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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 72 - March 1993
BR(WR) Modified Hall Class 4-6-0 No. 6989 Wightwick Hall
6989 - Restoration Work in 1993 - David P Stribley
In common with many other Society projects, the restoration of Wightwick Hall, the Society's ex-Barry scrapyard modified Hall Class locomotive, was severely impeded by lack of cash in 1992. Nevertheless work was done, and the locomotive now begins to look like a rolling chassis.
Considerable progress has been made with the motion work and Stephenson valve gear. The newly white-metalled cross heads were felted up, cleaned, painted and then offered up between the slide bars. Whilst they were sitting there, awaiting the fitting of the piston spindle gland packing pieces (see below) some kind soul rammed one of them onto the taper end of the piston rod so hard that we had to borrow a special tool from Dennis Howells to get it freed off. When the time came to fit the crossheads onto the piston rods it was highly satisfying to knock home the tapered keys with the big hammer!
Many problems were incurred in fitting up the eccentric rods and valve extension rods - to cut a long story short, these resulted from the fact that the expansion links were not originally from 6989. A consequence was that the tapers on the pivot pins did not match the tapered holes in the fork ends of the rods. We called upon the good offices of Colin Dinsdale (of Dinsdale Engineering Co. Ltd) to make right these mis-matches. By the way, have you ever tried to drive through London traffic with two dirty great long extension rods in your car? Every time you brake they inch near the windscreen . . .
Yours truly collected a complete set of valve rings for the piston valves from Ray Tranter of the Severn Valley Railway. Roy Mort of the SVR advised us "If they're a good fit it'll need half a sleeper to knock the piston valve home." So it turned out - thanks to the craftsmanship of the SVR boys the valves were a perfect fit in the newly-re-bored cylinders.
We had a piece of good luck in '92 when Ian Henderson of the GWR, Didcot, managed to find us a crosshead extension (this operates the vacuum pump). We were soon brought down to earth however by yet another setback. In good faith, we had accepted that the (frame-mounted) vacuum pump had been overhauled some years ago. Stripping it down revealed the awful truth: the bore was scored by deep "tramlines", the spindle was tapered by 30 thou, the cast iron packing pieces missing and the gunmetal bush worn oval. It will cost a lot of money to correct. At least we do now have the correct bushes to fit the spindle to the crosshead extension (Colin, again).
Other expensive items obtained and fitted last year were all the various packing pieces for the stuffing boxes of the pistons and piston valves - all made out of phosphor bronze with massively - impressive skill and precision by Colin Dinsdale. They arrived bubble-packed and glinted in the light as we unwrapped them. Far too nice for a dirty old steam locomotive!
A problem that had been staring at us for a long time was the pitting on the crank pins (which take the thrust of the connecting rods). We bad been quoted four-figure sums for turning them up in situ. So, a brilliantly hot August day found John Wood and I travelling down to the Bluebell Railway, at the behest of Bob Pamment, Shed Supervisor, to pick up a jig for doing the job manually. We were shown the immaculate crank pins of an S15 (now restored to running order) by Ray Bellingham, who had refurbished them using the device - the omens looked good. Incidentally, whilst we were down there yours truly was granted the privilege of a footplate ride on U Class No 1618. Pounding through Sharpethorne tunnel, with the engine slipping frequently on damp rails but with each slip expertly corrected by our driver, was an experience I shall never forget. Many thanks to Bob Pamment! The jig was used on 6989 by John Wood and proved excellent. The pins were finally polished up by emery paper by Alan Emmerson, using a patent device designed by John. This operation saved the Society a considerable amount of money.
Other jobs completed in '92 include: refitting of the front vacuum pipe and hose; restoration of the tender bufferstocks and refitting of the Holcroft curved plates which had been brought from mangy decrepitude to shining perfection through the dedication of Alan Emmerson, Mike Stratford is getting together the complete cylinder cladding, and Paul Bowen has started to paint the splashers in full GWR livery, complete with orange lining. We now have the architrave brass beading for the splashers (made at Swindon by arrangement with Brian Wheeler): 1993 should see some superlative splashers atop the frames!
Several items yet to be fitted were made in '92: we note valve rods (with refurbished cross heads); steam lance cock, J-cocks, regulator stuffing box, cab roof document holders and, finally, reproduction GWR loco headlamps made by John Beesley (these, privately donated, are superb; John B. really knows his craft).
We have now come to a watershed regarding the tyres on the coupled wheel sets on the loco. From Bob Judge's original measurements it would appear that there is insufficient meat on the tyres to turn them to BR profile. This is potentially very bad news indeed, for re-tyring would cost in the order of £15K. Further professional advice is being sought on this problem which might have profound implications for the future restoration work. But judgement must await the full facts.
Truly, restoring a locomotive is a snakes and ladders activity: one minute elation, the next depression. The Group intend nonetheless to sweat it out to make this loco one day the Flagship of the Society - if the men in white coats don't come for us first.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 01 December 2017