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WHR Rhyd Ddu in Wales
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Boiler Plans and Future Plans - latest by Jeremy Davey

I did promise on Tuesday to share more details of the woes with the 121-year-old boiler, plus some info of our future plans, to bring everyone up to speed. If you were able to join us last Sunday, you’ve already heard it, but for everyone else, here goes.


We started discussions with the chassis. This is almost done, with a bearing (bronze awaited) and a brake cross-shaft (to be fabricated) to do. After that we have a year at least for the team to give the well tank a good descale and clean, and to sort out all the cosmetics – mostly painting and some steelwork.


I’ll just note here that the cylinders are in really good order, the axle boxes have now been brought into line (so the wheelbase both sides is the same, for example), the bearings in order, the lubrication much improved, and a long-standing issue with the draincocks resolved.


We’ve learned a lot – not least that the fireman’s side has an unlined cylinder and the driver’s side a lined one, both with minimal ovalling, and the axles we now know were renewed at Tindharia in 1956. It’s all been documented in Will’s report.


The boiler – as you know – has been a much sadder story. This has always been the great question mark hanging over the overhaul – could we get another 10, or even 20, years out of it?

The initial inspection, as you know, was good, with some wrapper wastage requiring replacement. The NDT and ultrasound was less-good, and revealed serious cracking in the firebox, condemning it.

But once we got the life-expired firebox out  we found more cracking where the palm stays attach to the barrel, and deep pitting in the barrel under the dome – all items we couldn’t have found until the firebox was out. This, I’m afraid, anyone with long experience of boilers will tell you is normal. While I’m at it, let me share another picture below, this time of what lay behind the patch in the front left corner of the firebox. It wasn’t the simple crack we expected, and even John Glaze has never seen the like of it before!

Anyway, at this point we realised that if we’d carried on we’d have a boiler that was brand new with a few old bits in it. The expert advice was to stop and build a new one, and we’ve heeded that advice. The old boiler will be reassembled as an educational item to show how these things are built and work, and yes, we’re going to show horrors like that patched hole above.

We’re going to do this in three stages:

1)    Design and certify a new boiler

2)    Build the new boiler

3)    Re-erect the locomotive

The first will take most of 2024, but we have two superb candidates for this work and will announce something soon – we have the money to hand to pay for that.

The second will take 2025, and the current financial position on that is that we have all but £90k of the estimated cost to hand, £60k if the grant application we’ve made is successful. Our focus is on raising that money before we do anything else.

The third is already funded, through Statfold’s very generous contribution to this overhaul. There is enough left in the pot to finish the job, and I cannot tell you how much we appreciate it.

So that’s the immediate plan: design and certify a new boiler, which should give us a good 50 years of good service; raise the funds to build for it; build it; put the engine back together. If all goes as intended 19B will be back in service in early 2026.

Now, obviously it won’t take a year to clean out the well tank and do the cosmetics. So for those wondering about the “make the tender optional” plan, I wanted to update you on that, too. Potentially we have the time for it, if not yet the funding. So, if possible, while the boiler is being built it is our intention to restore the bunker plating, combine the sandboxes (so the rear fireman’s side one doesn’t block the coal chute), make a retention plate, add the roof light, restore the handrail fully, and sort the couplings. The only major cost item in all this will be the rerailing bar, which is essential as it’s where the fireirons need to go on a tenderless B.

While I’d prefer to have her going back together now, this is still a good position to be in. We could not have got this far without you and your support and generosity so, once again, thank you.

Just to emphasise: our plans are mostly going to be dependent on grant funding or other fundraising, after we have the engine back together. But I think you’ll find them interesting.

If you can help in any way, we’d be very grateful – click the buttons below to find out more.

Boiler 0424 1.jpg
Darjeeling Train painting by Jonathan Clay

Painting by Jonathan Clay

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