Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Davo, Mar 22, 2019.
True men of steam were they. Sadly lacking in the current set up IMO.
Indeed, but it was a very different world on the railways back then. Lets face it, if you took, say, Hardwicke out on the main line in those days you did not even need to carry an electric head lamp - the old oil lamps would do. Now you would need a whole array of electronic gizmos on the loco. Also remember that very little work was done to steam locos like Hardwicke, the Midland Compound, and 990. The NRM was able to use up what residual life was left in them at virtually no expense. Lets be thankful that at that time the Museum was managed by an enthusiastic team who took advantage of the opertunities then on offer - those opertunities are just not there today.
And while Steve rightly gives credit to the likes of John Coiley and John Bellwood I feel that the other person who deserves equal credit was their Science Museum boss, Dame Margaret Weston who died just recently. She not only gave them a free reign but actively supported and encouraged their work and took great interest in what was going on at York in those days. I always feel very lucky to have been around and marginally involved back then.
Did you ever fire the Stirling Single? James Stirling's engines on the SER with homeless boilers had a bit of a reputation for priming; I wonder No. 1 was similar?
More from him here:
The loco looks a real antique, yet is only two years older than Fenchurch ...
I was not a fireman in those days Tom - just a cleaner and a gofer. No 1 never went on the main line so I never went out with it as support crew. As your video shows it was a bit fragile even back then and it is even more so now. It really is not a likely candidate for future steaming in my humble opinion, but that is only my opinion and not said with any authority.
Nice to see Dame Margaret Weston in the video in her typically enthusiastic manner.
How very true about Dame Margaret. A true lady and a pleasure to have met. It was remiss of me not mention her along with the two Johns.
There is a letter in the Guardian today about Margaret Weston from Richard Faulkner about her role in Railway Heritage.
I was surprised that her obit in the obituary thread did not get more comments.
There are those that would argue Fenchurch, especially in A1 guise, looks equally or perhaps even more so antiquated!
Has Antony Coules left? I met him once on Furnace 20 at Shildon, he seemd ok to me
He still tweets as a curator.
The problem is that the NRM does not have a fund that is for returning museum artefacts to working order, it has to be paid for by someone donating the money and a business plan to the NRM, and at the end of the day, its still down to the committee who decide can we allow this engine to be overhauled and lose it as an exhibit because the York workshop now don't have the expertise to overhaul locos, and it will need to go to where it can be overhauled, perhaps in the future that may change, York has the potential to overhaul an engine in its collection, but there is not the money, or managerial willingness from the Museum group to allow it.
And as pointed out here, a lot of the exhibits are very worn which is butts up against conservation policies. The middle cylinder on 4771 being held up as a case as it was one of the few (if not the last) V2s left with the original cylinder design. We all have a number of exhibits we'd like to see returned to steam (personally, Aerolite and the LMS 4MT are quite high up the list) but even a compelling business case, engineering plan and a swimming pool of cash doesn't always guarantee the release and restoration (see the 125 Group).
At the end of the day, the NRM is first and foremost a museum, not a heritage railway or an engineering company. I think they do recognise the value of having a few working exhibits to help tell the railway story, but ultimately, their top priority will always have to be ensuring a great experience for visitors to their York and Shildon sites. The "static" collections are always going to make up the bulk of what's on display there, so they need to prioritise conservators and archivists rather than engineers. Really, they only need to keep a couple of small engines like industrial saddle tanks or the Rocket replica running in order to provide a steam presence at their sites. So I think there's a strong case to be made that it's better to contract those jobs out to firms whose full time business is engineering, and can invest in the skills and facilities to do a really good job; rather than the museum fighting an uphill battle to maintain engineering capabilities when really, their primary focus is always going to be elsewhere.
I think in my honest opinion, that the locos at York and Shildon are owned by the nation and it would nice if we the general public should decide which locos should be returned to steam not to be decided by the management at York and Shildon.
With no knowledge of the engineering involved, it's totally impractical to decide such things by public vote. I would like to see the Midland Spinner run but for all I know it may need a new boiler before it can steam. The problem with the NRM is that, with one or two notable exceptions, its been taken over by people who have no knowledge of railways or how to display railway history in any meaningful way.
How do you suggest that is done? By referendum? It’s a bit like saying “the Army is there to protect the nation and it would be nice if we the general public should decide how to fight the battles, not to be decided by the Generals at Sandhurst.”
I think the NRM cares about one loco in particular I think we all know what that loco is?
My view is that whilst there are some engines that should never be steamed because of their fragility for instance you would never want to steam the original rocket, but there are some engines that might well be capable of further active lives, It depends on the condition of each engine, some were given almost what amounted to full major overhauls when preserved, others just given a paint job, but they are in as withdrawn condition, for instance, who's to say Gladstone Wasn't given a full overhaul by the Southern Railway, but no ones ever going to examine it to find out, before there is any talk of overhauling any loco, does it not make sence to find out what actually is in a state where an return to steam might be possible, people may clammer for say Mallard, or Green arrow, but what if say 737, 0r say 251 were actually in better condition ?
Well, I'd certainly agree that there are some engines which should be steamed and some which shouldn't, so thus far we agree. But you seem to be working on an assumption that if an engine is mechanically fit to be steamed then it should be, and that's where I have to disagree.
Firstly, because sometimes steaming an engine would damage it from a conservation viewpoint, even if the mechanical condition is basically sound. For all I know Lode Star may be in reasonably good mechancial condition, but I still say it would be vandalism to steam it again. The whole engine - every nut and bolt, all the paintwork etc. - is authentic Swindon Works material, made by men who worked for the GWR/WR and knew exactly how things were done. The asbestos has been removed but otherwise, it's a perfect time capsule. If you returned it to steam you'd inevtaibly have to introduce modern materials somewhere, so that perfect authenticity would be destroyed, and could never be recreated. I don't have a problem with any of the ex-Barry "Castles" being kept in steam, even if that will eventually mean fairly major renewals e.g. boilers or even frames. But Lode Star is perfect just as it is, and shouldn't be touched.
Secondly: I come back to my earlier point that keeping engines in steam simply isn't the museum's priority. Drawing up a list of which ones might be capable of being steamed again is far less important to them than deciding how they are going to tell the story of railways to their visitors at York, and which engines they want to have on display in order to do that. I suspect the curators do have a reasonably good idea of which engines might be capable of being steamed again and which, for whatever reason, are now permanently retired. Broadly speaking, I suspect that the engines that have already steamed in preservation are the most likely to be considered for steaming again, whereas those which are still in untouched ex-BR condition are proabably likely to stay that way, because of those questions of conservation and authenticity which I just alluded to. But in any case, it isn't the museum's core purpose to keep engines running. If they don't need a particular engine on display at York, and a reputable group is willing to restore it and look after it, and they don't have conservation objections to the engine being steamed, then great - everyone's a winner. But don't expect the museum to make it their priority to keep engines in steam, because it just isn't their priorty.
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