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By Stathis Tsolis on

Cleaning Hogwarts Castle

Getting a working locomotive back to its gleaming best is no mean feat - thankfully, the National Railway Museum has plenty of enthusiastic volunteers on hand to help.

Hogwarts Castle, the locomotive from the Harry Potter films, arrived in the Museum on Tuesday. She was grubby as expected for a working steam locomotive (maybe a bit more than expected). We immediately got busy in order to give her a good scrub and tidy up the cab for the rest of the summer holidays.

Hogwarts Castle aka Olton Hall, GWR No. 5972, in the NRM Great Hall

The Museum’s conservation team has prepared working locomotives before – but, boy, that was very different. Olton Hall (the other name for Hogwarts Castle) had to be almost dug out of a thick coat of grime – the sort of thing only a steam loco can create.

Wednesday morning, and the piston rod is in less than ideal condition.

We certainly had our fun, although the weather was not on our side. Before getting the loco inside, we had to do some prep work outside. Graham, Nema and myself took the brunt of the downpour on Wednesday morning. I was hoping that I could just use a pressure steam washer to get her nice and shiny in no time. But according to our engineers, pressure washers and steam locomotives are sworn enemies – one of the worst things you can do to a loco is to send water under pressure straight inside the bearings. This meant going back to the traditional rug, brush and scraper, with some help of modern water-based industrial degreasers.

It’s black indeed. A bogie wheel showing its original colour.

Three people would not be enough to get the wizard’s train ready for our young enthusiasts. Fortunately, our colleagues and volunteers here at the National Railway Museum were more than happy to spend a couple of hours in the front line; our call to arms brought a crowd of brave volunteers. Suited with bunny suits and gloves, they attacked the soot and muck with fierce determination. Six hours later, Hogwarts Castle stood proud and almost gleaming.

The first group of the NRM’s brave volunteers, headed up by former NRM Director and now Acting Director of NMSI Andrew Scott on the left, having just completed a two-hour cleaning session.

By Friday afternoon, the cab was finally ready, along with the bulk of the chassis and cladding.

Monday and Tuesday will be the time for cosmetic work. The nameplates and other brass fittings will be polished and from Wednesday 11 August, everybody will have a chance to climb into the cab.

5 comments on “Cleaning Hogwarts Castle

  1. Great stuff Stathis, I love the pictures and story you have there. I rode behind 5972 on her summer “Hogwarts Express” trip last year from Paddington to Oxford, it was great fun. Even then she was a little bit grimy!

    As you have her in Hogwarts Castle guise, will you be displaying the Hogwarts Express headboard as well? I only ask because of your first picture. Seems a shame not to 🙂

  2. Dear STathis

    Great Blog. Why such a tiny picture of yourself? I could hardly see you!


  3. really tiny the foto you uploaded i agree. I am proud of you and your work .it seems amazing!! i d like to come and see it…

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