Thursday, 8 December 2011

No. 1 Alan Bloom maintenance

Boiler separated from chassis
Every five or so years, Bressingham-built No. 1 Alan Bloom requires a bottom end refit, so this year's maintenance job is rather more substantial than usual — wheel re-profiling, valves and valve gear, slide bars, bushings, some shimming and whatever else turns up.

New two-foot carriages

Back at the end of August, Phil was fixing together the framework that will form the main structure of the new carriages. Even though I try to follow these projects, there are inevitably times when I'm not in or simply run out of time, so here I find that the carriages have been completely assembled and painted. I've also discovered that they are going to be the open type, meaning that Bressingham will now have three open and three closed carriages to run on the Nursery Line.

Framework assembled and painted

Roof support

John (the one that I met on my very first day) has been busy making the roof supports — they have to be cut to an exact profile so that the roof will fit snugly.

From the outside

Spars for the seats

The first three photographs were taken two weeks ago, in that time all the spars that form the seats have been cut to length and positioned awaiting fixing and John's working on the wooden steps that need cutting to profile as well.

Apologies for the poorer quality of the first three photographs, but with horrid difficult lighting, my tripod back in the car and the shed about to be locked up for the night it was a case of grabbing what I could.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Gallopers platforms and vegetation management

Earlier this year, two of the platform sections were removed for repair and repainting. Since the end of season another two sections have had the same treatment and today they need to be refitted ready for Christmas opening. It seems that the epoxy filler did the trick, and the two sections replaced in March are holding up well.

The platforms are a tight fit

Clever tool to make life easier

Once Christmas is over, another two sections will be removed and repainted in time for 2012 opening. Only another six to go then…

Looking much bettern
Cutting back the vegetation growth along the tracks is a never-ending battle. Back in October when George Sholto was line tested, an overgrown branch or bramble left a mark in the new paintwork much to everyone's annoyance. Carl and I, armed with loppers, a saw and a ladder sought vengeance and now the area around Grotts is looking much neater and under control.

A riveting time

Hammering a red-hot rivet in
Much earlier this year, I managed to miss one of the slate wagons being riveted as I was doing trackwork.

Today I was more fortunate and managed to witness the spectacle of red-hot glowing rivets being hammered about.

Two slate wagons have already been restored and have run on the two-foot line as a demonstration train this year, this will be the third wagon.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Waiting for the wheel to turn

Turning an axle on the lathe
With George Sholto now in service and the season drawing to a close, the workshop can concentrate on getting the new 2-foot carriages built and general maintenance. Last time I saw Phil he was fixing the framework to the floor — today he's machining wheels for 2-foot bogies.

The plan is to have a couple of spare bogies so that when the wheels get worn down it is possible to quickly swap them over, and then refurbish the worn set ready for the next time. This should help to keep the Nursery Line running and minimise downtime. Phil assures me they can swap a 2-foot bogie out in around twenty minutes!

2-foot bogie being refurbished

Braking mechanism

This one's nearly ready

No. 994 George Sholto steams into service

Tom gives George Sholto the thumbs up
After the new boiler's arrival last year, and with much work this year, George Sholto passed its boiler inspection a couple of days ago and entered passenger service yesterday. In a stroke of luck, I happened to be around for its second day of service and managed to get some photographs whilst it's still gleaming.

It's really great to finally see it out and about after following its progress through the workshops over the last ten or so months. The other great thing is that it can pull more carriages than Bevan, so it will be really useful for Hallowe'en evening and the Christmas specials when it can get rather busy.

Passing the workshops

Steaming in Peat Field 1

One point of discussion that I'm sure will arise is why the name was changed from Bill Harvey back to George Sholto — I think the reasoning behind it is that now it's been restored to its former glory, it makes sense to use the original name.

Well done to Phil, Tony, John and Brian in the workshops — it looks fantastic.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

George Sholto and a horse named Jack

No. 994 George Sholto
Much progress has been made on George Sholto in the couple of months since my last update. The cab has been painted and refitted. The saddle tank has been painted and fitted with the nameplates. Other brasswork has been refitted, and generally it's looking like a very nearly finished locomotive.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

New two-foot coaches and some more of the gardens

George Sholto under wraps in the locomotive shed
Now that most of the boiler-related work has been done on George Sholto, it has been transferred to the locomotive shed where it is sitting under a plastic sheet. The next task will be to fit the driver's cab and saddle tank before finishing off all the remaining little jobs.

This makes room in the workshops for construction of two new carriages for the two-foot Nursery Line. As Bevan can pull three of Bressingham's five two-foot carriages, a couple more are needed to enable both George Sholto and Bevan to operate together. It also means that if one carriage has to be taken out of service for repair, the operational impact is considerably reduced.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


Meet Jack
This horse was started back in June when it came off the Gallopers as Dick. Much like any other horse coming off at the moment, there was a lot of rot and Brian really does strip them down to get rid of it. As more horses get restored, the condition of them should get slightly better as the worst ones are being prioritised. Just don't mention the ostriches and cockerels — Brian's dreading those — something to do with all the detail in the feathers!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

50th Anniversary Weekend

No. 2789 The President
To celebrate fifty years since Alan Bloom first started Bressingham Steam & Gardens several former Bressingham exhibits and stars joined some of the current and lesser-known ones for a glorious weekend of steam (and some diesel!)

Friday, 17 June 2011

George Sholto progress

The new cab has been fitted
Back at Bressingham after the naming ceremony I found that I had a couple of hours to spare, and sticking my head in the workshop found that Phil had started work on fabricating the saddle tank for George Sholto.

The cab that a couple of weeks ago was being made has now been fitted to the chassis and is being finished off.

I was expecting that I would come in one day and it would all be complete, so this was a pleasant surprise for me.

A name at last

After many months in the works, the horse with no name has now been called Flora after Alan Bloom's wife. With just two more coats of clear lacquer to be applied, Flora should be back on the Gallopers by next weekend.

In the Beauty Parlour Jet is also very nearly finished too and should be joining Flora in time for Bressingham's Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations.

At long last a name

Jet — this image clearly shows why the name had to be short

Class 90 locomotive naming ceremony

NXEA Class 90 locomotive named after Bressingham
As part of a programme of events to celebrate Bressingham's Fiftieth Anniversary, National Express East Anglia (NXEA) agreed to name one of their Class 90 electric locomotives used on the London to Norwich line Bressingham Steam & Gardens.

I received my invitation about four weeks ago and was quite surprised — I already knew that the ceremony was taking place in June, but didn't think for one moment that I would be a part of it. I felt very privileged to have been invited and it was with great alacrity that I accepted and I've been anxiously counting down the days for the past four weeks.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

St Christopher, George Sholto, Gallopers and Teddy Bears

St Christopher in steam
Although today's visit was family time, I used some in between time to catch up on some of the things that have been happening over the past few weeks. Since I do not attend regularly like a lot of volunteers I have to make the most of my visits.

With St Christopher passing its boiler test a couple of weeks ago, this was its second weekend of running, and an opportunity to write the remaining blog entry chronicling its entry into service.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

St Christopher locomotive progress

Whilst at this year's Dad's Army Day, I took the opportunity to check out the progress being made on St Christopher and was rather surprised to find it in pieces!

The boiler has been bead blasted to thoroughly clean it out, and Phil is making changes to the braking system so that it's compatible with the air braking system used on the Waveney carriages.

Boiler cleaned and painted

Cab and saddle tanks

Meanwhile Chris and Adam have made splendid progress on the platform, and are hoping that the workshop can temporarily pop the cab back onto the chassis so they can check clearances, then whilst they make the track and platform adjustments the workshop can get the locomotive finished.

Waveney platform work coming along well

Once thing for certain is that the white post on the left will have to be moved otherwise St Christopher will not even get as far as the platform!

Fingers crossed St Christopher should be in service for the bank holiday weekend at the end of May — it will certainly be nice to have the Waveney Valley line back in operation.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

All Change - Preparations for St Christopher locomotive

Exmoor St Christopher
With no Rosenkavalier, the Waveney Valley Line has been out of action for the past few weeks. Now that a new 15″ locomotive St Christopher has arrived service should be shortly reinstated — once the platform and some minor locomotive works have been completed. My task today is to help Chris and Adam get the platform ready so that St Christopher can be running as soon as possible.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Royal Coaches and Gallopers (what no trackwork?)

Camera setup for shooting VR
Today's objective was very well-defined: to photograph inside the rooms of both royal coaches in order to create a virtual reality (VR) tour. I have been trying to squeeze the odd room in for the past few weeks but always seemed to run out of time, especially since the locomotive sheds are locked when the workshop finishes for the day.

Of course, I also managed to catch up with the latest on the horse repairs, and a couple of other things.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Bressingham is open!

Getting the Gallopers ready
Today is the first proper day of the 2011 season. Although open during the February half-term week, today marks the start of the season proper with both the Garden and Nursery Lines due to run.

Unfortunately the blocking high pressure weather system we have been enjoying over the last few weeks has retreated to the continent and let the Atlantic south-westerlies back so today's weather is rather dull and damp at 7:30 and not very conducive to kicking things off with a flying start.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Getting ready for 2011 (and some trackwork)

Final touches to the Gallopers platforms
Today is about finishing off the section of the Nursery Line just past the glasshouse and starting on the minor track defects like replacing the odd bad sleeper, straightening kinks and adjusting the gauge where necessary.

Of course there's lots of other things happening and my lunch break is always spent talking to someone about something or other that is going on.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Trackwork - Fourth session (Yes, I'm mad!)

Sleepers destined for the glasshouse
With the start of season now only two weeks away, the pressure is on to get the track finished and in serviceable condition to satisfy the Railway Inspectorate. Even though it's a narrow gauge railway, it's still subject to a swathe of legislation ensuring its safety and operation.

To this end it's vital that we get a section of track near the glasshouse replaced, and the more hands the merrier.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Trackwork 2011 - Third session (Am I mad?)

Spreading ballast
With customers postponing my site visits, I take advantage of the situation and decide that a third round of trackwork is in order. Am I mad? Some might say so, but for me it's relaxing and by the end of the day I can sit back and know that I've made a difference. It's also a day not spent battling the M25 which has to be a good thing.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Trackwork 2011 - Sunday update

Riding the maintenance wagon
With Saturday's rain replaced with bright sunny weather, it's an ideal opportunity to take number one son along for the last day of February half term opening. I can also pop down to Peat field 2 and see how Sunday's trackwork team are getting on.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Trackwork 2011 - Second session

Lifting track
Continuing to take advantage of work project schedules I thought it would be nice to escape for another day helping with trackwork, and to try to address some the many tasks on my Bressingham to do list.

At work we have several major projects looming on the horizon and once they get started it will be much harder to get leave at short notice.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Trackwork 2011 - First session

New track nearly ready for 2011
With a lull in my project at work I have finally been able to arrange a day away from the office and indulge in some rail therapy. My normal day job is IT and things have been extremely busy for the last few months (I suppose I shouldn't grumble) but turning my hand to something totally different really does relieve some of the stress, even if it makes me ache afterwards!