Sandstone Steam Railroad - Rail News

RN 31 - Sandstone Heritage Trust donates Guards Van to Welsh Highland Railway

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In the 1990s the WHR purchased quantities of South African wagons, bogies, locomotives and permanent way materials, following that up later with a batch of secondhand sleepers and brand new rail. In fact it's almost a South African railway in Wales!

In 2003 Sandstone Heritage Trust entered into a twinning agreement with the Welsh Highland Railway, which is being rebuilt in stages from Caernarfon to Porthmadog. The twinning arrangement covers a variety of areas and has resulted in exchanges of information Sandstone staff have gone for training and experience to WHR as well as passing on some of their experience and the long term aim is to set up a Great Narrow Gauge Trains of the World marketing group.

One item the WHR was missing was a Guards Van, particularly useful to run with their DZ and B wagons for freight and rail construction trains and for photographic charters. Sandstone purchased a batch of six NG V-16 Guards Vans from Humewood Road Port Elizabeth.

Directors of Sandstone Heritage Trust decided to donate one of the best examples to the WHR and No. 3172 was selected. This batch of Guards Vans was built in 1971 and is therefore relatively young compared to most SAR narrow gauge rolling stock. However, as will be seen later, it was very poorly constructed indeed, which only came to light once it was stripped down.
Kalia please insert No. 3172 arriving at Sandstone from Port Elizabeth in here.

It was transferred to Sandstone from Port Elizabeth on a Sandstone vehicle and given a quick once over to ensure it really was fit to send.

It was then reloaded and taken by road to Durban and after a delay with the shipping arrangements left for Tilbury via Antwerp. In fact such is the extent of the European rail enthusiast network that it was actually spotted on the docks in Antwerp in early February.

It arrived in the UK by 10 February and was at Dinas, Welsh Highland Railway on 16 February 2004. The WHR had to apply to the Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate for Type Approval before it could be used, part of the UK rail vehicle certification process.

A summary of its condition and ongoing restoration follows from Barrie Hughes excellent WHR news site, which gives up to the minute news of the WHR project
"While most of it is in fair to good condition, sadly some parts are not and will require some considerable work.

The roof has a couple of holes in it where the T&G boards have rotted and allowed ingress of water. This has caused the floorboards to warp and rusted any metal in close proximity. Neither of the Guard's doors would open due the warped floor. Some of the external ply panels have bowed outwards due to water again. Thinner tinplate items like lamps have corroded badly.
On the positive side, all of the steel frame/angle iron and generally the rest of the interior is in good condition. The main van area is in very good condition except for the roof. The toilet cubicle is missing its pan but the high level cistern and plumbing is all in place and in good condition.

In the main Guard's area the stove has been removed but the coal scuttle is there and was found to be half full! Both Guard's seats are present but one has the cover ripped off. The vacuum brake column is intact although the handle was found lying on the floor. The hand brake is seized as expected.

Three of the four wheelsets had plenty of tyre on them but the fourth was well worn. The bogies appear to have been fitted with dampers at one stage. All of the brake gear appeared to be present but the chrome rod for the vacuum cylinder was in poor condition as the wagon has been stored in the open for a long time."
"It has now been confirmed that the brakevan No.3172 is to have a light, mostly cosmetic, overhaul this year with a more substantial strip down and replace roof and floor hopefully next winter if space can be found. The brake linkages have been freed up and it now parked under its own brakes."

"Couplers and a brake pipe were being fitted to the SAR brakevan on 16/5/04. This will allow it to be shunted around the site with ease. A thorough examination of the vehicle has shown wastage of the metal sheet floors due to water ingress from the sides. The design did not allow a proper seal to the floor. All the floor plates will now have to be replaced."

"The ex-SAR brakevan has received some attention from Team Wylfa. The vehicle had a vacuum cylinder fitted in a difficult 3.5 hour bash on 15/7/04. It is hoped the brakevan will be able to run at the Superpower event in September. Team Wylfa have continued to work on the brakevan's brake gear. The vacuum brake cylinder is now firmly back in place with all the nuts and bolts on the trunnion bearings now fully tightened and split pins fitted to prevent the nuts dropping off. The rubber vacuum hoses are back on and the link between the piston rod and brake actuating lever was cleaned and painted last night ready to go back on next week. Next week, the team will be split between cleaning No.134's chassis and scraping/wire brushing and painting the brakevan's brake rigging."

"The ex-SAR brakevan No.3172 was in action on 9/11/04 on the rear of a charter demo freight hauled by No.143 with a rake of 4 B wagons a DZ and a flat with timber. The rake was photographed in a patch of sunlight near Rhyd Ddu by members of the 3P20 Parcels Group. The brakevan is now at the back of No.2 road in the Carriage Shed where, between Xmas and New Year, a start will be made to take it apart. All lower panels are to be removed to allow access to the rotten steel floor which has to be replaced along with the lower panels. Additionally, two steel plates at high level on each end that form the roof, need to be replaced.

The brakevan will now be out of service until late Summer but hopeful back in time for Super Power. Consequently, it will not appear in Winteractive in February 2005 and the current Mess Van No.1001 is likely to be used as a brakevan instead for the planned demonstration freight services. If there is a qualified welder out there who can offer his/her services by volunteering then the brakevan will be completed a lot quicker!

Many external and internal features will be temporarily removed from the brakevan e.g. the duckets, as it is to be used by the Permanent Way crews on Phase 4 and it is possible that some of the already damaged items that need the tender care of a tin smith (Volunteers please apply!) may be lost or damaged beyond repair. The intention is to repair these over the term of Phase 4 (possible homework Project for a Group?) and replace them when the brakevan is returned. The brakevan will then be given a new roof and restoration will be completed. A schedule of work is being drawn up prior to Xmas."

"Marcus Ingram and his team were in action at Dinas on 28-30/12/04 working on the ex-SAR brakevan donated by the Sandstone Trust. After an initial day of setting up in Two Road at the back of the Carriage Shed, the following two days saw great progress on the brake van. The Caernarfon end saw not only the lower panel removed but also the higher panel and the damaged steel infill piece at the top that supports the roof timbers. This will need to be replaced. It was also possible to remove the two adjacent lower panels down each side of the van, as far back as the double doors, leaving the floor in the goods area now total exposed and accessible.

The work revealed a mixture of good and bad news. The vertical steel angles were in the main in very good condition. However the two end angles were found, as anticipated, to be in the poor condition and one will certainly need to be replaced. The floor is, as many people thought, sound in the majority but at all edges it has either rusted through or is close to failure. The volunteers attempted to remove the first floor panel but it is welded to the two longitudinal steel frame members, both of these being sound channel section and plate. As it has proved impossible to separate the floor panels from the frame, replacement of the floor plating will cause difficulties in the future."

"Marcus Ingram and his father spent another weekend working on the ex-SAR brakevan No.3172 on 8-9/1/05. Good progress was made removing rotten metal. Some of the sound metal was scaled and primed."

"Marcus Ingram made further progress with the ex-SAR brake van No. 3172 over the weekend of 21-23/1/05. Further stanchions have been scaled and primed and the wasted floor plate has been cut out on one side."

Our thanks to Marcus Ingram for the photographs and to Barrie Hughes for permission to quote from his site.
There's also plenty of news at Dr. Ben Fisher's Welsh Highland Railway Project site.
Also the Ffestiniog Railway site