44123 RESTORATION UPDATE
7/11/2003


44123 at what is thought to be Gloucester shed in the 1960s. Note the generally filthy condition of the loco, with the exception of the cab side, which some brave soul has attempted to clean.

With 'background' work progressing on the loco, the majority of the physical work recently has continued on the tender. We are moving towards having a rolling chassis in the hopefully not too distant future. Key to this is the repair or replacement of the six badly damaged axle boxes. The first step on the road to recovery is to replace the missing axle box lids - being easily removable it is hardly surprising that none were left when the loco was removed from the scrap yard - other Barry island visitors being all too easily tempted to have a souvenir or a few spares for their own engine. After detailed study of lids from other Fowler tender axle boxes and our own boxes, a wooden pattern was produced in house, and hopefully by the time you read this, we will have the newly cast lids machined and safely in storage. Attention will then turn to either the repair or making new of the tender axle boxes. To do this however, we will have to extract one as no drawing is known to exist.

Whilst in pattern making mode, the opportunity has been taken to produce one or two other simple patterns, such as the cylinder drain cock valves and genuine 'LMS' pattern coupling hook tommy bar balance weight! (Thanks to John Payne for supplying an original).

Because of the considerable forces involved in pulling heavy freight trains about, many parts of the 4F are extremely well engineered and built to last, and this usually means 'HEAVY'!  No exception are the various cast iron blocks which support the tender front draw gear - they take the draw pin loads and buffing forces between engine and tender and are subjected to much clattering and banging as the loco moves along. What they were not designed for however, it sitting about in a sea-side scrap yard for 25 years. Salt air combined with coal and ash deposits does terrible things to ferrous metal over time, and so we have to make new ones. Many years ago the group had the foresight to acquire some large lumps of scrap cast iron for just such a purpose. These have been carved up into suitable lumps and sawn down to rough size in our big band saw. Finish machining is currently ongoing, and that's another heavy lump into storage ready for fitting when the time comes.

Speaking of buffers, in the not too distant past our shop resembled a 'buffery' (not to be confused with the buffet which is on the station). All the LMS pattern buffers in our possession were pretty much seized solid, necessitating a strip down, clean up and straighten, followed by a rebuild. The amount of energy which can be stored in a set of compressed buffers is considerable - you only have to look at the spring to see that. If you're interested, ask to see one when next at the railway - you wouldn't want to drop it on your foot.

On the loco front, in recent weeks and following renewed discussions, we are fortunate enough to have acquired a number of original motion parts from fellow 4F owners at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in Yorkshire. There is no doubt that they will fit our engine, as they are clearly stamped '4123' in big letters! Our colleagues at the K&WVR also provided us with a number of other important parts for which there are no drawings. Our thanks go to those in the K & WVR loco dept for their kind help so far and offers of future assistance. We have also been speaking to the 4F group from Cheddleton/Crewe who are currently looking in their stores to see if they have any of our bits hidden away. It is also nice to have the option of looking over both the group's 4F's whenever we like, which is something we intend to do soon to continue the information gathering exercise so vital to the restoration of a mainline locomotive.

James Fibbens.


On 4123 we recently visited sister 4F 44027 and 7F 53809 (which has a similar tender) at the Midland Railway Centre to measure up some parts on the tender including the axlebox covers and some water feed fittings on the tank. This will allow us to produce new items, as we do not have them currently and no drawings exist. Thanks to the Midland Railway Centre loco dept for their kind assistance so far.

James Fibbens.

44123 on a 3 coach local in the late 1950s at what is thought to be the bottom of the Lickey bank



Compare this view of 44123's tender circa 1960 . . . . .


. . . . . with this one - Jan 2001.
If you catch the light correctly it is possible to see six layers of paint on this side of the tender
showing the history of the various liveries it has carried.
Photo  - James Fibbens.

Like 34058, work has concentrated largely on the tender (No. 3257) in recent months.  Everything above the running plate on the tender is being re-constructed from new to give a whole new tank and upper structure.  The original tank is totally rotten, and is wafer thin in places. To maintain the authenticity of the finished article, fully riveted construction is being used and where the original parts are too rotten to be re used or copied, new ones are made from the original works drawings.

The vast majority of the external components for the tender tank have now been made, as have a good number of items below the running plate, including the four sets of steps and two cross-frame stretchers.  Jim Frampton (assisted by Lucy) has been working on removing the remaining bits of brake gear mounted on the frames.  Jim has developed a highly successful technique of freeing up seized components - he lights a fire underneath them, lets it burn for a few hours, then it all more or less falls apart!

We have recently taken delivery of more raw materials to allow us to start work on the tank internals, including the riser pipe from the water scoop to the top of the tank. The scoop is being retained to maintain the authenticity of the tender, and by the time you read this, it will all have been removed and be well on the way to restoration. All the brake linkages and brake block operating levers have also been removed for straightening, building up with weld to repair any worn areas, and re-bushing with bronze bushes before being put into storage.

The tender frames are in reasonably good condition, but will require some new sections to be welded in at the front, where the amount of wastage is quite severe. The front and rear drag boxes and buffer beams will need to be replaced, as the originals are totally rotten.


Fowler 4F No. 44123 at the top of the signal box siding.
Photo - Neil Davis.

The engine itself has been shunted to the very top end of the signal box siding to make more room in the yard, and is now the first thing you will see upon approaching the station on the cycle path from Oldland Common. It is effectively 'mothballed', but has not been forgotten, with one of the original cast iron sandboxes recently being repaired and bolted back onto the frames for storage. Work is always rumbling on with smaller items being produced on a continuous basis the most recent of these being replacement lids for the sandboxes which were made after taking dimensions from classmate 4027 at the Midland Railway Centre. Thanks are due to the MRC for allowing us access to 4027.

James Fibbens.

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This page last updated by Tony Wray on 7/11/2003.