Missing from the frontline since the end of October, Midland 4F 0-6-0 43924 is back in action following a Winter maintenance programme that illustrates the amount of work required to keep the operational fleet operational.
Thanks to Ralph Ingham’s report we have an insight into what can be involved in what, to our untrained eyes, appears quite simple. A 14 month boiler exam and fitting new left hand and right hand big end bearings sounds quite straight forward, an assumption far from the truth.
The previous set of big end bearings had done sterling service since fitting before the locomotive first ran in 1970. However these were not to the original dimensions, there being neither drawings nor patterns available when 43924 was first restored. As a consequence they could be a little thirsty on oil, although they happily resisted the 8 coaches that the Severn Valley Railway attached behind the tender on its visit there in 2014.
A suitable drawing only came to light following the acquisition by the National Railway Museum of drawings located at Derby. Thanks to a time spent by 4F regular Ron Winfindale ferreting through Derby’s drawings, we were able obtain copies of all those relating to the class. From these a correct pattern was produced and brasses cast, whitemetalled and roughed out. However the fitting of the big end bearings were deferred for a couple of years after the castings were whitemetalled and roughed out as work on other locomotives, such as completing 75078, took place. Only by the end of October could time be found for the 95 year old veteran to be stopped long enough for the fitting work to be undertaken.
Since withdrawal, and amongst other jobs, the shed staff “usual suspects” have machined and fitted new the big end bearings and after a successful test run in blizzard conditions on Saturday 30th January, the 4F returned to traffic at first in tandem with 75078 and then on its own with 5 coaches behind the drawbar.
Thankfully photographers, braved the elements and were there to record 43924’s triumphant return, a tribute to the hard work of Haworth shed staff and volunteers.