April 17th, 2017

Isabel’s Overhaul – April 2017 Report

Since the last report (nearly two years ago!), our little Hawthorn Leslie has come on well. Whilst work isn’t happening fast, it is better to ensure a job is done well and once, than to rush and encounter problems later on.

So, what’s happened with Isabel?

First off, the wheels have been put back under the chassis, and all the coupling and connecting rods fitted. Following the re-fitting of springs, the frames have also been lowered and we have a rolling chassis once again – and it appears the knocking, which had been a cause for concern during her steamings in 2012, has cleared up. Other work included the fitting of a new brake column and bushes to the brake rigging; all this work was undertaken whilst the boiler was away in Norfolk.

Upon its return, the boiler barrel was jet cleaned before the tubes were installed and subsequently expanded. The bottom few rows of tubes were then beaded as required. Some of the firebox studs have needed to be replaced, along with new washout plugs, gauge columns and mudhole doors. The grate assembly also had to be entirely replaced, whilst the regulator has only needed repairs to a few worn areas.

The in-house engineers have also manufactured a set of firebox doors and linkage, which will make firing Isabel much easier, and they envisage that there will still be many more pieces needing to be manufactured when reassembling begins. The ashpan and smokebox, amongst other components, were rubbed down and treated to a coat of protective red oxide – the smokebox has since been given a coat of black; both of these are also new, being made by Mervyn Mayes Engineering.

In March 2017, blanking plates were fitted where necessary and the boiler filled with water to check for cold leaks. Our Chief Engineer was comically relieved to find a few, commenting he would have been more worried if there were none! The following few weeks were spent tending to these and then a hydraulic test was carried out. Finally, at the start of April, the first fire was lit – a significant milestone in the overhaul, as it means we are getting closer. A few more drips were observed and have since been sorted – we even managed to get some pressure up!

A few more tests will be carried out to ensure the boiler is fit and healthy before we invite the boiler inspector in. If all goes well and it passes, Isabel could receive her 10-year ticket very soon, after which it will be all hands to the pump to reassemble the engine and prepare her for service.

In the meantime, the chimney needs to be sent away for repairs, and all the small pieces taken off of the engine over the years and stored will need to be found again. Once reassembled, testing of the locomotive can start, and final painting into her smart red livery can be undertaken.

It may seem a light report, but the work has been lengthy and often set back by the steam department needing to attend to the operational engines. New faces are always welcome, as being involved in the overhaul of a steam engine is a great introduction to those who want to progress to working on the footplate.

Tony Goulding
Head of Steam