GWR Steam Railmotor and Trailer Project

Jack Lloyd - Factory Apprentice

recalled by Mike Lewis (GWS member No, 52)

Jack Lloyd served his apprenticeship at Stafford Road (Wolverhampton) factory and one day their gang had been given the task of re-assembling one of the railmotors that had undergone a major overhaul. This involved re-wheeling, assembling the valve gear dropping the boiler into the frames and with the body in place and all plumbing etc, coupled up, came the great day when the unit was steamed.

With all the final adjustments made, the Top Yard engineman was sent for to take it out of the shop. This worthy duly appeared and after checking all was clear, blew the whistle, dropped the lever in the direction of travel and opened the regulator.  To everyone’s consternation the unit lurched backwards and smashed into the wall at the end of the shop!

A painful scene then ensued, culminating in the arrival of no less than the top man himself, J A Robinson, who made a tour of the scene before turning to the apprentices cowering in the corner and demanded to know the reasons for the mishap. By now of course they had had the error of their ways pointed out in no uncertain fashion, so they quaveringly explained that they had installed the driving wheelset the wrong way round. There was a painful silence while Robinson digested this, then suddenly said ‘All right! We’ll put the hole in the wall down to mice! But clear the rubble off that buffer plank before anyone else sees it!’

The simple fact behind all this is that the railmotors were fitted with Walschaerts valve gear. The valve events here are basically derived from a single return crank which if the fore gear is taken from the bottom of the suspension link, has to lead the big end in the forward direction of travel on an outside admission (slide valve) engine. This is in direct valve gear (as opposed to indirect drive when the fore gear is taken from the top of the expansion link and the return crank must follow the crank pin in the forward direction of travel).

By now I trust it can be seen that by turning the wheelset round the relative positions of the return crank and crank pin are reversed.  In our railmotor example the return crank now follows the crank pin in the intended forward direction of travel and if the rest of the gear is connected up in the intended way the interesting situation described above is the result.

Mention of J A Robinson brings to mind a number of office memos I came across that had been signed by him.  From the look of his regular signature it appeared to have been done with the wrong end of a badly bitten school pen!

Jack Lloyd retired, as mechanical foreman, from Oxley.

This story is part of a longer series of reminiscences by Mike Lewis

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