T&I News 1 2020...

T&I News 1 2020…

Welcome to Beamish Transport Online 2020 – Happy New Year and here we go with the eleventh year of the transport blog covering the operational and restoration activities of the transport collections (and some historic industry too!) at Beamish Museum.

As before, the blog will be updated at regular intervals (weekly if possible) to provide what I hope will be an interesting narrative of what we get up to at the Museum. I would imagine that in the year ahead it will largely be written by me, but as before there will be contributions from other team members, including Matthew Ellis (Keeper of Transport) and Jonathan Kindleysides (Head of Industry).

Matt’s role covers the operation of the transport systems on site, and also the management of the workshops which support those operations. Jonathan’s remit has grown to include all site maintenance (non-transport) as well as an overview of the Drift Mine and Fairground from a regulatory perspective.

My role (as an Assistant Director here these days) is ever the broad one, including Matt and Jonathan’s Worlds, as well as a hefty chunk of the Remaking Beamish project and a fair bit of health and safety/policy these days. My trips around the workshops these days are therefore often a form of therapy and a chance to see the development of our various projects. It is a team effort and we now seeing the fruits of investment in staff, apprentices and facilities. The Gallopers centre engine, recent progress on the bus fleet and development of something of a strategic plan for the next five years all bearing witness to this.

We are also lucky to receive the support of numerous volunteers, including the Friends of Beamish workshop volunteers, and those who work with the staff directly. There are also several involved in the operation of the tramway (not least the Beamish Tramway Group) and who turn out for events and special occasions, as the need arises.

So, for those familiar with us and what we do, apologies for the brief pre-amble, we now move directly to news from the team…

Bus Depot

The value of the bus depot and workshop is already being keenly felt. The B-Type bus recently required some gearbox repairs, to replace the friction plate of the clutch and repair the pressure plate. Previously this would have been an involved and not entirely comfortable job. Now, with the pit and a high-reach gearbox stand, the work was accomplished safely and swiftly. This reduces the time the bus is out of service for, as well as making the work to repair it far easier for the team and enabling other work to be carried out in the saved time.

The B-Type sat on the pit within the new workshop.
The refitted gearbox (in blue) seen from the pit – the pit lighting being very helpful in illuminating the underside of the bus.
As refitting the gearbox was completed by lunchtime, Russell and Alan (who look after the vehicles) decided to change the spring bushes during the afternoon, to make the most of having the bus over the pit. Here the spring has been unloaded and the eye parted from the hanger.
The new bush is seen half-pressed into the spring eye, ready for offering up to the hanger.
Copper slip will enable future removal of the fittings, come next change.
The completed assembly, with the weight of the bus sat on its springs once again. There are two bushes per spring and four springs on the bus. Further work on this vehicle will include a new front nearside wing (probably to be followed by powder-coating all of the wings for durability) and some attention to the paintwork. It has had a lengthy in-service overhaul that is now drawing to a conclusion. All of this work is largely unseen but is vital in maintaining these passenger carrying vehicles, safely, on the roads here.

Mechanical Engineering

The machine shop team of Don and his apprentice Zoe, with Chris and his apprentice Daniel; all assisted with input from volunteer Dave Young, have been focused on the rebuild of the 1895 Savage centre engine for the Steam Gallopers. The work has been comprehensive and extensive, the result being an engine that is pretty much perfect!

This view shows the new pipework for water feed to the boiler. Looking somewhat like a British Railways 9F arrangement (!), the pipework is rather extensive and rather different to what was fitted before. There are various reasons for this. The arrangement includes the injector feed and mechanical pump feed. The latter has been modified to run ‘wet’ at all times, by means of a bypass valve. This means that it is always pumping, the bypass valve diverting water either into the boiler or back into the tank. In addition to this, shut-off valves have been fitted to close each branch of pipework and to mitigate against the reaction of a displacement pump trying to force water against a closed valve, a safety valve has been fitted. Some years ago the pump was ripped from the engine after the delivery valve was closed and the engine operated, so this precaution is very advisable. Many iron fittings have been replaced with bronze as well.
To the bottom right is a new mechanical lubricator – after problems with operators over-oiling the engine when in use previously (which travels into the flue at the centre of the ride with the exhaust steam and causes soot to adhere to it, inhibiting the drafting and creating a fire hazard), this modern lubricator (for which spares are available!) has been fitted. It will be set up in the workshop so as to deliver the correct amounts of oil, the operators only therefore being required to keep the lubricator full. Hopefully this will improve the longevity of the engine in use. A painted panel will hid the modern mechanical lubricator, without inhibiting access to fill it.
The mechanical overhaul of the engine has been as extensive as the rest, with lubrication improvements being the significant change, whilst all other components have been returned to original tolerances and adapted for the intensive use this engine receives (for instance, hard chromed valve spindles). It may be remembered that all of this follows the overhaul of the boiler itself, which will receive a new hydraulic test in order to start the new boiler life at the most recent possible point in its life – on paper it should give us ten years, though we are minded to consider retubing at five years as a precaution, given the intrusiveness of removing the engine from the ride and resulting down-time this causes.
A front 3/4 view of the centre engine (which was named May Queen for part of its life) showing the electric drill attached to the mechanical lubricator to assist with priming the pipework – which takes some time even on a small engine like this.
As ever, apologies for the image being on its side – when uploaded it is the right way round but for reasons beyond my comprehension, I cannot get portrait images to remain that way when inserted into the post!
A rear 3/4 view of May Queen. Of note are the new test cocks and drain pipes (on the left hand side of the backhead), the much improved blow-down arrangement (bottom right of the backhead – as you look at this image when in correct orientation) and the new elbow for the injector steam feed. Dave Young has provided the engine with a full complement of bronze handles – something that skilled volunteer time dedicated to a project like this enables the quality to be lifted in excess of what we could do within the ‘need to have’ budget.
Dave also made patterns for some fittings, enabling Don and his team to replace off the shelf items with something both bespoke and of a more contemporary quality. Here Don holds the old (and worn) components up against the new item (feed to boiler) to show the difference.
Another casting from the same pattern, suitably modified, enabled replacement of this standard branch fitting with another more compatible with the engine’s 1895 age.
This view will be hidden as this side of the engine sits against the frame of the centre truck. Of note is the mechanical lubricator to the left, feeding a run of copper pipes to the cylinders and the various rod glands, whilst to the right are the three water pipe connections for the pump (delivery, return via bypass and injector feed). A new water tank is being mounted within the centre truck, to be fed by an automatic feed arrangement compliant with modern water installation standards.
A reminder of other work progressing… These are Gateshead 10’s wheelsets, re-tyred and repainted. The bogie overhaul has recommenced and it is hoped to trial assemble the bogies this spring, then dismantle them for painting. The extent of this work cannot be underestimated, and when complete it should put 10 into the best mechanical condition that is has been in for many years (even since Gateshead service!).
Dave Young has made the patterns for the new cast iron bufferbeam for Samson. It also includes the centre buffing face and jaw for the coupling hook. The weight should improve the adhesion of the engine, whose valve modifications have now made it strong enough to slip, not stall! The centre buffer arrangement also mimics what was fitted originally and is part of a number of jobs to be carried out on Samson ahead of the April Great North Steam Fair in only a few months time!