Apart from the usual maintenance jobs of greasing fishplates, oiling point mechanisms, greasing bearings on rolling stock, we have not had any major track work to be carried out.
We would like to clear some of the branches from the tree canopy which overhang some parts of the line which cause us a little concern with dead wood falling on the line (making walking the line before each working day very important). The weather has not been good so this work has been postponed until the forecast is for an improvement.
Our wood store needed to be improved and so this task was undertaken using what materials we could find, mainly old pallets to build the sides and back. A rack system has been employed to make it easier to remove pallets when needed so they can then be broken down into firewood for lighting up the engines.
Engine Shed Mess facilities
Another task was improving the 'mess' facilities in the engine shed. The original shelves and mug rack have been added to over the years and was in need of a tidy up.
The station building was also looked at with a fresh coat of paint and new shelving. The 'mini museum' may have to be moved but that will depend on finding a secure location to house them in.
Overhaul of WASP
We have taken the opportunity to overhaul WASP, our battery electric locomotive which has been getting a little sluggish over the last few years. We had checked the batteries last year and they appear to be OK so we have decided to check the motor and it's bearings along with the gearboxes and control unit to see what we could find.
We have had some assistance from Alan Keefs who overhauled the locomotive before it was delivered and this has proved to be very useful.
The battery box was removed and then we had to decide how to get at the motor. We had to disconnect the motor electrically which at first was not obvious but tracing the six heavy cables back we come across the connections. We now seemed to have two choices; remove the gearbox covers complete with bell ends which attach to the motor one at each end or lift the chassis off the motor train of motor, gearboxes and wheel sets. We chose the latter.
Having disconnected the brake mechanism and removed the eight bolts that hold the drive train to the chassis, the frame was carefully lifted and the drive train rolled out. The two gearboxes and wheel sets were unbolted from the motor (not an easy task) which involved some brute force. We ended up with the motor with its dog couplings at each end separated from the gearboxes.
The dog couplings were a press fit and we used a puller to remove them. Next, the end plates of the motor were removed by unbolting two 3/8 bolts and then using the same two 3/8 inch bolts in two threaded holes in each plate to push the plates off. Unfortunately, one of these bolts sheared off when we tried to remove it. The armature came out with the plate with the brush hangers on it and the plate and armature were separated using a very large puller.
The whole assembly was now cleaned and all the internals were given a coat of none conductive paint. The brushes were inspected and found to be in good condition. The brush tensioners were inspected and found to be in good order. The bearings were checked and again all was good. We cleaned the commutator and then using a handmade tool, we re-cut the mica to a depth of about 1/32 inch.
We next turned our attention to the broken bolt. We tried various ways of getting the remaining part of the bolt out but it would not shift. Carefully drilling the remains out and re-tapping the UNC thread proved successful and reassembly of the motor commenced. The first endplate was bolted in place followed by the armature and the second endplate with the brush holders, making sure that the brushes were safely out of the way as we did so. The brushes were now inserted and the motor gently spun by hand to see if the brushes were seating correctly. One of the brushes needed some attention and then we connected the motor to the locomotive wiring and ran the motor up to speed to ensure all was working before we went any further.
In the process of getting enough cable free to connect the motor outside of the locomotive, we removed the brake assemble to ease the access to the cable runs. Upon inspection, the brake linings were seen to be down to the copper rivets so will need to be replaced.
Next, we tried to refit the dog couplings to each end to the armature shaft and after a lot of swearing, we concluded they need to be pressed on.
A few phone calls later and a press was located and the brake linings and rivets sourced and ordered. The motor was transported (easier said than done due to its weight and difficulty in handling) to Jurby where the dog couplings were pressed on at a pressure of about 3 to 4 tons.
We now looked at the front gearbox and removed its top cover to reveal a beautifully engineered worn drive and helical gear assembly. The gearbox was cleaned of any sludge and then lifted clear of the rails so that the wheel bearings could be checked. All appears to be in good order. The gearbox top was cleaned and then replaced using a suitable sealant and then placed back under the locomotive to enable it to be moved back into the shed ready for our next work day.
Both gearboxes were removed so the rear one could be inspected. All seemed to be OK but it was noted that the rear gearbox was more free running that the front one. We suspect we may have a wheel bearing problem.
A thread was found to be stripped on the brass grease nipple that lubricates the armature shaft bearing. A replacement was made by our engineer in about two hours and is now fitted.
All the grease nipples on the wheel bearings were replaced with push on type nipples as opposed to the clip on type originally fitted. This is to standardise the fleet with one type of grease nipple and hence grease gun!
The motor was retested and found to be very free running so is now ready to be put back into the drive train. The brush cover was refitted and sealed to prevent water ingress.
We removed the motor cables from the cable run under the driver's seat and found the floor of this run was badly wasted and will need attention. The remaining five cables, three resistor cables and two from the power connector will have to be removed in order to paint the cable run. We decided that we will remove the cab to enable a complete inspection of the cab and the cable run.
The motor was refitted to the two gearboxes so we now had a complete drive train. This was then bolted back in place in the chassis. The five remaining cables were removed and the process of unbolting the cab started. The first bolt sheared, the next three came out with a struggle but the remaining three seemed to be slightly undersized and we had to use an angle grinder to remove the heads to free that part of the cab. It was discovered there was one remaining bolt who's head was so badly corroded and in a hidden place that we had not found it. This had to be hack sawed off and to do this we had to lever the cab from the chassis to open a gap. Once this was cut the cab came away.
Three of the bolts were drilled out and re-tapped but one of these proved to be off centre and the remains of the original bolt came out making the hole oval and too large to take a replacement bolt. We have decided to fit a nut and bolt here as this will be easier to access and tighten. We drilled and tapped a new hole leaving two of the broken bolts in situ to act as studs or guides for when we refit the cab.
The controller unit was removed from the cab and placed to one side so we could focus on painting the cab. The cab and the back of the chassis were painted using black Smoothrite paint as this has a rust inhibitor in it, killing off any rust that we were unable to remove.
The brake linings were removed from the shoes and the shoes cleaned up ready for the new linings.The new lining came almost flat and we were concerned that we might snap them when we came to fit them. We need not have worried as the linings bent with the aid of a pair of G clamps. The new linings were drilled, counter-bored and riveted onto the shoes and the refurbished shoes were then refitted back onto the loco.
The controller was then stripped down and each of the components were cleaned and overhauled.The controller box itself was then cleaned and repainted, firstly with black Smoothrite and then with a non-conductive paint. New cables were made with new fixings and eyelets. These were labeled as per the originals to ensure correct reconnection.
The various components were then reassembled into the controller box along with the new cabling. The controller was then bolted back into the newly painted cab which was then bolted back onto the chassis. The cables were then routed through the chassis to the motor and the resistors where they were reconnected. The motor cables connections were protected using airline hose and for good measure, tie-raped in place.
The power leads to the connector to the battery were now routed and then bolted in place and the connector was reassembled ready to be connected to the battery box. The cables from the battery box had new ends soldered onto the old cables and the connector was ready for connection.
We next turned back to the controller box and the 'arc shields' protecting the contact tips. These arc shields clip in place onto a vertical pillar and for some reason they did not clip home. On inspection it we realised we had mounted the base of this pillar on the wrong side of its mounting bracket. Once corrected, the arc shields clipped home.
We discovered a small brass pin lying in the bottom of the controller but had no idea if it was important or where it had come from. When we connected the power and depressed the deadmans switch, there should have been a 'clunk' as the large solenoid engages and connects the power through to the controller. There was no 'clunk'.
We checked the deadman's switch and discovered where the brass pin had come from. There are two pins which have a spring loaded contact which, when the deadmans switch had been put together, had been placed behind the pins rather than in front of them. When the controller had been moved from the zero position to the first notch, this had pulled the contact and rather than breaking the connection, it had broken one of the pins. We removed the broken parts and made a new pin, fitted it and tested the controller with the power on. There was a resounding 'clunk' but when we moved to the first notch, the engine did not move.
Power off and a quick check revealed the brake was on! Previously the engine could move with the brake on when power was applied so this proved that the new brake linings were a big improvement on the old ones. Power on and into the first notch and WASP moved under her own power again.
As always there are a few snags to complete the job. First was a wire from the deadmans switch to the fuse which had not been replaced due to an oversight. This was replaced albeit taking about four hours due to it proving difficult to gain access.
The last remaining job was the cable cover over the access hole just behind the rear right hand drive wheel. The two holes originally had nuts and bolts but had proved very difficult to remove and now almost impossible to put back. We decided to thread the holes thereby negating the need for a nut and spanner on the inside to tighten the bolt.
All that remains to do now is to repaint the engine.