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Service Experience 2011 to 2020



2857 double heading with 4566 21st July 2011, in charge of the 13.00 Kidderminster - Bridgnorth - its first round trip passenger turn since 1994. Photos: Tom Clarke

The first runs with 2857 were made on Monday 4th July 2011 under the supervision of newly appointed Engineering Manager at Bridgnorth, Ian Walker. A second test was made on 6th July, with the loco continuing as station pilot for the day. On a third test, made on 14th July, the grate collapsed and the loco had to be assisted back from Highley. Test runs on a passenger service were made on Thursday 21st July 2011, double headed with 2-6-2T No. 4566. These runs seemed to be successful, though a knock was reported coming from the front of the right hand cylinder, after which 2857 ran solo, effectively entering traffic from that point.

In August the knock in the right hand cylinder was further investigated, which alarmingly was found to be a ¾” Whitworth nut found behind the front RH cylinder cover. It was also found that the big ends were running hot, perhaps a separate incident from the knock, and these were re-metalled.

One puzzling ‘teething trouble’ which cropped up that summer was some confusion over the pony truck equalising beam. This is a ‘standard item’ and is made with three notches, mating with a pivot pin to carry the weight of the front of the locomotive. Depending on the particular loco design the pin can be fitted in the front, middle or rear notch to achieve correct wheel loadings. Unfortunately we had conflicting Swindon drawings and instructions ranging over all three pin positions. Following careful weighing and experimentation it was decided to adopt the rear location and, after due time for settlement, the loco has continued happily with that set-up.

A “major boiler leak” was found in fact to be water from a top feed leak running under the cladding and emerging at the throat plate.

It was noted that the hopper ashpan had started distorting, a disappointing development on so new an item.

During the Christmas running it was found that the steam heat, using the ‘Sarco’ industrial pressure reducing valve hidden below the footplate we had fitted in 1986, was performing intermittently.

In mid-December 2857 suffered what was describes as a ‘hydraulic incident’ in which water appeared to have been carried over into the cylinders.


The cylinders were stripped down to investigate the hydraulic incident. Great care was taken not to disturb the special stud we had fitted to re-inforce a small crack in the Briton Ferry cylinder block. It was found that the valve drains were blocked, with the valve chests full of water. The drain pipe from the valve chest was ‘rodded out’. It has a special thread, for which no taps or dies have been found. Its slightly worn threads were re-assembled in 1984 and sealed with ‘Hermetite’ and, sitting deliberately undisturbed, have performed without any further trouble.

After quite a few attempts to rectify some very silly boiler stay leaks which should not have occurred, it was discovered that unfortunately some of the boiler stays had been supplied too loose for their respective holes. It was hoped that they would seal up with caulking and scale, but this proved to be over-optimistic and in the end the difficult decision was taken on 20th April to lift the boiler back out of the frames. This allowed the affected stays to be re-worked or replaced. During this job it was discovered that one old 1984 stay had become stuck in place by the foundation ring when these were being removed this time around. It was causing a blockage reducing the effectiveness of the boiler washouts and it was found that a significant amount of limescale had built up behind it. Removal of this avoided possible far more serious damage to the boiler from occurring later on. The exam was passed on Friday 13th July and the engine returned to traffic on 3rd August 2012. A small compensation for this disruption was that the boiler certificate was therefore extended to 2022.

On Friday 7th August the loco suffered a valve failure. The fault started developing at Arley, was worse by Bewdley and completely failed on the approach to Kidderminster, with the train having to be ignominiously rescued by an 08 diesel shunter. The left front valve head had smashed, damaging all the components for that valve head. It is thought that the cause was a taper locking pin which had worked loose. All the others were checked and found to be sound. A new valve head assembly was made commendably quickly at Bridgnorth and the loco was re-assembled and returned to traffic on 20th August.

It was found that the Sarco carriage warming steam pressure-reducing valve had seized in the fully open position and was thus non-operational, functioning purely as a plain orifice. Bridgnorth staff decided to remove the innards completely and the system then ran as a plain orifice, similar to the system used by the GWR before the development of the ‘Mason’s Valve’.

At the 2012 Gala Weekend it was noted that the ashpan was continuing to distort.
At the beginning of December one of the copper steam pipes, between the regulator and the superheater header, failed. A repair was made, but this could only be regarded as a temporary expedient due to it being part of the steam pressure circuit.


After a lengthy search, with assistance from numerous other loco preservationists, a Scottish specialist in the brewing trade, Speyside Copper, was found for the copper pipe replacement, but the loco was allowed to continue with the repaired pipe until completion of new pipes.

At the SVR’s suggestion an ashpan spray was fitted, using a GW ‘pep pipe’ valve fitted to the cab front on the fireman’s side, to help minimise dust during disposal and in the hope that it may help reduce the distortion occurring in the ashpan itself.
In October a leading driving spring broke and was replaced.

The replacement copper steam pipes, made in Scotland were delivered in Nov 2013.
2857 achieved the highest annual mileage of any loco in the SVR fleet for the year, 10,624 miles.


There were reports of uneven exhaust at the start of the year and examination found damaged valve rings which had to be replaced.

A tender spring was found to have broken and was replaced. The failure appeared to have been due to poor production techniques in the original (non-Swindon) manufacture.

On Sunday 14th May 2857 was involved in a shunting incident at Kidderminster, in which a collision occurred when propelling MkI coaches toward the buffer stop. To everyone’s immense relief no damage was sustained.

In July a second incident occurred in which valve and piston rings disintegrated. All valve snap rings were serviced and all piston rings machined and fitted. Also new piston-rod gland split rings were machined and fitted.

The replacement copper steam pipes were found to be 2” too short. They were returned to the manufacturer for modification, while the loco soldiered on with the previous repairs.

In December the grate suffered a partial collapse. The Society pressed for replacements to be in a higher chromium content grade of cast iron than used hitherto, but the SVR considered the cost/benefit not to be in its favour.

For 2013, once again, 2857 achieved the highest annual mileage of any loco in the SVR fleet, 10,477 miles.


In February the left intermediate driving spring was replaced. Also that month a new brick arch was built in the firebox, while the tender handbrake thread was found to be worn. This item was added to the list of items to be regularly monitored
The now distorted hopper ashpan was rebuilt in situ between the frames.

The Sarco pressure reducing valve for the carriage warming was recorded as having been serviced in February, though as the internals were removed in 2012 it is suspected that this would have been to a somewhat basic level.

The lubrication system was overhauled. New pads were fitted in the motion, while the lubricator was cleaned out and the needle valves and cones serviced.

It was noticed that a driving wheel balance weight had become loose. As it could not actually come out it was decided to let it run but that it would be monitored.

In October 2857 made a very enjoyable visit to the West Somerset Railway as part of their Autumn Gala weekend. The WSR drivers took her in their stride as she was to all intents and purposes identical to their 3850 which had been based there having just come to the end of her ticket and which, incidentally, had been measured as the most economical loco on the line.

In June the left trailing driving spring was changed, while a crack found in the right hand leading horn block continued to be monitored.

Replacement main copper steam pipes which had been returned to manufacturer for modification were finally fitted to loco in November 2015, almost three years after the failure of the original pipes.

The left trailing tender spring was replaced in November.

For the third year in succession 2857 achieved the highest annual mileage of any loco in the SVR fleet, 10,875 miles. Contrary to the peculiar view of some board members, Engineering Manager Ian Walker commented “She is ideal for the line – does everything you ask without even breaking a sweat!”


Over the winter the tender right hand leading axlebox was re-metalled after it ran hot undetected, probably during the 2015 Santa running.

In March there was another failure of the piston rings and snap rings. The valve cover bushes were re-metalled and machined, while new valve rings and new piston rings were fitted.

During the early parts of the year the suspension compensation pivot pins were replaced. This initially seemed surprising, but turned out to be at a similar mileage to the previous replacement, carried out at the main overhaul in 2011, after 41,000 miles.

On Wednesday 30th March 2857 left Bridgnorth with the tender handbrake inadvertently left hard on, only detected at the top of Eardington bank when she would hardly roll down the other side. Subsequent inspection showed that brake block material had fused to four tender wheels. It was carefully ground off by hand, with no long term damage.

By August the big ends were knocking badly and the crosshead cotters had become loose, so the big ends were remetalled and cotters replaced ahead of the repair scheduled for the winter. At about the same time the vacuum pump crosshead bracket was found to have fractured and this was re-welded.

It was noted that the cylinders were becoming very worn and required re-boring. Subject to a reduction in the mileage run it was agreed that this could be re-scheduled for January 2017.

The original valve spindles had also become very worn. Early suggestions by the Society to repair these by spiral welding were rejected when it was considered that the holes for the taper pins securing the valve heads had been drilled and over-drilled on so many occasions as to render them useless. Complete replacement was agreed and it was planned to include this work as part of the overall cylinder refurbishment job.
The back driving axleboxes were reported as knocking.

Erratic problems were found with the vacuum brake system. The hose from the pump to the vacuum retaining valve had split and was replaced, also the ‘pepper pot’ relief valves were re-set, curing the problems.

New firebars were fitted in October.

Once again the hopper ashpan was found to be distorting.

In October 2016 Neil Taylor took over from Ian Walker as Engineering Manager and we take this opportunity to thank Ian for all his help and support.

The right leading driving spring was changed in December.

As requested, the use of the engine had been reduced and the 2016 annual mileage came out significantly less, at 7,383 miles.


We started the year with a Volunteer-led deep clean of the engine at Bridgnorth, including steam cleaning between the frames.

Due to loco shortages the SVR requested to defer cylinder re-bore yet again, until the autumn. There were concerns from the Society that the piston could impact at the step in wear at the end of the cylinder, moreover the level of wear was at, or in excess of, BR limits. Neil Taylor agreed to arrange for new cylinder liners to be cast in readiness for the job. After much soul-searching we all came to the conclusion that we should allow the loco to remain in traffic, subject once again to mileages being reduced.
For the second time a crew ran with the tender handbrake hard on, this time departing from Kidderminster, causing more severe damage to the tender’s rear wheelset. This time wheels had to be turned and repairs were carried out at London Midland dmu depot at Tyseley.

The tender derailed during a run-round in Kidderminster Station in May. This was thought to be partly due to freshly turned tyres climbing the rail. One early lid-type axlebox keep was broken, while another one was broken soon afterwards by the JCB while coaling at Bridgnorth. They were both replaced by the later cork-type keeps borrowed from ‘Hagley Hall’. This left the loco running with three cork-type keeps on one side and three lid-type the other.

In May, it was noted that the total mileage in six years since completion of the overhaul exceeded 48,000 miles, more than was achieved over nearly ten years of the previous service period. Clearly 2857 was earning her keep!

A decision was taken to replace all the small boiler tubes as it was felt they were unlikely to last the full 10 years of the boiler certificate and would be better replaced at his time in readiness for the loco’s centenary year in 2018. All agreed that a failure in that year was not an option!

The right leading horn block, monitored from earlier years, was found to have cracked through a bolt hole.

The loco was taken out of traffic in September for an intermediate overhaul, thus missing the 2017 Gala Weekend. The cylinder covers were stripped down by volunteers, who inadvertently managed to break the special stud which had been fitted in 1983 to protect a minor crack in the casting. A repair involving fitting a new smaller stud down the centre of the special was successfully carried out in November.

The cylinders were bored out in November and had to be taken out to 19 7/8” diameter to clean up, causing worries that the castings for the new liners may not have been ordered big enough. In the end they were ok – just!

In view of the requested reduction in mileage due to the worn cylinders and the stoppage in September, the 2017 annual mileage came out at only 5,278 miles.


The intermediate overhaul was quite extensive in the end and included casting, machining and fitting new cylinder liners, a corresponding set of new pistons, overhauled piston rods, new valve spindles, new valve assemblies, all valve and piston rings replaced, complete replacement of all 176 small boiler tubes as well as completion of numerous smaller jobs. A few problems of leaking tubes cropped up which delayed the return to traffic, but she finally re-entered service 20th May, just in time for centenary celebrations.

2857’s 100th birthday was celebrated on 2nd and 3rd June 2018. This involved 2857 running with all the operable wagons from the ‘813 Fund’ collection showing freight trains as they were, while a GB Railfreight class 66 diesel electric pulling three air-braked hoppers represented a foreshortened version of 2018’s equivalent. The Saturday was rounded off by 2857 hauling a highly enjoyable dining train consisting of the SVR/GWA restaurant cars for Society members in the evening.

Another milestone for the loco was reached on 18th September 2018 when she clocked up 100,000 preservation miles, achieved with some celebratory whistle blowing and a few pints of Bewdley Brewery’s ‘2857 Beer’ in the train!

There had been reports in June of the left hand injector blowing back. A repair was attempted, but in August the fault returned. Unfortunately there was not then an opportunity to carry out a further repair before a visit to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Gala Weekend at the end of September. As a result the injector continued to be troublesome but the NYMR crews seemed to take the problem in their stride. The extremely successful visit was effectively a ‘return match’ for North Eastern Locomotive Group’s 100 year old Q6 0-8-0 which had visited the SVR Gala.

nfortunately some damage occurred to the fallplate, the hinged flap between engine and tender, probably when loading the engine onto the low-loader for the return to the SVR. The clack was fully serviced in October, after which it was hoped the injector problem was solved.

There then followed a visit to the East Lancashire Railway, another great success for our centenarian. The annual mileage for 2018 was 8,210 miles – a remarkable achievement considering she didn’t re-enter traffic until the end of May and testament to the quality of the overhaul carried out by Bridgnorth at the beginning of the year.
The cumulative preservation mileage was 102,157miles at the end of 2018.


By February, numerous complaints had come in on the vacuum brake. It was overhauled, resulting in it maintaining 25” vacuum at 5mph.

A driving spring broke on a Saturday at the beginning of April but it was replaced and the engine was running again by the following Tuesday.

Despite the work carried out at the end of 2018, the injectors continued to be troublesome – blowing back and noisy. After further investigation a split bronze union was found in the water supply pipe from tender. Also a clack cage was discovered to have cracked and a delivery pipe was leaking, but then in July the main fault was finally diagnosed as a cracked ‘lens ring’ securing the delivery pipe against the clack. The whole system was dismantled and rectified in July, resulting in success at last.
A hole wore through the tender tank, thought to be from years of shovel impacts and was repaired in June with a new piece let in.

Both piston rod glands were reported to be leaking, thought to be due to a bent gland plate.

Problems were still being reported on the brakes. The ‘pepper pot’ vacuum relief valves, previously fitted with stainless steel springs to avoid corrosion problems, were re-fitted with standard carbon steel springs, preventing them ‘hanging open’ longer than they should.

Notwithstanding the optimism surrounding the overhauled vacuum pump in November 2018, it was found that the pump gland was so badly worn as to be virtually non-existent. Replacement gave two beats of the pump per revolution of the wheels for the first time in ages.

In April hydraulic tests showed two superheater elements to be defective, which were repaired.

In June some cracks in the copper firebox, which looked like old repairs, were welded and several rivets were replaced with patch screws.

On the carriage heating it was decided to dispense with the ‘Sarco’ unit and to pursue the idea of replicating the ‘orifice’ pressure reducing system used on the 56XX 0-6-2Ts. A pattern was produced and a couple of castings run off.

The ashpan, rebuilt in situ in 2015, deteriorated again; a large split was found on the left hand side. The SVR hope to nurse this ashpan through the remaining life of the boiler ticket but if it becomes a serious issue it may be a ‘boiler out’ job so that we can fit the loco with an ashpan similar to that which is intended to be fitted to No. 4930, ‘Hagley Hall’. This proposal is for a fixed pan with a slope down to a rake-out ‘oven door’, an idea we toyed with around 2009 when working on the boiler. The SVR has come to the conclusion in the last few years that hopper ashpans are generally too much trouble to maintain and unless a loco was designed with one as original it is better to stick with designs that are as simple as possible.

The handbrake screw thread had continued to be monitored since 2015 and was now such as to be the cause of some concern. Visually it was clearly not in a good way, with the square thread worn away to the extent that it looked like a bit of wire wrapped around the spindle. We are all most grateful to the Bluebell Railway for the loan of the one off the 4-4-0 ‘Dukedog’ while the SVR organised a batch production of replacements.

In October another superheater element was found to be leaking. It was removed and the hole welded up. As these elements were all the same age it seemed reasonable to expect them all to start giving trouble, but at least they appeared easy enough to fix. Also in October the steam heat hose between engine and tender was found to have split and this was replaced.

In November the die blocks were re-metalled and this gave the loco a much smoother, quieter ride - mainly due to the fact the reverser didn’t crash about anymore.


Over the winter the opportunity was taken to straighten up and tidy the injector steam pipes running down the back head so that they meet with the valves vertically, rather than in the cranked positions erroneously set at the 2010 overhaul. Correction of this seemingly trivial detail is hugely welcomed by our engineering team, who had taken much pride back in 1978 or thereabouts in getting it to look ‘just so’, and for whom the twisted efforts, burning drivers hands next to the brake valve, was a constant irritation! The RH pipe was dealt with first, with the LH pair following later in the year. As part of this job the carriage steam heating system was simplified dramatically. The industrial reducing valve below the cab floor and its associated pipework was removed and a simple reducing fitting was fitted just below the shut-off valve in the cab.
The original GWR lubricator shut-off valve, consisting of a tapered plug rotating in a matching hole, was troublesome. Any wear would form grooves around the plug which were very difficult to grind out, so the SVR has moved over to PTFE sleeves as standard, including on 2857. They are totally self-lubricating, lower on maintenance, smoother operating and make everything far more user friendly.

2020 saw the start of the Corona Virus crisis and much of the mpd strength was placed on Furlough from mid-March to 2nd July, after which there were just eight staff spread across two shifts. This allowed the railway to make the most of the Furlough scheme until October. The SVR remained closed until August which meant that 2857 covered a very small fraction of its normal mileage in 2020. That said, the loco has worked virtually daily throughout August without putting a foot (a wheel?) wrong. In fact, the only reported fault in nearly 40 days of running was that the brake blocks on the loco were getting worn!

By 2020 the much repaired ashpan on 2857 had become critically distorted such that its future viability for the remaining boiler certificate was in doubt.
As part of a yet another fleet wide replacement program, both safety valve springs have been replaced. It was clear from the process of re-setting the valves that these new springs were a very worthy investment, being far more responsive, while they should hold their set pressure far better than the originals.

It is now evident that a re-tyre will be necessary at the next overhaul. This is made even more apparent by the drop in ride height and the occasional bookings of horn tie bolts coming into contact with springs. Three driving springs were replaced. It is thought this is partly due to the low ride height arising from the thin tyres (a known issue on GWR locos) causing the springs to have very little room for deflection, causing them to act more as a solid shock absorber on some of the worse bits of track.
The links from the front driving springs to the equalising cross-beam for the pony truck were found to be severely worn. Replacements have been machined at Bridgnorth from EN16T steel, as opposed to the forged original components.

On 16th February we received some rather serious news from the SVR in that it was looking as if we had a loose wheel on the tender middle wheelset. There was a spare tender wheel set in the shed, being the one from 7802’s 4,000 gallon tender that had been fitted with a new axle, and so the Erlestoke Manor Fund were asked for permission to use this whilst the 28’s own was sent to the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh for repair. We are pleased to be able to record our thanks to Terry Jenkins of EMF for agreeing to this.

The SDR applied a 1000kN load (roughly 100 tons ‘in old money’) to each wheel, effectively trying to push the wheel along the axle, and measured no movement whatsoever. This gave a clear ‘No Fault Found’ situation and this was enough to give us the necessary assurance.

In October 2020 Martin White took over from Neil Taylor as Engineering Services Manager and we take this opportunity to thank Neil for all his help and support.


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