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
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
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.