Since commencing 4709, our project has been quietly working away with a very small engineering team, effectively Don Ashton and myself. Unfortunately Don has been suffering poor health for some 18 months now and has had to focus his efforts on his recovery. I'm delighted to say that he is now on the mend and we look forward to reengaging with him on the many technical issues we need to address.
Coincidently Dave Owen, the Llangollen CME for many years, has decided to take early retirement but has agreed to help our project by taking on the role of 4709 Resident Engineer. This is a great strengthening of the 4709 technical team and it means that Dave, who has been brilliant in overseeing all of the donor locomotive dismantling and component harvesting, will continue to ensure that all work on our engine is right first time and to mainline standards. He has been an essential part of the 'partnering' arrangements with the Llangollen Railway for the last six years and it can only benefit the project that he will continue to be involved as our frontline on the engine.
The new Llangollen CME is Graham Elwood and again we are fortunate, in that Graham has been working with Dave throughout the life of 4709 and knows our engine as well as anyone - welcome aboard, Graham. The handover has been seamless and the goodwill and partnering is ongoing. I feel very strongly that this is the key to technical delivery of the engine.
Don Ashton's title, which was Resident Engineer, will now become Design and Development Engineer and this more accurately describes his immense input to the project.
Available funds have been focused on preparing to complete the work on the wheelsets at the South Devon Railway which has meant that progress on other parts of the engine has necessarily been limited.
That said, Llangollen have been brilliant in agreeing to complete the Horn Grinding machine at their cost which will allow us to progress grinding of the Horns. This is a financial investment on their part in the order of £5k and the plan is that once our Horns have been completed the machine will be used commercially and the profits split between the railway and 4709.
Currently our wheelsets are still at the South Devon Railway (SDR) and agreement has been reached on the scope of work to be undertaken and the funding packages. We expect all the wheelsets to be returned to Llangollen by Easter 2017, sporting all new tyres and new crankpins with all bearing faces machined - including our completely new fourth axle. Dave Owen has been dealing with SDR for many years (he actually provided them with their wheel turning lathe) and has kindly agreed to manage this package of work on our behalf.
In an ideal world we would be able to instruct Llangollen to refurbish all the axle boxes ready for the wheelsets at Easter. This work has been quoted at £20k. Once these two packages are delivered we should be in a position to wheel the engine. We have also just been authorised to progress and complete fitting of all horns so this will set us up to get the horns ground early in the new year.
As ever the key to progress is funding and therefore the team have been writing to individuals and companies seeking sponsorship for components, processes, publicity etc. Unfortunately we do not have dedicated specialists in this area and it is very noticeable that those projects who do have such people attract funding significantly greater than us. I'm very pleased to announce that we have entered into a partnership arrangement with The Railway Children Charity and we have sponsored a painting which is being used, initially as a Christmas Card, but is in fact useful for any occasion throughout the year. As the project's Christmas Card to you, an electronic copy of the painting is attached. It has been titled 'Coming up with the Goods' which accurately describes what the 47xx class did.
In our case it is also a rallying cry to mobilize funding for the project to allow real and rapid progress to be made. We are in the right construction works surrounded by the right engineers with the right commitment to deliver. The missing piece of the puzzle is the marketing team generating funding for the works.