17/01/20 – Looking beyond the Vans

Feature image courtesy of Clive Hanley
Over the past 4 years we have been steadily increase our van train. We have a number of possible opportunities to reach our target of 20. Although the overall plan is a fixed rake of 17 with 3 spare to operate within the Mixed freight or to bolster the main rake during charters. The total is currently 15 so we are 5 short. Although this can be fuddled with the use of the Fish Van and Container carrying vehicles. The past 2 years have seen us refresh a number of other “mixed” vehicles but the latest focus has been the tanks.

The plans for a tank train first saw its inception with the Swithland wagon group who made a great effort with our first 2 contenders. Privately owned 6071, built by Charles Roberts in 1949 for Shell Mex & BP Ltd to transport fuel oil and later used by BR as a Departmental tank, as well as our very own 6581 another Shell Mex & BP Ltd tank although built by Fairfield Bridge & Engineering in 1948 and used for Lubricating Oil and again latterly used as a Departmental tank, both saw there first outing in 2018.

Next to see the light of day was 4513 another Shell Mex & BP Ltd tank used for Petroleum spirit built by Hurst Nelson in 1941, this came in to our care towards the end of 2019 and received a top half refresh last year, sparking our current desires to progress with a tank wagon train.

Our next vehicle has been the focus of a number of our recent updates but we shall take this opportunity to discuss in a little more depth its unique suspension, that is unique to the GCR, quit common on the national network.

So 1408 a China Clay Slurry tank built by Charles Roberts in 1965 had a fair amount of attention which included lifting the vehicle for suspension inspection.

If the damping in the suspension of a wagon were to be too low this could cause the vehicle to bounce uncontrollably leading to a derailment; likewise, if the damping level is too high then the suspension will not move freely enough to accommodate any undulations or twists in the track which again could also lead to a derailment, particularly at low speeds. 

When 1408 was new the Gloucester pedestal suspension design would have been tested to ensure the level of spring stiffness and damping present would be suitable to allow the wagon to accommodate undulations or track twists. The test called a torsional stiffness test (or Delta Q/Q) was carried out on a calibrated weighbridge, where the wagon is subjected to a defined twist whilst measuring each individual wheel load. The amount of load on each wheel must remain within 60% of the average wheel load to pass the test. 

The first graph below shows the test results from a torsional stiffness test where the wheel load remains within the limit when the wagon is twisted to 1 in 150. The thickness of the band of results for each wheel gives an indication of the level of friction damping in the suspension. 

Whereas this second graph shows that the wheel load on wheel 2 drops below the 60% offloading limit; in this case the combination of the stiffness in the suspension or the wagon underframe and the level of friction damping is too great therefore a change to the design would have been necessary. 

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Once a wagon has passed its test then a maintenance plan must be implemented in order to maintain its compliance. In the case of 1408, we must ensure that the friction dampers continue to operate as they did when the suspension type was initially tested, therefore we undertook checks of the condition of the friction surfaces on the axlebox and plunger, and ensuring the freedom of operation of the friction wedge and plunger. 

In order to do this we lifted the wagon using the vehicle lifting jacks at Rothley until all the weight was released from the suspension and the condition of the friction surfaces could be checked. Whilst the wagon was lifted we could also check the springs for any fractures. 

When lowering the wagon back onto its wheelsets the operation of each friction wedge and plunger was noted, the lift and lower process was repeated a few times to check there was no sticking of the components. 

After lowering the wagon back onto its wheelsets a check of the buffer heights was made to ensure it had lowered fully and evenly, then the wagon was shunted around the yard a few times to settle the suspension before the buffer heights were checked again and confirmed to be within tolerance. 

Our checks on 1408 confirmed all was in order and that the suspension is operating as it should, therefore ensuring wheel unloading is maintained within the limit levels. 
The diagrams and reference material are taken from Dave Bower’s book Rail Vehicle Testing 

As the second update of this year confirms our focus is now on 3436 a 22T B Type Esso tank built by Charles Roberts in 1958. This will be returning to its as built Esso condition and the templates are already ready. We are just waiting for the opportunity to return and complete it.

Following 3436 will be DB998926, this is a BR 14T departmental creosote tank built by Charles Roberts in 1959. This 3rd lockdown has already been a help, as my research has successfully identified its original region and depot allocation. This being the North Eastern regions West Hartlepool Sleeper Depot. This tank will receive its full departmental livery of Black with straw lettering including this original allocation.


That gives us a possible train made up of 6 tanks, but wait there is one more. Located at the Mountsorrel Heritage Centre is Tar Tank 339, a National Coal Board tank built by the Cambrian Wagon Works in 1940. With the permission of the centre I’m sure this vehicle could run with the 6 to create a train of 7 vehicles.

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Unfortunately that is as far as we can go but who knows what the future could bring. There is however, Covid not withstanding, the opportunity to see these tanks together. This has been organised by Timeline events and will be hauled by Standard Class 5 Locomotive 73156. Currently set to be Monday 19th April and Tuesday 20th April, the links will take you to further information, of course this may be subject to change.

Image courtesy of Clive Hanley
So hopefully that gives a little insight to our current focus and aims. Next week we have yet to decide but it will likely be the continuation of our vehicle profile series started during the first lockdown.

10/01/21 – Here we go again…..

So once again the country is plunged into a National Lockdown, Thursday we received word that the GCR would once again ban volunteers on site unless carrying out essential roles.

Starting on Monday, Nick and Michael on site with paint removed from the catwalk followed by blowing down and removal of dust

This was followed by application of metal primer to all of the bare metal areas.

Next day for Nick and Michael was Wednesday and the application of Dark Grey undercoat, all of the tank, filler cap, discharge valve, running boards, buffer beams, and sole bars all painted.

Thursday afternoon was when the message reached C&W that the restrictions of the first lock down would once again be required.

Nick & Michael on site for the final time this week, the task being the application of Gloss, to the grey blank canvas.

Unfortunately that is were we must end this update, once again a vehicle in Gloss ready for signwriting. We will of cause return to our weekly profiles and features and return when we can.

03/01/2021 – Tank you for the New Year wishes

A new year is upon us and we continue as we always have, keeping you up-to-date with our activities. As our end of year review confirms we have completed tank 51408, or as it is now known number 1408, this update wraps up the final days of 2020 the story of its completion and the first projects of 2021.

From our feature image at the top of this update it will now be clear we have gone for the steam era vacuum fitted livery of Shell-Mex and BP ltd, as stated in our previous update although not prototypical for our China Clay slurry tank it fits in with ours and the GCRs aims. So back to Monday and my favourite activity, signwriting. Templates assembled, chalked, marked out and applied. By the end of Monday East side lettering, yellow of the commuted charge symbols, fast traffic stars and the base for the BP shields were applied.

Nick progressed and completed the underframe preparation.

On to Tuesday with Nick, Ross, Jake, Michael and I joined by Brandon. The main task being the painting of the underframe.

Whilst this was being undertaken Ross focused on a replacement mounting block for the east side wagon label clip. This was fitted and then painted.

Once the underframe was complete out came the undercoat with brake lever ends, foot valve operating handles, water filler pipe, roller bearing covers, hoses, dummies and lamp irons painted.

Once this had dried top coats were added white to all but the roller bearing covers which went yellow. The filler pipe is also waiting a suitable shade of blue and Red was applied to the Air Brake Pipe

Nick then when round with the black gloss touching up missed areas.

For me, continuation of the signwriting, west side running number and details completed. Shell shield undercoated and first colour added to it and the BP shield. Numbers were also applied to the tank ends. Ross adding a base for the OLE warning flashes beside the ladders.

Wednesday and the signwriting marathon continues. Dave and I with mahl sticks and brushes in hand. Dave focusing on the sole bar details, Load, Tare, Wheelbase, foot valve plate, registration plate and owners plate.

For me, the final signwriting for the Shell and BP shields.

I also applied the OLE warning flashes and the builders plate.

Not just Dave and I on site, Nick and Michael continuing with the preparation of 3436. Completing the wash and scraping the underframe.

Nick and Michael also painted the end of the water fill pipe and discharge valve blue, fitted the vacuum hoses and painted the brake distributor isolating handle and test point red on 1408.

That, as stated above is 1408 complete.

On to Thursday (New Years Eve). 1408 being moved out of the shed allowing 3436 to enter.

Michael and Brandon then focusing on the contiuned preparation of the tank.

This once again revealed the Barrel number and test date.

Tank number 9293, tested to a pressure of 25 PSI on the 18/07/1958 again we believe 0/2150 160 to be an order number.

Ross and I focused on 977107. Beginning it’s preparation for the long awaited repaint.

Having removed the OLE warning flashes from 3436 Jake then took some time to clean them up ready for there refitment. One had see to much of the elements and it was my last task of 2020 to touch up the red on that one.

On to New Years day and preparation being the order of the day. 3436 for Michael

977107 for Nick an I

This included removal of lettering and OLE warning flashes not forgetting those under the modern yellow warning triangles.

Saturday and not really any more to say than preparation continues. Michael on the tank.

Nick, Ross, Dave, Jake and I on the coach.

At the end of the day the tank was complete and is now ready for paint.

The coach is also ready for primer to the bare metal areas in preparation for filler to be applied.

We also took a moment to retrieve a short section of Mk1 Coach Roof originally from CK M15208 components of which were used to build RVPs Diesel Brake Tender, the intention being that this will be used to replicate the Enamel Esso plates for 3436.

I have a plan and will work my usual metal work fabrication magic to see what we end up with, but as always there is a little maths

Sunday and the final day for this update after a quick wipe down the coach received primer to all of the bare metal areas, Nick, Ross, Dave and I on site.

Once the primer had dried the first fill was carried out.

This will see a few sands and refills but of cause this will be the focus of next week.

Finally I took an opportunity to mark out two areas to be cut from the roof section, which will create the Esso plates for the tank and a look at the coach with filler applied and awaiting the next step.

Unfortunately for me and a few others its back to work tomorrow but there will be some progress in the week which we shall let you know next week. To complete this update a view of our completed vehicles at Rothley.

01/01/21 – End of year review

So 2020 has come to an end, a happy new year to you all, of cause our usual Sunday update will be following but as is now our tradition, time for the statistics of the last 12 months.

Loads of welding and new steel
Loads of conduit & wire
500+ rivets
14 full repaints
9 Colico boxes
7 van sides
5 vacuum cylinders
4 new doors
4 conflat chains
Tier 4 restrictions
3 refloors
3 doors reinstated
3 HRA awards
Tier 3 restrictions
3 youtube videos
3 buffers
3 trailers
3 WH Smith signs
2 headboards
2 partial repaints
2 national lock downs
2 containers
2 ropes
2 roof repaints
1 dolly
1 Mountsorrel tank
1 Global Pandemic
1 roof retightening
1 loading shovel service
1 new arrival
1 shed
1 reroof
1 container corner bumper
1 temporarily restored goods shed
1 Cl.27 engine door
1 70s Ford Transit
1 60s Morris Commercial Van
1 Small Dumper
1 Hugely successful “time travelling” photo charter
Walking Britain’s Lost Railways
-1 WWI tank

So what have we completed?
Despite the global pandemic we have had a really good year with 17 vehicles / containers / trailers completed. Below are the items from the past 12 months, number 17 however will be the focus of the first update for 2021 so I’m afraid for now we are keeping the reveal of that one under wraps until the weekend.

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27/12/20 – Bumper Christmas Tank Wagon push.

First of all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, as it is that time of year, what better way to spend it than working on wagons!
51408 being our Christmas focus.

With B439708 now complete it was moved out of the shed on Monday.

With Nick, Ross and I, joined by Michael Sutton and Brandon Morley we continued the previous Sundays marathon scraping session.

Nick uncovered the tanks specific details. Tank number 10872 tested to a hydraulic pressure of 50lbs per square inch, tested on 09/07/1965. The remaining details ON 2552 NO1 we believe to be an order/lot number.

Monday ends with the east side striped, 3/4 of the North end and roughly 3/4 of the west side.

Tuesday and the scraping continues, Nick, Ross, Jake and I completing the West Side, North end and the south end almost complete. The top including the tank filler and breather was also attended to.

Wednesday, with Nick, Michael and I on site, and the final day of scraping, sanding and cleaning. With that complete we are ready for paint.

Thursday, or as some have come to call it Christmas Eve, again Nick, Michael and I on site applying the Etched Primer to the tank and tank mounts.

A brief respite for Christmas day and then back to the grind Saturday, sorry that’s Boxing day. The application of dark grey undercoat being the task of the day. Nick, Jake and I in attendance.

I also sign wrote a pair of OLE warning flashes for the Iron Ore hopper.

Sunday, a Full house with Nick, Ross, Jake, Dave and I in attendance joined by Michael. The aim being the application of the top coat. Gloss black being the colour of choice, we are going for a steam era livery although not prototypical for our specific vehicle it is more in keeping with our aims and that of the GCR.

The previously sign written OLE warning flashes were also fitted to the Hopper and the bolts painted white.

Finally for this bumper edition. Our next project receives a wash before it enters the shed after 51408 has left of cause.

So that completes 6 days of wagon fun and as always we shall let you know what we have been up to next week.

13/12/20 – Tank might fly

First we begin with a little admin.
Once again our thanks go out to our freinds at Timeline events who, along with Claire from Blue Flame Glass, have chosen to support our group as well as the Buccaneer Aviation Group.

Please help support us, Claire and the Buccaneers.
Blue Flame Glass Studio TimeLine Events Camera Bag Tag

£5 from your purchase will go towards us and the Buccaneers whilst the rest will help Claire to increase the size of her premises and begin glass making workshops.

Secondly a reminder that Madge, Jake and I, along with a number of others from the GCR will be joining Rob Bell on his show Walking Britain’s Lost Railways.
This will be aired on Friday 18th December 8pm, Channel 5.

On to the update, in the week, Dick has been working on the Hopper, painting the Sole bar


Saturday and for me a full day of Sign Writing . Ably assisted by Dave and Eireni. Templates were chalked, applied, drawn and removed.

Running number, Gross weight, Tare, Wheel base and to top it off full instructions on how to open and close the hopper door applied. At the end of the day all that remained was the East Side door closing instructions and a wagon plate.

On to the Tank and the end shields, welded in position as part of its brake testing test bed days, were removed, returning the vehicle to its more traditional look.

The tank was then lifted to fully inspect the Gloucester Pedestal Suspension and ensure free and correct operation.

Opportunity was also taken to inspect the underframe and look at the brake rigging.

When the wagon returned to terra firma, suspension compression and buffer heights were measured as a base line, the wagon will be taken for a rattle down the siding during the week and the measurements then rechecked.

The inevitable scraping down of the vehicle then began, with Eddie taking the lead.

Back to the hopper and the door handwheels, down and up lock operating handles and vacuum swan necks were painted white.

On to Sunday and all hands to the Hopper. Dave and I completed the signwriting. The end of the essay and door operating wheel for me.

For Dave the final wagon plate and tidying up his efforts from Saturday, an excellent start for someone who has never signwriten before.

Nick and Jake concentrated there efforts on the underframe. Nick scraping with Jake following and applying the bitumen.

Dave and I also moved on to the underframe. First with the scraping followed by Dave assisting Jake paint the underframe.

I followed with the white undercoat applying to hand brake and axle box ends.

Dave’s last task was to clean and polish the fescalised portion of the Oleos

This moves the Hopper tantalising close to completion. B439708 has never ran on the GCR, since preservation in 2005, having played second fiddle to alot of other projects it’s time is finally upon us.

That completes our update for this week, and as always, more next week.

06/12/20 – Hopper a little further and another Tank

Our secondment to Rothley continues, first our thanks to the guys at Rothley C&W and the Operations department, A4513 and B954546 were moved out of the shed, with the tank continuing on to Swithland and replaced with another wagon, more on that shortly but first a pair of images of our completed vehicles with thanks to Jamie Swanson.

So on to the one brought up from Swithland, apart from the 3 Rudds, our youngest wagon in the fleet, although this does mean a build date of 1965. The former china clay slurry tank number STL 51408

Before it enters the workshop, the usual green detritus was washed off.

Work on B439708 continues with the South East corner support and ladder removed, straightened and rewelded into position. The lower portion was also replaced, manufactured from two suitable L angle pieces.

Undercoat was applied to the upper surfaces red to the hopper body and deck.

White undercoat to the door hand wheel and operating handles.

The galvanised through pipe was also primed and undercoated.

On to Sunday and with brushes in hand we applied the Gloss coat to the hopper.

With a morning of painting complete we again turned to the tank. With two unserviceable buffers, South East and North West, bolts were removed with hot spanner assistance.

Once removed the area of the headstock was scraped and metal primer applied.

This allowed the replacement buffers to be fitted.

Vacuum pipes were removed and new pipes prepared.

New Vacuum dummies were also fitted to replace those missing.

It was also good to see trains return to the railway. Santa Specials and Winter Wonder Lights.

My favourite activity next weekend as the signwriting brushes are due to come out and as always we shall let you all know what we achieve.

22/11/20 – Happy 18th Jake

We begin with a statement, to clarity our access to the tops of vehicles such as roofs and tanks are via prebuilt staging or scaffolding , this is positioned both sides of a vehicle therefore reducing the distance if someone were to fall, this is compliant with the Working at Height Regulations 2005 and specifically relates to Article 6 Para 5. In addition we allocate a spotter to watch personnel to ensure they do not place themselves in a position of danger. Our images do not readily show these scaffolds and platforms in place as our focus is on the vehicle its self, and usually once the work has been carried out. We are more than happy to discuss our High Level Access Arrangements and share our Risk Assessments with anyone willing to openly discuss this with us.

So, once again we begin in the week, Thursday this time as I popped in to sign write B852838, lettering was applied to both sides were required.

Once complete, I woke Madge up and added a H to my trailer thanks to information provided by Peter Smeaton.

I also took the opportunity to line the trailers up for posterity.

On to Saturday and the main task being the removal of Jack’s tank from the tankflat. This is leaving to join our good friends at Up’ an’ at ’em History. This will become part of there bespoke World War I history sessions and events.

Ross and Eireni focused on Danny. Refitting the newly refirbished steering box and reassembling the vehicle. This was to allow a test of the fully rebuilt vehicle. The first movement by it’s self for over a year.

I continued on my trailer adding a number plate light. Whilst Dave and Jake rebutuimened the deck.

Most importantly however we celebrated Jake’s 18th Birthday with a specially baked cake. Happy Birthday Jake.

Back to Rothley Sunday. I continued on A4513 applying the Shell / BP lettering as well as the south end running number.

I also tidied up the sole bar plates and applied the Vacuum release stars to B954546.

Jake tidied up and repainted the springs and axle boxes of A4513

Nick and Eddie began to prepare B439708. Begining the process of removing loose paint, rust and other detritus.

That concludes this week’s update. More as always next week.

08/11/20 – We Continue

As stated by Boris, voluntary work should continue due to both the mental well being it brings to volunteers and the crucial part they play in the survival of the organisations they volunteer for. The GCR agreed with this statement and our work continues. However just in case this was not to be Dave and I made our way to Quorn on Wednesday to add a top coat to my trailer.

With the news volunteer work could continue we began by adding gloss to the plywood for B852838.

A little later than planned but with the pressure now off we could relax knowing it wouldn’t be 4 weeks until we were back on site. We began on my trailer. It was moved into the sun to warm up and dry off.

Moved back we started the topcoating. Crimson for me and Black for Dave

On to Saturday with the main task being the replacement of some of B852838s van sides, Jake demonstrating why it has become necessary.

Nick, Ross, Jake and Dave focused on this task. Bolts and panels removed from the west side. The backs of the frames were cleaned up, rotten wood hovered up and red oxide applied.

New sides were measured and trimmed to length, these had be left slightly long to allow for any possible variation

The sides were then drilled and fitted.

I tasked Eireni with two items of signwriting, the replacement common user plate for B850498 and the maximum speed side for my trailer.

I of course continued with the painting of my trailer,

I also fitted some lighting units, which will need wiring up, as well as the number plate holder and Eireni’s signwritten 20 sign.

On to Sunday and to the East side for B852838 only one section to be replaced with Nick, Ross and Jake focussing on this. Old side out, new trimmed, red oxide to the rear of the frame, drilled and bolted up. It is of cause easier and quicker to type about what was done than to actually do it. Jake cut and primed a new chalk board and this was also fitted.

Eireni and I continued with my trailer. I applied the lettering whilst they painted the coupler.

This last push resulted in a completed trailer including 2 triangular reflectors fitted to the mud guards. Just the wiring to do at some point.

Sign writing continued on to the other two trailers, with CT 11246 E and T 86256 E receiving new fleet numbers, research has discovered Loughborough Midland Station had a trailer with the fleet number D26, those around the London terminuses began with the letter A so we have decided to place our other trailers in the D2 series numbered in the order of purchase.

Final task was to fit the replacement non common user plate to B850498

Eddie was also on site Saturday and Sunday continuing the scraping and preparation of the site dumper known as Danny
That concludes this update, and as always more next week.

01/11/20 Once more unto the breach.

Once again we face lockdown and await guidance from the GCR as to whether our activities may continue, until then……… Saturday and a split for the gang. Dave and I remained at Quorn, whilst Nick, Ross, Jake and Eireni went to Rothley.

At Quorn Dave applied undercoat to the plywood cut for the Shocvan last week.

Whilst I manufactured, primed and undercoated a 20mph speed restriction sign for my new trailer, a replacement non common user sign for the WR pattern Shocvan and a plate for the Test Cars slip lamp.