Two working parties in August
An impromptu whitemetalling party in Early August 2014
We made a start on whitemetalling the axlebox brasses at the July working party. However we ran out of time after the first brass had been dealt with, so the job was put on hold.
On Monday 4th August Andrew, Chris and Dave all found themselves at Boston Lodge with a day free. So the whitemetalling recommenced.
Experience gained from the first brass which Chris had whitemetalled in July indicated that we needed better access for pouring the whitemetal. So we adapted the former and clamping arrangements and tried again. Our first attempt this weekend was not a success! The seal at the bottom of the former didn't, and we ended up with a puddle of whitemetal on the bench and not very much in the pockets in the brass. We concluded that much better sealing was required, and also noted that the whitemetal may not have been hot enough to flow freely from the ladle (although it flowed out of the brass freely enough!).
Time for a bit more preparatory work. We made a new former, which has a wider funnel for pouring into, and has wider lands for sealing against the brass. A new clamping arrangement was configured which is much simpler than before, which provides better access for pouring and doesn't require us to turn the hot brass to pour the whitemetal into it.
With the new arrangements in place, we heated both the brass and the ladle of whitemetal until we were convinced the metal would run freely and remain liquid in the brass during pouring. This time - success! What looks to be a perfectly formed layer of whitemetal filling the pockets in the brass.
Another attempt and another success, followed by an attempt to rectify our first half-filled brass which was also successful. It takes about 10 minutes to set up the former and clamp everything in place. Heating the brass and ladle of whitemetal takes about 10 minutes. We took advice from Paul and kept gently heating the brass for a few more minutes after pouring in an effort to improve the bond between the whitemetal and the brass. Then it takes about 40 minutes to cool enough for the whitemetal to solidify. A perfect opportunity to sit out in the sunshine for a mug of tea! Thus, with practice, we can whitemetal one axlebox brass per hour.
Having had three successes in a row, we were becoming confident that we knew what we were doing. So perhaps it was inevitable that the next brass would not go so well, with a puddle of whitemetal on the bench and, as we discovered after it had cooled a little, not a drop left in the brass. It just goes to show how important getting a perfect seal is.
Next try was again successful, and the final one of the day was almost a success except that a small amount of whitemetal leaked out. But we are gaining experience, and the successes are outweighing the failures.
Andrew was in Wales for the remainder of the week, driving trains for part of each day. This gave him some free time to continue the whitemetalling, which has allowed the task to be essentially completed. Just some inspection and minor rectification of the earlier attempts is all that is now required.
August Bank Holiday Working party
The planned August working party took place over the bank holiday weekend. Paul and Andrew had previously prepared a list of 20 tasks, and so we worked our way through the list.
The frames have been laid on their sides for the past several months after painting, so Sam and Alan turned them onto their back so that we have access to the horns. Fitting parts to the horns will be one of the first tasks once we have the wheelsets complete, so attention is turning to them.
Will spent a couple of days scraping paint off the frames where the horn face plates and axlebox keep plates will fit. This allows us to accurately assess the fit of each part onto the horns.
Alan welded up a very neat little jig for machining the outer edges of the bottom of each horn on the frames. These interface with the axlebox keep plates, which help to strengthen the frames. An accurate fit is essential here, since load is being transmitted through the interface.
Steve made us a jig for machining the bolt holes in the horns. Each horn should have two M16 clearance holes on its base to retain the axlebox keep plates. However, at some stage in its life, No.4 had had one of the holes enlarged rather inelegantly with a gas axe! Paul drilled and reamed those holes to make them suitable for M24 bolts, and the jig allowed us to align the holes with the remaining M16 holes.
Paul inspected the axlebox keep plates, and found a range of in-service modifications had been made to them. These range from the 'not too bad' to the 'what were they thinking?'! He has put together a repair plan for each plate, taking advice from Bob as to the best approach where welding is required. John ground off plates added to some of the keep plates.
Paul also inspected and assessed the non-adjustable horn face plates. We will set these plates up first, and will then set up the adjustable horn face plates relative to them. Although generally in quite good condition, some side wear has occurred to these plates, and so Andrew started to build up worn areas with weld.
Clare laid out all the suspension components for the engine, and inspected them. Some parts (mostly the pillars which slide through holes in the frames to transmit load onto each axlebox) are badly worn and may need replacement, but many of the other parts are perfectly reusable.
Dave welded up a jig for clamping axleboxes to the table of a pillar drill at an angle to match the angle of the oil ports leading to the main bearing thrust faces. After a bit of practise his welding was of a suitable standard for the jig to be made. Using the jig, Dave then drilled and reamed the thrust face oil port in each axlebox.
We had almost finished rough turning the blanks for the new axles at a previous working party, but one end of one of the tender axles was yet to be turned. Once the axle was in a lathe (we had to use a lathe without a crane over it this time, which added to the challenge!) It didn't take Andrew long to complete the task.
While we have asked Boston Lodge works to machine the engine axles for us, we will send the simpler tender axles to an outside contractor for machining and assembly. Sam and Alan have therefore attached the tender wheels and axles to pallets ready for shipping off to the contractor.
Lastly, but certainly not of least significance, was a visit to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway by Andy and Dandan Fisher. Those of you who have followed No.4's progress since purchase from China will know that it was Andy and Dandan who first introduced us to No.4 at Dahuichang, and who were instrumental in its purchase and import into the UK. Over lunch time on the Monday, Dandan used her phone to conduct a video call to Mr. Shang in Beijing. Mr. Shang was the enthusiastic locomotive driver at Dahuichang who first suggested that we might want to buy a steam locomotive when we met him back in 2005. He was very helpful to deal with when we were loading No.4 for shipping and in obtaining spare parts. We have had no contact for with him for 7 years but using the phone we were able to show him progress to date. He was very pleased with our progress and our call.
It was a great joy to be able to catch up with Andy and Dandan again, to show them what a wonderful place the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway is and to show them the progress we are making on No.4. Having their company made this working party a very special one for us.