Monday 9th July 2018

FR20 heads to Strand Road
Photo by Ian Hardman

Sunday 8th July 2018 has been in our diaries for a long time, as it was scheduled to be the last day of FR 20’s boiler certificate before its 10 year boiler lift and overhaul. For that reason the loco was scheduled to operate the trains on the Ribble Steam Railway on both the Saturday and Sunday, with excellent weather to hand – well we had had plenty of time to put in the request for it!

The end is nigh - last day in serviceSaturday was a little quiet (something to do with a football game!), but plenty of people, including many members and friends, came along to say “Goodbye” on Sunday. Coincidentally, Neil was able to spend his first full day on the footplate at Preston that day as he looks to regain his fireman’s ticket – at least he had a loco that he knew from times past.

Back on shed - the end of a seond ten years certificateSadly, after handling the train service and rake of three coaches without fuss, FR 20 retired to the shed at the end of service on Sunday afternoon in steam for the last time for a while. As Tim put it at this point: “finish with engines”.  We know from the large amount interest on the internet that everyone is willing the FRT to get the loco back in traffic as soon as feasibly possible.

There has again been steady progress in the FRT shed at Preston. Tim has been applying more gold size and varnish to Great Eastern Royal Saloon No. 5 whilst John Dixon and Mike have been undertaking repairs to droplights. John Dixon repairing one of GER No. 5's droplightsJohn is seen here cleaning out a droplight sill prior to reassembling it. Roger has started the job of sanding down and priming parts of the buffers and couplings.

With the weather far too hot to progress the painting of the exterior of the mess room, John Davis and Paul Newton undertook their own version of Scrapheap Challenge amongst the various paraphernalia near the FRT shed and found the remains of an L&NWR bench seat, which they are now interested in restoring.

Fred cleaning up 5643's regulator quadrantKeith has brought back some of 5643’s components from Embsay for fettling and Fred is seen here on Friday cleaning up the regulator quadrant. Keith was due to go over to Embsay on Sunday as he looks to get 5643 back in steam as quickly as possible.

Keith setting up the axleboxes in Wootton Hall's tender framesIn the meantime, Keith has been lining up Wootton Hall‘s tender axleboxes with the overhauled tender frames, seen here at work. A further riveting session is planned for Thursday.

Finally, for those of you who are wondering where latest edition of members’ magazine The Iron Horse has got to, we can tell you that Alan is currently sorting out the layout and choosing the photos in readiness for it to go to the printer.

Monday 2nd July 2018

Well the heat is definitely on, in more ways than usual, as we tackle the queue of jobs that we have at the moment.

The work on Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5 is proceeding at a steady pace as John Dixon fills the cracks in the teak panels and Tim applies more gold size and varnish.

Alan Ogden with the switch boxAlan Ogden has once again been tackling the instruments and smaller electrical items on Fluff and is seen here with a refurbished switch box.Fluff's refurbished electric switch box

At last, it came freeAde, Alan and Howard have been hard at it in their efforts to remove the final spring hanger pin on Caliban‘s frames. Suffice to say that plan Z didn’t produce immediate results, but lots of sweat and toil were duly expended and victory was eventually achieved.

Neat rivets on Wootton Hall's tender framesIt is pleasing to be able to report that the riveting session on Wootton Hall the previous Thursday had seen approximately 50 rivets installed, and evidence of a neat job is seen in this photo of a newly riveted bracket on the front portion of the frames.

Tender steps backing plates for Wootton hallBacking plates for the tender cab steps have also been bent to shape.

Front plate for Wootton HallAnd a newly fabricated and shaped plate is seen here on the frames in front of the boiler.

With all this progress being made on the project, Keith has, at not inconsiderable expense, now placed an order for two new live steam injectors for Wootton Hall with South Coast Steam of Portland, Dorset.

Alan Middleton has also been in touch with South Coast Steam, in this case to order new injector components for Cumbria‘s left hand injector to replace items which had become badly worn.

Last week’s AGM was unusually chaired by Neil in the absence of Tim, who was elsewhere to see son Matthew passed out as a Police Cadet. The meeting passed smoothly although took four minutes longer than the previous year – must have been something to do with Tim’s lengthy written report!

Railway band in a bus stationAlan, Tim and Pete Skellon successfully made it to the Bolton Station Community Gala on Saturday and, would you believe it, played railway songs in the bus interchange for half an hour! Must have been rail replacement songs! Both Alan and Pete had been disorganised in forgetting to take their mobile phones with them, but between you and us Alan also forgot to take a set of teeth – but we won’t tell anyone, will we?

Finally, FR 20 makes its last public appearance in steam at the Ribble Steam Railway this next Saturday and Sunday before its ten year boiler overhaul.

Monday 25th June 2018

Well, would you believe it? We’re half way already from last Christmas to the next! And, yes, we’ve mentioned the ‘C’ word this year in record early time!!

It has been very much a case of more of the same in terms of work at Preston this week.

Ade still trying to remove that spring hanger pinAde failed to score with Caliban‘s last spring hanger pin last Wednesday and is now looking for a plan Z for this week. We will, as ever, keep you posted.

John Dixon repairing a door on GER 5There is more varnish on GER No. 5 with still plenty more to apply once John Dixon has finished filling in all the remaining cracks in the woodwork. Meanwhile Mike and Paul Newton have been working on a plan to create a replica works plate for Rachel, Ken Nuttall’s petrol Simplex at Haverthwaite, for Roger who has been working on it for some time now.

John Davis has been back on the roof of the mess room with yet more paint and it is hoped to move down to the sides in the not too distant future, Fred having given them a good clean.

A last reminder that the AGM will be held in the shed at Preston tomorrow (Tuesday) evening at 19.30. Alison promises some home baking, so those attending please make sure you leave some room when having tea.

Finally, Alan, Tim and Pete, otherwise known as Live Steam, have been booked to appear on stage at the Bolton Station Community Rail Day next Saturday, provisionally from 3 pm until 4 pm, with their repertoire of railway songs.

Monday 18th June 2018

There’s plenty more progress to report at Preston this week.

Mike Rigg repairing a window frame from GER 5John Dixon has been moving around the Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5 filling in cracks on the teak panels whilst Mike Rigg has repaired one of the window frames.GER 5 with a coat of varnish on the north sideTim has continued the task of applying gold size and a first coat of varnish, which has been completed on the north side and east end.

Ade drilling that stubborn pinAdrian spent Wednesday trying to drill out the last remaining spring hanger pin on Caliban, but to no avail so far. So plan B is for next Wednesday, although Ade hasn’t yet told us what that may be.Howard and David with a spring hanger screw to removeHoward has been trying to release the retaining screws on top of the spring hangers and he is seen here with David applying plenty of pressure on a stubborn screw.

Keith drilling Wootton Halls tender framesMeanwhile Keith has been doing some more drilling on Wootton Hall‘s tender frames and is expecting Matt Gervis to appear on Thursday to start fitting some rivets. The NDT man is also expected this week to test the tender axles.

John Davis painting the mess room roofOutside the shed John Davis has been painting the mess room roof and, with the assistance of Fred, the outside is looking much cleaner in readiness for painting.

Owd Sue before breaking downA 1949 Duple bodied Bedford made an appearance for the RSR’s Beer and Cider Festival over the weekend, but unfortunately Owd Sue, as she is known, succumbed fairy early in the proceedings owing to the failure of a lift pump. A replacement bus was supplied very promptly by Coastal Coaches.

Alison with a cream teaFinally, we include a photo taken on the 27th May of Alison with one of her cream teas.

Wednesday 13th June 2018

First of all, sorry that we are a couple of days late this week, due to the overloaded diaries of the blog team. Apologies…

Following on from the announcement in last week’s blog of the sad passing of Chris Mills, we can now confirm that Chris’s funeral will be held at Preston Crematorium at 11.30 next Monday, 18th June. This will be followed in the early afternoon by a gathering at the Ribble Steam Railway where light refreshments will be available.

Ade and David Starkie attach a spring hanger pin on Caliban's framesIn the workshop there was a marked step forward on the (not so) mini project to remove the remaining extremely stubborn spring hanger pins from Caliban‘s frames. A further four pins were removed with the aid of an air powered hammer. Ade and David Starkie are seen here in action. Unfortunately, the air compressor sprang an oil leak and one pin, which has so far shown not one iota of movement, is still left to be extracted.

Gold size applied to the upper panels of GER No.5Sanding of the exterior woodwork of the Royal Saloon GER No. 5 has been completed and John Dixon is working his way around the coach with the wood filler. Tim has therefore been able to start the process of applying gold size, the effect of which can be seen by the accompanying photo, where the upper panels have received the gold size. Almost the whole of the north side of the vehicle has now been treated and more progress is anticipated this next week.

Paul Newton cleans the mess room roof watched by John DavisOutside the shed, there has been good progress on preparing the exterior of the mess room for painting. Fred had started the job the previous week and Paul Newton and John Davis are seen here on the roof applying the full force of the power washer. More red oxide on the exterior had appeared by the weekend and it is hoped to be able to continue this progress whilst the weather holds fair.

A further visit was made to Carnforth on Thursday by Alan, Keith and John Dixon to gather together the remaining small components that could be transported back to Preston with the RSR’s pick up. The next stage is to arrange a crane and lorry to transport the frames, wheels and tank.

The blog team received some “earache” for not mentioning last week the successful trial of Alison’s cream teas in the former FRT buffet car on the Bank Holiday Sunday. Assisted by Matt Bedford, the teas provided to the “guinea pigs” received the thumbs up and so a public launch is now planned for Sunday, 19th August. Well done, Alison.

The ten year boiler certificate for Furness Railway No. 20 expires on the 8th July and so it is planned to have a “last hurrah” for the loco at the RSR on the 7th and 8th July. Then it will be a case of stripping it down for overhaul in the FRT shed. Plenty there to keep us busy over the autumn and winter months.

And finally, a reminder that the RSR is holding its first Beer and Cider Festival this weekend complete with Classic Cars in attendance and a vintage bus service from Preston station. Late trains will be running on Saturday evening.

Monday 4th June 2018

We start this week’s blog with the sad news that Chris Mills, a long standing director of the Ribble Steam Railway, who also joined the FRT in recent years, passed away yesterday morning after a long and determined fight against illness. Chris, despite his health problems, remained a larger than life character who took on the duties of membership administration when Peter Sinclair retired in addition to his role as editor of The Ribble Pilot and administrator of the RSR’s web site. Chris was also in close touch with the media and arranged advertising for special events. He will be very much missed at Preston and our thoughts go out to his wife, Sonja, and Chris’s family.

FR20 on its first day back in action at the RSRFurness Railway No. 20 made a return to steam at the RSR over the Bank Holiday weekend, operating successfully over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The tender had been lowered back on to its rear wheelset the previous Wednesday after attention to the rear right axlebox. We are pleased to report that the axlebox showed a significant improvement in performance and, whilst still warming up over a period of time, was nothing like as bad as had been experienced at Shildon during FR 20’s latter steamings there. No doubt the axlebox will get further attention during the locomotive’s forthcoming overhaul.

A Facebook Live was filmed on the footplate of FR 20 that day, which was broadcast “live” on our Facebook page, to record the complete run along the length of the RSR. This has proved to be extremely popular – it’s been shared 90 times and been seen by more than 6000 people. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s here..

News of the generous donation of former Furness Railway No. 25 aka Barrow Haematite Steel Company No. 17 to the FRT by the Executors of the late Bert Hitchen’s estate is now in the public arena and we have had a very positive reaction. Both Steam Railway and Railway Magazine sent their congratulations and the view that the FRT was the right and proper custodian of this locomotive, and similar views have been expressed over on our Facebook page.

Visits have been made to Carnforth by Alan, Keith and John Dixon over the last two Thursdays in order to retrieve the smaller components of 25/17. A further visit is planned for this next Thursday after which a plan will made to bring the frames, cab and wheels to Preston.

John Davis and Paul Newton at work on GER No. 5

Work has continued on the FRT’s projects, including the sanding down of Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5. John Davis and Paul Newton are seen here hard at work.

We conclude by having to report that the end may well be nigh for FRT Campervan No.1 which, as we reported a  few weeks ago, suffered a clutch failure on the A66 whilst returning from Shildon. Unfortunately, it also suffered a more terminal brake failure whilst being manoeuvred at the garage, where it had been towed for repair. It appears that it came off worse when the front of it ran into a wall! Still, Alan reckons that he got his money’s worth out of it over the last nine years.

Monday 21st May 2018

Ade, John Dixon and Alan with one of FR20's axleboxesAs mentioned in last week’s blog, the main task at this last Wednesday’s working party was the jacking up of FR 20’s tender to attend to an axlebox which had been showing signs of warming up during the latter days of its operation at Locomotion, Shildon. Once the axlebox had been dismantled it became clear that both the bearing and the journal had, for some reason, become scored. Also, the bearing had become too good a fit, not enabling oil to circulate and lubricate the interface between bearing and journal.

Tim set to and did his best to take out the roughened surface on the journal by the painstaking method of applying varying grades of abrasives, with John Dixon carrying on the task on Friday. Alan attends to the axlebox bearingAlan, meanwhile, took the bearing aside to remove some of the brass in order to give some more lead towards the top of the bearing, so allowing more oil to circulate. Alan tests the surface of the bearing with engineer's blueThe oil pad showed signs of wear to the rivets, which suggested that these had come into contact with the journal. Some horsehair was retrieved from store with a view to substituting this instead of the oil pad when the axlebox is reassembled. The engine, incidentally, already has horsehair in its axleboxes and this seems to have worked well in the past. All being well, FR 20’s tender will be back on its feet on Wednesday and it is proposed that it will be in service on the RSR over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Howard trys to free off another spring hangerWork also progressed on Caliban where a further spring hanger has been freed off, much against its will. Only another five to go! Howard is seen here tackling the next one.

More new metal in Wootton Hall's tender framesKeith has been making the most of his retirement, as can be seen from this photo of new steelwork between Wootton Hall‘s tender frames.

John Davis, assisted on Friday by Mike Rigg (taking a break from his holidays!) has continued the long task of sanding down the Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon. Well done John!

Finally, we have positive news from Embsay in that Cumbria has passed its steam test in the presence of the boiler surveyor and, after a change of brake blocks, should be back in service this next weekend.

Monday 14th May 2018

Last week we left you in suspense as to whether Alan’s failed campervan would get to Preston before midnight last Tuesday after its breakdown on the A66 at Stainmore early afternoon. We can now report that the AA finally delivered Alan and his campervan to the RSR at 00. 45 Wednesday morning. Needless to say that, after an 02.00 arrival at his bed, Alan wasn’t back with us at Preston until rather later on that day.

John David and Paul Newton sanding down GER No. 5 090518Meanwhile, Tim, Paul Newton and John Davis continued the job of sanding down Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5 whilst John Dixon filled and sanded down the various cracks in the teak panels. One of the worst cracks in the teak panels on GER No. 5The job continued on Friday when Fred and Roger joined Paul and the two Johns, with the task now well on the way to completion. John Dixon re-assembling a door after repairing a crack in the front teak panelThat’s just as well for the work really does take it toll, numbing both fingers and mind!

Howard and Adrian continued their efforts to remove Caliban‘s springs – three on the ground are pictured here last Wednesday. Adrian put in a little more time on both Thursday and Friday (he must be getting better!) and the fourth spring was off by the time that he retired from the fray. Ade is back to work this week, we hear.

Keith at work with a drill.We forgot last week to congratulate Keith on his retirement from his job with Ribble Rail on the 4th May. Needless to say, Keith is making the most of his new found leisure time to progress the tender frames for Wootton Hall. He is seen here drilling a brace section that will support the vacuum cylinder.

This next Wednesday should see some work to examine one of FR 20’s tender axleboxes which was found to be warming up during its final steamings at Locomotion. Some attention to the brass bearing looks likely in order to solve the problem.

Finally this week, the FRT’s ‘Austerity’ 0-6-0ST Cumbria has been taken out of traffic at Embsay and washed out in readiness for it cold inspection by the boiler surveyor today. If all goes well, there will be a formal steam test early next week.

Tuesday 8th May 2018

FR 20 ready for its Last Hurrah at Shildon on Monday, 7th MayThis last weekend saw Furness Railway No. 20’s last three days of operation at Locomotion, Shildon before returning to Preston this week in readiness for its ten year boiler overhaul. Eustace Forth at Shildon which will take over from FR 20 at LocomotionLocomotion had arranged a Festival of Steam, which included the first appearance of replacement locomotive, RS&H 0-4-0ST Eustace Forth plus some road steam engines. Line up of road steam power st LocomotionThat Sentinel steam lorry was certainly an impressive beast! John and Jean Dixon, Sam Middleton and Keith Brewer visited on Sunday to enjoy the sunshine and steam.Alan and Tim with two ladies from Same Difference ArtsAlan and Tim had their photo taken with two young ladies from the Same Difference Arts who were performing street theatre in Steam Punk attire.

Staff and volunteers at Locomotion attack the cakes before FR 20's final two runs at Shildon on Monday, 7th MayFR 20 ran the last three hours on Monday on its own, with a pause at 15.30 to enable the NRM’s Anthony Coulls to make a lovely speech on behalf of Locomotion to mark the nine years that FR 20 had been based there. There then followed the cutting of two large cakes before staff and volunteers boarded the train, along with visitors, for the final two departures of the day. Needless to say, there was some loud whistling from the locomotive on the final journey (by guess who) followed by some goodbyes from Alan, Alison and Tim to the Locomotion family of staff and volunteers, some of whom had turned up on Monday to have a last go on the regulator. All in all, a fitting if not rather nostalgic occasion. Hopefully, FR 20 will be back in the not too distant future.

As of tonight, FR 20 is standing on the apron at Locomotion waiting to be loaded at 09.00 on Wednesday morning and, at the time of writing (just before 8pm) poor Alan is at Killington service station waiting for the second AA breakdown truck of the evening to take him onwards to Preston following a clutch failure on his campervan at 14.30 hrs going over Stainmore on the A66. Alison has arrived at Killington to keep him company and he hopes to be at Preston before midnight!

More synchronised sanding from John Dixon and John DavisWork has continued at Preston on sanding down the weathered sections of woodwork on GER Royal Saloon No.5, although fingers are now becoming rather numb from the effort! The worse side has now been tackled so a start has been made on one of the ends. The second side should just require a light sand to allow new varnish to key to the existing varnished surface. John Dixon and John Davis are seen here in synchronised sanding action.

Howard and Ade hard at it with CalibanAdrian made a welcome return on Wednesday after a visit to works for repairs and is seen here giving moral support to Howard as he battles with the dismantling of Caliban‘s springs.Dvid Rimmer lending a hand with Caliban on the 5th MayDavid Rimmer joined in the action on Saturday and a second spring has now been removed.

Mike Rigg and David Rimmer hard at it in the mess room stuffing envelopes with the GDPR infoMike Rigg spent most of Wednesday in the mess room, assisted by David, stuffing envelopes with GDPR correspondence, which should now have landed with members – in fact two consent forms were already back through the post on Friday, even though second class post had been used in both directions. If you haven’t already done so, please return the consent forms as quickly as possible so that the FRT can remain in full contact with you.

Progress with assembling Wootton Hall's frames after the recent welding can be seen hereAnd we leave you with a view of progress on Wootton Hall‘s tender frames, which are now gaining additional metal following the recent completion of the welding work on the side plates.

Monday 30th April 2018

GER 5 now in the shedWork started on Wednesday on the refresh of the FRT’s Great Eastern Railway Royal Saloon No. 5. The coach had, as planned, been shunted into the heated part of the shed after the RSR’s TPO coach had been moved round into the museum.The TPO now in the museum Discussing next stepsTime was taken to re-familiarise with the saloon and to identify work to be done. Whilst Tim cleaned up the shed floor to remove dust and the like from the TPO overhaul, others started to move around the chairs in coach in order to hoover and tidy up one of the carpets. It would be a nice idea to replace all the carpets with something more suited to a Royal saloon, but we will have to weigh up the costs! The upholstery also needs some considerable attention and again it will be necessary to get some quotes for upgrading it.

Some of the weathered exterior on GER 5In the meantime, it was decided to attend to the exterior of the saloon. Some of the varnish had begun to peel, particularly on the north side of the vehicle as it stands now – the adjacent photo illustrates the problem. The Gang rubbling down the saloonA test area was sanded down by Mike, both Pauls and John Davis before Tim applied some gold size, which brought the colour back to the teak. Roger Benbow, John, Paul Newton and Mike continued the task on Friday. The south side of the vehicle isn’t too bad, but will benefit from some more coats of varnish in due time.

John Dixon continued his work in the mess room where he swapped round the hinges on the fridge freezer so they are more convenient for those using the work top to make a cup of tea or coffee. He also assisted Fred on Friday with fitting the cable for the new aerial. Fred then continued on to clean up a fresh buffer for Wootton Hall‘s tender with a wire brush.

Keith was due to go across to Embsay on Sunday to take back the superheater header for 5643 and some replacement firebars for Cumbria. Howard is now working out how to fix up a drill to remove those stubborn spring hanger pins on Caliban.

This next weekend sees the Festival of Steam Gala at Locomotion, Shildon, which will also mark FR 20’s final turns of duty before it returns to Preston on Thursday. Alan, Tim and Alison will be travelling across the Pennines to be with the old engine and a dinner is being planned on Saturday evening by volunteers to mark the occasion of FR 20’s imminent departure. Joining FR 20 for the Gala will be Robert Stephenson and Hawthorne o-40ST No. 7063 Eustace Forth, built in 1942. The locomotive worked as No. 15 at Dunston Power Station.

Finally, following the extended meeting of the Trustees last week, members will be receiving an envelope through the post containing official notification of the AGM date (Tuesday, 26th June at 7.30 pm) together with a letter regarding the steps taken to comply with the General Data Processing Regulation plus the FRT’s Privacy Policy. This  is a subject that is having to be tackled by many other organisations. A form and SAE are enclosed to enable members to give their consent to the Trust maintaining full contact with them after the implementation of the GDPR on the 25th May.