News and Updates

21/02/20 – Stop that wagon!

This week we’re taking a look at the work our Test Car 2 was built for, namely the slip/brake testing of freight wagons. 

For 50 years from the late 1960s the acceptance of new or modified wagons onto British Rail included dynamic brake testing predominantly carried out using the slip/brake method. This test measures the brake stopping distance performance of the wagon independently, i.e. not coupled with other vehicles in a train. 

In order to conduct slip/brake testing a special coupling arrangement was used on Test Car 2, the design of which originated from use on North Eastern Railway J21 and J25 type steam locomotives providing banking assistance on the Darlington to Kirkby Stephen line over Stainmore Summit in the 1940s and 50s. 

FIG 14 - Test Car 2 - RTC 12 July 1987 - 383

In addition to the slip coupling, the brake system on Test Car 2 was modified such that a test engineer could independently operate the brakes of the wagon under test without affecting the brakes of the test coach or locomotive which remained under the control of the driver. 

A typical slip/brake test train would consist of a locomotive, Test Car 2 and the wagon under test. Class47 locomotives were preferred for the slip/brake testing, not just because they had adequate power to accelerate quickly; also, the responsiveness of the engine control system of the Sulzer locos (compared to the English Electric locos) made it easier for the driver to control the speed more accurately with the short and often light trailing load of a test train. 

The slip/brake tests were normally carried out on the Down Slow line of the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and Winsford. To ensure safe operation a ‘T3’ possession of the Down Slow line was applied by the Crewe Coal Yard signalman, making sure it was blocked to all traffic and protected by stop boards and detonators at each end of the possession section.  

This section of line was particularly suited to the slip/brake testing because the test section was level, and the four-track formation allowed normal traffic to continue on the other three lines whilst testing was in progress. 

It was not permitted to carry out slip/brake testing during hours of darkness, thick fog or falling snow and at least 1mile clear visibility was needed before testing could commence; this was because the test engineer had to be able to clearly keep the test vehicle in sight at all times when the vehicle was detached from the test car. 

A slip/brake acceptance tests of a wagon would normally be carried out over two days, one for each load condition, so one day for empty and one day for loaded wagon. 

Each day would start with test engineers joining the test train at the Derby RTC, a loco would arrive from Derby 4-shed and would transit to Crewe. The train would pause in the station to pick up a Traction Inspector, (and some sandwiches) then continue onto the Down Slow line at Crewe Coal Yard. The T3 possession was then set-up to protect the line, the train brake systems were configured for test and static test checks for correct operation were carried out. These static checks included measurement of brake cylinder application timings and pressures on the wagon under test, and a continuity brake test on the locomotive and test car brakes. 

Heavy duty instrument cables were attached from the test car, along the outside of the locomotive and into the leading cab (normally through the drivers’ cab-side window) and connected to twin intercom speaker/microphone outstations. The locomotive was always manned by a driver and a traction inspector for slip/brake testing; this allowed the test engineer to communicate using the intercom directly with the traction inspector in the cab so as not to distract the driver from his duties. 

Once the intercom was tested and the static brake tests completed to the satisfaction of the test engineer, the slip coupling was fitted between the test car and the wagon, and testing could commence. 

A slip/brake test is described in stages as shown in the diagrams below. 

The test engineer calculated the wagon brake stopping distance for each slip/brake test run, taking the total distance from the point at which the brakes were applied on the wagon until the locomotive and test coach had stopped, then subtracting the distance the locomotive and test coach had to reverse back to collect the wagon. The results were plotted on a speed/distance graph. 

The stopping distance limit in 1987 for a wagon running at 75 mile/h was 951metres, the graph below shows test results just failing to meet this, therefore this wagon would have been subject to modification to the brake system before a retest. 

A deceleration meter fitted on the headstock of the wagon containing a calibrated accelerometer and a low pass filtered output onto a strip paper chart provided an accurate measure and characteristic of deceleration rate of the wagon throughout each slip/brake test. 

Tests were always carried out at varying speeds from 30 mile/h up to the maximum operating speed of the vehicle under test. On average 15 slip/brake test runs could be completed during a day’s testing, however the achievable number of tests varied depending on how slick the team on board was working, the type of locomotive, the performance of the wagon under test, and more often than not, the weather. 

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After testing was completed the slip coupling was removed and a standard screw coupling re-attached, the brake system was configured back in the normal manner and the statutory brake continuity test completed before the train was hauled out of the test site. The train would then proceed up to Winsford for a loco run-round before returning via Crewe to the RTC at Derby. 

In addition to wagons, on-track plant and coaching stock were occasionally slip/brake tested, for example this Cowans Sheldon 75t breakdown crane needed testing after it was modified by fitting air brakes in 1987.  

Due to the fall in wagons requiring testing and UK network access constraints, slip/brake testing on the UK network finished by 2010. Computer modelling and dynamometers offer alternatives to testing now days although this type of testing does continue in mainland Europe and has also been done on private lines. An example were the tests done some years ago at the GCR, albeit without the need for a test coach since the computer took over. The link shows a Youtube video of a GCR slip/brake test run using D123 in July 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3UfKOhYSMk 

Once the GCR is up and running again, keep a look out for events at Quorn when we hope to have Test Car 2 open to visitors again with displays and more information about its history and slip/brake testing.  

For those with an appetite for more detail, the full story of Test Car 2’s work during the 1980s and 90s, along with accounts of why and how wagons were tested for acceptance onto British Rail, can be found in Dave Bower’s Rail Vehicle Testing book. ISBN 9781999935603 https://www.bowerbooks.co.uk/ 

Lastly, we await news from the GCR following the government announcement tomorrow whether we can re-commence working on the fleet again, continuing we’d left off on the Yellow Coach and 2 tank wagons. Either way We’ll be back with another feature, or hopefully an update. See you then.

14/02/21 – Support Vehicles

This week’s feature again starts with a small update: Matt returned to Mountsorrel to complete their LMS 12T van, mainly the east side door and the solebar ‘D’ Plates which completed the van.

The van was drawn outside by Mountsorrel’s resident Ruston, so the livery could be seen outside for the first time.

I have been continuing to make progress on the Slip Lamp for Test Car 2. All components have now arrived, so I can now focus on final mountings for all components and then wiring. As Matt said last week, we will have this on show as and when we can open the Test Car to the public again.

This week’s feature is a bit of a sideways step from the wagons, but is all about the road/site vehicles that support our endeavours restoring our wagons. The first to mention is our one-ton site dumper, Danny.

Not a lot is known for Danny’s history, but it was built by Winget around 1976. The dumper was registered in 1976 with the registration number PUT 666R. Danny is a Winget 3SE, and was in use by a local scout campsite before Nick became the owner. The powerplant is a Petter PH1, producing an enormous 9hp running to the front axle through a 3 speed manual transmission, a layout in common with many of the other site dumpers of the period. We use Danny for trumdling items around Quorn Yard and for the skip run when required. Danny can also pull a fleet of trailers we have, which added to Danny’s carrying ability.

We have begun to do some work on Danny, starting with having the steering box rebuilt. With the rebuilt box Danny was properly mobile again, so it was decided to paint Danny into a scheme representative of its current location. This started last year, but got postponed due to the decreasing temperatures.

The next vehicle is the Volvo BM L70 Loading Shovel, bought by the railway for the P’Way department to replace an even older Volvo Loading Shovel (still very muich missed from my point of view). The P’Way department now use a Telehandler, so we have sole use of the Volvo which we use to remove vacuum cylinders and generally lift and shift items around the yard.

There is a little work outstanding on the Volvo, mainly on the exhaust system. A new silencer is required and the relvant pipes to connect it to the turbo outlet. If anyone knows where we might get a suitable exhaust silencer for this, please do get in touch! Once the exhaust is done, we’d like to give it a spruce up.

Lastly, the one vehicle I would be remiss not to mention would be Nick’s daily driver, the humble Transit Van. Without the van, we’d not be able to move anything between the sites without the relative ease that we have or have the ability to collect wood from timber merchants and keep it dry or any other tasks like that. A very useful vehicle indeed.

When we are able to return to the railway, we will look to progress these vehicles alongside the rest of the wagon fleet.

07/02/21 – Why do you restore wagons?

Our feature image above shows the beginnings of our tanker train with 1408 joining the rake this week after being shunted from Rothley by the Operations department. Before I get into the bulk of this feature, in fact if we are honest this is an update, Monday saw the arrival of 2 vehicles from the Llangollen Railway.
Ferry tank B749677 Diagram 1/305 built to Lot 2429 in 1952 at Ashford. Once complete this will of course join the fledgling tanker train, as it stands we are considering restoring it into Traffic Services Ltd Black livery as number 500817
The other vehicle a chassis, this being former Shell Mex and BP Ltd tank 6463 and will receive a van body but I’ll leave it at that for the moment.

Images courtesy of Andy Maxwell

Next I managed to get my brushes out. The Rothley and Mountsorrel Heritage Centre have been pressing forward with the restoration of an LMS 12T van. They have been following Government guidelines that class volunteers of charitable organisations as essential workers, so Michelle and I were allowed on site to progress the vehicle.

Images courtesy of Steve Cramp

Working in isolation, with other volunteers on site restricted entry to the workshop I gradually applied the livery. This being a slightly earlier style than what would have been applied to the vehicle but this fulfils the owners brief and adds further interest to the centres fleet.

One side complete, all but the door on the other and the sole bar plates backed.
It was nice to get out at a weekend especially for my wife who has been furloughed since September and like most has been struggling at home alone whilst I’m at work.

Not just myself working however, Ross has been looking into the Test Cars slip lamp, manufacturing new internal electronics replacing the life expired originals. The lamp displays flashing white lamps when the slip test vehicle is moving and a steady red when stopped, there is also a test button and for our purposes a demonstration mode to enhance our tours of the Test Car when we are allowed to open again.

So now on to the feature.

Sometimes we are asked “Why do you spend almost all of your spare time restoring wagons?” Why indeed? Although the following was written sometime ago for an unpublished article, its intent remains.

Visiting the GCR’s 2018 Model Rail Event from Surry, Mr Robert Holah noticed in the lie-by siding at Quorn our London Midland Scottish Railway (LMSR) Brakevan M730562

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What brought this particular vehicle to his attention was its similarity to one pictured in an image of his father.

Allbert Edward Holah was a Goods Guard, initially with the LMSR and then British Railways London Midland Region upon nationalisation of the railways in 1948.  He was based at Harrow and Wealdstone station.  In fact he was at the Station on the 8th October 1952.  It was a foggy morning and the 07:31 Tring – Euston local train was stood in Platform 4. At 08:19 this train was struck by the Southbound Perth – Euston Express, the resulting wreckage was then hit by the Northbound Euston – Liverpool Express on the adjacent line.  112 were killed and 340 injured and it remains the worse peace time rail accident in the UK and basically resulted in the nationwide introduction of the Automatic Warning System (AWS).  The incident affected Albert quite deeply.

Albert later became an instructor and as such trained a number of immigrants from the Caribbean, what has now become known as the Windrush Generation,  he opened his home to a young Caribbean Gentlemen during Christmas who’s family remained at home in Jamaica. Robert remembers this well and Mrs Holah’s annoyance of not being informed of his farthers guest and being unable to fully prepare.

Unfortunately Albert’s colleagues were not as charitable and saw the immigrants as a threat, taking their jobs.  As a punishment the union forced Albert to Coventry and ordered his colleagues not to communicate with him.  This of cause affected Albert even further and in 1959, 18 Months after being moved, he suffered a heart attack and died.  Robert at the age of 12 was left with an image and memories. 

After an email to the GCR and being forwarded on to us at “Quorn Wagon and Wagon”. Robert came and visited on the 1st September 2018. We had spent a number of weeks repairing and carrying out a full interior and exterior repaint to M730562. We also added extra items that Roberts farther would have instantly remembered.  Guards Bag, Tea Can, Paperwork, Newspaper, Railway Observer, Lamps, Shunters pole, Brake Stick along with other items.  We also lent Robert a BR uniform identical to his fathers including the Midland Region Staff association tie he is wearing in the photograph.  This allowed Robert to recreate the image of his farther.  The artifacts in the vehicle brought back a number of further memories for Robert, playing with his father’s handlamp rotating the handle between Red, Green and Clear. His father sat fettling a wooden implement one end square the other round.  With that description we handed Robert a Brake Stick and demonstrated its use as well as the use of a Shunters Pole.

We continue to extend our thanks to Robert for coming down and sharing his memories. We know he enjoyed his visit and will be coming back to see us soon. So why do we restore Goods Wagons?  A tangible link to the past, maybe not directly for us but certainly for others, as was the case for Robert. It may never be proven but we like to think that Albert may have worked M730562 at least once in his career.
Goods vehicles are an important part of railway history it’s the reason the railways were built.  To recreate the sights and sounds of a bygone railway then they are an essential part of the scene and a draw for our visitors, not just the ones we care for but all those none passenger vehicles at all Heritage Railways across the country.

That is why we restore wagons.

31/01/21 – Not just for demonstration

Without a doubt our vehicles are most visible when they are either static in sidings or operating at Galas or during Photocharters.

But recreating bygone sites and sounds is not the sole purpose of our fleet.
The first group of vehicles continuing to do the work they were built for are the Ballast hoppers. Centre line Catfish and Sholder and Centre line Dogfish. There purpose to transport and dispense ballast were required.

The most notable case being the recent laying of the Mountsorrel branch, after the hard work by the volunteers to remove the vegetation, prepare the ground, lay the first layers of ballast and of course the track, the ballast wagons were brought into stabilise the permanent way.

We extend our thanks to Steve Cramp and the volunteers of the Mountsorrel Railway for providing these images as well as capturing the videos below which also include a Ballast Plough in operation, although not a member of our fleet it is also vital to the work being carried out.

Above I mentioned the rail being laid but how did this get moved to site? Well that’s were our next group of vehicles comes in to it, the flats, as the rail head moved forward, wagons carrying rail would drop it of, this would then be moved by hand a length at a time and the Mountsorrels Wickham trolley would follow keeping the rail no more that a length behind the rail head. Then another bulk load would be dropped off and the process continue.

Keeping with the flats we look at bridge repairs, the most recent replacement of Bridge 341 and repairs to Bridge 350. With flats being used to carry brick work for the bridge in the case of 341 and the floating pontoons for Bridge 350.

As well as Bridges, Canopies also require flat wagons. Specifically the repairs to Loughborough’s Canopy. The Tank flat was used to carry the main canopy structures from and to the work site as well as the single bolster used not only to remove materials but as a means to reduce the amount of scaffolding required to conduct the task.

With the wheel base of our examples reducing we turn to the ballast opens namely the Grampus and Rudd wagons. These are basically the railways general utility vehicles used to fetch and carry anything and everything. Ranging from ash to sleepers, spoil to vegetation.

Another popular vehicle is the Caledonian Weltrol, at one point labelled the single most active vehicle on the railway. With a long spell of use with the S&T department running out cable the full length of the railway. At this present moment it stands in Quorn yard with the tender tank from a certain GWR Castle class locomotive upon it, stored awaiting fitment to its chassis.

Staying with locomotives, both of the road and rail variety we have two vehicles used to store water. 1408 being the primary water source for filling locomotives at Swithland and A4513 having been used for traction engines at Quorn.

The list of work carried out by these vehicles can continue and this can of course include Film and TV work which would create its own long list of appearances.
But I hope this gives a little insight in to those aging departmental vehicles that don’t really appear to do anything but occupy sidings. As we get closer to the completion of the gap these wagons will once again be called upon to carry out there vital work and once that and any possible doubling of the track to Leicester is carried out they will still be ready for the next set of bridge repairs or bank slip or major civil project the GCR wish to use them for.

But wait I have forgotten 4 vital vehicles in our fleet, every time they move they are conducting the work they were built for and appear in a few of our images. They are used for there original purpose even when part of a demonstration train. I am talking none other than the focus of our last feature.

We do have plans to work on our departmental fleet and return them to their Black and Straw lettered livery but after we have completed the more vulnerable freight vehicles, They will however continue there work and be available for any engineering needs, after all there is a sense of authenticity in a rake of rusty and battered wagons going about there business.

We also wish to thank the GCR for supplying images for this feature and credit to those photographers who captured our vehicles at work.
David Howdle for the vehicles atop bridge 350 unloading pontoons
Graham Wignall for Rails being unloaded behind 47406 & Track ballasting from a Grampus at Swithland Sidings
Tony Sparks for Loughborough Canopy work images.

Vehicle Profile #7 – Brakevans

I though it best to give both Matt and Ross a break this weekend, so for the first time its me, Dave Bower, completing a weekly update, this week we focus on the van at the back of the train.

As early as the 1840s wagons or coaches were specifically adapted for a Guard, this was someone employed by the railway to protect the valuable stock carried by the train from theft or vandalism. As these ‘unfitted’ trains (vehicles not fitted with an automatic brake controlled by the locomotive) increased speed and weight the Guards took on more duties relating to the actual safe running of the train. By the 1870s what we now know as ‘brake vans’ were in use and in the case of goods trains meant the Guard was on hand to take action in the event of a breakdown, accident or the more common event of train separation. As the speed of goods trains still continued to increased the purpose of the brake van and the guard’s duties developed further with the Guard using the brake van’s handbrake to assist with keeping the train under control on downwards gradients or whenever he could see that the locomotive’s crew was attempting to slow the train. The Guard could also use the handbrake to keep the loose couplings taut between unfitted wagons  minimising the risk of broken couplings and if no locomotive was attached hold the train with the brake vans brake.

Different types of brake vans evolved, some with single verandas and others with a veranda at each end, normally with a safety bar or half height door to each side. In most cases a significant amount of ballast is installed in the form of steel, cast iron, water tanks or more commonly during and after the wars concrete, this was built into the underframe to increase the available braking effort applied by the van. Step boards are fitted, sometimes along the full length of the van along with multiple grab handrails for the use of the Guard or Shunter when required. Inside the van’s interior most are fitted with a coal stove for the guard’s heating and cooking needs, with a hanging rail above with hooks on for drying wet clothing. As well as a desk to complete the all important paperwork required by the company.

Most brake vans were not built with train brakes, only a wheel operated handbrake; because they were designed to be used at the rear of un-fitted trains. Some are however vacuum through-pipe fitted, in which case a brake application valve is installed inside the brake van but towards the end of brake van use between the late 60s and 80s vacuum and even air brakes were fitted.

Duckets on each side of the brake van provide the guard with safe viewing of the train , signals ahead and the lineside without the need for leaning out of the brake van. The seats by each ducket also have side and back pads which provide the guard with some useful support in the event of jerks or coupling snatches. The handbrake wheel is installed within easy reach of the guards ducket seats.

Lamp irons are fitted to carry a tail-lamp and also side lamps. It was the guard’s duty to check that the tail and side lamps were on-board, filled with paraffin, the wick trimmed.

Trains that are not fitted with the automatic brake throughout, i.e. unfitted, must in addition to the tail lamp carry side lamps. With one exception, it is not a requirement to display side lamps on freights when the automatic brake is connected and in use on all vehicles on the train. This was a LNER / BR Eastern rule and later adopted by all of BR in the 1980s

Side lamps are required to be lit at all times. They are designed to show a white aspect towards the locomotive to inform the crew that the train is still complete and following. if however the lamps were unlit, a red aspect could be shown via light shining through the rear red filter.  This could be misread by the crew as a stop signal. In a genuine emergency the Guard would rapidly apply and release the hand brake, jerking the train to grab the crews attention and display a separate red flag or light. If the train was fitted with a brake pipe the full length of the train, then all the Guard needed to do was release the vacuum or apply the air brake.

To the rear two red side lamps are displayed for trains operating on main or single lines.

or, one red light on the side furthest from the main line and one white light nearest for trains in loops adjoining main lines and running in the same direction. This also applies on double lines signalled for trains in both directions whilst travelling in the reverse direction.

Side lamps should be removed when in sidings.

There is a story of an express trains crew leaping from the foot plate of a loco when the Guard of a goods forgot to swap his mainline side lamp for a white.  Reputedly a down express came through Loughborough Central and saw in the distance beyond Empress Road bridge the 3 red tail lamps of a goods,  the driver applied the brakes and both he and the fireman leapt from the cab. The driver received cuts and bruises the fireman however hit the bridge and was killed. The Goods was in the Down Goods loop clear of the express waiting to pass.  How true the story is regards to location I cannot verify but I’m sure it is likely to have happened even if the outcome did not involve a fatality.

The Guards preparation duties include checking that all the necessary equipment was in the brake van.

  • A shunting pole which is a wooden pole about 6 feet long with a twisted hook on the end, this is used to couple couplings without the guard having to climb between the wagons,
  • A brake stick, used to lever down the handbrakes of wagons,
  • Two pairs of track circuit clips, for use in emergency situations to indicate to the signalman that a train is occupying that section. They are clipped over both rails of a track-circuited line so as to short circuit the track in the event of an incident or accident,
  • A spare vacuum hose,
  • Wheel scotches (minimum 2),
  • Fire extinguisher and fire bucket,
  • Side Lamps (x 2),
  • Tail Lamp,
  • Red and Green flags,
  • Paraffin for the lamps,
  • Coal and kindling to light the stove fire.

Other uses of brake vans includes those fitted with ballast ploughs under each end, that are used to assist with distribution of ballast and clearing the rails during ballast drop runs when at the rear of a train of bottom discharge ballast wagons such as Dogfish or Catfish type wagons.

As the running of unfitted trains dropped during the 1970s and finished in the early 1980s, many brake vans were withdrawn, shunted to the end of sidings and left to rot because they were filled with concrete so had to be dealt with differently when it came to scrapping. This probably helped provide more of a choice for the preservationists.  Nick has regaled us with stories of brake vans being worked from scrap yard to scrap yard as none were too keen to break up the vehicles as they were mostly concrete and wood.

In the Quorn Wagon & Wagon fleet we are lucky to have four brake vans, all of which have been restored for use at the GCR. In each case, in addition to the replacement of various sections of the bodywork, the restoration by the team has involved corrosion removal, applying rust prevention and wood preservatives, brake equipment overhaul, axle bearing maintenance, full internal refurbishment, stoves, new upholstery and painting, underframe scraping, full external repaint and sign writing.

Our oldest is S56010 a Southern 25T, 16ft wheelbase ‘Pilbox’ Brake built at the former London Brighton & South Coast Railway works at Lancing in 1930 to Lot No.3033, restored in 2018 including the complete replacement of one veranda and external timberwork, door planks and windows, stove re-built and stovepipe.

Next in order of age is M730562 an LMS 20T, 16ft wheelbase Brake built in Derby 1938, Lot No.1104, also restored in 2018, including the complete replacement of external timberwork.

Then we have B954268 a BR 20T, 16ft wheelbase Brake built in Darlington 1958, Lot No.3129, restored 2018 including replacement of a significant amount of external and veranda timberwork, however currently out of traffic due to wheelset damage.

Finally our youngest B954546 a BR 20T, 16ft wheelbase Brake built in Darlington 1959, Lot No. 3227, restored last year after 8 years out of use, work included timberwork replacement to the verandas although brake rigging work remains

Operationally at the GCR a brake van is marshalled at each end of goods trains, this is to assist with more timely changes of direction at each end of the line, which ensures that our brake vans are used regularly, but does mean that we have to keep on-top of the operational wear and tear.

Matt of course, and as some of our images show, did use to operate these vehicles during his tenure with the operations department, his biggest sense of helplessness was the dreaded sound of couplings rapidly tightening as the crew were a little exuberant with the regulator. With up to twenty vehicles and a foot of slack between each, whatever speed the loco has achieved in that 20ft is instantly applied to the brake van as the last coupling tightens, on a number of occasions he recalls bracing himself between duckets or grasping the brake standard as the inevitable approached, but as he confirms it is all part of the fun.

Next week we shall take a broad look at our departmental vehicles and the work they undertake on the modern day Great Central Railway, not all of our vehicles are used to demonstrate what they once did some still actually do the work they were built for and more.

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.