At the Annual General Meetings of the General Steam Navigation Locomotive Restoration Society (GSNLRS) and General Steam Navigation CIC we were delighted to announce that following the removal of the trailing truck from the frames in October 2020 and months of preparatory work by their hard working volunteers, that the restoration contract for the trailing truck has been awarded after a tender process to North Norfolk Railway Engineering.
Located at Weybourne Engineering works, North Norfolk Railway Engineering presented a strong bid for the work, with a high level of engineering detail, that respects the historical merit of the unique in preservation fabricated Merchant Navy trailing truck.
Originally fitted to a series 3 Merchant Navy, our fabricated trailing truck is the last survivor of its kind. Lighter than the cast truck fitted to the other preserved Merchant Navy locomotives, longer than a Light Pacific’s truck, the GSNLRS are having this unique piece of Bulleid locomotive design restored to mainline standard, a crucial step towards GSNLRS’s vision of an original Merchant Navy with original air smoothed casing and Bulleid’s patented chain driven valve gear.
Since 1966, 35011 has been without it’s central crank axle. Alongside the missing valve gear, this has been the driving force behind the decision to return to original design condition, due to the cost of replacement to either design being similar.
After many years of behind-the-scenes research in the BPLA collection & National Archive in Kew, and recent detailed Finite Element Analysis conducted at the University of Birmingham, under the supervision of Professor Karl Dearn, has demonstrated that A4T steel is of a suitable grade for the correct balanced crank axle design for 35011 in original design condition.
In June a few select volunteers restarted stripping down work on GSN. Numbers are being strictly limited to begin with to comply with social distancing so it may be a little while before we can welcome new members to our working parties. Thank you to those that have recently sent in their volunteer forms to join the ranks of our working members, we will welcome you to Blunsdon as soon as we are able.
Most of the work focused on getting our container set up which included the installation of the container lights and electrical sockets, at the request of the railway painting the outside green and various other small tasks. Work did progress on the locomotive with the removal of the springs that attach to the centre driving wheels. A preliminary visual inspection suggests they are good condition considering their age.
Although we await the installation of a permanent electrical feed, we have a temporary connection to our newly installed consumer unit to give us both lighting and a ring main in the container. We have included RCD protected sockets for external tool use, sockets by the desk including USB charging points and sockets for the kindly donated microwave oven, fridge and kettle!
The stripping down also saw the right hand side piston and cover being removed. These have now been put into storage and will their condition will be assessed.
The Society is happy to report that it was able to purchase some new components for the locomotive in the form of a Speedo drive, cut off indicator quadrant & part of the steam turbo generator. The components were from an enthusiast’s collection who offered them to the Society for an incredibly reasonable price.
Work in July was mostly focused around preparing for the boiler lift with some of the more troublesome boiler mounts being removed. The front boiler mounts proved especially resistant to being removed but after some head scratching a plan was devised and carried out that saw the mounts being separated.
The main engineering highlight for this issue was the new front end casing which was successfully test fitted in July. The casing was originally built to be a surprise for our members at the cancelled AGM earlier in the year. The casing was built by the team at Leaky Finders who did another fantastic job for us.
The two outside pieces are slightly bigger then they were originally built, we felt it was a sensible decision to make them bigger then we need to allow us trim them down during their final fitting and make a perfect joint to the rest of the casing. For the same reason none of the fitting holes were drilled, this meant we had to use some wooden props to display the pieces on the locomotive. The most complex part of the casing manufacture was the lamp irons which required machining to get the side profiles right before beginning to be bent into their into the final shape.
The “Sponsor an inch or more” campaign that was masterminded by Graham Muspratt was a huge success with the Society raising just under £2,000. The Society would like to thank Graham and all those who donated to the appeal. Getting the funding in place so quickly has made the planning for the boiler lift far simpler. At the time of publication a date has been agreed for the lift prior to the rearranged AGM although for health and safety reasons the Society will not be publishing the exact date.
With the relaxation of lockdown rules our volunteers have been hard at work preparing for the boiler lift. Our aim is to get all the remaining small boiler tubes cut and removed from the boiler before the day of the lift. The majority of the securing bolts have been removed with the remaining ones being left in for safety reasons. Our volunteers will remove all the final securing bolts the day before the lift.
The Society have been debating the possibility of removing both the trailing truck and front bogie whilst the crane is on site for the boiler lift. The agreed plan is to attempt to remove the trailing truck but we’ll leave the front bogie in place. There are several reasons for this decision with the main factor being the Society is not in a position where we can make the locomotive immobile. The weight of the front end of the locomotive would require us to pack behind the bufferbeam in order to prevent the possibility GSN pivoting on her front drive axle. If GSN had a crank axle in place along side the rear drive wheel would have created a counter weight to balance the locomotive without either the bogie or trailing truck needing to be in place. The safest option we are taking is to remove the trailing truck and leave the bogie in place as this will allow us to push the locomotive back under cover once the lifts have been completed.
All the generous people who donated to the appeal will be entered into a free draw to win a number of prizes, including: a star prize of a Graham Farish N Gauge Merchant Navy Pacific locomotive, a years free membership to the GSNLR society, GSN merchandise and other prizes.
The raffle will be drawn at random at pivotal points during the boiler lift such as: The moment the first inch has been lifted, point of maximum lift, being clear of the chassis and then lowered to its new location. If you have donated and not contacted us to confirm your raffle entry with us please do at the earliest opportunity in order to ensure you don’t miss out.
How you can help us.
With so much engineering progress being made with the restoration of 21c11 / 35011 back to original condition complete with air smoothed casing and chain drive valve gear you can help us in several different ways:
No matter what skills you have we can use your help. Please contact our volunteer liaison officer Mr Andrew Collett at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are considering a donation to the project or buying some shares today is the perfect time to do it.
The project is heading into some very exciting times and any financial contributions would be greatly appreciated.
The Society is pleased to report that we be restarting working parties in July. Numbers will be strictly limited to begin with to comply with social distancing so it may be a little while before we can welcome new members to our working parties. Thank you to those that have recently sent in their volunteer forms to join the ranks of our working members, we will welcome you to Blunsdon as soon as we are able.
In June a few select volunteers restarted stripping down work on the GSN. Most of the work focused on getting our container set up which included the installation of the container lights and electrical sockets, at the request of the railway painting the outside green and various other small tasks. Work did progress on the locomotive with the removal of the springs that attach to the center drive wheels. A preliminary visual inspection suggests they are good condition considering their age.
The Society also gained a new component in June that was originally fitted to sister Merchant Navy 35023 ‘Holland Afrika Line’. Not many parts of 35023 survived the scrapyard, but luckily after the last fires were dropped from the engines at Nine Elms, souvenirs from the locomotives were recovered, this includes the boiler pressure gauge from 35023, which had recently resurfaced from an old drivers collection. This historic component has now been secured for future use on GSN thanks to the very kind donation of one of our members.
You can now look great whilst supporting the restoration of 21c11 / 35011.
As you are probably aware we have had to reschedule our four day fund raising coach trip to Yorkshire,which subject to getting sufficient numbers will now take place on Friday 16th October.
Profits for the trip will be split between GSN & The Swindon & Cricklade Railway.In my professional capacity as a coach driver I will behind the wheel for the trip so it will be a great way to meet fellow members & raise money at the same time.
We will travel on 3 steam railways,visit the National Railway Museum* at York & generally have a fun weekend. We will be based at the Best Western Guide Post hotel on the outskirts of Bradford for 3 nights on a half board basis.
The program is as follows:
Fri 16th Oct. Travel from Blunsdon to Bradford
Sat 17th Oct Steam Journey on the Bolton & Embsay Railway followed by a journey from Rawtenstall to Bury on the East Lancs Steam Railway.
Sun 18th Oct Steam journey from Pickering to Whitby on the North Yorks Moors Railway.
Mon 19th Oct Visit to the NRM York (Subject to NRM reopening after corona virus shut down) before returning to Blunsdon.
Price £299pp. This includes all train fares. There is a £50 single Supplement.
This trip is run in conjunction with Holidays & Cruises in Melksham . To Book please call them on 01225 865725 option 3.
How you can help
You can help with the restoration of 21c11 / 35011 back to original condition complete with air smoothed casing and chain driven valve gear in several different ways.
In January and February work progressed on the locomotive at the Blunsdon site. The majority of the effort was focused on preparing the boiler for the lift later in the year. This saw our volunteers removing tubes from the boiler and the various bolts securing the boiler to the frames. The Society is happy to report that all the large boiler tubes have been removed with work now starting on the smaller tubes. It had been hoped the smaller tubes would be all removed before the boiler lift but with workings cancelled until further notice that might not be possible. Whilst our volunteers have removed the majority of the bolts securing the boiler to the frames, several have been left in for safety reasons. Once the boiler lift gets closer the last of these bolts will then be removed and the remainder of the smokebox will also be removed.
The stripping down of the locomotive has also seen progress with the ash pans on both sides now removed. Whilst the crane is on site for the boiler lift the Society also plans remove the front bogie and trailing truck. Once these have been removed the bogie, which appears to be in better condition then the trailing truck, will become the main focus of our restoration efforts. It is the aim to restore the trailing truck at the same time although his will depend on the cost effectiveness of the exercise. It is believed once the Society has delivered a major restored component our credibility will improve and more serious investment will come in.
During the shut down the Society has also been able to agree a very good value-for-money deal that will see our entire frames, stretchers, bufferbeam and both the front and rear dragboxs drawn up in CAD. Once the boiler has been lifted and the frames stripped back this CAD will then be used to check the frames. The Society has had some CAD produced in the past such as the boiler support which forms the back of the oil bath that contains the chain driven valve gear, mounts the inside slidebar and holds the plunger that transfers the valve motion to the piston valves (see right). The Society will need to check that the locomotive’s frames actually match the CAD and the drawings. Once the frames have been scanned to ensure they are in good condition (and fingers crossed, no cracks or damage) the CAD will then be used to cast any stretchers that will need replacing, along with a new dragbox and the boiler support. The cost of getting the frame CADs done was agreed for a price for £1,500. With funds being very tight after the AGM’s cancellation if anyone would like to contribute towards the cost of the CAD project please do get in touch using the contacts details on our website.
The Society had also hoped to unveil some of the front cladding with fitted lamp irons at the AGM in March. The cladding had been produced in order to give the locomotive her face and the start of the outline unique to an original condition Merchant Navy. To create the look some wooden frame extensions were fabricated in order to temporarily fit the new cladding. The cladding had been completed in time for the AGM but with the Covid-19 lock down the Society have been unable to send someone down to collect the finished project. Until the big unveiling the completed cladding will be kept under wraps. The Society would just like to thank Leaky Finders for there hard work constructing the cladding in record time.
The Society was able to acquire a new original electric headlight for the locomotive. At this point the Society now has 5 brass lamps and 1 steel one. The Society has also agreed a price for a Smiths speedometer axle box generator and a cut-off indictor plate for the steam reverser which we will be collecting later in the year.
At this moment in time GSN is a dormant creature, waiting for its time to live again & with your help we can do just that. No matter what skills you have we can use your help. Please contact our volunteer liaison officer by email to Andrew Collett or write to him with your contact details if you fancy getting your hands dirty.
Issue 12 of the Packet
The latest issue of the Packet went out to our members this month and was another bumper issue. The issue features the latest news from the engineering team, the boiler lift appeal, GSNs backplate build up and much much more.
If you are not yet a member, it’s only £12 per year, you can sign up here. Membership in the Society ensures you’ll be kept up to date with the latest achievements, via our members magazine ‘The Packet’ published three times a year with progress reports on GSN and articles about Merchant Navy’s and the Light Pacifics, access to the locomotive when possible and the ability to get involved with the Society.
With the Covid-19 lockdown in place the Society’s finances are under great strain following the lose revenue generated from our sales stand visiting heritage railway gala events over the year. To help ensure work can continue following the lockdown the Society does ask to consider supporting us if your able to and any support would be gratefully appreciated. You can sign up for membership for only £12 per year here, donate to the Society here or even better join us as a shareholder here.