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Locomotive Works News

Overhaul of SECR H-class 0-4-4T No.263

Return to service - 28 July 2012

263 leads 592 and the Birdcage - Andrew Strongitharm - 28 July 2012 A re-dedication ceremony, with speeches and a blessing from the Railway's Chaplain, saw the launch into service of SECR H-class No.263 on 28 July 2012. It is seen leading 592 and the Birdcage brake out of Horsted Keynes station in Andrew Strongitharm's photo on the right.

Below are two photos from Peter Edwards. No.263 is seen at Three Arch Bridge while on its light engine move up to Horsted Keynes for its re-dedication. Peter also caught the moment Dick Ranson smashed the bottle of Bluebell Bubbly over the buffer of the locomotive. Dick was a principle in the original preservation of No.263 in 1964.

263 light engine move - Peter Edwards - 28 July 2012 263 re-launch - Peter Edwards - 28 July 2012
Andrew Strongitharm's photo below shows the H-class with the Metropolitan coaches on its re-launch day, and Roger Murray's photo shows the H and C awaiting departure from Sheffield Park the same day.

263 with Met coaches - Andrew Strongitharm - 28 July 2012 The H and C await departure from Sheffield Park - Roger Murray - 28 July 2012

28 May 2012

Due to mechanical maintenance work on the SECR C-class being given priority, the H's return to service has been delayed slightly. The boiler was given a hydraulic test and then its "out of the frames" steam test during February, and craned back into the frames on 6 March (as seen in Derek Hayward's 10th March shot below). Derek's next photo below shows the loco coming together (with side-tanks now in place) on 25 March.
H-class in works - Derek Hayward - 10 March 2012 H-class in the works - Derek Hayward - 25 March 2012
263 in steam - John Sandys - 1 May 2012 John Sandys' photo on the right shows No.263 being steam tested on 1st May 2012 at Sheffield Park. There was still a little work to do, not least the completion of the ornate SECR lining and lettering. John's short video shows the H-class in steam.

With the loco essentially complete it was then given some test runs to check for any teething problems. The following videos show the loco being tested out on the line on 17 May:

The leaky smokebox door is now being repaired by welding a ring around the inside edge and machining this flat. The loco may not need any further test running, so final painting, lettering and lining can probably start very shortly. We don't have a launch date yet.

9 January 2012

Frames await boiler in the works - Ben Gray - 10 December 2011

Rapid progress is being maintained towards a hoped-for March completion of this locomotive. On the mechanical side, slide valves timing has been set and the front bufferbeam replaced.

The boiler has had seal-welding and caulking of firebox seams, the knobbling over of all the new stays is now complete and the smokebox wrapper and front plate assembled as far as possible before fitting to boiler. The firehole ring has also be re-rivetted. The boiler has been rolled the right-way-up for tubing, which has started.

The pattern for casting a new chimney is still in production, so the old chimney may be used at first.

Photo with thanks to Ben Gray, 10 December 2011

Mid-September 2011

H-class being re-assembled - Lewis Nodes - 18 Sept 2011 H-class cab - Lewis Nodes - 18 Sept 2011

Inner firebox - Lewis Nodes - 18 Sept 2011 Since the last report the following work has been completed:
  • Ashpan completed,
  • Copper pipe work all completed as far as can be done before installing the boiler,
  • Cab 60% painted (as seen above).
  • All copper and steel welding completed;
  • All the new stays now fitted;
  • Firebars have been obtained.
The photo on the right shows the inner firebox after completion of repairs and copper-welding, with new lap-seam rivets, stays (with the ends yet to be formed) and foundation ring rivets (at the top since the boiler is upside down).

The two photos below show the outside of the firebox, with all the stays in place, new sections welded and riveted into the lower sides (again at the top of these photos), with a new mud-hole door in the replaced section.

Completion is possible in January if no additional major problems occur to the running fleet of locomotives in the meantime.

Photos with thanks to Lewis Nodes, 18 September 2011

Outside of firebox - upside down - Lewis Nodes - 18 Sept 2011 New washout/mudhole door  - Lewis Nodes - 18 Sept 2011

5 May 2011

The overhaul is progressing towards completion in the autumn. Work has been delayed by the need to repair locos in the running fleet, and the problems encountered with 323.

Both tanks have been repaired, and temporarily installed on the frames for painting, and a new (galvanised) balance pipe will be fitted. All the motion parts are installed and the reverser has been overhauled, with a new oil control valve being made. The cab roof has been repaired with replacement of the steel sheeting. The pattern for casting a new chimney is in hand, and a new smokebox is on order. All the copper pipework is being replaced.

On the boiler, the J-pipe assembly has been done, and the main steam pipe is ready to fit. All fittings are ready to fit except for one injector steam valve which was borrowed for 323. Welding of the new firebox plate work has progressed and needs just one more day's work before examination by the boiler inspector. The replacement ashpan is under construction. We still require the services of a copper welder to repair the lap seams; this may possibly involve sending the boiler away for a short time.

October 2010

Re-wheeling the H-class - John Fry - 2 August 2010 Re-wheeling the H-class - John Fry - 2 August 2010

The cylinder block has returned to the frames, the frames re-wheeled (John Fry's two photos, taken on 2nd August above), and motion re-erected. Amongst Derek Hayward's photos below is one showing the boiler, inverted in the works. Since it was taken, the (unpainted) lower sides of the outer firebox have been cut away for replacement.

H-class boiler - 6 August 2010 - Derek Hayward H-class bunker - 10 October 2010 - Derek Hayward H-class frames - 10 October 2010 - Derek Hayward

Photos © Copyright Derek Hayward and John Fry.

24 January 2010

H-class cab roof - 24 January 2010 - Derek Hayward H-class Driving Wheels - 24 January 2010 - Derek Hayward

With the slightly improved weather work has started on painting the cab roof from 263, and the driving wheels have been moved into the works.

H-class cylinders - 1 January 2010 - Derek Hayward

The cylinders have returned from Metalock Engineering UK Ltd, and the areas of cold stitching on the valve faces can be seen below.

H-class valve faces - 1 January 2010 - Derek Hayward

Photos © Copyright Derek Hayward.

31 December 2009

H-class frames - 13 December 2009 - Derek Hayward Boiler from H-class - 13 December 2009 - Derek Hayward
Bogie re-wheeled - 13 December 2009 - Derek Hayward
Three photos, taken on 13 December by Derek Hayward, illustrate the progress being made on the H-class, and the report below is adapted from Russ Hubner's in the recent Bluebell News magazine.

The main areas of work recently have been the frames, which have been repainted, and the bogie. The vacuum brake cylinder has been overhauled and is ready for fitting.

The bogie has had a corroded area built up with weld, and has been painted and lined. New equalising beams have been made, axleboxes re-metalled, machined and scraped to fit the wheelsets which have returned after re-profiling, and as seen on the right, the bogie has now been largely re-assembled.

The cylinders have been sent to Metalock Engineering UK Ltd in Coventry for repair to the valve faces which are cracked and badly worn. The cracks have been present for many years, but the casting cannot be repaired by welding because this would be likely to cause further cracks, so cold stitching, with overlaping studs individually tapped and screwed in, is the repair method chosen, a time-consuming task and hence quite costly.

On the boiler, worn studs have been renewed and the washout plug bosses are being fitted, with new screw fixings. Providing the loco works team get a clear run without any unexpected repairs coming their way, it is possible the loco may be running again in the late summer of 2010.

263 in works - 25 May 2009 - Tom James 25 May 2009


This photo from Tom James shows that the H-class has now been lifted from its wheels. To facilitate work on valves and cylinders, the cylinder block will be removed shortly.

After deliberation by the BRPS, the committee's recommendation that the loco should return once more in its original SECR fully lined livery has been agreed by the owning Bluebell Railway Trust. The possibility of painting it in Southern lined green to match B473 was seriously considered, as was lined BR black, but whilst these remain options for the future, it was decided that it was best to keep it for the present as a match for the recently overhauled SECR C-class No.592.

7 April 2009

Start of 263 overhaul - 16 March 2009 - John Fry

This locomotive was withdrawn from traffic in 1998. At its last visit to the Works a decade before it received comprehensive repairs including renewal of the rear part of its main frames. It therefore requires a relatively light overhaul on this occasion, with most of the work expected to be on the boiler (for which we also hold a spare).

After being displayed along with three operational SECR locomotives at this February's Branch Line Weekend (report and photos), no.263 entered the Loco Works for overhaul, as shown in the photo taken on 16th March (right) by John Fry. The S15's driving wheels are in the foreground, and the E4's frames and boiler are behind, with the S15 boiler right at the back of the works. Out of sight behind the E4's cab is the boiler of SECR P-class No.178, which is also under overhaul.

The photos below, taken on 23rd March (also by John Fry), show just how useful an investment our overhead cranes are as the boiler is lifted out onto the boiler trolley recently vacated by the E4's boiler.

Boiler lifted from H-class - 23 March 2009 - John Fry Boiler lifted from H-class - 23 March 2009 - John Fry

263 boiler - 28 March 2009 - Richard Salmon


Richard Salmon's photo on the right shows the boiler and side tanks on the trolley in the yard, along with the cab and chimney, on 28th March 2009. Now that the boiler can be inspected fully, an assessment will be made so as to decide whether to overhaul this one or the spare which has been held for a number of years - acquired after use as a static steam-heating boiler.

Two further photos from John Fry below, taken on 30th March 2009, show the frames with coupling rods removed and pistons taken out of the cylinders; the second, taken inside the frames, shows the slide-bars with cross-heads, piston rods, connecting rods and valve gear removed.

Frames with coupling rods taken down - 30 March 2009 - John Fry Between the frames - 30 March 2009 - John Fry

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Updated 28 May 2012 by Richard Salmon with information from Lewis Nodes
Reformatted 17 April 2022
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