Happy New Year to you all. Special thanks to everyone who has been following our blog for the past two years or so, and also to everyone who came up over Christmas and the New year – thanks for your support.
Our Hero 31 438
The real hero over Christmas and the new year workings was our Class 31 438 Locomotive.
She worked all the Santa special and then the loco-hauled Mince Pie specials over the new year, with only one minor fault developing, that being number one end ETS supply monitoring bulb which blew on her last booked trip of the season.
She worked at the Epping end of top and tailed trains, which for the most part is on the steep uphill 1 in 60 gradients. She was hauling five coaches, plus either the Prairie tank 4141 or, after the steam engine failed, 37029 (D6729), a total all-up weight of 370 tons whilst also supplying ETH to heat the train. She was running at full power for a good part of each journey.
It used to be British Rail policy never to let the Diesel engines of main line locomotives get cold when shut down, the reason being that their diesel engines were extremely hard to start if the engine block became very cold. It also caused issues with some types of English Electric Engines throwing oil out of the exhaust. When I worked at Stratford, I was booked on duty on a number of Christmas’, solely to start all the engines of the locomotives on the depot and let them run for a couple of hours, then shut them down again.
In the month of December the 31 engine block never had the chance to get cold,it started at the touch of the button and ran sweetly, like she was back on the main line. Clearly, all the contacts and relays also befitted from being in constant use, warm and dry. Her exhaust was clean and no oil was getting by the oil control rings.
I believe the reliability of the 31 reflects the excellent work performed by the engineers of both the mid Norfolk railway, our own Epping Ongar railway, and the restoration team in the high quality of the rebuilding of the Diesel Engine and restoration of the locomotive from scrap condition carried out over recent years.
Our standby engine, the class 37 029, was also pressed in to service, when part of the rocking grate of 4141 broke as she was shunting out of the shed for her days duties, immediately before Christmas. A fairly straightforward repair for our skilled steam engineers – if you have the parts to hand, sadly we had to order them in.
Santa Specials and Mince Pie/New Year Specials
I drove a number of Santa Specials and Mince Pie trains, and I also helped with some of the many jobs required to operate these special services. I was just a very small cog in the small army of volunteers it takes to run these trains in an efficient manner. It proved to be a very enjoyable experience – I personally loved the snow machines on North Weald Platform. If you were very good, you could get your picture taken with Santa in a real (well, sort of) snow storm.
While Helping With A Santa Special…
A six year old girl put me in my place.
She told me she was very excited as she had been ‘very good ‘and she hoped Santa would bring her a nice present (confirmed by mum).
I told her I was also very excited as Santa had told me’ if I was also very good when driving the train I might also get a present’.
She replied ‘I should not be so silly, old people don’t get presents from Santa’.
Know your place Chris!
The Class 37 Project
Most of the team were diverted to other duties over the Christmas period with the 37 as the standby locomotive, however we are now back and hard at work. The time off has given us a chance to obtain some of the spare parts for various repairs. Number one and two cabs have been rubbed down and certain repairs have been completed; number one has been primed (as required) then undercoated. It has been rubbed down again then received the first top coat of green, up to waist level, and cream ceiling etc. More spot rubbing down will be required then further to coats will be applied.
The 37 cab has proved to be very difficult to sand down, due to the amount of conduit and other pipework fitted around the cab. There are also hard mounting fixing points for additional safety equipment, fitted later in her working life, which were then taken off when the Loco was removed from the main line. It reminds me of the famous Lloyds inside-out building in London, where all the pipes and services are on the outside or surface mounted. It has been hard to get our fingers in to many places to sand, let alone a small mouse sander.
Repairs to the cab seats have now been completed by the very skilled Jan Ragg; as Eric Morecombe used to say ‘You can’t see the joints’! Fantastic job.
Jan – you will note that all the seats are covered with plastic to keep the paint off the seats. ‘We don’t mess with Jan!’
There is still a very long way to go with the cab and other work required as a part of the class 37 restoration project, but we can now see some real progress.
Our class 47 is still stopped awaiting spares.
The side rods have now all been re-fitted with new bearings, and she is back in service on light duties, running-in the bearings. She is shortly to be released back to full traffic.
Performing sterling duty as the depot pilot at NW.
Thumper DEMU 205205
She has now completed 2014 season with the highest mileage of any of our traction units. We have found some more leaks in the roof which have been sealed. Work continues on the internal roof of the baggage compartment in between other jobs.
There are a number of jobs scheduled on the Thumper diesel engine during the shut-down period.
Until Next Time
Diesel Restoration Group