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.

St Christopher arrived at Bressingham two days earlier. These photographs were taken by Phillip as it was unloaded.

Arriving on a flatbed truck

Being lifted onto a wagon

Putting a new locomotive into service isn't as simple as popping it onto the track, giving it a quick once over and firing it up — there's a stack of accompanying paperwork and certificates that need checking, and even more paperwork to do to keep the insurers happy.

Walschaerts Valve Gear

Inside the cab
As well as changing over the couplings to accommodate the Waveney carriages the braking system needs some attention as well, and everything will be mechanically checked over to make certain there are no other issues. On top of that it also needs its annual boiler check — plenty to keep the workshop busy for the next couple of weeks.

Waveney track & platform

Manoeuvering a concrete sleeper into place
Whilst the workshop are busy getting St Christopher operational, Chris has the unenviable task of altering the Waveney Valley track and platform to accommodate St Christopher as it's about 8″ wider than Rosenkavalier. Concrete sleepers left over from when the standard gauge line was laid are being used as edging, and each one weighing around 300kg needs to be lifted with the tractor and then moved into final position by rolling and levering with a heavy bar. Having had plenty of practice, Chris is rather adept at getting the sleeper into the right position so that when it's rolled into place it's upside down (ie. the flat bottom of the sleeper is uppermost). Earth is then packed into the space under the sleeper so that everything is kept in position. It can take nearly an hour by the time the iron-like earth has been dug away (there has been very little rain in the preceding weeks) to get a sleeper positioned and packed, so it's fairly slow going. Late in the afternoon we stopped and left a tractor-sized gap for access so that Adam could bring buckets of ash for infill. This will get rolled and provide a sound base for a layer of granite chippings and finally a topping of road planings to match the rest of the platform.

First layer of ash — the 5 & 7.25″ line will go on the grass between the fence and platform edge

As well as this construction, a gate post needs moving and some of the existing track (or platform) will need moving a few inches so that St Christopher clears the edge on the curve. Of course, this part may have to wait until the workshop has finished so that the locomotive can be put onto the track to check clearances.


In the carpentry shed, Brian has some help from Pauline and they are working on a horse each. Brian has already cut out the rot in the mane and glued a new piece of wood in on the horse he started at the beginning of this year. With the help of an orbital sander he soon knocks the new piece into shape ready for finishing by hand.

Shaping the mane

Ready for hand finishing

This same horse was also in need of some cosmetic dentistry, which has been addressed with a set of new dentures. Pauline breaks from sanding Jet's mane to mark out the teeth, and Brian fires up the Dremel to cut them in.

Cutting teeth

Sanding Jet's mane by hand

George Sholto

The workshop has been busy continuing the rebuild of George Sholto. Last time I looked the boiler was off the chassis, this time it's back on albeit not permanently fixed. It will probably come off again several times more before it's all finished.

Front of locomotive showing the completed smokebox

From the rear

The steel sheet that Tony was rolling has since been painted bright green and now clads the boiler making it look very smart. Of course much of this will be hidden when the saddle tank is fitted later (it's currently still two pieces of rolled steel sitting in the locomotive shed).

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