NGG16 no. 87

It was announced in January 2006 that the Railway had acquired a fourth NGG16 Beyer-Garratt. No. 87 was purchased from the Exmoor Steam Railway and would be delivered shortly for a full overhaul to be undertaken largely by employed staff at Boston Lodge. This was made possible by a grant covering the costs of purchase and overhaul from the Ffestiniog Railway Trust, following a donation from a private sponsor for this specific project. Its rebuild from derelict to pristine condition is probably the single biggest job ever undertaken at Boston Lodge.

In contrast to 1958-built nos. 138, 143 and 140, no. 87 comes from the very first batch of NGG16s (developed from the NGG13), built by John Cockerill of Seraing, Belgium in 1936 (works no. 3267). It was delivered to Port Shepstone in April 1937, and is thought to have spent all its South African working life on the Natal branches, being withdrawn from service on the Umzinto-Donnybrook line in 1986. Its last overhaul was in 1977, and it emerged with the boiler (much rebuilt over the years) first fitted to the first NGG13, NG58 of 1927.

See a special feature on the Cockerill NGG16s at the Sandstone Heritage Trust site.

Dave Wilcox's pictures below show Donnybrook shed and yard in October 1989, with no. 87 standing outside the loco shed; nos. 109, 113 and 153 were also present, but from their positions it appeared that no. 87 may have been the last loco in use at the closure of the branch. The locos at Donnybrook, still an active SAR depot, were complete, unlike those left at Umzinto, whose fittings, pipework etc had been plundered. It is interesting to speculate on how many of the B wagons and lifted sleepers visible in the right-hand pictures are now in Wales!

No. 87 was imported to the UK from South Africa for the abortive Robin Hood's Bay scheme, from which the WHR previously acquired NG15s nos. 133 and 134. Although purchase of the Robin Hood's Bay NGG16s was not pursued at the time owing to their condition, the donation for no. 87's purchase from Exmoor includes full funding for overhaul, which entirely changes the picture.

The NGG16s are seen below at the Exmoor Steam Railway in 1999; the last three pictures were taken on the occasion of a special evening visit organised by the WHRS South West Group. No. 87 is the loco without a cab; no. 130 was next to it, followed by no. 115. No. 109 was elsewhere on site.

The pictures below show no. 87 at Exmoor in September 2005, during one of a number of inspection visits. The inspectors are (left-right in the first picture) Tony Williams (FR/WHR Loco Inspector), Steve McCallum, & Jon Whalley (FR/WHR Chief Mechanical Engineer). Steve is a previous manager of Boston Lodge Works and was taken on by the FR Co. to strengthen the engineering resource; he has worked on project management of the rebuild of this loco, as well as looking after the FR/WHR coal firing conversion project.

Although apparently "rough" as it stood, no. 87 was chosen among the locos on sale as it has the best boiler, having received new inner and outer fireboxes ten years before withdrawal. Detachable non-ferrous components were all missing, but these would be renewed during overhaul, and many would have needed heavy attention or renewal in any case. One tank and the cab required replacement, and the boiler cladding was all missing.

No. 87 was delivered by road to Minffordd Yard on the FR on the morning of Saturday February 4th 2006. The boiler unit was mounted on a pair of "ambulance" bogies which had been rapidly put together at Dinas (as the existing pair were under no. 140's boiler), and moved to Boston Lodge the same day by Moelwyn. This was the first time an NGG16 boiler unit had been moved any distance on the FR main line (the others spent all their time at the FR at Glan y Pwll depot), and some temporary trimming for width of steam pipes and other fittings was done in order to pass Rhiw Plas bridge. The power units were being prepared for movement to Boston Lodge the next day when seen in the last pictures below, a repeat of the process when 138 and 143's power units arrived in 1997.

See Bruce Brayne's full album from the delivery day

A copy of the full set of drawings of the 1936 John Cockerill NG/G16s was obtained successfully from the Transnet Heritage Library in Johannesburg. There are some 203 in all, and they have greatly facilitated the reconstruction of No. 87. A set of some 60 boiler drawings was also acquired for the Hanomag NG/G13 boiler that is carried currently by No. 87. A copy of the drawing which covers the SAR number plates for the cabside, bunker and tank ends was passed to the pattern maker. Further efforts led to the acquisition of a photograph of the Cockerill works plates for No. 87 itself. This is very fortunate as the SAR drawing (unusually) does not show this. The bolt holes on either side of the boiler cradle are some 264mm apart, allowing the photograph to be scaled and drawn for pattern making.

By mid-June 2006, the first of 87's power bogies (the rear one) had been power washed and completely dismantled for assessment and repair in the Boston Lodge erecting shop extension. It was noted that the frames of this loco, from the first batch of NGG16s, have less substantial horn guides than the later locos; the frames are therefore not interchangeable with 138, 140 and 143 though components such as wheelsets and connecting rods are, as witnessed by what has been found on 140 to date (it has a connecting rod from a NGG13). The frames have been found to be in generally good condition as received, and the first bogie had a crack promptly repaired by welding. The crack was believed to be related to a 1979 accident in which the loco ended up on its side. The pink dye visible in the third and fourth pictures below is for crack detection; the rods were examined similarly.

The rear bunker was condemned as anticipated, its replacement is of welded construction but fitted with dummy rivets to maintain the original appearance. Boston Lodge already had the original Beyer Peacock pattern for casting the correct form of chimney, which differs from the more utilitarian chimneys of the 1958 locos; 87 had been carrying one of these. The pattern came as a surprise gift from a former Beyer Peacock employee, and just required the making of a core box for creating the sand core running up the axis of the casting.

When seen below in late August 2006, the front power unit (first picture) had been given a good wash, and had been fitted with its FR/WHR chopper coupling to make shunting easier. The boiler unit had been moved into the yard, and stripping had started with most pipework removed. The ashpan was being assessed with a view to either repair or replacement (third picture). New footplate panels had already been cut and trial fitted (fourth picture). The rear bogie had received new horn guides whilst the wheelsets had been moved into the queue for turning on the wheel lathe. The sandboxes had also been removed from both the tank and the bunker, cleaned up and repainted externally (last picture).

The September 2006 views below show lathework on the wheelsets from the rear unit, the front tank after its return from being sandblasted by a contractor, and pony truck components.

In mid-November 2006 the rear power unit had been rewheeled. The boiler unit was being worked on in the Erecting Shop, with superheater flues removed and tubes due to follow. The bolts securing the smokebox front had been ground off to facilitate removing it and the upper part of the smokebox, which is designed to be detachable on these locos. Work on making the front tank watertight again was almost complete.

Shortly before Christmas 2006 the rear bogie was approaching completion, with work focusing on fitting the new valve gear which had been supplied by an external contractor. The loco will be turned out in "Photographic Grey" livery, including lining, and both the rear bogie and front tank were being painted in this colour. The bogie had also had its cranks, spring hangers, axle boxes etc highlighted in grey. The boiler was being stripped of the old tubes, and the top of the smokebox has also been removed.

When seen in late April 2007, the boiler had been lifted from the cradle, and the backhead had been removed above the foundation ring; the backhead is being completely replaced, having suffered extensive external corrosion. The right-hand picture shows NGG16 superheater headers.

When seen below on May 22nd and 25th 2007 the rear of the inner firebox had been removed.

In addition to the replacement backhead, which has been made by Israel Newton & Sons of Bradford, an area of the boiler barrel forward of the throatplate has required replacement, as seen in the right-hand picture below.

The boiler was upright again when seen on July 28th 2007 (first two pictures); rivetting was in progress on August 2nd (second two).

The replacement for the scrap rear bunker has been made by D.J. Williams & Sons of Brunswick Ironworks in Caernarfon; the original was taken there to be used as a pattern.

The pictures below show plate for the new bunker, delivered precurved, and Meurig Williams marking out components for drilling on July 6th 2007.

By August 24th 2007 the new backhead and firebox rear had been delivered from Bradford to Boston Lodge. The new chimney casting was also present, as were new superheater flues. On the boiler barrel, holes for washout plugs which would become inaccessible had been welded up.

The new rear plate for the firebox was temporarily in place when seen here on September 7th 2007.

The boiler is seen below in early October 2007 with work under way on the new superheater flues. In the first picture, flues are standing with their ends cooling in lime as part of the annealing process needed when fitting ferrules.

At the same time, Brunswick Ironworks were working on the new bunker; assembly had begun in the second picture.

No. 87 will be the first WHR NGG16 to be equipped with steam sanders. Early experience with no. 143 on tests down to Beddgelert have demonstrated the need for particularly effective sanding systems when running both up- and downhill on the long 1 in 40 gradients, and as 87's sanding system required renewal, the opportunity is being taken to fit steam sanders all round rather than reproducing the original gravity system with a steam cylinder on the front power unit. Sanders have been sourced for no. 87, and will be similar to those installed on K1. The units are secondhand, sourced from ex-BR class 08 and 31 diesels, and more may well be sought to equip the other NGG16s in due course. Steam sanding provides greater accuracy than gravity in terms of the amount of sand delivered and the driver's control of the process.

As no. 87 made faster progress than no. 140, the tradition of borrowing components from the latter continued; this does not mean there is any lack of commitment to no. 140, rather it is a question of managing lead times in cases where acquisition or manufacture of certain items would otherwise slow things down. On November 27th 2007 Team Wylfa volunteers at Dinas removed and cleaned up no. 140's special temperature-resistant alloy steel T-bolts which clamp the elements into the smokebox superheater header. These would be used to fit no. 87's new superheater elements, after which work could proceed with the spark arrestor inside the smokebox.

The new bunker is seen here at Brunswick Ironworks on December 11th 2007.

These pictures show progress with the boiler in November and early December 2007, with work continuing on the firebox, and fitting out of other components in progress. Fabrication of the new cab was also in hand (not shown).

A steam locomotive involves some woodwork in addition to the metalwork. The first picture below shows the tank in the paint shop, with new duck boards on top to the original pattern. The second picture shows one of the power units being fitted with the wooden battens on which the tanks would rest.

By Christmas 2007 the new rear plate of the inner firebox had been welded in place, and the work was awaiting approval from the boiler inspector prior to welding the new outer backhead permanently into place.

The bunker is seen at Brunswick Ironworks on January 3rd 2008, at which time about 40 hours of welding work remained to be done on it.

The outer backhead was in place and being fitted out in mid-January 2008. Other views show new various new components - the project allowed the opportunity to establish a stock of certain NGG16 components and patterns for castings - and a trial assembly of the new cab.

When seen on March 7th 2008 the firehole door assembly had been offered up to the backhead, and lubrication pipe runs were in hand on the power units.

These views of the boiler on March 22nd 2008 show many of the stays in place between the new rear inner firebox and backplate.

When seen on April 6th 2008 the stays and foundation ring rivets were all in place.

The new bunker was delivered on April 17th 2008; the first four pictures show it before leaving Brunswick Ironworks' premises in Caernarfon, and the fifth shows it at Boston Lodge later in the day.

The boiler passed its hydraulic test on May 3rd 2008. By this point the new bunker had been painted grey, and most of the sections of the loco scattered around Boston Lodge were at or approaching assembly stage.

Following the test the boiler was returned to its upright position for fitting out to continue.

When seen on May 13th 2008 the superheater elements had been installed, and the top of the smokebox added.

In late May 2008 the boiler was being painted, and more components had been fitted, including the safety valves and cab manifold.

The boiler was moved out into the yard and steam tested successfully on June 12th 2008. The fire was lit by Boston Lodge administrator Carol Symonds, flanked by Bob Yates and Phil Tucker, who had rebuilt the boiler. Pressure was taken up to 170 psi, with no leaks whatsover, and a further steaming was due to take place the next day to set the safety valves. The date stamp on the pictures is of course incorrect.

The boiler was back inside the Erecting Shop when seen on June 30th 2008, with the ashpan fitted; the boiler cradle, tank and bunker were nearby.

On July 3rd 2008 a crane visited to turn the major components to point the right way, and to install the boiler in the cradle. The boiler frame (mounted on ambulance bogies) was turned, the boiler was lowered into it, and the hind unit (shown) then the front one were turned.

Parts of the loco are seen below on August 22nd 2008, with much of the boiler cladding in place temporarily, and fitting out at an advanced stage.

On September 5th 2008 the cladding was off again while the pipe runs were being manufactured and fitted, and the cab assembly was much more advanced.

The boiler unit was nearly complete when seen on September 24th 2008, with the cladding painted in the aircraft grey livery and fitted to the loco, and the cab roof in place.

The boiler unit is seen below on October 3rd 2008.

And it is seen again on October 25th 2008, with paint and pipework closer to finished.

These views taken on November 14th 2008 show the cab interior, and polished valve gear components; one set (not shown) had already been refitted to one of the power units.

No. 87 was noted outside in Boston Lodge yard on the morning of December 1st 2008, with the boiler unit in place on one of the power units and about to be placed on the second one, prior to fitting of the tank and bunker. The loco is seen below on December 4th 2008, with the bunker in place but the tank still to be fitted.

The near-complete loco was shunted outside for photography on January 13th 2009. A number of tasks remained to be done before the start of steam trials. It almost seems a shame to get it dirty!

More pictures

No. 87 was steamed in Boston Lodge yard on January 21st 2009.

The loco emerged from the works yard for the first time at lunchtime on January 23rd 2009, and ran tests back and forth across the Cob, giving a foretaste of the post-reopening scenes due later in the year. 87 did not enter Harbour Station, as it had not yet been cleared to run on the curves of the station layout; members of the FR permanent way department were busy measuring the curves in the station, and in Boston Lodge yard, to see what work (if any) would be needed on the track in both locations before NGG16s could be passed to use it.

More pictures, by Roger Dimmick and Alun Evans.

No. 87 was towed "cold" to Harbour on the morning of January 25th 2009, and was shunted by Vale of Ffestiniog along roads nos. 2, 4 and 5 in the station, without apparent problems. The loco is seen below in steam on 5 road three days later.

The loco made three return trips across the Cob on February 10th 2009, with time also being taken for training WHR footplate crew members on the Harbour token machines, ground frames, signalling and interlocking. A watch was kept on the loco's tendency to date to fill its ashpan quite quickly, an issue believed to be caused by the firebars being relatively far apart, and which would receive attention. The following pictures were taken during tests two days later, when eleven return trips were made across the Cob, on one occasion towing the loco for the FR service train to give 87 a modest load.

No. 87 pulled its first train in Wales on February 16th 2009, in a rehearsal of part of the future shunting manoeuvres for WHR trains at Harbour.

The latter stages of no. 87's time at the FR saw further running across the Cob, and it participated in the "Golden Bolts" ceremony on February 28th 2009, marking the connection between FR and WHR. After this, the vinyl lettering seen in the above pictures was removed as intended, and testing included runs in the dark to test the spark arrestor.

No. 87 was delivered to Dinas under its own steam on March 23rd 2008. The sponsor of the rebuild travelled on the loco during the journey, and participated in its operation. A stop was made at the summit of the line for presentation of a mounted numberplate, with grateful thanks from Boston Lodge staff; the sponsor's plate was swapped for one carried by the loco after arrival at Dinas. The run to Dinas saw no. 87 become the first steam loco to use the Cross-Town Link, and also the first one to run between Traeth Mawr and Hafod y Llyn on the restored railway.

The day after arriving at Dinas, no. 87 made a successful loaded test run from Dinas to Caernarfon and back, making it the first engine of any kind to ever have traversed the entire railway between Porthmadog Harbour and Caernarfon. Subsequent to this test, the loco would make southbound loaded test runs with eight carriages. The pictures below taken from Caernarfon footbridge offer the first really good look at the top of no. 87's tank; as well as being fitted with duck boards, differences with the later NGG16s include a completely different type and position of filler hatch.

After appearances on Phase 4 test trains, no. 87 entered service at the reopening to Beddgelert, double-heading the opening specials on April 7th 2009. The loco is seen below the following day, working its first rostered solo passenger train.

Following its first successful year in service no. 87 was dismantled in early December 2009 for a winter overhaul and for painting into its final livery. The loco was stripped into its constituent components of boiler unit and two engine units for ease of painting. The boiler unit will be painted in the Goods shed at Dinas whilst the tank units, now removed from the engine units, were taken to Boston Lodge for painting. The colour chosen is something similar to Great Eastern blue.

Work will also be done to rectify it's dropping grate that had a habit if sticking and not dropping toward the end of the year, as well as the replacement of the grate itself.

By early February 2010 the tank units were painted and ready for return to Dinas. Although at that time the boiler unit had not been started, the painting was in progress on the 20th February as can be seen in the pictures below.

87 being painted in Dinas goods shed, 20.02.10 (L.Armstrong) 87 being painted in Dinas goods shed, 20.02.10 (L.Armstrong)

The loco was finally assembled in preparation for the Easter of 2010 and is seen here on the 23rd March in the release road at Dinas (minus dome cover).

87 in blue livery at Dinas: 23.03.2010 (A. Stewart)  87's plate: 23.03.2010 (A. Stewart)  87 in blue livery at Dinas: 23.03.2010 (A. Stewart)

The loco re-entered service in time for the Easter service. The loco continued to perform well, apart from on the 8th April when it was taken off the train at Rhyd Ddu and returned with the train that had just come up the hill from Beddgelert hauled by Castell Caernarfon. The Vale of Ffestiniog having already failed earlier in the day. The diesel took over 87's train to continued the journey to Hafod-y-llyn and back.

87 seen from Glanrafon footpath crossing (S. Melhuish) 87 seen from Glanrafon incline (S. Melhuish)

Wales had been very dry during March and by mid April it was apparent that the fire risk was increasing. This together with the fact that there were concerns over the fitting of the ash pan doors led to No 87 being withdrawn from service over the weekend of the 17th & 18th April 2010 in order to tighten their fit. 87 was subsequently returned to service and has been the only operational steam loco so far in 2010.

On the 27th April no. 87 became a 'Royal Loco' hauling Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, from Caernarfon to Dinas where she named the Pullman coach no. 2100 'Glaslyn'.

The loco was in service for the May Bank Holiday weekend and Marcus Ingram's YouTube clip below shows it in all its glory on a sunny May Day.

No.87 is seen below in the evening sun just after Hendy Crossing and returning EOS after the last trip of the day on June 2nd 2010.

No. 87 after passing across Hendy Crossing returning EOS 2nd June 2010 (Photo L.Armstrong)

After being the mainstay of the railway's service for three years, and following the completion of No.138's overhaul, No.87 was taken out of service at the end of the 2012 season for an overhaul of the engine units. The loco is seen below with both units detached from the boiler that is now on 'ambulance bogies' at the rear of the shed. The tanks are on a flat wagon behind. This is making full use of the facilities of the extended loco shed and the room which that now affords. The Porthmadog end engine unit had been stripped of its wheels and some of the wheelsets are seen in front. The remaining driver set is seen in the right hand picture having had its tyres removed as these are to be replaced.

A wheelset with tyre removed. (Photo L.Armstrong)A wheelset with tyre removed. (Photo L.Armstrong)A wheelset with tyre removed. (Photo L.Armstrong)A wheelset with tyre removed. (Photo L.Armstrong)

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Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated November 20th, 2012 by Laurence Armstrong