Overall Update June 2016
So today is the 26th June and as I write this 7903 is tucked up in the shed at Toddington awaiting her first turn of normal duty on the GWSR which is scheduled for Tuesday 28th June.
Since the last March report life has been rather fraught to say the least desperately trying to get the various tasks finished. During March to May we were on site several days a week trying to keep the job going forward and with the gala in mind. The boiler cladding along took at least twice as long as I had hoped. Likewise all the copper pipework had to be refitted and it is so strange that pipes and bits that had previously been fitted simply did not want to go back on, consuming yet more time. In the end we had to give the paint contractors extra time and money to do a lot of the preparation work as we were simply running out of time. In hindsight it was the right thing to do as you only have to look at the engine now.
As I said we worked almost non-stop leading up to the gala desperately trying to get the final bits and pieces finished and back together. We also had the contract painters on site so we had to work around them without hindering what they were trying to do. It is fair to say, and not as reported in one of the main steam railway magazines our attendance at the gala was right up to the wire and not with five days to spare as they reported. The deadline was the Thursday as the gala team had prepared a seven engine timetable as well as an eight engine so on the Thursday they needed to press the go button on one of them. Ben Evason the GWSR roster clerk, gala timetable guru and a 7903 shareholder understood our situation and even gave up some time to lend a hand. On the Tuesday we were ready for a test run and off we went. Unfortunately a few issue’s arose the main one being the leading axle on the bogie was running very hot. We got her as far as Winchcombe before we ran back to Toddington calling a halt to proceedings. Wednesday we did some remedial work and also removed the two ATC cross member’s mounted on the front of the bogie. It appears these were causing some misalignment of the front axle boxes causing the hot boxes. 7903 can run without them for now.
Wednesday afternoon the lads went out again with Ben driving and managed to do quite a bit of running on the Laverton section before doing an ECS run to Cheltenham after daily services had finished. Again all appeared okay. More testing on Thursday & Friday as it soon became apparent we had a problem with the Superheater Elements not sealing in the Superheater header. During the overhaul we had cleaned he header and all the seats for the elements with Tysley Locomotive Works fitting the header and the brand new Superheater elements for us at Tysley. Why we had an issue we could not understand.
We took the decision we would try and run her on the first day of the gala as I was driving and John Hancock and Will Grimett were riding with me as well. Tina was the fireman. As you may have seen 7903 was dressed as The Cornishman and carried the reporting frame and numbers. Our first trip was being towed by the Merchant Navy P&O to Laverton and then we brought the train back to Toddington. So seven coaches and a Merchant navy loco gave the engine a bit of hard work but seemed to handle it well. As the day progressed it became apparent the elements were getting worse so when we got back on shed we declared 7903 a failure. I was off on the Sunday but the team decided a 05.00hrs start and see if they could tighten the elements up, which they did by adding extra washers to the securing studs. By midday she was back out on her slotted turn and survived the Sunday.
I was driving again on the Monday and although we had a fairly easy day it was obvious all was not well again so, on return to shed she was again declared unserviceable and put back in the shed.
Since then we have worked hard to understand the issue and included talking with TLW. I was away on holiday the second week of June but TLW agreed to send one of their team down whilst I was away and along with the GWSR Wednesday gang removed the Superheater Elements to try and see what the problem was. Their conclusion was there was nothing wrong with the elements and are made exactly to drawing. We had earlier in the month discovered that the securing studs were a bit short of thread so we had extended the thread length ourselves to ensure the securing nuts did not bottom out on the thread before securing the elements firmly in place.
The decision was that on Wednesday 22nd TLW would refit the elements with our help, which is what happened. In the afternoon we put a warming fire into 7903 ready for test running on the Thursday. On the Thursday we got her into steam and went out double headed on the service train. We did two around trips with no problems with the elements showing up. So we hope the saga is finally over but time will tell. Saturday 25th we spent cleaning and trying to finish off some other outstanding minor issue’s and she is rostered with me for Tuesday 28th. So fingers crossed for a week of trouble free running.
As you can see she is now wearing the post 1956 BR green and logo. The view of the Overhaul team was that she had done 10 years in the pre 1956 livery time for a change.
There are a lot of minor changes as well she now has a different type of ashpan with a ashpan sprinkler that is controlled from the cab. This damps down the ash before we empty the ashpan and stops the engine getting covered in ash.
Some of the vacuum connections between engine and tender have now been made and fitted exactly as Swindon designed them.
A brief relook at what we have done on the overhaul
1. Full boiler overhaul including a new 3/4backhead,throatplate and side plates.
2. New steel tubeplate
3. New tubes
4. New Superheater Elements
5. Numerous rivets and other minor repair works to boiler
6. New smokebox door ring
7. New ashpan and linkage
8. Overhauled bogie axleboxes
9. Connecting and coupling rods bushes rewhitemetalled.
10. NDT all the inside valve gear and motion parts.
11. New Expansion links and overhaul of the eccentric’s.
12. Repaired the exhaust pipes.
13. Overhauled the Vacuum pump
14. Overhauled water valves on tender
15. Full repaint of engine & tender and a mountain of small component parts
16. Plus a list of small minor jobs that all took time.
I suppose it is only right to say that this overhaul, which although extensive is not as major as some have to do. That we believe is because we endeavour to keep the engine in good condition all the time. However this overhaul still cost around £250k, as I haven’t had time to add it up accurately yet Anyway thank you to those who have bought shares. It really made a difference. So I hope the overhaul is now done and life can get back to some level of normality.
Finally I would like to say a big thank you to all of you that have helped with the overhaul, we could not have done it without your contribution both small, large and enormous. It has been a hard two and a half years but we should reflect that a full 10 year overhaul in that time is pretty good going by anyone’s standards? We will let others judge how well we have done but personally I think we have done a “top dollar job”.
Once again thank you to you all.