No.18 'Lewin' Miscellany...

No.18 ‘Lewin’ Miscellany…

A lot has been reported on the blog re the restoration of No.18.  Like all projects, there always seems to be bits and pieces that remain to be tidied up after completion, and the arrival of several new photographs to the collection seemed like a good excuse to reflect on the loco’s recent history and also showcase some new scenes and include some more familiar ones.

Below: A reminder of the subject matter, works no.683 of 1877 in Stephen Lewin’s Poole foundry yard – we assume awaiting delivery (via sea?) to the Londonderry Railway for use at Seaham Harbour. Note the rather neat means of mounting the engine to enable its movement by road!


Below: Fast forward seven decades and we find the much rebuilt No.18 (as it became at Seaham), still with open cab, parked in the locomotive yard above the docks.  It was to this condition that we restored the loco (it was rebuilt to this form in 1936) – ensuring that the most original surviving material could be retained.  Really we should regard it as a Seaham Harbour Docks built locomotive, incorporating bits of the original Lewin built No.18.

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Below: New images still appear from time to time, this one being taken in around mid 1940s – the cab is still open but not yet supporting the stanchions later fitted to support the roof (something we are doing now, as the roof flexes a great deal).


Below: By the 1960s, and following an overhaul which saw the cab enclosed, the loco had become something of a celebrity at Seaham, and was regularly photographed by visiting enthusiasts.  It is seen here at the foot of the notorious ‘Dogga Bank’ – a 1:11 graded link between the quayside and the sidings and yards above.

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Below: The loco was failed and withdrawn with boiler troubles (to name but one reason!) in 1969.  In 1975 it was presented to Beamish and is seen after arrival and a quick repaint.  Note the generally poor condition and missing items – something that would plague it for years to come.

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Below:  In the mid 1970s Beamish was the grateful recipient of a large amount of assistance from industry, which then still had capacity to donate its time and expertise.  An offshore supply firm called Laings in Hartlepool offered to restore No.18, it being sent to them for a restoration to as-built condition.  It would seem that no paperwork was created (or has survived) outlining the brief and what the work would entail, nor was much guidance to Laings offered in terms of the curatorial aspects of the restoration.  As a result, a rather unsatisfactory restoration resulted.  The main problems were never cured, much original material was discarded and even the colour would appear to be entirely conjectural.  However, it gave Beamish a working locomotive of sorts.  Here we see the boiler and frames.  The frames reveal the distortion that resulted from the removal of the well-tanks in 1936 and a consequently very weak front end.  We shall come back to this…


Below: A large amount of the restoration consisted of fabrication work.  The boiler repairs were very temporary and the locomotive only ran for a few seasons before the boiler was condemned outright.  Sadly the original chimney was discarded, likewise the cast sandboxes and original cab platework.


Below: The result of the ‘restoration’ was outwardly very appealing and looked very smart, seen here awaiting removal to Beamish.

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Below: These photos are part of a large number recently donated to Beamish, and they fill a gap in the history of the engine wonderfully as before they appeared I had more pictures of it at work at Seaham on file than of the entire restoration and brief operation at Beamish.   I would imagine this is the team who carried out the work on the shop floor.  It is easy to be critical of this restoration, but it was done with the best of intentions at the time, if not up to the standards of work or recording that we might have applied today.


Below: Removal to Beamish – impressive kit!

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Below: These are what we now call the Colliery Exchange Sidings (the ice rink would be to the left of this view if taken today) showing No.18 apparently propelling Locomotion No.1.  It leaked.  A lot!  Film from the 1960s shows this too.  It also did it in 2013 until an issue with the main steam pipes was finally resolved.


Below:  This must be the formal launch, in 1977 (the year I was born!). The loco was known as a reluctant steamer (it still is and we are looking at this), also borrowing such items as cylinder lubricators from Coffee Pot No.1 to enable it to operate.  The number plate was wildly out of proportion to the original and the whistle looks precarious atop its pipe!

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Below: By the early 1980s the loco had been condemned.  It was laid up, as seen here in two views taken by Peter Barlow.  It was later shot-blasted and further dismantled.  An ignominious phase in its life.

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Below: In the late 1990s the engine was subject to a couple of attempts to kick start its restoration.  Lack of funds precluded much work taking place, though the rear axle was replaced and one driving wheel metal-stitch repaired.  A new boiler barrel was also fitted. This is it in 2005, just after I started.  I was very keen to see the loco restored, but at the time Coffee Pot No.1 offered the best chances for a reasonably expeditious restoration so work focused on this, No.1 being completed in early 2010.

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Below: With No.1 complete and some funds in the kitty, Vincent Allen started work on the mechanical overhaul whilst Alton Engineering made good the boiler work. The front end was entirely dismantled, straightened and strengthened, as seen here.  New buffer beams were made and fitted and the whole front end stiffened up to prevent further distortion.  Most of the fittings and numerous other items were made by volunteer David Young (now almost single handedly building Samson!).

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Below: With Hunslet donating the superstructure, the engine is seen here looking much more like itself again!  Initially sans tank, then with tank fitted (though it sits higher than it should, a compromise arising from the 1970s interventions).

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Below: David and I painted the engine, I applied the black lines and Phil Anderson made good by applying the white ones!


Below: Rolled out after completion of painting and looking rather nice and ready to go – so we thought…

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Below: David (left) and myself after the first test run.  This revealed a great deal of work still to do, not least a very unsatisfactory situation with the valves.


Below: With such an open cab, I decided to scumble it with a wood grain effect per the NER practice of the day.  It is perhaps a little over the top but it amuses to overhear comments about the loco having a wooden cab!


Below: Still not quite finished but off back to Seaham, where a crowd met the loco on the front.  Hal Weetman, No.18’s last regular driver at the port was interviewed by several journalists about the loco’s return to the Town.

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Below: Back at Beamish and with a year of remedial work ahead…

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Below: The valve port faces were badly dished, enabling steam to pass uninhibited to the cylinder.  David spent weeks hand lapping them back to a near-true finish, so that the slide valves would sit better against them.


Below: September 2013 and with some assistance to set the valves, No.18 undertook a test run that revealed three good chuffs and most of the fourth.  At last it could be considered a runner, but with winter approaching there was little point rushing ahead to final inspection.

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So, where are we now?  The injectors (which were both new) have been modified and will return shortly.  The whistle steam pipe has been enlarged and an isolating cock fitted.  Cab stanchions are being made by a blacksmith to eliminate the wobble and David has also modified the clack valves.  We now need to reassemble and test the loco, and if satisfactory subject it to the in-steam boiler test with the insurance company inspector (the cold having already been carried out).  Then we can start to get to know No.18 and no doubt further trouble-shoot as required.  It should be remembered that everything above the running plate is pretty much new, as so little original had survived.  Time has been the great restriction in progressing work as quickly as we would have liked, as a busy season takes all the staff resources we have to run the rest of the operation, but I would hope that in coming weeks we will re-focus on preparing No.18 for the season ahead and perhaps finally giving it the official launch into service we have all anticipated for so many years!  I might also get around to writing the history of the engine in book form, something I’ve been meaning to do since we first began the project!!!