a copy of his book which we wanted him to sign but had to settle for a group photo with him in the centre.
  2. The steam brake cylinder having been refitted the connecting rod was put back in place. On the floor of the pit it looked almost harmless but trying to fit it was heavy work.
  3. Dave and Mel refitted and connected up the mechanical lubricators. Priming the systems then followed. I learnt that on lubricator does the cylinders and the other the motion with different types of oil going into each.
  4. The new fire hose water pipework on the tender was primed with black primer early doors then given a gloss coat by Ken, one of the NNR volunteers.
  5. Adrian Vaughan visited the Workshops with his camera (film not digital) and I nearly photobombed his shot of work in the Machine Shop. I was told by Paul our fitter in a quiet voice who he was when he walked in and Paul used very reverential tones exuding much respect. I've since been in touch with Adrian and obtained some of his superb monochrome 76084 related images.
  6. Nicky, another of the NNR volunteers, came to say goodbye to us and brought some chocolate mini-rolls to sweeten the parting.
  7. Some of us caught the crossing of service trains around 2:30 pm at the same time meeting an avid reader of this blog and witnessing how territorial male Robins are about their patch.
  8. Back to the engine and the underkeeps that had been soaking in oil were refitted
  9. I finished the greasing of all the 100 (approx.) moving parts of the loco that needed doing ticking them off on an outline diagram of the loco.
  10. The tender springs were given a quick top coat of paint.
  11. It took several of us to refit the protector plate behind the drawhook which protects an AWS magnet from the damaging swing of the front screw coupling.
  12. Parts of the smokebox self-cleaning screens were fitted by Paul.
92 year old Alex Scott in the centre stands by 76084 in Weybourne Workshops with Roger Norris on his right and John Riley on his left.
A few jobs remain before 76084 can return to traffic but they are now in the capable hand of the NNR engineers. I'm looking forward to the Steam Gala in a couple of weeks time that should see a bevy of engines performing with 76084 amongst them.
We met up with members of the NNR Management Team in the evening to celebrate a good week's work over a homely meal in the Tynesider Club before moving on to finish off the Jameisons in the Lobster Inn. 
Thank you, Sheringham for putting up with us for a week and the staff at Weybourne for making us welcome amongst you.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Winter Maintenance 2016 Week 2 Day 4

I've spent a lot of time on the tender this week. Today I painted the axles (again) as well as giving the newly installed springs a quick coat of gloss. I've primed some new pipework underneath and grease all round.
Elsewhere the steam brake has been installed with help from the NNR paid staff. The expansion motion system has been neatly put together by Mel Rutter. Dave Husband has been working in the smokebox and getting filthy for his troubles. Roger Norris has been doing fitting work and John Riley sorting out the sanding boxes.
We had a visit from new acquiantences met the night before in what is becoming our favourite watering hole, the Lobster Inn in Sheringham. Lucy and Andrew were most impressed with what the North Norfolk Railway is doing and more especially what 76084 Loco co Ltd is doing with our engine.
This evening we met up with a 91 year old driver called Alex Scott who had us in ches with his tails of yesteryear. He has even fired on the Turbomotive (which will not mean much to many people but to those in the know is really something).
Last day tommorrow with lots to finish off. Will post lots of photos 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Winter Maintenance 2016 Week 2 Day 3

Great progress today - all the loco springs have been refitted after much sweat and tears. The 'Springs Team' of John Riley, Roger Norris and (sometimes) Eric Bond have finally completed the arduous task of fitting 6 springs on the tender (easy peasy) and 6 springs on the loco (not so easy peasy).
Mel Rutter has fettled the steam brake with Dave Husband refitting the lubrication systems. Mel Chamberlain fitted the new front draw hook.