Posted by: wrha | March 24, 2017

Thursday 23rd – Sunday 26th March 2017

* posted as and when, from various sources- editing in progress *


After the torrential rain/snow of Wed night/Thurs morning the Northumbria Rail boys where uncertain they could access the work site, but after encountering a small amount of snow at the border and on Cheviot the roads and the weather where fine and dry.

A bit of a problem on site as a couple of the bags of small ballast had been offloaded into the centre of the running line; however as Jim had kindly left the digger keys available and parked the digger in our carpark the bags where quickly removed to a convenient place, with one bag placed on the P/Way trolley for use in packing the sleepers.

Work continued through the day packing and levelling.

After a later than normal finish the tired team made there way to the hotel for liquid refreshment and a good nights sleep.


An even better start to the day, with blue skies and bright sunshine at sunrise, and continuing throughout the day.

The Permaquip was used to push the trailer of ballast up to the rebuilt panel and the fines were used to pack the sleepers, and then the main ballast was used to fill in.

Andy H had a look at the Ruston 48DS which had an electrical issue yesterday and decided it didn’t want to play. A temporary fix was made with the battery clamps being swapped out and connections secured and she was then available for the rest of the day.

In the meantime Craig O from Northumbria had a look at RB004 to address an issue with the brakes and also an intermittent issue with the cab engine start/stop controls. By close of play all issues were resolved.

Dave S, Baz S and Andy H continued packing and ballasting the running line and by close of play the upgraded section was all packed and ballasted and looking good; a slightly different colour, but we plan to give it a dressing of red ballast after it has been tamped. Attention then turned to the loop line where spent ballast had been piled from the upgraded panel. This was partly screened and used to fill the cribs on the loop line and also fill the 6ft to allow the digger to straddle the lines.

The majority of the rail from the ex Methil panels was moved Northward where it will be graded and collected later using the rail movers. The concrete sleepers were then moved using the digger and stacked ready for the next stage of the upgrade. All safe and locked up by 5:30, with everything prepared for Saturday.


The day dawned bright and very warm, especially when compared with usual Whitrope standards.

A very good turn-out of volunteers, including all of the Fowler boys, with Davy giving them all black hair (the ones who have hair) it was good to see Alan back up and running(well nearly !).

The Ruston 48DS, Permaquip Patrolmen’s, and the Hymac 370 digger were fuelled up. A start was made on organising the tool & pway stores. The smaller dumper was also given a drink and quick service, including inflating a flat tyre, and run up for a little bit.

After lunch there was a planned committee meeting, with lots to discuss for the year ahead.

A few little jobs and tidying where completed around the site, then it was homeward.bound.

Posted by: wrha | March 19, 2017

Weekend report 18th March

A miserable morning at Whitrope saw a good turn out of bodies and a number of jobs progressed.

The track team continued work on the relaid track panel near the level crossing. A start was made on packing and leveling the sleepers. Work continued on the brake van and some the drains were checked following the recent heavy rail. Peter ended up sitting down on the job, not recommended when you are working on a culvert. He was fine although somewhat soggy!

The Fowler team continued there work with a report on progress below:

Working on the loco : George, Rod, Dave & Duncan

Weather:- rained most of the morning with some heavy downpours but brightened up in the afternoon.

  • Water level in the rad was checked with some loss of water detected, but not much. Again no obvious signs of a leak, other than the top hose bodge we did for the trial run. The suspicion now is maybe there’s no leak at all, just air trapped in the system which is slowly being bled out. Duncan fitted the top hose elbow and new interconnecting pipes, this should eliminate the leak there.
  • Dave painted the underside of running board a lovely black colour. There was black paint everywhere including on Dave.
  • The next longitudinal air supply pipe to the brake cylinders was fitted along with the air pipe across the front of the loco to the opposite cylinder. George must be congratulated for this one, he spotted the missing component we’ve been looking for on and off for the last couple of weeks.
  • We only need to connect the flex air pipes to the brake control in the cab to complete this section of pipework. It would be useful to test this section and we could do this using the portable air compressor as the supply source.
  • We still need to determine where the third air pipe comes from that runs the length of the loco shown on the photo we have. George and Duncan looked for this pipe on two occasions during the day with no luck. We suspect it’s the emergency air supply to the emergency backup tank to control the brakes and gearbox, so the loco can be stopped if a catastrophic air supply failure occurs. A trip down to Tanfield to view their Fowler appears necessary to look there unit over. Duncan is to contact them and arrange a visit in the not too distant future.
  • Whilst looking round for the missing pipe Duncan spotted the ring clamp for the exhaust silencer, which he then fitted.
  • The engine was run again to splash oil around and to test the condition of the batteries, as Jim had detected a leakage current from the stop solenoid last week. There didn’t appear to be a problem, however the batteries were charged on the generator set to refresh them (this was overdue anyway).

Overall a day that started off damp and miserable, but the weather improved as the day went on and good progress was made across the site.

Posted by: wrha | March 16, 2017

Planned workdays:

Advance notice: there is planned to be a “Track & Traction works weekend” 24th -26th March where we will try and progress a few more tasks, and also make plans for future work. Baz & Dave Shell from Northumbria Rail Ltd. should be around to lend a hand. If any members are interested then feel free to message for further details.

Posted by: wrha | March 5, 2017

Saturday 4th March 2017

Today’s work report with words and pictures from Baz Shell and Duncan Thomas:

A wet start, then it just got better and better weather wise, a very good turn out of volunteers with even Mal popping down for a look-see.

The Fowler boys where out in force, including Duncan piping up the loco. Work concentrated on re-running the air pipes. The engine was given a run, Jim has fitted a starter key in the cab, so starting the engine can now be done from the cab. The air system still has a long way to go but steady progress was made.

The track boys, with new boy Mick, got straight down to work clipping up the new section and re-instating the slight curve in the track.

At the end of play the whole section was clipped up and each end fishplates back on, the new pansetter was a big help! Though a lot of folk thought I was taking the Mick (what’s a pansetter? Well now you know! It’s a pway tool used to set sleepers against rail for clipping up)

The Permaquip Patrolmen’s Trolley got some new fuel lines and wiring, and the railbus a check over and a few runs up to the tunnel to top up the batteries. The Permaquip HCT trailer was emptied of old chairs and scrap ready for ballasting works, but the track section should be fully packed and levelled before any ballasting starts!

Posted by: wrha | February 26, 2017

Riccarton Junction – Just a few Lines

In 2003 the family of Kit Milligan kindly allowed WRHA to republish the book Riccarton Junction – Just a few Lines. The copies that were printed at the time have all since sold out and very few come on to the secondhand market.

During 2013 it was decided that for the closure’s 45th anniversary dinner held at Newcastleton a new edition would be created, using a new set of photographs from different photographers and featuring maps of Riccarton.
Although the commemorative editions have now also all sold out we have decided that a new edition would prove popular and so volunteers have been working on the required editing and a run of a third edition has been ordered. This should be with us in the next few weeks so please keep an eye out for it appearing in our webshop at
Posted by: wrha | February 4, 2017

Saturday 4th February 2017

Baz Shell reports:

In true Whitrope style up the hill it was snowing, cold, and very wet.

Some preventative maintenance was carried out on the Permaquip to return it to service; the tracklaying gear was then loaded onto the trailer, with plans being to position the other rail into place on the first panel of the running line. This was done and it has been temporarily clipped and bolted up, but the weather was truly against us, so it was pack the gear away, have a cup of tea and planning chat, and head off back home.

Sod’s law that once over the hill, the sun was shining and the birds where singing!

The Fowler boys must get a different weather forcast to the track boys as they stayed at home in the dry and warm.

Posted by: wrha | January 28, 2017

Weekend of 28/29th January 2017

Track work (notes from Baz Shell):

Dress code for this Saturday was waterproofs and wellies as it was a very dull and wet day, with real rain between the showers.

But the weather didn’t deter our volunteers who were keen to battle on and complete the first section of the “running” line with concrete sleepers.

Jim quickly got our trusty digger cranked up and run up to the work site, but we had a “failure” with the Permaquip which was suffering from flat batteries, the altenator drive belt has been suspect for a while, so we decided to leave it and other small faults until we could have a full day working on it.

Work cracked on at a good pace, because it was pee-ing down, all the sleepers were in position and by the end of play one section of rail was seated and clipped in place.

Well done the track boys!

Not to be deterred by the weather the Fowler boys where again onsite sorting a few faults and the loco ran up for a good long period, there are still a few niggles to address.

Traction (Notes from Duncan Thomas):

1. Main jobs of the day was to check over the engine after last weekend’s running and start work on the air system.

2. The engine appeared fine, although it had lost a large amount of water from the cooling system, about 10lts.

3. The cooling system was topped up and a good check made for any obvious leaks, none were detected so the engine was started.

4. The engine ran fine and again had a couple of periods of running through the day.

5. The engine throttle control was connected up to the cab controls and now operate fine from the cab.

6. A small quantity of oil was drained from the sump for inspection. The good news is the oil appeared fine with no evidence of water contamination.

7. A fuel leak on the feed into the fuel filters from the lift pump was repaired and the leak fixed.

8. George and Davie managed to get a number of the air pipes refitted, although progress was a little slow as we appear to be missing some lengths of pipework, so a fair amount of time was spent hunting the missing pipework.

9. A number of the regular volunteers were on site and were really pleased to see the engine running as they missed it last weekend.

10. Jim reported he is making progress with sourcing parts for the electrical system, so hopefully work can start in this area soon.

Overall steady progress made. Next week, work will continue to find why the water level had dropped, with the continuous rain today it was impossible to see if things were leaking, or if it was just water dripping off the loco. Work on the air system will continue.

Posted by: wrha | January 22, 2017

Traction Talk:

The volunteers were at work on the Fowler again yesterday (21/01/2017) and there has been some positive progress. The engine was filled with coolant yesterday and run up for a couple of hour long periods. There are a few little niggles but it starts easily and runs well. There are currently no signs of oil passing into the coolant and compression is good. Work will continue to get the locomotive serviceable.

Old wooden sleepers removed from the main running (UP) line. A lot of these are waterlogged and rotten, and also had old BR1 style clips which we wish to dispose of. Any reusable sleepers will be put into stock for use on the sidings.

The UP formation graded and concrete sleepers being set out to upgrade the running line

A look south along the line

The lads move some more parts of the Fowler up to the workshop from store for refurbishment

Posted by: wrha | January 15, 2017

Weekend of  14/15th January 2017

Saturday was a beautiful day by Whitrope standards, our intrepid band of volunteers had a very hard frost to face first thing, but once the sun rose it really warmed things up; clear blue skies and bright sunshine all day, even a few midges, honest.

Jim decided to start the generator and heat the bothy with the electric heaters so it was nice and warm for snack breaks, as well as giving some light and heat for Alan working in the Information coach.

The digger was coaxed into life with help from some “Easy-Start” and Toyota Motors. Once it warmed up it operated perfectly all day. Not bad for a machine that’s nearly as old as it’s operator!

We quickly decided on the concrete sleeper spacing we would use on the new construction, and Jim set to work removing the track ballast for re-use, and lowering the formation as the concrete sleepers are deeper than the original wood ones.

With ballast removed and the formation levelled, we started to place the concrete sleepers in position, with Andy taking great care with the spacing, and Bill keeping us on the straight and level

In all eight concrete sleepers were put in position before bad light stopped play as the digger has no lights.

There was scheduled to be a committee meeting to discuss the programme and operating details for 2017, but with few members in attendance this was cancelled.

The “Fowler boys” were also a miss, as the track boys were hoping to hear the sound of the loco emerging from it’s long hibernation…

However it turns out the Fowler team were in attendance on the Sunday instead.

A small amount of diesel was put into the tank and primed through, the rockers were lubricated and the rocker boxes refitted and then battery leads were fitted to the starter and the solenoid engaged. The engine fired up very quickly and was run for a short period as the cooling system is still being worked on. This shows that the fuel system is okay, and that the head and block are sealed enough to maintain compression to fire. The oil pressure also was at a satisfactory figure.

Work will continue on the Fowler over the next few weeks.

Picture credits to Baz and Jim

Posted by: wrha | January 8, 2017

Saturday 7th January 2017

After the fog had cleared away the day was very mild and warm, with occasional glimpse of the sun.

Another good turn out of volunteers for the start of 2017.

A rare, but very welcome member was Duncan, who gave his excellent knowledge to George, Rod and Davy and “sorted” the slight problem with the Fowler oil pump, Thanks Duncan.

Unfortunately Jim was not abled to attend until later, and when he did his digger didn’t want to play !

Baz, Andy, Bill and Craig spent the morning working on the concrete sleepers we are laying on our running line, but without the digger it was a no go!

There is also some query to the sleeper spacing to address.

1 The sump was removed to check the oil pickup pipe was ok, and it was.

2 The engine was spun over to make sure the oil pump was being driven via the cam shaft, all in order.

3 It was decided to overfull the sump with oil to ensure the oil pump itself was submerged and after several spins on the engine at long last oil appeared in all the places we hoped it would. We even got an 8psi pressure reading on the oil pressure gauge in the cab.

4 The cleaning process for the air brake pistons was started.

5 The injectors were fitted and torqued down.

6 Next week we hope to fit rocker covers, tube up the injectors and fit the exhaust.

Another good day.

(Words and pictures from Baz Shell – posted by DMS, to be edited)


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