Preservation News (2013)

A small selection of NVR pics added to a new gallery page here. Incidentally, if anyone has any interesting shots of 401 at or en route to events that don't duplicate what we already have on the site that they'd be prepared to send in electronic format, please get in touch. We might start adding pics pre-2004 (the year this website started) if there's enough interest.

Please note any orders for these books placed on this site are now redirected to our eBid store. There have been a couple of occasions when there have been problems with orders including lack of notification of Paypal payments being received when placed through the old shopping basket system on this site. This should now prevent any problems taking place.
Much progress has been made on 47401 in anticipation of our visit to the Nene Valley Railway. The invite and additional workload has pushed back other much needed work on her cab floors but it is hoped this can be caught up with over the winter.

The air system has benefited from new solid piping around the dragbox/buffer beam area where corrosion of the steel pipes is often prevalent thanks to the use of expanding foam and matting which was presumably an attempt to manage the drafts with which the Class 47 cab (and the crew!) is known to suffer from. Pipes in this area were found to be badly corroded and although not in danger of rupturing, were becoming beyond safe use. New ones were made from tube stock, cut, threaded and bent to suit on site at MRB. We knew we had an extensive leak from the duplex check valve in the auxiliary room and consequently this too was exchanged for an overhauled item – the subsequent silence in the room revealing a myriad of other leaks that were now audible! Having worked our way through the simple ones, the last lay with the DSD valve which again was blowing through a perished seal – which was exchanged for a known good one. The loco was checked for drain-down time (the time air will stay on board after the compressors are stopped). We were well pleased to find it now passed well within the set limits.

As ever, the grease points were attended to on the bogies and ‘upstairs’ machines, the ones ‘downstairs’ awaiting pit access.

A speedometer fault which had developed over the operating season was investigated, water ingress being found to be the issue. This required new conduit and connectors being installed from the loco body drop-out box (from whence the cable goes directly to the tacho-generator on the axle cap. As a matter of course the axle ends were also checked for condition prior to the transit.

Work on fitting and sealing new conduit box covers was undertaken – 761 sacrificing more useful parts and saving valuable man hours.

Internal (cab bulkhead) doors were examined and fixings and hinges replaced where necessary, straightening up the doors nicely and restoring the door latch action.

External doors have been looked at, considered, thought about and then left well alone! We’ll tackle that little nasty when we do the floor!

Following three running days in August at the Railex event (we ran on the Saturday additionally at short notice) and Vintage weekend, the September MR-B diesel gala we last reported on was to be a ‘walk in the park'. The loco was in rude health after a month or so’s preparation for her main line drag to the Nene Valley Railway - only a few jobs were outstanding – traction motor bearing greasing and loading Motak in the gearcases. We had a nice easy roster, the spotlight being rightly on the newly turned out 45108. Saturday was one trip initially, but after a last minute failure on the recalcitrant ‘Rat’ we had that turn to cover – however that was no big issue as we still had the afternoon free to stable ‘401 over a pit and finish the outstanding jobs……

….so after some hours of ribaldry and ribbing amongst the gang whilst carrying out some largely miserable jobs beneath the solebar, the loco was ready to transit and we had a Saturday spare before the Fitness to Run (FTR) to prettify 401. Great stuff, well done us.

The late summer sun had disappeared behind the Derbyshire hills when we kicked her back up to get her back out of "C Bay". Thus the auxiliary room was suitably dim, showing the dancing arcs and blue glow from the triple pump's commutator to horrifying effect! A DC electrical machine even under the load of the triple pump should pretty much have no arcing between the commutator and brushgear.

If you can hear the crack of arcs earthing themselves via the machine carcass (from the adjacent cab) then you can be pretty confident that there’s an issue! Stripping the brushes, polishing the commutator and cleaning the insulators proved that there was a more insidious fault with the machine – and it needed swapping if we were even to consider venturing back onto the Eastern Region for the NVR gala.

For those less versed in the internal workings of these locos, the triple pump (as its name suggests) pumps the three principle ‘wet’ services on board namely coolant, oil and fuel. It is literally the heart of the loco – pumping all the while the engine is running and providing the priming before starting.

Its location is a horror, buried in the auxiliary compartment next to the engine room/aux room bulkhead, beneath the brake frame and hemmed in by some of the vacuum brake equipment. It’s a notorious device, known primarily for the difficulties in extraction and replacement – unless you happen to be on one of the locos that had the relocation modification in their latter years that sat them conveniently where the exhausters used to be. Having the correct tools helps though!

We needed a plan – and a miracle!

Sunday's planned running day was called off, and we had one working Saturday to go. Oh and just to compound our beloved loco’s immaculate timing, one of the gang had started a new job and was understandably tied up, another was sold into slavery on a job in London and was away for the majority of the week, and the third had booked the week previous to the gala off having not anticipated 401's capitulation this particular week. Happy days.

We had a working week a weekend and then an FTR on the Tuesday. And no proper lifting tools! Some of the team had already spent the Sunday and some (very) late evenings removing the fixings, pipes (that all need draining, sealing or somehow stopping first) and cables from 401’s demic pump and 761’s donor (for 761 would be the other half of this heart transplant). Thus when Saturday rolled around everyone was in attendance (even those awaiting a night shift thereafter!) and we were well geared up for a bit of hard work but a reasonably simple swap. In the absence of a proper girder and girder trolley we were to use scaffolding in the loco body (loaned by our mates in the Static Power group) and have the whole nasty mess sorted out by tea time. Or not.

What happened was that after many hours the pump had not moved much. We were hot, frustrated and suffering a distinct ‘sense of humour failure’! It wasn’t looking good and the scaffold which had latterly been augmented with lengths of sleeper and crane packing was proving a slow and labour intensive means of moving things. We’d learnt three principle facts:-

1. Pumps are lighter in your head.

2. Auxiliary room roofs are higher in your head.

3. Auxiliary room walkways are wider and feature less obstructions in your head.

To compound our woes the block and tackle had decided to throw in the towel. It was decided that having the pump resting on its new pedestal would be a satisfactory point to call a halt to proceedings that night. As it was the night was upon us in a trice and the new pump was only sat on timbers just behind 401’s cab bulkhead door, resting unevenly on lumps of wood. We hadn’t even been able to get it in place. We had cleaned the donor (which looked from the accumulated black goo like it had been found in a mine shaft) but that was it. It was with an air of despondency we left site. We rarely admit defeat on tasks like this, but a sojourn to the Eastern Region was looking pretty remote.

We were all committed to other long standing appointments on the Sunday, so it was post work on Monday when we next reconvened. Paul had booked the week off, and was able to get there early and crack on. By 8pm, with renewed intent and a day’s rest we had the pump in place, and with the team strengthened to three, we had the loco in one piece ready for her FTR the following morning. During this period much had been achieved. Many bent or fractured copper pipes (long standing war wounds) had been carefully annealed, re-soldered or just straightened, a pile of special gaskets had been knocked up and much Blue Hylomar spilt – it’s amazing what bloody mindedness can achieve! Good going, and a ‘bit more like it’ as far as we were concerned. But the pump had still not been bled up, not ran (in the five or so years since the abortive attempts to start 47761), and the various services had not been proven. The FTR would be a ‘hit and hope’ affair – but we were out of options and time.

At mid afternoon, Mr Parker, our man on the ground rang with the incredible news (we thought!) that 401 had breezed her brake FTR and was good to go (post a review of the traction arrangements)! Good stuff, just fill the coolant, bleed her oil and fuel up and we’re ready.

An hour later, the phone rang again. Water, emanating at speed from the pump was flooding the aux room. The tell-tail pipe (which shows that water and electricity are being kept apart) was pouring full-bore. So at this late stage we’d shot it – the disappointment was huge. With a heavy heart we filled her to the brim and ran the pump, to bleed the other services and see what the leak did when the pump was under load. The hope was the centrifugal action of the pump would minimise the leak and we’d at least be able to participate in the event – albeit never stabled too far from a hose! I’d seen pump seals take up before – but not from the point where a torrent existed.

The real pig was that the pump was pretty good, maintaining high pressures and good flow rates, with no sparking. Typical. The flow was stemmed appreciably and the loco otherwise worked very well (a new ex-stock low main reservoir protection valve having been fitted to cure an unrelated ill). We left her again that night having ran her up and taken power, satisfied we’d be OK for the event but not thrilled about a pump change again immediately on her return. The 45/1 gents had kindly offered spare seals to fix the pump – but the offer was politely declined, it was too close now and time had ran out. To give you an idea, after an hour or so of standing and running the old girl had lost three quarters of her header tank!

When we were back the next night (again with Mr. P already in residence – having now completely surrendered his week off in the interests of getting 401 to the NVR) the aux room was dry, and there was still water bobbing in the header tank. Not much mind, but the lack of leak against a head of water was encouraging. When refilled the leak had ebbed completely. The seal had taken up completely, much to the surprise and relief of all involved!

The whole little episode doesn’t sound as intense as it felt really! But we weren’t doing this for a living with a store of ‘Special Tools’ (there’s a joke there somewhere!) and ample time, but squeezed around the demands of the day job, the family and a distinct lack of toolage!

The tale's pretty straightforward from here really, the welcome at the Nene Valley was warm and the other crews a pleasure to work with. Plenty of kind words were said regarding 401 (which is always a balm after a tough week with the old war-horse) and we made a lot of new friends. We also appreciated the quality on-site catering! The loco worked utterly faultlessly over six return trips and the new-old pump was proving a little cracker (yes I realise that will be a kiss of death now!).

Above the singing rails on the transit move down to Wansford I’m sure I heard the old lass sigh when we were back on ECML metals! 401’s latest foray back to the Eastern Region was a success – and even the sun came out for the majority of the visit!

It was a great pity therefore to have to leave one of the MR-B’s long term resident Class 20s behind with a brake fault when the convoy returned. We all pitched in trying to resurrect the pilot scheme veteran but to no avail. The lads had worked as hard on their steed as we had on ours and it’s never nice to see anyone’s effort repaid like that. We wish them well with rectifying the fault and repatriating D8001.

Ultimately the diminished convoy with only 45133 now accompanying 47401 to the MR-B returned without issue, in fact due to good preparation and slick shunting at the MR-B it ran ahead of time.

The sight of BR blue liveries Classes 33, 45, 47 and 50 together also looked smart, what for a blue grid on the front end to keep the set matching!

Thanks go to NVR staff for inviting us in the first place, making us so welcome and executing an entertaining gala weekend.

And a special pat on the back for the 47401 Project's small but dedicated/relentless/belligerent team for performing this minor miracle, and getting the loco ready against the clock. You know who you are and you should be well happy with a job well done!

47401 will be out this coming weekend, 21st/22nd September, the MRB's Diesel Gala.

Info on Butterley event here. Note there is only one return trip per day for 47401. Star of the show, availability permitting will be newly restored 45108. Click the links for timetables for Saturday and Sunday.

We have also been invited to the Nene Valley Railway Diesel Gala on October 4th/5th/6th along with D8001 and 45133 from MRB plus various other locos.

Further info on Nene Valley event here.

Keep watching this space for any changes of plan!

47401 will be running this coming Sunday 18th August during this year's Railex model railway show at MRB. Unfortunately there will not be a 47 "theme" to the event this year, it will just be a normal running day for us, in top and tail mode.

The loco will also be out the following Sunday, the 25th August, working the Mark 1 rake during the Vintage Train weekend.

These turns will be the first time running on six traction motors for a long time. Although the replacement traction motor has been fitted for a while it was not until some repairs to the associated contactors were carried out that we have actually been able to make use of it!

RUNNING DAYS 13th/14th JULY 2013
47401 will be running this weekend at a mixed traction, 1960s themed event at MRB. Click the following links for timetables and diagrams for the Saturday and the Sunday. More info on the event is here.

It has been a fair while since our last update, however despite inclement weather, working for a living and a ‘Project Wedding’ much progress has still been made by our small but hard working team.


As reported previously 401 is now reunited with her bogies. The myriad small tasks required to achieve this took a fair while, and we were well into March before all fixings were pre-loaded (torque tightened), pinned, clipped etc. Whilst in pieces we’ve removed and examined the normal ‘wear-parts’ such as dampers, springs et al to ensure that once ‘boxed up’ we won’t have to revisit this bogie for a while.

So after some miserable weeks hiding in the dingy ash pit, balancing between the traction motors and loco body and shunting in the pouring rain we were in a position to move on to the normal house-keeping tasks on 401 by April.  As ever the electrical machines and control equipment have been examined, mechanical equipment checked and the power unit (bottom end) thoroughly examined.

The latter (amongst other tasks) involves checking the bearing wedges - which are tapered steel lumps that retain the main bearing cap – for security (if/how tight they are).  For those not familiar with ‘proper’ engines (!) unlike a car engine where the crankshaft is retained by separate bearing caps which sit beneath the crank and bolt underneath the engine block, a Sulzer has each crank supported by the crank case (block) with the caps sitting on top. To remove a crank, unlike the car where it can be dropped from underneath, the Sulzer block (which is an assembly of fabrications and castings) must be split by unbolting the key sections of crankcase. 

With this work completed 401 was prepped for her first run up of 2013 and also the first since the bogie swap. All seems well thus far and she has taken power (on four motors) without issue. There are a few niggles (a stuck ammeter being the most unusual) that we’ve been sorting since. Prior to getting her back on six motors we need more arc-chutes.  We have raided our stores but all spares are life expired so we are currently exploring the most economic method of furnishing the cubicles.  Hopefully this won’t take too long – keep an eye on our site for more news.


Work is progressing on the vacuum system with recent tidying up revealing some pipework we’d acquired some years ago to replace missing parts of the 2” piping between the exhausters and to the main system itself.  Also the coolant system is getting close to fully plumbed, with the triple pump itself now being completely re-united with the appropriate pipes. The engine room continues to improve in appearance as steadily the lads with the paint brushes work towards No. 1 end.  Wiring towards the 110V AVR is now on the agenda.  With the end of the major bogie work (said he hopefully!) it is expected that progress on this loco will gather pace again.

One major part of this rebuild project that has been completed is the bogie swap, allowing in April the return of the bogies that were kindly loaned to us by Nemesis Rail to the owners premises at Burton. Thanks go to the haulier (Duncan Milner) and crane hire company (Steve Foster) for their slick and efficient handling of the bogies. However Nemesis Rail deserve the biggest thanks for the loan of the bogies – without which the last two years of progress on our small fleet could not have happened.  Thanks chaps.


As ever there are many little project-ettes running in parallel; manpower, weather, tools and consumables usually dictating what happens on what day.  Amongst others are:-

      Refreshing air-filter boxes again to replace the tatty examples on 401, cleaning, painting the frames and renewing the elements themselves. 

      Tidying up the storage and workshop areas (a perennial activity) which whilst not very interesting or news-worthy is very time consuming.  Much of this work goes unreported but does keep us away from the primary jobs. 

      401 is frequently receiving attention to various components to keep on top of general degradation (mainly as a result of outside storage) or to maintain reliability.  This generally consists of incorporating new spares, overhauled (in house) spares or just superior second-hand examples as and when they come into our possession (or have been finished).

Testing.  Every circuit or component that is bought back to life has to be tested! Again it mostly goes unreported but it’s amazing how a single valve can absorb a Saturday, and a thorough system sequence test can take a calendar month given that to us, it only contains four man-days.  For instance at the moment, the field weakening system on 401 (which has been dormant for nearly a decade whilst she trundled around on four motors) is now subject to scrutiny.

First update of the New Year, and the main news is the traction motor swap on 47401 which was carried out at the tail end of 2012. The loco was successfully lifted, and the bogie spider removed, failed traction motor (flashed over in 2002) removed and fully refurbished replacement traction motor (recovered from 47417's old bogies), installed. The team looks forward to having the loco back on full power in 2013! Photos are on the 47401 Gallery Page.

Assuming all is well with the fleet leader in 2013 then efforts will resume to complete the restoration of 47417.

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