Work Reports: November/December 2021

“Remember remember the Fifth of November,

When Potter dropped the Tea Pot.

I know of no reason why the Dropped Teapot Treason

Should ever be Forgot.”

Dear readers, that’s how long ago I started to write this news update. But, as is always the way, I found myself distracted (possibly by loud noises or shiny things – I’m only a motorman and am easily amused) and now here I am in early December with lots to tell you. And best of all, not all of the news is about bloody seats. So there’s a bonus. I should however apologise in advance since I’m currently typing this with what I believe is a very bad cold (not COVID, although I’m waiting for test results) so please excuse any breaks in the narrative. These are almost certainly due to sneezing fits or excessive Lemsip consumption.

In the past few months the SETG have remained busy at Strawberry Hill and, as leading Minion and Spanner Fiddler Chris Buckland enjoys observing, “we have more jobs closed than open, love.” The list of tasks still to complete is steadily shrinking (and the folder containing the paperwork for closed jobs is growing commensurately.) We have made great use of the trim shop, both for re-trimming the salvageable seat bases and currently for rebuilding otherwise write-off seats using fresh timber and salvaged and refurbished parts. Chris and the technical team have been busy tackling 70797 which is approximately one-third complete. One notable task which has been going on in the background involves upgrading the unit’s emergency battery supply. This work will mean the difference between emergency lights for 10 minutes and emergency lights for a few hours. We also hope will will be able to charge the batteries from an external source – when the unit is ‘off the juice’ this will increase our operational flexibility. Tony, our paperwork guru and chartered engineer, has written up the required alterations to the master maintenance documents. While this has been going on, Darren has been hard at work making up and fitting new wooden parts for the interior including the long-awaited interior window trims, the trim shop is geared up to restore the last of the seating items and build new quarter pads and the inimitable JD and Mick remain at work, supporting Chris with the re-wire of 70797.
I am sometimes allowed to make the tea.

The easiest way to quantify the work carried out and left to do is to go by vehicle:

Driving Trailer Composite No. 76262
Driving Cab Incomplete.
Waiting for overhauled brake controller to be returned from Railway Brake Services.
Passenger accommodation complete.

Non-Driving Trailer No.70797
Passenger Accommodation Not Complete.
The re-wire continues! Buckie and his team are now approximately 3/4 of the way through fitting the new imperial-to-metric droppers that connect the external wiring conduit from the sole bar to the interior of the coach – most of the original droppers haven’t been touched since, we believed, the mid 80’s at least. We’re certain that some (if not all) of the conduit on this coach is the same material it left York’s Holgate Carriage Works with in 1963 and it has not wanted to part company with the coach, and the droppers have been a particular problem. With their position “half-in, half-out”, they collected a lot of rust, brake-block dust and other contamination (much of which has been painted over multiple times); removing some of them has taken almost an entire day. So progress has been slow, made slower still by some of the team having to self-isolate thanks to COVID. Once the droppers are all installed, we believe it will be a (comparatively) easy task to fit the new conduit and re-fit the seat heaters and bays. After that we anticipate a full day to re-fit the step backs and bases, at which point the coach will be fit for traffic.

Motor Luggage Brake Standard No.62236
Passenger accommodation complete.
Emergency Batteries being upgraded.
Guards doors both sides require adjustment to open and close smoothly.

Driving Trailer Composite No.76263
Driving Cab Incomplete.
Cab panelling/soundproofing to be replaced. Existing brake controller to be exchanged for overhauled controller from Railway Brake Services. Existing brake controller to be returned to stores float. Full rub-down and repaint required.
Passenger Accommodation not complete.
This was the worst of the four vehicles in the unit, and as such has required the most work. We also saved it until last, on the hole in the standard class saloon is no more, all the rotten window frames have been stripped out and are being replaced, we have enough tea bases and seat backs to complete the coach; everything is looking very positive. Once the replacement interior window frames are fitted, filled and painted, we will concentrate on installing new sound insulation to the coach – rock wool to replace the older and moth-riddled fibreglass material – then new quarter pads will be fitted. After that, the seat back and bases go in and bingo! Serviceable passenger accommodation! The cab in 76263 needs the insulation re-fitted (more rock wool) and the new plywood interior panels fitted.

I’ve almost become tired of saying “the work is ongoing and we’re getting there”, because like everyone – or possibly much more – I want to see the unit back in traffic. I want to see passengers boarding and alighting, I want to see coaches busy with people, I want to hear doors slamming and whistles blowing and the sound of wheels on jointed track again. But Chris reminds me “The job has to be done properly, Potter.” And that’s what we are going to do. The unit will be for to run when it is fit to run – every job will be done properly, and anything we’re not happy with will be revisited. 3417 isn’t so much a work of art as a work in progress – the Forth rail Bridge with lots of doors. We’ll get to one end and then start going back again.

But the ‘getting to one end’ is at least within sight. The next step is getting the brake reinstated, the stepboards installed, 70797 and 76263 finished and and Ultrasonic Axle Test carried out. After that it’s paperwork to get 3417 back on the rolling stock library. Then a fitness to run certificate. Then I’m ringing up chums at GBRf Tonbridge and asking if we can borrow 73201 & 73109 for the weekend.

That’s it then – the last update before Christmas. We’ve been at this for 5 years, and it finally feels like next year will be the year when we see 3417 outside and doing. Fingers crossed, eh?!

To all our friends, supporters and followers, from all the Minions, a very very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year.