April 17th, 2017

Isabel’s Overhaul – April 2017 Report

Since the last report (nearly two years ago!), our little Hawthorn Leslie has come on well. Whilst work isn’t happening fast, it is better to ensure a job is done well and once, than to rush and encounter problems later on.

So, what’s happened with Isabel?

First off, the wheels have been put back under the chassis, and all the coupling and connecting rods fitted. Following the re-fitting of springs, the frames have also been lowered and we have a rolling chassis once again – and it appears the knocking, which had been a cause for concern during her steamings in 2012, has cleared up. Other work included the fitting of a new brake column and bushes to the brake rigging; all this work was undertaken whilst the boiler was away in Norfolk.

Upon its return, the boiler barrel was jet cleaned before the tubes were installed and subsequently expanded. The bottom few rows of tubes were then beaded as required. Some of the firebox studs have needed to be replaced, along with new washout plugs, gauge columns and mudhole doors. The grate assembly also had to be entirely replaced, whilst the regulator has only needed repairs to a few worn areas.

The in-house engineers have also manufactured a set of firebox doors and linkage, which will make firing Isabel much easier, and they envisage that there will still be many more pieces needing to be manufactured when reassembling begins. The ashpan and smokebox, amongst other components, were rubbed down and treated to a coat of protective red oxide – the smokebox has since been given a coat of black; both of these are also new, being made by Mervyn Mayes Engineering.

In March 2017, blanking plates were fitted where necessary and the boiler filled with water to check for cold leaks. Our Chief Engineer was comically relieved to find a few, commenting he would have been more worried if there were none! The following few weeks were spent tending to these and then a hydraulic test was carried out. Finally, at the start of April, the first fire was lit – a significant milestone in the overhaul, as it means we are getting closer. A few more drips were observed and have since been sorted – we even managed to get some pressure up!

A few more tests will be carried out to ensure the boiler is fit and healthy before we invite the boiler inspector in. If all goes well and it passes, Isabel could receive her 10-year ticket very soon, after which it will be all hands to the pump to reassemble the engine and prepare her for service.

In the meantime, the chimney needs to be sent away for repairs, and all the small pieces taken off of the engine over the years and stored will need to be found again. Once reassembled, testing of the locomotive can start, and final painting into her smart red livery can be undertaken.

It may seem a light report, but the work has been lengthy and often set back by the steam department needing to attend to the operational engines. New faces are always welcome, as being involved in the overhaul of a steam engine is a great introduction to those who want to progress to working on the footplate.

Tony Goulding
Head of Steam

December 11th, 2016

Diesel Department – December 2016 Update

It’s been a while since the last report, so here’s a rundown of what’s happened to our Diesels as of late.

Class 117 DMU

We completed the bodywork repairs and repaint on the DMS car in June 16, having started the railcar project in September 2015 – however, the project has since stalled.

On closer examination, the DMBS (the car with guards van) bodywork was found to be in a far worse condition than initially thought – both internally and externally – and we have been struggling to source the parts to make up replacement bodywork ribs. The shed working space was also fully occupied, which didn’t help. Some mechanical and electrical maintenance work did take place on the two cars, with the engines started up and maintenance on the final drive etc. Thankfully, after much hunting, a supplier of body parts was found.

The team required a sheet steel bender, which is a type of bodywork forming machine and a heavy-duty tool bench, to allow the fettling and bending of the fabricated sheet steel into the weird and wonderful shapes required to reskin a railcar.

The team were told that the railway had obtained a heavy-duty bender, which may be suitable, as a part of a job lot of engineering equipment sale. On examination the basic machine, which is very old, was found to be sound but had several key parts missing. One of our engineering staff – Barry – was certain he could fabricate/remanufacture the missing components. This entailed a lot of forming, milling, drilling and turning. I have to say that I was impressed with the standard of workmanship obtained. When compared with the original parts used as patents, a perfect match was obtained. I did my bit in cutting down and shaping the end of the new, heavy-duty steel bending handle.

mike f checks the railcar profileThe complete machine was rubbed down and given a coat of silver Hammerite, before being set up and tested. In common with many of us volunteers, she may be old and silver on top but she worked perfectly when making up a test piece.

We’ve also scoured North Weald Loco site, looking for second hand wood suitable for the new heavy duty tool bench. I was surprised that in the end that the only new materials required were heavy duty coach bolts and a special type of screw to hold the main frame. As with all things, we were fortunate to have an engineer to give direction and the correct tools for fine tuning a tool bench made from scrap materials.

Back to the DMU, the DMBS is now set up in the shed, complete with access tower and working room. We hope now, with all preparations complete, to start properly on the body in January 2017.

DEMU Thumper 205205

After the diesel engine started misfiring on start up, it was decided to overhaul the injectors. However, on stripping down the cylinder heads the cam shaft support bearings were found to be discoloured, having at some stage in their life run hot, and would therefore need replacing. On removing the cam shaft, the key way (which connects the cam shaft to the drive cogs) was found to be badly worn, which may have caused the misfiring.

We are at the stage that investigations on whether to repair or replace the cam shaft are ongoing.


Class 37 D6729

The Class 37 failed in service with an earth fault shutting down the engine; luckily, the engineer who looks after the diesel maintenance was driving the loco at the time. The fault was traced to the coolant fan clutch control circuit – this was a dead earth and could not be cleared in-situ, so the train was hauled back to North Weald by the Class 31.

The fault was found to be caused by the fan clutch having become worn and subsequently slipping, causing the housing to overheat, which in turn caused a relay control unit (mounted on the housing) to melt and short out the wiring, that then caused the earth fault. We also found that the seals on the fan clutch control box had perished, and rain water was seeping in.

The fan clutch was replaced (quite a substantial job) and the control circuits were rewired. The control box was stripped, rebuilt and remounted in number one cab, in the space once occupied by the cooker.

While performing daily maintenance on the 37, it was noted a strange noise was being emitted from the main generator, later found to be defective insulators. Remedial work was performed by specialist external engineers.


Class 31 31438

Apart from the normal maintenance work, which includes cleaning traction motor and main generator commutators, this loco has been her normal reliable self. At present, she is providing Electric Train Heat and assisting with traction power for the Santa specials.

While working one of these, she failed with a very unusual fault. The feed cutoff valve (which is part of the loco safety system, feeding main air in to the braking system) did not open from number two cab. Our engineer quickly changed the valve, but the fault did not clear. A quick think and check of the mechanically controled air valve, housed in the base of the driver controller pedestal which in turn controlled the feed cut off valve, turned up the cause to be the valve was sticking. Our engineer freed it up, and the feed cutoff valve then opened and the main air system fed the braking system as normal.
Large sighs of releif were heard, and on we went with the Santa specal.  At the close of service, our engineer stripped and cleaned the valve.

Class 47 47635 “Jimmy Milne”

The class 47 is stopped pending repairs to the roof. At present, the two middle sections have been released, ready to be removed for repair – all awaiting shed space for the work to be carried out.

Class 25 25173

Making slow progress on the body work overhaul with our external engineers.

Class 03 03170

Ongoing maintenance work on the braking system, con-rods and axle boxes.

Class 03 03119

This Loco was stopped due to being unreliable. The diesel engine was shutting down without warning, the cause being the diesel engine guvnor; remedial work has been carried out.

Class 55 55019 “Royal Highland Fusilier”

37 Meets 55

When I was a young trainee train driver, we had jobs where we went over to Finsbury Park to pick up freightliners. We used to watch Deltics pass through, coming from and going into Kings Cross, their distinctive engine note like no other.

Apart from helping move them around Stratford Loco Depot to the DRS Repair Shops for engine changes, I never had any Deltic experience, so you will understand why I jumped at the chance to spend a day piloting and driving the visiting locomotive during the Autumn.

I must admit, even at my advance years, I was very excited at the prospect. I helped with preparation duties and organising the shunt movements; however, I was not prepared for the strange sounds on engine start up. The Deltic engine sounded more like a cement mixer than a highly tuned diesel engine!

My overall memory of the Loco was – aside its unbelievable amount of tractive power which required extremely careful handling – the noise; on engine tick-over, my body was vibrating with hum; at times, the noise was so great that it became painful. I have to admit gave up the chance to work on the Deltic for a second day – my hearing would not stand it. I elected to downgrade myself to driving a visiting 08 Loco instead – a much quieter ride…

Until next time.

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration Group

November 7th, 2016

Carriage & Wagon Department – November 2016 Update

This update is the first for a quite a period of time; due to the absence of the usual writer, there are bound to be gaps in the reporting of what has been achieved. Hopefully, this article covers as much as possible from the last 3 months.

We have a section on the BR MKII TSO M5136, due to the vast amount of restoration work that has been undertaken on this particular vehicle. This is, of course, not intended to exclude other sterling work carried out by the group.

There are shorter sections on the Class 117 DMU, which has seen the non-brake end used in the running rake of normal carriages, whilst the brake and guards end is awaiting extensive body repairs awaited to be carried out. External carriage cleaning of the running rake has also taken place due to the build up of diesel and smoke exhaust residues – a very time consuming task.

Class 117 DMU

Whilst in service, the doors on the Southern side had become very stiff to to open, thus they all had to be freed up to allow easy access/egress. Internally, access to the driver’s compartment had become difficult and insecure due to door track malformation, which has been re-aligned and refitted.

TSO 4925

This carriage had outstanding collision damage to the Epping-end vestibule from earlier in its life; this was completed quite recently. Some door panels had also rotted and needed be replaced.

BR MK11 TSO 5136

This carriage had already had the North Weald end restored some while back, retrofitting the old rotted formica side panels with stained wood panels. The floor was replaced in its entirety, windows re-sealed and upholstery repaired. It was decided earlier in the year to carry out the same restoration work on the Ongar end, which was in the same condition as the North Weald end before restoration started.

The following images are a sequence of works carried out over the last 3 months. It is fair to say the the whole of the C&W group have been involved in the works, with floor insulation laid in place over a base layer of plywood. The insulation was been glued in place and weighted until set. The vestibules had the same repairs carried out as the main cabin, with ply lower floor, insulation, and upper ply replaced prior to lino being laid; brass thresholds have also been fitted.

Cleaning of the Running Rake

As said earlier, the running rake of carriages had accumulated a lot of residual dirt, believed to emanate from diesel exhausts and steam loco emissions. It has been an arduous task to work through both sides of the running rake, but the improvement in appearance is significant. The set is also being treated to a polish ahead of the Santa Special services.


Until next time
Richard Savill
Carriage & Wagon Group

July 13th, 2016

Building Bridges – July 2016

I recently  had some time out from the railway, and upon my return one of my first ports of call was the foot bridge; what had the guys achieved whilst I was away? When I looked at the bridge, everything seemed to be covered with a thick layer of greasy soot, apparently from the Steam Gala. It took me a few moments to get my bridge-spotters eye in.

It turns out the team had been very busy; their work – being of such a high standard with the new-for-old replacement work, then painted green and overlaid with a thick layer of soot – made it very hard to spot, but the main giveaway was the use of bolts instead of rivets, though even these are getting harder to spot in places (the team are using dome-head nuts which, when painted, look like rivets.)

I asked our bridge engineer how things were progressing and he said, in a very Churchill-like voice, it is not the end of the work, but the beginning of the end – I’m sure I have heard that before. On closer inspection, after stripping away the paint some of the original riveted reinforcing strap pieces were found to be internally corroded, and these sections are being cut out, new sections fabricated and subsequently fitted.

Lots of progress, new decking fitted, more replacement of wasted metal, and one of two smoke deflectors fitted.

Chris Travers

July 7th, 2016

Diesel Department – July 2016 Update

Class 117 DMU

Class 117 trailer used in service

Moan Moan Grumble Grumble!

Railway restoration can be, if you allow it, a very frustrating business.

As an example, as part of our Railcar restoration project, the team has almost completed the DMS car but the work on the DMBS has not only stalled but has gone further backwards – what to say……..? Just when you think the team has bottomed out the corrosion issues, our professional body repair man found extensive rust that had, at some stage, been filled with body filler in many, many places.

bodywork corrosion Upon examination it is clear that large areas of body work are likely to need cutting out and new sections welded in.

That is not the end of our sad story, we are still having problems sourcing  new profiled top hat rib sections – these give the railcar walls their strength. In some places, the original (along with the top) connecting rails are so badly corroded that they have just crumbled away leaving… well, nothing!

As we can only cut out small sections of bodywork at one time to maintain the body profile, the job (as far as the DMBS) goes has effectively stopped.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We have been informed of a supplier who can roll bespoke rib sections, and other specialist parts, providing they have the measurements/ exact profile and drawings. Hopefully next week we can get on with measuring up.

Both engines were successfully started Tuesday, and this half of the unit moved under its own power some 400 yards. A number of problems were identified, namely reverse gear not engaging and the right-hand engine not giving third and forth throttle revs, and not shutting down. The fuel rack therefore may need adjustment. As it may have not moved under its own power for nearly five years, this is probably a good result.applying finishing touches to DMS

All battery and isolater connections labelled and drawings updated.

And the good news…

It not all bad news on the railcar front – the DMS car, resplendent in its new green livery and with refurbished interior, has been pressed in to service as hauled coaching stock as a short term replacement for a MK 1 coach currently undergoing heavy repairs; it’s proving very popular!

Odd Job Man

While our team’s ‘Railcar’ project is ‘stopped waiting parts’, you may ask what I have been up to. Well, I have been doing a number of very different jobs; apart from driving some of our engineer’s trains, I have been acting as the lovely assistant to our Battery Expert, working on the railcar wiring and, I may add, we managed to start one engine as a test load.

The railway has been tackling a number of P-Way jobs lately, including rail and sleeper replacement.

The railway has been tackling a number of P-Way jobs lately, including rail and sleeper replacement.

I have also been fabricating off-cut panels for the C&W team who are re-skinning a MK 1 coach end.

New platework on a mark 1 coach endThe C&W guys have a quite a production line going, and the skills levels increasing (I know my place). First, the wasted metal was cut out; I then measured up and cut the new panel to the exact shape. Next, my colleague fettled the panel to the exact profile by carefully bending, and later gently tapping with a ball pain hammer. Lastly, our very skilled engineer tack-welded the panel in place, pending full seam-welding.

I must say, as a team there is something very satisfying about starting with very rusted – or in some cases non-existent – metal skin and raw steel plate, and finishing at the end of the day with the profile of a Mk 1 coach, ready to be fully welded.

The C&W team had previously cut away and welded in new sections of the support structure, such as the collision pillars.

Class 31 438

Apart from a slight oil leak she has been her normal reliable self.

During the winter months, the railway ran a series of training days which were open to all staff. One of the training scenarios was ‘Fire on a Train’. During the last trip of the day during the Diesel gala, copious amount of smoke (but we assure you no flames) was spotted coming from under the bodywork above number one bogie. Although the loco had recently been steamed cleaned, investigation showed that a very small shelf – which formed part of the main framing – had not been completely cleaned and a spark off one of the brake blocks had lodged on a small area of oil-soaked brake block dust, causing impressive amounts of smoke.

The crew, who had all attended the winter ‘Fire on Train’ training course, dealt with the incident and were on the move with only ten minutes delay; no real damage was caused to loco, and the crew even received a round of applause from the passengers!

This minor incident proves the worth of quality training offered by the railway.

Class 37 029
In traffic but is still receiving ‘planned maintenance’.

Class 03 170
Also receiving planned maintenance on her axle boxes and side rods. She has also been steamed cleaned.

DEMU Thumper 205205

The Thumper recently failed when the main reverser (in its pannier module under the motor coach) returned to mid-position and would not respond to the controls.

water dripped onto the cables and caused an earth faultTest indicated that the two relevant control wires were ‘dead’ and in fact earthed. The trick then was to find the problem, which was very much easier said than done. The control cables run from end to end of the unit, and to all control areas, so it was a game of “hunt the earth”!

After much testing and head scratching, the fault was traced to a 32-way bolted jumper holder between coaches. A seal on an inspection cover had failed, allowing a small amount of water to drip on the back of connection block over a long period, which caused the earth fault. Our engineers completely replaced the connection block, which required a lot of rewiring.

engineer repairs the fault

The Thumper is now back in full working order.

Diesel Gala

Don’t forget  our next diesel gala with a Deltic locomotive! 55019 will be running at the September event.

Until Next time.

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration Group

June 24th, 2016

Peak Progress – The Story So Far



“Team 45” – the group working on the privately-owned Class 45 locomotive – have been making good and steady progress since their arrival at North Weald in September 2014. The following article was provided by Robert Bish to update followers as to what has been taking place:

At the back end of 2014, we decided we could bring so many tasks to be worked on, back to Portsmouth (aka Pompey); I offered the use of my garage to facilitate this and, together with two new members – David (who is retired), and his son Paul (who is in the metal fabrication and engineering business), all the heavy fabrication work required on the loco has gone ahead apace.

The support group – “Team 45” as we like to call ourselves, or – officially – “45-132 Support Group” –  consists of three members who can help us when on site at North Weald, and upwards of six in Pompey. Three to four of us work on Thursdays, and all of us get together on Saturdays. This has allowed us to get far more work completed to the high standards we have set ourselves, than if we worked only on site at North Weald.

I will start at the lower parts of the loco, namely the battery box trays. All four have been totally rebuilt to receive type 47 batteries – she had been using type 37, which were not up to the job. The four drop down tray covers have been fully stripped and refurbished (i.e., back to bare metal) and custom-built hasps to take security padlocks have been manufactured to fit these doors; all work completed in my garage.

All 14 floor plates were brought home and cleaned back to bare metal, replacement aluminium fabricated where required and all plates covered with new Lino; these are now fitted in the Loco.


All four cab seats have been refurbished and reupholstered; one set was installed earlier this year, whilst the others were kept stored with a number of other components. These are as follows: eight air filter boxes, sundry cab panels, one rocker cover, two generator cover components, 4 padlocks (together with the hasps), one cab handle assembly and two refurbished cab ceiling switch panel plates. Keith Hawkins, another gentleman who helps us, has a heavy engraver of the type that was in use in the 1960s. He will be able to make new identity labels for the Loco, including ones for the switch panels, so they should end up looking like new. 

Now on to the heavy items:

The air filter assembly, refurbished, is in storage at Fareham.

The exhaust silencer (this was the big headache) has had a brand new baffle box fabricated by Paul. He and his dad have fitted this to a heavily rebuilt silencer assembly, which has had a coat of silver paint to finish it off. It looks like  “The Cat’s Whiskers!”022 (1)

The roof panel that bolts to the silencer has had an extensive amount of work done to it and fits properly; it is now painted as well.

The roof frame (yes, this is also in the garage, with not much room to move!) has also been heavily refurbished, with rusty and suspect parts replaced. It now awaits a final coat of paint.

And now to the final heavy metal component:  The exhaust silencer pocket.

This is welded to the roof frame and the exhaust silencer sits between it and the roof; it has required some very careful measurements, but is now tack welded to the roof frame and ready for MIG seam welding. This should be ready within the next 2-3 weeks and, upon completion of this task, we will then have to transport the roof, roof frame and exhaust silencer over to Fareham, to test fit as one unit to the air filter assembly. If this is OK, then we will be in a position to return all these components to the Loco at North Weald.

We then have to order all 96! batteries (she is 220 Volt) and work on the triple pump (for oil, fuel and coolant), to allow the engine to have lubricant and coolant so we can bar the engine over. This will allow the final flange bolts attaching the generator to the gearbox to be tightened. We should have some idea then as to whether the engine is free to run. The Loco owner is looking into the possible use of Ultra Capacitors alongside the lead acid batteries. These seem to be able to aid starting the engine without draining the batteries that would normally be employed. It would also allow the Loco to shut down between operations, thereby saving fuel.

The exhausts are almost ready to be reconnected; we just need to obtain a couple of gaskets. One of our group who works on the Big Railway will be able to do most of the electrical testing, including the traction motors which are the last big question mark at present.

As for our future aims, IF all the “ifs” come together, we would hope to have 45-132 running on her second anniversary of arriving at the EOR, which is mid-September this year.

Robert Bish
“Team 45”


April 13th, 2016

Building Bridges – April 2016 Update

 The Bridge Gang start remedial work on the under side of the bridge. Have you got your bridge spotters eye in and noted how many new bolted sections there are in place?

The Bridge Gang start remedial work on the under side of the bridge. Have you got your bridge spotters eye in and noted how many new bolted sections there are in place?

From the platform, it is very hard to spot the detailed work being carried out on the bridge. The work mainly focuses on replacing like for like, with old wasted sections being cut away and replaced with newly fabricated parts.

When painted, it’s hard to spot the new work; if you look carefully, the clue is that the new parts are welded or bolted in place with dome head bolts, whereas the old work is normally retained in place with rivets. Once you get your bridge spotters eye in, you will be surprised how much work the bridge gang have achieved – it is slow, laborious work.

Wasted sections of the structure are cut away and new sections in the process of being fitted.

Wasted sections of the structure are cut away and new sections in the process of being fitted.

A major milestone has been reached with the fitting of the new steps and the associated reinforcing stringer sections to the bridge. Work has now started on corroded support sections under the bridge. New smoke deflectors will soon be made up and fitted. Have you ever wondered what was the purpose of bridge mounted smoke deflectors? I am informed that, apart from deflecting the smoke away from the public on the bridge, it also helped to keep the acidic smoke off the bridge structure, helping to reduce the corrosive effects of acid.

The bridge team have noted that one side of the bridge has more corrosion damage than the other, one possible theory for this is that it was caused by our steam engines working hard climbing the bank as they depart North Weald, whilst on the other side they are rolling downhill.

The bridge team hope that once their current work is completed, no further major structural work will be required for many years.

On behalf of the bridge gang.

Chris Travers