Monday, 17 September 2012

WOOLWICH's Coat of Many Colours.

After the boiler was lifted we concentrated on stripping the mainframes. One of the locomotive's previous owners, the Bicton Woodland Railway, has a distinctive livery of blue and bright red. They must be very proud of that livery as we found 14 coats of red!

A small milestone was passed when John Mitchell, Tony Banks, and Gerry Evans finished removing the paint and filth from the boiler cleading. This is the first part of the locomotive to be made ready for paint. That new paint will not be either red or blue, rather the Royal Arsenal's dignified Light Brunswick Green. A tiny patch survived for us to confirm the exact colour and this was further confirmed by the gentleman who had been in charge of the Arsenal's paint stores when she had an extensive overhaul in 1954. As this blog continues you'll see less and less red and no blue at all. The only red on the outside of Woolwich will be her fly-cranks.

Stripping the frames means removing Woolwich's unique buffing arrangement. Both buffers are dumb (solid blocks of wood) but are mounted on a sprung 'Buffing Plate'. This is a remarkably flexible arrangement, very useful for trains that have to traverse sharp curves. Peter Letchford and his chums from the Gravesend and District Model Engineering Society took removal of the buffing plates in hand and quickly found more than they'd bargained for. They discovered that Woolwich has had a heavy collision at some time and both front and rear plates were buckled inwards. That left them extremely difficult to remove as the inward force had caused the guide rods which locate in the main buffer beam to splay outwards. As a result they jarred with their locating holes when it was attempted to pull them out. A great deal of hard work and brute force had to be brought into play. Our photo album speaks a thousand words about this!

Richard Seager brought his practical locomotive experience to bear on the valve gear, which he stripped down rapidly. A discussion of her valve gear on an online forum led to a visit by a senior member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Joe Cliffe. He's one of a handful of men who knew and worked with the great locomotive designer Sir William Stanier. He's not the first eminent engineer to visit 'Woolwich'. Proof that we're not the only people to know that she's a very special engine?

Expect to see many more updates over the next few weeks!  In the meantime, take a look at our progress in pictures.