Painting Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today’s guest blog was written by Ian and the fantastic team Heritage Painting who undertook the cosmetic restoration of both Mallard and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Their previous blog focused on painting the world’s fastest steam loco but today they talk about painting the Dwight D. Eisenhower. You can see all six A4s together for the last time at our sister museum in Shildon until 23 Feb for the Great Goodbye.

Dwight arrives at Liverpool Docks © National Railway Museum / Ant Clausen

Dwight arrives at Liverpool Docks
© National Railway Museum / Ant Clausen

We were fortunate enough to be present at Liverpool Docks on the day of the two North American engines’ unloading from the container carrier, Atlantic Conveyor. This gave us a first hand opportunity to view the task that was ahead of us. Initial impressions were not good as we were able to identify several key areas which would require serious attention. Primarily, the engine’s contours had to be rebuilt with filler as they had lost their edge during aggressive shotblasting while being prepared for repainting in the USA.

Dwight D. Eisenhower on display in America. National Railway Museum

Dwight D. Eisenhower on display in America

Our work actually began at Locomotion, The National Railway Museum at Shildon. We used the time there to prepare and paint the wheels up to the first gloss. After a week in Shildon, the team returned to their home base in Bury to await 60008’s move to York.

In early November the engine was moved by rail from Locomotion in Shildon to Holgate sidings and then on to the National Railway Museum, York in the early evening. We picked up the job the following morning in the prep bay of the museum yard. This would give us the chance to carry out the dirty and noisy elements of our work without disturbing the entire museum!

National Railway Museum

In the museum’s prep bay

Four hard weeks in the prep bay saw the loco completely stripped and filled, using 13 gallons of body filler in the process, frames needle gunned back to bare metal and everything primed. The tender was painted into first gloss; following the usual procedure of primer, two undercoats and two coats of Deep Bronze Green gloss prior to the move into the museum workshops at the start of December.

Luckily, this move came just as outside temperatures dropped rapidly to only a few degrees above freezing, not only making working conditions uncomfortable but also making it impossible to paint, as fluctuations in temperature can cause damage to the paintwork as it dries.

Work continued in the workshops. After the tender was in second gloss, the lining and crest were applied over two days allowing the final varnish to be applied.

National Railway Museum

The restoration continues in the museum’s workshop

The boiler barrel then had all attentions turned to it to bring this up to the same stage as the tender. Again, the same process of undercoating and glossing was applied to give a lovely deep shine. Boiler bands were then lined and the parabolic sweep at the front, denoting the change from black to green, was laid out by eye and checked against the sweep we applied on Mallard. Once the entire coachwork was completed in gloss, we applied the various elements of sign writing such as cabside numerals and nose end details. Everything then received the usual flat back and clean, prior to the first of two varnishes.

Mike O' Connor of Heritage Painting numbers Dwight D Eisenhower. National Railway Museum

Mike O’ Connor of Heritage Painting numbers Dwight D Eisenhower

The team actually finished the work on the 20th December, just in time for Christmas!

After the completion of the work, the museum staff removed the motion to allow this to be stripped of the aluminium paint which had been applied for protection in the USA.  This was returned to the engine looking immaculate prior to her move back in to the Great Hall to sit beside her sisters.

Museum staff strip back Dwight's motion.

Museum staff strip back Dwight’s motion.

The Heritage Painting team and I have been incredibly honoured to have carried out work on both Dwight D. Eisenhower and sister A4 Mallard. In addition to these two complete cosmetic restorations, we were also tasked with a boiler barrel repaint of 60009 Union Of South Africa and the hand painted heraldic crests for 60010 Dominion Of Canada. We guess that the last time anyone did this amount of work on A4’s was British Railways back in the 1960’s!

The Heritage Painting team in front of Dwight with a specially commissioned piece of art celebrating the A4s.

The Heritage Painting team in front of Dwight with a specially commissioned piece of art celebrating the A4s.

Ian Hewitt,

Heritage Painting

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