Simon’s journey into the world of Volunteering – Entry 1

Today is my first part of a series of telling my journey getting involved in volunteering within the railway heritage world. You’ll be able to keep track of these blog posts in a new dedicated web page (click here to view).  Being based in Portsmouth on the South Coast I had a couple of choices of railways to be involved with.  Both the Isle of Wight and the Mid Hants railways’ are only a 30 minute journey away from my house. Rather than getting involved in the day to day running of the railway, I have decided to get involved with a locomotive whilst it returns to steam and then opertaionally.

The stand out project in my local area is 35005 Canadian Pacific which was moved to Eastleigh works in 2012 and will hopefully be restored to steam in the next few years subject to funding being achieved.  The things which stand out in this project are the fact that I am able to get involved with a major project from start to hopeful finish and that its a Bulleid. It might seem strange a fan of everything GWR to get involved with a Southern Merchant Navy class but I have always admired the type because of the innovations Oliver Bulleid had designed in them. For me his locomotives were real chain breakers (excuse the ban pun) and so far ahead of their time, it’s just a shame they were never able to sort out the problems they experienced with the chain drive.

2008 - Ropley - 35005 Canadian Pacific Merchant Navy  nameplate

My first day on the project was Monday afternoon and I was able to spend a few hours working on “the beast” which was quite a experience. After being introduced to the guys always working that day I was straight into the thick of helping to remove the cabs sander controls and the water gauges so we could gain access to the regulator. The beast certainly lived up to her name and nothing was easy to remove but I guess that what happens if a locomotive is left standing still for 6 years.

Being a complete novice to working on locomotives I was a bit worried of how much use I would be but the guys were nice and really encouraged me as they said “everyone has to start somewhere”. The locomotive itself is currently situated at the back of the shop at what used to be the boiler workshop where I discovered something interesting. The bricks which make up the floor are actually wooden and were installed on the logic that if anyone drops anything it wouldn’t break unlike if it landed on stone brick. The rails the locomotive is sitting on were installed by the Mid Hants permanent way gang and fitted to the existing rails in the shed which allows the locomotive to be moved under the overhead cranes  when needed. One discovery I did make was where some of the paint  on the cab had flaked off the BR Express Blue livery could be found and even the red primer from where she was painted in early preservation days. Since the post by the Mid Hants (click here) all the boiler cladding has been removed and the team is getting the locomotive ready for inspection by the boiler team based at Ropley. I should point out the team arent restoring her at the moment but purely taking her apart so we can see what condition she is in.

2008 - Ropley - 35005 Canadian Pacific Merchant Navy

The one disappointment from the day was my phone went bang on the way home and lost my photos I took of this stunning locomotive. I learned a lot from my first afternoon and really enjoyed myself.  Due to work/family commitments I can only do one afternoon every fortnight, but I do hope my journey might inspire some others to follow suit and get involved in our wonderful railway heritage scene. It doesn’t matter how old you are or inexperienced, you’ll be welcomed with open arms as long as you have a smile on your face and a passion for what you are doing.


Brookes Castle