33063 Named “R.J.MITCHELL” in a
Ceremonial Day, 3rd Sept. 2005
After months of planning and consultation with group members, Spa Valley Railway committee and the son of ‘R.J.M.’, the SELG can proudly announce the forthcoming naming of 33063. The name ‘R.J.Mitchell’ is synonymous with the legendary WWII fighter aircraft, the Spitfire; Reginald Joseph Mitchell its visionary designer in the 1930’s.
So why this particular choice? The name was chosen from a list of projected names that would have been fitted to Class 33’s if the Eastleigh overhauls had continued. Indeed, the name was originally allocated to 33046 but subsequently switched for ‘Merlin’.
For the record, the original list of 10 names were put forward in an Eastleigh Traction Mtce. Depot staff competition back in 1990/1 to name ten of the Class 33 locos based at the T.M.D.. The winner was driver David Orchard’s choice of names associated with the Spitfire aircraft (designed and tested at the adjacent Supermarine factory in Southampton). On 18th April 1991, he unveiled 33047 with the name ‘Spitfire’ at Eastleigh TMD.
33063 was released from Eastleigh works in 1989, sporting the new colours and branding of the Railfreight Construction sector of the freight arm of “British Rail” (pictured above, a year or two later). It is this livery that 063 will be put into before the decals, nameplates, depot plaques and aluminium double-arrows are hung, to finish off the effect.
The naming ceremony will be performed on Saturday 3rd September 2005 as part of a major special event to mark the occasion. Members, family and invited guests will attend a pre-ceremonial lunch aboard one of the trains, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight have confirmed their availability on that afternoon for a fly-past (subject to weather conditions) and the Spa Valley Railway will be treating the whole weekend as a ‘Crompton Gala’ (although there will be some steam operating on the Sunday, 4th Sept.).
Preparations Begin in Earnest
In February 2005, 33063 was stood down from service to begin one of the most intensive (and expensive!) periods of locomotive maintenance we have undertaken, even when compared to getting the two Cromptons started, 4 or 5 years ago.
‘063 paid a much anticipated visit to the wheel lathe of EWS, Temple Mills (East London) for tyre turning (8/2/05), pictured left. ‘Flats’ were successfully removed from one axle but the other three were in need of attention. The visit received some coverage in railway periodicals ‘Railway Magazine’ and ‘Traction’, published early April.
During March, with ‘063 in the shed at Tunbridge Wells (pictured below) the exterior paintwork was being stripped back to determine how much welding was required to some of the less-than-sound steelwork. It had been recognised early in our ownership of ‘063 how the ravages of time were taking its toll and that something more substantial than plastic filler would be required at some point, but it was unclear exactly to what extent. By early April, a professional welder was assessing the task ahead and submitting estimates of cost. Whilst it might have been possible to organise welding repairs “in-house” given enough time, time was at a premium, hence the decision to out-source.
During early May, our preferred welder got stuck in and made the first set of repairs to the lower body skirting and driver’s door step at no.2 end with very good results. Over the following weeks, progress was made such that the one side was completed, leaving the preparation for the receiving of paint to our members.
Pictured below, part of the bodywork cut away at the solebar to reveal and assess the extent of the rot. An entire section approx. 15cm high between the two cab doors on this side has been repaired.
Below left, the contract welder gets grinding as he prepares the final section below the radiator. Right, the completed section between cab 2 and the engineroom access door.
Whilst members have been attending to 063’s needs both at weekends and weekdays since April, over the weekend of 7/8th May, for example, we had a very good turnout of members
willing to get their hands dirty. As well as electrical attention and the essential application of paint in various places, the process of brake block changing was well in-hand.
However, come 3rd September, 33063 will be unique; the only Class 33 in ‘Construction Grey’.
Below, David Shepherd captured ‘063 in the shed at TWW during the gala (Sun.7/8/05). Picture courtesy of the ‘Preserved Diesels’ website.
Update on 30th August 2005
The timetable and loco roster for Saturday 3rd Sept. is now available. Click HERE to view the 53k Adobe Acrobat file in a new browser window.
Note that 33063’s first train after the naming ceremony is the 16:30 from TWW, while the departures at 17:40, 18:50 & 20:00 will be ‘Spitfire Ale’ trains, top’n’tailed by 063/065!
With only days to go until the naming ceremony, 063 enjoyed a concerted effort on the weekend of 27th/28th Aug. to get some of the last, detailed finishing touches completed. The triple grey is on, the bufferbeams and pipework are done and the cabs have been put back together. An intermittent earth fault has also been cured (until the next one!) when a broken wire was found by our ‘battling’ electrical experts. The loco had already been successfully restarted the previous week after re-assembly of generator components and contactor parts. There have been no discernible problems.
The weather forecast (and lets remember, that’s all it is, a FORECAST!!) for Sat. 3rd Sept. looks good; 24°C, sunny spells and DRY. The Spitfire fly-past is looking good, too.
|Update on 31st August 2005
For those who have booked for the Saturday morning coffee & buffet lunch, the tickets were dispatched by first class post today. You should receive them Thurs/Fri.. Please contact the Secretary if you do not receive them in time (email : secretary “at” selg.co.uk or call mobile number 07900 131066 10am – 9pm).The headboard to be carried during the naming day by the SELG loco’s was delivered today and judging by the Secretary’s initial response, it is a sight to behold. It’s a tribute to ‘R.J.Mitchell’, a little unusual but probably one of the best you’ll see this year.Ticket pricing for Saturday 3rd is as follows:-
|Naming event only|
|Rover & naming
|*Concessions are for SELG Members, Part Owners and Supporters. Please remember to bring your SELG ID to claim the concession rate.|
Normal ticket prices apply for single or return journeys at the event. A full Rover ticket is valid for all trains.
Entry to the naming event in the depot yard will be purchased ticket/programme only and will not be visible from the platform.
For this event, commemorative tickets bearing relevant TOPS numbers in the range 33001 – 33212 and colour brochures carrying pre-TOPS D6500 – 6597 will be issued to those purchasing the £10 tickets (£8 concession) for the naming + rover ticket. Some numbers have already been allocated (obviously ticket 33063 & brochure D6583 as a pair for example, as are 33013/27/28/47/65 and associated brochures) but most are left unallocated. If you have booked and wish to reserve a particular, favourite, combo call the Secretary on 07000 000000 (10am – 9pm only) until Saturday morning and see if it’s gone. After the event, if there are numbers left unclaimed we can send on the ticket/brochure for an additional charge of £3, but do you want to risk it??!!. [DUE TO HEAVY COMMITMENTS AT THIS TIME, THE SECRETARY WILL ONLY ACCEPT CALLS ON THESE TWO ISSUES, missing Buffet Luncheon tickets and ticket/brochure numbering. Any other queries must wait until a later date].
Note that the locomotive working number ranges will not be issued to the general public on the naming day. Effectively, the matching sets of tickets/brochures have been taken out of general release, pending requests and preferences.
Well, here’s to a successful day – I (the website chappy) will be there all day, nerves jangling, along with the Secretary’s, Chairman and others, no doubt. I am strongly of the opinion there will be some commitment to the three evening Beer-ex’s on our part, a chance to reflect on “how well the event has gone”. If you can’t get there during the day, do join us for a few jugs of ‘Spitfire’ in the evening. First beer-ex leaves Tunbridge Wells West at 17:40.
Who’s round is it??
Tuesday 6th September
33063 was named RJ MITCHELL on Sat.3/9 during a highly successful ceremonial day. The weather was glorious and the Spitfire flypasts were superb, very poignant and not a little emotional, either, all in front of a good crowd who had gathered to see the event. Later in the afternoon, the loco ran faultlessly including the three ‘Spitfire ale’ trains until nearly 9pm which, I can safely say, were enjoyed by a number of members, very, very much. Here are a few pictures from 3rd September; the first is 063 before unveiling (station-side plates covered over). Then after – complete with specially made headboard, proclaiming “RJ Mitchell Remembered”.
A full report with additional photos will be added here later when our Newsletter has been circulated to members.
Saturday 10th September ’05
Here are a few links to photo-pages elsewhere on the web, covering the naming event. These will open in new browsers.
Monday 19th September ’05
The reporting of the naming of 33063 and the SELG website in general have been added into the “In the Press” section of the Sydney Frank Foundation website. The ‘Foundation’ aims to spread the word about the man and the achievements of one RJ Mitchell, as you will see if you follow the links incorporated here…..these will open in new browsers.
Mon. 5/12/05 : The official version of how THE day actually unfolded…..
33063 ‘RJ Mitchell’ Naming Ceremony – 3rd September 2005
[Slightly modified notes extracted from Newsletter 41, Nov.2005]
As can be imagined the months and weeks leading up to our biggest event had seen unprecedented levels of activity in all areas. As documented in previous newsletters, the story began when 33063 returned from Temple Mills earlier in the year after tyre turning to commence the lengthy process of body restoration that would lead to the magnificent sight that greeted those arriving at Tunbridge Wells West on a very warm Saturday 3rd September 2005.
Clearly it had not all been plain sailing, three weeks prior to the naming, an engine room door on 33063 was damaged as it became open during shunting and collided with an obstruction – more body work repairs we didn’t need! A few phone calls later and we had secured two replacement doors from 33023 at EMR Kingsbury. Thus less than two weeks to the big event and a number of SELG members and their van’s were dispatched north to Kingsbury to remove said doors and our ever popular welder hastily hired at Tunbridge Wells to help fit them as no two Class 33 engine room doors are the same! Prior to all this of course, came the nameplate saga – the first set of nameplates that arrived looked excellent on first glance but a closer look detailed that the two ‘ll’s’ in Mitchell were significantly lower than the rest of the lettering. Further phone calls and another set of nameplates were under construction!
With the highest levels of attention to detail possible, it was no surprise that the SELG volunteer members and others got very little sleep the Friday night prior to the event, with the final touches being applied some time after midnight and the last engine room glass refitted in the morning! Indeed, arriving at the Spa Valley Railway, a selection of people who should have been in shirts and ties were ominously still in boiler suits. However, there inside the shed, glistening and pristine in Railfreight Construction grey livery, stood 33063 awaiting its big day. Words cannot describe how fantastic the locomotive looked – suffice to say, it must be one of the finest example’s in preservation. Whilst 33063 awaited its centre stage, our other locomotive, 33065 was given the task of operating the service trains prior to the naming event. The first train, the 1030 to Birchden was formed of Class 207 DEMU 1317 and 33065 working a push pull service, as the coaching stock was being prepared for the dining trains which would follow at 1130 and 1230. The motor coach of 1317 behind 33065 was soon packed with enthusiasts and invited guests who were travelling down to High Rocks for mid morning coffee. Initial problems releasing the brakes on the ‘Thumper’ were thankfully resolved and the unmistakable sound of a Crompton opening up filled the air as 33065 set off down the line. At High Rocks, guests disembarked for coffee in the wonderful green surroundings of the High Rocks Hotel overlooking the line, while 33065 traversed the full length of the Spa Valley line. With all the preparation that had taken place, the one aspect we still couldn’t count on was the weather but there was no need for any concern, we were rewarded with one of the finest and hottest days of the summer!
On it’s return to Tunbridge Wells West, 33065 collected the full passenger set including the excellent bar car “Kate” and a further dining coach. The dining coaches had been superbly turned out and very much resembled a scene from a wedding reception, with white linen table cloths, and fresh flowers being lovely finishing touches. All of us who had never experienced fine dining, Crompton hauled during BR service, when they regularly hauled the VSOE around southern England got our first taste, as 33065 departed on the 1130 to Groombridge whilst Pimms No1was being served to us! Could life get any better? The majority of the dining guests boarded at High Rocks as more Pimms was served and a superb chicken & salmon salad platter was served with wine or orange juice, followed by deserts and coffee. The standard of service and catering was excellent and enjoyed by all as 33065, now assisted by 73140 in a top & tail formation, made a second trip at 1230 but this time to Birchden. On our return to Tunbridge Wells at 1320, 33063 which was by now sitting outside the shed, glistening in the sunshine and waiting patiently for its proud moment of glory. In addition to the Hither Green oasthouse depot plaques (fitting as the roots of our group reside at Hither Green), a further appropriate touch detailed the 75F shed plates attached to each cab end, 75F being the former Tunbridge Wells West depot.
The area in front of the shed had been transformed as rows of seats filled up with people waiting to witness the naming ceremony whilst the Wadhurst Brass Band entertained the crowds with a selection of very appropriate patriotic music and songs. The Spa Valley also had their “Jinty” steam locomotive in light steam and this proved a big attraction offering footplate visits to the waiting crowds. Plenty of flags completed a very decretive and celebratory scene.
At 1420 the band stopped playing and the proceedings commenced with Jon Nye, Chairman of the Spa Valley Railway welcoming everyone and recounting the events that led to our two Class 33’s being based at the railway. Jon handed over to our Chairman who added his welcome and gave the audience a brief history of the South East Locomotive Group, our beginnings and background and our achievements to date. Our Secretary then took over to provide the history of RJ Mitchell and his aeronautical designs, including the ‘Sealion’, the name carried on our other Crompton 33065, which was a sea plane that had won the Schneider Trophy air races for Britain. He then read out a message from our Treasurer who was on his last RAF tour of duty in the Falklands and was represented on the day by his wife and family together with his parents. A message was read from RJ Mitchell’s son, Gordon, who unfortunately could not attend due to poor health. Gordon remarked that despite statues and buildings being named after his father, a locomotive was probably the most appropriate yet as his father had learnt his engineering skills on the railways! The Secretary then advised that unfortunately Wing Commander Bob Doe DSO DFC & BAR, the third highest scoring Spitfire ace in the Battle of Britain, who had agreed to perform the naming ceremony, also had to cancel due to ill health. A message from Bob was read out, recounting his memories of flying the Spitfire – “you didn’t get in it, you simply strapped it on your back and wore a vice less dream”! The Secretary went on to introduced David Orchard, a driver at Eastleigh whose original idea it had been in 1991 to name ten civil engineers Class 33’s, after the Supermarine aeronautical works at Southampton and their designs. David had indeed named the first of the locomotives, 33047 ‘Spitfire’ at Eastleigh on 18th April 1991. David informed the audience how the original idea had developed from the fact that the testing of the original Spitfire prototype had been completed at Eastleigh airport, adjacent to Eastleigh railway works & depot, how the Spitfire nearly became the ‘Shrew’ and how many people owed their lives to the success of the Spitfire and its contribution to the Second World War. As the name “R.J. Mitchell” was never applied, due to British Rail cutting short the Class 33 overhaul programme, David was particularly pleased that we had been able to correct this part of history.
The Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Councillor Mrs Paulson-Ellis then addressed the audience and remarked at how much she had enjoyed the hospitality and how fortunate the town was to have the Spa Valley Railway. She finally wished the railway every success in its quest to reach Eridge and handed over to the Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, Group Captain Patrick Tootal, OBE DL RAF retired, who with one eye on his watch to time the naming perfectly with the Spitfire flypast, proudly unveiled and saluted the name “R.J. Mitchell” on 33063.
To describe this moment as a proud moment for the Group is a complete understatement, months and months of relentless preparation had resulted in a stunningly restored locomotive with every attention to detail, superb hospitality and a fantastic naming event with an excellent fitting selection of esteemed guests to perform the ceremony. As the hot late summer shone down on the applauding crowd, we encountered a slight delay before the unmistakable sight and sound of a Spitfire aircraft appeared on the horizon traveling in above the line from the High Rocks direction. The aircraft performed three memorable flypasts drawing to a close, in the most fitting and dramatic way, the fantastic ceremony.
As the Guests of honour posed for photographs by the newly unveiled nameplates, champagne was handed out – what better way to spend the afternoon! Amidst the sunny celebrations, the Secretary was tracked down by Meridian Television for an interview in front of our glistening 33063 – presumably advising on how to plan the event and a diesel gala in the same day!
The Secrery and Chairman and then David Orchard posed for photographs before all SELG members and supporters gathered for a proud group photo session in front of our locomotive.
33063 was then started in readiness to work its first trains carrying its new name. The locomotive had also been fitted with a superb ‘RJ Mitchell Remembered’ headboard. In glorious sunshine, 33063 departed Tunbridge Wells West with the 1630 to Groombridge and a distinctly celebratory mood filled the train. For those who had put so much time and effort into the day, now was their first time to relax, following the successful hospitality shown to the guests and of the naming ceremony. The next train, the 1740 to Birchden was again top and tailed, this time with 33065 at the Birchden end of the train with 73140 tucked inside for some extra weight, and 33063 at the TWW end. This led to the fantastic sight and sound of 33063 returning the train to Tunbridge Wells West with the equivalent of load 8 in tow! The final two trains of the day saw 33065/063 top and tail to Birchden and back and by now, Bar Car “Kate” was doing a fantastic trade as the lively celebrations continued into the evening. I would not like to guess how many pints of Spitfire our secretary consumed (every single one of course extremely deserved) as there was a constant queue of people buying him drinks all night as a token of their appreciation for such a fantastic day. The excellent new SELG mug was also doing a good trade at our impromptu sales stand on the train! As 33063 rolled back into Tunbridge Wells West at 7 minutes before 9pm, a truly spectacular day detailing our proudest achievement was drawing to a close. However there was still the moonlit barbecue to enjoy.
Thanks again to the Secretary, the committee and all the volunteers who made the day such a special success – we now really have made a significant piece of Class 33 history of our very own!