Questions and Answers with the General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society

Before our Annual General Meeting earlier in the year some of our directors took the time to answer questions about our project. These questions were put to us by our members and the general public through our social media platforms. So sit back, relax and enjoy this discussion about 35011.

2022 is going to be a very important year for the project with some big goals in mind. To achieve this we will need your help, you are able to support us in many ways if you are not already a Society member you can sign up for membership for currently only £15 per year here, or donate to the Society or even better become a shareholder here.
As always thank you for your continued support.
Thank you

#OnThisDay the first Devon Belle

#OnThisDay in 1947, The “Devon Belle” Pullman service was introduced by the Southern Railway. The service ran  between London Waterloo and Ilfracombe with a portion to Plymouth did not in reality last for long as named train services go with the train being ran in September 1954. Usually the train was worked from London to Exeter with Merchant Navy class pacifics and was then split with a four coach portion heading to Plymouth and the remaining eight (sometimes up to ten) coaches including the iconic observation car heading to Ilfracombe both portions usually behind Bulleid Light Pacifics.#

Back in Southern Railway days Merchant Navy class Nº21C11 General Steam Navigation with a full load of coal in her tender and all prepared to work the “Devon Belle”. photograph: Mike Morant collection

At the time it was the only service to as advertised run ‘non stop’ from Waterloo to Exeter i.e. not stopping at Salisbury, although in reality an unadvertised stop was made at Wilton (the next station to the west of Salisbury) to change engines. This resulted in light engine movements between Wilton and Salisbury in each direction.

To meet the needs of up and down services two Devon Belle rakes were formed along with two popular observation cars on the Ilfracombe portion. These observation cars, numbered 13 and 14, were converted from other coaches, with the origins of No 14 being an ex LNWR Ambulance car which was converted into a Pullman car in 1921 before being ultimately converted for its role as an observation car. With the decline in passenger numbers first the number of operating days was reduced, then from 1950 the Plymouth section ceased and ultimately the final Ilfracombe Devon Belle service was run in September 1954.

Nº21C14 Nederland Line at Waterloo with the down
Nº21C14 Nederland Line at Waterloo with the down “Devon Belle”. This photograph, and the one above, shows off to good effect the distinctive nameplates of this train. The background colour was red, which was a departure from the normal green background used on Southern nameplates. photograph: Mike Morant collection

Putting Funds into the Frames

Now that the boiler has been successfully removed from the frames for the first time in 61 years, see news item from 2nd October 2020 here, our attention is now turned to the restoration of the frames and the rear dragbox.

We have therefore set up a Fund for the Frames that will be essential for the successful restoration of  35011 back into her original condition. Not only do we need to clean and review the condition of the frames as they exist today, any corroded sections of the framework, the rear platform and dragbox will cut out and replaced. We also need to reverse some of the areas that were changed during rebuilding to allow a new middle cylinder to be installed and reinstate Bulleid’s unique patented chain driven valve gear.

This a general fund with no minimum / maximum donation or number of contribution limits, all monies donated to the Fund for the Frames will be specifically ring fenced for the frames. If you are able to contribute to this project in any way however great or small, we thank you for your support.

Trailing Truck – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Since, the last trailing truck update, and arriving at the North Norfolk Railway (NNR) the truck has been fully dismantled, a detailed examination and testing undertaken.

News on the truck can perhaps be broken into 3 sections, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (the film being sequel/prequel to “A Fistful of Dollars”, which we need to get the project completed).

The Good
The axle & wheelset are in excellent condition. Visual and Non Destructive Testing (NDT) of the axle showed no defects. One end of the axle has some pitting, but the majority of the axle is at its original size. NNR are awaiting confirmation from Ricardo, our certification body, that we can appoint our preferred subcontractor for the tyre turning/profiling to be done.

The new set of springs that we purchased as part of an order with our friends the 35006 Locomotive Society are excellent and all have the same deflection under load, so setting up the height of the Trailing Truck will be easier.

The Bad
The Left Hand axlebox has visible cracks in three places, one of which extends at least two inches down the side and would need grinding out to near the top of the arch before attempting a welding fix, that being gunmetal could be difficult to demonstrate that it’s been adequately done. The Right Hand axlebox however has no visible cracks. The bottom of both axleboxes are bent, probably from the truck being jacked up at some stage. The LH is far worse than the RH and may well fracture if we try to return it to shape, the RH might be OK to be returned to shape. The plan is to use penetrative dye on both axleboxes to look for further cracks, but there is a good chance we will have to replace the LH axlebox.

There is a pattern available for the axleboxes, and these are the same as for the tender, so if we do decide to replace it, we may well consider ordering all eight to reduce costs (including the RH axlebox).

The Ugly
The swan necks at the front of the truck are in poor condition, especially the Right Hand one. We are recommending that they are cut out completely and replaced as the best long-term solution. We can then be certain the frame remains true, and ensure the strength & rigidity of the final frame. It will also enable NNR to examine the rear of the frame and it’s condition around where the necks are connected.

There is a small crack in the right rear of the frame, close to where the swan neck ends, but it should be repairable. We have instructed NNR to arrange for NDT around the crack, the location on the LHS of the frame and also around all the other weld areas as well, to determine how much material is there and how sound all the welds are.

Next steps
NNR are creating a full CAD of the Trailing Truck, partially to understand how the truck went together originally, as well as for replacement parts. NNR will advise us of the likely costs of the testing and the manufacture and installation of the new swan necks the replacement swan necks . We knew that only once it was fully disassembled, examined and tested that a complete picture of the work required would be obtained.

The original cast trailing truck on top verse the later fabricated style.

The support of the members of the Trailing Truck Transformer Fund Club has enabled the substantial amount of progress to date to be achieved. It is likely that the overall cost will exceed the initial estimate for the fund club, even once all ‘Lots’ are allocated and therefore further funding from other sources, such as Company shares will be required. Once again we thank the members for thieir continued support, as mentioned above we do still have further ‘lots’ available in the fund club or alternatively the General Steam Navigation C.I.C. offers all our supporters the opportunity to purchase shares in the locomotive.

The members of the Trailing Truck Transformers  group are key to funding this key component back to working order and you can help by joining our group here.

The momentum being generated by our engineering team means 2022 is going to be a very important year for the project with some big goals in mind. To achieve this we will need your help, you are able to support us in many ways if you are not already a Society member you can sign up for membership for currently only £15 per year here, or donate to the Society here or even better become a shareholder here.