135 Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News -April 1991 Part 3
When I bought this loco, I was aware that its saddle tank had seen better days, but I was naively optimistic despite over a decade of playing with other people’s locos. I should have known better! As the loco’s rebuild progressed, in the normal far from smooth manner, I started to investigate the tank more closely. Now some of the older hands at Chasewater were probably having a quiet snigger at this stage, and after a few days of shovelling debris out of the tank and hitting it with a hammer I realised I had quite a problem. This problem is known by a number of names, in Italian it is Fiat, in Japanese it is Datsun, in plain English – rust, and it has an iceberg-like quality – you only initially see the tip of the problem. At this point, I went away and started asking for advice. In reality, patching the tank was unlikely to solve the problem for more than a very short while, also, how do you weld to a lace petticoat-like structure? I think it would be a case of ‘chasing the dragon’. Anyway, I tried to keep all the options open in my mind, including a lorry-load of glass fibre and car body filler. If Flying Scotsman’s second tender could have six tons of concrete in the bottom to stop it leaking, I’m sure I could find a solution to Lion’s tank. Enquiries gave a guide commercial price of around £3,500 to £4,500 for a replacement saddle tank which to be honest was a little outside my price bracket, and as I didn’t want to upset the bank manager, it was find a cheaper option time. A feasibility study into the loading effects of side tanks proved that they were a contender which, while still pricey, were a fair bit cheaper than a saddle. Rubberised and other coatings for the inside of the original tank also came in for investigation. Whilst all this was going on, a chance question from an acquaintance at work started the ball rolling in a different direction. For the benefit of those who are unaware, I have the dubious fortune of working in the newspaper industry – not one of the world’s most stable jobs these days, and noted for its internal politics. Anyway, I was asked how the loco was coming on and I remarked ‘Fairly well except for the tank’. Later the same week a ‘piece’ appeared in the Birmingham Post about a chap who wanted a new saddle tank for his loco. The next day a gentleman named Peter Johnston, Director of the Coventry fabricating and plant installing firm of A.G.Brierly Ltd. contacted me at work, and after a phone chat he asked me if I could send a sketch with dimensions, and if he could handle the size he would do his best to help, provided I could wait until his workload was slack. That sketch was in the post to him later the same day. In the intervening time, I attempted to prise a copy of the loco’s drawings out of the NRM at York, however it seems that if you have a hairbrained scheme such as trying to re-create a mainline loco you can have the drawings, but to repair an existing industrial you have got no chance. Personally I think someone has got their priorities a bit wrong, why bother to keep these drawings if they cannot be used for what they were intended? Why not just have a nice bonfire? Anyway, about eighteen months later, last November, I received a phone call from Peter Johnston asking if the tank was ready to be taken away. It was, and about a week and a half later it was in Coventry. It was a few weeks later that my work roster allowed me to go and have a look at how things were progressing. What I saw came as a surprise, for I had been expecting the rotten section of the old tank to be renewed. What I was witnessing was the creation of a brand new faithful copy of the original made without drawings using modern construction techniques. A.G.Brierly Ltd. even went to the trouble of fitting false rivets to keep the appearance the same. My own feelings at the time were difficult to sum up simply, but elated gives a fair impression of them. Peter Johnston, it transpired, had been a coppersmith at Swindon Works and was undertaking this as a one-off project. Basically it was his donation to railway preservation. Also, having talked to him and to those associated with him, he is a very genuine person, a true gentleman. The new tank made its appearance at Chasewater the same day that the new coach arrived. I had attempted to ensure it arrived the day after, but a foul up over police escorts meant the coach arrived a day late – the best laid plans of mice and men and all that…. Needless to say that it proved to be a fairly exciting sort of day! As a public thank you, I managed to get the ‘Birmingham Post’ to do a follow-up ‘piece’ with a photograph of the new tank being fitted. I will admit to being a little apprehensive as the tank was lowered into position, as the fit between the front of the cab and a lip around the smokebox is rather snug. I needn’t have worried, to quote a friend of mine who watched the proceedings ‘it fitted like a glove’, an example of true craftsmanship. The gift of this new tank has helped ensure a reasonable future for ‘Lion’ as a working loco and I personally will always be indebted to Peter Johnston. I would also like to say thank you to all those at Chasewater who helped – especially Peter Aldridge for painting the inside of the tank – I believe his appearance afterwards was a sight to behold.
The Chasewater News magazine cover on No. 133 shows Lion with the new tank.