Nick Simpson, M.P.D. Manager, gives us an update on the Wheel Drop at Grosmont Motive Power Department.

We are pleased to announce the completion of last year’s large site improvement project here at the M.P.D. This has seen the modification of the wheel drop facility from a single hydraulic water ram to 4 oil rams where we have worked alongside Durham Lifting and Apex Hydraulics to improve the safety and efficiency of the wheel drop facility.

At the start of 2021 we had an initial site meeting with Durham Lifting to spec out the proposal and what we would like. It was deemed that the old original Cowan's Sheldon ram was worn so that an acceptable seal could not be made when raising and lowering. The original drop is 108 years old and we, in part of the new design, wanted to incorporate as much of the existing as possible to reuse and preserve.

It was proposed we modify the existing lift to telescopic rams, one in each corner for stability, with two beams under the table that the rams attach to, these rams sit in a foot that is attached to the wheel drop pit floor. It was also undertaken that the structure underwent calculations to see if the overhaul lifting capability could be raised and if the existing was still fit for purpose.

The fitting out began after procurement of the items by Durham Lifting in August and the job completed from their side in November. The wheel drop now has variable speeds in both directions, fail safes, an improved operating position and an increased lifting capacity.

After this work was finished we used the wheel drop in anger for our first locomotive in for winter maintenance, No. 80136, this loco needs tyre turning this winter, so all the wheel sets need removing from the frames and then transporting to our contractor who will undertake this work. Removing the wheel sets requires the horn ties to be removed, oil feeds, brake blocks and sanding gear and then when the set is out further stripping of the axle box, spring, Spenser blocks and pins.

The wheel drop is working as originally designed so that the whole table is removed, by hauling out with the JCB on its own trackway, to allow the wheel sets to be stored on an adjacent track so work can be done and any lifting is well away from the wheel drop itself. The locomotive simply gets left behind in the top shed where other work can commence including frame cleaning, and valve work, valve and piston exam measurements and examinations that are undertaken at this time of the year.

Our volunteers helped on this project under the guidance of the fitting staff and when the units were stripped to component form they willingly cleaned up all the parts ready for its rebuild when the wheelsets come back to shed. The wheel drop behaved well, the fitting staff were very happy with the improved modern controls and steadiness of the raise and lower, especially under load with a wheel set on.

Nick Simpson, Motive Power Department Manager.

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