Well it has certainly been an interesting and un-expected few months!
With lock down restrictions being fully adhered to and the emergency measures in place, our priorities have been to protect the safety of our dedicated team of volunteers. This being the case, all restoration work at Norchard was suspended. However, this doesn’t mean we have stopped altogether. We have carried on as best as we can from garden sheds, home workshops and kitchen tables. Tom Halford has re-bushed and re-pinned the fire hole door mechanism for 9681 and machined the new fire hole door castings at his home. A number of other small components/fittings have also been repaired/refurbished for 5541 and 9681 off site. We have worked with Railway to put in place Risk Assessments and Safe Ways of Working to carry out some time critical tasks. This recently allowed two ‘fully briefed’ members of the team to work under strict social distancing and health protection measures to re-assemble 5541 ready for the Annual Boiler Inspections. This was delayed from April and again in June and is now planned for July.
A number of other parts for 5541 have been machined off-site including the right hand big end bush which had the white metal bore skimmed out after being pressed in. The motion of the locomotive was then reassembled ready for when the locomotive is needed. The 6 new super-heater elements for 5541 have been fabricated, tested and delivered to Norchard. These were assembled off site by a coded welder. They have now been installed in the locomotive prior to its cold and hot exam. The boiler pressure and steam heating gauges have been calibrated and professionally cleaned at a specialist firm in Bristol and returned by post. These have been refitted in advance of the boiler exams. We are constantly reviewing and managing our finances very carefully as our sources of income have stopped. However, we do need to make sure we have a high level of availability of 5541 when operations resume. To help achieve this we have ordered six new driving wheel springs and associated spring bolts. We have also ordered material to fabricate a new centre firebar bearer. The down time has proven useful for getting on top of most of the larger maintenance jobs on the locomotive. However a steam locomotive is always a source of continual maintenance issues.
Lastly but not least, we have been revamping and updating the the DFLG website. Have a look at www.deanforestlocomotivegroup.org
Matt Sexton & Tom Halford