Friday, 4 July 2014

Achilles Report No59: It Never Rains...

Hi guys. So, here we are again, a single victory lap a couple of weeks ago was swiftly followed by an unexpected (though I should have known better) visit by the fickle finger of fate. "Achilles": freshly painted and going very well: was failed following the run with a steam leak on the main steam pipe, between the wet header and the steam chests. Though annoyed, there was a suggestion that perhaps the job could be done; very carefully I might add; with the superheater unbolted and dragged forward from the flu's. Unfortunately, the fickle finger of fate was again in good form and ensured that the superheaters actually sat 1/2" higher than the top of the smokebox door ring, making them impossible to remove without the boiler coming off. Regular readers will remember that, throughout this repaint, I have not wanted to remove the boiler as it would disturb more bits & bobs than I thought necessary at the time...including the now broken superheater. The next plan was to attempt to fix the leak: caused by a loose nipple: in situe, with the superheater pulled right out and the pipe bent carefully outside of the smokebox. Though unorthodox, the repair would have been theoretically possible, with the smokebox being able to stay on the frames and the tanks and cladding untouched. This method was the one we attempted to use. However, in order to complete the well known phrase "trouble always comes in three's", the finger of fate ensured that the steam pipe also had a hairline crack in it right where it joined the superheater header. Unfortunately, there was no way to perform this repair without removing the smokebox, and thus the boiler. Therefore, in the words of many locomotive owners country-wide, I utter the violent outburst of..."BUGGER!". At this point, my immense feeling of disappointment was almost too much to bare, following months of blood, sweat and tears that have gone into turning this locomotive around. However, Eddie assured me that it is the way of things and to perhaps shelve the project for a while to regain the vital enthusiasm. On June 23rd, the locomotive had had the wet header undone and the superheaters brought forward, though after 25 years the latter were very reluctant to move. The pipe was bent out of the smokebox to try out a potential repair plan involving well-placed oxy acetylene, though the crack in the pipe was soon discovered...
Following a visit to Eddie's with the very much broken locomotive on June 25th, neither of us could even attempt to find a solution that didn't involve removing the boiler. The locomotive at this point received various name-calling attempts which perhaps cannot be repeated before the watershed, as is the way prior to a repair. Eddie's advice was to shelve the project for a while and let the enthusiasm grow back a bit first. So, the loco went home that night and languished in the workshop. On June 26th, I was so angry that the thought of taking the boiler off began to sound like child's-play and, within less than an hour...
"Boiler Off For First Time in 25 Years"
The boiler came out remarkably easily, and the plan I'd concocted during a very angry day at work definitely worked out fine. The smokebox has 6 holding bolts which came out easily and the blast pipe was undone easily from the exit ports. With the tank tops off and the two clack feeds taken off, all I had to do was lift. And, as if by magic...
The smokebox then has a selection of bolts of unknown size which skirt around its edge and, once they were removed, it just fell off without any sign of a struggle. I tell you what, hindsight is a wonderful thing. If I'd have known how easily this boiler came out I'd have taken it off in the winter and done these repairs. More "BUGGER" moments immediately ensued over a cup of tea, whilst I reasoned with the engine, almost trying to council her problems out of her - I must be going mad!...
Here is the radiant superheater and wet heater. The cracked pipe was broken off in a fit of rage by myself, and will now have brand new, proper thick-wall pipe attached and soldered into position to perform a full repair. If unsuccessful to the wide heating surface of gas (potentially melting other joints) it'll have to have oxy acetylene on instead to provide a more precise heat. The contract repair has thankfully gone out to "Three Courses Eddie" of Ryton...
The following day the engine was delivered to Eddie's where work immediately began. The required parts have since been ordered and I'm sure that, some way, we'll get to the bottom of this most annoying problem!...
A busy weekend then followed and, with no engine currently at my end, I just had the cladding to think about, which had unfortunately suffered some knocks upon removal. I could also not let it go back on with chips or boiler-band marks. I am very much aware that it will receive more when the bands go back on but I won't have to see them! Haha! On Tuesday I bit the bullet and set to with the paint stripper...
With the paint stripped and the cladding successfully 'flatted' with very fine wet & dry, it was ready for primer...
"Cladding Ready for Primer"
The following day the two cladding sections were in grey primer on their first coat...
Following flatting and a second coat of primer yesterday, today the two sections were flatted again with wet & dry and then received their three coats of blue: dust coat, main coat & top coat. They will now be allowed to dry and harden over the next 7 or 8 days. Section 1...
And the larger section 2: the main cladding section...
"Good As New? - I Hope So!"
So, that's it for now really. When the pipe arrives for the locomotive the repair can begin and I'm sure Eddie will find a way through. Then, I'll put it all back together and, before you can say "working locomotive" the fine fickle finger of fate will appear again and probably have the engine struck by lightning or something, but that is the life of steam engines...so I'm told. I am aiming for a return to work for a test on July 18th with a view to being in action on that Sunday (the 20th) but, as is one of my favourite phrases of late..."don't count your chickens". Anyway, we'll try our best and see where we end up, in our continuous fight to do what is best for the engine. I just hope the new toy (when she arrives) doesn't have many problems in the near future! Actually, that's a good point, I'll have to email the finger of fate and let them know that there is something else to point at...note to self. Best Regards, Sam...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, that's by far your angriest post. No wonder you had to leave things and cool off for a while. Wise advice from Three Courses Eddie of Toad Hall. And that lovely paint had to be redone as well. At least you can leave the superheater repair to "TC Eddie", lets hope he can fix it without having to make a new superheater. Can't wait to see this other new engine, but you do know that having two steam engines does not halve the problems between them, it actually doubles the number of problems. One last thing, can you let me have the e-mail address for the Fine Fickle Finger of Fate? I need to ask it to stop pointing at my two engines as well... Good luck for the repair, Emma-claire.

Petensue said...

Hi Sam. what a tale you have to tell. Sorry to read the problems that are coming to light after thinking the original leak could be repaired easily. Hope it all goes well for the repairs. Hope it is not too long before we see her in steam again. Regards Peter

Sam Brandist said...

She will run again...if it kills us! Sam

Anonymous said...

Well the Fickle Finger of Fate has since visited TC Eddie via Shackerstone resulting in cancellation of my "Birthday Special". It's not particular who it visits as long as a steam loco is involved. Although thinking back, it certainly visited when I had a Bond Minicar as a student. I remember throwing a plank of wood at the Bond one day in a fit of rage, thereby causing another problem in the form of a large dent! Come on Brandist - be a man! Face up to this adversity with the Dunkirk spirit!