At last the ULS engineering team has begun working on 2 fronts. In the last update, it was announced that we had completed the front end rebuild of 30506, but since then we have completed a number of more straightforward jobs on the loco. Three rivets holding the centre stretcher had been identified as loose, so these have now been removed, the holes cleaned up/prepared and new rivets fitted. Work on the brake hangers has continued and we will soon be in a position to rivet these to the frames. Our previous attempt to repair the cab toolboxes did not meet the standards we like to see so these have now been scrapped, new ones fabricated and bolted/riveted in place. For the past couple of months, work has been carried out to scrape and then steam clean the frames and begin painting areas which will not easily be accessible once the wheels are back! Running plate, valences and cab sides are all receiving attention.

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Replacing loose frame rivets on 30506
On the mechanical side, the main areas of focus are the axle boxes, with 4 existing boxes plus 2 new castings being machined and drilled for lining plates. Boxes have been built up with bronze weld as necessary. New steel horn liner plates have been made and are currently being machined, the horn faces are being machined and a good start has been made to frame alignment. Slide bars have been ground and slide bar alignment plates machined. A start has also been made on fabricating a new ashpan; this will take some time as it is quite a complex component.

While all this has been going on, significant progress has been made with the front bogie. It's probably easier to list the work done rather than try to put it into a 'story':
  • Rivet on new side control stop bracket
  • Remove loose rivets from frame and replace
  • Rivet hornblocks
  • Weld up and re-drill frame plates
  • Face up bogie frames and blocks
  • Build up horn ties with weld and machine
  • Make 4 spring hangers and 4 new nuts
  • Axle box bores white metalled
  • Bogie casting has been returned from contract machining
  • Leading bogie horns have been finish ground
Meanwhile in the boiler shop, progress on boiler 755 has been quite outstanding. The beachhead fittings are now largely in place along with the regulator handle and a fully overhauled regulator valve. The firebox sling hangers and stays, all direct crown stays and the crown bars are all fitted. The superheated flues have had the copper ends brazed on and small tubes removed from store and annealed. ALL are now fitted in the boiler, leaving just the superheater elements to sort out. As we look at it now, with smokebox door and chimney fitted, and regulator dome lined up for fitting, we have almost got a finished boiler!

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The other piece of really exciting news is that the engineering team have restarted the restoration of 499. Work has been going on for a while to clean up the centre casting prior to lifting it back between the frames. We are also now working inside the rear section of frames to clean those up. The BIG news though is that we now have a cylinder block on; the left-hand block was lifted into place a couple of weeks ago and located with steel dowels and accommodation bolts. The next part of the process is to open out the holes drilled in the frames to full size ready for fitted bolts. The block will be taken down once this is done so we can repeat the process with the R/H side before dropping the casting in for riveting. With weather on our side, we could have the casting and both blocks riveted and bolted up by our 2018 open day!

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Aside from the engineering works, the ULS have at long last acquired a permanent sales cabin which has been erected near the top car park at Ropley. Not only do we now have somewhere to display the book collections and other items generously donated for fundraising sales, but the stock is now much better protected from deterioration. My thanks to all concerned at Ropley who helped facilitate this and also to Matt from Elfords Sheds for the very generous discount offered when we bought the building. The cabin is perfectly placed to sit in the sunshine and admire the work going on with 499 whilst reading a good book … bought from us, of course! In all seriousness, every penny raised by the sales team will go directly into the restoration of the loco.


Following an afternoon discussing the trials and tribulations of restoring old steam locomotives, renowned radio presenter and railway enthusiast, Mark Collins, has enthusiastically accepted the role of honorary patron of the Urie Locomotive Society.

Mark, who presents his shows at Wave 105, the South's largest local radio station, has worked in radio for over 25 years, including stints at the old Virgin Radio and Talksport. His interest in railways has also taken him into television where he presented two series of Trainspotting for the Discovery Channel.

Having recently received an invitation from the Committee to become an honorary patron, Mark said "I went along to the Watercress Line on Saturday, had a look around the sheds at Ropley and had a fantastic afternoon. I spent hours there just chatting to the ULS team and admiring the commitment they have to restoring these two locomotives, the difficulties they come across and the hurdles they overcome in making sure that these things will run again on the railways of the UK. So I have accepted their invitation."

We are delighted that Mark has accepted this role and look forward to seeing him at this year's AGM on 18 November.

Please play the audio clip below to hear Mark talking about his visit to Ropley - you will need to listen beyond the first 30 seconds or so to get to the ULS bit!
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Mark Collins (above) and below centre, along with (from L-R) Roger Burt, Barry Stratton, John Fry and Mark Pedley
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We are routinely asked what the latest developments are with the overhaul of 30506 and the restoration of 499 because our website is not always up to date in this regard. Unfortunately, work commitments prevent us from compiling more regular updates, so we hope to overcome the problem with a new series of very simple weekly summaries of the previous week's work, expanded hopefully every quarter into the more detailed blogs you are all used to, with photos. We hope you find these notes of interest.
W/E 17 SEPTEMBER 2017 (30506):
  • Built up bogie horn ties with weld for re-machining
  • Assessed loco horn ties and started building up with weld and machining
  • Steam cleaned under running plates
  • Weld repaired a driving axlebox
  • Made 4 new bogie spring hangers and 4 new nuts
  • Replaced remaining loose rivets on front bogie
  • Began to dismantle cab toolboxes for replacement
  • Small tubes removed from store and annealed
  • Continue to dismantle smokebox (499)
W/E 10 SEPTEMBER 2017 (30506):
  • Remove 2 hornblocks from 30506's front bogie
  • Weld up and re-drill bogie frame plates
  • Face up bogie frames and blocks
  • Rivet hornblocks
  • Remove lining
  • Remove loose rivets from bogie frame and replace
  • Commence squaring up axle box horn guides on bogie
  • Refit clips
  • Continue fabrication of new ashpan
  • Commence cleaning/degreasing main frames prior to painting
  • Machine loco axleboxes, including new casting
  • Braise copper ends onto super-heater flues
W/E 20 AUGUST 2017
  • Burn out loose rivets on front bogie - 30506
  • Assess bogie cross slide for new slide plates
  • Continue frame cleaning - 30506
  • Begin cleaning of front bogie - 30506
  • 30506 boiler: Install last of the crown stays and crown bars with the set bolts; install cross linked stay; complete remainder of internal pipework; install tailpipes in the dome
  • Sort rivet gear ready for move to 499
W/E 13 AUGUST 2017
  • Replace 3 rivets on centre stretcher - 30506
  • Rivet on new side control stop bracket to front bogie - 30506
  • Frame cleaning - 30506
  • Commence levelling of bogie pivot plate (previously built up with weld) - 499
  • Clean/paint driving wheelsets - 499
W/E 6 AUGUST 2017
  • Continue with fabrication of new ashpan for 30506
  • Cleaning/painting driving wheelsets - 499
  • Manufacture and fit fitted bolts to 30506 centre stretcher
  • Prep holes for remedial riveting to 30506 centre stretcher
  • Clean down 30506 frames ready for painting
  • Continue machining new axle box casting for 30506
  • Commence fitting direct crown stays, boiler 755 for 30506
  • Tubing on site for large tubes and superheater elements

JUNE 2017

The team have been working flat out on 30506, the front end rebuild of which is now complete. This has been an absolutely mammoth task which, at times, took us out of our comfort zone and certainly required a significant amount of lateral thinking to get round problems we just didn't know would exist when we started. We have a small team of 4-5 guys who only work weekends, making this achievement that much more incredible.

To summarise just some of the work involved:
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  • Accurately mark old, bent frame sections for cutting
  • Use old sections as a template to drill the new frame sections, making accurate allowance for wastage/distortion of the old
  • Burn out hundreds of rivets to remove
  • Buffer beam
  • Centre platform
  • Valence
  • Running plates
  • Front footsteps
  • Burn out cylinder bolts, including 'burning blind' through a narrow opening in the front of the centre casting
  • Securely remove cylinder blocks
  • Burn out rivets securing the centre casting
  • Remove centre casting
  • Lift/clamp/prep/weld new frame sections to remaining old plate
  • Repair centre casting. Temporary fit/drill/remove casting then repeat process! Ream holes on final fit
  • Rivet centre casting to frames, in some instances using holding up bars designed by our team
  • Cut/drill/rivet buffer beam support angles
  • Drill/rivet new buffer beam
  • Using tailor-made cradle, lift cylinder blocks into place … remembering no pattern exists should something go wrong!!!
  • Line up cylinder blocks, using accommodation bolts, to fairly exacting tolerances
  • Ream all cylinder bolt holes through frames and centre casting, using a host of jigs of our own design in areas of difficult access
  • Bolt up with fitted bolts (manufactured by MHR machinists) and graunch up tight. This included working inside the centre casting, making 'weight' behind a hammer virtually impossible
  • Rivet various support angles to front end
  • Rivet front platform back in
  • Refit valence sections
  • Rivet running plate, some recovered sections and others newly fabricated
  • Repair and rivet front footsteps
  • Rehang sandboxes
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Cylinder bolt nuts viewed from inside the centre casting
Locating front platform
Pre-heating the surrounding area before riveting
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Testing yet another holding-up bar prior to riveting
Last cylinder block bolts fitted
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New smokebox floor
Fitting new cylinder studs

The above is nowhere near comprehensive, but it gives an idea of what we faced. We were replacing the front 9' of a 90-year-old steam loco - bent, twisted and generally showing all the signs of a hard working life. Allowance had to be made for shrinkage during the weld process, all done to a margin of error of a millimetre or so. The truth as to whether the job had been successful or not would show up once we attempted to fit the slide bars; front end to the rear cylinder cover (on the new plate), rear end to the motion bracket on the old. Why did we ever worry; they were a perfect fit! Work done on ULS loco's is a team effort so I rarely mention individual names, however this is one of those occasions when special mention is required. A master at understating his own achievements, I want to acknowledge Barry Stratton who led this project; he did the measurements and he got it right!

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R/H side bar, a perfect fit!!

30506 has now been moved into the wheel-drop for the MHR guys to take over and complete the overhaul. Our spare bogie has been temporarily assembled to support the front of the locomotive and a trolley is supporting the rear. All driving wheel sets have been removed and stored prior to being sent away for tyres and journals to be turned. The ULS team have a few more jobs to finish off before we move the riveting gear up the yard to restart 499. That is likely to be later this month and once we start we won't be stopping until 499 is fully restored to 'as-built' 1920 condition with no smoke deflectors and the signature stovepipe chimney. Imagine the sight of her pounding the banks in glorious holly green livery; it's going to happen and it's going to happen on the Mid Hants Railway!

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A bit of variation never goes amiss, so when the MHR guys asked us to rivet 12 spring hangers on to Wadebridge's new tender chassis we were delighted to help. It didn't really take us long and it meant the MHR team could keep going, so positive outcomes all round.

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Riveting spring hangers on Wadebridge's tender chassis


In the July report we commented that we had fully riveted the centre casting of 30506 to the new frame sections. This was sort of true as the two remaining rows of holes at the bottom of the casting were deemed to be too difficult to rivet, largely due to inaccessibility on the inside for the holder-up, and would therefore be bolted instead. In true ULS style, however, a lot of head scratching eventually evolved into another design of holding-up bar, one rivet in as a test, the idea worked perfectly and off we went. The centre casting IS now fully riveted up! A number of the casting rivets sit beneath the cylinder blocks so those heads then had to be ground flush.

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These really were the last row of rivets!

Grinding the heads flush.

The next major job was to finally fit the cylinder blocks onto the frames. Our well reported lifting cradle was used, following the same procedure as when they were trial fitted. Just prior to lifting, the mating surfaces were coated with a 'Stratton patented' mix to ensure a tight seal. Everything went without a hitch and the blocks were fitted with temporary accommodation bolts. The final fitted bolts are being made by the MHR guys in the machine shop, hopefully all will be through and fitted by the end of the year.

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L/H block ready for lifting.
Applying the magic potion.
… and on.
Fitted cylinder block bolt fresh from the machine shop.

Whilst waiting for the bolts, we have taken the opportunity to start rebuilding the front of the loco. The valence is now complete on both sides, front curved sections riveted to the buffer beam at one end and the straight sections which sit above the cylinder blocks at the other. The latter have, in turn, been welded to the part remaining on the loco. The valence supports the running plate on the outer extreme of the engine, the inner edge being supported by angle which has been cut, drilled and riveted to the new frame sections. To the front of the cylinder blocks the running plate curves down to the buffer beam and comprises two separate sections for removal during piston/valve exams. On both sides the original top piece was salvageable, but the bottom part required replacement. To this end, new plate has been cut, rolled, trimmed, drilled and countersunk on site by our guys. Butt straps for bolting the two sections together have been cut and riveted to the lower pieces. Up on top, the new running plate has been cut, profiled, drilled and countersunk for the rivet holes around the edges. Current work revolves around drilling, countersinking and tapping holes which are necessary to bolt the running plate to the top of the cylinder blocks. Lastly on the rebuild side, both sets of front footsteps have been riveted back on the loco, lamp irons and grab handles fitted. Where possible, frame sections have been cleaned down and a coat of red oxide primer applied.

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Removing the valence from the old running plate.

Curved plate section retrieved.
Valence sections riveted together …
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… and welded at the other.

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Cleaning down the frames.
A bit of heat helps to straighten the footsteps.

Riveting them on.
The ULS engineering team had a temporary break from riveting back in the Summer - with the boiler on its back but due to be turned fairly shortly, the opportunity was taken to fabricate and place into storage a new ashpan ring. Out in the yard our newest volunteers have begun to dismantle the smokebox on one of our spare boilers. There is a specific reason for this … you will all find out what that is in due course!!

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Not a bad first attempt.
It soon pulls into shape anyway.
Lamp iron and grab handle fitted.

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Cutting the new running plate.
New sections of running plate.
Dismantling a smokebox.

As a final reminder to ULS members, our AGM is Saturday 19 November. At midday you will have full access to both 30506 and 499, with an opportunity to discuss progress and plans with the committee. A small sales stand will be open and the photographic archives will be available for viewing. Non-members are also welcome to come along and see our work. At 2:30pm, members only will gather in the education room (workshop viewing gallery) for the usual reports and formalities of an AGM. I hope to see as many of you as possible on the day.

JULY 2016

Work in the last month or so has focused almost entirely on 30506. The centre casting was repaired to wasted areas, cleaned to remove all traces of swarf then lifted back into place for the final time with the gantry; the next time it comes out will definitely not be our problem! Once correctly aligned, the casting was fixed to the frames with locating bolts in every other hole which were then pulled up as tight as we could possibly get them. Finally, it was time to start riveting. Rather than the laborious method of heating rivets with gas, we had gained permission to use the railway's electric heater. What a machine, a 3.5 inch x 1 inch rivet is red hot within a few minutes! One team member places the rivet, another is straight on to the head as a holder-up and a third/fourth member knocks over and dresses the rivet. Once an area has been riveted as far as possible, the accommodation bolts (by now no more than finger tight) are removed and those holes riveted. It's hard work but by following the company protocol and not rushing, we have not had a single failure. As with everything in life, experience always improves productivity. When we first started I think we put in 4 rivets (to be fair, by the time we got everything set up and tested it was late afternoon). In contrast, the last Sunday of July we turned over 29. The achievements for the month were thus:
  • Centre casting fully riveted up. Some were straightforward, others required a degree of inventive thinking. In particular, 4 clusters of 4 holes in 'pockets' at the top of the casting required the manufacture of a special holding-up bar.
  • Those rivets covered by the cylinder blocks have been ground flush to the frames.
  • Buffer beam support brackets and gussets are fully riveted.
  • Buffer beam riveted to the supports.
  • The curved angles which support the front sections of running plate are also now finished.
  • All buffer beam rivets have been dressed.
  • Fitted bolts have been manufactured in the Mid-Hants Railway machine shop for holes at the very bottom of the casting which are simply too inaccessible for a holder-up and therefore cannot be riveted.

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JUNE 2016

Our grateful thanks go to everyone who helped make the first ever ULS open day, held in June, a success far beyond our wildest expectations. The Mid-Hants staff had organised clear access for us on the Friday and the traffic department ensured both the 'new build' tender and 30506's original were brought into the yard for viewing. Andy Netherwood was in attendance to discuss progress on boiler 755 whilst Paul Stone was available to discuss the specialist welding he did to the frames of both locomotives. The ULS 'team' were there to answer questions, photo boards were on display and a full sales stand was available to browse and rummage.

Our thoughts are that around 150 - 200 people attended the event and many were not afraid to part with money; a significant boost to Society coffers by the end of the day! Special thanks therefore to everyone who made the effort to come down to Ropley - we wouldn't be anywhere without your generous support. Thanks also to our friends from the Canadian pacific project who helped promote the open day during their own tours of the sheds.

We hope to hold many more events working together in this way during the months and years ahead.

Here are a few images to give a flavour of the day - however, it was impossible to capture the atmosphere and by the time the crowds appeared we were too busy to take photos!

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The new front frame sections were successfully welded into place earlier on last year. Paul Stone is our coded welder and using a process known as flux-core welding (a form of mig rather than arc welding) he only needed 1 day per section. The centre casting provided the anchor points to effectively lock old and new sections together for welding. It has to be said that at first glance it looks like we have made a hash of the R/H side because the top of the new plate sits proud of the old; in fact it is perfectly true. The old girl has obviously had a tough life including a few rough shunts, so much so that when we looked closely we realised the original frame on that side was bent downwards.

Prior to the actual welding, all holes previously drilled using the old plates as templates were opened out to almost full size and countersunk as necessary. With both sides welded up, the centre casting was removed again for cleaning up and weld repair to wastage in some local areas. Work then went into abeyance for a number of months pending the return of the cylinder blocks from contractors Bryn Engineering. The blocks were eventually received back just before Christmas last year and have now both been trial fitted to the frames. They are not the easiest things to lift due to their shape, so a special cradle was made to allow a 2-stage lift. First the block needs to be stood up to bolt a heavy plate to the block, fix shackles, chains and strops, lift the block into the cradle, release the chains and remove the plate. Then, with the block upright in the cradle, lift it using strops only onto the frames and hold in place with accommodation bolts. Sounds easy, but each time this is done it is a very nerve-racking experience! All the fixings, chains and strops have to be in exactly the right place at equal tension … if a block falls there will only be one outcome and it’s one we daren’t think about!

All the bolt holes for both blocks lined up, so with a few weeks of reaming completed they have been put to one side to await the final fitting. The large platform which sits in front of the smokebox has been temporarily bolted onto the frames to check alignment although this has also been removed ahead of the final rebuild. The buffer beam is drilled and countersunk and the supporting brackets/angles which sit behind it have been fabricated. Most recently the centre casting has been removed yet again to be cleaned off and de-burred before we get stuck into riveting and bolting up.

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An awful lot has been achieved recently on 499. The front end of the loco has been completely stripped down, removing pistons, valves, crossheads, slide bars, sand boxes, motion brackets and extension pieces from both sides. Both cylinder blocks have been removed and the great news here is that they are not in as bad a condition as 506’s so will not need to be sent away for specialist work. Once the blocks were off, we then ‘blew out’ all the rivets holding the centre casting in place, replacing some with accommodation bolts, and lastly both leading horn blocks were removed.

The wasted frame sections were removed, taking the cut roughly in line with the centre of the leading driving axle, some 14’ in length. 499’s frames had to be renewed further back than 506’s because of an old BR weld repair that had started to crack again. In fact, the R/H side was so bad that we were able to simply lift off the majority of the wasted section without any cutting; 499 had, in reality, broken her back. The new frame sections had arrived sometime prior from Tata Steel, cut and profiled but not drilled. They had also been joggled for us, a joggle being a kink in the frame necessary to accommodate the large cylinder blocks whilst keeping the locomotive in gauge. Using exactly the same methodology as we did for 506, the old frames were used as a drilling jig on the new before our specialist welder brought everything back together using the flux core process. It will soon be time to start rebuiding the loco.
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