Keeping Busy Despite Lockdown 2.0

Good afternoon, folks. Are you all enjoying lockdown? No? You’re not? Neither are we. In fact we are as deeply ticked-off about it as anyone. Just when things had started to gather momentum again… Job Stopped. Bugger.
But all isn’t lost, dear readers, because the Minions are allowed access to things like the internet, email and mobile phones and know how to make good use of them. With this in mind, we can talk to you about a few odds and ends that have been taking place behind the scenes.

As you’ll all be aware, one of the jobs we had initially thought would be beyond us was the repair of the seriously damaged seat bases and backs that were removed rom the unit after it’s return from Ilford. To briefly recap, 3417 was stored outside in various locations for over 3 years without “the juice” and Mark One stock doesn’t like being kept cold for any length. Single glazing, a lot of doors and a few leaky windows (wasn’t that a Tina Turner song?) did nothing to help matters. By the time the unit was safely stabled at Strawberry Hill in 2015, what was a pristine unit inside & out on arrival at the Bluebell Railway in January 2009 was very shiny on the outside and very, very rotten on the inside. Thanks to the generosity of TBM Rail, we found ourselves in a position to at least send away the small stock of good trim for professional cleaning, but we still had a mountain to climb. The gallery below gives you a taste of how big that mountain was!

So you can see that Lynn and Maggie have achieved something that we thought impossible to do in-house – turning rotten seats into good ‘uns. On top of that we were helped in getting the materials needed to remake these seats by friends such as Project Commuter, the National Railway Museum, the North Norfolk Railway, Mr Roy Watts of the Bluebell Railway and Mr Gordon Pettitt himself. The past six months have seen those contacts and the expertise applied to the problem generate a small production line for remaking damaged seating. We hope that the second class saloons will be almost entirely retrimmed with seats either salvaged from the unit, recovered by Maggie and Lynn or donated by the Brighton Belle Trust. But that leaves us to solve the problem of trimming the First Class compartments in Driving Trailer No.76263. Now, thanks to our Materials Minion, we have generated a promising contact in the world of seating manufacture and repair. A sponsor (to be named shortly) have very kindly agreed to donate 10 meters of ‘Timetable” first class moquette for use bring 3417’s First Class seating back to life. This has already been delivered to Wimbledon , meaning that we can now seriously look at repairing the water-damaged compartment seat bases. The manner of repair will be slightly different but we are positive that we can revive at least some of the damaged seating for reuse. Right – enough about seats; especially since they will have to wait until lockdown is lifted before we can get on with them.

It would be fair to say that one of the most critical pieces of 3417’s restoration project has absolutely nothing to do with anything on wheels; it’s Strawberry Hill shed itself. Having covered, serviced storage has made all the difference in the work we have been able to do, and how effectively we have been able to maintain the fabric of the vehicles in our care. Strawberry Hill has served us very very well indeed but, just like the train sitting inside it, the building needs some TLC as well. As it stands, we have a few issues that need looking at; window frames are rotting, we have the ever present pain-in-the-neck called buddleia, fences to maintain, and a roof to fix to name but a few.

After a productive visit from a member of the Railway Heritage Trust we will be talking to Network Rail, the ultimate owners of the building, to work out what can be done to rectify some of the larger problems the building faces. More news on this as things move forward. As one of the last L&SWR steam sheds in use in the country and certainly the last one in the London area that survives we are keen to look after this small gem. Without it 3417 would have enjoyed a far less comfortable few years.

We have however carried out a few tasks that have made the shed feel a little more like home, and there are a few touches still to come…

Finally, the biggest thing I can’t actually tell you about yet – money. A few months ago we had a visit from a few people who thought they would like to help the SETG get 3417 back into running condition. I can tell you that those discussions went very well. Very very well, in fact. So well that there is a proposal going to a few people within the next few days that could (we’re saying “could” because we’re not counting our chickens just yet) result in a very large announcement in time for Christmas. If it all happens the way we hope then it will be a game changer for 3417 and the SETG.

2021 could be a very exciting year if you happen to be interested in the retirement plans of the UK’s last complete 4VEP.

Stay tuned for 2021….

So there you are. We’ve been busy and we’re going to stay busy regardless of Lockdown 2.0. Keep in touch with us here, on Facebook and on Twitter and most importantly of all in these strange times, stay safe.