GWR Steam Railmotor and Trailer Project

News Archive 2010

7 December 2010 - Railmotor Launch Date is Announced

We are pleased to announce that Railmotor 93 will be formally launched to the public at the Society's Didcot Depot on Saturday 28th May 2011, which is the late May Bank Holiday weekend. This will be the first chance to inspect the vehicle at close quarters, and the first chance to ride in an ex GWR Railmotor since the last was withdrawn from service in 1935. After the launch ceremony it is intended to operate No 93 on Didcot's demonstration line. For the rest of the season on selected days we will be operating both on Didcot's Branch and Main lines, giving ample photo opportunities and the chance to experience the unique ‘walkover’ seats. Operating days will be advertised on the Didcot Railway Centre website once the program has been finalised, and additional information on the launch ceremony will be given as soon as details are known. After a season at Didcot No 93 will visit various preserved railways to fulfil our commitment to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

To avoid disappointment, please note that the running-in trials at Llangollen that are mentioned in the Railway Press are just that - the vehicle will not be in a completed state, and will not be on public view at that time, being covered with tarpaulins to protect the paintwork and trim . We can however confirm that No 93 will be turned out in the 1912 - 1922 GWR Crimson Lake lined livery, with white roof and burnished motion. The interior saloons are a mix of ‘scumbled’ panels and varnished trim, with the seats in diamond pattern chocolate brown upholstery.

The completion and launch next May of No 93 does not mean that the Project will be complete - far from it, as the restoration of Trailer 92 is only now gathering momentum, and we still have a further eighteen months or so work ahead of us. Meanwhile details of No 93's final phase of restoration together with progress on Trailer 92 will be posted on this web site over the next few months.

23 November 2010 - It All Comes Together

Installing the Power Bogie
The bogie is manhandled into position beneath the driving end of the Railmotor.

Following the successful steam trials of the new engine, the unit was once again split into its bogie and boiler sub-assemblies for installation in the coach body. The ‘big lift’ took place on 23 November when No.93 was shunted into the yard at Pentrefelin carriage works – making a rare outdoor appearance – and the engine was brought down from Llangollen loco shed.

Boiler Lift
The boiler is hoisted aloft ready for lowering through the aperture in the engine compartment roof onto the already installed power bogie.

After the boiler had been lifted from the power bogie and put to one side, the railmotor coach body and underframe was jacked up by about 2ft on Llangollen's carriage jacks. This enabled the accommodation bogie to be run out from beneath the motor end of the coach, after which the power bogie was manually pushed into place.

As the coach body was lowered, the scroll irons were carefully located in the sockets of the under-slung transverse suspension beams. With the vehicle sitting on its power bogie and looking like a Steam Railmotor at last, the most testing task of the day began – lowering the boiler through the coach roof and into the motor compartment.

The Boiler in situ
A view of the boiler within its compartment.

At about 12.15 in the afternoon the boiler was hoisted aloft and swung into position above the Railmotor and with much checking, nudging and cajoling the boiler was gingerly eased through the aperture.

Installing the power bogie and boiler now leaves the way clear to complete all the necessary steam piping and water feed pipes, as well as much work on the coach body which could only be tackled with the engine in place.

What they said - How the news was reported

Steam Railway - 10 December 2010
Heritage Railway - 23 December 2010

17 November 2010 - Steaming Trials

Steaming Trials
In driving rain the Railmotor power bogie assembly steams past Llangollen Goods Junction Signal Box on the Engine Shed Road.

Leaden skies, driving rain and a cutting wind failed to wipe the smiles from the Great Western Society’s Steam Railmotor project team members as the newly completed power bogie and boiler assembly moved in steam for the first time on the Llangollen Railway on 17 November.

The bogie first moved under its own power the previous day November 16th at about 16.00 hours, when it was driven for short distances through the Shed Yard at Llangollen to test that all was well for the following day’s trials. This proved to be a wise move, as adjustment to the valve clearances was required to obtain smooth operation, and several hours were spent burning the midnight oil machining the components and reassembling the valve gear before operating the following day.

With steam raised, power bogie engineer Dennis Howells opened the drain cocks, cleared the cylinders, placed the unit in forward gear and gently eased open the regulator. A blast on the Churchward whistle heralded the unit’s first movements up and down the loco shed yard, marking the culmination of 18 years of work on the project. It was also the first time for 75 years that a GWR design railmotor power bogie has moved under its own power.

Steaming Trials
In this view the temporary platforms for the footplate crew, water tank and hand brake can be seen. The red box above the cylinders contained the coal supply. The power bogie storms up the gradient towards Llangollen engine shed.

Further checks showed that everything was working correctly and the power bogie then made several lively round trips to Pentrefelin. The whole assembly ran like a sewing machine and was a sight to behold, a great tribute to all the design work by Mike Rudge and Sam Espley, the project draftsmen.

Steaming Trials
Smiles all round from the Project team, despite the damp weather. On the footplate, left to right are Phil Neale, Sam Espley, Richard Croucher, Mike Rudge, Dennis Howells, Roger Paddison, and on the ground, Graham Drew.
David Wilcock - 17-November-10

The trials were made possible by temporary platforms being fitted to the power bogie to the front and rear of the boiler, permitting a crew and coal bunker to be carried at the leading end, with a water tank and hand brake on the second platform. The boiler was lit-up the previous day and allowed to come to near working pressure to test the injectors, blower and other controls to ensure that all was well for the trials to be undertaken.

This will almost certainly be the only time that the railmotor power unit will be seen ‘without its clothes on’ and it may indeed be the only time that one has ever run in this state. Its Heath Robinson appearance almost had something of the pioneering days of railways about it.

Nobody quite knew how the unit would perform, but on the trips to Pentrefelin it showed itself to be willing and powerful – especially up the Llangollen loco shed incline – with a pleasantly crisp yet mellow exhaust beat.

Following the trials, the assembly was returned to the loco works and the order given to take it all apart again – this time in preparation for installation in the coach body.

The film shows the assembly on one of the trial runs on the Goods Loop that were made during the day, with the Great Western Society crew manning the regulator and brake from temporary platforms attached to the front and rear of the power bogie.

What they said - How the news was reported

The Railway Magazine - January 2011

November 2010 - A Study of Both Ends!

Boiler End
The boiler end with smaller windows due to the internal coal bunker being fitted immediately below them. Bars are also fitted to the windows to prevent the glass being damaged by stray lumps of coal. The roof opening for the boiler can be seen through the glass
Trailing End
The trailing end of the vehicle showing the more familiar larger windows as fitted to Autotrailers. The conduit on the left hand panel with the wires protruding is the connection for the electric bell when towing a trailer. (see Fascinating Features section for details). The regulator rod connection can be seen protruding under the buffer plank just to the right of the coupling.

Before the mouldings, brackets and steps are fixed in place on the Railmotor ends the opportunity was taken to record the basic differences between the boiler and trailing ends of the vehicle, and this month's photos show this to good effect.

Work has continued on the body restoration on many fronts over the past couple of months, including the boiler and luggage compartments, and the trailing end driver's vestibule. Within the boiler compartment the water filler pipework and exterior hinged covers have been installed together with the footplate roof vent and lighting. The sliding doors to the footplate have been hung and the compartment windows have been installed. Progress has been made in the adjacent luggage compartment with fitting the glazed door between the two compartments, completion of both floor and ceiling cladding, lighting and compartment painting. This is now structurally complete apart from hanging the doors on one side. The trailing end driver's vestibule has now been painted and is seeing the installation of brake, regulator and sanding controls before the top layer of flooring is installed - this having to be profiled round all the rods and pipes.

The power bogie and boiler are being subject to final fettling and adjustments, with a successful static steam test being undertaken to prove the valves pipework and fittings, and final assembly of the motion progressing.

Trailer 92 has seen the bogie suspension springs returned after tempering and resetting, new spring location castings delivered (see September news feature) and the wheelsets NDT'd and sent to Buckfastleigh for profiling. A spare wheelset had to be sent down from Didcot as a defect was discovered in one of 92's original fit that could have prevented the vehicle being moved on Network Rail lines. The defective set will not be scrapped but will be returned to Didcot and used under an accommodation vehicle.

October 2010 - A surprise for the Project Team

Bench Seats
The completed bench seat and floor in No. 93's large passenger saloon

The Project Team were a little surprised to learn from the railway press that the Railmotor is to be formally launched at Llangollen in March next year as, although planning is in progress, no firm decision has been made regarding a date. The decision has however been taken regarding the venue, which can be confirmed as the Great Western Society's depot at Didcot, with no public steamings being undertaken before that event at any other location. And what about the date? Keep an eye on this website and that of Didcot Railway Centre for early confirmation.

Meanwhile progress continues on No. 93 with the completion of the interior roof, cladding, doors and windows in the trailing Driver's vestibule, the droplights, bench seats and hardwood floorstrips in both passenger saloons, and delivery of all the exterior mouldings already in primer paint ready for fitting.

The curved steel plate to cover the boiler compartment opening has been fabricated, together with final machining of the eccentric rods, leaving only the valve rods to complete on the power bogie before final assembly.

92 Underframe
The grit blasted underframe of Trailer 92 in Llangollen's Loco Works prior to work commencing on repairs.

The underframe of No. 92 has been grit blasted and primed ready for fitting new buffer planks and various other structural repairs.

Machining of a completely new bottom stretcher and corner posts for the body has started, in preparation for work to commence on this once No. 93 is nearer completion. The condition of the Trailer's wooden structure is far worse than the Railmotor, and considerably more work will be required over the next year to bring it to a serviceable condition.


September 2010 - Highlighting the bogies of Trailer 92

92 Bogies
Both bogie frames sitting upside down on one of Llangollen's wagons after return from grit blasting.

Trailer 92 is mounted on GWR nine foot wheelbase equalising beam bogies, commonly known as ‘American’ bogies.

The bogies are currently stripped for refurbishment and have been grit blasted to remove many years of accumulated grime before examination to rectify defects.

Initial inspection shows the overall general condition of both bogies is reasonable, considering their age, and work will be confined to refurbishment of the springs, replacing safety critical fasteners and bump stops, together with re-profiling the wheelsets to ‘P1’ profile and polishing the journals. The white metal bearings, axle box clearances and oil pads are satisfactory and can be reused. The wheelset axles will of course be subject to magnetic particle and ultra-sonic inspections before refitting to the frames.

92 Wheelsets
92's wheelsets prior to dispatch for re-profiling. The original fit (un-restored) large diameter dynamo pulley wheelset can be seen behind the four restored wheels.

In service No 92 was fitted with a slow speed large diameter dynamo pulley that required a cut-out in the inner end main cross beam to prevent the belt hitting the framework. This cut-out will now have to be welded up as we are restoring the vehicle to its pre-1931 gas light condition and the pulley wheelset could be fitted to one of Didcot's other Auto Trailers at a later date.

Bogie Casting Defect
92 Bogie casting defect - One of the damaged spring location castings that require replacement.  

As with 93's trailing bogie we have found that the secondary suspension spring location castings are cracked and require replacement - These castings seem to be a design weakness with this type of bogie, and will have to be an item that receives regular inspection when 92 is in service. When ordering the new castings it may be prudent for us to purchase a spare against any future failure.

August 2010

Valve Set
Valve set - A pride (or is it a gaggle?) of experts examine the valve travel on the left hand cylinder during the setting exercise. Like all good precision engineering tasks a large spanner (and a watching to working ratio of three to one) was required

Most of July and the first two weeks of August saw the problems mentioned earlier with the left hand cylinder resolved with a weld repair to the defective area, and light machining of the valve face and bore undertaken before the cylinder was replaced on the frames.

With the slide bars fitted and final alignment undertaken on both cylinders the valve gear was trial fitted along with the reversing quadrant and lever. An adjustable drop rod connecting this lever to the reversing rod crank was fitted to allow precise setting of the mid gear position on the valves before attempting to set the valve events. In addition a temporary radius rod was installed to allow, in combination with adjusting the valve rod length, precise setting of the valve leads.

It is pleasing to report that the final dimensions of both radius and valve rods were recorded a being within a ‘gnat's whisker’ of the design figures, and the machining of both components will now proceed along with the reversing lever drop rod.

Completed Motion Parts
Window vents - David Stiff and Tom Campbell are concentrating on fixing the top vents in the smoking compartment.
Boiler Compartment
Boiler compartment -  Cladding, sliding windows and internal partition are shown together with the fabricated water filling pipe. A swept bend will connect the top of this fabrication to the outside of the coach through the hole to the right of the window.  

Work continues on fitting out the body, with effort concentrating on the vents above the windows in the passenger compartments, all of which are different in size by a fraction of an inch, so preventing batch machining, each being made and fitted by hand.

The boiler compartment sliding and droplight windows have been made and the above floor plate water filling pipes have been fabricated.

Work has also continued on the roof with manufacture and fitting of the gas pipes.

Wiring for both the lights and signal bells as been installed, leaving the end connections to be completed over the next few weeks, and the bench seats in the non-smoking saloon, together with the ‘walkover’ seats in the smoking saloon have been completed and fitted, allowing some to sit and admire the work done to date.

All the exterior mouldings have now had the templates made and machined hardwood ordered - some 430 items in various sizes and configurations are required to complete the exterior. One minor setback has been the supply of incorrect specification glass for the windows, not discovered until the paperwork failed to arrive from the supplier and enquiries were made. Nine windows had already been fitted to the coach as all glass had the correct B.S. Kite Mark applied, although we subsequently discovered that an incorrect toughening process had been used. These will have to be changed for the correct specification, new glass having already been ordered from a different supplier.  

June 2010 - Power Bogie progresses

Machining Reversing Lever
Reversing Lever
Completed Motion Parts
Completed Motion Parts

While work continues on the body of No 93, the machining of the Power Bogie valve motion has been completed, except for the Radius Rods, which will be final machined when the length is calculated on fitting the gear to the bogie frames.

The precise setting of the valves is to be undertaken using a computer assisted program as we have conflicting information on the settings, despite having obtained the additional valve gear drawings from the National Railway Museum. Once the dimensions have been established the final machining will be done and all will be assembled.

We prefer to take a conservative approach as a mistake at this stage could well be costly in terms of both finance and time. For the technically minded the valve gear is outside Walschaerts with balanced overhead ‘D’ type slide valves, and a travel of 4 1/2 inches.

The photos show the final machining operations on the Reversing Lever being undertaken in Llangollen's machine shop, and completed parts; including the Reversing Shaft Links and Levers, Combination Levers, Radius Rods and Union Links; ready for fitting.

14 June 2010 - Transport Trust Restoration Award

Presentation of Award
HRH Prince Michael of Kent presents the award to Richard Croucher (right) and Graham Drew (left)
Photo: Brian Gooding (The Transport Trust) - 14-Jun-10

We are pleased to be able to tell you that the project has been given an award by The Transport Trust for restoration work being undertaken on Railmotor 93.

The Trust give these restoration awards to projects that are current, rather than complete, to encourage and recognise work in progress. The awards are not restricted to railway related items and amongst others receiving awards this year were projects as diverse as helicopter restoration and rebuilding a mobile cinema.

On Monday 14th June Society Chairman Richard Croucher and Vehicle Project Manager Graham Drew attended the Trust's award ceremony at London's Camden Roundhouse, on behalf of all the Project Team. The award was presented by HRH Prince Michael of Kent.

May 2010 - Inside and Outside

Vehicle roof with the canvas in place. The large aperture is for the boiler, and the smaller for the compartment roof vent.
Varnishing and scumbling in progress in the non-smoking saloon before fitting the grab rails and passenger communication tubes.

Over the last month work has continued on both the interior and exterior of No 93.

The canvas has now been firmly glued to the roof boards and secured with copper nails around the edges. The first of three coats of paint has been applied and both the saloon and gas lamp vents are ready for fixing along with the mouldings to finish the sides and ends.

Work on the exterior window mouldings is also about 75% complete, at the end of May all the large windows being complete and work continuing on the droplights and small sliding windows in the boiler compartment. Doors to both the trailing end driver's compartment and the main centre passenger vestibule have been hung and await fitting of locks and droplights.

Smoking Compartment
The smoking saloon at the end of May. Corbels, grab rails complete with straps, and passenger communication tubes all in place. Painting and varnishing completed. The blank discs on the roof centre line are the bases for the gas lamps, and the hand belongs to the Society's Chairman, who was just ‘hanging around’.

Inside, the diagonal T&G floor has been installed in the smoking saloon and the new sub partitions at the ends of the bench seats fixed in place. The frames and upholstery for the bench seats has been delivered along with the tip-up seats for the luggage compartment and driver's vestibule. Work on the grab rails has been completed and the whistle wire installed through the left hand tube ready for connection to the boiler when that is installed. The carved corbels have been fixed to the ends of the roof hoop in the smoking saloon and a picture of one of these can be seen in the ‘Fascinating Features’ section.

The passenger communication tubes have also been fitted ready for the chain connection to the vacuum valve and tell-tales on the trailing end of the vehicle. All the fittings and linkages for this are restored and ready for fitting.

The biggest change in appearance however over the last month has been the varnishing and scumbling in both the passenger saloons. This specialist work is being done by a local Llangollen sign writer, who up to now has worked on canal boats and pub signs, this being his first railway coach commission.

April 2010 - Delay and Progress at Llangollen

Trailer No. 92
Excessive corrosion to the body knee irons. - All will require replacement.
Trailer No. 92
A view showing the condition of the trailing end body framework adjacent to the gangway connection .

Although progress still continues to be made towards completing the body of No 93, we have to report a delay in proceedings. The plan was to have the power bogie in a sufficiently complete state by the end of March to enable the unit to be fitted to the underframe. This would allow the interconnecting pipe work and linkages to be manufactured and fitted. Unfortunately we have discovered a defect in the left hand cylinder that only came to our notice when the cylinder was being prepared for trial fitting of the valve gear. This defect cannot be seen as it is hidden under the valve chest flange. Rectification work involves removing the cylinder from the bogie frames to enable weld repairs to be undertaken, and this work will in turn delay the fitting of the bogie to the underframe. On a project of this complexity minor setbacks can be expected from time to time and we are confident that a repair to the cylinder is possible.

Trailer No. 92
Corrosion to the trailing end buffer plank. This part of the underframe sits immediately under the body frames shown in the previous picture.

In the meantime work progresses on 93’s body with fitting of exterior window mouldings to both ends and sides, completing the T&G floor and cladding in the boiler compartment up to the point where the boiler fit is required, and various other ‘finishing’ jobs in both passenger saloons. The hand carved corbels for the main passenger saloon have been delivered, and these will be featured in the ‘Fascinating Features’ section once they are installed. Although the appeal for detailed information about these on the home page of this website failed to produce any results, a similar corbel from the Society’s ‘Dreadnought’ coach was used as a basis for the new design, and the end result is considered to be more than satisfactory.

An initial survey has also been done on No 92’s body and underframe, and this month’s photos show some of the renovation work required. On the underframe both buffer planks require replacement and there is corrosion on the main frames where the fixed steps were located - problems identical to those we found on No 93. The frames are currently being stripped of all fittings, brake gear etc prior to grit blasting to remove years of grime and rust. Also as you would expect, the body has similar problems to those found on No 93, with the bottom stringer and knee iron replacement being the first jobs to be undertaken.

February/March 2010 - Work Starts on Trailer No.92

Trailer No. 92
Trailer 92's underframe half way out, the body being temporarily supported on props and cross beams.
Trailer No. 92
Trailer 92 sitting on the body support stands after removal of the underframe.

Mid February saw Autotrailer 92 moved from store at Llangollen's carriage sidings into the workshop in preparation for removing the body from the underframe, and commencing work on the restoration.

Before this could be done some remedial work was required to the body structure to prevent it collapsing once the supporting underframe was removed, and this work was undertaken over the next couple of weeks in parallel with continuing effort on Number 93's restoration, which is moving forwards at a steady pace with completion of the retractable steps, trailing end doors and much of the boiler compartment.

Early March saw the holding down bolts and various protruding fittings removed from No 92 prior to the body being lifted and the underframe rolled out.

~Retractable Step
The newly manufactured retractable step mechanism on No 93 before fitting the wooden treads.
A view of work in progress inside No 93's smoking saloon looking towards the centre vestibule.

The underframe was subsequently moved up to Llangollen's locomotive works for cleaning and assessment of structural steelwork, while the body remains in the Carriage Works, adjacent to Number 93, so work can commence on assessing the condition of the wooden frame once the cladding is completely removed.

What they said - How the news was reported

Steam Railway - 02 April 2010
Heritage Railway - 15 April 2010
The Railway Magazine - 05 May 2010

January 2010 - A Cover Up at Llangollen

Trailing End
The trailing end of the vehicle ready to receive window mouldings. The canvas can be seen hung over the roof prior to stretching .

After the Christmas break much of the last month has been spent in covering up work done previously, by completion of the interior roof cladding in both passenger saloons, together with fixing in place the gas lamp bases, ventilation bases and brass hand grab rails.

In addition the canvas was draped over the roof to allow it to be stretched before sticking down, covering all the work put into obtaining a smooth surface over the roof profile.

Samll Saloon Roof
A view of work in progress taken looking up through one of the windows, showing details of the small saloon roof handrails, lamp and vent bases.
Large Saloon
Progress in the large passenger saloon. This view shows the location of the elusive wood carvings that we are trying to locate that fit at the ends of the large roof hoop. - see Home page for details

The doors to the passenger vestibule have been renovated and hung ready for the locks and other fittings to be installed, and the exterior cladding on the trailing end has been completed ready for window mouldings to be fitted, so it now matches the boiler compartment end of the vehicle.

The exterior cladding has been subject to the usual round of filling, sanding, painting, filling, sanding, painting etc required to bring the surface up to a presentable standard. Another sign of progress has been discussions with our painter and sign writer to firm up on the specification for finishing the interior, as this work is due to commence shortly.

Work is also progressing on the vehicle systems, with the passenger communication chain tubes being made & fitted once the roof mouldings had been secured in place.













Probably the most historically-important project in railway preservation today
The Steam Railmotor Project
Great Western Society Limited
Didcot Railway Centre
Oxon OX11 7NJ
Registered Charity No. 272616