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Steam engine restoration & maintenance

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Steam-engine-restorationKeeping everything running at Bressingham requires  a lot of hard work behind the scenes -  Fortunately what our Chief Mechanical Engineer, Philip Gray, doesn’t know about steam engine restoration you could write on the back of a stamp!

Philip first visited Bressingham on school holiday in 1968.  He was set to work cleaning an engine called “Black Prince” by Alan Bloom himself (Bressingham’s founder) and would come back every holiday thereafter until he left school!

When he left school in the early 70s, after a five-year apprenticeship he came back to Bressingham to work, where he’s been ever since -  eventually becoming our Chief Mechanical Engineer.

We tracked him down, asked him to wash his hands then got in to tell us how he keeps everything ticking over.

Do you encounter many surprises maintaining the engines?

After 40 years, to be honest, there’s not much that can surprise me!

Now and again a problem crops up that we don’t anticipate, but that’s very rare - what’s more common is someone coming in with a pushchair with a wheel that fallen off.

(We usually end up fixing it for them.)

There’s not much that happens the surprises us now.  We have a regime of repairs and maintenance which takes care of most of the unexpected things that can happen.

You do get a breakdown every now and again - but generally speaking we keep everything running!

Can the public see what you’ve been working on over the winter?

Some of our work is done in the main public area at Bressingham, so yes - the public can see some of what we get up to.

We’ve got a standard gauge locomotive that is being restored right now by a group of volunteers.  I’m just there in the background, overseeing things  they’re doing the main part of the job.

There’s a lot of restoration work which Brian (Paint & Restoration) and I do which the public don’t really see.

We strip the engines down and put them back together again, carriages are also stripped down and put back together again - and we do any repairs that are necessary.

The only thing that’s really obvious to the public is the paintwork, which Brian does.

What’s your favourite part of restoring something?

I love mechanical engineering - so my favourite part of the  job is working on new projects.

We’ve build one or two engines ourselves - one engine we built completely from scratch.  That type of work is the sort of thing I really enjoy!

Lead based paint or water based paint?


Lead-based paint, really truthfully, has gone out of the window.  We’re not allowed to use that anymore.

Water-based paint we don’t really get involved with that much either - most of the paint we use is oil-based.

Do you have any Steam Engine related questions or comments?

Do you have any experiences, comments or stories about steam engines?

Is there anything you think we should have mentioned?

If there is get in touch and let us know – you can also do it on Facebook or Twitter.

By Alastair Baker at 7 May 2015, 18:30 PM