Restoration of the Sentinel – One man’s battle against adversity
The Sentinel at Walsall Gas Works the day it was delivered brand new in 1958 – photo Mike Wood.
In 1981, as part of the exchange deal for the Royal Saloon, the railway acquired ‘in working order’ a 100h.p. Sentinel shunting loco. This was duly steamed and trundled up and down with three or four wagons whilst waiting for the promised boiler certificates. These eventually arrived but consisted of a boiler maintenance card, a Hydraulic certificate for somebody’s crane and a steam test certificate for 9632 which was later rejected by our Boiler Inspector as ‘not worth the paper it was written on’ because no hydraulic or visual examination had been carried out.
The only solution to the problem was to drop the firebox and start again from scratch. It was this action which revealed a long list of both major and minor faults which all required rectification. Luckily the boiler shell and firebox were in good condition but the superheater had holes in it and the spark arrestor box and chimneys were rotten enough to require replacement. Eventually, following inspection, the boiler was re-assembled and passed its 413psi hydraulic test. Since then the rest of the loco has been gradually rebuilt, and as during last winter we had serious problems with thefts and vandalism, the opportunity was taken to fit lockable sliding yobo-proof screens to the cab along with wire reinforced glass and bars over the windows.
The Sentinel shuffling past the loco shed at Chasewater during a test steaming shortly after arrival from Butterley, after which it was dismantled for overhaul – photo Sid Mills.
During 1984 the loco was test steamed twice revealing more minor problems. The steam brake would not release properly because the valve body had been machined badly out of true; the engine blow through drain valve would not work because its pipe was blocked with twelve inches of solidified sludge; even the injector water valve could not be operated properly from the cab. However, following each steaming of the loco, more faults are corrected or improvements made.
Two faults which need to be checked at the next steaming are the boiler feed pump which so far has refused to work, and the engine oil pump which has to be primed with oil before it will pump pressure. Hopefully the recently installed stainless steel balls in the non-return valve matrix may have cured the oil pump problem.
At the present time the loco is being re-assembled after its second visual boiler inspection and painted BR black for the Open Day in October. Hopefully, three years after it arrived it can at last be seen running in public.
The Chasewater Fat Controller – Nigel Canning.At the time of writing – May 2011 the Sentinel is coming to the end of its latest overhaul.
Three post in one – not a lot about locos but interesting ramblings about the Chasewater Railway at that time.
103 Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces – Spring 1985 – 2
Carriage & Wagon Notes
Following the AGM the ex GWR Toad brake van has been sold to Les Emery (owner of Barclay No.3). As this is GWR 150th year it is perhaps worth pointing out that this vehicle was numbered fourth in the first batch of twelve GWR freight vehicles to be built with iron underframes and is thought to be the oldest surviving GWR vehicle. Incidentally, its sale realises a 13,000% profit to the Society.
The AGM also agreed to the sale of the ex LNWR brake compartment (non-corridor coach known in the vernacular as ‘the paddy’. This has been advertised for sale and hopefully a buyer can be found as it is neither use nor ornament in its present condition and funds/manpower are not available to rectify the situation. The ex BSC hopper wagon is having its body removed and will be fitted with timber decking for use as a flat wagon. This will enable the worst of the present flat wagons to be scrapped (as it had a smashed headstock amongst other diseases) along with the British Reinforced Concrete Ltd. drop sided wagon, which is beyond all hope of redemption.Great Eastern brake
All other wooden bodied stock is in appalling condition due to the ravages of open storage and vandalism. One seriously wonders if they will be restorable if and when we have the money and manpower to do so.
The Wickham buffet car is in weekly use providing the Society’s main source of income over the winter months, whilst the Wickham trailer and Gloucester trailer await for signs of resumption of train services at which they will be repainted and brought into a fir state for passenger carrying duties.
Vandalism and Theft
Once again, the railway has fallen prey to the attention of juvenile vandals and scrap metal thieves. As has already been mentioned, all locos kept outside the shed have had all none ferrous fittings removed after some pipework went missing, and locos to be stored outside after restoration will be fitted with vandal-proof shutters.
The ex MSL coach was removed of all its brass grab handles and door handles by a person or persons unknown, though these were later found in the Task Force workers mess van, from which one can draw one’s own conclusions. Having suffered the above trouble and that mentioned in Mr. Bull’s ‘comment’, we have been of late suffering from thieves steeling cast iron chairs, track spikes, lengths of rail and even sleepers from the causeway and loop areas of the line.
As a result of vandalism and theft we have sold all surplus rail, wooden sleepers and chairs from the causeway as the majority of it was only fit for scrap whilst any decent materials have been secured in the vicinity of Brownhills West.
The theft of wooden sleepers has been halted following the issue of a circular to houses in Norton Canes asking for information. No fewer than twelve households reported having bought ‘logs’ from a local resident. These ‘logs’ were in fact sawn-up sleepers and the man in question was arrested whilst burning the evidence in his back garden, having received one of these circulars himself!
A list has been drawn up of the work needed to be done before trains can run again.
The majority if the work calls for hard work and graft rather than fancy engineering skills. Why don’t YOU give it a try one Sunday? We don’t bite (well Ted might if provoked) and tea in the buffet car has improved of late. Seriously though, the more people that help then the quicker we can re-open and form a sound financial platform from which we can begin to think of extending the line across the causeway and beyond.
The last issue mentioned that the Task Force had returned with the intention of finishing all outstanding work by Christmas. Well Christmas has been and gone and the situation is worse than even the Fat Controller can have imagined. Following demolition of the platform the Task Force moved onto the causeway and dismantled the track there, and then – nothing! That’s right, they just dismantled the track in situ rendering its recovery impossible except by Shank’s Pony. Round the Festive Season word got out that Task Force had withdrawn from Chasewater an d were not coming back, not ever, never!
A variety of reasons were rumoured, the one holding most credence being that the head of the Task Force thought Chasewater was too far away (from his office one supposes). We were not amused and a deputation of Chairman/Solicitor and General Manager were sent to County Hall to register a complaint in no uncertain terms.
Apart from the obvious air of destruction and the resultant lack of train services it is perhaps pertinent to mention that membership of the CLRS has dropped by 50% since the arrival of Task Force.
A recent plus in this department is the repair of the Baby Belling cooker thanks to Mick Webb, this will enable a wider range of foods to be made available than previously.
104 Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces – Spring 1985 – 3
104 Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces – Spring 1985 – 3
An excerpt from the Chasewater Fat Controller’s Diary – dateline Sunday 10th February, 1985
It must have been the coldest day of the winter when the GM brought his car to a stand behind mine in Pool Road. Having tried to get through the drifts and failed, I had backed out onto the A5 slip road just as a silly wassock in a Sherpa van who, having watched me back out, took a run at the same drift and got stuck. He was eventually towed out an hour later by the farmer’s tractor.
Following meaningful discussions in the General Manager’s car including how many tools have gone missing during the Task Force Scheme? And who did we know with a Range Rover? We departed for Lichfield Road.
The bearded one was just about to leave, so with two pairs of socks and a spade each, the three of us returned to Chasewater in his large ‘four-coupled’ vehicle. This time we tried the dirt track off White Horse Road which turned out to be relatively clear and it wasn’t until we were opposite the main gate that we met a snow drift.
“Come on Les, up onto the grass, round the left of that tree, and we’re in” the driver was advised. Seconds later we had slid into a deep ditch which had been completely hidden by the snow. The situation was desperate as with only one wheel of each axle in contact with the ground, the chassis resting on the ground and the diff. lock frozen, escape seemed impossible.
Les was left in charge of the wreckage while Brian and myself set out for the loco shed through driving wind and drifts up to four feet deep. As luck would have it the compound gate and the shed door were clear so we could get inside and gather the necessary rescue equipment. One large block and tackle, crow bar, key hammer, peckett cylinder wrapper and rope. By this time the gorilla had landed his spitfire in Hednesford Road and assisted with pulling the ‘peckett sledge’ back towards the gate. Upon passing Brownhills West Station we were intercepted by the Bull who, having arrived by cattle wagon saw the effort being expended and concluded we must be up to no good and so joined in.
After much struggling the crow bar was hammered into the ground and the block and tackle run between it and the vehicle’s towing ball. Finally, with a large crowd of onlookers assisting, the vehicle was half winched, half lifted, onto solid ground.
Needless to say we all left the way we had come to search for Les’s 3½”/5” gauge garden railway and a cup of tea. But at least we had ‘maintained the presence’ at Chasewater for another Sunday. Nigel Canning
Chasewater Comment – Ian Patterson (aka the Hairy Youth)
Scanning through the draft for this magazine I came to the conclusion that things must be improving as there seems to be a lot happening and even more to look forward to as indeed there is. However, this illusion is rapidly shattered by a visit to Chasewater where a visitor asked me “is this railway derelict? – I came here expecting to ride behind a steam engine” a tour of the engine shed and a chat with the Sunday regulars changed this person’s view but there must be many more who don’t enquire and merely see what they see – not a pretty sight. For all intents and purposes the railway is derelict and a hell of a lot of hard work will be needed to run trains again. With the present day work force there is two to three years work to be done before a passenger train can run again and apart from this, a large amount of money will be needed to pay the legal fees, etc. necessary to gain the all important Light Railway Order. This brings me to another point and that is the apparent lack of progress on the administrative side of the re-opening process. Moves are afoot to get things moving and it is to be hoped that the membership will vote on certain resolutions at the forthcoming AGM with the aim of getting the Railway re-opened as quickly as possible, rather than letting personal prejudices cloud their vision.
Provided that West Midlands County Council do rebuild the platform and provided that Walsall District Council do provide us with the necessary leases and Light Railway Order then perhaps next year we can attract more visitors who will be able to believe that real progress is being made, and help dispel the working members’ fears that trains may never run again. Whilst this uncertainty hangs over the railway’s head the wooden bodied rolling stock is disintegrating before our eyes, doesn’t anyone care?
I hope members will visit the railway on Gricers’ Day (13th October) and see for themselves what needs to be done – perhaps it will inspire you to come and give a hand or perhaps it will finally convince you that your membership is a waste of time and that the Society will finally collapse after all. The choice is yours – if thirty working members turned up every weekend from now until next Easter then one could confidently say that services could re-open next May – think about it, your apathy could be the final nail in the Railway’s Coffin.
Now from a rather pessimistic outlook with a touch of optimism towards the end to some really sad news:
It is with great regret that we have to report the death of Charles Ives, Society Vice President and former President and benefactor for many years. Ill-health has for some time forced Charles to take a back seat in Society matters but his influence in the formative years of the Railway Preservation Society (West Midlands District) can never be undervalued.Charles provided the Society with its original home on siding space at his Hednesford engineering establishment. For ten years the Society had free use of the siding including an overall roof to assist early members in their restoration work.
His presence at Committee Meetings was always welcome with his sense of wit and countless anecdotes and sayings. In his own way Charles was one of the pioneers of the preservation movement although perhaps a name that might not readily spring to mind. A true character he will be sadly missed by all who knew him. Our condolences go to his widow. B. Bull
Anyone who has followed this blog cannot fail to recognise the contribution of Charles Ives to the RPS West Midlands District and ultimately the Chasewater Light Railway Society. CWS
It seems that my forecast for the movement of the smaller items of stock from Hednesford to Chasewater was way off the beam. Let me hasten to add that several snags cropped up which had to be examined with regard to the transport.
Those of you who are familiar with the layout of the yard at Hednesford will know that there is an acute angle bend to be negotiated by any road vehicle which is delivering to or conveying from the yard any bulky items. This unfortunately precludes all but the smallest type of low-loader, and the one that we had lined up for moving the four wheelers would not go round the corner.
We have, through the good offices of our President, made another approach to a different operator and we hope that he has a vehicle which can do the job. If this fails then we shall have to dig out the point to the spur upon which the wagons are standing, this having sunk into the thick mud, so that we can shunt the wagons onto the main siding for removal by rail with the other stock. The Coal Board have informed us that they will move the stock up to Cannock Wood Colliery yard either the first or second week of May and we now await clearance from British Rail that the stock is fit to run over the line to the Colliery which is their property. Once the stock is at the Colliery yard it will be put under lock and key in the compound and the smaller items, such as the six-wheelers, E1, and, if necessary the four-wheelers will be shipped from there to Chasewater by road as there are better loading facilities at the Colliery yard to manoeuvre a big low-loader.
I sincerely hope that my forecast that most of the smaller stock will be at Chasewater by the time you either read this or receive the next edition will in fact be true for we shall require some of it for use at the Festival of Sport and also for the late Bank Holiday in August.
To impress upon you the need for better turnouts at working parties, you will find included in this issue (following) a run down on the various items of rolling stock and brief details of work which urgently needs to be either started and carried through, or which has already been started and which needs completing.
It is an impossible task for the present working parties to cope with the amount of work available, and I plead to all members with cars to try and get along to the site prepared to put in at least a couple of hours graft. The weather seems to be picking up so we must pray for plenty of sunshine as we rely on this due to the present lack of covered space where we can operate if it rains. May I count on your help over the next few Saturdays and Sundays???
May I, before closing this report, welcome on your behalf our newly co-opted Social Organiser, Gordon Loach. Gordon has had many years experience in running carnivals, garden parties and other such fund raisers, and with the help of his good lady Mrs. Loach and, we hope, a ladies committee, he will be able to bring a bit of social life to the society which is lacking at the present.
Hon. Sec. A.A.Chatfield
Rolling Stock Report (as promised)
The following schedule of commitments refers only to the present stock on site; these will be greatly enhanced when certain other stock has been safely delivered from Hednesford. We have a tight schedule to keep if we are going to provide a steam operated line this year and it is imperative that we get under way as soon as possible.
Boiler lagging and fittings have been removed and all applicable joints packed for a hydraulic test. The initial inspection has been carried out by the boiler inspector who has okayed the boiler as fit, subject to some plugs being replaced and another test run before he issues the certificate.
The boiler barrel and underside of the tank are being red-leaded and painted. Work is under the supervision of Mike Lewis who will need another two reliable assistants as soon as possible. Work on lowering the tank, etc. will be done as soon as the boiler inspector has finished his tests.
Barclay – Colin McAndrew
This has been completely dismantled in preparation for repairs to the firebox stays by an outside contractor. All the old tubes have also been withdrawn and will be replaced when the other repairs are done. A lot of work will then be required to put the loco together ready for the boiler tests and final restoration including painting. Mike Lewis is again supervising and needs two more assistants.
Neilson, Hudswell & Lance
Work on these three will have to be confined to oiling, greasing and generally touching up of paintwork, etc. until work has been satisfactorily done on the other two locos. Volunteers are required for this.
This is at present out of commission with gear and clutch trouble. Have we any reliable members who have knowledge of the workings of diesels and who could take this loco in hand? Our regular fitters are already taxed to the limit with the other diesels.
Diesels Nos. 20/21
Minor repairs to the injectors and other routine work is well in hand on these two. Both are due for a complete repaint and again volunteers conversant with the trade are asked to come forward. Arthur Chatfield would be pleased to hear from you.
Cleaning down work is now well in hand. This loco has to be ready for exhibition at Dorman’s Ltd., Stafford for week commencing June 22nd. This leaves very little time for the two regulars seconded to the job. More help is needed here; again, volunteers are required most urgently.
Other Rolling Stock
This has been lumped together because the variety of jobs required on most of the vehicles is almost identical. Two of the coaches are sheeted over due to leaking roofs, anybody care to take on the job of re-felting them? It will need at least two people. There are also a considerable number of loose or cracked panels which need attention before they are painted in undercoat. The running board on the Great Western brake needs repairing and re-bolting and of course a real good start on painting the interiors of the passenger stock would not be amiss. There is enough work to allocate at least three people to each item of stock or a gang of five regulars tackling each item in order of urgency. We cannot spare this number from the present compliment; we need more of you on site to help us do this vital work.
It may also be stated that there is a lot of work to be done to the Trackwork and again more help is needed.
No offer of assistance will be refused – this cannot be afforded.