Sunday, 30 December 2007

ALRC Locomotive No 3: Hotspur

Built by the Valentine Welding & Engineering Co. Enterprise Works, Northamptonshire for Norman Duffield to use on the Little Melton Light Railway (LMLR), it was delivered in August 1997. It was named Hotspur because that was the name of the Britannia class locomotive that Norman’s father-in-law used to drive out of Norwich to London, Liverpool Street. However, unlike its standard gauge namesake, it was not built to a very good standard and it went to Dave King of Suffield who managed to solve the problems and get it steaming.

The locomotive finally entered service at the end of October 1997 and ran for five years on the LMLR until the Railway finally closed in 2002. Then in 2003 Norman, who played a major part in starting the ALR, accepted an invitation to stable ‘Hotspur’ at Ashmanhaugh where it arrived in July 2003. It became No.3 on the ALR stock register and ran until it failed on 3 June 2004 when one of the boiler tubes sprang a leak. It was decided that a complete re-tube was needed and this was done by Graham Bird, a coded welder often employed to carry out similar work for the Bure Valley Railway.

During its time out of commission the opportunity was taken to carry out a complete overhaul and extensive modification program. On completion the loco was steamed again on 13 August 2005 and issued with its two year boiler certificate on 5 October. Thenceforth it ran quite well but a significant improvement was made on 15 April 2006 when the grate was replaced by an in house designed stainless steel one. This had a very different fire-bar air-gap ratio from the previous item and steaming improved dramatically.

From then on Hotspur ran faultlessly until after the 2006 Gala Day when further modifications were embodied to enhance the driving position and improve the weight distribution over the driving wheels. It returned to service after just a couple of weeks and continued to run well until it was taken out of service for the winter and to effect further improvements. These have included fitting needle roller bearings in the coupling and connecting rods, refining the valve gear fly-cranks and the valve timing. Its boiler certificate was renewed for a further two years in September 2007.