T&I News 23 2020...

T&I News 23 2020…

Well, no sooner had I said ‘staff returning from furlough’ the whole picture changed as the UK Government announced further restrictions, which brought about the closure of the museum from the 5th November 2020, initially estimated as being for one month. So furloughs extended and plans revised, we had to quickly act to compress our immediate maintenance plans into three days…

The primary focus was on draining any steam boilers or water systems that retained water within them, as well as opening up steam boilers and washing them out ahead of their next annual examination by the insurance company surveyor (some only having steamed once since he last inspected them!).

The furloughing of staff is fairly universal, and we hope to be reopening as swiftly as we can in December. However, the restoration of Crosville 716 will now be affected, with its debut at Beamish now likely to take place in 2021 as there is some work required from Beamish’s paid staff on the bus whilst it is still at the contractors premises.

Winterisation of the steam fleet (by Matt Ellis, Keeper of Transport)

Matt Ellis now reports on the work carried out over the last few days to ready the steam fleet for winter:

Back in March, we published a post about preparing for the Lockdown. This week, we find ourselves in a similar situation. Having explained in the last post about staff returning from furlough things rapidly changed and once again we have had to prepare the museum for another period of closure and the majority of our staff are back on the furlough scheme.

When we locked down in March, the steam locomotives were left in a state where their return to service would have been relatively straightforward. This was in the hope that they would see operation in the summer months. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be, with only Rambler and Glyder having steamed for one and two days respectively since March. As we prepare for a second period of lockdown, the situation is different. We can’t leave the steam locos ready to go anymore due to the risk of damage by frost.

We have 11 steam boilers in active service on the site, one of them is the modern boiler hidden in the colliery for the winding engine. The remaining 10 all needed some form of work to prepare them for winter. These 10 also come due for their annual boiler exams over the next 3 months.

Anthony, our steam technician would normally spread the work of preparing each engine for exam over a number of weeks. Due to the urgency of the lockdown, we needed to get 10 boilers ready for winter, plus any fittings at risk from frost drained, in three days. As the work can be completed at the same time, most of the work for the annual exams was also aimed for. Anthony, assisted by Don and Zoe have achieved this and are now suitably exhausted. It has however given a good opportunity to give a photographic look at what getting our fleet ready for winter looks like in one go.

Above – Job one is to drain the boiler if it is still full. Usually done via the blowdown valve or if drainage isn’t a problem a mudhole door can be knocked in to create a rapid flow to hopefully wash a certain amount of limescale out with it. Here we see Rambler draining via its blowdown valve. With us not being able to move the trams, some guttering is set up to distribute the water to a drain.
Above – All firebars and their carriers are removed, and where applicable the ashpan removed. Here we see Samson with grate and firehole door surround removed, awaiting cleaning of the firetube.
Above – all remaining washout plugs and mud doors are removed to enable washing out. This ranges from Samson with two plugs and one door to Peckett 2000 with 15 plugs and 6 doors. Here we see Don removing a mud door on 2000.
Above – With no way of getting locos onto the pit at the moment, access to the front and rear of the fireboxes on 1370 and 2000 isn’t easy. Zoe is seen here removing the front foundation ring door on 1370, having first squeezed between the boiler and frames to gain access – the same opening this photograph is taken from.
Above – For the annual exam, the dome cover needs removing on some locomotives to give the examiner sufficient access. Anthony is seen here attempting to remove the one on 2000. The nuts were proving to be stubborn, so this job has been left for when he returns. At this point we still needed to get things drained and this was on the “nice to have completed” list.
Above – Access to the dome cover and safety valves requires the dome cladding to be removed. These are taken to secure storage along with the plugs and doors.
Above – Smokeboxes and fireboxes are swept clean of soot, a job made easier by having been left for a number of weeks. The light surface rust meaning most of the soot falls off easily. Don is seen here cleaning the smokebox of 1370.
Above – having removed all the soot. The tube ends are then painted liberally with oil to prevent corrosion. Here Zoe is treating the smokebox of 2000, observing that if this artwork was for sale, someone somewhere would buy it!
Above – The boilers are washout out, working in a fashion that washes the muck (Limescale, rust etc) downwards to the foundation ring. Finally the foundation ring is washed out to remove everything from the boiler. Here is Antony on the first boiler of the week, the Centre engine. Another 9 later and he doesn’t want to a washout again for a while!
Above – Luckily the weather whilst this has been going on has been excellent. Glyder enjoys the afternoon rays, prior to a boiler examination and a return to work in 2021.
Above – Steam pressure gauges are particularly susceptible to frost damage. These also need to be checked by the examiner for calibration. Here Zoe is removing the boiler and steam heat pressure gauges from 2000.
Above – In our secure store each locomotive is given a locker with all plugs, doors and gauges going into store. These all need cleaning up for the examiner but for now they are safely and carefully stored to prevent damage.
Above – Each locomotive has a plug diagram. A simple drawing of the boiler, showing where each plug and door fits. The plugs and doors being identified by stamping. The diagram also has sizes, for re-ordering purposes for door joints, or when the need arises, plugs.
Above and below – On Wednesday evening the bus depot was tightly filled with vehicles again, as in March for another period of hibernation.
Above – Rather peculiarly we end this post with an introduction. Biscuit has not appeared on the blog before. She joined the staff in late 2019. Having not undergone any formal interview process she forced her presence upon us. We understand that she is local to the museum. Her duties are ill defined but generally she makes sure everyone arrives at work and leaves at the end of the day, along with limited pest control. Not being eligible for the furlough scheme she will carry on with her duties through the next period of lockdown, along with the site residents and construction team.

Saturday 31st October 2020

Last Saturday also saw some enhanced transport activity on site, with local car owners and the Friends of Beamish involved. Matt Ellis took the following photos from the day: