Welcome to the final news round-up of 2017. As it is something of a bumper edition, it is split across two parts: today’s covers the ex-GWR, LMS and BR Standard projects; news on the ex-LNER and Southern locomotives will follow tomorrow.
There was a degree of hope 12 months ago that 2017 might be the first year for some time when a new build loco would make its first moves under its own power. Alas, it wasn’t to be – but the completion of at least one engine in 2018 now appears a racing certainty, with a chance of a second late in the year, with a fair wind.
Numerous other projects appear to be converging on 2019 as a completion date: it has now been mooted for the Patriot, 82045, Beachy Head and the Bloomer (and Betton Grange if it doesn’t make it in 2018). This will be subject to finances and supply chain issues in all cases of course, so realistically we might expect to see these completions spread across 2019 and 2020. 2007 Prince of Wales can be expected a year or two after that, with the G5 surely somewhere in the same span of time as well – after which, the flow of completions should slow to a trickle over a longer number of years.
We are therefore entering an exciting period for the heritage steam movement. This update will outline the ways in which many of these projects are progressing towards the home straight.
2999 Lady of Legend
The Saint now appears certain to be the next new build to move under its own steam, after its boiler (ex of 4942 Maindy Hall) passed its out-of-frames steam test last month. It still requires the re-fitting of its smokebox and to be placed in the frames, after which a further official steam test for the insurance surveyor will be conducted.
Work on the bottom end of the locomotive continues, but seems mostly to be a matter of finalising smaller jobs. The bogie was replaced under the engine in July, and the ‘slave’ boiler that had been placed in the frames to enable pipe runs was lifted out in the same month. Other items of work have been the machining of the new oilpots, and the fitting of 4942’s refurbished slidebar.
The latest news update from the group does not reference earlier plans to outshop Lady of Legend in lined BR black for a photography event and then to be repainted in GWR green.
The Night Owl’s wheelsets have now been completed at the South Devon Railway, and the group’s latest news update confirms the intention to take the locomotive mainline. However, there is some way to go before it exists as a rolling chassis: the project has missed its planned turn in the queue at Llangollen’s busy works as the wheels took longer than was hoped, so is now waiting for capacity to be freed up again. This has, however, created time to modify the project’s bespoke horn grinding machine further, ahead of its work on the 47xx.
The next major areas of focus will be the axleboxes and spring hanger brackets, to enable wheeling to take place – but this will depend on funding being available. Options are also being explored for the cylinders and boiler, with no firm decisions yet made.
6880 Betton Grange
There has been progress on the Grange’s cylinders and boiler. The castings for the former have successfully undergone hydraulic testing to 250 psi, and preparation for fitting the pistons and valves can now begin. On the latter, a new tubeplate has been formed at Tyseley, while inspection of the back head sheet has shown it to be in good condition for its age. This Facebook update outlines the latest work on the boiler cladding, and confirms that the locomotive is now ready for the final fitted and non-fitted bolts to be put on the cylinders.
1014 County of Glamorgan
Unfortunately a substantial news update on the County project’s website, covering the six months from May onwards, strikes a noticeably downbeat tone. The project appears to have been hit particularly hard by the sorts of supply chain and funding problems encountered by other new builds, including the decision by LNWR in Crewe to cease work on locomotives other than those of its home fleet.
Work on the 1014’s boiler was stopped after the new barrel was rolled and the group had been assured there were only a few weeks’ work left to do. The cessation was followed by the presentation of an invoice rather larger than the group had been expecting, which has run down their financial resources. More positively, the Patriot project’s announcement of its own new boiler supplier (see below) expresses the hope that the same company will be taking on work for the County – but in the absence of any formal announcement it’s hard to judge whether this is a likely outcome or an over-optimistic comment by a third party.
The project was dealt a further blow by the death of its engineer, Keith Gilbert, in late September.
However, there has been some progress, including the arrival of numerous components, albeit often after substantial delays. Suppliers for the spring links coupling the loco springs to the axleboxes (ordered by Keith Gilbert in November last year) and the vacuum tank seals for the tender both failed to deliver, so a new supplier was successfully contracted for the former (now delivered) while most of the latter have been found in-house. An injector casing has also been completed, although the fact it was ordered by the late Mike Cooper gives a further indication of the scale of delays sometimes encountered by new build projects.
5551 The Unknown Warrior
The numerous developments affecting The Unknown Warrior in recent months almost demand a whole article to themselves. The most recent, and most positive, news is that a new contractor has been appointed for the boiler: Heritage Boiler Steam Services will be undertaking the work at the West Shed facility, home to the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust on the Midland Railway in Derbyshire. HBSS are a new company, formed by Andy Wilcock and Rob Adamson, who have both left LNWR Heritage in Crewe, where they had already worked on the Patriot’s boiler, to set up the business. The existing components have now been moved to the West Shed. Sadly, the delay to the work means that it will not now be completed before 2019, thus precluding The Unknown Warrior from having a role in commemorations of the Armistice in 1918.
The Patriot’s role in 2018 might in any case have proved to be a vexed issue. At the Company’s AGM in November, it was announced that the Royal British Legion has barred the project from using its name or crest, including on the nameplate of the locomotive. The official statement rakes over the details of what happened, but in short it appears that in giving written permission for the Patriot to use the Legion’s name, the senior staff member at the time was exceeding his authority: the current chair of the Legion’s board of trustees has informed the project that they were unaware of any such decision and are unwilling to uphold it, on the grounds that it might appear that the Legion contributed funding to the project. While the root cause of this misunderstanding appears to be some combination of governance and operational failings within the RBL, it can also fairly be observed that the Patriot group did not maintain an ongoing liaison with the Legion, and their enquiry about 5551’s possible role in the 2018 commemorations appears to have been their first contact since 2009 [EDIT – this was an incorrect inference on New Build Steam’s part, as there had in fact been regular contact; with thanks to David Bradshaw for the clarification in the comments on our ‘About’ page] – that said, there is no suggestion that they have acted in anything other than entirely good faith throughout. Whatever the rights and wrongs, the decision has provoked an angry reaction from enthusiasts online, and the project has committed to working with the RBL’s local branches in support of their work. A new crest will be designed for mounting above the locomotive’s nameplates.
However, there is much positive progress on the locomotive itself. Work on the two outside cylinders is complete, with the inside cylinder nearly there. Many of the pipe runs for the lubrication system are underway or finished, while the manufacture of parts for the inside valve gear and motion continues.
2013 Prince George
The LNWR George the Fifth Trust has sent through some interesting updates to New Build Steam. They have recently taken delivery of the coupling rods, plus the chimney cap, with the chimney base and stem now on order. A drawing for the machining of the coupling rods has been completed.
Away from the cutting of metal, the group has been undertaking substantial work on some crucial areas of technical analysis, including both to reduce weight and to enhance safety. Modern analysis shows that the class’s motion gives excellent valve events, but also that many components were needlessly heavy – today’s design and manufacturing techniques will enable metal to be put where it will be most effective.
Another reason for this work is that Network Rail, the Office for Road and Rail and the Rail Safety and Standards Board are aware of the vulnerability of the connecting rods on some LNWR locomotives, fractures of which occasionally led to penetration of the boiler, as at the Betley Road accident of 1923, whose cause was bluntly attributed to ‘poor design’ by the ensuing investigation. The locomotive involved was of the ex-LNWR Prince of Wales class, which the group’s work suggests was more compromised by its design than was the George.
Further outstanding issues that the group has identified for resolution are gauging for main line use, hammer blow, and the axles, including the crank axle.
In Bridgnorth, the whitemetalling for the axleboxes is well underway. Permanent bolts have been applied to the left-hand cylinder and the process is being repeated for the right. Fitting of the rear cylinder covers can the follow, and then measurements for manufacture of the slidebars. The Bury Standard Four group have loaned their pattern for the cross heads, which have now been cast and are being machined. Numerous other castings have been delivered and are being machined, while at Dinas progress is advanced on the water tanks.
The firebox now mostly exists in ‘kit’ form, with the throatplate having been cast at South Devon Railway Engineering. Work on assembling it should was reported as due to start during the autumn, and thoughts are now turning to the cylinders and motion, for which ‘some mighty cheques’ are expected to be written in the coming months. Looking even further ahead, the 82045 Future Fund has been launched, to ensure there is sufficient money available to maintain and overhaul the locomotive throughout its working life.
CTL Seal, of Sheffield, have been awarded the contract to assemble the frames for Hengist, having previously made many of the components. Work on the assembly has already started.
A reverser wheel has been cast for the Clan, taking advantage of an opportunity to place the order with one for 82045, and the cylinder patterns are being made by Tony Dance. The four wheel centres for the front bogie have also been ordered. The frame plates are already in stock, and after frame assembly the front bogie and pony truck will be the next items for completion.
The smokebox door remains the focus on the tender variant 3MT, and it will clearly be thoroughly finished before work moves to other areas. The inner skin is now manufactured and fitted to the door, with only the protection plate still to add.