Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of fuels and greases

11th August 2013

I haven't mentioned much about the sale of Briddon Towers of late. Suffice it to say that after going on the market on July 1st, we had our first offer within 3 days (before the “For Sale” sign actually went up), and by agreement with the Estate Agents, opted for written bids to be in a week or so later. In fact 8 such bids were received, all of them in excess of the original asking price, and after a bit of a hiccough the sale is going through. I am using a Licenced Conveyancer located in South Wales: I only say all of this to observe that a Freepost envelope, posted on Wednesday 24th July, finally arrived with the Conveyancers on Monday 5th August.

Also this week the crankpins came out of the wheels for the n.g. project, and measurements showed that in line with traditional practice, they are all tapered holes in the wheel centres and would you believe, each hole is a few thou different in diameter. So we are having a debate whether to bore them out parallel and have a 'standard' crankpin, or produce rough ones and have to have each one finally machined to suit.

We had had a further report from last weekend that “Tom” had again conked out over at Scunthorpe, so as Andrew was away I headed over yesterday with a set of fuel filters. As I have said before, every ex-NCB loco I have ever had intimate relations with has had fuel contaminated with coal dust to some degree or other. Libby's we have flushed out, Claire and Beverley had had attention. The theory was that if the filters are substantially choked, then the fuel pump will eventually suck and suck until air gets drawn in somewhere...

Added to that, the primary filter is a foreign concept to most people. Most filters fall in to two categories: you either take it out and throw it away or take it out and wash it in petrol or something to clean it. Rolls' favourite engine primary filter falls in to a third category. Firstly, the element is bound in brass wire until it looks more like a bobbin than a filter element. And then there is a scraper blade that is attached to the handle in the top. Turn the handle, and the blade scrapes off the crud that is adhering to the brass wire. And so it becomes a regular maintenance task to give the handle on the top of the primary filter two or three turns. Ah, but what the instructions neglect to make clear is that all this achieves is to detach the crud from the brass wire and let it settle in the bottom of the bowl. What you ought then to do is remove the drain plug from the bottom and sacrifice a bit of fuel thereby ejecting the crud with it: but people don't, and so the crud gradually builds up forming a large clod in the bottom of the bowl, ready to re-attach itself to the brass wire when the fuel flows again.

There is nothing for it but to extract the primary, as we did with James a few weeks ago, and open it up and clean it, so off went the fuel tap and the bottom plug and top bleeds, and some ominously dirty fuel drained out. But then I had a problem. The filter bowl is held to the top by 4 Whitworth bolts, and Rolls, or maybe Thomas Hill, had a bracket so tight, that two of these were under the running plate. Nothing for it but to release the two bolts that held the filter to the bracket and then detach it from the pipework. Which, with said bolts way away inside and facing the side-skirts, was an exercise in spannering by feel.

With the filter stripped I had the lovely task of cleaning out the black, gooey crud from the bowl and around the element before reassembling. Next I removed the three filter filter elements from the engine, each of which was definitely a few grammes heavier than it ought to be, and fitting new elements. As these are cleverly mounted above and behind the fuel pump, the injection pipes prevent you getting a good swing and require that they come out and go back in order.

With all this achieved (and as a train-load of AFRPS tour passengers had been milling around in the process, necessitating moderation in any spillage and language) I attempted to get the bolts back into the primary filter through the bracket under the running plate. After 15 minutes I decided to leave the filter supported on the pipes for now and manufacture a new bracket in the near future.

So fuel was back on, and appeared out of the bleed at the input end of the primary almost as soon as I got there, but it was conspicuously slow in appearing at the outlet end and leads me to suspect that behind that brass wire there still lurks a quantity of crud.

Have you ever pumped the fuel through using a manual tab on the lift pump? No, not these clever “squeeze-me” rubber things that cars have nowadays, but a traditional pivotted device on the side of the fuel pump that resembles a dolls' house tea spoon. Makes your thumb sore in no time and trust me, by then barely the first filter of the three is anywhere near full. But eventually fuel – well bubbles – spit out of the pump bleed and encourage you to go the last mile, blister that thumb and get wholesome fuel through. Dennis was watching when finally I got Tom's engine started and reported to me that the fuel stop lever had promptly fallen off the pump. Was Tom feeling a little bolshy, I wondered?

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Toby and Stephen decided that the best way to prove whether Tom was now fixed was to take it, two coaches and the Janus up to the station, as it is several feet higher up than the depot and the grade is one of the worst on the site. They had of course, done a few runs from the sidings up to the headshunt before deciding this, but within a very short time they were back and Toby had a serious look on his face. Tom had died almost immediately on the hill and what was worse, there was a leak. As someone was heard to mutter, where fuel can get out, air can always get in. The leak however was nothing more than a union at the primary filter which I hadn't done up tight enough (in truth I had left it loose while trying to get the holding bolts back in and forgotten to finish it) and within a couple of minutes they were ready to go again.

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I went off to get cleaned up and ready to depart, but began to fret at the time they were taking. Had Tom clogged these new filters already? Had something else befallen them? But no, they had decided to swap locos at each end up at the station and Tom returned leading the train with Toby acting like Vettel passing the chequered flag. Tom it appears, now performs like a good 'un. It isn't the end, of course. The primary filter must be re-secured, and possibly its element stripped out and replaced or deep-cleaned. But hopefully I can return to the 03 next time.

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Andrew was returning sometime after lunch Sunday so I headed off alone to Rowsley. On Tuesday we are doing a test run with 14 901 on a passenger train to check that the operation of vac brakes and deadmans systems pose no issues when running top'n'tail, so it needed a thorough going over with the grease gun (having, we suspect, not seen one in a couple of years) before I do an FTR on Tuesday. I fired it up and put it over the pit next to Cheedale, but then left it there to go and fit a new filter on to James' compressor. In the old days I used to make traditional felt filter elements for the housings that Yorkshire fitted to the Clayton compressors, but now I decided that a paper element was a less time-consuming approach and wanted to check that it was a simple addition. I had just satisfied myself on that score when Andrew arrived and we moved back to the 14. Not longer after we were joined by Pete Waller.

There are a large number of grease nipples on the 14, and some of them can be hard to get at. Between us grease was persuaded in to all manner of places in brake rigging, weighshaft, axleboxes, horn and spring guides. I left Andrew to it for a time while yet again I drained the fuel header tank. Andrew had determined that we still had fuel oozing out even after that new hose I put in a few weeks ago, and blamed it all this time on a 3/8 BSP nipple between fuel pump isolating tap and my new hose. It was in truth a brass nipple intended for use in pneumatics rather than hydraulics, (put in in the days when Andrew was at college and my income was not up to extravagances) and I had a pucker hydraulic replacement ready and waiting in the van, together with a second isolating tap, this time to go under the tank at the other end of said hose. But although I had originally built in the ability to drain the header tank, I had considered it unlikely to need filling manually with any regularity. Draining it is thus far simpler than filling it again. Though with the aid of a soft drinks bottle recovered from a waste bin, we refilled it was and the loco was moving off the pit just as the last train returned from Matlock.

On a couple of different topics, my Site Host (Priday Design) tells me that the number of hack-attacks on Weekend Rails and Andrew Briddon Locos sites will undoubtedly rise now that the school holidays are upon us, and one way of thwarting their attentions is to upgrade the site to the latest incarnation of Joomla. (This sounds like a sales pitch, but actually we see numerous attempts at “getting into” our sites and one or two have succeeded. It is a pity that such people have the intelligence to do it but not the moral compass to leave things alone!) As our present template is not available in the newest version, do not be surprised if the front page appearance changes in the near future. It will all still be here, somewhere. For that matter, I took time out this week to tidy up the older entries so that the old posts are just grouped into years. I have never got around to putting back all the pictures in many of these older posts that were recovered from Railnuts (and they are so out of date now, I probably never will) in part because I have no record of exactly what photo was used where. But occasionally, when for example I saw people searching for “Harrison & Camm” (wagon builders of Rotherham) I have re-instated pictures in that entry which covered the movement of Ben Riley's H&C wagon from Long Marston.

And finally, I'll give a plug to this new minor railways phone network that is burgeoning at the moment. Using VOIP (Voice over internet protocol like Skype) it aims to provide a free (if you have broadband) STD phone service to all those involved in the heritage railway sphere, with a number system like the old BR internal network. Andrew and I will be on in the next week or so. If you are interested, drop me a note and I'll put you in touch with the organiser.

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