A much reduced blog this week for obvious reasons and, we are sorry to have to say, with very mixed news.
Firstly, we are very glad to be able to report that Alan Middleton has made a good recovery from Covid19 which has delighted doctors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Alan returned home on Saturday to spend the next fortnight in quarantine with Alison. Quite whether he will ever be able to find anything again is subject to debate, as Alison has been turning her attention to cleaning and tidying the house at Thornton Cleveleys since undergoing isolation there! We wish them both well as Alan convalesces in the coming weeks.
Unfortunately, Alan was joined at Victoria Hospital in Blackpool a week last Sunday by Paul Ramsden, husband of forty years to Tim Owen’s sister Jacky. We are very sorry to have to report that, on Friday evening, Paul lost his battle against Covid19. Although eighty years old, Paul was still an avid cyclist and some of us can remember him cycling from Lytham to Haverthwaite to see Jacky. Our sincere condolences go to Jacky, Kurt and Jayne who along with Paul used to frequent the L&HR in the early 1980s.
The Government announcement last Monday evening severely curtailing activities to just those deemed as essential unfortunately caused the cancellation of the movement of 5643 from Embsay to Preston. Simon Reid, of Reid Freight, promises us that the loco will be top of the list when he is able to restart transport operations.
We know that this will be a time of huge frustration for all our working members for it may well be quite some time before we are able to recommence regular working parties. We will keep you up to date with any news and in the meantime hope that you all stay safe.
We are afraid that we have to start this week’s blog with more bad news for, as some of you will already be aware, Alan Middleton was admitted to Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Wednesday evening. He is currently in the Acute Medical Unit suffering from confirmed coronavirus. Alison is in enforced isolation at Thornton Cleveleys and is, as I am sure you will understand, very frustrated. The good news is that Alan appeared to be a little better today when he was visited by son, Andrew, and grandson, Sam. Seems he was complaining about too much salt on his food, which can only be a good sign! Fortunately the latest tests have concluded that there are no other underlying symptoms on his lungs other than coronavirus. We wish Alan well and our thoughts are with both Alan and Alison at this distressing time.
Needless to say, the current emergency has very much dampened the Trust’s activities at Preston. We received news that Embsay did not now foresee a need for 5643 in the immediate future and so arrangements have been made for it to return to Preston, provisionally this Thursday. We had not been planning for this eventuality so Tim, Keith and Ade spent quite some time last Wednesday with a tape measure before coming up with a plan to squeeze the loco into the main shed area so that some TLC can be given to its brakes, pistons and valves.
The other main task on Wednesday was to refit the springs on to FR 20’s tender in order to make it mobile. This had to be achieved carefully without scratching the newly completed paintwork, so a thin polythene screen was mounted to protect it. The new lifting table proved to be invaluable.
It is planned that the tender will take the place of Caliban‘s boiler on road two of the shed whilst the boiler will once again be exiled outside the shed. After arranging for the removal of the ballast packer to the Ribble Rail shed there should now be room for Fluff on road four in the unheated part of the shed, but with only six inches to spare.
Ade appeared on Sunday to start the first part of the shunt but was thwarted when he found diesel shunter Stanlow with a broken fuel line. This was temporarily fixed today and so Ade and the Ribble Rail people should be able to do the necessary preparatory work before Thursday.
There has been some further work by Phil and John Davis on Fluff‘s superstructure as pictured here.
Looking forward it is essential that working members put their own safety first and follow the Government’s advice. It is far better that we are all in one piece at the end of this emergency than to risk health through feeling the need to make short term progress. Any working parties should be kept to the minimum number of people required and self distancing must be observed at all times. For those who do attend, a new signing in point has been created in the FRT shed in order to eliminate the need for members to visit any other buildings on the site.
We are sorry to have to start this week’s blog with the sad news which broke on Friday that the Appleby Training and Heritage Centre has closed after losing the necessary funding to enable it to continue its educational training. It is understood that the 14 staff there will be made redundant. As many of you will be aware, the Trust’s second class North London Railway coach was restored at the Centre from 2002 to 2003 with the aid of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Subsequently, the Centre very kindly allowed Trust volunteers to return the FRT’s Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5 to serviceable condition in the Centre’s polytunnel from 2009 to 2010. Both projects saw considerable input from members who regularly travelled over to Appleby during these periods and we will always remember the friendly and very helpful working relationship that we had with the staff at the Centre. This led to the Trust’s GWR ‘Hall’ class 4-6-0 No. 4979 Wootton Hall being put in prominent storage on the Centre’s site alongside the Settle & Carlisle Line from March 2007 until October 2014. Our heartfelt commiserations go out to the staff at Appleby.
News from Embsay is that 5643 passed its steam test on Friday. However, Keith brought back the news that work is necessary on the brakes and that the locomotive’s front end will require to be stripped down to undertake an examination of the valves and pistons to rectify steam leakage. The implications of this outcome are still to be discussed and an action plan developed.
Back at Preston John Dixon continued his work to clean up the inside of FR 20’s tender tank and Tim has almost completed the painting of the tender frames.
Ade and Alan conducted some further work on FR 20’s boiler on Wednesday after which Andy Booth appeared on Friday to follow up a few areas to make the boiler ready for its hydraulic test in the presence of the boiler surveyor. This is now being arranged.
With much of the work on Fluff‘s chassis now complete, Phil and John Davis have commenced the task of fitting some of the superstructure.
Fred appeared on Friday and was kept busy with a paint brush on some of Fluff‘s platework.
Looking forward, the Ribble Steam Railway’s operating season starts on Sunday with Cream Teas being served on Mother’s Day trains. Alison (who had another birthday last Friday) tells us that all the teas have sold out.
Finally, despite the Coronavirus outbreak, working parties at Preston are planned to continue. Members are asked, for their own safety and that of others, to observe the precautions published by the Government. Further information on Coronavirus is available here.
There was a certain amount of jubilation on Wednesday when Fluff was finally lowered back onto its springs. However, given the current Coronavirus health advice, John Davis and Phil Bell decided to avoid the high fives and went for the now more fashionable touching of elbows.
The lowering of Fluff has not been without its issues for somebody had left a tool box under the loco which now looks a little worse for wear!
Fred applied some gloss black paint to the sand boxes on Friday.
Roger coated the lower part of the back cab with primer.
Alan and Ade spent Wednesday raising pressure on FR 20’s boiler and got it up to 200 psi before making a note of a few areas of dampness that need to be attended to.
Tim continued to paint FR 20’s tender frames whilst John Dixon decided to spend some time in self isolation, cleaning out the tender tank.
There has been more progress on Wootton Hall with some new firebox cladding appearing for fitting.
The Ribble Steam Railway has recently received a large collection of OO gauge locomotives and coaches of both two and three rail operation. These are being sold to members in the Exploration Centre to raise funds this Wednesday between 8 am and 4 pm.
Finally, news from Embsay is that 5643’s steam test for the boiler surveyor is now scheduled for this Friday 13th March.
It has been another week of birthday cake and presents.
Ade celebrated his birthday on Wednesday and is seen here cutting the cake kindly supplied (again) by Alison. There was some pressure on members to eat up by the end of Friday as we still hadn’t managed to entirely demolish the two cakes from the previous week! (You’re slipping! Ed.)
Keith received a late birthday present in that the long-awaited newly manufactured sets of valves and crossheads for Wootton Hall from Tyesley arrived on Tuesday.
These were followed on Thursday by the six Armstrong Oiler pads for the tender axle boxes which opens the way for Wootton Hall‘s tender frames to be placed back on their wheels.
Much of Friday was then spent in lowering Fluff‘s frames back on to its wheels. The springs have still to be fitted after which it will be possible to move the chassis.
Another step forward in FR 20’s overhaul was made last Wednesday when the boiler was filled with water. One of the tubes needed some attention from Matt Jervis (pictured), but on the whole things looked to be satisfactory. It is hoped to be able to start to raising some pressure over the next week or so.
Finally John Dixon has been fitting some new copper pipework to FR 20’s tender braking system and Tim has been busy painting the tender frames.