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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 31 - Spring 1977
The Wheel Drop from Hither Green
We first heard at the possibility at obtaining the wheeldrop in October 1976 when news came to John Fairman from our mutual friend, Les Elsey, that the unit at Hither Green shed could be ours if we provided the labour to remove it! It was too good an opportunity to miss and a site inspection was quickly made by Peter Clarke and Roy Miller. They reported it was practicable to do the work with a good squad of Quaintonians, plus a crane. The most difficult aspect would be the limited headroom for the crane because the wheeldrop was inside the old steam running shed.
The wheeldrop was built by Ransome & Rapier of Ipswich in 1932 and has a capacity of 25 tons against spring compression, according to a cast maker's plate which was fixed to the wall opposite the machine. The drop table is a large one, 11ft 6in long, and it is reported to have been used in its early days by Lord Nelson 4-6-0's. It is in very good order and is electrically powered by a hefty AC motor which drives through cross shafts on to four lead screws on which the table runs up and down. The whole assembly was, of course, in a large reinforced concrete pit below rail level and the only thing missing is the motor switchgear. Even the automatic pump for the pit has been saved intact.
Mr Marshall at Southern House, Croydon, has been very helpful indeed in the whole operation and we are most grateful for his advice and encouragement. Work started on New Year's Day with a good team of ten members who spent the day stripping the table decking away and, where possible, recovering bolts. On the following day, a 12 ton capacity modern Iron Fairy mobile crane was brought into use, hired from a Dartford firm, and very suitable for the low headroom situation. A 20 ton Conflat wagon was also brought to the shed for the two main cross beams and other heavy items to be loaded directly they were lifted. This was a useful arrangement because the site is very congested and there was no room for storage. Incidentally, the wagon came from Salisbury via Eastleigh but it could not be used for the journey to Aylesbury as planned because the load was unsuitable. On the following weekend the wheeldrop was transferred to a road vehicle and it arrived at Quainton without any intermediate transhipment being required.
The design of the wheeldrop mechanism is very interesting and it will be a fascinating exhibit when it is operational at our up side depot building in years to come. The movement of the floating beams, two per rail , which come across the opening in place of the table is clever mechanics. The quality of the machine and its physical condition is also very good indeed. For example, the lead screws are run in ball races, large bronze crossheads guide the table movement and there is virtually no corrosion or wear.
Bank Holiday Monday, 3rd January, saw the completion of the three day task and we are very grateful indeed to those who worked off their Xmas waistline to such a noble purpose. Mr Hillier at Croydon has also been very good to us and he may be able to trace the drawings of the pit to assist us in the future work of reconstruction at Quainton.
Two other interesting Ransome & Rapier items at Hither Green noted by our team were, firstly, the 65ft well type turntable, complete with outriggers, which has been retained up to the present for turning Permanent Way equipment, and secondly, the 1939 built crane which Mr Roy Brewer, the shedmaster, has in his charge. Also inside the depot we found four of the Class 71, 2550 HP electric locomotives which are not likely to run again. No, we're not preserving one!
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 11 November 2017