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170 – ChasewaterRailwayMuseum Bits & Pieces From Chasewater News Bromford Special 1994 – Part 2 A Weekend at Bromford Tube Works – Nigel Canning

170 – ChasewaterRailwayMuseum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News Bromford Special 1994 – Part 2

A Weekend at Bromford Tube Works – Nigel Canning

When it was announced that the tube works was to be closed, the Freight Charter Group (who organised the Littleton Colliery steam weekend) made arrangements for steam to run once more at Bromford.  As a Hawthorn Leslie similar to Asbestos had once worked there, the CLR was approached to provide the loco.  This is a brief account of what happened.

Shortly after Christmas the Loco Dept. was asked if Asbestos could be made available fro traffic a couple of weeks before Easter as there was a possibility that it may be needed to run in Birmingham for a special event.  Although the loco had been stripped for its annual boiler inspection and various repairs, this was agreed in principle as it would need to be steam tested prior to Easter anyway.  As the weeks went by and the work progressed, the special event, which was to be at Bromford Tube Works, became a definite commitment but for various reasons would have to be earlier than planned.

The boiler inspector came and did a visual examination, and then in record time by Chasewater standards returned for the steam test.  This was an achievement in itself, as with frozen points and snow drifts across the line, the engine had to be lit up in the shed with only the smokebox and chimney eventually venturing outside.

In addition to the boiler work, the loco was cleaned and repainted (not the sort of work ideally carried out in February) with the result that it looked better than it had for a long time, and still does for that matter.  The 20 ton GW brake van which was also required at Bromford was cleaned out and repainted, and even had its roof re-felted for the occasion.

On Thursday March 3rd the brake van was first to be taken by low-loader to Bromford, followed later in the day by Asbestos.  Due to problems with the ill-equipped low-loader and a somewhat over-cautious steelworks management, Asbestos was eventually unloaded in the dark.  Following this, an attempt to fill the saddle tank with water from their ‘fire main’ had to be aborted when it was noticed, even in the dark, that the water appeared milky.  A reassurance from the steelworks engineer that this was ‘only a bit of soluble oil’ resulted in the tank having to be drained, and as the promised indoor accommodation for the loco never materialised, the drain plug was removed on the spot ready for another attempt in the morning.

Next day we arrived back at Bromford for a trundle round to familiarise ourselves with the line before the main event on Saturday and Sunday.  The steelworks people had been busily pumping water from a well overnight and had filled their large water tower ready for use in the loco.  After raising steam and filling the tank we were given just one loaded bogie bolster to take for a run with the brake van.  At first sight the trackwork appeared highly dubious with the sort of tight curves that would look more at home on a Tri-ang train set, but after a bit of running it became apparent that most of it was in excellent condition with the rail joints beautifully aligned allowing quite brisk running as long as the couplings were left well slack.This view shows just how tight the curve between the two bridges was, requiring quite a bit of power just to crawl round!  Pic – Ian Buswell

The line itself ran from a works yard down a bit of a gradient, round a tight curve, passed under Bromford Lane Bridge, and into a fan of five exchange sidings next to the site of the former BR (Midland) Bromford Bridge Station.  The whole of the exchange sidings, and even some of the not unsubstantial works buildings were overshadowed by the elevated section of the M6 Motorway running overhead.  Perhaps only thirty years ago a surreptitious excursion through the trap point onto BR metals followed by a left turn at Castle Bromwich, and right at Aldridge, would have taken us back to Chasewater without the need for a low-loader, but on this occasion we were required to stop about halfway along the sidings where we could watch the main line trains running to and from Birmingham New Street.

On the Saturday and Sunday we performed for the photographers who had apparently paid around £18 each for the privilege.  Having raised steam for a 9am start on both days, it was well after ten by the time the security men had let people in and we were required to move.

Rather than spend time shunting wagons around as we would have preferred, we were restricted by the steelworks management to running backwards and forwards over a set route with initially just the one wagon, and it was only after very careful negotiations that this was increased to two on Sunday.  These arrangements seemed to suit the photographers quite well as they wanted to photograph a series of ‘stage managed set piece’ movements.  Asbestos stands on the curve just short of the Bromford Lane bridge awaiting the signal to accelerate through for the photographers waiting on the other side – Ian Boswell

A typical example of this was to stop on the works side of the Bromford Lane Bridge, then when the photographers had positioned themselves on the other side, we would accelerate through and coast to a stand half way along the exchange sidings.  After a brief delay we would then reverse through the bridge ready  for a repeat performance.  The number of repeat performances, and delay in between, depended apparently on the amount of sunshine (or short term prospects of it) and whether there had been enough smoke and steam from the loco.

In order to make the loco work harder and produce the spectacular results required, we ended up running with the brakes pinned down on the wagons, and wound hard on in the brake van, whilst accelerating briskly past the cameras.  In the end this treatment took its toll on the loco resulting in a number of tubes leaking in the firebox by mid-afternoon on Sunday.  In view of this, that afternoon’s running was cut short by around an hour, and the hoped for night photography was abandoned.  No-one seemed too upset by this failure of the loco, and a number of national magazines have published photos showing that we achieved the desired effect.

On the Sunday another hard day was spent getting Asbestos and the brake van on and off the low-loader.  On this occasion we managed to get the job done a little bit quicker, finishing at Chasewater at around 6pm.

As a result of its Bromford trip, Asbestos is now facing the ‘other way round’ with its cab at the Brownhills West end as it had been decided to take advantage of the low-loader journeys to achieve a turn round.  This has put the driver on the platform side of the train, and the loco now faces up the causeway bank.

Financially the session at Bromford seems to have been well worth while, and in addition a lot of free publicity was obtained, but the condition of the boiler tubes still remains a problem and is likely to be until they are completely renewed.  Whether any similar outings are attempted in the near future remains to be seen, but any loco used will need to be in more reliable condition if similar feats of performance are to be attempted.Thanks to Nigel Canning for his kind permission to use his photographs.


169 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces From Chasewater News Bromford Special 1994 – Part 1 From the Editorial – Nigel Canning

169 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces

From Chasewater News Bromford Special 1994 – Part 1

From the Editorial – Nigel Canning

This issue of Chasewater News records our recent visit with ‘Asbestos’ and a brake van to Bromford Tube Works.  The majority of the magazine has been taken up by photos taken by members in an attempt to record the layout of the railway system in the works which has now sadly closed.

A great deal has been happening at Chasewater since the last issue.  Our coaching stock problem has been solved, although it may have created another one – lack of siding space; and track is being laid to the new station, which now has a name.

Locomotive News

No.4 Asbestos – This loco got through its visual examination and steam test without problem, although the Inspector did comment on the condition of some of the boiler tubes, and that if any of them failed the entire set would have to be replaced.  As if to emphasise the point, a number of tubes started to leak at Bromford following some energetic running, and have given trouble ever since.

Following renewal of the worst two tubes, the loco ran on Easter Sunday, but failed with further tubes leaking on the Monday.  After that, a further dozen tubes were renewed enabling the loco to run on Bank Holiday Sunday, only to fail again on the Monday.

Enough new tubes have been ordered to renew the entire set, some of which must be in excess of fifteen years old.  Whilst awaiting delivery of the full set, a further twelve have been renewed to enable trains to run at Spring Bank Holiday.

Apart from the tube problem the loco has continued to run well, and due to its being returned from Bromford facing the other way round, looks better hauling trains chimney first in its freshly painted green livery.

No.5 Sentinel – Very little  progress has been made on this loco due mainly to the amount of work needed to try and keep Asbestos running.  The boiler has, however, now been re-assembled, and the fittings are being refurbished off-site.

S100 – Work has continued on another of the four big leaf springs, the buckle of which was heated to expand it prior to assembly in Asbestos’s firebox. Various bits and pieces of brake rigging have also been fitted to the frames.

Fowler diesel – This loco has remained in service, used for shunting and works trains.

Ruston DL7 – In a surprise operation just prior to Easter this loco was fitted with an exhauster, valves and pipework to enable it to work vacuum braked passenger trains.  Since then it has completed several days of passenger train operation including ’extra’ non-advertised days as well as standing in for Asbestos.  Being unaccustomed to such intensive running, one of the axle boxes began to overheat, requiring stripping and cleaning.  The drive belt for the low voltage dynamo also caused a problem by disintegrating half way down the line.  This was, however, repaired fairly quickly without the train having to be rescued by another loco.  The general public appear unaware of the difference between the diesel and Asbestos, although to be fair, they are both painted the same shade of green and produce roughly similar quantities of smoke when running!

L&Y petrol loco – This loco seems to have been abandoned for the time being with various bits scattered around the station yard and loco shed.  Hopefully the re-assembly will commence shortly!

No.21 diesel – The engine for this loco is awaiting new cylinder head gaskets, and when fitted an attempt will be made to finally get it running again.

New Fowler – This four-coupled diesel mechanical loco appeared on site recently having been acquired from a preservation society in Redditch.  Following an attempt to tow-start the loco, it was found that the fuel injection pump needed repair, and this has since been removed.  Various other components have also been removed for attention so it could be some time before the loco is runnable.

Smith Rodley crane – this vehicle has remained out of use and has been pushed out of the way up No.3 road until a buyer can be found for it.

Carriage & Wagon News

New coaching stock – At long last replacements for the 2-car Wickham DMU and the recently departed Gloucester trailer have been found and began to arrive at Chasewater at the end of May.  A total of four additional vehicles have been purchased from BR, a centre car and three power cars.

The first of these vehicles, a Pressed Steel Co. motor brake second, W51372, arrived in time to run at Whitsun.  The recent history of this vehicle is quite interesting as it is one of several used by the contractors of the Channel Tunnel and has been through to France.  A maintenance record book found in the drivers’ cab refers to various faults as being at “the French end” of the train.

Ultimately it is intended to retain two of the four for use as a working DMU in BR green livery, whilst the other two will be used as loco-hauled stock.  Hopefully full details of the new stock will be included in the next magazine.

Wickhams E56171 & E50416 – The trailer car remained in service on passenger trains until just before Whitsun, when a vacuum leak in the brake system caused serious problems.  In view of the impending arrival of the replacements it was withdrawn from use.  The power car has also remained out of use.

Payment for the Wickhams has now been received from Llangollen, although a date has not yet been set for their removal from Chasewater.  This is likely to cause a space problem, as with the new arrivals there will be a total of seven DMU cars on site for a while.

Derby centre car W59444 – This coach has remained in service although it has been noticed that the surface of one of its tyres has started to flake away.  Advice is being sought as to whether it can be repaired.

20 ton Great Western Toad – This vehicle was ‘done up’ to run at Bromford Tube with Asbestos.  If nothing else it has benefited from having the rust worn off its brake blocks, as it covered most of the distance at Bromford with its brake screwed hard on!

CRC 4-plank wagon – Progress on the wagon has continued and it now appears to be back in one piece.  Tony Wheeler has started on the paintwork with the intention of finishing it in the livery of the ‘Conduit Colliery Company’.

Great Eastern six-wheel passenger brake – With the coming of better weather Dave Borthwick has started again on painting this vehicle.

Other vintage stock – No work appears to have been carried out on any other vehicles although this situation will hopefully improve during the course of the summer.

Shed Fund – This fund is now well underway so that by the time the route of the motorway is finally settled there may be enough money to make a start on this project.  Meanwhile donations will be gratefully received by the Treasurer, Chris Chivers.