61673 Spirit of Sandringham
20150402 B17 JP frame assyThe Sandringham B17 project appears to have entered something of a new phase: it has a new website (also incuded in links to the right) and Twitter account (included in the projects list). This appears to mirror substantial progress towards construction.

Lengthy research into historical design material at the NRM has led to the creation of CAD drawings for the main frames, and in turn to the cutting of the frames on April 15th. They will now be machined and drilled at the Boro Foundry in the West Midlands, and then transferred to the Llangollen Railway, which has agreed to provide space for the construction of the locomotive.

The project’s latest newsletter can be read here; New Build Steam is grateful to the Trust for getting in touch with the latest information and CAD image.

45551 The Unknown Warrior
The latest major strides for the Patriot include the fitting of the inside cylinder in January, making it a three-cylinder locomotive, and the manufacture of two boiler barrel rings in March. The inner firebox flanged throatplate has been drilled for the tube holes at LNWR Crewe, and the next step is to join the firebox sidesheets and crown to complete the firebox wrapper.

Machining of various components is complete or underway, including the motion girders, slide bars, bogie centre pin and valve heads.

3MT 82045
Visible steps continue to be made on 82045, which now has its bunker and cylinders attached, albeit the latter only with temporary bolts – the bolt holes now need reaming and fitted bolts making, which the April update warns will be a lengthy job with little obvious sign of anything changing. Elsewhere, the wheels have had their crankpins fitted and await balancing. The boiler appeal was expected to pass £180,000 by the end of April, and to be on course to meet the target for 2015 of £200,000 with ease. Accordingly, construction is expected to start within weeks.

6880 Betton Grange
The boiler appeal for the Grange was launched at the recent Steam, Steel and Stars gala. The target is £225,000 within two years, and will pay for the refurbishment of the boiler acquired from Willington Hall. Pictures of the boiler in its current condition can be seen on Facebook.

In other news, a new fire iron tunnel has been fabricated, incorporating the two rear left hand splashers; it houses the long irons used in maintaining the fire and during disposal.

60163 Tornado
The A1 Trust’s website contains many updates on the overhaul of Tornado, with plentiful photos. The latest highlights are that the tender has been repainted, the boiler is back from Meiningen and had an out-of-frames steam test on April 28th.

Tornado’s return to the main line is now getting close, with workings to include the Cumbrian Fells Express on May 30th and the White Rose on June 2nd. The A1 is unaffected by the ongoing uncertainty around West Coast Railways (see item at the end of this article) because West Coast has for some time refused to operate the locomotive.

2007 Prince of Wales
Another funding milestone has been reached for the P2, with a third of the required £5million now raised. The team is also part-way through a run of roadshows, and can be seen at:

  • 20th and 21st June – Great Central Model Event (Loughborough)
  • 5th and 6th September – Aln Valley Railway.

Recent progress on the build includes a start on machining the frame stay castings.

F5 789
The F5 is making progress on both the design and construction fronts. The tank supports and star stay have been machined at Harco Engineering, and the two cylinder castings remain there while the machining drawings are finalised; machining is expected to start soon. Meanwhile, CAD plotting of the frame plates has also been completed.

8783 Phoenix
The first new component to be constructed for the Claud has been identified: it will be the front bufferbeam, to be built at a cost of £1300 by a company in Thetford. Meanwhile, the group is embarking on the legal processes to become a Trust, though expect it to be slow going; and further CAD drawings have been shared on Twitter.

61662 Manchester United
The Footballer project has acquired and laid a length of track at the Mizens Railway, a process detailed in its March and April newsletters.

2013 Prince George
CAD drawings for the front end of the George the Fifth, including the smokebox frontplate and wrapper, have been completed and one has been shown on Twitter.

Worsdell G5
The front wheels, tyres and axles are expected back in the North East by August, after assembly in South Devon. Meanwhile, the group continues to hold open days in its new unit, on the first and third Saturdays of the month. Photos of the substantial completed components so far can be seen here on Flickr.

2001 Cock o’ the North
Some CAD images for the Donaster P2 have been posted on Facebook.

West Coast Railways
As readers of New Build Steam will probably already be aware, West Coast Railways is currently unable to operate trains on the national rail network. While this has no immediate impact on new build steam – the only operational new build loco, Tornado, is not operated by West Coast following a dispute over the standard of engineering work on the engine – the episode appears likely to shape the future landscape of mainline steam operations at the time when the major wave of completed new builds should be hitting national metals around the end of this decade and the start of the next.

West Coast had its track access revoked by Network Rail from April 3rd. This followed a Signal Passed At Danger (SPAD) incident on March 7th, when the crew of 34067 Tangmere disabled the on-board Automatic Warning System and subsequently passed a red signal, coming to rest across a junction that had, thankfully, already been cleared by the express service for which it had been protected. Had Tangmere arrived earlier, or the express later, a high speed collision would have resulted. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is conducting a full investigation, and its preliminary findings can be read here.

Network Rail’s statement revoking track access can be read in full here, and states that, “recent events lead Network Rail to believe that the operations of WCR are a threat to the safe operation of the railway.” The events in question include both the SPAD in March, and previous incident over which NR and West Coast have been in dispute, including the issue of lineside fires which led to the suspension of steam operations in the London and North Eastern and East Midlands regions for much of last summer. Network Rail’s decision followed a meeting with West Coast’s management on March 30th, “ where WCR demonstrated that its controls, communication and commitment following the recent SPAD were inadequate.” The suspension will last until May 15th; a sufficient response by West Coast to specific points raised in NR’s letter could in principle lead to access being granted again from that date.

Unfortunately, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), formerly the Office of the Rail Regulator, has also now become involved: it appears to have issued a letter initiating a consultation with “affected parties” on the possible revocation of West Coast’s safety certificate. Stakeholders have until May 15th to make submissions. West Coast’s future operations therefore appear to rest on a combination of formal processes by the RAIB, Network Rail and the ORR.

There appear, therefore to be several plausible future scenarios for main line steam operations. The most straightforward is that West Coast satisfy the regulatory bodies and resume operations. If it cannot do so, a period of market correction will be needed; clearly it is possible to run steam locomotives on the main line to acceptable safety standards, a market exists for doing so, and there is no reason why this needs to become an existential threat to steam on the main line. But one or more new operators may need to emerge, with or without taking over West Coast and/or its assets. DB Schenker continue to offer some capacity for steam operations, although not sufficient to make up for the loss of West Coast.

Tangmere (And Friend)
Tangmere behind a West Coast Railways class 47 in July 2013. Photo by ARG_Flickr.