Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers...

Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers…

Here is a report on the volunteer narrow gauge projects from Keeper of Transport Matt Ellis.  I’ve added images and captions to his report to illustrate the various projects mentioned.  We call the group BINGE – Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers, reflecting too the bursts of frantic work then periods of quiet in our programme, which is carried out by Matt and I in our spare time, plus volunteers drawn from local Ffestiniog Railway volunteers.  The group can usually muster 4 – 7 people when Matt calls us to arms – allied with some external support as and when this is available…

What follows is a report on narrow gauge waggon progress, in previous years we have been working on a waggon project and aim to complete it for the coming years steam fair. Usually this entails the Easter weekend (Normally the weekend before the event and 4 days off work) being used with long hours to complete the project.

This year we are upping the ante, we have 3 waggon projects on the go and aim to launch them all at the steam fair. This year the event is before Easter weekend so the last minute dash isn’t available. Hopefully what appears below is a promising indication that this might just be achievable.

Brake Van

Paul has reported elsewhere on the Narrow Gauge Brake Van progress by Shaun and his team as a quick fill-in job before Christmas whilst they wait for the materials for their next job to become available.  This has thrown down the gauntlet to the BINGE team – a steel sub-frame also being required upon which the running gear and brake rodding etc. is mounted and from which the brake blocks are hung.  This has been fabricated in loose format, and will enable the whole chassis to be assembled before uniting it with the van body complete with the substantial timber chassis.

Below: Work on the body has rapidly progressed towards completion in time for the Christmas shut-down.  It is compact, but also rather lovely isn’t it?!

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Whilst the body has progressed rapidly the sub frame will be a slower job, but once complete the van will suddenly get all its running gear with just the handbrake to connect up. On this subject the handbrake pedestal is in stock, recovered from a stationary engine steam valve. This has been stripped and is now ready for cleaning up and painting. The pedestal itself will be fitted in the body so that the interior of the van can be finished whilst this is progressing rapidly.

Below: Shaun and Matt prepare the steel sub-frame, which Matt then tacked together before it moved, in one piece, to the machine shop to be fully welded at a later date.  The opportunity to prepare it was taken whilst the frame was still inverted, to ensure it will fit later!

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Below: Wheels for the van are ex Broughton Moor 2 ft 6 in gauge sets, of which we have six wheels on three axles.  The best four wheels are to be fitted to new axles, both regauging them as well as converting them to inside-journal form.  Also seen here is the steam valve, which will provide the brake pedestal for the van.


Below: Paul cuts the wheels from their axles.


Below: The fruits of an afternoon’s labours…


Below: The remains of the axles will, hopefully, press clear of the wheel casting to allow it to be tidied up prior to machining new axles to fit.


Below: After slicing the old handwheel from the column, heat is applied to encourage the valve shaft free.  An internal thread enabled the indicator needle to show the open/closed position of the steam valve when in use for a stationary engine (a winding engine, we think), which we do not need for the brakevan.


Below: Internally the van is being fitted out with a bench and a stove.  There is also the brake column to accommodate and perhaps some storage racks.


Below: The door is also complete, and also such details as the rain deflection strips in the lower joints, to prevent water sitting and penetrating the timber.

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Timber/Slab Bolster

Another ex-bomb waggon chassis has come our way. This has been modified numerous times in its life already. It is currently little more than frame rails, buffer beams and wheelsets.  We will modify it yet again and give it a style to match the bomb waggon that we converted into an open.  Various sketches for this conversion have been thrown around but I think we have now settled on one that is liked. The bonus is that it becomes a dual purpose waggon.  The buffer beams get cut down to a width to match the open, 2 box section beams of the same width get added to the top of the chassis rails to act as bolsters, vertical stanchions can then slot into the ends of these when required.

Below: The makings of this waggon, with the cross beams attached to form the bolsters.  Since this photograph the buffer beams have been shortened, the wheelsets removed and the gusset angles cut out to make way for the new cosmetic solebar.


Cosmetic wooden solebars get added between the bufferbeams, these will give the impression of the waggon having inside axleboxes, as per the other bomb waggon conversion.  The floor will be boarded out and rounded buffer beams added, again to match the other waggon. Finishing touches are some tie down hooks on the timber solebars.  Once complete this waggon can either carry timber (with its stanchions in) or it can carry large slabs or similar loads (without the stanchions in) tied down to the hooks.

Ffestiniog Railway Tipper 830

Work has been progressing on the rebuild of the FR tipper. It has been dismantled and the parts which can be reused have been grit blasted and primed.  Reconstruction and reassembly has now commenced. The tipper body had very little reusable metal work in it, so a mostly new body has been constructed. A start has been made on drilling for the 100 or so ½” rivets that hold this together.

Below: Dismantling the frame for the tipper.  The body is mounted on brackets, to enable the side tipping action to take place.


Below: Paul and Sam cleaning components for the tipper with a mixture of needle gunning and wire brushing.  The next photo shows the axlebox pedestals.  Matt and Geoff focussed on the dismantling work.

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The chassis is in reasonable condition with some minor work to the spine required to make it serviceable again. The floor of the chassis has also been replaced and there is another 50 rivets hold this to the chassis.

Below: Blasted and primed components are piling up, with regular applications of paint to build up the protection.  The eventual colour scheme is grey.


Below: Chris is drilling the new angle and plate, prior to bolting (ahead of riveting).


Below: Sam drills holes in the angles around which the sides, ends and bottom are formed for the tipping body.


Below: The tipping body takes shape – much drilling still to do though!



You can read more on the tipping waggons here:

A full day in January is planned to do all the riveting in one go. The tipper can then be finish painted (and lettered) while the chassis is reassembled.  Our target is the April Great North Steam Fair – for all three vehicles, plus such items as whistle boards etc. for the railway itself and some modifications that Paul will report on in due course to improve the visitor access to the areas where we operate the working exhibits.

In parallel to the brakevan, Paul has been building a 7/8 inch to the foot (aprox 1:13 scale) model of the van for his proposed garden railway, seen below in its raw and incomplete state – the race is on to see if the model or the real thing are finished first!

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