NGG16 no. 138 Mileniwm/Millennium

In this photo (credit: M.Schumann/TSR), no. 138 is seen being tested on the Alfred County Railway in March 1996. Under test, no. 138 proved capable of pulling a 300-ton train up a gradient of 1 in 40, showing that WHR operations would be easily within the capablities of these powerful engines. Although 138 was restored to working order before leaving South Africa, arriving at the Ffestiniog Railway in January 1997, it became clear that further work was needed to bring this loco and no. 143 up to the engineering standards expected by the FR, in addition to the anticipated cosmetic work needed after a sea journey in open-sided containers. The volunteer "Mission: Beyer-Garratt" team promptly stepped in to assist. Unfortunately, and as so often happens with steam engines, stripping of the boilers for inspection and testing revealed further unwelcome surprises. Boilersmiths from the Severn Valley Railway gave valuable assistance in bringing no. 138's boiler up to the required standard. The completed power units of no. 138 were towed up the FR to Glan y Pwll in early April 1997, soon after the boiler was successfully tested there, and the loco was reassembled for steam testing. The loco was the star attraction at the FR's May 1997 Gala, with members of the public having the opportunity to drive the loco at Glan-y-Pwll depot.

Although the Garratts are considerably larger than anything else ever seen in steam on the FR, no. 138 was still dwarfed by the slate tips of Blaenau Ffestiniog, which are in close proximity at this point.

No. 138 was moved to WHR (Caernarfon) in September 1997, and hauled almost all passenger trains on the line between then and October 1998.

Although little seen in service in 2000, 138 was brought back into use ahead of the September 2000 Gala.

Prior to returning to regular service in August 2001 the loco was repainted in a much lighter shade of green, lined out with a black border and thin yellow dividing line.

138 was named Mileniwm/Millennium on March 1st 2002 (in the usual Ffestiniog style, Welsh on one side and English on the other) - see this picture report at the Ffestiniog Railway site. The name commemorates the WHR Project's status as North Wales's largest Millennium Project, and the participation of sponsors The Millennium Commission and Edison Mission Energy; the latter's corporate colours are represented by the loco's livery. In preparation for the naming the loco was repainted once more, in a slightly darker green, as it proved that the shade of green applied in 2001 was not the intended one. The loco is illustrated below at Waunfawr on its first weekend working in its new guise; site contributor Laurence Armstrong is seen on the footplate in the first picture.

Having four sets of Walschaert valve gear means that motion maintenance on an NGG16 is a substantial task; Marcus Ingram's pictures below show details of Millennium's motion; in the left-hand view a crosshead is seen with the connecting rod removed for maintenance.

Millennium is seen below in August 2003, carrying the crest and flags it acquired for Prince Charles's visit to the Railway the previous month.

Millennium had a substantial winter 2003-4 overhaul, and in early October 2003 the tanks were removed and the loco was split into its three main components. It had been intended that the rear power unit would be moved to Boston Lodge for attention, but in light of the volume of work in hand at Boston Lodge it was decided that most of the work would be done at Dinas - though some parts such as pony truck wheels and axleboxes were taken to Boston Lodge for machining. In addition, the piston valves were replaced by volunteer Brian Woodward; advance work started in the summer, and with reboring of the valves complete by October 27th, work then proceeded with completion of the valve heads as a homework project. By October 27th the rear unit had been more or less fully stripped down, with the frames lifted high and all wheelsets released, for the first time since the loco's overhaul in South Africa. By the end of the month the front power unit (seen below earlier in October) had received the same treatment. Also, various new pins and other fittings were made up in the machine shop at Dinas.

By January 22nd 2004 the driving wheels had been reprofiled at Boston Lodge and awaited transport back to Dinas, where the rebuild of the pony trucks was complete. The wheelsets for one power unit are seen below in Dinas loco shed in the first weekend of March.

The vacuum brake cylinder rods had been sent to an engineering company in Birkenhead for re-chroming; they were returned in February and fitted to no. 143, from which the same parts then went for re-chroming and fitting to 138.

Both power units were back on their wheels by April 6th, and the front one had been run out of the loco shed in order to bring the boiler module back inside. This was then lifted high above the power bogies on the ex Channel Tunnel power jacks; 138 was starting to look like a loco again instead of a kit of parts. The tanks had been refitted to the loco by Easter. Millennium was back in steam on April 21st, prior to a return to service at Interactive III Weekend at the start of May. It has been reported that the overhauled loco is up to 25% more fuel efficient than before the overhaul.

Another change was to the fuel tank, and was only visible from bridges over the line (below). The sheet steel tank fabricated and fitted in South Africa had proved liable to recurrent leaks, and was replaced temporarily by a smaller commercial plastic tank.

The steel tank went to Boston Lodge, where it was fully re-welded with strengthened seams and corners, and internal cross-bracing. It was also reduced in height and made flush with the top of the original coal bunker, giving improved rearward visibility for footplate crews. The tank was fitted back in place on July 22nd.

Attention was then also needed to the boiler unit, which had not featured strongly in the winter overhaul. Poor steaming was eventually traced to leaking superheater elements and misalignment of the blast pipe; with these problems rectified the loco re-entered service once more in the second week in August. The left-hand picture below shows the lowered profile of the steel fuel tank.

No. 138's boiler ticket ran out in Spring 2008, and it is currently under overhaul. It had been planned that no. 140's boiler would be overhauled and used in no. 138, but this option was held in reserve in favour of retubing and doing any other necessary work on no. 138's own boiler.

Stripping of the boiler for assessment started over the Christmas 2007 period, when volunteers and staff started by removing most of the external pipework and cab fittings. On January 8th 2008 Team Wylfa (see Volunteer Projects) performed a major assault on the boiler cladding and lagging. By the end of the evening, the dome cover and lagging had been removed, all the stainless steel cladding bands had been removed along with several sections of cladding. The safety valves and turret were taken off and the first nuts freed on the feed clack valves, which were very tight, not having been off for ten years. The next stage of atripping would involve dismantling the cab.

Over the weekend of January 26-7th 2008 volunteers and staff completed stripping the cladding, and removed numerous other items which were placed in store, notably the boiler fittings, smokebox door, brick arch and refractory from the firebox, and the cab windows. The cab and front tank were freed off ready to be craned off the loco on to a flat wagon for storage on January 28th, and the boiler was freed from its mountings ready to be lifted out of the frames.

The following working party on February 9-10th 2008 continued with stripping off pipework and other items needing to be removed to allow the boiler to be lifted, including the oil firing panplate, which was reluctant to move after ten years, and required some nuts to be cut away with oxy-acetlyene equipment. While two of the team worked on sorting and de-rusting the boiler cladding sheets, the rest of the gang jacked the boiler up succesfully; it had to be lifted by at least 12" to give access for removing boiler tubes, as the bottom three or so rows normally lie beneath the level of the top of the boiler cradle. In addition, 143 had its dome put back in place and was warmed through on the 9th, before being steamed for the first time in 2008 on the 10th.

Work during the March 8-9th 2008 working party took place in the Goods Shed (as the loco was blocked in by a tamper parked outside!). Jobs done included removal of the superheater header and elements, plus the main steam pipes in the smokebox, whose door ring was also removed. At the other end of the boiler, welds were ground off 99 small boiler tubes at the firebox tubeplate.

Team Wylfa are seen at work on the boiler on the evening of April 8th 2008. Two members of the team worked externally with the needle gun and wire brushes, almost finishing off the available accessible areas left to clean off, and two worked inside the firebox grinding off the remaining weld beads off the tube ends so that the small smoke tubes could be knocked out towards and through the smokebox.

The loco was moved out of its berth in the Goods Shed ahead of preparations for the May 2008 Rail Ale Festival. The rear power unit was pressed into service as part of no. 143 two months later.

The boiler is seen below on September 7th 2008, with areas for attention marked. The boiler inspector's report was good, with the work needed being limited to replacement of a few firebox stays, a number of dome rivets, and rivets on the pad for the blow-down valve.

It is now stated that the new water tank previously reported as being for no. 143 is in fact for no. 138. The replacement welded steel tank has been made by Brunswick Ironworks in Caernarfon (who had already built the new bunker for no. 87), where it was photographed on September 5th 2008, almost ready for delivery; it was at Dinas three weeks later.

These pictures show work in progress in Dinas loco shed on September 23rd 2008. The boiler repairs were almost complete (only one stay and one rivet remained to do), and Team Wylfa had started preparing to paint it; surface rust that had built up since the loco was stripped meant that wire brushing was needed first. The new boiler tubes had arrived, and are seen in the third picture. The process of preparing tubes for fitting involves annealing the ends of the tubes to make them soft enough to be peened over onto the faces of the firebox and smokebox tubeplates. This is done by heating the ends to a bright red colour, and then standing them in a tub of lime until cool. The lime prevents corrosion and slows down the cooling process, softening the metal. The picture shows some of the tubes with traces of lime at the end which had already been annealed, and some tubes yet to be treated. Once one end has been done, then the other end is similarly treated.

The new tank is seen below in the Goods Shed on the same date, with the old tank keeping it company on the wagon chassis that used to carry the tracklaying gantry.

On September 30th 2008 works staff were reaming the holes in the front tubeplate, and retubing would start soon. The boiler was jacked up higher in the cradle, allowing access for Team Wylfa to apply needle gun and wire brush to the previously inaccessible lower part of the firebox outer wrapper. At this point no. 143's rear power unit was being worked on adjacent to 138's boiler, while no. 138's front unit was tucked away in the carriage shed, and its rear unit remained in service on no. 143.

Almost all the new tubes were in place when seen on October 16th 2008.

The retubed boiler is shown below in Dinas loco shed on November 14th 2008.

138's overhaul may include conversion back to coal firing. This would leave no. 143 as the only oil-fired loco on the WHR.

The boiler, cab, and the new tank have been moved to Boston Lodge (by road), to expedite work; the boiler was noted back down in its cradle outside Dinas Goods Shed on May 16th 2009, and it was moved to the FR the next day, as a return lorry load for Prince making a visit to the WHR for the Hafod y Llyn reopening, and for Lilla paying a visit to Penrhyn Castle. The tank and cab were loaded on to DZ wagon chassis no. 2004, which was moved to Minffordd with them.

It is understood that 138 is likely to return to service with the same rear power unit it last ran with (which is currently under no. 143), and with a front unit comprising the already overhauled frames of no. 140's front power unit, fitted out with many components from no. 138's own front unit. Rotation of major components among these three locos from the same batch of NGG16s would be intended to give a loco of consistent quality throughout, following positive experience of no. 87 after its complete overhaul to prime condition, and it would also help to iron out remaining issues from the overhauls done on nos. 138 and 143 in South Africa. In the case of such rotations policy for the WHR NGG16s is that the identity carried by the loco is determined by the boiler frame.

As at turns out 138 will reappear with both its original power units, ie those as delivered to the WHR, these having been fully refurbished as part of the overhaul. Also against expectation, 138 will stay oil fired, and in fact 143 is being converted to coal first.

The tank and tender units were first to appear from the paint shop at Boston Lodge to confirm that the loco will be turned out in red. The boiler unit was due to be next for the treatment. By December 2009 the boiler unit had been completed and in view of the poor condition of the original boiler cladding much had been replaced prior to painting.

Re-assembly of the boiler made steady progress at the start of 2010 such that by the 9th April it was ready for transporting to Dinas. The boiler in its cradle is seen below inside Boston Lodge.

138 inside Boston Lodge 9th April 2010 - A Thomas

By the 5th May 138's boiler unit was on it way to Dinas and is seen below outside Harbour Station having been loaded onto the 'Locomotion' low loader on the start of the  WHR line.

138 ready for transporting to Dinas 05.05.10 (C. Parry/FR Co)

The boiler unit is seen a couple of days later in the Loco shed at Dinas, still on the ambulance bogies but with its engine units ready to go underneath..

138 in the Loco shed awaitng to be reunited with it's power units (L. Armstrong)138 in the Loco shed awaitng to be reunited with it's power units (L. Armstrong)

The loco was was subsequently nearing completion towards the end of May and was expected to rejoin the revenue earning fleet in time for the May Bank Holiday weekend. 

Friday 28th May saw no.138 complete and out on the line double heading with no.87. This was its last trial run before being finally let out on its own. It will therefore be back in revenue earning service on the 12.10 ex Caernarfon departure on Saturday 29th May 2010.

138 running round at Pont Croesor with 87 (Andrew Thomas) 138 ready to leave Pont Croesor with 87 (Andrew Thomas)138 ready to leave Pont Croesor with 87 (Andrew Thomas)crossing the road at Pont Croesor (Andrew Thomas)On the way back to Caernarfon (Andrew Thomas)

The pictures above by Andrew Thomas show no.138 double heading with no. 87 at the recently opened Pont Croesor station.

Saturday 29th May found 138 being prepared for service at Dinas in the rain. Pictures by Laurence Armstrong

138 being prepared at Dinas138 being prepared at Dinas138 being prepared at Dinas, 87 passing with the 10am service train

The weather did not improve much during the day, especially higher up in Beddgelert Forest area, and so 138 was caught later in the day in somewhat 'atmospheric' conditions. This was its first unassisted trip since overhaul.

138 passing through Nantmor, Caernarfon bound (Photo J.Peduzzi)138 passing through the Campsite crossings, Caernarfon bound (Photo J.Peduzzi)138 on Canal Curve, Caernarfon bound (Photo J.Peduzzi)138 at Rhyd Ddu as 87 arrives with the Up train (Photo J.Peduzzi)138 at Plas-y-Nant (Photo J.Peduzzi)

138 is again the subject of an overhaul this time over the winter of 2011/12. The loco was taken out of service at the end of the 2011 season, once coal fired 143 had become available and was therefore cheaper to run.

Towards the end of the period it was becoming quite a 'clanky' engine due to horn-guides etc long since having run out of adjustment. The work is therefore concentrating on the thorough overhaul of the two engine units. This includes the renewal of all wheelsets, bushes, axleboxes and horn-guides etc. As 138 was still oil fired it was therefore two to three times more expensive to run than its coal fired counterparts so the decision was taken to convert the loco to coal. This will involve the construction of new ashpan and grate to the same design as for 143. Rather than building a new fire hole door assembly it is making use of one 'borrowed' from NG15 No.133.

138's Top End engine unit undergoing refurbishment at Dinas138's Bottom End engine unit undergoing refurbishment at Dinas

The two engine units are seen in the two photos above from Clive Briscoe in the Loco Shed at Dinas on July 3rd 2012. The bottom end unit is slightly in advance of the top end as the latter is still awaiting its pistons and all of its motion.

Later in the month the two units were further advanced as can be seen in the photos below from July 21st. They had also both been moved to the same road in the shed as the boiler unit. The boiler unit can be seen behind the engine units in the first two photos whilst the last photo shows the boiler unit from the rear on the newly installed track extension.

138's Top End engine unit undergoing refurbishment at Dinas138's Bottom End engine unit undergoing refurbishment at Dinas138's Bottom End engine unit undergoing refurbishment at Dinas138's boiler unit behind the two engine units in Dinas Loco Shed

There had been a move round in the shed by the 1st September 2012 with the boiler unit together with the two tanks on a flat wagon now moved onto the new track extension in the shed whilst work was continuing on the two engine units inn the other shed road with the refitting of rods etc as can be seen in the views below.. 

138's Boiler unit and tanks on the new track extension in the loco shed138's Bottom End engine unit undergoing refurbishment at Dinas

Five weeks later and the situation had advanced to such a state the loco was in one piece and was venturing out for a steam test. The pictures below from Andrew Thomas/F&WHR show 138 in steam in the Up platform at Dinas.

138 in Dinas Up platform on it's first steam test.138 in Dinas Up platform on it's first steam test.138 in Dinas Up platform on it's first steam test.

The loco is seen in the loco shed on Sunday 14th October in the left and picture then on the 6th it was being prepared for another steam test alongside No143 that was being prepared for the daily service train. Photos Laurence Armstrong. 138 then double headed with 87 for a trip up to Waunfawr before returning to Dinas on it's own.

138 in Dinas loco shed 14th October 2012.138 being prepaired for another steam test alongside No143.138 being prepaired for another steam test.

One new feature of 138's rebuild apart from the main one of it's conversion to coal firing is the fitting of a pair of ex South African Stone Tonum electric lamps. These are a much different to the square 'twin headlight' on both of 138 and 143 when they were returned from South Africa. The lamps were obtained by Boston Lodge and volunteer Martin Coombs has been helping with them.3 pairs of lamps have been acquired and it is hoped that a pair could be used on the NG15 №134 however, that's very much in Boston Lodge's hands. As can be seen on pair is on 138 and the others will no doubt end up on NG/G16s. The photo below shows the rear lamp fitted to 138. 

138 with headlight in Dinas loco shed 17th October 2012.

With a number of short steam trials 'under it's belt' 138 then double headed with 143 on a special to to Porthmadog on the 22nd October 2012. Andrew Thomas's pictures below show the train at various stages en-route to Harbour Station. By this time the front lamp had also been fitted.

138 double heading with No 143 on a railtour special train on 24th October 2012.138 double heading with No 143 on a railtour special train on 24th October 2012.138 double heading with No 143 on a special train - seen in the Aberglaslyn Pass. 138 double heading with No 143 on a railtour special train on 24th October 2012.138 double heading with No 143 on a railtour special train on 24th October 2012.138 double heading with No 143 on a special train - seen on Pont Croesor Bridge.138 double heading with No 143 on a special train - seen on Britannia Bridge.138 double heading with No 143 entering Harbour Station.

Following the end of the season 138's dome was in being removed ready for a boiler inspection. The loco is seen below inside the Dinas loco shed on the 17th November 2012.

138 with dome cladding removed prior to boiler inspection - seen 17th November 2012.

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Authored by Ben Fisher; last updated November 20th, 2012 by Laurence Armstrong