86 tonne train steams back into life after painstaking rebuild

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. EMN-171101-224231009
Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. EMN-171101-224231009
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A stunning steam locomotive roared into life after a painstaking overhaul kept it off the tracks for eight years.

The train, named ‘92 Squadron,’ was taken off the rails in 2008 - but there were emotional scenes as the 68- year-old engine steamed into life again at Nene Valley Railway.

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. Volunteers who worked on the project EMN-171101-224033009

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. Volunteers who worked on the project EMN-171101-224033009

The Battle of Britain class locomotive was stripped from top to bottom, with volunteers and experts making sure every inch of the historic train was in perfect condition.

Ian Bowskill, who was part of the team who rebuilt the majestic vehicle, said it had been a mammoth team effort.

He said: “It has to be overhauled every 10 years. This was the first major overhaul since the one in 1998, when everything was new.

“The biggest job is the boiler, which has to go to experts to overhaul. But the rest of the train was stripped and fixed by a team of volunteers.

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. Fireman  John Wood on the footplate EMN-171101-224103009

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. Fireman John Wood on the footplate EMN-171101-224103009

“It was a full mechanical strip down - every component had to be looked at, all the wear fixed, and then built up again.

“We needed a new smoke box, ash pan, and grate for the firebox as well.

“It is not an easy job - these trains were built in 1948 - there is a lot of adapting to get things to fire.

“This is also a big train, and we were working with huge lumps of metal. It is quite heavy going.”

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. Driver Alan Whenman on the footplate EMN-171101-224126009

Steam test day for the Squadron 92 locomotive at Nene Valley Railway after 8 and a half years of renovation. Driver Alan Whenman on the footplate EMN-171101-224126009

Mr Bowskill said he was proud of the work the team had done.
He said: “There were a lot of people involved in doing this. At any one time there were about 35 people involved, taking part in both the technical and fundraising side.
“It cost about £280,000 to do this overhaul - it is not cheap - with about £180,000 going on the boiler alone.

“Some people were not able to work for the whole eight years, and the number of people involved varied a lot.

“There was nothing that we really struggled with. Even where we could have given work to other companies - to make the smoke box, for example - we did it ourselves. We all had different skills we could use to complete the job.

“We did the best we can to complete the job to the highest standards.

“We think it stands comparison with any other example in the country. It is like a mother and her baby - in this case a very large baby - we think ours is the best.”

The train was originally built in Brighton in 1948, and was mainly used to pull passenger coaches - but was occasionally used for freight work.

It is now being run-in at Nene Valley Railway.
Jerry Thurston, from Nene Valley, said: “We officially ran it for the first time last Wednesday - I think there were a few nervous people about, even though everyone knew it would work. This is an 86 tonne vehicle, and a lot of work had gone into it. It had run for a few yards before, but this was the first real run.

“Over the next few weeks it will be run in, but hopefully it should be running for a drivers course on February 10.
“We are celebrating our 40th anniversary this year, and we will have a big celebration with a Bulleid Trains event next month, which 92 Squadron will be a big part of.

“We are using the anniversary to give back to Peterborough after we have been supported for so long.”

The event will take place on February 25 and February 26.

For more information about Nene Valley Railway, and events taking place there, visitwww.nvr.org.uk/