Restoring LDS55625


LDS55625 is a Southern Railway style 25 ton brakevan, actually built by British Railways in the early months of nationalisation in 1948. DRSA acquired it in 2011, but immediately discovered faults which were beyond the limited experience of the C&W volunteer team to repair, and it languished untouched and unloved at Meldon.

In spring 2016 we took a deep breath and started work. Known problems were a missing axlebox bearing, 2 axleboxes which had been bent by jacking under them without anything to spread the load, a missing brakeblock of an uncommon design, a roof which let in water and needed re-covering, a fair amount of rotten wood and just a touch of rust.

Following the sad death of DRSA member Cyril Pawley of Woking, his widow made a substantial donation from his funeral collection. This generous gift is being used to fund the restoration of LDS 55625. We would like to express our gratitude to Mrs Pawley.

[Note 15/03/2019. I've reorganised this page, collecting together all the photos of LDS55625's restoration and posting them here, now in chronological order. All but the earliest can also be seen in David Bell's regular reports from the C&W on the Work In Progress page, sometimes with additional notes]

LDS55625 at Meldon in winter 2015/6. For several years after its acquisition it just got in the way and was occasionally shunted around the yard.
Photographer: Peter Chapman


The van dumped at the back of the Meldon workshop before work began. The stuff hanging down from the roof is the canvas roof covering which wasn't stuck down properly and has somehow shredded itself.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 16/04/2016


Axlebox showing bearing and retaining plate above the axle, and oiler below. Unfortunately the bottom face of the axle box is bent where it has been jacked without anything to spread the load, thus slightly crushing the oiler and restricting the vertical movement of the box necessary to remove the bearing. The other box on this axle is in the same condition.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 16/04/2016


Another axlebox problem. No bearing. The top of the axlebox is sitting directly on the axle.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 16/04/2016


After a number of false starts we figured out how to get the bearing out of the one good axlebox. It's marked 'BRSTD 10x5' and 'LG4 SW1'. We understand this means the journal is 10" long and 5" diameter. LG4 is a grade of bronze. SW1 describes the white metal.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 11/06/2016


Another view of the axlebox bearing, showing the white metal bearing surface.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 11/06/2016


Axlebox bearing retaining plate.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 11/06/2016


Disappointingly the van is missing a brake block, of what looks like an unusual design.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 18/06/2016


Brakeblock.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 18/06/2016


View of some of the brake mechanism.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 18/06/2016


It doesn't look much like progress, but getting the roof sheeted over means that LDS55625 is waterproof at last, and the interior should start to dry out. Note that some of the steps have been renewed, to provide safer access.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 18/06/2016


25/06/2016 update

Today's session saw us remove a brakeblock as a pattern for identifying a replacement for the missing one. A thorough search of Meldon yielded nothing like it, so if anyone knows where we could acquire more (pic below) please let us know. The same search yielded a cache of the correct oilers, so we have replacements for the ones crushed in the bent axleboxes.

We were pleased to have occasional SMT volunteer Mark Williams with us, and Mark spent much of the day poking around under the van, having discovered that the substantial ballast compartment was full of water. Eventually Mark found and unblocked a couple of holes, and we left the van draining.

Mark also spent some time clearing detritus from the van's interior and this, coupled with the drying out resulting from covering the roof, has considerably improved the working environment inside the van.

This is one of the van's brakeblocks. One is missing, and one or two others may need to be replaced, so if anyone knows where we could acquire some, please let us know. There are some markings on some of them, but nothing we can decipher.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 25/06/2016


23/07/2016 update

For a few weeks we have been debating how to deal with the bent axleboxes. One school of thought was to jack up the van and remove the wheelset, making it easier to remove the unloaded boxes so they could be repaired on the bench. However, we were a bit nervous about jacking a 25ton van quite so high, so today John Coxon took an anglegrinder to one of the boxes and cut off the bottom plate. This allowed us to remove the crushed oiler. The next step will be to straighten the plate and the stub left on the box, then weld the plate back in place. The welding will be slightly awkward, but the rest of the job should be straightforward. All the bottom plate does is keep the box square and stop the oiler falling out. The whole exercise needs to be repeated for the other axlebox.

John Coxon after grinding off the distorted bottom plate of an axlebox.
Photographer: Jon Kelsey
Date taken: 23/07/2016


14/10/2016 update

It's been a while since there's been an update, but it's a good one! After much searching by numerous friends of DRSA, Geoff Horner tracked down a replacement axlebox bearing at the South Devon Railway, and collected it today.

John Coxon continues to make progress with the bent axleboxes, so pretty soon we'll have the wheels going round again. Now all we need is brakeblocks.


No longer sitting on blocks, and some progress has been made stripping the damaged and rotten woodwork.
Photographer: Philip Wagstaff
Date taken: 20/04/2017


Work in progress with one of the van's axlebox issues.
Photographer: Philip Wagstaff
Date taken: 20/04/2017


Patrick Doyle grinding out rusted-in bolts in the SR brakevan LDS55625, with John Davis pausing from stripping out decayed interior woodwork.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 01/06/2017


General view of the SR brakevan LDS55625 showing work proceeding with stripping the rotten woodwork.
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Date taken: 01/06/2017


Patrick Doyle standing on a pile of rust and rotten wood he has just removed from LDS55625
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 12/10/2017


Patrick Doyle and John Coxon attacking yet another rusted-in bolt. The brakevan is now in the workshop.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 26/10/2017


The BR(SR) brake van 55625 was stripped of woodwork paint, using a blow lamp, prior to being moved into the workshop. The rotten wood has been removed (mostly on the hidden side), and the new timber is on order. What a shame it doesn't have its wagon plates.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 16/11/2017


Patrick Doyle and John Davis hard at it chipping rust
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 30/11/2017


Patrick Doyle and John Davis inside LDS 55625
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 30/11/2017


Work proceeding at Meldon.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 04/01/2008


Some of the new timber for the bodywork repairs
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 04/01/2008


The roof stripped ready for some timber repairs prior to re-covering.
Photographer: Sue Baxter
Date taken: 04/01/2008


Patrick Doyle removing 70 year old floor retaining bolts with great effort and eventual success.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 11/01/2018


Patrick Doyle and John Davis cutting floorboards for one of the verandas on the SR brake van. The flooring of the cabin has been completed to a high standard.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 25/01/2018


John Davis contemplating the remaining stack of timber for work on the brake van still to to be done.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 25/01/2018


John Coxon and Ron Kirby setting up the flat-bed saw ready to rebate planks for the SR brake van sides
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 08/02/2018


John and Ron trying a part-finished plank for size
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 08/02/2018


Veranda flooring on the SR brake van at one end almost completed. Patrick Doyle cutting off protruding bolt heads.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 08/02/2018


A good start has been made to fitting replacement rebated and prepared timber to the far side of the SR Brake van LDS 55625. The roof has been finished and awaits a fabric waterproof covering.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 10/05/2018


Patrick Doyle working in the cool shade on LDS 55625
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 31/05/2018


John Davis signals the end of another day's work on the SR brakevan LDS 55625. Patrick Doyle and David Bell seem unimpressed.
Photographer: Geoff Horner
Date taken: 19/07/2018


Ron Kirby trying a board for size on LDS 55625
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 02/08/2018


The brake-van headstock during rust and paint removal. The rotten oak plate can be seen and the cold-chisel wedged in the resultant gap. From examination of the heavy steel plates in the area it would seem that the brake van has suffered from a heavy shunt at sometime during its previous (BR) existence. One hopes that the guard wasn't aboard at the time! (Just a muse by your correspondent whilst chipping away at the rust)
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 02/08/2018


Head-stock showing corrosion after removal of 2nd buffer
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 23/08/2018


And with a heave by Ron Kirby .... The slight droop of the buffer head pictured should have provided a clue that something was amiss with the spring.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 23/08/2018


Patrick Doyle and John Davis marking out the cut for the last replacement plank on the side of the brake van. Ron Kirby in the background painting the Thumper's roof.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 23/08/2018


A buffer, condition as removed. The buffer is resting on its head and as a result has pushed the spring, partially revealing it.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 20/09/2018


Scraping off accumulated dirt, old grease and rust from the brake piping at one end of the SR brake van. Not for the squeamish! Once the buffers are refitted the next "heavy lift" task will be to replace the 8 perished rubber sandwiched dampers attached to the springs; one of which can be seen.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 20/09/2018


Grinding out yet another 70 year old rusted-in bolt on the brake van. Ron Kirby rubbing down the first topcoat on the Thumper whilst, in the far background, Nigel Green prepares a paint roller for the final topcoat. (The chair in the picture was replaced, shortly after the photo was taken, with a pair of newly purchased steps).
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 11/10/2018


Your correspondent proudly displays one of the pair of oak plates now fitted on the brake van headstock. Protective steel plates will be fitted next, to avoid damage by action of the compressed springs, before the buffers are replaced. One of these prepared plates can be seen on an upturned buffer below the headstock.
Photographer: John Coxon
Date taken: 11/10/2018


Jon Coxon and Ron Kirby attempt to release the screw coupling between the Thumper and brake van with the aid of copious squirts of WD40. Meanwhile Alan Harris applies a few colourful touches of paint to the braking system.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 18/10/2018


The headstock of the SR brakevan ready for the buffers to be fitted. More rusted-in bolts being drilled out in the background.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 25/10/2018


Patrick Doyle watching John Davis removing the hinge pins on the brake-van door
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 01/11/2018


John Davis inside, knocking out door hinge pins
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 01/11/2018


Fitting the rebated drip-sill on the SR brake van
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 06/12/2018


Trimming off the jagged end of the broken buffer spring so that it sits squarely against the spacer when compressed
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 06/12/2018


The spring with offending broken jagged end removed
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 06/12/2018


"Oh my back!" John Coxon rests after a long awkward session with the angle grinder
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 06/12/2018


Rebating a drip sill for the SR brake van 55625 by hand.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 03/01/2019


More woodworking activity. Not quite sure what Phil Hull was doing!
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 03/01/2019


North side of the brake van with freshly primed running board supports which were originally heavily corroded. John Coxon sanding in the background whilst enveloped in a cloud of dust.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 03/01/2019


John Davis using a heat gun and scraper on the handrails of the brake van, whilst in the background Nigel Green applies grey undercoat to the thumper.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 10/01/2019


Patrick Doyle basks in the warm glare of floodlights while applying red oxide primer.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 10/01/2019


Patrick Doyle displays a patch of scraped metal on LDS 55625.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 10/01/2019


The zinc primer being applied to the north side guard's ducket on LDS 55625
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 14/02/2019


Geoff Horner, feet resting on the stove-pipe, chips away at the heavy corrosion on the running board brackets. It is not as comfortable as it appears! Phil Hull has fashioned and painted the replacement boards. The originals had rotted away almost completely on this side.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 28/02/2019


Your correspondent, Phil Hull and Geoff Horner, armed with scaling hammers, attacking over 70 years of corrosion, paint layers and gunge. One day ....
Photographer: John Coxon
Date taken: 14/03/2019


John Davis scraping off old paint on the Eastern veranda of the brake van.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 14/03/2019


Phil Hull grinds rust off the last of the brackets.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 28/03/2019


Phil admires the partially finished product.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 28/03/2019


Patrick Doyle screwing down floor boards in the Eastern veranda of brake van LDS55625.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 28/03/2019


John Davis assisting Patrick, providing him with whatever he needs, including advice!
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 28/03/2019


On the SR brakevan LDS 55625, Phil Hull mounts the new running boards he has fabricated onto the freshly painted brackets. Note the circular plate on the frame which states that the van had an "Interim Repair" in 1973. Only 2 coats of paint appear to have been applied overall since it was built in 1948.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 18/04/2019


Chipping rust and old paint is a tedious job at best. Therefore, a splash of red oxide paint, as work progresses, is a morale booster.
Photographer: David Bell
Date taken: 02/05/2019