This final view shows the completed northern end floor, which is now strong enough to hold the burliest of our P.Way colleagues ! No doubt, later in its life, the southern end floor will also need new planks, but that will be another year and another budget.
For the time being, our midweek volunteers Derek and Steve have completed the task of patching up the southern end with the best available of the remaining timbers. S57949 was subsequently declared safe to return to its Engineering duties.
As you can see from this report, not all wagon projects take years to complete. As well as the restoration of vintage wagons, there is an ongoing need to repair and maintain the service vehicles that help to maintain the Bluebell Railway. Some of them are historical gems in their own right.
If you have an interest in wagons, why not come along and lend a hand ? It's not rocket science, and you don't need to be a master craftsman. Wednesdays and Weekends there is usually a wagon person about who will be only too pleased to put a paintbrush or wire brush in your hand. A sense of humour and a passion for tea are a distinct bonus.
You could also check out the volunteer link at the bottom of this page for more information.
When you have 30ft of vehicle to floor and only 7in wide planks, it can begin to feel like you will never get there. But consolidated effort from both weekend and week day volunteers rose to the challenge.
With three bays completed, a chance to reflect on progress one late afternoon, and to ponder how long it will take to fit all those good 'old' planks into the southern end of the wagon. Each bay of planks is secured at the outer ends with a steel plate and coach bolts which extend through the solebar. Where possible, planks are also individually bolted to the underframe.
The Southern Railway built these vehicles with a steel chequerplate floor. It was interesting to note however, that the underframe seemed to be pre-drilled to accept a planked floor so perhaps the steel floor was a late design decision by the SR. The original steel floors inevitably corroded and some received wood cladding on top of the steel to prolong life.
When S57949 was first refloored by Bluebell volunteers, it was decided to make a planked floor, with softwood spacer pieces between the planks to allow for rainwater to drain away. This 'Wigley method' was continued in the maintenance repair of the northern end. After the northern end of the frame had been lightly needle gunned, primed and painted, a start was made on laying the new floor. The initial section at the north end, utilised surplus timber from our lowmac project.
All of the rotten planks were taken out for disposal, the remaining good planks from the northern half of the wagon were moved south to make good the gaps in the southern half of the wagon. Thus, half the wagon became devoid of floor and a timber order was placed for replacement planks.
Here we can see some planks marked up for replacement, and the only remaining original bolster left on the wagon. All the other bolsters have been replaced over the years with sleepers or track timbers. The view on the right is from half way down the wagon and shows the remaining good 'old' timbers being lifted in preperation to move them southwards.
A brief diversion from the 3-plank wagons occurred in the Autumn of 2008 when our only operational SR Borail S57949 came into the workshops, stopped on a red card, for a rotten floor. The Borail utilises timber bolsters to support the rail load, however a safe deck is still required, to allow staff to asist in the loading and securing of the rails.
A survey was carried out and thankfully not all the planks required replacing. The worst offenders were marked up with red paint and ammounted to almost half the vehicles floor, although spread out along its entire length.
While the Borail was in the workshop yard, the opportunity was taken to record some of the features of this interesting type. S57949 was built in 1944 to SR diagram 1598
The bogies of the early Borails are the successful LSWR diamond frame design, which originally had square section helical suspension springs as per the northern bogie of S58949. This particular bogie also has a mixture of 'SR' and 'LSWR' axlebox covers. The 'tired' look of those unloaded springs contribute to the vehicles current load restriction of 30 Tons.
The southern end bogie has received replacement round section coil springs at some time in its life. Subsequent batches of these wagons, were built with American designed cast steel bogies, a modification introduced by Bulleid in 1946.
Delightfully, from a historical point of view, two different self-contained buffer types are fitted to this vehicle. Note how the buffer faces are curved to prevent buffer locking of these 64ft long (over headstocks) vehicles.
All Photos by Andy Prime.
An Illustrated History of Southern Wagons - Volume Four, by Messrs. Bixley, Blackburn, Chorley and King;
published by The Oxford Publishing Company, 2002. ISBN 086093 5647.
Go to the web page for this wagon