Following the New Year, our volunteers have returned to work on their projects at Lea Bailey. A recent working party was cancelled due to snow, the following week was wet, and a visit after Christmas was cancelled after two members came down with heavy colds. We are currently carrying out a light restoration on a large tub wagon which had previously been converted to a manrider, possibly at a coal mine, but like many of our items we are unsure of its origin.
The outside had previously been treated with a needle gun and wire wheel before painting with black bitumen, and today’s task was to work on the inside. During the work, we managed to find several old crisp packets and food wrappers, possibly from the miners’ lunch boxes many years ago.
Nick has also been working on the WR5. The battery box has been removed and work has started on removing the parts necessary to separate the frames from the running gear. This will allow a full internal inspection of the final drive and hopefully a repair to allow the locomotive to run again. Whilst it is stripped down we can also think about rubbing down parts and repainting them when the weather is a bit more favourable.
Some time ago, the Lea Bailey Light Railway arranged a wagon exchange. One of the Hudson u-skip wagons stored at Clearwell Caves was swapped with Brian Faulkner (owner of a private 2-foot gauge railway nearby) for a v-skip to be used at Lea Bailey. The tipper had seen better days, and in early 2016 a replacement skip was sourced from Alan Keef Ltd. and fitted as part of our Winter Works programme. The old skip was stored with the hope that it could be repaired and re-used in the future, along with the spare pedestals that came with the new skip.
Richard Dixon is another of our members who has his own 2-foot gauge railway, and had a Hudson skip chassis that he had purchased as part of a job lot and was surplus to his requirements. This was purchased by the society and stored awaiting repairs. Recently, it was decided to assemble the kit of parts into an operational wagon. Some new bolts were obtained and Nick fitted the pedestals to the wagon chassis and after a liberal application of oil to the wheel bearings it was propelled around the track to the mine entrance where the spare skip was in storage.
With the help of some old sleepers, the tipper body was rolled onto the chassis, and we now have another useful wagon in the fleet. We are planning to clean it up with a wire wheel and apply some black bitumen paint in order to protect it from further deterioration, and eventually the rusted parts of the chassis and skip will have some welding done. Another wagon being prepared for painting is the converted coal tub manrider, which was swept out by our new young volunteer James. We are also planning to clean up and paint some of the structures on site such as the shed, container and tank, so new members and volunteers are always welcome.
With the wheelsets for the Eimco 401 back on site and re-gauged to 24″ the next task was to get them back into the frames. To say they were a tight fit is an understatement. Both sides had to be raised equally to avoid the axle boxes jamming in the horn guides. The wheelset nearest the driver’s position — which we have taken to calling the rear of the locomotive — was the easier (or least difficult) of the pair due to the presence of the adjuster bolts which are used to tension the drive chain.
The springs on the front wheelset are a bit “saggy” and may end up being replaced, but as a temporary solution the locomotive has been levelled with two wooden packing blocks. Once all the bolts were tightened up the faces of the tyres were cleaned with the aid of a grinder and polished with emery tape to remove any high spots and prevent them from rubbing on the frames. All that was left to do was slide the locomotive slowly onto the rails and park it up in preparation for the next task.
Before a pressure vessel can be tested with air, it needs a hydraulic test to verify the structural integrity. If there were any leaks or weak spots this would show up by the egress of water and avoid the risk of an explosion. Of course to fill the tank with water the air needs to be removed so a special air bleed pipe was made which required the locomotive to be tilted over and a small hole dug underneath in order to fit it.
The water was pumped in using Nick’s petrol powered fire pump from our own supply which flows out of the mine and is crystal clear as long as nobody has stirred up the silt by walking along the drainage channel! Once full, a special pump was used to pressurise the system to 165 psi which is 1½ times the working pressure of 110 psi.
After verifying the pressure reading and visually confirming that there were no leaks we were able to call in a professional to carry out the necessary pressure test and visual inspections to certify the pressure vessel (see video clip below). The next job will be to connect the drive chains and test the air motor which was blanked off for the test.
If you were a mine operator then a compressed-air locomotive such as the Eimco 401 would be a very useful thing. Most underground mines would already have a compressor to power the air tools and the 401 was designed to be easily convertible between the two popular rail gauges of 18″ and 2ft. Of course “easily” would be dependent on a number of factors, such as a fully-equipped heavy engineering workshop, skilled workers with experience of the task in hand, and a programme of regular maintenance and cleaning. Carrying out the same job outdoors in a forest on a locomotive that has been stored out of use for some time is a completely different kettle of fish.
Before any attempt could be made to remove the wheels, the drive chains would first have to be disconnected. A build-up of old grease and a layer of dried mine-waste was certainly not useful! Even with the chains out of the way, the wheels would not come out without a fight. The wheels are fitted to the axles with a set of spacers which can be removed and re-installed in two different configurations depending on the gauge required. They are “outside” the wheels for 18 inch gauge so to convert to 24 inch would require them to be re-fitted “inside” the wheels. Of course to do this one must first get the wheels off the axles. Even the largest sledgehammer and heavy block of wood only managed to move one wheel about an inch in an afternoon so a different solution was needed. Our local narrow gauge railway engineer Alan Keef was given the task and apparently the ex-Simplex wheel press required abround 40 tons of force to get the wheels off!
A number of compressed-air fittings have been obtained and are stored off-site ready for use. Another important job before the locomotive can run will be to hydraulically test the pressure vessel and have it certified by a professional inspector. Our volunteers are working on this behind the scenes, and we are having a special fitting made which will let air out as the vessel is filled with water in order to carry out the hydraulic pressure test.