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Practical Issues in Preserving Steam Locomotives

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by The Saggin' Dragon, Jan 13, 2015.

  1. toplight

    toplight Member

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    Sometimes there is an obsession with keeping original material. I remember once going to the Bluebell with an ex Swindon works coach builder. There was a coach under restoration in which one part had had literally hundreds of holes filled with little pieces of wood (not screw holes), presumably to keep it original and he just laughed and said at a main works they would never have done that. It would have just been replaced with a new piece of wood.
     
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  2. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture Friend

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    I believe that the best way to preserve something is to keep it in working condition as far as its condition will allow, for instance, you would never seriously want to steam the original Rocket, but an engine thats in good enough condition to be restored to steam, should be, take the NRM, how much more would visitors get out of it, if it had and engine in the collection that was active? that one day in every month could be put to use in the yard, giving demonstrations or acting as an educational exhibit ? take aircraft museums, whilst a hurricane, or Spitfire may look nice, its only when they wheel them outside and start the engine do they really become real, vintage cars, again, sitting in a dusty museum can only tell you a part of the story, see how you start one, listen to the curator, as they explain it, then it fires, and you walk away with far more knowledge.
     
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  3. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Resident of Nat Pres

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    Not a unique experience - an near identical comment was made by a member of this forum when viewing a carriage restoration a few years ago!

    Steven
     
  4. martin1656

    martin1656 Part of the furniture Friend

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    Very true, that 1890's coach will have very little original material for instance, the KESR District Coach, was originally a rigid 8 wheel body cut in two
    Coaches as they passed though overhauls, would have had new wood let in, interior panels changed , so a 4 wheeler ex grounded body could have some material up to the 1930's so most likily wlil be more original than a bogie coach that ran up to 1966
     
  5. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    I understand your line of thought, however for both instruments and locomotives, I would argue against a one-size-fits all approach. Some things should be kept working, others should be left as they are.

    It's an issue I have to think about in my day job, working in a historic house. We have a piano, and there are a number of good reasons why we don't allow visitors to play it. Firstly, there is the conservation of the object itself. If we kept the piano in tune all the time, the tension in the strings would - admittedly over a very long period of time - eventually cause the body of the piano to start folding in on itself! Now, that might not matter too much in the case of this particular piano, as it is not indigenous to the house (it was loaned to us to replace one destroyed by fire); however, what is more important to us is the context in which it is displayed. If we were to allow visitors to play it in its original location, they would have to walk over a very important early 19th-century carpet; in time, that would wear the carpet out. The original piano stool is also too fragile to sit on, so we would have to take that off display and replace it with something else. Doesn't it rather defeat the object of preserving a house if you take the original furniture off display?

    So in this case, on balance, we have decided to leave the piano silent. That doesn't mean to say we would always make that decision. I previously worked in another house where the piano is played, and it's a great thing to do if circumstances allow - it brings life to the place. But I have had discussions with some visitors who simply couldn't see the other point of view, and insist that instruments must always be played, no matter what. It's that refusal to judge each case on its own merits which bugs me...there are pros and cons to both approaches; but if we sometimes choose one and sometimes the other, we can have the best of all worlds.
     
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  6. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    Maybe a question that could be asked more often is "If we adopt this policy, what will our descendants think in 100 years". It is, after all, heritage...
     
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  7. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    Well of course. That's because preservation and conservation are entirely different exercises to running a contemporary railway.

    I am willing to bet that the post 1968 population has learned more about steam locomotives from Ellerman Lines than from every main line running locomotive put together.
     
  8. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic New Member

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    Ellerman... that's a whole 'nother can'o'worms! I understand NRM bought it out of Barry (gazumping a private buyer) on the basis of it having the best boiler of all the MNs there and it being a future steaming candidate! It's far from representative of mainstream steam locos too... thermic syphons, 3 cylinders, BFB wheels... I'd rather they sectioned 44901 seeing as that is more representative and as yet unrestored! I hope fervently that one day 35029 will be put back together... but, while you can use an exhibit to show how a steam loco works, it remains cold, silent, unmoving and uninspiring. Once you put a fire and water in it, its real ability to educate and inspire is magnified a thousandfold.

    I accept the instance of that piano, btw, if it's an old wooden-framed forte-piano. If it's an iron-framed 'modern' piano - bring in a stool, put a protective rug down and get it playing!
     
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  9. MuzTrem

    MuzTrem Member

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    I've said it before and I'll say it again...there are five preserved MNs which have yet to steam in preservation. Once you've got all of those running...not to mention others currently out-of-ticket...and all the Light Pacifics too...maybe then we can talk about restoring Ellerman Lines!

    One more point on the piano...in this case, the carpet is so fragile that even a protective rug would be inadequate!
     
  10. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic New Member

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    Ellerman might be more doable than Blue Star! Only two ex-Barry Light Pacifics have yet to steam in preservation - 34010 and 34073.

    Having been round Knole and seen a load of disintegrating furniture displayed in climate-controlled glass cases, I thought that there could be no better example of the supreme folly of 'conservation at all costs'. A full-blown restoration would do so much more to inspire and educate. Preserving the place in a state of ossified decay, furnished with a load of disintegrating old junk (no matter how historic, even if Henry VIII plonked his fat arse on it), does nothing to inspire... in all the dust and darkness, one can hardly see or appreciate the house!
     
  11. Big Al

    Big Al Resident of Nat Pres Staff Member Moderator

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    If you are going to try and help the general public understand how a steam locomotive works then it makes sense to show an example of something that represents more of an ultimate design compared with say,...(no, I don't think I'll go there!). So the original idea was a good one, in my view. The fact that, at the time the NRM knew that at least one MN was going to be preserved for main line work, also made complete sense. So I really don't see what the debate is all about.
     
  12. BrightonBaltic

    BrightonBaltic New Member

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    I've no idea why it couldn't have been done with a GRP replica of a generic steam loco, to be honest. Did it really have to be something half as massive as a Merchant Navy anyway? Something like a 2MT would have sufficed quite adequately. The manner of the NRM's acquisition of the loco, and one with a sound boiler at that, does call into question their motives.
     
  13. Jimc

    Jimc Well-Known Member

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    We do get some quite remarkable posts here don't we...

    I'd say the motives were pretty obvious. They wanted a Bulleid Pacific in the collection, and they wanted a sectioned locomotive. Both boxes ticked in a single piece of floorspace.

    Of course you could believe in a conspiracy to rid the world of Bulleid Pacifics, but if so its been remarkably unsuccessful.
     
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  14. marshall5

    marshall5 Member

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    Back in the early 70's when the NRM acquired Ellerman Lines no-one ever imagined that nearly all the Barry wrecks would be saved and it was widely believed that Woodhams would, sooner or later, have to cut up the unwanted ones. I would bet that the cost of a GRP replica would far exceed the scrap price paid - also having a steel 'box might actually have made 35029 cheaper than than your suggested 2MT. The smaller locos such as the 2MT's are, arguably, much more useful locos for heritage lines than an MN as demonstrated by the sale of Port Line some years ago.
    Nowadays the workings of a steam loco can be demonstrated as a computer simulation but 40 odd years ago sectioning a loco and having it move on rollers was probably the best way to achieve this. Personally, I have no problem with what the NRM did and I respectfully suggest that restoring Ellerman to running order should only be considered after 35010/11/19/25 & 27 are all back in steam - but I doubt if I'll live long enough to see it!
    BTW who was the "private buyer" of 35029 who "was gazumped"? I spent a lot of time at Barry at this period and never heard of it.
    Ray.
     
  15. LMS2968

    LMS2968 Well-Known Member

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    I too spent a lot of time during three years at Barry, and well remember the constant claim the 'Dai would start cutting next week...' or next month or whatever. The rumours, with only a few exceptions, never came true but the fears the engendered were very, very real.

    We never expected that almost all the locos in the yard in 1968 would pass into preservation, nor did we anticipate the number of preserved railways, and their need for motive power, we now have.
     
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  16. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Was 34058 not in Barry?
     
  17. andrewshimmin

    andrewshimmin Well-Known Member

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    This faux-horror about Ellerman Lines being sectioned is utterly absurd even by NP standards.
    No one in their right mind can possibly think we need another Bulleid Pacific to restore.
    There are already dozens of the blasted things - in both tinned and delicatessen versions - bruising their way up and down most preserved lines between the Trent and the Channel, spoiling the rural charm of stations which were probably pleasantly surprised to see a four coupled tank in their service days. To say nothing of the rusting hulks befouling sidings and yards from the Solway to Spithead....
    Ellerman Lines is by far the most useful of them anyway. With the exception of Clan Line and possibly Braunton, all the rest are massively too big for their current duties anyway....
    (I enjoyed getting that off my chest. I quite like seeing one occasionally, in fact, but if we lost two thirds of them overnight the preservation world would probably be stronger, better and certainly more interesting...)
     
  18. LMS2968

    LMS2968 Well-Known Member

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    You're a brave man. Andrew. Now all you need a new identity and plastic surgery before Spamcan and the boys arrive...
     
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  19. torgormaig

    torgormaig Well-Known Member Friend

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    So on what basis do you claim that 35029 had a sound boiler? Maybe it did, maybe it didn't but I'm sure at the time the boiler condition was not a primary consideration. The newly former NRM wanted a modern locomotive to section and went to a scrap yard where there were over a hundred engines awaiting scrap to choose from. If anyone else wanted a Merchant Navy loco there were still plenty more available from the same source. There were no objections raised at the time and lets face it there was no guarantee that a private buyer would successfully restore a Barry wreck. Look at the sorry state of some of the "preserved" MNs today, to say nothing of that infamous Crab. Things were very different then compared with today, but at the time their motives were quite sound.

    Peter James
     
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  20. 21B

    21B Well-Known Member

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    Can I nominate this for the "Comment of the year" award?
     
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