February 3rd, 2016

Building Bridges – February 2016 Update

Rust is needle gunned off the metalwork.

The bridge gang are hard guys; two weeks ago I was working in the (relatively speaking) warm and dry North Weald shed on the railcar, while these guys were working up on the bridge – exposed to the drizzle and cold. That’s dedication for you.

From a distance, and with unknowing eyes, you would think little progress was being made. But if you look carefully, you will be surprised just how much work has progressed.

The main bridge was carefully examined towards the end of last year, by our own engineer in charge of the bridge, working with an external structural engineer. Generally it was all good but a decision was made to cut out some wasted sections of steel while the guys had safe access.

It was explained to me that over many years, damp, dirt and other debris have built between the bridge decking and bridge supports. Combined with acid in the smoke from steam engines, this caused sections of steel to waste away – the team have cut this wasted steel away and are welding in new sections. Very skilled detailed work.

There are also a number of new bolt holes being drilled out for newly fabricated reinforced sections to carry the new top level steps. Many holes are being drilled in the lattice work intersections of the platform-to-bridge steps to allow the metal strips to be bolted together.

Work is progressing on new bridge sections for various parts of the main bridge span, and the steel decking for the top of the bridge is being prepared for installation.

Chris Travers

January 27th, 2016

Diesel Department – January 2016 Update

Class 31 at one end of the Santa Special service train

A belated Happy New Year to you all. As I write this blog, our most successful operating season is drawing to a close. Thank you to everyone who came down to the railway in 2015, without your fare money, we would not been able to run the railway or our vintage bus service. Our thanks also to everyone who took advantage of our £5.00 cab rides. Your donations to the fuel fund allowed us to run our big Diesel Locos on many more operating days than would normally be economically viable. The crews enjoyed your company in the cabs.

The icing on the ‘Christmas Cake’ was our Santa Special season, with almost every train being sold out. For me personally, the Santa Specials are one of the real highlights of the year. There is a Christmas feel good atmosphere generated here. The train was made up of five coaches, with ‘Jennifer’ – the little steam engine – at the Ongar end of the train – and our class 31 diesel at the Epping end; the class 37 was the standby loco.

Jennifer runs through North Weald

Jennifer is restricted in speed as she is first and foremost, a shunting engine. Though she is quite powerful, she wasn’t built with passenger loads and steep gradients in mind. This meant that the class 31 supplied the power for the train heat and also most of the traction power. She worked throughout the Santa specials and New year gala without fault; she thrives on hard work and runs far better when work under heavy loads.

Externally, the class 31 is usually kept in pristine condition, but following some criticism of her being ‘kept like a museum piece and not a working loco’, she was allowed to get slightly work worn and a bit oily across the year, which went down very well with the guys at the New Year Diesel Gala. Apparently the ‘work worn look’ makes for good photos. That said, we can’t wait to get the rags out and give her a good clean.

On 23 December, when ‘Jennifer’ returned to the Depot at the end of service, she was found to have broken the top leaf of a spring. Bad news for the crews, as it meant she was taken out of service. The class 37 took her remaining turns for the season.

A note of praise for our engineers, who have overhauled the electric train heating system on our coaches, and who have also uprated the battery charge system on the MKII coaches.

Class 117 DMU
DMS M51384

Much progress has been made with the Railcar. The planning is getting very ‘high tech’, with spreadsheets showing the predicted work and time scale, allowing our Railcar restoration team leader – Dave Hunnikin – to order the material requirements in advance. (And there is certainly a lot to order.)

There are quite a number of volunteers working with our body repair specialist on the project, spread over four working days; Dave sends out a work sheet each week with the job requirements detailed.

The scaffolding in the shed has been reconfigured and is now in its third incarnation, with an added board walk at sole bar (Platform) level, which allows safe access to both the body work as well as the roof. The scaffolding side of the shed has been sheeted off to allow the unit to be sprayed and reduce the spread of dust onto the other contents of the shed.

The roof has now been sprayed with self-etching primer. This bites into the galvanised steel roof. After the mammoth job of stripping every last piece of paint, the work on the new roof panels was completed. The new riveted panel joints were sealed with glass fibre and resin, as were the number of pin holes that were found.

At this point, our professional body repair man took over and prepared the roof for spraying, achieved by a very light use of filler and careful flattening back.  All the filled areas were then primed with a special green primer. After the self-etching primer coat was completed, a further four coats of special ‘Williamson BR standard roof’ paint was applied by our team of volunteers. Once completed, it was very hard to see where all these hours of roof repair were spent.

The main roof is finished in graphite grey, which is complemented by the white cab roof – very smart! One piece of guttering awaits refitting, and the new head code blanking panel is still to be fitted.

The new ceiling panels have been fitted, and received the final top coat of paint. This also proved to be a much longer and more challenging job than anticipated. Installing large areas of wobbly hardboard roof panels, in a confined area, without damaging installed items (such as the wiring, air pipes etc.) is quite a job. Due the curvature of the ceiling, the panel is at usually bigger than the area you are working in. The hardboard panels have to be bent very carefully as you offer them up. Additional fixing points had to be installed to give a hard point to screw into so as to stabilise the panels. The original insulation was refitted.

DMBS M51342

The other piece of railcar, the DMBS (or for the non-technical person, the coach with the guards van), has been shunted from the yard into platform three, to allow repair preparation work to take place.

In truth, the unit looks rather sad externally; she has been stored in the yard, and nature has attempted to take over. A couple of the ventilator gaskets have failed and allowed water to ingress through some of the roof panels, causing them to sag – not a good look. However, the DMBS was refurbished internally last year, and apart from the roof panels, generally appears to be in good condition. Knowing what the team can achieve, I am confident she will come out of the restoration process in excellent condition.

The Rest Of The Fleet

Class 37 during Santa Specials

Class 31 31438: Due to go away for tyre turning.

Class 37 37029: Performing engineering duties .

Class 47 47635 Jimmy Milne: Stopped again for work to be completed on pressure-reducing valves. When the current restoration work on the railcar is completed, it is hoped to start work repairing the roof to make the loco water proof. This will be another big job.

Class 45 45132: The Exhaust Silencer refurbishment has now been completed.


Until next time

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration Group

November 29th, 2015

Diesel Department – November 2015 Update

Now we are in a brief shut down period between the normal operating season and Christmas, the opportunity has been taken to get on with various outstanding jobs.


When the diesel restoration team joined the C&W team on the railcar project, we were advised there were issues with the roof, such as water penetration and rusted roof panels. Using the existing scaffolding in North Weald Shed – which had been built across the front and one side the Ongar end carriage – we accessed the rotten section of the roof and a proper survey took place. We found there were at least four different types of paints used on the roof over the years; the expert advice meant the way forward was to strip the whole roof back to bare metal. Easier said than done; the coach is 22 yards long – that’s an awful lot of 55 year old paint.

One good point the glass fibre cab roof was O.K. and not need stripping of paint. The catch?

You guessed it – it too had to be rubbed down, filled and flattened again.

The team would require safe access to the whole roof. The contents of the shed were shuffled, and the scaffolding was once again erected. The new structure covers the front and both sides of the carriage, with safety bars over the top of the roof. So big was the structure, that it took two skilled operatives two days to complete. The finishing touch is a walk way on three sides at roof height. This time we have learnt by our mistakes and the scaffolding has been built in such a way to allow the coaches to be shunted in and out without the need to dismantle it all.

Now we can gain safe access, it’s on with the job of stripping the roof of every scrap of existing paint. This particular project is the single biggest job the team have taken on. We had to first work out an effective way of removing the old roof paint, each coat had to be removed in a different manner. We took advice and purchased a new burner and scrapers. It proved to be a steep learning curve. The thicker paints  had to be burnt and then scraped off; the residue (and there is a lot) had to be ground off with an angle grinder paint prep disc. The thinner coats, which strangely would not burn off and just went black, were cut off with paint preparation discs – an expensive method, but  nonetheless effective.


Now we are ‘in the groove’ the job is moving on much faster. With all the climbing on the scaffolding, scraping off old paint and getting to odd positions, we’re certainly keeping fit – after a heavy day scraping my arms felt like Popeye’s bulging muscles. (Just a shame that my arms did not look like his!)

I had the privilege of working with Michael Fisher, who is our highly skilled engineer, making up and fitting the new roof panels, thus repairing the very large rusted hole in the roof. All the wasted metal had been cut back, and the new panels were trimmed to size, fitted and riveted in place. To waterproof the area, the joints will be covered in glass fibre. Michael is so skilled he makes the job look easy, which believe me it was not.

While removing roof of paint, we have found further small holes in the roof gutter area that will need patching. The work on the glass fibre cab roof is almost complete and waiting for a replacement head code blanking plate to be fitted.

Now our railcar roof expertise and knowledge is building up, and all safety precautions are in place, the Epping end power car should not be so time consuming.

Once the new roof paint job is completed, which is a special formulated roof paint that bites into the bare metal. The paint is formulated to resist the heat of the sun; the fibreglass cab roofs will be returned to their original white colour. We will then have to replace the internal panels in the area of the new roof panels, and seal around the ventilators to prevent damp ingress. Our professional body repair man will then complete the body preparation work.

There is a lot more work to complete, but too much to list here.

Class 47 ‘47635’

The replacement compressor is now tested and up and running. Our engineers gave the oil cooler system another cheek over, after the engine failed with corrosion damage on the heat exchanger, and found another slight leak, which they stripped and repaired. She is now back in running order.

DEMU Thumper ‘205205’

The Thumper ran out of fuel!

The unit is fitted with two gauges (for a good reason), one of these has never worked since we took ownership of the unit. It has been one of the jobs that we never seem to get around to, due to the amount of work required to fix it. Fuel gauges on older diesel locos/units were always problematic. Some locos, like the class 31, were converted to sight glass system. In fact, when locos/railcars came on shed at Stratford, it was policy to ignore the gauges and fill the tank to its cut off or until it overflowed.

You can guess were this is leading.

The other ‘reliable’ gauge stuck showing around fifty gallons, when the tank was almost empty. We do keep a daily tally of fuel used, but with the gauge sticking on and off without being obvious, it can mess up that tally. In short, the unit ran out of fuel and sucked up many years of residue from the bottom of the tank. The unit failed quite close to North Weald. Funny thing was, when the unit was quickly rescued by the class 33,  it was reported that rather than moan, the passengers were very pleased to get a ‘Special ride’ behind this loco.

The simple float-type gauges were both taken out and repaired. The fuel tank was steam-cleaned and the fuel delivery pipe was also cleaned. The filters, which prevented any residual getting through to the injectors, were changed. One seal was blown on the fuel pump, so we are now waiting on a spare. By the time you read this, the Thumper should be roaring again.

The fuel gauges were removed and repaired. The tank was also steam cleaned before being refilled.

The fuel gauges were removed and repaired. The tank was also steam cleaned before being refilled.


North Weald Photo Charter

On a very wet and cold Saturday night in November, the railway played host to a Southern themed photo shoot, starring the Thumper and the class 33. I was asked to help out as part of the setup team, and to pose in the cab. (When I say pose, I actually mean is to sit in the nice warm cab and drink mugs of hot tea, while the photographers froze in the pouring rain outside.) Despite the weather, the photographers said the weather made for excellent atmospheric night shots.

33202 and 205205North Weald, 14/11/15EMRPS photo charter

33202 and 205205North Weald, 14/11/15EMRPS photo charter


Class 37 ‘37029’

The class 37 continues to be used on engineering trains.

Class 45 ‘45132’

The Peak Locomotive group have supplied me with pictures showing the excellent progress being made. They have been rebuilding the front end of the Locomotive and fabricating a completely new exhaust silencer. Looking at the size of the silencer, and the amount of work involved, starting from scratch must be a very daunting prospect.

Until next time

Chris Travers

Diesel restoration group

October 15th, 2015

Diesel Department – October 2015 Update

A big ‘Thank You’ to all our visitors that have come up to the front end and taken a keen interest in our motive power. I must also thank everyone who has taken advantage of our £5.00 donation to the Diesel fuel fund for a cab ride. It’s been great meeting you all, and we have been happy to answer your many questions; with your help, we have been able to operate our main line Diesel Locos on additional weekends.

The Strictly Express

A couple of weeks ago, a team from the BBC was at the Railway to film the opening sequences for the new series of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’. They also used one of our local roads for other dancing movements. Many of the stars of the show were present, and performed a big dance number that opened the first programme. The Anglia buffet broke its own record, supplying in excess of one hundred bacon rolls in less than one hour.

Look out for the ‘Strictly Express’ coach.

Strictly Express carriage

Whoever would have thought that when we first re-opened, our railway would suddenly feature in the most-watched TV programme of the week? All aboard the ‘Strictly Express’!

The Victorians

Recently, the Railway held a Victorian-themed weekend. Upon the Thumper’s arrival at Ongar, two business owner-type Victorians boarded and started haggling over the price of the train. One examining the unit in detail and beating down others to the price he was prepared to pay. Finally, a deal was done, with shaking hands over the main generator!

The Victorian who ‘bought’ the Thumper then complained that I had not ‘dusted ‘the jumper cables…

The Bridge Gang

The Bridge gang have been making excellent progress rebuilding our former Great Eastern Railway footbridge. They have completed the lattice work on the first staircase and the first landing. They have since made a start on the second staircase.

Progress has been anything but straightforward; lots of thinking through problems and head scratching. One of the problems I mentioned in the last blog that has not gone away is that the new parts are precision cut to exact measurements, whereas the old bridge is just the opposite; you don’t even have to measure some of the gaps between parts in the old bridge, just by looking you can clearly see they can differ vastly. This can cause issues when pairing old and new parts.

Clearly much of the original manufacturing work was completed on site, when the bridge was first erected by blacksmiths on a ‘that’s near enough basis’.

Following the example of the original bridge builders, the bridge gang has set up a ‘On Site production line’, cutting and drilling the lattice cross members. The bridge job is shaping up to be one of those projects that, in a few years when the dust has settled, the gang members will be proud to say ‘I was there!’

Class 33 ‘33202’

I pleased to report that after extensive diesel engine overhaul, the privately owned class 33 has returned. She has been working on the odd weekend. See the News or loco roster pages for updates on as and when she will be in service.

Class 37 ‘D6729/37029’

D6729 has taken over the class 31 role our general use loco, working passenger and engineering trains without problems ever since work was completed on her brake cylinder. At the Diesel Gala, she worked throughout without fault and she looked quite stunning with the sun shining on her refurbished paint work.

Children love the diesel cabs.

Children (young & old) love exploring the cabs. Here, two potential future drivers inspect the timetable ahead of departure.
(Posted with permission.)

Class 08 and Class 14

During the Diesel Gala, I had the privilege to drive both the class 14 and the Great Western 08 shunt loco. You are probably aware I was a Main line Driver and, over the years, have driven many forms of diesel and electric traction (and a steam engine too once – honestly!) The 08 loco has just been rebuilt, repainted and heavily modified for main line work, but is still very much a basic 08 loco; the paintwork finish was of a very high standard.

GWR 08 at North Weald

The ‘Great Western’ 08 looked stunning in new GWR Green.

The class 14 was a very different kettle of fish. The loco was designed for short freight inter-yard working, replacing the Great Western 0-6-0 saddle tank steam locos. The Class 14 was one of the strangest Locos I have ever driven. For those of you that have never seen one these, the best way I could describe the Loco is that it looks like it was made out of a box of spare parts, found at the back of the stores in Swindon works.

It has top half of a diesel shunt loco, with the bottom half resembling a great Western 0-6-0 tank engine, powered by a cutting-edge early version of the diesel engine that powered the high speed trains.

There was a mid-position driving cab, with the main controller (which looks like it was borrowed from a class 47) set vertically, and is vacuum braked only. It has hydraulic transmission, the final drive similar to an 03 shunt loco and, when built, had a state of art V six Paxman six-hundred-and-fifty horse power, high revving diesel engine. When compared to the baulk of the Thumper Diesel 600 HP engine, the class 14 Paxman unit was minute. In fact, when I was helping to prepare the Loco, I had to search about to find the Diesel engine.

There is no train heat, and a maximum speed of only 40 mph. This class 14 only lasted about two years on the main line before it was withdrawn, being sold on for industrial use. I was impressed with her current condition in preservation.

For all of the loco’s odd ball character, it was fun to drive, with the ride being similar to that of an 08 or 03 (i.e. lots of clanking and finding the dips in the track due to its short wheel base. Could make you feel a bit sea sick with the rocking and rolling.)

Nothing appeared to be standard across the range of main line locos, even the fault lights differed to the standard schemes found on other locos. There were some very strange things about this beast, even down to filling up the cooling water with a bucket by climbing on top of the loco and opening a hatch – just like a steam loco!

Only ever spotted one of these machines on the main line, 1968 near Acton on the up relief, and hauling a few old wagons – even then it looked rather ‘quaint’.

Class 31 ‘31438’

The Class 31 is serviceable, but is resting pending tyre turning.

Class 117 DMU

Yes, I do mean the DMU! At long last the project is very much moving, with a large amount of time and supporting expenditure now going into the restoration.

This is a big project with the C and W team doing to bulk of the work so far; they are now joined by the diesel restoration team. We also have help from our own engineering team and professional bodywork specialist.

We now have an agreed target date for the unit to re-enter service: our spring diesel gala.

It is intended that the two DMU trailers are returned to the pre-rebuilt condition internally, whilst externally they return to BR green with body lining and front whiskers.

From the pictures, you can see the rot in the roof is proving to be a real challenge. To allow the teams to safely work on the roof, the carriage is encased along one side and the front in scaffolding. New roof panels have been made up, but we are now on to plan ‘B’ for fixing them. It was Michael’s intention (Plan ‘A’) to weld in the new panels, but when we removed the internal ceilings, we saw that a lot of wood had been used in the roof structure, which could quickly catch fire. Therefore it is back to riveting and sealing the panels. The roof is being stripped back and will be repainted with specialist roof paint that resists the effects of the sun.

We have examined the external condition of the other motor coach and there is further evidence that since it was last checked,  water leaks from some of the ventilator seals have formed. Further ceiling panels will need to be replaced in due course here also.

No one said this job will be easy and based on what I have seen so far, to get the unit up to the Epping Ongar standard of restoration is going to be a hard slog.

Thumper 205205

Our colleagues on the C and W team have completed the baggage compartment, where they have been sanding down the floor and finishing off with three coats of special black paint. The teams have made a fine job of the space. We have noted quite a few normal passengers have been using the compartment by choice.

The guys have also replaced a large section of rotten floor in the Driver vestibule of the DT. As with all things, this ‘small job’ turned out to be several days work, consuming a lot of materials, there being far more rot in the floor than anticipated.

I was also made an honorary member of the C and W team, spending a day with them to sort out a recurring problem with the second man’s drop light in the emergency cab door. Everything about this door is non-standard. This was a new replacement door specially made for the unit and it would appear likely that the measurements it was made to were very slightly out. The shape of the door, the widow size, the window operating mechanism and the emergency door lock are all non-standard, and any replacements have to be made to special order – normally at great expense. I spent a day stripping the door and making fine adjustments, hopefully overcoming the problems.

Class 47 ‘47635’

First the good news.

A replacement main compressor has been donated and is now at North Weald Depot. The ‘pre-owned’ compressor has been out of use for more than three years; when the electrical motor system was checked, it was found to have areas of high resistance and another minor issue. Our engineers have stripped the 110 volt DC motor, performing ‘feats of wizardries’ ‘that only electrical engineers understand.

Hopefully when you read this the replacement compressor will be in place.

Michael D inspects the new compressor.

Michael D inspects the new compressor.

Now the bad News.

After the extensive repair work carried out by the differing teams, the 47 behaved faultlessly until…

As Jon the Driver received the ‘right away’ halfway through the Murder Mystery night, a blue fault light came up. Investigation revealed a coolant leak on the lubricant oil heat exchanger, which is bolted on to the free end of the diesel engine. The loco was quickly shunted off the train and 03170 was substituted. The 03 top-and-tailed with the 37, saving the day and completing the job without further issue. Luckily, many of the passengers believed the shunt (which was made in the dark) was part of the Murder plot and thought it was a great show!

Our Engineer, Michael Drew, traced the fault to internal corrosion damage. The heat exchanger was stripped down and a weld repair performed. After refitting the heat exchanger, the Loco has worked without further problems.

Class 03 Locos

Apart from the recent main line service detailed above, the 03s have continued to work faultlessly as North Weald pilot engines.


Phil, one of our drivers, related a story to me regarding our resident Buzzards. Apparently, since they started nesting around the railway, they have become very ‘street wise’. When a train approaches, they now hover above the railway line, on the lookout for any small prey which the train disturbs. As with me in the last blog when a buzzard appeared carrying a small squirrel, Phil’s buzzard flew in front of his loco and was holding a snake in its talons!

On a recent Saturday, I was driving the Thumper when my mate Dan spotted what we believe to be three rather large stages at rest in a small clearing in Epping Forest, towards the railway’s Epping boundary. The stags, with large antlers, put on a great show for the passengers – on almost every trip, at least one stag would stand up a give us that ‘I am the boss, don’t push your luck’ look. (It was later reported that the stags were in fact auditioning for jobs working with Father Christmas on the Santa specials; if it were down to me, they would get the job!)
Apart from one trip, the stags stayed in their clearing all day. Word spread amongst the passengers and we found people were riding just to see them. While I have seen large groups of deer around the railway many times, I have never seen such a show as these Stags put on.

When you come down next to visit, join us on the Safari train and look out for the vast amounts wild life the railway supports – you will be amazed.

Until Next time

Chris Travers
Epping Ongar Diesel Restoration Group

October 7th, 2015

Building Bridges – October 7 Update

Work has been progressing well on the North Weald Footbridge, though recent inclement weather is starting to slow it somewhat.

On September 29, Roger cut out sections of angle iron, to make space for new channelling to be installed.

Doug and David continued working lattice sections on platform 2, whilst John treated the timbers for the landing; after lunch, he and Roger fitted the wood on the platform 2 side. After a bit of cutting, it all dropped into place very nicely.

Platform 2 side landing

This week, the timbers shown above were securely bolted down, and channelling has started to be installed back on platform 1 side.

Weather aside, we are making good headway on the project…

Pictures & Information
Roger Emberson

September 7th, 2015

Diesel Department August 2015 Update

Another busy month at the railway, with the beer festival a huge success also being one of our busiest weekends ever.

And I almost forgot – Peppa Pig was also down. Having meet Peppa, I am now known as a close personal friend; this has given me a great deal of kudos with my younger grandchildren. After all, it’s not every granddad who knows the posh pig!

£5.00 cab Rides

The £5.00 Cab rides on the 37/47 Locos were, yet again, a huge success over the Mixed Traction weekend, with a long waiting list of people wanting to ride. The cost of the pass goes to the Diesel fuel fund, which allows us to finance the running of our fuel-hungry 100-ton beasts for extra weekends.


We’re often learning about the broad range of skills that our various teams possess, which is very beneficial for the number of jobs we have on the railway. For example, if our team is ever asked to restore a moon rocket, I know just the volunteer to consult – the retired rocket scientist of course. (Honest – we do have one!)


It came as a great surprise to discover that we have a bridge engineer in our midst – and a very good one at that.

If you have been down to the railway, you will have seen our 19th century Great Eastern railway footbridge, which was recovered from a footpath which crossed the Central Line at Woodford. It was partly re-erected at the eastern end of North Weald station, minus the staircases which were beyond repair.

Funds have been accumulating slowly since we opened and, with the great help of a large donation from a member, work has started erecting newly designed stairs.

The Diesel restoration team have been working in platform two on the class 37 project and have watched our volunteer bridge team, under the direction of our very own bridge engineer, slowly erect the kit of parts which were a joint design by external engineers and our great man.

Having had the chance to see the bridge returning to life close up, I have to say the designing and erection of a modern structure to blend in with the old lattice work bridge has proved far more complex than I would have thought. Making a modern, computer-designed laser-cut component mate with the original hand-built bridge (with a lot of the original components probably completed on-site by blacksmiths), it would appear to be a bit of a black art. Once the stairways have been completed, the team will then refurbish the main structure as required.

Footbridge steps installed

The bridge has been making rapid progress. The sides will be completed to a matching style of the main bridge.

Class 31 438

As is normal, the 31 has been hard at work on engineering and vegetation control trains, as well as some weekend passenger trains. She has been her reliable self, though sadly has had to be stopped with worn tyres, now pending tyre turning.

Class 37 029

The class 37 project has now been completed, with almost all the work required on the body work done. We have had to take a pragmatic approach to some of the small areas of bubbly rust as she is still a working machine. When working on the body, we cut down through remnants of DRS blue, rail freight grey and, on occasions, corporate BR blue/yellow paintwork, as well as lots of body filler – some dating back many years judging by the layers and thickness of paint. We completed the first Bronze Green top coat only for the skies to open, and a rain storm ensured. Not good for the final finish. This week, a rub down and another thin coat of Bronze Green paint.

The 37 recently disgraced herself by failing with low main air pressure, which was traced to a split brake cylinder seal. This has being repaired and she should be back in service shortly. Strangely, sourcing the new parts proved far more difficult than the repairs.

Rain begins as the final top coat is applied.

Chris Travers laughs as the inevitable storm starts – just after the final top coat was applied.

The team with the finished work

After 8 months of hard graft, the team pose with their finished handiwork.

Class 47 635

Now most of the highly technical faults have been cleared from the 47, Michael Drew – one of our engineers – has been working on mechanical issues, mostly on the air system. Sometimes, all that was required was the stripping of parts for cleaning and reassembling; some cases required a complete refurbishment. Lots of work in a very confined engine room space.

There are bodywork repairs required on the 47, which are on the to-do list, which we must work through in a logical manner that is subject to both money and our volunteer skills & resources. Work was completed this week on the current task list, and the Loco was tested. She will be out again during our Diesel Gala.

Michael Drew, engineer, with an again operational class 47

At long last, the 47 emerges from the shed in running order, after a lot of hard work by Michael Drew (one of our engineers). He has just completed final air system checks, using the 37 to supply air so he can work in a quiet engine room.

Class 25 173

As you will see from the photos below, work on this locomotive’s body restoration continues well at our external engineer’s premises. Extensive areas of body work and internal framing have now been replaced.

Bodywork repairs for cab area

New cab corners and top sections have been fabricated and welded in place. Note that the gutter has been removed.

Body and interior structure have had many replaced areas

Large sections of both the body side panels and the internal structure have been replaced.

DEMU Thumper 205205

Work on the baggage compartment has now been finished, with a completely new celling and one wall, following long term water ingress damage; you may remember we repaired the roof last year. Smaller repairs have been completed to all the other walls and doors. The team issues in the baggage compartment similar to those in the 37 cab, with electrical components for the AWS equipment removed leaving wiring, conduit and opened relay contact boards which had all to be boxed in.

Whilst looking around the baggage compartment, at all the work performed by our teams of volunteers, I realised it looks just the same as before, the only give-away being the smell of new paint and, of course, the absence of a sagging roof and rotten walls.

Next week, we start work on repairing external body work rust. Once our repairs are completed, the Network SouthEast livery will be made good by respraying.

One weekend, I was asked “when are you going to return the Thumper to authentic ‘green livery’?”
Most of you will know that the correct livery for our rebuilt Thumper is the Network South East colour scheme she carries at present.

Michael Fisher constructs the wall for the baggage compartment

To look at the completed baggage compartment wall now, it just looks like any other tong-and-grove wooden wall. But each individual plank had to be tailored to allow for the large amounts of conduit housed behind the wall.

Installing the specially built wall

Fitting the last plank in the wall, which was a work of art in itself. The baggage compartment is now completed and repainted.

Engine room rust - the next task for the thumper.

Rust coming out from the Thumper engine room. The team have been asked to investigate and repair.

Class 117 DMU

You might remember that our colleagues in the C&W team have renovated the railcar set internally, but the external bodywork was found to require more work than anticipated. The project was temporarily put on hold, pending funds and resources. The project is once again on the move.

The Ongar end power car has been put in to the shed at North Weald, ready for the team to start work on repairing the external bodywork (which is a highly skilled job,) and for further mechanical work on the underfloor engines.

I am pleased to report work has started on the body work repairs and paint work.


Whilst working on the vegetation control train, in between shunts movements, I was watching the incredible amount of local wildlife that lives and hunts on and around our permanent way.

While working around the E&O, I have spotted Deer (both Fallow and Muntjac – one even came into the NW Depot one Thursday), rabbits by the score, squirrels, foxes, badgers (in the evening), small rodents, many species of bird, insects by the million, and last weekend a Buzzard flew in front of the train with a grey squirrel in its talons. Last Christmas I counted more than thirty Deer in the field behind North Weald signal box.

It would appear that the railway line is, for the most part, an uncultivated wildlife corridor, linking Epping Forest with many smaller woods across South Essex.

Next time you are at the railway, look out for the wild life – especially the Buzzards; fantastic birds which can be spotted along (or above) most of the line.

Until next time,

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration Group

July 22nd, 2015

An Engine Called Isabel

With all of the big toys on the railway, sometimes the smaller ones get overlooked. In 2010, whilst still closed to passenger services, the EOR acquired its first Steam engine for the preservation era; an 0-6-0ST Hawthorne Leslie called “Isabel.”

Isabel in steam

Isabel – during one of her steamings – at Ongar.

Following arrival on the line on March 27 2012, she needed a fair bit of attention to get her working again. Unfortunately, in August that same year, she had to be withdrawn from service, having several faults and in need of a re-tube. Despite having roughly 3 years left of her boiler ticket, it was decided to fully overhaul her and bring her back with a full 10-year certificate. The overhaul was commenced during the Spring of 2014.

The cab and saddle tank were removed and rubbed down, before attention turned to the rest of the loco, which resides at the back of North Weald shed. The boiler was lifted that May, and cleaned in preparation for an inspection to asses the work required.

Isabel's boiler lifted.

The boiler is lifted from the frames, allowing work to progress on Isabel’s overhaul.

The axle boxes were stripped down; a lot of side play was found, far in excess of what is the norm, together with the hornguides, which they sit inside. These are also worn, and will be removed from the frames to receive a little machining, which will make them square and true again. This will be done in-house, using the machinery fitted in the Machine Shop.

During the summer of 2014, the brake rigging crossbeams were straightened, using a new 50 ton press. New buckles were also fitted to the extension arms that run from each crossbeam, to rectify years of wear which have resulted in oval holes. The saddle tank and cab were further rubbed down, and given a primer coat of paint by the mid-week volunteers.

The boiler was then inspected by the EOR Boiler Inspector, and was been given the ok – subject to the following repairs:

  • new lower front tubeplate rivets
  • building up of the lower area on the front tubeplate
  • new crownstay nuts in the firebox
  • building up of the firebox plate under the fire hole door
  • the fusible plug area on the firebox crown sheet.

The backhead radius (shoulders) were to be checked for cracking by Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) ultrasonic testing. This was to be carried out by a specialist contractor; if there was anything found that could be a problem, additional repairs would be needed.

A new set of tyres were sourced and purchased, with the axles being sent off to Riley and Sons for them to be fitted. They were then machined to the correct profile, and returned in July 2015.

Wheelsets depart on lorry.

The driving axles are sent away for fresh tyres to be fitted.

While the wheelsets were away, the boiler received all-new crown stay nuts, which were machined up in-house. Wastage washers were fitted to the crown of the firebox. All the old studs that hold all the boiler fittings – from injectors clacks to the firebox door assembly and ashpan – have now been removed from the boiler and replaced with fresh ones.

Boiler on side for easy access

The boiler is laid to rest on its side, allowing access to the firebox.

Richard removes safety valve studs

The late Richard Goulding removes the safety valve studs.

New crownstay nuts and washers

New crownstay nuts and washers into the firebox crown.

Cab in red oxide

The cab, following a coating of red oxide.

All manner of other work, including inspections of the pistons and descaling of the frames, has also taken place. The boiler has since been sent away to Norfolk for the new tubes to fitted (amongst other jobs), whilst the on-site volunteers continue to work on the frames. It is hoped the boiler will be completed for October, after which a few finishing touches to it can be made, before testing begins.

The boiler cladding, tanks, cabs and frames have now mostly received an initial coat of blue paint. As the engine is slowly reassembled, this will be finished off and lined out, though what scheme exactly is yet to be decided.

Frames in blue

The frames also receive some attention.

Cab in blue

The cab receives its first base coat of blue.

Wheels returned anew.

The returned wheelsets, with thick, new tyres fitted and machined.

Boiler sent away.

The boiler has now been sent away to Norfolk for some of the work required, which will speed up the overhaul.

Overhauling a small loco such as ‘Isabel’ is a great way to learn the workings of a steam engine – and is particularly suited to younger volunteers, and those who would like to progress through the ranks of an engineman. There’s still much work needing to be completed before we will see our little industrial back in action on light services and brake van rides – if you’d like to get involved, you’d be more than welcome. You don’t have to have any skills; just be prepared to ask questions, learn as you go and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty!

Work Reports by: Tony Goulding
Work Party Leader