Workshop facilities

We have comprehensive workshop facilities on the premises for the design and manufacture of all types and sizes of steam engine and their component parts, including steel boilers. We work on locomotives from gauge 1 to two foot gauge and traction engines up to full size - scroll to the bottom of the page for pictures of some of machines we have and things we make.

The machine shop

  • XYZ SLX 1630 CNC lathe, Siemens Prototrak control. Mainstay of low-volume turning in the workshop, used for production of everything from gland nuts up to valve gear components for two foot gauge locomotives. The first CNC lathe in the workshop, bought new in 2009.

  • XYZ CT52 turning centre, Siemens 828D control. This revolutionised the way we make turned components when it arrived new in 2013. With a 5000rpm spindle and ten station tool changer, the machine can be left to its own devices on turned components - you simply program in how many parts you want, they appear in its parts bin two hours later! Although used mainly for smaller, bar-turned parts - things like expansion link trunnion pins and bushes - it's equally effective as a chucking machine where we feed cut blanks in one at a time, for instance making large safety valve bodies or driving wheels.

  • Myford Super 7B BGSC 3 1/2 x 20 lathe - lives in the upstairs workshop along with a similar-sized bench milling machine, used mainly for smaller jobs, in particular fittings and unions for production "Stafford" pipework which is produced there along with bushes, pins and parts used in overhauling smaller locomotives up to 7 1/4 inch gauge.

  • XYZ VMC 560 machining centre, Siemens Sinumerik 810D control. We've got two of these, which run pretty much continuously producing parts for new-build locomotives and the more complicated one-off and short run parts for overhauls and repair jobs. With 8000rpm spindles and solid carbide tooling, capable of producing a superb finish straight off the machine. Ten station tool changers make these versatile machines which can be set up with a job that will run for an hour or more at a time unattended, as shown machining cylinders here.

  • XYZ 2500 SMX CNC bed mill. Bought new in 2014 to replace the similar, slightly smaller CNC Bridgeport we'd had since new in 1998. The 2500 has XYZ's Prototrak controller, a simpler system than the Siemens controllers on our machining centres but ideally suited to profiling out rods and links, boring big ends etc. It's got the longest X-axis travel of all our milling machines, so useful for long parts - such as connecting rods for the batch of two foot gauge Bagnalls we're currently building.

  • 240 amp TIG welder - used for thin sheet fabrication - on our new-build locomotives cabs and stainless steel water tanks

  • Pull-down cold saw - for cutting a wide variety of bar and sections, it's in pretty much daily use blanking up material for the machining centres.

  • Fobco floor standing pillar drill, used occasionally in the main workshop when you can't get near any of the milling machines for a quick drilling job.

  • Presses - a variety of these: 30 ton hydraulic press for broaching keyways and pressing wheelsets together; Jones & Shipman geared broaching press; small bench top arbor press used for pushing in bushes and folding up small sheet metal parts

The boiler shop

We have the expertise and facilities to repair boilers - including re-tubing - or design and manufacture steel boilers of all types: marine or locomotive, vertical or horizontal, suitable for coal or gas firing. The boiler shop is well-equipped and employs a full-time coded welder - our notified body is Royal & Sun Alliance who approve all new designs and inspect boilers during construction. New boilers are CE-marked and supplied with complete documentation, including original material, welding and hydraulic test certificates. We are happy to quote for single boilers, or multiples - we regularly build in batches of up to 24 at a time.

Equipment in the boiler shop includes:

  • Colchester Triumph 2000 7 x 30 BGSC lathe. A manual lathe, but unstoppable in back gear - it gets used mainly for turning weld preps on boiler plate, but will tackle all sorts of other big, heavy turning jobs where the CNC lathes, with their all-electronic spindle control, don't have a low enough speed.

  • Richmond radial arm drill. Max spindle speed 1500 rpm - bought originally for reaming tubeplates in situ, we rarely use it for drilling boiler plates, most of this is handled on one of our machining centres which is very much quicker. It's also very useful for getting rounded off washout and fusible plugs out as well (and you'd be amazed at how many of those we see...).

  • Thermal Dynamics plasma cutter, cuts to 15mm steel but particularly useful (and very fast) on plate up to 6mm

  • Eland 300 amp MIG welder - used for larger steel fabrication work, in particular new-build "tab & slot" chassis and, of course, boilers. For boiler work we keep approved welding wire which comes with its own certificates, along with our boiler plate.

  • Welding turntables - a small one taking parts, or complete boilers, up to about 100Kg (we do all the small Stafford boilers on this) and another, monster size one converted from a 30 inch rotary table that you could probably turn a bus on. Useful for large boilers, up to two foot gauge or the biggest half size traction engines.

  • 20 ton hydraulic tube extractor. If you've ever taken tubes out of a boiler with gas and a chisel, you'll appreciate just what a difference a machine like this makes when you're retubing a boiler! There's a video of it pulling the tubes out of a traction engine boiler here - it turns the job into a fast, one-man operation needing very little by way of physical effort.

  • Inspection equipment including high-resolution recording CCTV for internal inspection and ultrasonic thickness tester.


In addition to the above, we have a spray booth used for most paint finishes with the exception of two-pack, which we sub-contract to a local company who produce excellent work; a 20hp compressor supplying the main workshop and boiler shop, and cranage for up to 6 tons (which to date has covered all the locomotives that have come through the door).

We have good contacts for laser-cutting, pattern-making/casting and high quality CNC sheet metal work. In house we use Solidworks 3D CAD for pretty much everything and can produce designs and drawings in a wide variety of formats.

 
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