May 2019 update on steam locomotive 5551 The Unknown Warrior

5551 The Unknown Warrior
Credit: Steve Blackburn

The LMS Patriot Project has released an update on their project to built 5551 The Unknown Warrior.

Since the last update, the project has gained access to the former Boiler Shop at Crewe Heritage Centre. This enabled them to vacate the Main Hall, which they had occupied since October 2018.

No sooner that 5551 was in her new home, they received a phone call that 60163 Tornado needed the boiler shop to carry out urgent repairs to leaking stays on the boiler.

The move into the workshop allowed the team to continue work unhindered, and in a more secure location. The agreement for the new space will allow the team access until the end of July 2019.


Work has continued on the completion of the lubrication pipework under the supervision of Project Contractor, Nigel Day. This is a time-consuming task but is very important to efficient running in the years to come. This work is expected to be completed by the end of June.


Following removal of the motion, it has been agreed to source a new supplier to carry out the rectification work to the motion bearings. The previous work, carried out by Llangollen Railway Engineering was not up to standard and needs addressing urgently.

The new supplier for the components is Statfold Barn Engineering, and arrangements were made to transport for the parts to Tamworth, with this taking place in March. Once there, a visit was organised to agree on the work needed and timescales. Work is now progressing well with most of the tasks identified, with delivery back to Crewe set for late June 2019.

The centre driving wheelset has been removed for transportation to Multi-Tech Engineering Ltd for rectification work to the crank pins. The centre axle boxes were removed and have been found to have been starved of lubrication. This has resulted in the white metal bearing faces to show signs of damage. This is not extensive and can be rectified, however, the front and trailing sets need to be removed for inspection.

During the first week of May, Andy Forster was commissioned to carry out alignment checks on all slide bar arrangements for all three cylinders. The checks included cylinder to frame and both vertical and horizontal alignments. The results are now being analysed to formulate corrective actions where required.

Following the two abortive attempts to manufacture a fit-for-purpose reversing shaft a revised design has been submitted to the Vehicle Acceptance Body for approval.

Other Work

Amongst the other tasks currently being undertaken, the pressure relief valves have been fitted to the two outside cylinders.

There is a problem with the front valve to be fitted to the centre cylinder which may result in a design change to provide the necessary clearance above the front bogie. This is being investigated further.

The exhaust steam manifold at the front of the locomotive has also been trial-fitted and some modification will be required.

Next Steps?

It is planned to get the chassis in as a complete state before being shipped to their preferred supplier to finish the build. The largest part of this is fitting the boiler, which is being done in conjunction with Heritage Boiler Steam Services who are working on the boiler in Huyton.

There are still some parts of the design that need final approval from BES who are overseeing the manufacture of the boiler to meet legislative requirements.

HBSS will be contracted to complete the boiler cladding. The manufacture and fitting of all the pipework between boiler, cab, smokebox, cylinders, valves and injectors will form a large part of the work and will all be bespoke as no detailed drawings exist.

Additionally, various components are not as originally fitted such as the main steam injector is of Great Western design, not LMS and the exhaust steam injector has been replaced with a second live steam injector.

Consideration is now also being given to the design input required for the fitting of mainline electronic equipment required as part of the certification process. The manufacturer are currently being asked for their requirements to achieve this part of the build.

The boiler is progressing well, since being trial fitted in November, the boiler has returned to Huyton. The main structure of the boiler has now been riveted. All side stays are currently in the process of being reamed and tapped and the first batch of copper stays have been ordered.

Many components, such as internal brackets/clips, are currently being manufactured and all copper pipework is now in stock and will be manufactured in the coming weeks. Recently the dome was fully fitted and riveted on.

The next task is to look at the J pipe and regulator arrangement. The front tubeplate has been removed to aid access while this is carried out. All palm stays are finished and ready for fitting. Transverse stays are also on order and should be with us in the next few weeks.

Support Coach

The coach we have identified as a possible support coach for use with 5551 The Unknown Warrior is Mk1 BSK No. 35457 which is currently stored at the North Norfolk Railway.

A survey was carried out by Geoff Armstrong of Wayne Jones and Partners with a few small issues being found, the main one being some water damage to the vehicle ceiling where the source of the leak needs to be identified.

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