Retaining heritage skills for the future

In the second of our new, regular series, The RM is visiting the Severn Valley Railway (SVR) to spend time with its apprentices. These young people are enrolled in the SVR’s pioneering Heritage Skills Training Academy, established five years ago to give a shot of youthful vitality to heritage railway engineering. This month we meet Alan Brookes, who is proof of the success of this venture. At 23, Alan has recently graduated from the academy to take up a post as an improver fitter-machinist in the mechanical section of the Carriage & Wagon works at Kidderminster.

“I’m working on the bogies of this 1930s coach (LMS No. 2300) with charge hand Chris Lawley. We’re modifying the brake rigging, replacing the old-style LMS blocks and backs with BR ones. The LMS ones are now obsolete and we can’t get hold of them.

“We’ve now modified all of our LMS coaches, except the buffet coach No. 149, and that’s in the programme for 2020 during its scheduled works visit. We’ve carried out similar brake block improvements and standardisation with our LNER coaches.

Alan heats up the badly rusted horn tie crossbar bolts so they can be removed. For safety reasons, charge hand Chris Lawley is close at hand.

All of these have now been modified except the buffet No. 643 and the kitchen composite car No. 7960. We can’t swap the brake blocks on these because they have much heavier bogie types in order to accommodate the weight of the catering equipment on board.

“There might be some people who would question whether it’s authentic or not, but because the brake blocks are tucked away behind the bow girder frames, you can’t actually see them.

Plus, if we can’t get hold of the original-style LMS brake blocks, we need a practical solution like this.

Read more in the November issue of The RM – on sale now!

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