April 6th, 2016

Diesel Department – April 2016 Update

Photo: Michael Drew

Photo: Michael Drew

Half Term Working

You would have thought the chances of many people turning up at the railway on a damp cold, overcast Wednesday in the middle of half term holiday as pretty remote however…

I signed on at North Weald and was meet by our business development manager, who informed me that, due to the high volume of advanced internet bookings, the train had been made up to six cars, top and tailed by Jennifer (the little steam engine) and the class 31 (also supplying train heat as well as traction power.) The fuel transfer pump on the Thumper was still playing up, which meant we were running a special one-train Ongar/Epping Forest timetable.

The service had been advertised as ‘Kids for a Quid’ (bring your own picnic.) The train soon became packed with families all setting up their ‘picnic camps’ in seating bays. When we left Ongar at around, twelve almost every seat on the six car train was taken. When we arrived at North Weald bound for Epping Forest, there were even more people waiting; the train left with standing room only, the passenger count tallying 450 passengers on board.

Such was the passenger demand that the two heritage buses abandoned the advertised service and were running a continuous shuttle between Epping and North Weald. It was nice to see so many families enjoying a day at the railway, in a warm comfy environment. (Thanks to the class 31 train heat.)

Good Friday was another very successful day, running both a six car train and the Thumper. Both trains experiencing high passenger numbers and at times, again, standing room only.

Development of North Weald Maintenance Shed

Cleared engine shed

The underfoot working conditions in the shed (being rough ballast) could never have be described as the best, being difficult to perform good quality maintenance work on. Also not so good was working on equipment on the ground. A decision was made to make a start on the developing of the shed, turning it in to a quality maintenance facility for coaches, Steam and Diesel Locos. The first job was to concrete the floor…

The shed was been completely cleared (which was a monster job in its own right), the track was checked and spot repaired as required, and the ground/track areas were levelled off using about thirty tons of hard-core that was compressed down. As you can imagine, there were many hours of detailed preparation work required, and things such as the wash basins and some electrical equipment had to be re-sited to allow for the change in floor levels.


At this stage it is intended to concrete the shed floor with the exception of the front half of Number One road. In this area, a new ‘clean’ maintenance pit will be constructed. Once the pit is finished the new concrete floor will be completed. In due course permeant access platforms on number one road, and a mezzanine storage floor at the Ongar end of the shed will be constructed. A new lighting system will be installed and other electrical work will be carried out.

The development of the shed is a huge investment in both time and money, but should provide a quality maintenance depot once completed.

Thumper 205205

After a number years of constant use, during which the unit has proven to be a reliable performer, and as you would expect she is due for some heavy maintenance work. The motor coach has had to be fitted with two new springs and a spring hanger. Quite a big job, as was sourcing the parts, but the task is now completed. One of the springer hangers had siezed and, despite valiant efforts to free it, in the end a new hanger was sourced and the old one cut off.

Both the main and auxiliary generators have been inspected and the commutators cleaned. There was an ongoing issue with the fuel transfer pump, whereby the top seal (which holds the drive shaft upright) had worn beyond limits. The problem is sourcing the small seal. It is not possible to go in to a ‘main dealer’ and ask for a part for a 1957 pump – a new seal has had to be made from scratch. One was made locally and only lasted four hours in service before allowing air into the system, causing the diesel engine to shut down at Ongar whilst working a school’s special service.

The class 31 went to the rescue; the kids thought it was part of the ‘school trip plan’ and all came out onto the platform to see the unit coupled to the Loco. We have traced a source of the original type of seal, which has now been fitted and the unit is back in full service. There are still a few non-urgent outstanding jobs; the fuel injectors are due for overhaul, one of the cylinder heads has to be changed (due to a worn rocker arm) and the engine room exterior bodywork on the signal box side is now showing signs of rust, and will need replanting and respraying in due course.

Class 117 DMU Railcar

DMS: Due to the development of the main shed at North Weald, work on the DMS has slowed. The roof has been completed and almost all the body preparation work is completed, ready for first primer coat of paint. Hopefully by the time you have read this all the masking work will be completed and the coat will be completed.

Rubbed down DMS Cab

The cab ready for the first coat of primer. (Note the must have tea mug on the lamp bracket!)

What appeared on the face of it to be a fairly straightforward job – the refitting of the last three yard section of gutter and getting a short two foot section of gutter fabricated – turned out to be anything but straight forward. I was working with Derek (one of our highly skilled engineers) who had replaced the other sections of gutter on this coach, but this section threw up problem after problem. We spent days lying on our sides drilling new offset holes for the pop rivet fittings every two inches. I won’t bore you with all the issue but it stretched Derek’s ingenuity to the limit. We even had to fabricate some special ‘angled clamping tools’ to hold the gutter on to the bodywork.

Derek - with the aid of a right angled drill - refits the guttering.

Derek – with the aid of a right angled drill – refits the guttering.

The shame of these types of jobs, when completed in a neat and tidy manner you would never guess the amount of skilled work it had taken to get to the finished stage.

DMBS: Where to start…

The team have been working on this car in the platform; maybe it would be best if I explained the route of the problem and go back to basics:

The railcar roofs appear to have been fabricated as a separate structure, then bolted and welded to the top rail of the body work during their construction. The main issue is that the galvanised roof panels do not overlap the body work, but stop short, leaving a slight gap. This gap is sealed by the aluminium gutter sections which are mounted on sealant and pop riveted in place.

On the DMBS there has been a similar issue to the DMS; a large hole formed in the roof panels at some stage which had been repaired, or – as we call it – bodged up! A new panel placed on top of the existing roof and overlapped on to the bodywork. The position of the new panel meant that the large gutter section could not be refitted using pop rivets, but was bonded on, leaving gaps which were filled with sealant. The rain, however, quickly found its way behind the gutter over a three yard section (Yards – showing my age again), leaking in between the exterior and interior walls.

Over the years, the exterior, interior and internal walls (oh, and not forgetting the floor) have all rotted. The team have been stripping back the internal walls both in the guards compartment and a section of the passenger coach; the guard’s compartment wall is also rotten and has had to be removed. We are now sourcing the new body structure parts; our engineers are confident they can fabricate the required body and roof panels.

The interior of the DMBS (or what’s left of it!) after the removal of internal walls and cladding to allow access to the rusted areas of external body work.

The interior of the DMBS (or what’s left of it!) after the removal of internal walls and cladding to allow access to the rusted areas of external body work.

The plan is, once we have finally removed all the rotten internal structure to allow access to the external body structure, one section of the rotten support structure will be cut out at a time, a new piece welded in, and only then cut the next section out – this will ensure the integrity of the body work.

We have found problems with the stitching of the material that makes up the vestibule connections. Guess what – it’s gone rotten!

Class 31

Class 31 to the rescue!

Class 31 to the rescue!

She has been the main stay of our service of late, with the 37 stopped for injector change. Apart from an oil leak on the top of the diesel engine, she has been her usual reliable self. It is just coming up for the twentieth anniversary of withdrawal from main line working, so we gave her a bit of a clean the other day.

Class 37

There has been a lot of pre-planed maintenance work taking place on this loco, including overhauled injectors, and also some work on the air system. During maintenance of the main generator, certain insulators were found to be defective and will need changing. New parts are on order.


Class 47

Stopped and sheeted up pending remedial work on the roof. One of the tarpaulins self-destructed in the recent gale.

Class 03s

03 170 has had its new alternator system modified with a smaller drive pulley. This means even on tick over the battery receives a full charge if required. Both Locos are generally restricted to yard duty’s and can normally be found around North Weald.

Class 25


Work continues off-site at Shackerstone, with new bodywork welded in place on the sides, and work now taking place around the bottom of the cabs.

Diesel Gala

Should be an interesting Diesel Gala, with one of the early builds of 08 shunt locos and a class 20 locomotive set to appear. How often do you get to ride behind a vacuum braked 08 Loco? Pre-booked for the Autumn gala is a Deltic – unbelievable!

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration group

March 20th, 2016

Locomotive Department – March 2016 Update

North Weald Depot

Behind the scenes, a lot has been taking place on our motive power fleet, keeping the operational locomotives in service, and working on those out-of-traffic to get them running again.

Steam Locomotives

BR (W) Hall No.4953 “Pitchford Hall”

The overhaul of the front half of the loco continues at the Great Central Railway workshops. Following removal of the backhead, removal of the stays around the firebox has begun. The tyres have been turned on the driving wheels, and a new crank axle obtained following the discovery of fracturing on the old one; this particular piece of work was carried out at the South Devon Railway.

Wheels refitted to new crank axle

Meanwhile, at North Weald MPD, the tender brake rigging has been test-fitted to ensure that all components are present and fit correctly following some various attention. The tender itself will be departing to join the front half of 4953 at some point. There have been discussions of using the tender as an extra water tank during the June steam gala, providing it is fit to do so.

BR (W) Large Prairie No.4141

Due to the extensive nature of repairs required, the loco will be sent for professional repairs off-site. No decision has yet been made as to whom the contract for this will be awarded.

Hawthorne Leslie No.3437 “Isabel”

Led by Tony, the Saturday team has been making steady progress. In the yard, the boiler tubes have been fitted and expanded; Tony is nearing completion with the beading at the firebox end, and will then finish at the smokebox end.

The axlebox shimming bolts have had Locktight applied by the volunteers, and the frames lowered onto the wheels. The eccentric motion, rods and brake rigging were all cleaned, painted and fitting, before the rolling chassis was shunted out of the shed a short way to ensure all was well; a positive find was the absence of a knocking, which had been a persistent source of concern when she was withdrawn.

A start was made on the next layer of paint on the cab, tank and boiler cladding – EWS Maroon for those interested, which will be her livery once again.

Hudswell Clarke & Co. No.1731 (Samuel Fox & Co. No.20) “Jennifer”

The on-hire loco has made a valiant effort, despite being an ‘oscillating’ rider that is a common trait with industrial locos. She proved popular over Christmas, but unfortunately, on 23 December 2015, broke a spring, which led to her withdrawal from the last of the year’s services. The spring was removed and sent away for repair, being returned and refitted in time for the February 2016 Half Term services, after which she received a quick washout.

Diesel Locomotives

BR Class 25 – 25173

The overhaul continues at Shackerstone; the latest report indicates that all the rough areas of bodywork have been cut away and prepared for the new sections to be installed; one side has almost been completed, and the loco should be returning in the not-too-distant future.

BR Class 31 – 31438

Operational, though in need of tyre turning.

BR Class 37 – 37029

Operational, and currently the main engineering loco.

Class 47 – 47635 “Jimmy Milne”

Now withdrawn from traffic for attention to the bodywork, roof and pressure-reducing valves. This will likely be the next major job once the Class 117 DMU and North Weald Shed concreting has been completed.

Class 45 – 45132

The owners and support group are making steady progress with the major work being carried out, both on and off site. A full article will follow detailing the work to date.

Class 03

Operational, and generally restricted to yard use. The rods require some attention, similar to that given to 03170’s rods last year. The bodywork is also in line to be seen to.


Operational, though limited to yard use. The vacuum braking is being looked at, as a few issues have arisen with this particular braking system. Some other small outstanding jobs to the running gear and engine also being carried out.

Class 117 DMU


Restoration continues, with all the seating having been reupholstered. The roof of the DMS (Driving Motor Standard) has been completed, and bodywork rubbed down and prepared for the application of undercoat. The DMBS (Driving Motor Brake Standard) has been sheeted over until it can move into the Shed, which will be once the DMS is completed. In the meantime, the Carriage and Wagon team are working on the corrosion around the guard’s compartment, and trying to find the source of the water ingress.

Class 205 DEMU – 205205

Temporarily out of traffic; as previously reported, the unit ran out of fuel mid-run, due to a faulty fuel gauge. The fuel lines and engine have been cleared of ‘sludge’, though the unit is having trouble holding power. In the meantime, the springs have been removed, refurbished and refitted; once the power issues have been resolved, the unit will be released back to traffic.

Ruston & Hornsby – D2957

Operational, though unused due to its very limited capabilities.

Report compiled by Owen Hayward
Updates provided by Tony Goulding (Steam) and Chris Travers (Diesel)

February 29th, 2016

Down The Line – Permanent Way February 2016

P-Way Team at work

Photo: Robert Good

One team that doesn’t often receive the praise it should is the P-way team, in charge of track maintenance and safety. From oiling fishplates to relaying rails, this team does almost everything when it comes to the running rails of our line.

P-Way Train

Photo: Steve Cooper

During our winter closedown, the line was inspected throughout, and it was noted that the stretch between Coopersale and the Epping Boundary needed some TLC – several trees had come down close to the line for a start.

Flatbed loaded with fallen trees

Photo: Robert Good

The last two Saturdays have seen our P-way teams hard at work, collecting up the remaining Conductor Rail chairs from this stretch of line, removing those still attached to the sleepers. They have also cleared fallen trees and other obstructions to allow the safe running of trains.

The team would welcome new members who are willing to lend a hand, which will reduce the time taken to re-open this short but important stretch of line through the woodland.

P-Way Express

Photo: Robert Good

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