Update May 2018
A lot has happened in the first part of 2018.
Routine winter maintenance was carried out, including fitting of two top mudhole doors. The rest of the maintenance was fairly routine stuff, along with the annual boiler exam which presented no real problems. We had a big push to get everything done and were ready for some test running in to check we were fit to go. The date was agreed and Neil Carr the Operations Manager then arranged for us to do a discreet run to Broadway with a set of coaches to check that everything fitted to the correct clearances. The other thing this opportunity gave was for Neil to instruct me on route knowledge so as I would be passed for driving that route with a passenger train. All drivers had to undergo this exercise before being allowed to drive to Broadway.
7903 was very high profile in the opening to Broadway event with Chris Smith as my fireman we brought the first public service train from Broadway. As you all know it was miserable weekend weather wise but a great success for the railway. Chris was a BR fireman and it was 58 years almost to the day that he last fired an engine through Broadway.
It is fair to say since she entered service this year the first few weeks were fine but since then it has been one issue after another. She has suffered two separate occasions where we have had to declare her unserviceable.
The first major issue was I had to declare her a failure when part of the engines valve gear overheated. The expansion link and valve rod tried to weld themselves together. We stripped everything apart repaired the damage and increased the clearances to ensure there was not metal to metal contact. We will have to keep our eye on it and hope it does not re-occur. The strange thing is she has run since her overhaul with no issue at all, so why now?
The next issue to present itself started on Tuesday 24th April. The engine had been out on a private charter the day before and the driver thought he had a drain cock issue. I was driving the next day and on the first trip it became very apparent we had a problem. When we reached Broadway we quickly removed the end cap from the back drain cock and bits of metal were found. We finished the day and I let her run the next day as I was in the department. On her last trip a drain cock started blowing again. We repeated the exercise of removing the rear plug from the front drain cock, this time and yes more metal. This time she had to be declared a failure.
Saturday 30th April we dived onto the engine and started by pulling the left hand and right hand pistons out. As soon as the left one was out the problem was evident. The rear piston ring had broken up into loads of little bits. Fortunately it had not damaged the cylinder badly. Here we were fortunate in that the GWSR Operations Manager Neil Carr accepted the invite to put his overalls on and give a hand, which he very willingly accepted. Neil, who is a 7903 shareholder anyway, has been involved with engines a long time and helped the job along no end, especially when it comes to lifting heavy bits!
The left hand valve was extracted as well to ensure no bits had found their way into the valve chest and done damage, thankfully not! The right hand piston was okay, but for good measure both pistons have been fitted with new rings. As I write this on the 5th May the engine is 90% reassembled, this is after a mammoth day on Friday with eight of us working hard to get her back together. Our plan now is to put a warming fire in her on the 8th and finish her off and test her on Wednesday 9th. Here is hoping all will go well.
Testing went fine on Wednesday with a light engine trip to Winchcombe followed by a heavy train to Winchcombe towing both 35006 and eight coaches. All appears to be well.
Interestingly Alistair Meanley at Tysley predicted it would be a piston ring when I rang him to give him notice we might need some bits very quickly. They apparently had a similar situation with 5043 Earl of Mount Edgecombe.
We have also fitted a new piston assembly to the Vacuum retaining valve. This valve switches the Vacuum pump from maintaining the train pipe brake to maintaining the Reservoir tank. We believe there has been some leaking through and when John Hancock checked the clearances instead of having 2 to 3 thousandths of an inch we had 13. Tysley supplied a new casting and our trusted machinist Steve Jones machined it up in one evening.
Let us hope that this is all the gremlins out of the way for this season.