Our hopes to see the Brighton Belle returned to the mainline in the same year as the Flying Scotsman were not to be. After a frustrating year be-set by problems with the complex re-wiring of the motor thirds and resource constraints, the Trust reluctantly took the decision to leave its home at Barrow Hill, a process which cost almost six months of productive activity.
The Trust paid fulsome tribute to the ground-breaking work carried out by Rampart Engineering. “They were able to achieve what everyone said was impossible and Paul Ramsden should be proud to have created a national centre of excellence for heritage railway restoration at Barrow Hill. Our problem with hitting our stretching targets has been one of capacity – the ability to work on at least four cars at the same time.”
The new home for the project is at W H Davis at Shirebrook, where all of the Belle cars now sit in a vast building akin to an aircraft hangar, with all components and spares sat adjacent to each car in racked out shipping containers. The project has suddenly moved up a gear by virtue of the massive space available, finally allowing the application of lean manufacturing techniques to the project with all the assets to hand instead of being stored at multiple locations throughout the Chesterfield area. A game changer…
The professionalism of the W H Davis management team has allowed an excellent working relationship to be quickly established and the team has access to a large in-house engineering resource to accelerate completion of the project. Problems with the complex wiring systems apart, this final phase is essentially a production line; all of the engineering challenges have been fully resolved and the conditions set by the Rail Regulator are being met.
After re-launching a four car Belle unit, the speed of the completion of final two cars will be a simple product of the rate at which funding can be pulled in. The Trust is crossing its fingers that, with a tail wind, mainline testing might be completed by the end of the year, but getting it right is more important than doing it quickly - we'll keep you posted on progress.