5643 emerged from Swindon Works in October 1925. It spent its entire working life in and around South Wales. It was based at Abercynon for about thirteen years during its service under BR ownership. It is interesting to note that Abercynon was the terminus of the world’s first steam railway journey when on 21 February 1804 the inventor Richard Trevithick drove a steam locomotive hauling both iron and passengers travelled from the Penydarren ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil to the basin of the Glamorganshire Canal at Abercynon.
After 38 year’s service, 5643 was withdrawn in July 1963 from service whilst based at Barry, and was moved just a matter of yards to the now famous Woodham’s scrapyard in Barry.
It was originally purchased for a now defunct steam operation (Eastern Valleys Railway at Cwmbran) in its native South Wales, but was soon transferred to Lancashire, and the now also closed Steamtown Railway Museum at Carnforth, near Lancaster.
It was bought in 1986 by members of the Lakeside Railway Society, moving to Haverthwaite 3 years later. The Lakeside Railway Society later set up the Furness Railway Trust as a charity to manage its assets, and so 5643 passed to its present owners.
5643 hauled its first passenger train in 43 years – ably taking the 14:05 Haverthwaite to Lakeside and return on 1st September 2006. There had been an enforced period of limbo since the first test steamings and its first run under its own steam, the previous November – because it emerged during the early part of 2006 that the regulator that controls the flow of steam into the cylinders had developed a small crack that could not be repaired. The only option was to have a pattern made and a new regulator cast, machined, fettled and installed. All this took considerable time, effort and money.
The debut passenger run threw up a few small problems to fix, and the engine duly arrived at the Llangollen Railway for the steam gala on September 9/10th, and a period of running in, and hauling passenger trains, up until April 2007. During the running in period at Llangollen, the engine has received further attention to its braking system and an axlebox that had a tendency to run hot.
5643 had first turned a wheel under its own steam 80 years to the month since it first entered service in October 1925. The test steaming established there were no major flaws in the locomotive. A blocked blower and the cylinder lubricator needed attention. Once these were rectified, the locomotive was steamed to the satisfaction of the insurance company’s boiler inspector, and a test run carried out on the full length of the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.
After this succesful test run, on November 16th, the boiler was drained to avoid ice damage during what can often be a harsh winter in the Lake District.
The restoration team had spent 2005 fitting the myriad of pipework that links all the fixtures and fittings. Attention was also given to the paintwork, and to a persistent leak in the water tank underneath the coal space in the bunker.
The final lap of the restoration project had been made possible thanks to the reinstating of the tanks and cab in November 2004. Because the Trust took the precaution of making all the components for the pipework before the boiler was sent away for repair, this job was easier, although it still took almost a year for the team to achieve this.
The boiler work was the biggest hurdle in the restoration project. The contractors at Carnforth had to fit a new front tube plate, and replace the bottom row of stays in the firebox (these join the inner and outer walls of the firebox).
This culminated in the boiler passing its out-of-frames hydraulic and full pressure steam tests, to the satisfaction of our boiler inspector in February 2004. With the superheater elements fitted, it was returned to Haverthwaite and lifted into the frames on March 9th 2004.
The opportunity had been taken at Haverthwaite during the 18 months the boiler was away to complete the rolling chassis, fitting the connecting and couple rods, and the rest of the motion parts, whilst the frames were unencumbered by a massive boiler!
To allow the boiler to be sent away, all the fittings like cladding, tanks, and pipes all had to come off again after their trial fitting. This might seem like unnecessary expenditure of effort, but it means that, once the boiler was returned, the locomotive could be assembled as quickly as possible. This is not just a morale-booster – the clock on a boiler’s 10 year “ticket” starts ticking from the moment the boiler is steam-tested out of the frames, so it was in everyone’s interest to get it back in place, and the engine running, as soon as possible, to get as much value out of the ticket as possible.
One departure from the original design is the fitting of a new rocking grate mechanism in the front half of the firebox, and a hopper ashpan. This is to make life easier for the crews when putting the engine “to bed” at the end of the day. Similar equipment has been fitted to a number of other former Great Western Railway locomotives.
This system allows the remaining fire to be dropped straight down and doesn’t have to be laboriously dug out. The British Railways firebars have the advantage over earlier models in that the cast bars are divided into segments across the firebox. This means when a breakage occurs, only a small portion, not an entire bar, needs to be replaced.
Many new parts were required during the restoration: this included two brake blocks from the tender of 4979 Wootton Hall, to complete the set of six required. The the pull rods were borrowed from sister locomotive 6619 from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which at the time was also under overhaul at Carnforth. After a successful fitting, two new pull rods were ordered from the forgers in Barrow. 6619’s panel that covers the cab reversing lever was also borrowed to allow a copy to be.
The missing footplate section that covers the cylinders was also made from a plate of 8mm mild steel.
The main work for a long period of time was the test installation cab fittings, in particular the many lengths of pipework. Slowly the maze of copper came. Special tools had to be made to flare the ends of the small copper pipes to allow a good connection in the glands.
On 16th October 2005, the first test steaming of the nearly completed locomotive was carried out. The locomotive is seen here raising steam outside the goods shed in the yard at Haverthwaite that morning.
5643 had been withdrawn from service in October 2011 after developing some weeping around some boiler tubes and stays as well as a broken rivet in the foundation ring. Although the locomotive still had two years to go on its 10 yearly boiler “ticket”, the need to lift the boiler to address the rivet meant the best way forward was to bring forward the heavy general overhaul.
5643 had ended its first stint back in preservation at the Wensleydale Railway where it was on hire for the summer and autumn of 2011. It also visited Locomotion, the National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham, for the GWR-themed Steam Gala.
5643 had started 2011 at Embsay undergoing work to replace the valves in the steam chest after a snow-affected Santas Special season at the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. The work was completed in time to return 5643 to Llangollen for the spring gala in April.
5643 returned to the Ribble Steam Railway for a programme of winter works at the end of 2014. These include some mechanical attention and a partial repaint.
The locomotive returned to traffic at the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway in September after being out of service for nearly a year for a boiler re-tube.
The locomotive spends most of its time on hire to heritage railways.
In December 2020 it was reported that the locomotive was being hired by the East Lancs Railway.
The locomotive will be withdrawn from service for overhaul at the end of December 2022.
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