C2 Project News

Mid-January 2018

Penblwydd Hapus!

Only a couple of weeks ago I was wishing you a Merry Christmas; now it's Happy Birthday. Why? Well our locomotive, Harbin 221, is 30 years old this month. When it arrived in the UK 11 years ago, we had hoped that we might have finished it by now! Never mind, it's progressing well, the work is being done to a high standard and we're still enjoying ourselves.
There's another big birthday this year: the FR's Hunslet 'Ladies' are 125 years old and the party will be held in late June. Expect lots of visiting Hunslets supported by the home fleet. Initial details can be found here: 2018 Events. We intend to have the C2 shed open for visitors, so if you would like to meet us and see progress for yourselves, this would be a great opportunity.
Anyway, back to the recent working party. Paul and Dave 1 arrived on Wednesday evening, in readiness for an early start on Thursday. Not to carry out work on the C2, but to work ballast trains associated with track relaying inside Moelwyn Tunnel. Paul spent the day refreshing his knowledge of driving the Vale of Ffestiniog and of working in engineering possessions, while Dave 1 learned how to operate almost every ground frame between Boston Lodge and Tunnel South. Most of the C2 group are qualified to drive the FR and/or WHR locomotives, so we try to help out covering operating turns when needed.

Meanwhile Andrew and Dave 2 arrived and made preparations for work on the C2.
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Works train at Minffordd, heading for Moelwyn tunnel.
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In the middle of the tunnel, all the track has been removed and the lights of the digger illuminate the 'shotcreted' interior.
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Dwarfed by the landscape, the works train stands in tunnel south cutting. We were blessed with fine weather.
Paul and Andrew made an early start on Friday morning, moving the tender wheelsets into the erecting shop, with Dylan's assistance on the site loader. This prepared the way for Rhys to give Andrew a lesson on using the Swift wheel lathe on Friday. It's a highly skilled job, as the lathe is entirely manual. The profile is cut by operating the longitudinal and cross feeds simultaneously, the rate of each feed being changed to obtain the curves around the flange.
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Friday dawned clear and bright, but very cold!
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One of our tender wheelsets on the big Swift wheel lathe. Andrew concentrates on turning the wheel flange profile. Swift it ain't!
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A completed tender wheelset. The next task for these is to press on the inner races of the roller bearings, and assemble the axleboxes.
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Andrew achieved a much better finish after re-arranging the drive to the wheelset being turned.
The tender tyres were not badly worn when we bought the locomotive, so we have not replaced them. They just need turning to the standard Ffestiniog Railway wheel profile. After a slow start, Andrew started to learn the tricks involved in the job. He discovered that a more positive drive to the wheelset prevented the cutting tool chattering, which gave a much better finish and allowed the lathe to be operated faster. After four days work, the six tender wheels are now all correctly profiled.

While Andrew was busy turning wheels, Paul and Dave 1 sat down at a computer and reviewed the tender brake force calculations. We are adding a steam brake to the tender, so two calculations are required; one for the power brake and one for the hand brake. It is important not to over-brake the tender, as we don't want the risk of locking the wheels up. On the other hand, there is no benefit in having a power brake if it is under-braked. To add to the challenge, the weight of the tender changes depending on how much water and coal is in it.
Changing the length of the cranks on the brake weigh shaft is the easiest way of changing the brake force. This can be achieved by moving the position of the brake cylinder, the hand brake standard, and the weigh shaft itself. But the position of all of these items is constrained by other equipment and framing nearby. We had visions of complex arrangements with gears and layshafts, not ideal in a dusty environment. After arriving at what they thought was a potential solution on the CAD drawing, Paul and Dave 1 went over to the old tender body (stored outside the C2 shed), and marked out the new position of the brake standard. This has to be moved from its original position, as the locomotive cab and corridor connection to the tender will be narrower than the existing ones. The original hand brake standard was located and offered up, to check that it was not too close to where we propose to put the new cab and tender body structure. It looks like there should be space to operate the hand brake without catching knuckles on adjacent structures, and without narrowing the shovelling plate significantly. We have a solution!
Finalising the tender brakegear concept will allow us to start detailing the tender brakegear components, which in turn will allow us to determine where the fixing holes in the tender chassis frames need to be.
The manufacture and reconditioning of the locomotive brakegear is well underway. Paul and Dave 1 therefore carried out a survey of the components, to determine which are finished, which are in progress, and which are still to be started (not many now!). This identified quite a few components which could be finished by a final clean-up and painting. Dave 2 therefore spent a couple of days wire wheeling those components, priming them and applying a top coat of paint. Glenn kindly left the heating on in the paint shop, to make the task more comfortable for Dave 2 and to dry the paint quicker.

Paul also completed the last machining job on the brake weighshaft, and machined the components of a slack adjuster to suit the revised design. These were passed to Dave 2 for painting too.
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Loco brake components in the paint shop; these are all now finished apart from pressing in the Iglidur bushes.
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More completed loco brake components getting a lick of paint.
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More brake links!
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The loco brake weighshaft crank was drilled out and reamed to suit a new bush.
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The brakes have been progressing in the background for months. Hopefully it won't be long before all these parts come together.
While enthusiasm for brakegear was high, Paul and Dave 2 surveyed the tender brakegear components too. A lot of them will need replacing, but some parts can be modified and reused. The list created forms the start of a job list, which we can work through to assemble a kit of parts for the tender brakegear.
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These are the castings for our new steam brake cylinders, one each for the loco and tender. They will be completed by the works staff to the same design used on the FR Double Fairlies.
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Tender brake gear components laid out for inspection and a review of the work required on each.
We are intending to standardise the pins we use in the brakegear, to avoid a huge range of different sizes. We are making the pins out of stainless steel, so that they can be used in conjunction with plastic bushes, to minimise wear. This is a proven concept, and is used successfully on most Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway carriages. To hold the brakegear together, split pins are inserted through a stainless steel collar around the pin. Sam (one of the works staff) kindly offered to make the collars, and turned up 35 of them for us in a couple of days; a fraction of the time it would have taken us. He has now taken on the task of making a jig for drilling the holes for the split pins. Thank you Sam!
While the tender chassis frames are still in the erecting shop (the pointwork outside is being relayed, preventing rail movements in or out), Dave 1 took the opportunity to carry out a little more welding on them. A few welds on the underside of the tender chassis frames were built up and ground back, to neaten them.
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Battery box components assembled into the tender frame, ready for welding.
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We trial-fitted the safety chain eyes and their rubber springs.
Dave 1 also had a go at starting to weld the battery box components (prepared and cleaned by Dave 2) together. The sidewall of the battery box is relatively thin, which rather challenged Dave 1's welding skills. He decided that welding the components to the frames was still a bit beyond his skill level, so left this job for Andrew to complete.
With the frames approaching completion, the next step towards getting a rolling tender chassis is aligning the horns. To do this, the first stage is to accurately measure the existing horn interfaces on the frames. Unlike the locomotive frames, there are no machined datums (aside from the interfaces themselves) to work to. We therefore decided to temporarily attach some channel section material to the tender chassis frames, to which parallels can be clamped in a repeatable position. Dave 2 cut three length of channel, and Dave 1 tack welded them into place. We are now ready to start measuring.
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The works staff have been busy building the framework and skin of a new observation carriage. Bob Yates carefully marked all the panels with an alphanumeric code to indicate where they fitted, then realised there was scope for confusion!
Because the locomotive and tender and slightly closer together than we originally intended (we made the mistake of assuming that the Chinese tender chassis frames were built to the drawings!), and the safety chain eyebolts we bought have a boss on them (the originals didn't), we are concerned that the eyebolts themselves could come into contact under certain conditions. To avoid this, we propose counterboring the locomotive rear buffer beam and doing similar on the tender chassis front headstock.
The tender chassis front headstock is only 10mm thick, so instead of counterboring the eyebolt holes in it, it will be easier to enlarge the holes and fit a backing plate. Paul located some suitable material, and Dave 1 cut a couple of lengths of it. Dave 1 then started to fettle the plates to fit around existing welds behind the headstock.
We'll be back in Boston Lodge in under two weeks time, to continue the work. It's very pleasing to see things moving forwards at a good pace.
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C2s were built for the winter weather. This is a lovely photo of 028 with a passenger train on the Langxiang Forestry Railway in 1988. This loco was a 1950s Polish-built КП-4 that was later updated to late C2 specification at Harbin works.
Late January 2018