Engineering Update - August 2020

Work on The Unknown Warrior has continued at a limited pace since the last report due to the effects of the current worldwide situation.

5551 in the workshop at the West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

Originally the PRCLT trust engineers had planned to return to work at the beginning of July, but this was not to be for a number of reasons. We are now able to report that work at West Shed restarted at the beginning of August, so just over a week ago at the time of writing this report. Much of the first week has involved bringing the workshop out of its lockdown state and preparing for the planned work to continue. It is amazing how much dirt and dust accumulates in a closed workshop!
Elsewhere our suppliers and contractors have mostly been working with limited workforces and only producing priority work, which our locomotive does not fall into. With the gradual return to full production taking place we can expect this to start relaxing, but again we do not know how much the effects of these works trying to catch up on late commercial work will have on the delivery of parts for 5551. Some limited work has been undertaken in private workshops over the last few months for which we are very grateful. The scope for further use of these facilities is being investigated for the future.
Another outcome of the lockdown period is the lack of photographs showing progress which is a regular feature of these reports. Unfortunately, progress has slowed and there has been no access allowed into works to photograph parts. I believe it is easier for the non-engineer members to understand what we are trying to achieve with an appropriate picture to illustrate. Thankfully our contractors at PRCLT, Ian Riley’s and Leaky Finders have supplied the illustrations in this report.

5551 waits for work to recommence. Photo by PRCLT

One feature we have decided to trial alongside this report is an easy to view progress chart (this appears at the end of this Engineering Report). This is broken down into sections of the locomotive and tender and we hope it will provide a quick snapshot at what has been accomplished over the last three months and what is planned for the next three months. The activities are broken down into four symbols like a multi-aspect colour light railway signal, which shows green for complete, double yellow for 80% complete, single yellow for work in progress and red for not yet started.
Our ‘guesstimation’ of 80% complete may bite us on occasion, when an unexpected event happens and we find additional work is required on some part or system, so I hope you will understand if this occasionally looks to have gone backwards. To keep the chart to a reasonable size we will only show areas of the loco that have been worked on over the last three months or are planned to have work undertaken over the next three. It will only cover physical work on manufacture or fitting to the loco, not design and background paperwork. It will obviously develop over time and your views and comments on this would be appreciated.
Another area which affects our future engineering activities is the planning for our predicted income and expenditure. I am sure this will be covered in detail elsewhere in this Warrior, but we will not be placing orders for work until we are confident that we have the money available to pay the invoices when required. This is one reason why we have slowed down work on the boiler and tender, as they have both been costing more than previously predicted. The chassis work has been given first priority on funds and resources for the next few months. The boiler is making good progress towards completion, but it is no good having a finished boiler and no chassis for it to fit in. The tender is similar, so both have been slowed down to hopefully allow the chassis to catch up.
All of this boils down to one thing, the continued financial support of you, our members. Without your donations we are unable to plan the still considerable expenditure required to complete 5551.

Driving Wheels

We are pleased to report that the replacement Crank Pins on the Centre Driving Axle have successfully been fitted and machined at Riley & Sons (E) Ltd., Heywood, Lancashire. All the required design approval, work method statements and approval paperwork is in place.

The Centre Driving Axle ready for the new Crank Pins to be fitted. Photo by Ian Riley & Sons

The new Crank Pins were fitted by placing them in liquid nitrogen which makes the metal shrink slightly and allow the pins to be inserted into the hole in the Driving Wheel. As the pin warms and returns to ambient temperature it expands to be a tight fit in the hole. A keyway is used to stop the Crank Pin rotating in the hole and ensure the correct angular relation between the wheel and the Crank Pins.

A Crank Pin being fitted after freezing in liquid nitrogen. Photo by Ian Riley & Sons

After assembly. Photo by Ian Riley & Sons

The Driving Axle Assembly has now moved to Tyseley Locomotive Works for the Axle Journals to be polished as the wheel lathe at Ian Riley’s is not quite big enough to accept our 6’ 9” diameter wheels.
Once Tyseley have polished the journals, the wheelset will return to West Shed to allow the Axlebox to be white metaled.
There is one issue hanging over the Driving Wheelsets at present, this is regarding paperwork to a welded repair undertaken on three of the wheel centres following incorrect machining of a keyway in the early days of the project. This was a mistake by the machining contractor reading the drawing incorrectly.
The repair was agreed by the approval authority we used at the time, but Riccardo Rail are rightly wanting to check all the procedures and checks were completed to the standards that apply today, not nine years ago. We are confident that this can be resolved fairly soon, but mindful of the fact that if it is not we may have to have at least one, maybe all three wheel centres pressed off the axle for testing. A lot of effort has gone into searching out the necessary paperwork, not helped by the company that did the welded repair having been taken over and the staff involved at the time being no longer in position.

The Crank Axle following completion of painting at the West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

The Trailing Axle following completion of painting at the West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

Bogie Wheels
Riley & Son have also fitted the new tyres to the ex-8F bogie wheelset and await final machining before returning to West Shed.

Bogie Frame

When the Bogie was dismantled at West Shed it appeared that the Frame Assembly was under strain or slightly distorted. Measurement has shown the Horn Guides to not be parallel across the frame,
so they are being removed for machining to true them up which will solve the problem.

The Bogie Frame following removal of the Horn Guides at the West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

Brake Systems
The design of the Air Brake system has been approved by Riccardo Rail and is almost an exact copy of the installation on Duchess of Sutherland. A start has been made on manufacturing the mounting brackets for the Air Pump. This will be followed by installing the pipework in areas where access later will be difficult.

One of the Air Brake Pump Brackets under manufacture at West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

The studs for mounting the Brake Cross Shaft Bracket under the drag box are also planned to be fitted in the coming weeks.
Components from the locomotive brake system have been painted ready for refitting when required.

The Brake Cross Beams following completion of painting at the West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

The Motion parts finally moved from Statfold Barn to West Shed on 12th August. This will allow the PRCLT engineers to inspect and report on what work is required to complete all pieces to a satisfactory standard. Going on what we know from the Connecting Rods, which were the only parts worked on at Statfold Barn, we expect all the Bearing Brasses and Oil Rings installed at Llangollen will require replacement due to incorrect sizes or poor quality machining.

Some of the Motion Parts following delivery to West Shed. Photo by PRCLT

Once the assessment is complete and the scope of work is known we will be obtaining quotations to get the work done.

The Driving Axleboxes are ready for the white metal and machining as required. This is slightly on hold until the paperwork issue with the Driving Wheels is resolved.

One of the Driving Axleboxes fitted with shields for casting in the new white metal. Photo by PRCLT

Drain Cocks
We will be inviting interested parties to machine the six Drain Cocks over the next couple of weeks. The castings are all to hand. The following photos show parts of a similar valve to those fitted to 5551.

A finished Drain Cock. Photo PRCLT

A Drain Cock Body casting set up for machining. Photo PRCLT

Valve Stem and retaining Ring following machining. Photo PRCLT

Snifting Valves
The three Snifting Valves are now complete with the covers fitted, ready for when they will be assembled to the cylinders.

Finish Snifting Valve. Photo – PRCLT

A large amount of effort and time has been spent trying to collate the paperwork that should have been in place from the early days of the project. Some was passed to the project, but never properly stored, so has to be found and others were left with the suppliers. One issue is trying to establish exactly who the suppliers for some parts were, as records and some early orders cannot be found.
Many parts were ordered from Llangollen Railway, from plate for Buffer Beams to rivets and special bolts. The paperwork for these should have been obtained and retained by Llangollen to be subsequently passed onto us. In many cases they are missing. We are hoping that these documents are still filed away somewhere at Llangollen and have been pressing for some time for these documents to be provided, but as has been widely reported Llangollen Railway have enough issues of their own and do not have the staff or time to devote to searching for our paperwork at the moment. They have also been completely shut down over the lockdown. How we resolve this will no doubt tax us in the next few months as we work towards a resolution.

Little progress on the boiler to report over the last three months, due to the effects of lockdown plus our decision to focus spend on the chassis. HBSS have plenty of work to keep them busy while not working on 5551 and we continue to plan our work programme with HBSS to ensure we have a slot booked for work to restart.


The Tender Chassis in Leaky Finders workshop.  Photo – Leaky Finders

A limited amount of work remains until we have a finished stable frame structure. Most of this work is riveting, which is not really possible under the social distancing rules, so this is in abeyance until such time that the contractors are happy to work in close proximity. This work nearly all relates to the rear end of the frame structure where the Rear Drag box is drilled and presently bolted into the Inner Frames. Between the Inner Frames and the Outer Frame each side are the Outer Drag Boxes. These have been fabricated and the mating faces machined square, and positioned for marking up the mounting holes from the Inner and Outer Frames.

A view of the Rear Left Hand end of the Tender Chassis. From right to left we can see the upper and lowere sections of the Centre Drag Box, the thinner Inner Frame plate, The Outer Drag Box, the thicker Outer Frame plate and finally the Outer Frame Angle. All this will be hidden from view when the Rear Buffer Beam is riveted into place.  Photo – Leaky Finders

Once fully marked up they will be removed and drilled ready for the riveting. The final pieces are the Top Plate over the whole rear section and the Rear Buffer Beam, which completes the Frame Assembly. The only other parts to fit are the doubling plates for the Brake Pins which are made and ready for riveting into place.

One of the Brake Pin Doubling Plates ready to be riveted in position.  Photo – Leaky Finders

The frames are also being given a protective coat of paint once work is completed, along with many of the brake and spring fittings ready for future assembly.

Tender Brake Hangers and Spring Links following painting.  Photo – Leaky Finders

Brake Pull Rod with painting complete.  Photo – Leaky Finders

Some other fittings are being prepared for future fitting including the Intermediate Buffers.

Intermediate Buffers.  Photo – Leaky Finders

The timing of this work as described above is dependent on a number of factors, the social distancing rules, Leaky Finders workload and our ability to pay the invoices.

Main Line Running Gear
Work continues on various elements of the provision of the main line running gear.

Tender Tank Design
No progress since last report.



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