The Friends of the
National Railway Museum

South of England Group
Vice Presidents: Richard Hardy; Sir William McAlpine Bt, FRSE, FCIT, FRSA

Last Update

Talk Synopsis

7 January 2006

The Work of the NRM Engineering Department
Jim Rees, NRM Rail Vehicle Collections Manager
10 October 2005

Jim Rees gave a "free-form" talk to eighteen members of the Group on 10th October about the engineering department's activities. This is by no means a large department - including Jim, there are eight people. These include Ray Towel who is well known to the Group from out support outings; he is currently fully engaged keeping City of Truro running. There is a professional joiner, who also undertakes the shunting movements around the site; a trainee (who is already a past fireman); Rod Litton, who has now taken the position of CME; and Dave Burrows, who is workshop manager. We were surprised to hear that Dave has been with the Museum for 30 years, and he is due to retire in Spring - we wish him well. Despite the shortage of skills in UK, the department has a good spread of disciplines and the only skill not in house is boiler maintenance and repair.

Although the Museum has had some very successful events over the last two years, such as Railfest and the acquisition of Flying Scotsman, it is regrettable that these have eclipsed the work on City of Truro and the Super D. This stimulated a discussion on the merits of the press in supporting the return of engines to steam. Although bringing in considerable funding, they do stretch human resources. Ideally Jim looks for there only to be two mainline engines in operation at a time, providing backup but allowing driver familiarisation and optimising support.
City of Truro has worked very hard since its restoration, mainly on preserved lines. Unfortunately mainline use has been minimal due to its lower power rating limiting the size of trains and thus earning potential for the train organisers.

A lot of effort has also gone into preparing stock for Shildon. Jim believes that not all of the stock should be restored to operational condition. In some cases, particularly for unique items, it is better to conserve them in their current condition.

Surprisingly, the next engine acquired after Flying Scotsman was an ex-NCB Austerity. Why such a mundane workhorse when so many others exist on preserved lines? The reason is that it is in original working condition. The NRM has also just taken ownership of the ex-Zambian 4-8-0 narrow-gauge engine, which David Shepherd rescued from Southern Africa. The debate will continue on whether to conserve or restore it to working condition.

Jim then presented a selection, centred on two engines, from the 4000 pictures stored on his laptop.

A3 Flying Scotsman

The workshop maintenance has shown that a surprisingly lot of original material still exists on the engine, but it has clearly had a hard life. Jim remembered his most disappointing journey taking the engine to York from Doncaster for Railfest. This was behind a Class 37, because of holes in the firetubes and worn white-metal bearings. It has gone through three boilers, and is currently operating with an A4 boiler. This is the real "Achilles heel" of the locomotive. When the washout door was opened it was found to be plugged solid with scale. As the northern water cleaned out the boiler, more problems emerged, as leaks emerged all over. Some of the boiler plugs had even been fitted with domestic gas plugs - and expected to bear 250 psi! Alan Pegler had the wisdom not only to buy a spare boiler, but a spare set of cylinders. However these are not now in good condition. The right hand cylinder on the engine was split from end to end, and had been poorly repaired by a weld. It has now been professionally stitched welded. A replacement A3 whistle has been sourced to replace the South African whistle. This will be fitted at a suitable time.
The engine has been used much more extensive at the NRM than before - 3 days a week rather than occasional use. The result was that on the 3rd day - the Thursday - bits tended to drop off. Amazingly one trip was completed 3 mins early with a superheater element out of its header. This shows how effective the Kylchap ejector is. The trip to Shildon hauling the PM, was abandoned the previous day when the crown stays were found to be not threaded. This decision was taken on the basis it was better not to risk doing Bin Laden's job!

The Gresley "clang" is present and due to some lack of alignment somewhere in the chassis or wheels, but this can only be fixed during the next major overhaul.

V2 Green Arrow

Boiler life has been extended to 10 years, but it is beginning to suffer, but not as much as Flying Scotsman. Most of our attention was on the results of the accident when the middle connecting rod came loose. It went very quickly which is puzzling, but it meant there was only a little damage to the crank pin. Tests are being run but it looks as though it is not too bad. The conrod finished up lying across the frame stretchers. The piston was at the front of the travel and blocking the ports. This meant there were no steam leaks, so they just gather up the bits and ran back to York, arriving only 15 mins late! Bits were handed back by the public, including some which didn't belong to the engine, but some still are missing. The monoblock casting has a crack but otherwise doesn't seem too badly damaged. Serendipitously the NRM had a spare centre conrod, but there will be a lot of studs to replace.

Ian Harrison proposed the vote of thanks to Jim for his enlightening talk.

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