The Five’s boiler left for Tyseley on Tuesday (27th). On arrival it was put onto a pair of accommodation bogies and shunted to a space next to the “Kings Shed” at Tyseley to await the attention of the boilersmiths there.
Unfortunately we had not had time to clean the firebox outer wrapper between lifting it from the frames and it setting off for Birmingham, nor was there a chance to wash out the slag and other debris generated by the de-tubing work. Although these do not sound like vital tasks, they were actually a major stumbling block to starting the stay work: Rust is literally a flaming nuisance when working with a cutting torch because the rust causes the flame of the gun to burst out at odd angles, making accurate cutting well nigh impossible as well as sending the slag off in unpredictable directions (usually down the operator’s arm or leg!). Similarly accumulated debris in the waterlegs of the firebox would stop the cut out stays from dropping cleanly to the foundation ring to be removed.
So we had to send a gang over to Tyseley as soon as possible to prepare the boiler for work, otherwise we risk not being ready in time for the programme later in the year. Yes, we could have asked Tyseley to do the preparation, but we have to watch every penny to make sure that the insurance money covers all of the work we need to do, so we didn’t want to spend money on work that we could very well do ourselves (is this a good chance to remind you all that donations are always gratefully received?). So on Sunday a team loaded up the back of a car with all the tools we could possibly need to clean & de-scale the outside of the boiler and wash out the inside. A quick phone call to Bob Meanley before the trip had made it clear that no-one from that end would be around to lend tools or open workshops, so it was self help or nothing. We did know that we’d have electricity, air and water, oh yes, and access to the kettle in the mess room but bring your own teabags and milk! It’s amazing how much space a needle gun, two angle-grinders, four air hoses, assorted scrapers, wire-brushes, face shields, hammers, tea-bags, overalls, tape measures and extension leads take up in a “spacious family car” especially when you also add in a team of 5305 LA volunteers.
As soon as we arrived we set to work, one person needle-gunning the outer wrapper, and others rodding out the foundation ring. Although it’s called a “Washout” we started taking the debris out dry, because there was so much of it, and although the sun was shining, it wasn’t very warm, so spending several hours playing with water wasn’t an attractive proposition. We only resorted to water once the worst was dug out, then we set to with the hose and got really wet! Luckily the next job was to follow round where the needle-gun had removed the worst of the rust and scale, so we soon warmed up and dried out again. Plus someone went to the mess-room and returned with tea so we had a standing up lunch break next to the boiler so that we could get finished sooner.
By the time we finally finished the boiler was very different from the rusty, flaky untidy one that we saw when we arrived. After cup-brushing the sides, the steel plates had a faint polish, while the odd copper stay head that had been touched by the brush really shone in the late-afternoon sunlight. Truly a thing of beauty. Then all that remained was to sweep and tidy our work area, load all of the kit back into the car and make our weary way back to Loughborough for a well-earned sitting down cup of tea. Many thanks to the team who put so much effort in!