353 goes far East? Well certainly about as far East as it could and still claim London Underground legitimacy. The restoration of Metropolitan carriage no.353 to its former glory was a significant investment, and the Museum was helped out by a generous grant from the Lottery Heritage Fund. In recognition of this help, the carriage has been used at a number of events in 2013 at which the public can both see it and take a ride in its stunning first class interior.
Hence on an early Saturday morning in July I found myself stood next to 353 on the platform of North Weald station of the heritage Epping and Ongar Railway, which was until 1994 part of London Transport’s Central Line. The Epping and Ongar Railway had organised an Underground 150 event as its contribution to this year’s celebrations.
Truth be told, in my concern not to be late, I actually arrived a bit too early, just as the station was opening. Consequently I was treated to a happy hour or so watching while the trains for the day were formed up; it was a highly nostalgic image of what I would imagine a sleepy early morning in the summer on a steam secondary line must have been like.
The nostalgia quotient was piled on as a brace of Country Area RTs and a couple of RFs arrived on the apron outside the station, ready to run the shuttles bringing passengers from Epping station.
However, I wasn’t in deepest Essex to wallow in the past. For a change I was actually making myself useful and I spent the day acting as the steward on 353. This meant looking after the carriage, to make sure that nothing untoward happened to it. Just as importantly, I was also on hand to ensure that the public safely enjoyed their day and were able to understand a little bit about the history and restoration of 353. At this point I also have to mention the Epping and Ongar’s volunteers, who I found to be immensely friendly and helpful.
So I spent a very happy day trundling to and fro through the summer countryside, in a train consisting of Metropolitan loco no. 1, carriage 353 and a “Dreadnought” carriage. I think it would be a fair reflection to say that a good time was had by all! (But especially me……)
So, who are these keepers of the dark art of Underground signalling? The first thing to say is that some of the team were not at the Depot when I called by, so this post concentrates on the three that were. Don’t worry though, I’ll be back to catch up with the others before too long.
First up is Mike Crosbie, the team’s designer. Mike did his engineering apprenticeship with Morris Motors in Oxford, and joined London Underground in the early 1970s in response to an advert for signalling engineers. You can see him above checking the wiring diagram for the Elephant and Castle restoration, designed by him from scratch. Having looked at the diagrams I can vouch for the fact that they are very intricate – they give a real feel for the painstaking accuracy required to deliver safe signalling.
Peter Smith (seen with Mike above) is the odd man out, insofar as his career was in television engineering (with the BBC) rather than railways. He has been a volunteer with the museum for some 18 years, and with some modesty describes himself as a “willing pair of hands”. In his time with the museum he has done bus cleaning, enamel sign mounting and restoration work on standard tube train stock.
Bill Collins (above) has signalling in his blood: he has been a volunteer for four or five years now, but started his working life as a fifteen year old office boy in the signalling department at Earls Court, before becoming an apprentice. Subsequently his entire career was in metro signalling (not all with London Underground). Bill became a volunteer because he enjoyed working with signals so much.
What is it that has kept this hard-working team so close? To a man they said it was the camaraderie, coupled with a good sense of humour – essential!
As recently restored 353 had not previously run in its current form (using a modified PMV underframe), it was necessary to bed in the suspension and brakes; and to build confidence in the performance and dynamic behaviour of the vehicle. The tests were undertaken on the Great Central Railway over a three day period, with mileage accumulation carried out on day 1 (Monday 19th November). For the initial test runs the carriage was sandwiched between two locomotives (Cl45 D123 and Cl20 D8098 ) to enable rapid reversals at the possession limits and build up mileage as quickly as possible.
Once safe operation at 25 mph had been demonstrated on the first day, the carriage was tested to 40 mph, then to a maximum higher speed of 50mph on day 2 (Tuesday 20th November). The Class 20 locomotive provided the motive power for the high speed test, and with the light load of the carriage was very quick in reaching the desired speed. Day 3 (Wednesday 21st November) was booked as spare in case there were any issues earlier in the week. In the event this was used for additional mileage accumulation.
The following amateur footage shows the test train leaving the outskirts of Loughborough during one of the high speed runs.
The GCR was chosen as it has relatively straight and even track; ideal conditions for undertaking brake calculations and measuring vertical and lateral accelerations. The railway had been granted a derogation from the Office of Rail Regulation for undertaking the high speed test. The Institute of Railway Research carried out the safety assurance work for the carriage and conducted the instrumentation and testing of the vehicle with support from London Underground and Festiniog Railway representatives.
The gleaming carriage, finished with gold leaf and carrying no fewer than ten coats of varnish, bears little resemblance to the sorry-looking hulk which arrived at Porthmadog, North Wales in August 2011 after being used as a garden shed.
Craftsmen at the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway this week completed to schedule the 15-month, £200,000 restoration. The carriage travelled from Boston Lodge Works and over Britannia Bridge in Porthmadog before being loaded onto a waiting lorry for transport to the Great Central Railway in Loughborough. Next week the carriage will undergo dynamic testing on the GCR as it is too large to be tested on the narrow gauge F&WHR.
During May safety critical components such as the draw hooks and wheelsets were carefully cleaned and NDT tested (Non Destructive Testing). This important procedure highlights any defects within metalwork that could later lead to failure of the part in service. Thankfully the majority of components passed the examination, however a number of brake block carriers failed and replacements duly sourced. When complete the carriage will have a dual (air and vacuum) braking system fitted, allowing it to be compatible with a range of heritage rolling stock. Interestingly, a number of ex London Underground A-Stock components have been recovered for re-use on the carriage braking system. Items include an auxiliary reservoir tank and two pressure gauges formally fitted to 6136 and 5136.
The profile of the wheels was checked last year and the shape found to be fairly good – A moderate amount of wear was discovered but well within intervention limits. There are currently no plans to re-profile the wheels (now close to P8) and they should be good for another 100,000 miles!
It can be very difficult to undertake an accurate and faithful restoration if original components are missing, or the information required to reproduce them unknown. One such challenge has been to identify the type of door latches once fitted to Met353. As none of the originals survived it was most fortuitous to recently find a complete door from another early Metropolitan Railway carriage, Met212 built by Ashbury in 1881. This has been kindly loaned to the project team by the Quainton Railway Society (QRS) and the detailed information gained from inspecting this example is proving invaluable to the build. After some careful cleaning and dismantling, it quickly became apparent the lock mechanism was designed by Edwin Robert Wethered, an inventor once based in Woolwich, London. It closely matches his patent: 407,268 submitted in 1889.
Notes: Met212 was one of the last 8-wheeled stock carriages to be operated by the Metropolitan Railway. It was later modified for use as a sleet clearing vehicle and survived into London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) ownership in 1933. Once withdrawn from railway use, the carriage body was grounded next to staff allotments alongside Aylesbury train station. A door was rescued by QRS before the carriage was finally broken up in 1967.
One of the first challenges has been to repair the teak frame of the carriage; and undo the damage caused by many decades of human use and exposure to the elements. Surprisingly, in spite of being a timber frame, most of the damage has been caused by rust.
In the 1890s, the normal way to construct the wooden framework of a railway carriage was to use traditional joints such as ‘mortise and tenon’ and ‘lap joints’. In the absence of any effective glue, steel woodscrews were used to keep these joints together. Where further reinforcement was required steel brackets were added, held in place by bolts or coachscrews. Over time these steel screws and bolts have rusted, and as they rusted they have caused considerable damage.
Image 1 (Left): Comparison of severely rusted coachscrew with complete example Image 2 (Right): Rusted screw with resulting split in wood
As the screws and bolts slowly rusted, the expanding corrosion inexorably forced the wood apart, bending and splitting it. In some places, such as the tops of the corner posts, the fixings have split and splayed the timber in every possible direction.
To repair this sort of damage, the rusty fixings must first be carefully removed, the splits stabilised, holes plugged, and finally the surface replaced with a structural veneer of sound material. Once complete, the repair will be visually unobtrusive and should last for many years.
The above information was kindly provided by David Gunn, a Festiniog Railway craftsman working on the restoration of Met 353.