I have to confess to have been a lapsed 50 fan for 25-odd years, I last saw Renown in January 1986 on a Waterloo – Exeter service and Repulse in August 1985 on the lengthy Scots Streaker II Railtour. It had been too long. I have recently “come back” and joined RRRG, and in late February finally joined a working party. After a few dead-ends in the sprawling Peak Rail site, I eventually tracked down the locos and it was great to see them again after all these years, although sadly quiet for the time being.
Dave greeted me with the immortal words “Have I got a job for you!”, and, having shown me round and letting me linger for a bit around Thunderer’s 16CSVT, we set to work removing the bolts holding in the louvre grills at No 1 end of Repulse. It wasn’t clear if these had been removed at refurbishment or never at all, but they were a job! While we were working through these, Dom and Tim arrived along with Paul Sturm, fresh off the ferry from the Netherlands. They tackled cleaning up the brake rigging gear while we slowly but surely removed the bolts. In classic tradition, the last bolt followed form by thinking itself completely invincible, being not only firmly stuck but also seemingly utterly inaccessible. After lunch and a fortifying mug of tea though, we were on a roll and spitting defiance finally got it out, allowing the frame containing all of the (very jammed) louvres to be taken out and gently lowered to the ground. In no time, they were freed up and moving again, and the upper louvre re-aligned to match the others – cracking job! The very corroded arm which should open and close the louvres was also removed – it looked like to have been under the sea for years and I thought it was beyond hope, but Paul and Tim brought it back to life with a bit of grinding and a diet of engine oil.
I had to return home in the evening and so missed the beers and curry, but what a superb day – up close and more personal than I ever imagined to Renown and Repulse (they’re bigger than you think from ground level), and a feeling of complete satisfaction at having contributed something real (albeit miniscule) to getting them back up and running again. Looking forward to my return, and thanks to Dave, Tim, Dom and Paul for putting up with my general clumsiness and endless questions. And they never even sent me for a bag of steam or striped paint once…..Thanks guys!