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Loco Workshop Working Group
Overhaul of SECR P-class No.323 "Bluebell"

Working parties are now held on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month, and the team are making a start on the overhaul of the tender for SR Q-class No.541.

Any Bluebell Railway members interested in lending a hand can e-mail for more information or to let us know that you will be coming along.

We meet at 9am - 9.30am outside the loco works. You are welcome to attend whatever hours you can, as any help will be appreciated.

Keep an eye on this web page, or e-mail for details of future working dates. See you there.

Rob Faulkner, David Pratt and Duncan Bourne

  Current project:
SR Q-Class 541
Other Loco Workshop Working Group Overhauls:
SECR No.178 SECR No.592

Relaunch - 12-13 March 2011

323 'Bluebell' at the River Ouse Bridge - Derek Hayward - 13 March 2011 Derek Hayward's photo shows "323" Bluebell in its new livery, essentially a Bluebell version of the SECR livery and lettering, on 13 March 2011, at the River Ouse Bridge.

Below, Trevor Stone catches the moment of impact as Roy Watts breaks a bottle in traditional manner to launch 323 on 12 March, and Linda Chen's photo below shows the Loco Works Working Group volunteers who worked on the restoration of 323.

Roy Watts launches 323 into service - Trevor Stone - 12 March 2011 Loco Works Working Group volunteers on 323 - Linda Chen - 12 March 2011

Overhaul progress reports:

Update - 28 February 2011

323 coming together - Rob Faulkner - 27 February 2011 Darren fitting the firebox doors - Rob Faulkner - 27 February 2011


With less than two weeks to go until Branch-Line weekend, the team decided to put in an extra appearance on February 27th, and do everything we can to try and have 323 ready for the start of the gala. The majority of the overhaul is now complete, and therefore there are only minor jobs left to complete, prior to 323's steam test and running in trials.

The team started off the morning rubbing down the chimney and smoke box prior to painting. Once those jobs were complete, we moved on to various jobs, including the fitting of vacuum hoses, tidying up of mud hole doors, fitting of pressure gauges and connecting the brake linkage.

Whilst all this was going on, Lewis Nodes was continuing to line out the loco, joined by a sign writer, who is adding the lettering to the side tanks.

Rob Faulkner's photos show Darren fitting the firebox doors, and the state of the loco as at early evening on Sunday.

During the second and third weeks of February, most of the boiler fittings were placed back on the loco. The smoke box had the blast pipe fitted along with the hole for the chimney being cut out (this needed to be done in situ to ensure correct alignment). The group's tasks on the 20th February saw the window frames, fire grate and front smoke box handrail being fitted. Along with this, the loco tanks were starting to be lined out in 323's new colour scheme.

Update - 8 February 2011

323 being re-assembled - Duncan Bourne - 6 February 2011


Duncan Bourne's photo taken on Sunday 6th February shows 323 "Bluebell" as the team finished for the day. The cab has just been fitted, after the regulator, rod and actuator were fitted earlier. Parts are now being added rapidly in an attempt to get everything finished for branch-line weekend.

As a group, we have changed our meeting dates to the first and third Sundays of the month, so that we coincide with Mike Gibbard's monthly "Find out more" volunteer tours. Anyone interested is welcome to come along and see what we do.

Update - 29 December 2010

323 steam test - Duncan Bourne - 29 December 2010


Duncan Bourne's photo shows the boiler passing its out-of-frames steam test. "Bluebell" thus remains on course to be ready for Branch Line weekend. More volunteers helping the group would help make that a certainty!

Update - October 2010

Boiler repairs to 323 - Derek Hayward - 25 July 2010

As is well known, the loco regrettably didn't make it into service for the 50th anniversary gala. This was because of the discovery of a cracked backhead radius on the boiler, for which a method of repair was immediately agreed with the boiler inspector, and as seen in Derek Hayward's photo on the right taken on 25th July, no time was lost in attending to the problematic areas, symmetrically on each side of the firebox.

As seen below, the boiler repairs are progressing, but work needed on other locos over recent months has delayed the expected completion until the new year. The rest of the loco, as seen below, is essentially ready for the boiler, and included in that photo is the boiler of S15 No.847.

Boiler repairs to 323 - Derek Hayward - 10 October 2010 Frames of 323 with the boiler of 847 - Derek Hayward - 10 October 2010
Photos © Copyright Derek Hayward.

13th July 2010

Bunker ready for top coat - 27 June 2010 - Rob Faulkner Boiler is being wored on by the workshop staff - 27 June 2010 - Rob Faulkner

new front tube plate fitted, and tubes going in - 27 June 2010 - Rob Faulkner Over the last month, the loco workshop team have been down working on 323 most weekends. The loco has now been rewheeled, but using the spings from No.27 in the absence of the new springs which have not yet arrived.

The photos by Rob Faulkner show progress as at 27 June. The boiler is being worked on by the paid staff and the front tubeplate has now been attached and is also been prepared, with the first few tubes already being inserted.

Whilst, visually, not much seems to have happened, behind the scenes much has. Much of the motion has been cleaned up ready to be added once the loco is back on its wheels, whilst other vital components continue to be worked on.

On Sunday 27 June, with temperatures of 30 degrees, the team were involved in working on filling one of the side tanks and sanding it down to as near a smooth finish as possible. Due to the heat, we managed to add two coats of filler paint, allow it to dry, sand it back and paint it, all in the course of one day and also allowing for breaks for ice cream to help cool us down!

With August looming even closer now, it's all hands to the deck. If any Bluebell members wish to assist in completing the restoration of 323 in time for the 50th Celebrations, then please contact us by e-mail for further details.

More photos of recent progress are available in Rob's and Derek Hayward's Photo Galleries.

Cab roof being painted - 27 June 2010 - Rob Faulkner one of the side tanks in undercoat - 27 June 2010 - Rob Faulkner

23rd May 2010

Bluebell's frames - Derek Hayward - 23 May 2010 Lewis Nodes applies lining to the wheels of 323 'Bluebell' - Derek Hayward - 8 May 2010

These photo from Derek Hayward shows the new cylinder block in the frames, as seen at the open day on 23rd May, and the wheels being lined by Lewis Nodes on 8th May.

More photos of recent progress are available in Derek's Photo Gallery.

28th March 2010

Despite the lack of reports, work has been progressing on 323 over the last month. Much work has been done rubbing down paint on the frames and bunker, and building up new coats of undercoat and topcoat. The frames are now starting to take bright red topcoat inside, and maroon outside. The first blue topcoats have started to go on the bunker, as seen in Derek Hayward's photo on the right.

323 Bluebell in Sheffield Park Workshops. - 26 March 2010 - Derek Hayward

Unfortunately, while cleaning up the top of the cylinder block, several thin areas were found, which developed into four fairly large holes. The block had already been patched three times in the past, so it is not practical to continue making more patches when the whole casting is obviously life expired.

When 178 came to railway 40 years ago, it came with a large number of spares, including an unmachined cylinder block casting from BR. This has been in storage since then, and has now been retrieved and machining has already begun.

Old and new cylinders - 26 March 2010 - Derek Hayward
We should be back to our regular meetings from April, and we could really do with some extra help. 323 Bluebell needs to be finished in time for the August celebrations, and the extra cylinder work means this will be extra tough to achieve. Why not come down and help out along with the other new volunteers who have recently started? It's a really exciting time to work in the Loco Workshop!

Photos from Derek Hayward.

28th February 2010

The Loco Working Group were down Sheffield Park again this weekend. With 178 in steam and hauling the 1963 timetable service, the team have wasted no time in setting about their next project - 323 'Bluebell', with the loco needing to be ready for August.

323 Bluebell in Sheffield Park Workshops. - 27 February 2010 - Derek Hayward

323 has now entered the works as shown in Derek Haywards photo on the right. The loco has taken up the space in the works previously occupied by 178. The first job of the day for the group was to assist with the lifting of the boiler from the frames slightly, so that the front tubeplate could be lined up.

The other task for the day was also rubbing down the paintwork, so that painting can begin. The team have become used to this over the past few months, with 178's restoration, so no instruction was required! Most of the green paintwork has now been rubbed back to reveal 323's blue paintwork as shown in Rob's photo below.

The team spent most of the day rubbing down the paintwork - 28 February 2010 - Rob Faulkner
Duncan made a start on cleaning up the handrails on the side of the loco. This was a long job, inovling him bead blasting the old paint off to reveal a clean metal surface. By the end of the day he had cleaned up the hand rails on one side, already improving the appearance of the loco. You can see the base of one of the cleaned-up hand rails in the photo above, compared to the one (just visible) in Derek's photo above right.

By the time the team next visit, it is hoped the boiler will be out of the frames, enabling the team to get on with the task of rubbing down the paint work on the inside of the frames and cleaning up the motion.

Now is a perfect time to come and help out, and ensure that 323 is available to join in the Bluebell Railway's 50th Celebrations in August 2010!

Photos from Rob Faulkner and Derek Hayward.

323's wheels - 23 October 2009 - Derek Hayward October 2009

Derek Hayward's photo shows the wheels had returned by 23rd October from re-profiling on the South Devon Railway's wheel lathe, with a saving on transport by sharing the lorry with that transporting 73082's wheelsets. The wheels are now being cleaned and painted by volunteer members of the loco department.

The new smokebox tubeplate has been drilled ready for riveting to the boiler. The tubeplate for 178 was a very convenient pattern!

September 2009

323 enters loco works - 3 September 2009 - Andrew Strongitharm 323 off its wheels - 9 September 2009 - Derek Hayward
Earlier work on the overhaul of this loco was suspended some years ago whilst other higher-priority locomotives were dealt with. Then in September 2009 the loco entered the works and was lifted from its wheels, signifying the re-starting of its overhaul, with the intention that it be completed in time for our 50th anniversary celebrations in August 2010.

Andrew Strongitharm's photo shows 323 "Bluebell", being shunted into the Loco Works on 3rd September 2009. Derek Hayward's photo taken 6 days later, shows that the loco had been lifted off its wheels onto a machinery wagon.

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