Our first ULS open day

Our grateful thanks go to everyone who helped make the first ever ULS open day, held in June, a success far beyond our wildest expectations. The Mid-Hants staff had organised clear access for us on the Friday and the traffic department ensured both the ‘new build’ tender and 30506’s original were brought into the yard for viewing. Andy Netherwood was in attendance to discuss progress on boiler 755 whilst Paul Stone was available to discuss the specialist welding he did to the frames of both locomotives. The ULS ‘team’ were there to answer questions, photo boards were on display and a full sales stand was available to browse and rummage.

Our thoughts are that around 150 – 200 people attended the event and many were not afraid to part with money; a significant boost to Society coffers by the end of the day! Special thanks therefore to everyone who made the effort to come down to Ropley – we wouldn’t be anywhere without your generous support. Thanks also to our friends from the Canadian pacific project who helped promote the open day during their own tours of the sheds. 

We hope to hold many more events working together in this way during the months and years ahead.

Here are a few images to give a flavour of the day – however, it was impossible to capture the atmosphere and by the time the crowds appeared we were too busy to take photos!



The new front frame sections were successfully welded into place earlier on last year. Paul Stone is our coded welder and using a process known as flux-core welding (a form of mig rather than arc welding) he only needed 1 day per section. The centre casting provided the anchor points to effectively lock old and new sections together for welding. It has to be said that at first glance it looks like we have made a hash of the R/H side because the top of the new plate sits proud of the old; in fact it is perfectly true. The old girl has obviously had a tough life including a few rough shunts, so much so that when we looked closely we realised the original frame on that side was bent downwards.  

Prior to the actual welding, all holes previously drilled using the old plates as templates were opened out to almost full size and countersunk as necessary. With both sides welded up, the centre casting was removed again for cleaning up and weld repair to wastage in some local areas. Work then went into abeyance for a number of months pending the return of the cylinder blocks from contractors Bryn Engineering. The blocks were eventually received back just before Christmas last year and have now both been trial fitted to the frames. They are not the easiest things to lift due to their shape, so a special cradle was made to allow a 2-stage lift. First the block needs to be stood up to bolt a heavy plate to the block, fix shackles, chains and strops, lift the block into the cradle, release the chains and remove the plate. Then, with the block upright in the cradle, lift it using strops only onto the frames and hold in place with accommodation bolts. Sounds easy, but each time this is done it is a very nerve-racking experience! All the fixings, chains and strops have to be in exactly the right place at equal tension … if a block falls there will only be one outcome and it’s one we daren’t think about!

All the bolt holes for both blocks lined up, so with a few weeks of reaming completed they have been put to one side to await the final fitting. The large platform which sits in front of the smokebox has been temporarily bolted onto the frames to check alignment although this has also been removed ahead of the final rebuild. The buffer beam is drilled and countersunk and the supporting brackets/angles which sit behind it have been fabricated. Most recently the centre casting has been removed yet again to be cleaned off and de-burred before we get stuck into riveting and bolting up.


An awful lot has been achieved recently on 499. The front end of the loco has been completely stripped down, removing pistons, valves, crossheads, slide bars, sand boxes, motion brackets and extension pieces from both sides. Both cylinder blocks have been removed and the great news here is that they are not in as bad a condition as 506’s so will not need to be sent away for specialist work. Once the blocks were off, we then ‘blew out’ all the rivets holding the centre casting in place, replacing some with accommodation bolts, and lastly both leading horn blocks were removed.  

The wasted frame sections were removed, taking the cut roughly in line with the centre of the leading driving axle, some 14’ in length. 499’s frames had to be renewed further back than 506’s because of an old BR weld repair that had started to crack again. In fact, the R/H side was so bad that we were able to simply lift off the majority of the wasted section without any cutting; 499 had, in reality, broken her back. The new frame sections had arrived sometime prior from Tata Steel, cut and profiled but not drilled. They had also been joggled for us, a joggle being a kink in the frame necessary to accommodate the large cylinder blocks whilst keeping the locomotive in gauge. Using exactly the same methodology as we did for 506, the old frames were used as a drilling jig on the new before our specialist welder brought everything back together using the flux core process. It will soon be time to start rebuiding the loco.

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