C2 Project News

October 2018

A Chilly Weekend!

We didn't have a working party in Mid October, because it was the FR's 'Vintage Weekend' event and most of the group were required on the loco or gravity train roster. Our normal end-of-the-month working party dawned cold, with snow on the mountains and an icy wind from Siberia. Perfect weather for a working C2, but perhaps not for working on bits of one in our unheated shed!
Nevertheless, we had a great turnout for the 4-day working party and achieved a lot on four main workstreams plus some general tidying-up duties. Several of our members were also called upon for the loco roster, including Jon, Colin and Andrew at various times. Sam and Andrew shared the Duty Site Supervisor role and resolved various issues to keep the railway running in the background!
Last working party we made a start on the coupling and connecting rods, and that work continued. Dave 2 worked with Erle to separate the sections of the two coupling rods, a tricky task involving heat, hammers and the hydraulic press.
Erle heats up a coupling rod joint, to help in extracting the taper pin.
Coupling rod parts all seprated at last! We'd been putting off this job for a few years.
The coupling and connecting rods have cover plates to retain their roller bearings. As well as the ones that came with the loco and the complete spare coupling rod, we had acquired some unused plates from the stores at Dahuichang. In total there were about 50 of these steel discs between 6" and 8" across, of a range of subtly different designs and some in better condition than others. The first stage was to clean them all up by removing grease and surface rust. With so many plates, several people contributed to this including Alasdair, Matthew, Caleb and Dave 2. Chris was the most dedicated to the task though, sticking with it all weekend. Once they were clean, Chris assessed the condition of each one and Paul worked out which of the drawings they were meant to be. Not that they all perfectly match the design though... Dave has taken an action to get all the Chinese drawings copied in CAD, and then to compare the real components against the designs.
Chris polishes surface rust off one of the coupling rod bearing cover plates.
Alasdair polishes surface rust off one of the coupling rod bearing cover plates. Sometimes it was less cold outside than it was in the shed!
When we took the cylinders and motion brackets off the loco some years ago, there were packer plates between them and the frames, which were not on the official drawings. However, a hand-written annotation on a drawing we obtained from Dahuichang includes a note about these packers. The packers weren't the same on each side of our loco, nor did their thickness match the note on the drawing! We need to understand what the packers were for and how thick they need to be. Paul and Dave did some careful measurements to check the positions of the crankpins with respect to the mounting faces for the cylinders and motion brackets, which will help us to work this out.
Measuring the lateral position of the driving crankpin relative to a parallel placed on the mounting faces for the cylinder and motion bracket.
Erle does some careful measuring of the connecting rods. This one is bent!
Meanwhile, Erle set to work on the coupling and connecting rods themselves. We have drawings of most of these components, which are of Chinese design, but we're missing a crucial one for the central section of the coupling rod. Erle carefully measured up all three examples and found them to be very similar, so he'll create a new drawing for us. He then measured the other coupling and connecting rod components to see if they conformed with the drawings. In general they do, but at least one of them is slightly bent. That's not insurmountable; we can straighten it with some careful work in the press.
Another workstream was on the tender brake stretchers and their safety brackets. The stretchers needed shortening owing to the re-gauging, and we have taken the opportunity to make them the same design as the brake stretcher on the loco's first axle. One of them was bent and a bit bashed about, so Caleb ground off the burrs and straightened it using the hydraulic press. Caleb and James then carefully marked out where the ends needed to be cut off, and set them up in the bandsaw to shorten them. Finally, they worked with Dave 2 to learn how to use the Asquith radial arm drill, to drill out and ream the hole in the middle, which will be bushed in due course.

The safety brackets are intended to retain the tender brake stretchers in the event of a failure of any part of the linkage. We need six, but we only had three; one of those was twisted and another had not been made the right shape! The first job was to correct the existign three, which Sam and Paul did by heating with the oxy-propane torch and carefully re-shaping. Paul had previously identified some suitable steel strip for making the replacement parts, and Sam bent these to shape on the folding machine. Finally, Dave 2 drilled out the fixing holes. At the next working party we'll get these cleaned and painted, ready for fitting.
Caleb sets up a tender brake stretcher in the saw, ready to cut it to length.
Tender brake safety brackets: the starting point!
Sam sets up the next bend in a brake stretcher safety strap.
Two old safety straps now the correct shape, and a new one with two of the three bends completed.
Last month Alan had started making some cross-shaped jigs to fit in the end of the cylinder bores - these will help us get everything perfectly aligned when we fit the cylinders and motion brackets. He continued to work on these and they're now all a great fit in the cylinders.
The final workstream is a completely new one. We're making a start on the detail design of the cab, which interfaces with most other bits of the loco, and of course with the crew! Our cab will be in the Chinese style, but dimensionally similar to the (smaller) Polish design, and will also be mounted a little lower down. We also need to fit in some more equipment, for example vacuum brake equipment and a second gauge glass. We must ensure that it all fits, and also that the control layout is comfortable and ergonomic for the crew. Quite a complex challenge.

Andrew and Dave have taken this on, and made a start with some careful measurements of the boiler backhead. The Chinese made several modifications to the control layout when compared to the Polish drawings, so we need to know what we've got. Paul's photos of numerous similar locos in both China and Eastern Europe are also proving useful in planning the cab layout.
Andrew and Dave measure up the boiler backhead in preparation for designing the cab layout.
A whiteboard full of jobs. By the end of the working party we'd completed almost all of these, including number 4!
We started the weekend with a whiteboard fairly full of jobs, and kept having to add more to keep everyone busy. It was great having so many people around - we didn't quite match our busiest ever working party of 12 people, but we were at least in double figures.

Looking at the adjacent photo I realise there are a couple of jobs that we did but I haven't described above. As the number of our volunteers keeps increasing, an important management task is to collect everyone's contact details, and to record what skills they have and what they woud be interested in learning. This will help greatly in planning working parties and Sam has taken on this task and made great progress with it. Of course these days we've got to be careful with data protection regulations!
Our next activity will be an engineering planning meeting in 10 days time, where we will set the priorities and budgets for the next couple of years and agree who is going to lead each workstream. Shortly after that, Paul has arranged a meeting with British Engineering, the Ffestiniog Railway's boiler insurers. We want to discuss the steps needed to approve the design of our boiler, followed by approval of the boiler itself. This may be the most expensive part of the whole loco overhaul, as much of the work requires specialist skills that will need to be subcontracted. We don't want to finish the boiler too soon, but we recognise that there may be several years' work in it so we think it's the right time to get started.
The next working party is in late November, followed by one at Christmas. Watch this space!
News Archive 
September 2018 (again)