Update February 2020

In November 2019 we had to stop our engine as it had developed a water leak in the firebox from what they call a palm stay. As we also had some firebox lap seam rivets, (these rivets hold the inner copper roof sheet to the copper backhead sheet together) needing replacement we took the decision to transport the engine to Tysley Locomotive Works for this work to be done. So in November the engine moved to Tysley for the work to be done. Whilst there we also decided to look at the Coupling and connecting rods as something was starting to knock when she was coasting.

You may have read elsewhere that the Erlstoke Manor Funds engine 7802 Bradley Manor has suffered a catastrophic failure in the West Somerset Railway when the Piston rod broke inside its connection with the crosshead. The resulting damaged had put the engine out of use and needing a new Cylinder block assembly. So we took the view we would strip 7903’s rods from the crossheads and investigate the taper fit between piston rod and crosshead. Whilst doing this we would replace the white metal bearing faces of the Crossheads as these had not been done since we first overhauled the engine at Blunsdon.

The boiler work went very well and was completed around the New Year. A few of us went up to start disconnecting the coupling rods ready for TLW to remove them and recheck all the bearings. In the end Alistair Meanley felt only the left hand Big End bearing needed the white metal replacing. Both crossheads needed their white metal replacing. However what they did also find was the fit of the left hand Piston rod in its crosshead was not good and had been showing signs of starting to move. Alistair Meanley’ s advice was that the tapered hole in the crosshead should be built up with weld and re-machined. The taper end of the piston rod was then skimmed and the two tapers machined to fit each other perfectly. This apparently was a common Swindon Works repair. Alistair was authorised to carry out this work.

As the engine was also due its annual boiler exam the engines boiler was washed out before it went to Tysley and the cold exam was completed by the GWSR Insurers there. Tysley then refitted all the Mudhole doors and washout plugs and the Hot examination with our Insurance Inspector took place on Friday 28th Feb. To carryout this steam test Foremarke was attached to Tysley’s Hawksworth Tender belonging to 5043 Earl of Mount Edgecombe. The really interesting fact about this tender is it is the one we as a group bought and brought out of Barry to Blunsdon. We later sold it on as we purchased our current tender frames from Swindon Works and which were significantly better and much more complete.

In the meantime at Toddington we have been giving the tender some winter maintenance part of which was a tender bearing lubricating pad inspection. Part of that inspection was to clean out the underkeeps and pads and refill with clean oil. It was just as well we did as we found the middle drivers side bearing had a problem with its white metal surface. This bearing had to be taken to Tysley for replacement white metal and re-machining. We then refitted the bearing and made the tender mobile again. What was interesting is the same bearing in the same position on the Earl’s tender also gave TLW a problem in the past.  The tender tank has also been washed out and the buffer beam cleaned and repainted. The front dragbox area, this is the area that faces the back of the engine and is normally not accessable has also been cleaned and repainted. A repair to the left hand tender intermediate buffer, (this is the buffer that pushes against the back of the engine) was also stripped cleaned and a missing locking plate and cotter remade and fitted.

As I write this Sunday 1st March the engine is due to be loaded at TLW tomorrow midday and arrive at Toddington Monday evening. She will be unloaded Tuesday morning and me and a team will be there through the rest of the week to get the engine ready for service the following week.

          Tender Frames that now run behind 5043 Earl of Mount Edgecombe

Swindon Works Tender frames being prepared for winching across to the Blunsdon running line from the disconnected storage siding.


With 7903 securely locked away in the shed and most of us not doing much steam work we thought we would try and catch up on some outstanding jobs. The two Snifting valves, correct title is anti-vacuum valves valves currently fitted to our engine are ex BR valves and over a period of time the valve inside and its sealing seat have worn to the maximum tolerances and therefore pass steam. They were bought I believe from Swindon works in the very early days of our parts procurement during restoration. They are in fact the later BR designed ones as fitted to the BR Standards. What we have done during this period of lockdown is now make two brand new valves to the correct design with new stainless steel valves inside. The stainless steel valves and the Body castings have been in our possession for some while so Covid 19 is not all bad news John Hancock has had chance to machine up the complete new valves.

Depending how long this difficult situation stays with us we have the refurbishment of the Cylinder Relief valves next on the list. These again were made with a mixture of old and new parts on the original Restoration. We have brand new valves and the correct section springs in stock so John will give them the John Hancock treatment.


We start work on preparing 7903 for a return to service  when we will refill the boiler with water and carryout a mechanical exam as well as finish some rear spring adjustment.

We are also fitting the two brand new snifting valves, mentioned above see pictures on  Home page. These are the two valves that sit on the side of the steam pipes going from the top of the cylinders into the side of the smokebox.