Monday 7th September 2020

Another couple of weeks of steady progress at Preston to report.

Alan attending to FR 20's front endThe steam chest cover and tail rod bushes for the valve spindles have been re-fitted to FR 20, with Alan seen here at work on the matter.

All the spring hangers have now been machined and painted prior to fitting along with the new springs. The tender spectacle plate has also received a new coat of paint.

John Dixon applying heat to one of FR 20's blast pipe studsA number of steam pipe and blast pipe studs need to be replaced either through wastage or breakage. John Dixon tried to remove one of the blast pipe studs using some heat.

John Dixon resorting to drilling out a blast pipe stud on FR 20Unfortunately, the heat treatment failed to make any difference so John is seen here (successfully) drilling out one of the broken studs.

Ade drilling out one of Caliban's smokebox rivetsThe magnetic drill was much in demand last Wednesday when Ade also took the opportunity to start drilling out smokebox rivets on Caliban‘s boiler.

Keith cleaning 5643's framesThere has been further cleaning of 5643’s motion and frames.

5643's main brake shaft5643’s main brake shaft was removed by team Bell and Davis with a little help from Keith and the lifting table. It is a sizeable chunk of metal that has to be respected!

Keith shaping one of Wootton Hall's injector delivery pipesContinuing Great Western news, Keith has been spending more time shaping the new injector delivery pipework for Wootton Hall.

A final reminder to members that the virtual AGM is scheduled for tomorrow evening (Tuesday, 8th September) with signing in commencing at 19.15 for a 19.30 start. We still hope to see or hear from as many members as possible.

Friday 28th August 2020

A day or four late this week due to other distractions, so apologies for the delay.

Keith dismantling brake gear on 5643Work on 5643 has continued at Preston with Keith dismantling more brake gear under a much cleaner locomotive after all the recent work between the frames.

Phil Bell further dismantling the brake gearPhil has then been further dismantling items and cleaning them.

John Davis and Fred Jones socially distancing whilst cleaning 5643Fred and John Davis had another cleaning session on the right hand frames on Friday and are seen here dutifully observing the yellow distancing markers on the floor.

John Dixon repairing studs on FR 20Work has also continued on FR 20 where the removal of all the spring hangers for machining has allowed further cleaning and painting of the frames to take place. John Dixon is seen in a most inelegant pose repairing the blastpipe retaining studs – we suspect he won’t be thanking the photographer!

Time also to reflect on other work that has been going on in recent times.

One of FR 20's lamp bracket convertersJohn appeared after the Covid lockdown with some homework, a couple of lamp bracket converters for FR 20 for such things as DO NOT MOVE signs.

The firebox cladding starting to go onto Wootton Hall Keith has fitted the first piece of firebox cladding on Wootton Hall, carefully allowing for the attachment of the four cone ejector.

A rejuvenated gardenFinally, Ed appeared the previous Wednesday and did a splendid job in putting the nearby garden to rights after it had suffered some lockdown dereliction.

Working parties at Preston continue on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Monday 17th August 2020

Work has continued in the FRT shed at Preston where the excellent insulation has provided some respite against the very un-British heat that we have been experiencing in recent weeks.

John Dixon positions a new spring on FR 20The new springs for FR 20 are still in the course of being fitted, with John Dixon seen here positioning one on to the frames. Further examination of the spring hangers suggested that there has been a small long standing mis-alignment between the spring hangers and the centre pins which support the springs. All the spring hangers have now been removed to enable them to be machined and, hopefully, a perfect fit obtained.

Adrian has been refilling FR 20’s boiler ready for a hydraulic test and Alan has been following up any signs of a dribble.

John Davis feeds a water pipe into the cab of 56435643 was moved on to the pit outside the RSR running shed on the 7th August which enabled the ashpan to be given a thorough clean. John Davis is seen at the bottom of the cab steps feeding a hose pipe into the cab.

Keith with grubby armsKeith’s arms look suitably grubby after the ashpan cleaning.

Phil Bell ready to power wash the framesOnce this had been done, Phil went underneath to undertake some pressure washing between the frames.

Keith making a new cab step plate for 5643Last Wednesday Keith was in the process of replacing the heavily corroded driver’s side cab step plate.

New cab window frame on Wootton HallWootton Hall is now sporting a brand new right hand brass cab window frame which has recently been cast.

Monday 3rd August 2020

We are definitely getting back into the swing of things at Preston after the enforced lay off.

Springing into action (just as well we aren't paid to write this..)Ade fetched around the new engine springs for FR 20 from the RSR’s plant room where they had been in store since delivery during lockdown. Ade caught Tim ‘springing’ into action with a sack truck.

Ade manoeuvring the new springAfter which Ade lifted one of the new springs into position for a test fit.

As ever with new things, a small tweak was required to the new springs to obtain a snug fit within the spring hangers. Some ‘machining’ with an angle grinder subsequently took place. It is hoped to be able to progress the fitting of the new springs further this next week.

John Dixon with refurbed brake pipe for FR 20's tenderElsewhere on FR 20, John has been upgrading some of the tender brake pipework.

Phil Bell cleaning beneath 5643Work has also continued with the cleaning of 5643 and Phil is seen here working in the pit.

Keith surveying the underneath of 5643Keith is also seen here surveying 5643 for future work from the pit.

Fred appeared on Friday and decided to try out the safety wire system that was installed last year. Fred with safety wire harnessHe is seen here awaiting final adjustment to his harness….

Fred atop 5643 cleaning the chimney… and then atop 5643 cleaning its chimney.

Refurbished seating in the RSR TSOOver in the running shed some of the FRT’s team  have been installing refurbished seating on the RSR’s TSO no. 5036 and doing a very good job by the looks of it.

Finally, if members are wondering where the copy of the promised latest edition of The Iron Horse magazine is, there was a delay at the printers due to a reduced pandemic staffing level. The magazines have now been received and should be on their way!

Monday 27th July 2020

We’re back after a short holiday break – and, yes, for those of the team who were away, the weather was rather better way down in the south west, thank you. (Well, can’t have been much worse than some of what we have had in the last week! Ed.)

After three weeks of preparations, we’re pleased to be able to celebrate the return of normal working parties last week. Thanks go to everyone for turning up and also for completing the necessary paperwork to comply with the risk assessment.

Needless to say, with a big green engine standing ready and waiting over the pit in the FRT shed, there was plenty of work for everyone to get their teeth into and the cleaners got to work, suitably equipped with their PPE of course!

Fred examines 5643's smoke boxFred tackles the smoke box…

John Davis clean's 5643's left hand sideJohn Davis the left hand side…

Phil Bell cleans 5643's right hand guard ironand Phil the right hand guard iron.

There will be further working parties this next Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

You should be receiving your copy of the latest, lockdown edition of The Iron Horse, plus the Trustees’ Annual Report and Accounts for 2019. Please note that, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it has been decided to hold a virtual AGM this year on Tuesday, 8th September using Zoom, which allows access by telephone or online. Details are being sent to members with The Iron Horse.

A gleaming CumbriaFinally, we were also pleased to note the resumption of passenger services at the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway on Saturday. A special effort was made to clean the FRT’s ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST Cumbria for the occasion and the gleaming loco is seen here with a passenger train, courtesy of a photo from the Embsay Loco Dept Facebook page. Well done to all concerned for a great effort!

Monday 13th July 2020

5643 being shunted round to the FRT shedYet another blog, this time to let you know that 5643 arrived back at Preston this afternoon and is now tucked up in the FRT shed. 5643 over the pit in the FRT shedThanks to Adrian and Keith who oversaw the unloading and shunt for us. This is how the reorganised shed now looks:View of the re-organised FRT shed

A small group met last Wednesday to continue the preparations for re-opening the FRT and RSR workshops to volunteers. Keith had laid down some yellow markers in the FRA shed the previous Sunday. Phil hoovering the RSR workshopPhil joined us to hoover the RSR workshop and plant room.

Yellow distancing markers in the RSR workshopTim, working with John Dixon, painted a further eighty marking lines at 2 metres distance so completing the bulk of this work – or so Tim’s knees hope!

It is intended to mount a number of hand sanitisers around the site this next Wednesday and suitable signage is being prepared to emphasise the need to wash hands regularly and to maintain social distancing.

Alan returning after Covid-19We also had the welcome sight of Alan on Wednesday for the first time after his Covid-19 illness, also sporting a lockdown haircut. He has taken the copy for the latest edition of The Iron Horse to the printers so hopefully it should not be too long before one lands through members’ letterboxes.

Monday 6th July 2020

What’s this? Two blogs within the space of 14 days? Well something must be happening!

First of all we can reveal that the Trust’s former GWR 0-6-2 tank locomotive No. 5643 is now due to return to Preston from Embsay around the 14th July. A preparatory shunt of the FRT shed at Preston was due to take place today, Monday.

Secondly, we are sorry to hear that Roger Benbow has recently had a spell in main works, Furness General Hospital at Barrow. Happily Roger is now home and making a good recovery we hear. Best wishes to you, Roger, from us all.

Ade with his lockdown hairBack to the good news, Ade, John Dixon, Tim and Keith re-united at Preston last Wednesday after a gap of three and a half months. Keith also overdue a haircutTim had brought down with him various boxes containing PPE, hand gel, adhesive tape and floor paint. The plan was to lay markers at 2 metres distance in both the RSR and FRT sheds. It was decided to practice with the FRT shed where Ade (sporting a 100 day isolation hair style) hoovered the floor.Ade hoovering the floor

The floor was then cleaned with white spirit before John applied adhesive black/yellow tape.John Dixon laying adhesive tape

Unfortunately the tape didn’t like the concrete floor so Plan B was invoked. Tim with yellow paintOnce the time consuming option of masking tape had been ditched, John made up a wooden stencil to enable Tim to apply some yellow marking paint, which appeared to do the trick.Floor markings in place

Now that we have the technology it is hoped to make rather more progress this week. Once this is achieved, and signage and hand sanitisers are mounted, we will be well on the way to re-opening the workshops.

Monday 22nd June 2020

It has been well over a month since our last blog so time for another update.

It must be said that there isn’t a huge amount to say as there hasn’t been any physical activity at Preston and we are still waiting for clarity as to what is allowed and when. However, behind the scenes, you can be assured that planning has been taking place in order to determine what the new norm should be when we return to the FRT shed at Preston.

On the positive front, we have amassed stocks of black/yellow adhesive floor tape, yellow marking paint, tissues, disposable masks, disposable gloves, waste bins for used PPE and 5 litre containers of hand sanitiser gel. A batch of wall mountable automatic hand sanitisers are on their way so hopefully, when the Government has finally decided how many metres apart we need to be to work, we should be able to plan in final detail how we organise our activities and can then post appropriate signage. The latter is already designed and ready to print but, again, there is no point in making up 2 metre distance signs if a ‘one metre plus’ regime is about to come into effect, as suggested in new over the weekend.

Mike and Tim have been undertaking the majority of the planning in respect of both the RSR and FRT workshops and also the RSR running shed. This is so that both organisations can adopt similar regimes. When we are able to set up the buildings so that they can be used in a safe manner we will issue a brief for working members to let them know what the new regime will be and so that they can arrive adequately prepared when we are able to re-open for volunteers. The RSR is also having to go through a similar, but more complex, process for the re-opening of the museum and railway to the general public.

We hope that you have all kept well during the lockdown and that you have managed to do all those jobs that you have been putting to one side over the years, so that you can return to work at Preston in the knowledge that there are no distractions at home!?!

Monday 11th May 2020

With the Prime Minister announcing a vision for the way out of lockdown last night, we thought that it would be a good time to make contact again.

Obviously, until a bit more clarity has been given on the revised restrictions, it is not possible to plan a specific date upon which work can start again in the FRT shed. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that Covid-19 has no intention of disappearing from the stage anytime soon, so we will inevitably have to look at ways in which a robust social distancing policy can be put in place at the Trust’s facilities at Preston for the protection of working members ready for when activities can safely resume. We will keep you informed as and when there are any further developments that can be announced.

In the meantime, we are pleased to be able to inform you that you can now buy your very own (rather smaller) 5643! Sonic Models are producing some N gauge versions of the 56xx, including our very own 5643, which are due to be available from the autumn. 5643 will be depicted as is, in pristine lined green livery with the later BR crest (the weathered version with the later crest depicts 6681; there are also other GWR and BR livery options). These are limited edition models which are being marketed exclusively by the well-known model retailers Rails of Sheffield. Pre-orders are now being taken and are advised, as the limited run  means these could sell out quite fast.

Keith will be pleased to note that the 56XX Class is described in the blurb as “attractive”. The extra bit of good news is that a donation to the FRT has been kindly promised from proceeds of the sales.

New polo shirtWhilst on the subject of retailing, Alison tells us that she can now supply black FRT customised polo and sweat shirts at £11.50 and £15.00 respectively each to members plus P&P – large and extra large sizes only at the moment.

We are also pleased to announce that Alison is now a great grandmother, to a little boy named Charlie James, born courtesy of granddaughter Lauren. Needless to say, Alison is thrilled to bits! James was her late husband Bill’s first name, and Alison says Lauren was very close to Bill. But Alison also wants to know how she can be old enough to be a Great Nana?!  (No rude answers from the back, please..!)

After the suggestion made in the last blog, Paul Balshaw has emailed to make contact with us and to say “cannot wait to get back to some real mechanical work! Garden getting to be superb!”

More contributions from members are welcome.

Finally for this week, a contribution from a long-time fan of our work. Photographer Philip Hatfield from Barrow often bumps into Neil when they are both working, and now he’s in the process of hanging up his cameras, he is going through some of his old photos and videos. And he’s come across something he shot purely for his own pleasure. It features some, well,  twenty years younger familiar faces… See how many you can spot!


Monday 20th April 2020

A short blog this time just to keep in touch with our members and followers.

As you can imagine, given the current Government restrictions, there is no progress to report on maintenance or restoration activities. However, we can record that the new springs for FR 20 have been received at Preston and are in storage ready for when we can restart operations. Thanks go to the full time Ribble Rail staff for receiving the springs on our behalf.

We are pleased to be able to report that Alan Middleton is on the mend and that both he and Alison are now technically now out of isolation after Alan’s recovery from Covid-19. However, Alan informs us that the virus has left him without much energy and that he is struggling to get much inclination even to play with the O gauge tinplate variety of railways never mind the twelve inches to the foot scale. On the same subject, we hear that Jim Kay has also been suffering from the dreaded lurgy, but he is fortunately well on the way to recovery. Best wishes, Jim, from us all.

You will no doubt be pleased to learn that the usual background administrative activities are still being tackled and that the 2019 accounts are now being finalised. The next challenge will be to get the various documentation to the Trust’s Independent Examiner.

Maisy Davies, Ribble Steam Railway’s Front of House Manager, has still been beavering away, albeit from home, and has now posted a piece on the RSR’s website regarding the work done by artist Gavin Redshaw on Caliban‘s restoration for exhibition at the Harris Institute. Unfortunately the exhibition has had to be closed because of the current emergency, but some of our working members will no doubt recognise themselves in the sketches now on line.

The current good weather has no doubt enabled many of us to catch up with some of those jobs that devoting time to steam preservation has previously caused us to put to one side. We assume that everyone’s gardens are now in fine fettle and that this will eventually allow us all to return to the FRT shed with a clear conscience knowing that the household jobs are out of the way!?! We are pleased to report that the good weather has also enabled “Wootton Hall” to make a rare appearance out in the sunshine….Wootton Hall steams... err...

We hope that all our members are fit and well. Please feel free to keep in touch (send an email to Neil) with any of your own news that we can include in future blogs. In the meantime, keep safe!