Most of our volunteers work on the major overhauls of engines. We also have five paid staff. Three of our volunteers work on the locomotives, but due to running repairs, they often only one have time for loco overhaul work. Lastly we have two paid staff in the carriage and wagon- one on overhauls and one on maintenance. There are also other groups:
We pride ourselves on doing things well. Under the guidance of Alan Whenman, our overhauls are carried out to a high standard. A recent innovation is the use of a wet blaster to strip and clean before painting. This is like a grit blaster but also has a very small amount of water to add mass, and cut down noise and dust. An inhibitor can be added to prevent rust. Research has shown this gives a far better paint bond than a needle gunned or shiny surface.
Overhauls are only a small part of our work; most of our time is spent on repair and maintenance. Once restored, our locomotives are well looked after. A warming fire is always lit the day before a steaming, to warm the boiler so it is hot to touch and reduce the stresses of rapid heating, which can cause cracks. At the end of the day, ash is removed from the smokebox and ashpan- if left to accumulate, ash will form a corrosive acid if it mixes with water, which can eat through the steel of a wheelbarrow in a few months. All engines have chimney caps put on at night to keep rain out, and help retain heat, so that the boiler is warmer next day, and heating stresses are reduced.
A lot of pride goes into presentation. Locomotives are mostly cleaned with wax polish for a better, longer lasting shine than the old method of Paraffin and oil. Firemen and drivers also do the cleaning. Our loco superintendent, Paul Roe and his crew work to a high standard and enjoy a great reputation.
No water treatment is used, so boilers are washed out as often as every month - plenty of black gunge and scale, sometimes the odd rivet! A high flow-rate pump has been built to make washouts better and faster. In the photo, Alan Whenman is blasting water through one washout plughole, along the water space, and watching the way the water escapes from the next hole. From experience he can tell that the water is escaping too slowly and there is a partial blockage. He is directing the jet along the water space to clear the blockage.
Repairs are always required; the best kept engines are prone to wear (e.g. new brake blocks to new piston rings) or leaks. In the photo an injector from Thomas has been removed, to cut new seats for the steam valve and clack valve, and stop steam leaks. Note the specially made steel fittings, used to guide a shaped tool to cut the seats with grinding paste.
Many heritage lines are building new loco sheds - we are building not just a shed, but a new overhaul workshop with a 10T overhead crane; the tool that should enable the railway to provide the steam engines it needs to survive. The building started going up in November 2006, but we are in desperate need of more funds before it can be completed.
If making hopelessly outdated giants work once again appeals to you, then call us. Imagine the sense of achievement after having worked for days, even years, when the results of your labour burst dramatically into life!
Don't let us have all the fun, call us in the shed on 01780 781676, at break times of 10:00, 12:30 and 15:00. To volunteer on the footplate, speak to the office on 01780 784444. We are a friendly bunch, but there are only a handful of us - your help would be warmly welcomed! No skills are needed, you need only be warm to the touch. Once you settle in, expect to make some good friends.