There is quite a bit to report this week, as we’ve had both a number of challenges operationally, and also seen some milestones achieved in overhauls too. We continue to operate the following pattern of transport operations around the museum (COVID-19 related sickness allowing!):
- Tramway and Buses – Daily
- Waggonway – Thursdays to Sunday
- Colliery Railway (narrow gauge) – Monday and Tuesday
Seaham Harbour No.18
Below: As reported in the last post, the loco has now been relocated to the Waggonway where it will be worked on through the winter alongside Puffing Billy (Christmas once again taking place at Rowley Station). Antony’s plan is to prepare the boiler for removal next month, then strip it for examination. The move was conducted in weather somewhat different to Tuesday’s blistering temperatures (the museum was in fact closed on Tuesday due to a power failure in the Northern Power Grid cable that runs through the site), and the use of Puffing Billy to shunt its new shed mate was a nice moment!
Below: The next step for No.18 is to remove the boiler (which has already had the tubes removed) as this is prepared for inspection later in the summer.
Below: Don and Zoe (now joined by Sam, our next engineering apprentice) have been checking the clearance of the horseshoe brasses in each axlebox on Gateshead10’s bogies, to ensure that sufficient articulation will be possible in service (without binding). The springs were removed for this, and each corner was lifted in turn, way in excess of what would be encountered out on the road.
Work also continues on manufacturing new track brake components. 10 is very much in our minds now, given the prominence we expect it to have in the tramway’s fiftieth year in 2023. Work has commenced on the body, with an examination being carried out by a contractor to determine the amount of work and conservation required, plus to commence repainting the tram in readiness for a return to its Gateshead livery once again.
Below: Over the road, the Friends volunteers have dismantled the rear sections of the Robson body on VK 5401, and ash has been ordered in order for these sections to be replaced. Temporary bearers have been inserted to retain the body’s integrity whilst this work takes place.
Below: Work is also progressing on the new cab for the Model T Ford Ton Truck, with the side framing now in place. The door will be located on the offside, this being a left hand drive chassis.
Below: During the days leading up to the heatwave, the Electric Train Staff (ETS – sometimes described as Electric Token System) used on the tramway between the Entrance and Pockerley failed. In the past we have seen issues arising from the excessive heat that can accumulate in the token rooms themselves, and also disruption to the wires that connect the two instruments across the section. This time the fault appeared to be mechanical, and as a result one-tram working or use of a pilotman had to be implemented and the Entrance instrument removed to the workshops.
Peter Barlow from the tramway group has given these instruments considerable care, attention and appropriate upgrades over many years, and soon had the instrument, a Tyers No.9, dismantled to explore the fault. This turned out to be wear in the armature of the barrel that the token interacts with and rotates (when the electrical interlock allows) in order to withdraw the token. The instrument should be restored to operation next week, but some modifications to its connections are also being made as we plan to relocate both token cabinets, into rooms within their corresponding adjacent tram shelters – to act as a better heat-soak and enable any upgrades to take place. By Friday 29th, the instrument had been restored to its cabinet and testing had been completed, enabling resumption of use of the ETS system and cancellation of pilotman or one-tram working.
The cabinets are already fitted with anti-condensation heaters, so these will also be relocated with the instruments. This will not be a five-minute job, and so will fall to a number of departments within the team to carry out, starting with creating secure cabinets within each shelter.
Below: With Sheffield 264’s motor still under repair, and the ETS failure described above, Blackpool 31 then joined the lengthening list of casualties this week, when its resistance expired in service. Here is the offending unit, being prepared for dispatch to a specialist contractor for renewal of the resistances themselves. Not ideal timing as we now enter the school holidays with just three trams available for service, and two of the most capacious missing.
The buses will bridge the capacity gap in terms of transport provision, but we are probably looking at bills approaching tens of thousands of pounds to restore the operating position in a practical timescale. Meanwhile, off-site preparations are being made to bring Teesside trolleybus 11 to the museum, as we begin to consider the programme for commissioning our two trolleybuses in readiness for the eventual opening of the trolleybus route.
Design work is well-advanced on this route and we anticipate letting a contract for restoration of upwards of 60 traction poles later this summer, to be followed by their installation on the route in 2023. 2023 will also see a concerted start on assembling bracket arms and overhead assemblies as we move towards installation of the Overhead Line Equipment and then wiring of the route, perhaps in 2024.
Below: Work on the engine overhaul of the Crewe Tractor has resumed, with the return of the refurbished crankshaft. The engine is now being reassembled in readiness for installation in the Model T and testing. I shall be very pleased to have it back as it has been such a useful and distinctive runaround!
Below: Rambler was out this week, allowing staff hours-accumulation on it prior to formal assessment in the future. It is seen passing Sunderland 16 at a bus Entrance stop.
Below: Something I need to consider in the future, particularly with trolleybuses commencing operation, is the narrow road between Foulbridge and the Entrance, and whether this is suited to two-way operation as the museum gets busier and passing vehicles more challenging…