I’m delighted to bring you a guest post by Jeremy Dunn who is the Chairman of the Stanier Black Five 45163 Restoration Group and also a volunteer driver at the West Somerset Railway.
Black Five photos are my own from the 1980s to show these locomotives in steam.
History of Stanier Black Fives
The Black Five was designed by William Stanier who joined the LMS from the GWR at Swindon. It is no great surprise therefore that the design was largely based upon the G.W.R. ‘Hall’ class 4-6-0 with some proven L.M.S.R. technology added. Essentially it was a new type to the L.M.S.R.. The Vulan Foundry had the first order for fifty locomotives in 1934. Crewe also received an order for twenty locomotives to follow on from the construction of a batch of class 5P locomotives. In August 1934, the first Black Five, number 5020 emerged from Vulcan Foundry. The Black Fives were intended for fast freight and secondary passenger work but found to be very successful as a medium sized express passenger locomotives. The LMSR Running Department demanded more and more of them. In 1934 it was not expected that the class would eventually number 842 and that construction would continue into the British Railways era in 1951.
The early Black Fives were built with domeless boilers and a smokebox regulator. They also had vacuum pumps driven off the cross head. Both features were inherited from GWR practice. They did not transfer so well to the LMSR and were gradually phased out. Later boilers had a conventional dome. Some of the domeless boilers remained in existence to the end. To achieve maximum route availability and minimise weight, the frames were only 1” thick made of a light weight alloy steel. This proved to be a weakness of the Black Fives. Frame cracking became a common problem. Later batches had the frame thickness increased to 1 1/16” to try and tackle the problem.
There are many reports of Black Fives giving performances beyond expectations for this class of engine. Many times when a Jubilee or Duchess failed on express passenger trains, the only available substitute engine was a Black Five and they were usually able to keep the booked timings. For this reason they had a good reputation amongst enginemen and generally when booking on duty, if they saw their rostered engine was to be a Black Five they knew they were in for a good day.
History of Black Five 45163
45163 was built by Armstrong Whitworth in July 1935 for the London Midland & Scottish Railway. She was built with a domeless boiler with the straight throatplate but over successive visits through the workshops for overhaul she ended up with a domed boiler and a sloping throatplate. 45163 also had improvements to the frames with the horn guides converted to the horseshoe type making the frame much stronger around the driving axleboxes and these incorporated manganese liners.
She was first allocated to Crewe but soon moved north and was a Scottish and borders locomotive for the rest of her working life spending time at Perth, Inverness, Corkerhill and finishing at Carlisle Kingmoor depot from where she was withdrawn from service in May 1965. Later that year she was sold to Dai Woodham and like so many other preserved locomotives ended up languishing in Barry Scrapyard for many years.
In 1987 she was purchased by Alan Bates of Black Lion Records and was taken to Hull Dairycoates depot, the base of Humberside Locomotive Preservation Group where dismantling and some restoration work commenced. With a sole owner and no associated band of regular volunteers most of the work was being undertaken by contractors and as the costs started to rise the then owner realised this was a project beyond his means and 45163 was put up for sale.
Colne Valley Railway
At the time I was the CME on the Colne Valley Railway (CVR). The railway only had industrial locos to restore and maintain and was on the lookout for a more interesting and challenging project.
After several years of searching, we discovered that Standard 4 Tank, 80072, was looking for a new owner. A group had expressed interest in the loco but the lines of communication had gone cold. A number of CVR members confirmed their interest. It was agreed that between us that we could raise sufficient funds to cover the purchase price. 80072 was considered an ideal ex BR type for our line. The loco would suit the long-held ambition of extending the line to Halstead, just under 5 miles away. The other group interested in the loco were promised first refusal. We could not proceed until their deadline had passed. Unfortunately for us, the other group completed the purchase just a couple of days before the deadline expired.
Searching for a locomotive
Our search started all over again. However, we did not have long to wait! Three weeks later news of the sale of 45163 reached us. We had a group and funds already assembled so were able to proceed quite promptly. In December 1991, the purchase was complete. The frames of the locomotive were stored under cover at Hull Dairycoates. Unfortunately, there was no under cover accommodation at the CVR. We decided to leave 41563 at Hull for as long as we could. We arranged regular weekend work parties.
Work on Locomotive 45163 Begins
At the time of purchase, the locomotive had been largely stripped down to its component parts. The bogie and driving wheels had been to Swindon for tyre, journal and crankpin turning. A new ashpan, smokebox barrel and running plate sections were manufactured. The cylinders had new liners fitted. Aware of the lack of shelter at CVR, all our efforts at Hull were focused on cleaning up and painting components to prevent further deterioration after a move to Essex.
Dairycoates depot was destined for re-development so the facilities gradually diminished. Eventually, in 1993, we were forced to relocate to Castle Hedingham. The facilities at the CVR were basic with no undercover accommodation. We only had a basic machine shop inside an LMS BG carriage and a workshop inside a CCT van. In negotiation with the CVR management, we agreed that an area of the site could be allocated to our project. We cleared the ground and sited a 40ft shipping container for storing smaller parts and tools. This was soon joined by a 20ft container for use as a mess room and we connected a 3-phase power supply. We realised that to make any serious progress we really needed a proper undercover workshop. The search for a suitable building commenced.
Building a locomotive workshop
On the opposite side of Castle Hedingham was a family run coal merchants. Here was an asbestos sheet clad 60ft x 40ft building due to come down. We acquired the building, dismantled it and moved the parts to the CVR to re-use the steel frame. We fabricated an additional steel frame to add another bay. This extended the building by another 15ft so we ended up with a 75ft x 40ft workshop, a comfortable length to fit both engine and tender. We also had to fabricate additional wind bracing to comply with current building regulations.
It is a single road shed with the track offset to one side so that the other side can house a machine shop and mess room with office above. Drawings for Planning and Building Regs approval had to be prepared. Once approved, construction of the pit and foundations commenced. Volunteers did all the work except the blockwork as we had no bricklayers amongst our membership. It was surprising, once the main structure was complete, how long it took to fit it out with power to machinery, lighting and airlines etc.
On completion, we had an official opening ceremony for our volunteers and supporters. Local railway artist, Malcom Root, cut the ribbon. A Clayton and Shuttleworth steam traction engine towed the frames of 45163 into the shed on 27th April 2002. It was only now that we could really start any serious work on the locomotive. It took ten years from the time we took ownership of the 45163 to get the facilities in place as we had a limited budget. Now I look back on it, it was definitely the right thing to do. We are now reaping the benefits by having the right facilities for the project going forward.
It is now fifteen years since completion of the workshop. Once we started serious work, we uncovered all sorts of unexpected problems.
We knew that the smokebox saddle would need serious attention due to corrosion from the inside. As the cylinders bolt through the saddle these had to come off to get the saddle out. On doing so we soon saw that the corrosion had not only eaten through the saddle but also into the mainframes. We needed to cut out the corroded sections. Thus the front end has been completely stripped down, inserts welded into the mainframes and 80% of the saddle has been replaced.
We have fabricated a new front bufferbeam and dragbox and we have replaced a section of the front frame stretcher. Whilst the front cylinders were off the engine, they were sent away for machining as the new cylinder liner was just a blank and needed finish machining.
The valve chests needed reboring and all the bolting faces for covers and fittings needed facing. These had become pitted after exposure to the elements after parts had been removed at Barry and in preservation. The cylinders are now refitted to the frames with all new fitted bolts. Other parts are now starting to be mounted onto the cylinders. Both front cylinder covers and one rear one were missing but now these have been cast and machined.
New parts for the steam locomotive
Orders are now being placed for new valves and pistons. Elsewhere on the loco we are finding that jobs we thought had been done are having to be redone. For example, all the running plates that were re-made were not correct and have had to be done again. Some fabrication of a new cab has started. Three of the four steps were missing and have been made and fitted.
The reverser has had a new leadscrew and bushes and is mounted along with the wayshaft and reach rod. The mechanical lubricators have been fitted together with its overhauled drive components and testing with lubrication pipework is now underway. We have re-wheeled the finished bogie. We have a complete set of new driving axle springs. All the spring hanging links are repaired with new rubber mounts ready for re-wheeling operations. All the horn faces have been ground so just the axleboxes now require attention before we will be in a position to re-wheel the frames. Before we can do that we need to mount and align the slidebars which is currently in progress.
Newly fabricated smokebox ring and door have been mounted to the new smokebox barrel. The flue and small tubes have all been removed from the boiler which has been mothballed until we are ready to start work on that.
As 45163 was one of the later engines to leave Barry, the loco had been heavily robbed of parts. Thanks to a lot of effort and funds we now have obtained most of those needed. We have a full set of boiler fittings either in finished form as original or new parts or castings that require machining along with components from which to complete assemblies of the various fitting. All the motion was missing or damaged. We now have a complete set. The last parts, a pair of connecting rods and one union link, are currently being machined from new forgings that were sourced.
The availability of both funds and volunteers limits the progress we make. All volunteers are most welcome and we can find jobs for everyone. However, we particularly need skilled machinists and welder/fabricators. Currently, this type of work falls on just one or two people who are only available at weekends so progress is very slow. We value our volunteers and provide a hot meal during working weekends as well as organising social events. You can find out more here.
Can you spare £10?
With more funds, we could sub-contract more work. Currently, we only tend to subcontract tasks that are outside our capability/capacity. Our primary source of funding is through our shareholders, several of whom make regular monthly contributions. This currently brings in about £750.00/month. You could be a shareholder for as little as £10/month! Supporters can purchase shares as a lump sum payment or by making a regular monthly contribution. We allocate shares in £500.00 amounts as this is the minimum permissible shareholding.
We also receive donations through membership of our Restoration Group from supporters that do not wish to become a shareholder. Members receive a copy of our periodic newsletter ‘Black Track’. Have a look at our website for regular illustrated updates on progress and a photographic archive. Find out how to get involved either through share ownership or joining the 45163 Restoration Group.
Piston and valves appeal
We are currently running an appeal for funds for the new pistons and valves after having completed a successful fundraising appeal for the new connecting rods. We needed to raise £35,000 in that appeal for the forgings and machining, we now need to raise just £18,000 for the pistons and valves appeal. A donation is easy using the JustGiving page.
For donations or to request an application for shares you can either go to our website for information or send a donation by cheque made payable to 45163 Limited and send it to 4 Whitlock Drive, Great Yeldham, Halstead, Essex, CO9 4EE.
If you are thinking of being a Heritage Railway volunteer then you might like to read this blog post.
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.