June 24th, 2016

Peak Progress – The Story So Far



“Team 45” – the group working on the privately-owned Class 45 locomotive – have been making good and steady progress since their arrival at North Weald in September 2014. The following article was provided by Robert Bish to update followers as to what has been taking place:

At the back end of 2014, we decided we could bring so many tasks to be worked on, back to Portsmouth (aka Pompey); I offered the use of my garage to facilitate this and, together with two new members – David (who is retired), and his son Paul (who is in the metal fabrication and engineering business), all the heavy fabrication work required on the loco has gone ahead apace.

The support group – “Team 45” as we like to call ourselves, or – officially – “45-132 Support Group” –  consists of three members who can help us when on site at North Weald, and upwards of six in Pompey. Three to four of us work on Thursdays, and all of us get together on Saturdays. This has allowed us to get far more work completed to the high standards we have set ourselves, than if we worked only on site at North Weald.

I will start at the lower parts of the loco, namely the battery box trays. All four have been totally rebuilt to receive type 47 batteries – she had been using type 37, which were not up to the job. The four drop down tray covers have been fully stripped and refurbished (i.e., back to bare metal) and custom-built hasps to take security padlocks have been manufactured to fit these doors; all work completed in my garage.

All 14 floor plates were brought home and cleaned back to bare metal, replacement aluminium fabricated where required and all plates covered with new Lino; these are now fitted in the Loco.


All four cab seats have been refurbished and reupholstered; one set was installed earlier this year, whilst the others were kept stored with a number of other components. These are as follows: eight air filter boxes, sundry cab panels, one rocker cover, two generator cover components, 4 padlocks (together with the hasps), one cab handle assembly and two refurbished cab ceiling switch panel plates. Keith Hawkins, another gentleman who helps us, has a heavy engraver of the type that was in use in the 1960s. He will be able to make new identity labels for the Loco, including ones for the switch panels, so they should end up looking like new. 

Now on to the heavy items:

The air filter assembly, refurbished, is in storage at Fareham.

The exhaust silencer (this was the big headache) has had a brand new baffle box fabricated by Paul. He and his dad have fitted this to a heavily rebuilt silencer assembly, which has had a coat of silver paint to finish it off. It looks like  “The Cat’s Whiskers!”022 (1)

The roof panel that bolts to the silencer has had an extensive amount of work done to it and fits properly; it is now painted as well.

The roof frame (yes, this is also in the garage, with not much room to move!) has also been heavily refurbished, with rusty and suspect parts replaced. It now awaits a final coat of paint.

And now to the final heavy metal component:  The exhaust silencer pocket.

This is welded to the roof frame and the exhaust silencer sits between it and the roof; it has required some very careful measurements, but is now tack welded to the roof frame and ready for MIG seam welding. This should be ready within the next 2-3 weeks and, upon completion of this task, we will then have to transport the roof, roof frame and exhaust silencer over to Fareham, to test fit as one unit to the air filter assembly. If this is OK, then we will be in a position to return all these components to the Loco at North Weald.

We then have to order all 96! batteries (she is 220 Volt) and work on the triple pump (for oil, fuel and coolant), to allow the engine to have lubricant and coolant so we can bar the engine over. This will allow the final flange bolts attaching the generator to the gearbox to be tightened. We should have some idea then as to whether the engine is free to run. The Loco owner is looking into the possible use of Ultra Capacitors alongside the lead acid batteries. These seem to be able to aid starting the engine without draining the batteries that would normally be employed. It would also allow the Loco to shut down between operations, thereby saving fuel.

The exhausts are almost ready to be reconnected; we just need to obtain a couple of gaskets. One of our group who works on the Big Railway will be able to do most of the electrical testing, including the traction motors which are the last big question mark at present.

As for our future aims, IF all the “ifs” come together, we would hope to have 45-132 running on her second anniversary of arriving at the EOR, which is mid-September this year.

Robert Bish
“Team 45”


April 13th, 2016

Building Bridges – April 2016 Update

 The Bridge Gang start remedial work on the under side of the bridge. Have you got your bridge spotters eye in and noted how many new bolted sections there are in place?

The Bridge Gang start remedial work on the under side of the bridge. Have you got your bridge spotters eye in and noted how many new bolted sections there are in place?

From the platform, it is very hard to spot the detailed work being carried out on the bridge. The work mainly focuses on replacing like for like, with old wasted sections being cut away and replaced with newly fabricated parts.

When painted, it’s hard to spot the new work; if you look carefully, the clue is that the new parts are welded or bolted in place with dome head bolts, whereas the old work is normally retained in place with rivets. Once you get your bridge spotters eye in, you will be surprised how much work the bridge gang have achieved – it is slow, laborious work.

Wasted sections of the structure are cut away and new sections in the process of being fitted.

Wasted sections of the structure are cut away and new sections in the process of being fitted.

A major milestone has been reached with the fitting of the new steps and the associated reinforcing stringer sections to the bridge. Work has now started on corroded support sections under the bridge. New smoke deflectors will soon be made up and fitted. Have you ever wondered what was the purpose of bridge mounted smoke deflectors? I am informed that, apart from deflecting the smoke away from the public on the bridge, it also helped to keep the acidic smoke off the bridge structure, helping to reduce the corrosive effects of acid.

The bridge team have noted that one side of the bridge has more corrosion damage than the other, one possible theory for this is that it was caused by our steam engines working hard climbing the bank as they depart North Weald, whilst on the other side they are rolling downhill.

The bridge team hope that once their current work is completed, no further major structural work will be required for many years.

On behalf of the bridge gang.

Chris Travers

April 6th, 2016

Diesel Department – April 2016 Update

Photo: Michael Drew

Photo: Michael Drew

Half Term Working

You would have thought the chances of many people turning up at the railway on a damp cold, overcast Wednesday in the middle of half term holiday as pretty remote however…

I signed on at North Weald and was meet by our business development manager, who informed me that, due to the high volume of advanced internet bookings, the train had been made up to six cars, top and tailed by Jennifer (the little steam engine) and the class 31 (also supplying train heat as well as traction power.) The fuel transfer pump on the Thumper was still playing up, which meant we were running a special one-train Ongar/Epping Forest timetable.

The service had been advertised as ‘Kids for a Quid’ (bring your own picnic.) The train soon became packed with families all setting up their ‘picnic camps’ in seating bays. When we left Ongar at around, twelve almost every seat on the six car train was taken. When we arrived at North Weald bound for Epping Forest, there were even more people waiting; the train left with standing room only, the passenger count tallying 450 passengers on board.

Such was the passenger demand that the two heritage buses abandoned the advertised service and were running a continuous shuttle between Epping and North Weald. It was nice to see so many families enjoying a day at the railway, in a warm comfy environment. (Thanks to the class 31 train heat.)

Good Friday was another very successful day, running both a six car train and the Thumper. Both trains experiencing high passenger numbers and at times, again, standing room only.

Development of North Weald Maintenance Shed

Cleared engine shed

The underfoot working conditions in the shed (being rough ballast) could never have be described as the best, being difficult to perform good quality maintenance work on. Also not so good was working on equipment on the ground. A decision was made to make a start on the developing of the shed, turning it in to a quality maintenance facility for coaches, Steam and Diesel Locos. The first job was to concrete the floor…

The shed was been completely cleared (which was a monster job in its own right), the track was checked and spot repaired as required, and the ground/track areas were levelled off using about thirty tons of hard-core that was compressed down. As you can imagine, there were many hours of detailed preparation work required, and things such as the wash basins and some electrical equipment had to be re-sited to allow for the change in floor levels.


At this stage it is intended to concrete the shed floor with the exception of the front half of Number One road. In this area, a new ‘clean’ maintenance pit will be constructed. Once the pit is finished the new concrete floor will be completed. In due course permeant access platforms on number one road, and a mezzanine storage floor at the Ongar end of the shed will be constructed. A new lighting system will be installed and other electrical work will be carried out.

The development of the shed is a huge investment in both time and money, but should provide a quality maintenance depot once completed.

Thumper 205205

After a number years of constant use, during which the unit has proven to be a reliable performer, and as you would expect she is due for some heavy maintenance work. The motor coach has had to be fitted with two new springs and a spring hanger. Quite a big job, as was sourcing the parts, but the task is now completed. One of the springer hangers had siezed and, despite valiant efforts to free it, in the end a new hanger was sourced and the old one cut off.

Both the main and auxiliary generators have been inspected and the commutators cleaned. There was an ongoing issue with the fuel transfer pump, whereby the top seal (which holds the drive shaft upright) had worn beyond limits. The problem is sourcing the small seal. It is not possible to go in to a ‘main dealer’ and ask for a part for a 1957 pump – a new seal has had to be made from scratch. One was made locally and only lasted four hours in service before allowing air into the system, causing the diesel engine to shut down at Ongar whilst working a school’s special service.

The class 31 went to the rescue; the kids thought it was part of the ‘school trip plan’ and all came out onto the platform to see the unit coupled to the Loco. We have traced a source of the original type of seal, which has now been fitted and the unit is back in full service. There are still a few non-urgent outstanding jobs; the fuel injectors are due for overhaul, one of the cylinder heads has to be changed (due to a worn rocker arm) and the engine room exterior bodywork on the signal box side is now showing signs of rust, and will need replanting and respraying in due course.

Class 117 DMU Railcar

DMS: Due to the development of the main shed at North Weald, work on the DMS has slowed. The roof has been completed and almost all the body preparation work is completed, ready for first primer coat of paint. Hopefully by the time you have read this all the masking work will be completed and the coat will be completed.

Rubbed down DMS Cab

The cab ready for the first coat of primer. (Note the must have tea mug on the lamp bracket!)

What appeared on the face of it to be a fairly straightforward job – the refitting of the last three yard section of gutter and getting a short two foot section of gutter fabricated – turned out to be anything but straight forward. I was working with Derek (one of our highly skilled engineers) who had replaced the other sections of gutter on this coach, but this section threw up problem after problem. We spent days lying on our sides drilling new offset holes for the pop rivet fittings every two inches. I won’t bore you with all the issue but it stretched Derek’s ingenuity to the limit. We even had to fabricate some special ‘angled clamping tools’ to hold the gutter on to the bodywork.

Derek - with the aid of a right angled drill - refits the guttering.

Derek – with the aid of a right angled drill – refits the guttering.

The shame of these types of jobs, when completed in a neat and tidy manner you would never guess the amount of skilled work it had taken to get to the finished stage.

DMBS: Where to start…

The team have been working on this car in the platform; maybe it would be best if I explained the route of the problem and go back to basics:

The railcar roofs appear to have been fabricated as a separate structure, then bolted and welded to the top rail of the body work during their construction. The main issue is that the galvanised roof panels do not overlap the body work, but stop short, leaving a slight gap. This gap is sealed by the aluminium gutter sections which are mounted on sealant and pop riveted in place.

On the DMBS there has been a similar issue to the DMS; a large hole formed in the roof panels at some stage which had been repaired, or – as we call it – bodged up! A new panel placed on top of the existing roof and overlapped on to the bodywork. The position of the new panel meant that the large gutter section could not be refitted using pop rivets, but was bonded on, leaving gaps which were filled with sealant. The rain, however, quickly found its way behind the gutter over a three yard section (Yards – showing my age again), leaking in between the exterior and interior walls.

Over the years, the exterior, interior and internal walls (oh, and not forgetting the floor) have all rotted. The team have been stripping back the internal walls both in the guards compartment and a section of the passenger coach; the guard’s compartment wall is also rotten and has had to be removed. We are now sourcing the new body structure parts; our engineers are confident they can fabricate the required body and roof panels.

The interior of the DMBS (or what’s left of it!) after the removal of internal walls and cladding to allow access to the rusted areas of external body work.

The interior of the DMBS (or what’s left of it!) after the removal of internal walls and cladding to allow access to the rusted areas of external body work.

The plan is, once we have finally removed all the rotten internal structure to allow access to the external body structure, one section of the rotten support structure will be cut out at a time, a new piece welded in, and only then cut the next section out – this will ensure the integrity of the body work.

We have found problems with the stitching of the material that makes up the vestibule connections. Guess what – it’s gone rotten!

Class 31

Class 31 to the rescue!

Class 31 to the rescue!

She has been the main stay of our service of late, with the 37 stopped for injector change. Apart from an oil leak on the top of the diesel engine, she has been her usual reliable self. It is just coming up for the twentieth anniversary of withdrawal from main line working, so we gave her a bit of a clean the other day.

Class 37

There has been a lot of pre-planed maintenance work taking place on this loco, including overhauled injectors, and also some work on the air system. During maintenance of the main generator, certain insulators were found to be defective and will need changing. New parts are on order.


Class 47

Stopped and sheeted up pending remedial work on the roof. One of the tarpaulins self-destructed in the recent gale.

Class 03s

03 170 has had its new alternator system modified with a smaller drive pulley. This means even on tick over the battery receives a full charge if required. Both Locos are generally restricted to yard duty’s and can normally be found around North Weald.

Class 25


Work continues off-site at Shackerstone, with new bodywork welded in place on the sides, and work now taking place around the bottom of the cabs.

Diesel Gala

Should be an interesting Diesel Gala, with one of the early builds of 08 shunt locos and a class 20 locomotive set to appear. How often do you get to ride behind a vacuum braked 08 Loco? Pre-booked for the Autumn gala is a Deltic – unbelievable!

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration group

March 20th, 2016

Locomotive Department – March 2016 Update

North Weald Depot

Behind the scenes, a lot has been taking place on our motive power fleet, keeping the operational locomotives in service, and working on those out-of-traffic to get them running again.

Steam Locomotives

BR (W) Hall No.4953 “Pitchford Hall”

The overhaul of the front half of the loco continues at the Great Central Railway workshops. Following removal of the backhead, removal of the stays around the firebox has begun. The tyres have been turned on the driving wheels, and a new crank axle obtained following the discovery of fracturing on the old one; this particular piece of work was carried out at the South Devon Railway.

Wheels refitted to new crank axle

Meanwhile, at North Weald MPD, the tender brake rigging has been test-fitted to ensure that all components are present and fit correctly following some various attention. The tender itself will be departing to join the front half of 4953 at some point. There have been discussions of using the tender as an extra water tank during the June steam gala, providing it is fit to do so.

BR (W) Large Prairie No.4141

Due to the extensive nature of repairs required, the loco will be sent for professional repairs off-site. No decision has yet been made as to whom the contract for this will be awarded.

Hawthorne Leslie No.3437 “Isabel”

Led by Tony, the Saturday team has been making steady progress. In the yard, the boiler tubes have been fitted and expanded; Tony is nearing completion with the beading at the firebox end, and will then finish at the smokebox end.

The axlebox shimming bolts have had Locktight applied by the volunteers, and the frames lowered onto the wheels. The eccentric motion, rods and brake rigging were all cleaned, painted and fitting, before the rolling chassis was shunted out of the shed a short way to ensure all was well; a positive find was the absence of a knocking, which had been a persistent source of concern when she was withdrawn.

A start was made on the next layer of paint on the cab, tank and boiler cladding – EWS Maroon for those interested, which will be her livery once again.

Hudswell Clarke & Co. No.1731 (Samuel Fox & Co. No.20) “Jennifer”

The on-hire loco has made a valiant effort, despite being an ‘oscillating’ rider that is a common trait with industrial locos. She proved popular over Christmas, but unfortunately, on 23 December 2015, broke a spring, which led to her withdrawal from the last of the year’s services. The spring was removed and sent away for repair, being returned and refitted in time for the February 2016 Half Term services, after which she received a quick washout.

Diesel Locomotives

BR Class 25 – 25173

The overhaul continues at Shackerstone; the latest report indicates that all the rough areas of bodywork have been cut away and prepared for the new sections to be installed; one side has almost been completed, and the loco should be returning in the not-too-distant future.

BR Class 31 – 31438

Operational, though in need of tyre turning.

BR Class 37 – 37029

Operational, and currently the main engineering loco.

Class 47 – 47635 “Jimmy Milne”

Now withdrawn from traffic for attention to the bodywork, roof and pressure-reducing valves. This will likely be the next major job once the Class 117 DMU and North Weald Shed concreting has been completed.

Class 45 – 45132

The owners and support group are making steady progress with the major work being carried out, both on and off site. A full article will follow detailing the work to date.

Class 03

Operational, and generally restricted to yard use. The rods require some attention, similar to that given to 03170’s rods last year. The bodywork is also in line to be seen to.


Operational, though limited to yard use. The vacuum braking is being looked at, as a few issues have arisen with this particular braking system. Some other small outstanding jobs to the running gear and engine also being carried out.

Class 117 DMU


Restoration continues, with all the seating having been reupholstered. The roof of the DMS (Driving Motor Standard) has been completed, and bodywork rubbed down and prepared for the application of undercoat. The DMBS (Driving Motor Brake Standard) has been sheeted over until it can move into the Shed, which will be once the DMS is completed. In the meantime, the Carriage and Wagon team are working on the corrosion around the guard’s compartment, and trying to find the source of the water ingress.

Class 205 DEMU – 205205

Temporarily out of traffic; as previously reported, the unit ran out of fuel mid-run, due to a faulty fuel gauge. The fuel lines and engine have been cleared of ‘sludge’, though the unit is having trouble holding power. In the meantime, the springs have been removed, refurbished and refitted; once the power issues have been resolved, the unit will be released back to traffic.

Ruston & Hornsby – D2957

Operational, though unused due to its very limited capabilities.

Report compiled by Owen Hayward
Updates provided by Tony Goulding (Steam) and Chris Travers (Diesel)

February 29th, 2016

Down The Line – Permanent Way February 2016

P-Way Team at work

Photo: Robert Good

One team that doesn’t often receive the praise it should is the P-way team, in charge of track maintenance and safety. From oiling fishplates to relaying rails, this team does almost everything when it comes to the running rails of our line.

P-Way Train

Photo: Steve Cooper

During our winter closedown, the line was inspected throughout, and it was noted that the stretch between Coopersale and the Epping Boundary needed some TLC – several trees had come down close to the line for a start.

Flatbed loaded with fallen trees

Photo: Robert Good

The last two Saturdays have seen our P-way teams hard at work, collecting up the remaining Conductor Rail chairs from this stretch of line, removing those still attached to the sleepers. They have also cleared fallen trees and other obstructions to allow the safe running of trains.

The team would welcome new members who are willing to lend a hand, which will reduce the time taken to re-open this short but important stretch of line through the woodland.

P-Way Express

Photo: Robert Good

February 3rd, 2016

Building Bridges – February 2016 Update

Rust is needle gunned off the metalwork.

The bridge gang are hard guys; two weeks ago I was working in the (relatively speaking) warm and dry North Weald shed on the railcar, while these guys were working up on the bridge – exposed to the drizzle and cold. That’s dedication for you.

From a distance, and with unknowing eyes, you would think little progress was being made. But if you look carefully, you will be surprised just how much work has progressed.

The main bridge was carefully examined towards the end of last year, by our own engineer in charge of the bridge, working with an external structural engineer. Generally it was all good but a decision was made to cut out some wasted sections of steel while the guys had safe access.

It was explained to me that over many years, damp, dirt and other debris have built between the bridge decking and bridge supports. Combined with acid in the smoke from steam engines, this caused sections of steel to waste away – the team have cut this wasted steel away and are welding in new sections. Very skilled detailed work.

There are also a number of new bolt holes being drilled out for newly fabricated reinforced sections to carry the new top level steps. Many holes are being drilled in the lattice work intersections of the platform-to-bridge steps to allow the metal strips to be bolted together.

Work is progressing on new bridge sections for various parts of the main bridge span, and the steel decking for the top of the bridge is being prepared for installation.

Chris Travers

January 27th, 2016

Diesel Department – January 2016 Update

Class 31 at one end of the Santa Special service train

A belated Happy New Year to you all. As I write this blog, our most successful operating season is drawing to a close. Thank you to everyone who came down to the railway in 2015, without your fare money, we would not been able to run the railway or our vintage bus service. Our thanks also to everyone who took advantage of our £5.00 cab rides. Your donations to the fuel fund allowed us to run our big Diesel Locos on many more operating days than would normally be economically viable. The crews enjoyed your company in the cabs.

The icing on the ‘Christmas Cake’ was our Santa Special season, with almost every train being sold out. For me personally, the Santa Specials are one of the real highlights of the year. There is a Christmas feel good atmosphere generated here. The train was made up of five coaches, with ‘Jennifer’ – the little steam engine – at the Ongar end of the train – and our class 31 diesel at the Epping end; the class 37 was the standby loco.

Jennifer runs through North Weald

Jennifer is restricted in speed as she is first and foremost, a shunting engine. Though she is quite powerful, she wasn’t built with passenger loads and steep gradients in mind. This meant that the class 31 supplied the power for the train heat and also most of the traction power. She worked throughout the Santa specials and New year gala without fault; she thrives on hard work and runs far better when work under heavy loads.

Externally, the class 31 is usually kept in pristine condition, but following some criticism of her being ‘kept like a museum piece and not a working loco’, she was allowed to get slightly work worn and a bit oily across the year, which went down very well with the guys at the New Year Diesel Gala. Apparently the ‘work worn look’ makes for good photos. That said, we can’t wait to get the rags out and give her a good clean.

On 23 December, when ‘Jennifer’ returned to the Depot at the end of service, she was found to have broken the top leaf of a spring. Bad news for the crews, as it meant she was taken out of service. The class 37 took her remaining turns for the season.

A note of praise for our engineers, who have overhauled the electric train heating system on our coaches, and who have also uprated the battery charge system on the MKII coaches.

Class 117 DMU
DMS M51384

Much progress has been made with the Railcar. The planning is getting very ‘high tech’, with spreadsheets showing the predicted work and time scale, allowing our Railcar restoration team leader – Dave Hunnikin – to order the material requirements in advance. (And there is certainly a lot to order.)

There are quite a number of volunteers working with our body repair specialist on the project, spread over four working days; Dave sends out a work sheet each week with the job requirements detailed.

The scaffolding in the shed has been reconfigured and is now in its third incarnation, with an added board walk at sole bar (Platform) level, which allows safe access to both the body work as well as the roof. The scaffolding side of the shed has been sheeted off to allow the unit to be sprayed and reduce the spread of dust onto the other contents of the shed.

The roof has now been sprayed with self-etching primer. This bites into the galvanised steel roof. After the mammoth job of stripping every last piece of paint, the work on the new roof panels was completed. The new riveted panel joints were sealed with glass fibre and resin, as were the number of pin holes that were found.

At this point, our professional body repair man took over and prepared the roof for spraying, achieved by a very light use of filler and careful flattening back.  All the filled areas were then primed with a special green primer. After the self-etching primer coat was completed, a further four coats of special ‘Williamson BR standard roof’ paint was applied by our team of volunteers. Once completed, it was very hard to see where all these hours of roof repair were spent.

The main roof is finished in graphite grey, which is complemented by the white cab roof – very smart! One piece of guttering awaits refitting, and the new head code blanking panel is still to be fitted.

The new ceiling panels have been fitted, and received the final top coat of paint. This also proved to be a much longer and more challenging job than anticipated. Installing large areas of wobbly hardboard roof panels, in a confined area, without damaging installed items (such as the wiring, air pipes etc.) is quite a job. Due the curvature of the ceiling, the panel is at usually bigger than the area you are working in. The hardboard panels have to be bent very carefully as you offer them up. Additional fixing points had to be installed to give a hard point to screw into so as to stabilise the panels. The original insulation was refitted.

DMBS M51342

The other piece of railcar, the DMBS (or for the non-technical person, the coach with the guards van), has been shunted from the yard into platform three, to allow repair preparation work to take place.

In truth, the unit looks rather sad externally; she has been stored in the yard, and nature has attempted to take over. A couple of the ventilator gaskets have failed and allowed water to ingress through some of the roof panels, causing them to sag – not a good look. However, the DMBS was refurbished internally last year, and apart from the roof panels, generally appears to be in good condition. Knowing what the team can achieve, I am confident she will come out of the restoration process in excellent condition.

The Rest Of The Fleet

Class 37 during Santa Specials

Class 31 31438: Due to go away for tyre turning.

Class 37 37029: Performing engineering duties .

Class 47 47635 Jimmy Milne: Stopped again for work to be completed on pressure-reducing valves. When the current restoration work on the railcar is completed, it is hoped to start work repairing the roof to make the loco water proof. This will be another big job.

Class 45 45132: The Exhaust Silencer refurbishment has now been completed.


Until next time

Chris Travers
Diesel Restoration Group