Plans to build historic locomotive from scratch pose new challenge for AMRC apprentices

The organisation behind a project to build a steam locomotive fit for the 21st Century is getting a helping hand from Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre apprentices.

The team behind the ‘Clan Project is in the process of building an 80 tonne British Railways Standard Class 6 locomotive, number 72010 Hengist, from the original drawings.

British Railways built 10 of the locomotives in 1951 and 1952 and named them after Scottish clans. The original plan was to build another 15 locomotives in 1954. The first five, being destined for the southern region, were to be named after Kentish warlords, but due to steel shortages, followed by the switch from steam to diesel, plans for the construction of the next 15 locomotives were eventually cancelled.

None of the ‘Clan Class locomotives survive, but the project team has the microfilmed drawings for the next engine, which would have been the 1,000th Standard Class Steam Locomotive built by BR and was to be named ‘Hengist, after a fifth century King of Kent.

If the team is to succeed, it needs to embrace modern technology; - the first step will be to turn the 900 microfilmed drawings into modern CAD drawings.

“Its an ideal challenge for the AMRC Training Centre apprentices,” said Phil Yates, a project engineer with the AMRCs Integrated Manufacturing Group, who heard about the ‘Clan Project from team member and near neighbour Geoff Turner.

“The original drawings could be massively complicated because they tried to get as much detail as they could – fitting numerous separate parts onto each one”.

“Taking the microfilmed drawings, constructing the parts in CAD, validating them and seeing how they fit together involves reading and interpreting the drawings and designing the parts – its an essential skill the apprentices need.”

Aaron Lockley and Tom Bruce of Chesterfield Special Cylinders digitising plans of the Clan Class steam engine.Turning the microfilmed drawings into CAD drawings is doubly essential. CAD data is needed to generate the programmes that drive the modern machine tools that will be used to make the components. The data is also needed because the ‘Clan Project team is planning some improvements to make Hengist more efficient.

Enhancements needed to comply with modern safety standards include dual circuit braking, which needs to be shoehorned into space in the existing design, which can best be done using a Virtual Reality (VR) model generated from the CAD drawings. Also a new exhaust system with blast pipes capable of handling steam travelling at supersonic speeds is being considered to make the locomotive cleaner and more efficient.  With other planned improvements, the projects aim is to complete a steam locomotive fit for the 21st century railway.

Geoff Turner, from the Clan Project, said: “We are delighted that the AMRC Training Centre apprentices are involved in the project, learning valuable engineering skills from reading engineering drawings, applying current draughting standards and applying modern manufacturing techniques in the process.  Creating the 3D Models enables the parts to be programed directly into CNC machines, thus saving time and money.  It can be seen that working together is mutually beneficial to both AMRC and the ‘Clan Project.” 

Between six and 10 apprentices will gain vital CAD skills by working on the project over the next three or four months and there is scope for AMRC Training Centre apprentices to work on other parts of the ‘Clan Project, which is due to be completed in 2026, the same year that the HS2 terminal in Birmingham is due to open.

For more information on the ‘Clan Project, visit www.theclanproject.org

Plans to build historic locomotive from scratch pose new challenge for AMRC apprentices

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