Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of big bangs

4th August 2013

No sooner had I committed my anticipated demise to the web on last week's blog than news came through that on the contrary, my fellow Germans would valiantly defend against the Allies to enable the train – and me – to escape uninjured. But all of that in a little while.

On Tuesday I had a meeting with the structural engineer regarding the shed development. He has, to be fair, carried out his brief and prepared drawings for foundations, drainage, etc, but I watched this lot with some consternation. After all the fight we had over noise that MIGHT radiate north towards Station Road IF we had any sort of doorway in the Bakewell end of the building, and how we moved the building in order to ensure we had a solid, insulated wall that complied with the Environmental Health's criterion, I now had the Structural Engineer saying we need a fire exit in that same wall because someone might be trapped by a line of locos parked nose-to-tail up the back track. (It seems that roller shutter doors cannot be taken into account for fire escape purposes, and the fact that it would be a pretty amazing thing if we had locos of exactly the right combination to fill the entire track without so much as a few inches free to the shutters cannot be taken into account either.) Moreover, outside I looked in awe at the network of drains and manholes, one of the latter being right in the middle of a planned siding. Remember, this project started off in concept as a lean-to addition to Peak Rail''s shed at Rowsley, in the manner of a glorified garden shed. It has now taken off into something several times the size – and cost.

But just before he arrived, I had a tanker in to give 14 901 a top-up, ready for whatever work comes its way. Tempting though it was to give the BR filling system a try, it has not, to the best of our knowledge been used in many years so I insisted on using the Barclay-fitted top filling points. And no, I did not ask him to wipe the windshield or check the oils while he was about it.

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Towards the end of the week the Drewry (WD 72229) came centre-stage again. We had dropped off the batteries one evening earlier in the week and Andrew spent a while Thursday evening re-connecting them to the new starter cables and reversing the connections at the starter when, of course, it wouldn't work.

On Friday I spent the afternoon finishing off the cab floor with various bits of planking sculpted to fit around numerous pieces of pipe. I then fired the loco up and checked that everything moved up and down – after all, apart from a few times when we have run the engine up, the loco hasn't moved under its own power since the last Warring 40s event, and things like air valves in particular can start to get a bit idiosyncratic when ignored. Fortunately, apart from a mild air leak we had last year turning into a more severe one (which however, the compressors can easily cope with) all was well, and the new train brake linkage, though a little rickety, does the job for now (we'll paint it up and sort it properly).

That just left me to do the daily checks on Saturday morning – syphon the water out of the axlebox reservoirs and refill them, side rod bearings, etc – before being ready for action. However, I was not due to be in position until 1pm, so for now I kept on my 21st century hivi and started work on “Ashdown” and in particular its charging system. We knew already that the charge system wasn't doing its job, and most times this falls to the electro-mechanical regulator. I have converted a number of locos to solid-state regulation, which has several advantages but one disadvantage that I need to go into the dynamo and trace the Field neg connection where it commons to D- and bring it outside as a 4th wire. However, having extracted the dynamo (with some difficulty as it lurks behind the exhauster surmounting a modern art sculpture of steel) I found that the field windings are open-circuit, so its charge would be limited to any residual magnetism the device still retains. It went in the back of the van for further investigation.

When we first saw Ashdown at Blaenavon last December, one of the cab windows – droplight type – was smashed and replaced with a piece of plywood. That plywood did not come with the loco (or fell out along the way) leaving a gaping hole which, with the recent bursts of severe rainfall of the last few days, was not a good thing to have. As a temporary measure we had agreed to fill it with some clear plastic, and rather than buy something special, I dug out of our Stores Van a piece of 10mm thick acrylic, one of 3 machinery covers we had been passed by a Peak Rail volunteer some time ago and retained (rather against Andrew's wishes) as it might come in handy. Today it did, and while I could not quite cut out enough in one piece, I set out with the trusty jig-saw to cut a large section. I still had the blade in which had performed sterling service on the Drewry floor and had few enough teeth. I got so far and it broke. Never mind, time to get ready for the battle. Off came the 21st century hivi, and instead I donned dark blue trousers, jacket and greasetop, and transformed into by super-hero alter ego: Briddmann, Rangierlokfurher Dritte Klasse.

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I pushed the train up to the loading ramp with 72229. You can see the formation from the pictures - firstly the Lowmac was loaded with a German armoured car, then I pushed the train up further and the tube wagon received two Machine guns on tripods. (The Main Man was disappointed that the DR flat was not available this year.) Meanwhile, one of the Armourers was laying cables alongside the tracks to various large charges. The first few big bangs were to simulate an attack from an Allied bomber, and were to be triggered from a control panel in the brake van. Then I was to set off for the Fatherland as an American patrol approached over the level crossing, raking the train with machine gun fire resulting in clouds of smoke from the back of the train. The remaining Germans were to hold off the Allies until re-inforced by more Germans (in truth the ones I'd just rescued on the train) and finally overwhelmed by the numbers of supporting British and Russians.

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So how did it go in practice? After the bangs I got the signal to move but the Americans weren't really in sight, and had to slow down, but other than that it all went fairly well. After it was finished I pushed the train back up and the ordnance was removed. When I came to start the Drewry to drag the train away for the night, it wouldn't. So I got Charlie out from a nearby siding and pulled it clear with that (in good time for the loading bank road to be used by the locos coming off the last passenger train).

Ben Riley stopped to admire my new floor at this point, and boosted my flagging spirits by complimenting it on how firm and spacious it made the cab. Once he'd gone I returned to the fuel system, and having confirmed that I had not in fact run out diesel, but that none of it was reaching the fuel pumps, I traced it through the primary fuel filter, and as far as the teeny-weeny fuel filter that all Gardners have mounted on the rear of the block. This was black and alarmingly heavy, and if anything, fuel seemed dirtier here than it was earlier on, so for the moment I took it out. Fuel immediately appeared at the pumps and I ran the loco for a while to recharge the batteries.

Saturday had been hot and sweaty, Sunday was cooler with occasional hints of rain. Armed with a few spare jig-saw blades I continued cutting acrylic and completed a rough-n-ready piece of glazing, held in place with gaffer tape. I pondered how best to re-engineer the front end belt drives and got something of an idea in mind before time came to repeat the battle. In the light of Saturday's, the script had been amended. The train was to start from a wagon length further down, but the Americans were to start rather nearer. Some of the “Allied bombs” were nearer too, and about 5 minutes before it kicked off I realised that two were now bloomin close to me in my cab. I opted to close the cab door and hide on the opposite side.

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No signal from the main man today, I was to set off after 5 big bangs and I did, but the Americans were counting too and swept in a darn site sooner than yesterday. My instruction was to try to maintain a steady distance between them and the train, but their tracked vehicle and jeeps accelerated far quicker than poor old 72229 and I had a panic that they might yet catch us. As it was the firing at the retreating train looked far more dramatic and the smoke bombs were located in the rear verandah and worked more effectively (I'm told). (Some of the photos are from Steph, incidentally, as digital cameras get frowned upon by battle participants!)

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Once again after all had taken their bows, I pushed the train back up and the gear was unloaded, and Rob came aboard for the final run back out of the way. Super-hero Briddmann can go away for another year.

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