We recently sat down with Brockhouse’s customer – The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society.
The Society owns and operates ex-British Railways Bulleid ‘Battle of Britain’ class pacific locomotive Nº34081 92 SQUADRON, named after the famous Spitfire Squadron, based at Biggin Hill during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
Talking to Alan Whenman, the engineer for the charity, we were fascinated to learn that their locomotive started service in Ramsgate in 1948, however when the railways were losing money in the 60s the decision to switch to diesel engines was made and, subsequently, most steam engines were sent to scrap.
The Society’s locomotive was withdrawn from Eastleigh shed in August 1964 and sold to Dai Woodhams scrap yard at Barry Island in South Wales. Luckily the locomotive was not fully scrapped, despite most of the steel and copper being stripped. This is where the journey of lovingly reconstructing locomotives began…
Brockhouse supplies the steel couplings for the locomotive. These couplings are checked very frequently and need replacing when signs of wear become apparent. Over the years, the specialists that originally supplied parts became fewer and fewer and eventually disappeared. Alan marvelled about how Brockhouse is one of the few remaining locomotive specialists in operation. He explained the West Bromwich forge makes the process seamless, providing all of the safety approvals the society requires. Alan went onto explain that if they were to seek the approvals they need to run the locomotive themselves it would be a long and complicated process. As Brockhouse is a market renowned steel forge running for over 135 years, all the parts they forge meet the safety requirements for rail use.
How did the society find out about Brockhouse? Just by word of mouth, becoming renowned in the steam train industry. Alan explained how he found only one other forge previously, however they could not forge in the grade of steel that was required. Brockhouse met the bill in its entirety, and he wishes he had heard of them sooner!
The coupling that the 92 Squadron requires is unusual, consisting of a very short loop, which proves more difficult to source. All the drawings for the coupling were sent to York Museum’s archives, which would be a mammoth task to try and sort through racks and racks of paperwork – very much like looking for a needle in a haystack, however Brockhouse helped create a new set of drawings.
There are just a few other locomotives he knows of using this specific coupling. To save costs with tooling and set up costs, the society groups together with 8 other groups and shares the cost of tooling and production, making it more affordable. Alan continues to sing Brockhouse’s praises, mentioning particularly Norman Bell, Brockhouse’s Business Development Manager.
“Norman makes sure that each society is invoiced separately, which is important as we are all non-for-profit charities, relying on donations to keep our train running. Our society appreciate Norman and Brockhouse’s care and attention as we do understand that our requirement is a short job and sometimes can be over a year or more until we require the part again.”
To learn more about the 92 Squadron, Nº34081 The Battle of Britain Locomotive Society visit: https://92squadron.co.uk/
Our skilled workforce has been producing quality forgings for over a century, establishing a strong reputation for Brockhouse as a market leader, working with a network of customers globally. From our West Bromwich based facility, we offer a complete service including design, die & tool manufacture, forging, machining, and heat treatment for items up to 400 kgs in weight.
For any information about how Brockhouse can meet your forging requirements visit brockhouse.co.uk