Dave O’Connell and Richard Busby keep a watch on the wobbly dome as Peter Jackson gingerly lifts Thomas’s boiler from the frames.

Thomas Overhaul 2014

Steam Gala, February 2013

Drama on the crossover at Yarwell. Richard Busby hoping that Britannia could pull herself back on track.    She couldn’t and it was the next day before rerailing was successful.  

Frustratingly, the crane was in steam about 1 mile away but it was decided that it should not be used.   Probably wise as the loco weight is listed as 94 tons, more than twice our limit.

Visiting crane from Colas is stretching its jib in a very threatening manner.   Colas Rail use the Wansford yard as a location to do their maintenance.  Their ultra-modern Kirow crane is a dazzling contrast to the pre-war technology that we’re used to.

Competitor tries to steal our loco!

A busy day in the yard, this view from Brian White shows lots of activity as the crane is prepared for operation in 2003.

Down the line

The crane is operating Free-on-Rail (no props) and with the front relieving bogie detached to reduce the reach (called the portee) needed.  

Salvaging cast iron bridge beams dating from the line’s construction in the 1840’s. The beams had been taken down in the 1970’s as part of the Berne gauge preparation.  Of some historical interest, or at least significant scrap value, it’s a great shame these disappeared without explanation

Recovering salvage - 1

Recovering salvage - 2

Wear and tear inside the boiler


Replacement part is lifted into position.  Note new lifting eyes which simplify future in-out operations.

Leaking regulator

Operating and Controls

Auxiliary Manifold

From the left…

Red handwheel is for water feed, only for use when no pressure in boiler.  

Silver wheel operates the blower to stimulate faster steam generation.

Central green wheel opens/closes the auxiliary manifold.

Right hand green wheel is for the whistle.

Pressure gauge is showing 40 psi, pretty close to the minimum pressure at which anything can be done.

Water Feed

The crane has two boiler-feed injectors, one of which (gold colour) can be seen in the centre.

Each injector has an associated clack valve (with operating levers, near the bottom of the picture) which can be opened in order to allow cold water to be forced into the boiler by the injectors.

There are four connections to each injector, two inputs and two outputs.  

The inputs are the tank water pipe (this cannot be seen clearly in the picture) which lifts water from the tank under the footplate.  The steam feed (controlled by the red handwheel at the top) comes into the top of the injector.

The outputs are the feed water - this is the left hand pipe leading to the clack valve - and the overflow - the right hand downward-going pipe.

Crane Controls

Four levers are used to operate the crane, together with a rotating wheel used for slewing.

The levers are conveniently grouped so that the crane driver can look out over the winding mechanism as he operates the levers.

From left to right…

Reverser, 5 notched positions (full & half reverse, mid-gear and full & half forward

Hoist control,  3 notches,  Select between no hoist or 10-ton or 40-ton lifting speed.

Derricking control.  Again, 3 positions.  Select between no movement, Derricking or Travelling.

Regulator.  Connects steam from boiler to steam chests and cylinders.

Towards the right hand side is the handwheel controlling the Derricking brake. Footpedals are for hoist brake (left) and slewing brake (right). At the extreme right of the picture, the bottom handle of the slewing control can just be seen.  

Boiler Controls

Civil Engineering at Ferry Meadows

Photos from David Withers, who did much to ensure the crane’s continued operation up to 2012.

David O’Connell hanging out of the cab of class 14 D9520 as the ‘breakdown train’ arrives at Ferry Meadows to assist with tracklaying work in 2011.

On the same trip, the crane basks in the sunlight.  DOC’s on the Jib Runner this time.

As part of annual maintenance in 2013, the uptake liner was taken out for inspection.

As can be seen, it was time for a new one.

Regulator taken out and dismantled.  A new operating rod was machined by John Whitby

Stan reground the faces to restore flatness and ensure a good seal between fixed and moving parts.

Boiler lifts in the 1990’s - photos from the NVR’s museum archive

Lots of spectators look on as the crane takes the strain lifting 92 Squadron’s boiler. The crane still carries the “TO LIFT 40 TONS” legend from BR days.  Much has changed around Wansford since this photo was taken.

And down on the other side of the tracks.  It’s hard to tell but I suspect the boiler is being lowered onto a flat wagon.  Note that the crane carriage and the weight-relieving bogie are part-painted.  

If you can date these pictures, please let me know.   Stan.bell@systemsoft.co.uk

Another FOR job.  Old signal post (replacement in foreground) is reclaimed.  Later it was dumped in the S & T area for further work.

Pictures from Steve Lacey

Steve is a member of the Battle of Britain Locomotive Society (BBLS) and has been involved in the restoration of 34081 92 Squadron for a long time.  He’s kindly lent us some crane-related photos from his extensive collection.

92 Squadron tender, minus wheels, is lifted onto prop stack prior to the 2014/5 restoration.

In 2011, 92 Squadron’s boiler makes it’s way onto the transport that will take it to Chatham.  Note Jib runner and front weight-relieving bogie have been detached to allow an end-on lift, made necessary by restricted lineside width at platform 5.

Man and machine in perfect harmony.  Where else would DOC rather be on a nice summer’s day?

Pristine paint and shiny brasswork indicates this is shortly after completion of overhaul - January 2011.

Don’t touch that CCT - it’ll disintegrate.  The end-door identifies it as the ‘Octopussy’ van - now beautifully restored.

Crane is Free-On-Rail lifting something from the civil’s sidings.

From the NVR Archive.  A very early picture of crane in NVR hands.

The location is believed to be Sugar Sidings. The crane is wearing its final BR Livery with high-visibility black and yellow stripes and carrying the final BR-applied number ADE331159.

Note that in about 1976 the crane was assigned the CEPS  (Civil Engineers Plant Scheme) number ADRR95207. This was never applied and the crane was sold for scrap carrying ADE331159.

Behind the crane is a bright red CCT - is that the ‘Octopussy’ van?

The loco in front of the crane is a Barclay 0-4-0ST. Built in 1948, it originally carried the number 2248 but the NVR renumbered it 90432.  It was at the NVR from 1972 until 1991, when it moved to the East Kent Railway.

The view from the crane.   

Wansford Yard is unusually quiet.

Perhaps 20 years since the last time, the crane once again lifts 92 Squadron’s boiler onto its chassis.

This was the crane’s first job after a boiler retube in 2015.

Barabel has pushed the chassis into position and the boiler is completing the rotation that will align it correctly.

The newly-arrived Black 5 and its tender are awaiting yard space so that they can be coupled together, having been separated for transport by road.

Photo by Roger Gurney.

More 92 Squadron work in 2015.

The half-painted tender is re-united with wheels.

BBLS CME Alan Whenman orchestrates the descent while other  members wait to hand-guide the axleboxes into the hornguides.  Critical work that demands fine control of the crane bringing down 20 tons of tender with about half-inch precision.

Photo by Roger Gurney.

Copyright © 2015-16 Stan Bell. All rights reserved.   stan.bell@systemsoft.co.uk

NVR 40t Steam Crane