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Narrow Gauge Sentinel Railcar Preservation Trust

Discussion in 'Narrow Gauge Railways' started by houghtonga, Mar 20, 2016.

  1. houghtonga

    houghtonga New Member

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    UK enthusiasts are spearheading a bid to safeguard the future of three surviving Sentinel-Cammell steam railcars currently decaying in Sri Lanka.

    The Narrow Gauge Sentinel Railcar Preservation Trust has been formed following 18 months of discussions both in the UK and Sri Lanka. Its prime objective is to purchase at least one of the three 2ft 6in gauge steam railcars, currently stored in the open at Dematogada Running Shed on the island, and to transport it to the UK for restoration.

    All three of the 1928 built V2 class railcars survive in either dismantled or derelict condition, despite one of them having been steamed as recently as 2008. Depending upon the interest and funding the Trust can attract, it is hoped to be able to secure an operational future for one or possibly two of the railcars.

    The Trust’s actions have been accelerated following an announcement in September 2015 by the Sri Lankan Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, ordering the immediate sale of discarded iron, other metals and abandoned railway vehicles currently stored at countrywide railway yards. A subsequent list compiled for sale included the railcars and other surplus narrow gauge equipment on the island.

    Having established its Constitution the Trust is exploring various sources of funding but will also be appealing for donations as soon as formalities with the Charity Commission are completed and administrative processes have established.

    Chairman Harry Billmore says that the Trust has received a very positive response after expressing interest in saving at least one of the railcars to Sri Lankan Railways. “This has been done on the recommendation of our contact in the Sri Lankan railways, and negotiations that are involving the Ministry of Transport are on-going,” Harry adds. “The Trust has also appointed an agent in Sri Lanka to act on our behalf and to determine any issues that we may not have foreseen. We have approached several shipping agents for quotes to bring the railcars back to the UK and have arranged for undercover storage and workshop facilities in North Lincolnshire for after their return. We have also had initial discussions with two UK heritage railways as potential homes for a railcar after restoration and made helpful contacts within both the Sentinel Steam Waggon and narrow gauge preservation communities.”

    Annual membership of the Trust is £10. Enquiries for further information or expressions of interest in getting involved in the project can be made by email to Sentinelrailcar@gmail.com, through the increasingly popular Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Sentinelrailcar/ or by post to Trust Chairman, Harry Billmore at 18 Eastfield Road, Pickering, YO18 7HU.

    About the Railcars
    In 1928 the Ceylon Government Railways were supplied with three V2 class narrow-gauge steam railcars, their traction equipment manufactured by the Sentinel Waggon Works of Shrewsbury and the running gear built by Cammell Laird & Co. of Nottingham. The sale was arranged by Sentinel-Cammell agent Bertie More, father of the renowned film actor Kenneth More.

    The Sri Lankan vehicles were amongst the first of the Sentinel-Cammell geared railcars powered by an underframe-mounted horizontal six cylinder single-acting engine with twin camshaft valve gear and cardan-shaft transmission. This was to be very successful when combined with Sentinel’s high-pressure water tube boiler, resulting in astonishingly low coal consumption, improved ride quality and an easing of the maintenance issues that had blighted previous steam railcar designs.

    The railcars operated services on the Upper Section of the Sabaragamuwa Railway (part of the Kelani Valley network) between Ratnapura to Opanayaka until 1976. This steep and sharply-curved 22-mile long route ran through dense tropical forest and found fame when it was used in the highly successful 1957 film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’. Incidentally a Sri Lankan Hunslet 4-4-0T steam locomotive used in the film is also understood to be threatened with scrapping. The steam railcars where then transferred to the Kelani Valley ‘main line’ between Colombo and Avissawella where railcar No. 331 remained in operation into the early 1980s.

    In 1990 Sri Lankan Railways restored No. 331 to working order and ran tourist services. The Kelani Valley line had been converted to broad gauge but sections were laid to dual gauge to allow the two types of vehicle to work the route. Unfortunately following a derailment of the railcar in 1998 the narrow gauge rails were removed, apart for an area outside Dematogada running shed where No. 331 was occasionally steamed until 2008. The railcar was then partially dismantled in a restoration attempt by local railwaymen that subsequently stalled when the three vehicles were evicted from the workshops.

    Railcars No. 332 and No. 333, believed to have last steamed in 1976 and 1974 respectively, are also stored in the yard at Dematogada in derelict condition. No. 332 has a good body and underframe but has been gradually stripped to provide mechanical parts for No. 331. No. 333 in comparison is still mechanically complete but with a very poor body.

    The Trust is pursuing various options of preserving one or two of the railcars depending on the response it receives from its appeals and any likelihood of the local preservation initiative restarting.

    An illustrated list of extant narrow gauge vehicles currently in Sri Lanka can be found on http://www.internationalsteam.co.uk/trains/pdf/srilankanglocos.pdf

    Kind regards,
    Gareth Houghton (Trustee)
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2016
  2. houghtonga

    houghtonga New Member

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  3. NGChrisW

    NGChrisW New Member

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    An extremely worthy initiative and very interesting to see the original makers photos on the website.
    I paid an (all too brief) visit to Dematogada earlier this year during the excellent Farrail steam tour on the broad gauge and it was tragic to see the state of No.331 compared with its condition relatively few years previously. A situation not helped by the fact that it now appeared to have been pulled out from under the canopy it is pictured under in the linked photos, so is now completely exposed to the elements like its sisters.

    There was talk about it being cosmetically restored and moved to the National railway museum at Kadugamawa but there didn't appear to be room available at that site for any further exhibits when we visited it and I couldn't really see that happening. The fact that the railcars appeared subsequently on a sale list suggests that plan had been abandoned too.

    It's not just the railcars of course, as mentioned above, the steam locos are also under threat. We didn't actually manage to locate the sorry remains of the 4-4-0 when we visited, but the big Hunslet tanks mostly looked in reasonable shape bar the usual missing fittings etc. One of those had been cosmetically restored at Ratmalana but the remainder must have an uncertain future.

    Time to buy that extra lottery ticket methinks!

    Chris
     
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  4. SpudUk

    SpudUk Member

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    What a cracking piece of kit! I'm on board
     
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  5. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    So a few months have now passed. Has progress been made? Do you know if you will be able to buy one (or more) of the railcars? Do you know a price? Will you be allowed to export them? Crucially, have you identified a railway in the UK where they can run and will get a reasonable amount of work to keep on top of restoration and overhaul costs?


    Keith
     
  6. The Saggin' Dragon

    The Saggin' Dragon Part of the furniture Staff Member Moderator

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    I am not so convinced that 'earning their keep' is so crucial (good though it would be); if you have a big enough support base (and somewhere to work on them), then just saving and restoring the railcar(s) is a good first move.
     
  7. Herald

    Herald Member

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    All very good points particularly when the standard gauge set repatriated years ago to Quainton has never achieved sufficient support to be restored and operated.
    http://www.cs.vintagecarriagestrust.org/se/CarriageInfo.asp?Ref=2482
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2016
  8. fergusmacg

    fergusmacg Part of the furniture

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    It's no wonder to me that the Quainton railcar set has never run, its a very different animal to the Sri Lanka ones isin't it, and is a complicated beast with also limited running opportunities due to the loading gauge. If the Quainton lads had gone for an earlier and simpler example (if any were available?) I dare say they would have stood a chance of a rapid restoration rather than the drawn out affair they have now. Good luck on the more manageable Sri Lanka option I say at least your trying to do something rather than some of the cold water keyboard warriors on here.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2016
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  9. Anthony Coulls

    Anthony Coulls Member

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    In a personal capacity, I think the scheme has legs as long as the finance is available. A single unit steam railcar on narrow gauge is a very desirable commodity. I'll be putting some pennies in the pot.
     
  10. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    Are the railcars suitable for regauging? There aren't too many 2'6" lines around, unless the plan is to restore them as static exhibits?


    Keith
     
  11. SentinelHarry

    SentinelHarry New Member

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    Hi All,

    A quick update from the Trust, we are currently waiting for the Sri Lankan Railways to give us a final price for 2 of the railcars 332 and 333, with the intention to restore one of them and either use the other as a static exhibit or as a coach. We are having positive talks currently with the board of the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway about running it there once they are overhauled. We also have a restoration base provided by one of our Board members in North Lincolnshire to do the rebuild.

    On a personal note, I believe the Quainton Road Sentinel has at least one operational engine now and they are looking at the boiler but I believe it needs new superheaters for its woolnough boiler but I could be wrong. Interestingly the reason why that railcar was saved was because the group from the Welshpool who tried to get a Sri Lankan Railcar failed and got the Egyptian one instead.

    As for regauging them, the main issue would be the final drive gearbox on the bogies, this takes up most of the room between the wheels, though a bit of creativity and money could probably solve that, but the Trust fully intends to restore them to 2'6" as originally intended.

    Harry Billmore
     
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  12. ghost

    ghost Part of the furniture

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    Thanks for the update Harry. Good luck with the project. Please keep the updates coming as they become available


    Keith
     
  13. NGChrisW

    NGChrisW New Member

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    Do you know whether this means that they have decided to hang on to 331 and restore/display it in Sri Lanka?

    And the other option with regauging of course would be to go "outwards". Would look very at home amongst the palm trees on the IOM..!!! (Removes tongue from cheek at this point....)

    Chris
     
  14. 67379

    67379 New Member

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    A very worthy project, good luck with it all. I would imgine that if you had managed to get 331 you would still end up doing a full body rebuild, so 332/3 seem very viable. They were made from raw materials in the first place, so it can be done again!
     
  15. houghtonga

    houghtonga New Member

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    Hi Chris & Mike,

    Interestingly Sri Lankan Railways have not provided the Trust with a quote for 331, but this could be for a number of reasons (I am hoping a rethink of saving it for Kadugamawa museum).

    We have taken the same view as Mike Gott regarding 331 in consideration of its current condition, but we are also conscious that 331 may have the best chance of preservation in Sri Lanka of the three, whilst 332 (and possibly 333) could be restored in the UK given the availability/reproduction of common Sentinel parts to replace what we believe is missing in Sri Lanka (however any photographs are welcome on Sentinelrailcar@gmail.com to verify our information).

    I feel the reason for the Trust's success so-far in negotiations has been that we have engaged with and have the support of the local railway enthusiast movement in Sri Lanka, as well as some of the railwaymen at Dematogada, therefore we obviously don't wish to disrupt any potential local initiative. It should be remembered that the previous two or three attempts to obtain a railcar from the island over the past 30 years had not been able to reach this stage.

    I believe we are rather fortunate that the three Sri Lankan steam railcars were amongst the first of the "geared" cars with an underframe mounted engine and cardan shaft transmission (their construction followed shortly after the prototype geared LNER 2-cylinder railcar 2135 Integrity, with the Sri Lanka cars being further improved with the new 6-cylinder engine). To facilitate this fundamental change Cammell Laird & Co did not supply the light weight integral construction body structure that was typical of the earlier chain driven railcars (such as those built for Jersey) in favor of a traditional underframe. Therefore body condition is not as critical for restoration (although may provide challenges in transportation).

    Support for acquisition of railcar(s) from Sri Lanka has been great, I have been recently informed that the Trust now has 48 members which is very encouraging. Together with Harry, we will post more news here as events unfold. In the meantime we can be found on the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/Sentinelrailcar/ and our website www.sentinelrailcar.co.uk

    Kind regards,
    Gareth Houghton
     
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  16. clinker

    clinker New Member

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    Unfortunately a simpler example was available in the early 1970's, which ended up at Quainton Road. It was the loco portion of ex Jersey Eastern Railway Railcar 'Brittany' the carriage still existed on Jersey at the time. The Sentinel was bought simply for it's engine which was re-used and the rest scrapped locally. Even forty years ago I felt that this seemed short sighted. The coach body and remains of another loco are being used in a re-creation, and there seem to be more loco engines about nowadays, I know of at least 3 that have been used to re-build road waggons.
     
  17. Reading General

    Reading General Well-Known Member

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    I think a replica body is to be built based on the dimensions of the original which will then be scrapped. That's what I read recently
     
  18. Felix Holt

    Felix Holt Guest

    Just the job to run on the reinstated section of the WLLR through Welshpool!
     
  19. 61624

    61624 Well-Known Member

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    They might need to increase clearances a bit - wasn't the Jersey Railway 3'6" gauge?
     
  20. paulhitch

    paulhitch Guest

    Presumably volunteers to maintain the continuous timber trestle over the Lledan brook and pay towards the automatic barriers that would be needed to protect the road crossings nowadays? The W&LLR has a loading gauge of 8ft., from Llanfair, at least as Raven Square.

    PH
     

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