Richard Abbey, General Manager, reflects the Society’s large debt of gratitude to Colin Henderson for his very valued contribution as he retires as Engineering Manager
After many years of dedication to 6024, Colin has decided that now is the time to retire from his position of the Society’s Engineering Manager. The Society owes him very sincere thanks for the enormous amount of time and effort he has put into the locomotive, not only during its last ‘ticket’ on the mainline but especially since 2012 with the overhaul. It is hard to sum up just how much he has done, and his will be a hard act to follow. Colin is not ‘riding off into the Somerset sunset’, but will remain as an active volunteer, hopefully for many more years.
Obviously, Colin’s retirement creates a bit of a headache for us, although we hope that we will soon be able to announce how we see the overhaul being brought to its conclusion. We had already been discussing the precise engineering structure needed to run 6024 once the overhaul is complete. We now simply need to move slightly faster than anticipated initially.
We will ensure members are fully informed of our plans as soon as they are in place.
Looking realistically at the national restrictions already in place and that Minehead is now in a Tier 4 area, we are anticipating limited opportunities for our volunteers to work on the loco until perhaps Easter. We have to be guided by both the evolving HM Government COVID-19 restrictions and the wishes of the WSR. As any restrictions are announced we will we be able to plan more accurately, but we intend to continue with small invited groups to undertake specific tasks as and when we can. We know what we have to do; we just do not know currently when we can do it.
We would like to thank you all for your continued support and patience and sincerely hope that 2021 will be the year 6024 returns to service and the mainline.
In addition, and under contract, the WSR staff at Minehead have made a superb job of bringing the tender tank’s paintwork up to first topcoat green. The chassis (black) has been finished and extra paint applied to the dragbox and coal space. A lack of covered accommodation has meant the tender is back outside, which is less than ideal. A large tarpaulin, however, has been sourced and fitted, not without some difficulty due to its size and weight. Provided the wind does not take it on a trip around Minehead yard, it should provide good protection for the tender until we can get it in behind the engine.
Whilst the tender could be brought inside now, it would be a tight fit. It would make finishing the airbrakes very difficult and also remove the “painters’ space”.
We have received some good news regarding the boiler certificate. Our boiler insurers have agreed to allow the certificate start date to be reset. This means that we can recover the year lost since the steam test in Bury. The insurers requirement is that the boiler must be subject to a hydraulic test which will set the new start date, with an ‘in the frames’steam test to follow when we are ready.
Unfortunately, when tested, the new copper firebox tubeplate to (old) side sheets lap joints were insufficiently water-tight meaning the boiler would not maintain the required hydraulic pressure. We fully expected these joints to give some trouble during the initial period of steaming so, whilst a problem at this time is disappointing, it is not a major upset.
The lap most likely requires some straightforward caulking work to seal it once more. This would have already happened (Riley’s are ready to come to Minehead) if it were not for COVID-19. Being located in a Tier 3 area temporarily ruled out a visit from Riley’s. As frustrating as this is for us all there is little we can do about it.
On a positive note, the delay in repairs does work in our favour as, until it is completed, the boiler cannot be recertified. We stand to gain several more months than we might otherwise have done, especially if COVID-19 restrictions remain strict into the first few months of 2021, as they seem likely to do and thus further delaying repairs.
Work at Minehead has been slowed and interrupted yet again by COVID restrictions. November was lost to us due to the English national lockdown, although work was restarted in early December with six full days worked before Christmas. Understandably, the WSR, which was in a tier 2 area, was not allowing tier 3 inhabitants to the railway, be they volunteers, contractors or paying visitors. This has meant that a good few of our regulars, especially amongst the painting teams, have been unable to attend.
Recent work has been a continuation of what we have been doing for the past few months, namely:
• Cladding painting – more or less as finished as it can be until it is fitted
• Cladding test fitting, adjusting etc including renewed supports on the firebox sides
• Non-cladding painting – focussing on running board angle irons and a few homework projects
• Packing of piston rod glands
• Blowdown valve and elbow have been trial fitted. As expected, it makes fitting and removing the middle front mudhole door much harder. Quite why it was so designed is lost in the mists of time!
• Air brake pipework installation – after a long hiatus, excellent progress has been made eitherside of November’s lockdown.
• Electrical systems – work on both the tender and the engine, mainly planning and behind the scenes rather than work to see but that will change very soon, we hope!
• Support Coach. The support coach is very near to being finished; the new wheelsets are expected any day now. We have not been able to visit Arlington to see it as no visitors to their site are currently permitted. COVID-19 aside, however, we expect it to be ready for us in early 2021. Our intention is to move it to Minehead as soon as possible to allow us to undertake a refit of the kitchen.
Members may remember the board have been searching for a suitable person to take on the role of Health & Safety Manager for the society. In today’s world we can longer operate without someone taking on this newly created role, it is what is expected of us and we would be failing in our duty of care to our volunteers not to do so. As expected it has not been an easy role to fill but we are very pleased to announce that Jeremy (Jess) James has agreed to take the job on.
Jess takes a very positive approach to Health & Safety with a “yes we can do that” attitude rather than the default “no” sometimes found, it being a question of finding appropriate and safe ways of working. His influence will, no doubt, lead to some changes and improvements in the way we do things, something which the board is committed to supporting.
Jess’ professional background is as a senior officer with Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service. He holds a number of formal Health & Safety qualifications. His job has regularly brought him into contact with the railways – current and preserved. He first became known to some of us when operating No.70000 ‘Britannia’ back from Poole to Southall after a railtour. The locomotive ran out of water in the small hours of a Sunday morning at Maidenhead, frustratingly close to home. Whilst Jess was not involved with supplying water to the loco he was involved with the follow up which lead him to become a volunteer with LSL at Southall joining the support crew shortly afterwards. He has previously been a (locomotive) fireman at Llangollen so comes with many skills we need.
We are sure all members will join with the board in welcoming him to the role and wish him well.
6024 member and volunteer, Tom Whittington, is fundraising to help with the final stages of the overhaul of 6024 by undertaking a sponsored cycle ride between Bishops Lydeard and Minehead on 11th September. The money raised will be split between the 6024 Preservation Society and our friends at the West Somerset Railway.
Richard Corser has recently visited Arlington Fleet Service in Eastleigh to view progress on No.6024’s Mk1 support coach. The bogies, which have held up progress, are now onsite but we are still waiting on wheelsets and springs to allow them to be completed. New bolsters for the chassis to match the new bogies are being sourced.
The outstanding work list has been agreed which will be progressed as soon as the coach is on its bogies. This includes a Network Rail funded fitment of a Controlled Emission Toilet (CET) to make the vehicle compliant with the latest standards for mainline operations. Whilst the overhaul has taken much longer than originally planned this is working in our favour as the CET work is only now ready to proceed. If the support coach had been finished sooner it would have had to have been lifted off its bogies again for CET fitting.
Once completed the support coach will be moved to the WSR for further internal work, primarily a rework of the kitchen layout and a full internal repaint and varnish.