On Monday 8th January 2018 the NELPG Committee agreed, unanimously, to send the J27 to the NYMR for the completion of the overhaul, running-in and use at the start of the Railway’s 2018 season. This decision was essentially a response to the issues we currently face, from the smoke box, the main steam pipe, the cladding, the ashpan and the general problems we are having with Hopetown supervision, and the fact that we just can’t seem to get anyone who has the time to put into the project that will see the engine finished anytime soon. In this respect Richard Pearson, Paul Hutchinson and Terry Newman had discussed these issues and all felt that at the current rate the engine won’t be complete until the summer, so we are currently on course to miss any running on offer from the NYMR in the low season.
The NYMR’s Traction & Rolling Stock Head, Paul Middleton, had expressed an interest in seeing the J27 in use on short trains in the NYMR’s timetabled shoulder periods, and envisaged around 3,000 miles being allocated to the loco this year. Paul had casually called in to Hopetown before Christmas en route to a meeting at Shildon. Richard Pearson then had a long telephone conversation with Paul about the J27, and talked about all the issues outlined above. So, taking all these factors into account Paul Middleton asked ‘what can the NYMR do to help’? But before we could answer the question properly Richard and Paul met at Hopetown on 2nd January, to fully examine the engine and all the yet to be fitted components. As a result it seemed that there were 3 options:-
- Do nothing and let our volunteers finish the engine at Hopetown, the engine will then steam in the summer, but will miss the NYMR low season and also probably anything we might pick up from Wensleydale railway if/when the J72 is withdrawn.
- Get help from the NYMR and have 2 fitters working at Hopetown for an unknown period but this would not be Paul’s preferred option as it would waste a lot of time and money travelling (possibly 4 man hours per man per day) as they would no doubt want and need to take components back to Grosmont for service/adjustments before fitting.
- Or take the J27 and all components to Grosmont, as there will soon be a space in the fabrication shop, and this way we stand a very good chance of having the engine in traffic for Easter! (Remember the MPD assembled Repton in 6 weeks). The NYMR would then project manage the work with technical assistance from Richard Perason, Paul Hutchinson and John Graham as required and our volunteers would still be able to help with the work and get involved in steam testing, etc.
It was agreed that the Committee would decide on these options at its January meeting on the 8th but it was considered essential that the views of the regular Hopetown volunteers be canvassed beforehand. This was done by Nigel Hall and Richard Pearson on Thursday 4th and Monday 8th. It was clear that views were divided, with some against, and others in favour, though most understood the logic in the NYMR proposal. After some debate the Committee agreed on option 3, the J27 to move to the NYMR during the second week in February.
The MPD would complete assembly, carry out another hydraulic test which, importantly, would restart the boiler life, steam test and run the loco in, with the plan that it would be available for traffic at Easter this year. Whilst the MPD would carry out and manage the work, NELPG volunteers will be welcome to assist, especially those who have put so much hard work into the project over a long period of time. Transport from Darlington/Teesside to Grosmont can be arranged to facilitate this, so that those who want to see the project through to completion, can do so. Bill Dobson was of the view that this should not detract from work on the Q6.
However, back at Hopetown, there will be work to do on the winter maintenance of the J72 under Fred Ramshaw’s supervision. In addition the J72 boiler is to receive attention from a contractor by removing the tubes and inspecting the tubeplate. If this examination proves positive, contractors will retube the loco ready for the 2018 season on the Wensleydale Railway. The loco could then run until then end of August, including its visit to the K&WVR. The number of expected steamings will more than cover the cost of the boiler work. In the longer term, the Committee could investigate the possibility of another project to come to Hopetown.
I am writing to you all to advise you of these developments which, in the Committee’s view, are in the best interests of the NELPG and in accordance with its aims and constitution. A lot of money has been invested in the J27 and this proposal means that we will see the J27 begin to repay this investment at the earliest opportunity.
John Hunt, Chairman
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