You may recall that when Ashdown arrived from Furnace Sidings, it lacked a complete droplight on the right hand side (well most of it, if you peered down the resulting gap, a large quantity of broken glass can be seen at the bottom) and the one on the left is held semi-permanently shut with a piece of wood. Back in August I had cut two pieces of thick perspex to seal up the missing one - so Andrew decided that should be the one to receive the treatment first.
Now, the thing about a droplight is that it comprises a full-width opening, although as most of this is over the control desk, you would have to be kneeling on the control levers to make use of it. However, with a sliding window, you only get a half opening – in fact, rather less since the vertical split means that the sliding panel can only go so far as the corner radius. (You can get them square cornered, and we will have some in due course to replace the worn-out ones on “Pluto”, but radius-ed corners look well, 'professional'.). So I had decided, when measuring the existing aperture, to extend it some 100mm or so forwards to improve the opening to one which might not remove my ears should I need to put my head out without careful alignment. This meant cutting away the cab side-sheet a bit, and since cutting a smooth radius with a slitting disc in an angle grinder is much akin to cleaning your teeth with a motorised carving knife, I had provisioned some nice gussets for welding afterwards in to square corners.
But first I had to remove unwanted material. Ashdown's cab, like the 03's was built to the practice whereby you make a large steel box with steel sheet and a minimum of stiffening, and then surround the door and window apertures with wooden frames. I don't really understand why – it's not as if it contributes much to insulation or other functionality – but I removed all the fixing bolts and discovered that not only did the verticals go all the way down the droplight tracks to the cab floor (and to get at them might involve removing half the desk) but the bit across the top was thoroughly well dovetailed in place and the whole lit was made of hardwood.
Andrew appeared and having produced a wood chisel from the workshops, started trying to chisel through the two verticals. When he turned his back I put the slitting disc on the Makita through them, making a lot of smoke and a smell that took me back to Scout camp fires at Polyapes. Next I marked out the extended rectangle and Andrew and I carefully removed it, taking care not to shower sparks on the adjacent windows. The resultant aperture needed a bit of further attention from the grinder where the original cutting was not quite true, but by early afternoon the first window was held in place with G cramps and I was drilling the cab sheet and window frame through for fixing bolts.
Sadly there was only time to finish the one, and more particularly, cutting the cab sheet used up my last 3 slitting discs, so for the moment the left hand cab side remains untouched. And since we cannot get the welder anywhere near Ashdown at present, the new gussets remain in store at the Briddon Country Pile and bits of gaffer tape cover the corners.
For the first time in a month, there was no Class 14 training programme on Thursday: I wonder what I used to do on Thursdays before that?
On Saturday, Andrew had declared we were back off to Scunthorpe. By the time we had got there, the 03 D2128 was sat over the pit on the left-most shed road, and Sentinel “Tom” was sat on the track adjacent. Andrew headed over to Tom to carry out further adjustment, this time on the rear spring hangers.
One of the outstanding snags on D2128 is that the compressor will not unload, and the original Broomwade compressor unloader valve- the type that works perfectly on 14 901 – leaks profusely but doesn't influence the compressor. I had picked up an ordinary automotive one to replace it this week, so set about installing it on the original bracket and pipework. The only way to see if it now worked was to run the engine, and, after some minor attention to the throttle linkage, D2128 was brought back to life, Andrew forsook Tom and we started running up and down. After a couple of turns Andrew pushed me aside and decided that, even though it is still somewhat unpredictable in obtaining and retaining each gear, we should put a test load on and 3 nearby locos (the 07 at 42tons, the 02 at 28tons and the Janus at 48) were duly hauled up the hill of a headshunt until wheelspin (Andrew maintains made worse by 1st gear dropping in and out) brought it to a stand. As shunter I had little opportunity to photograph the proceedings, however, Stephen has put some of this up on YouTube (see here), although on reflection he was probably shaking with excitement – or something.
More surprising was having come to a stop, D2128 was dragged back down, wheels locked, and we legged it over to get handbrakes on the other locos to stop it before we had flats! After a few attempts at hand sanding to get it higher up the headshunt we gave up and pushed them back. Did the compressor now unload? Er no, you can hear the safety valve periodically dumping on the youtube clip. But as I drove home later I reflected and realised that I am used to buying these valves under a part number which is normally ready set-up. Before we blame the cylinder head unloaders for not functioning, maybe this particular brand isn't and we must do so ourselves. If nothing else, as Andrew observed, with very little throttle on, we appeared to exceed 10mph in top gear and augers well for 30mph+ when we are ready to give it some ooomph.
Andrew returned to Tom and eventually, as twilight arrived, took the loco up and down to settle the springs. He had gained another 10mm, but Tom is still nose end up. More spring work next time, methinks. Actually, as we are agreed we must somehow arrange to get D2128 over the Tata weighbridge to establish gross weights and hopefully extrapolate axle weights, maybe we should take the 03 and Tom together.
Peak Rail has rostered the 14 to work on 3 days this month – the 6th, the 12th and the 20th. But before it went out today I was determined to change the oil pressure switch, which you may recall was showing signs of imminent demise. So first job was to retire it for a younger one (topical age-ism reference, eh?). I managed to button-hole Jackie Statham with a plan to circumvent the railway's hors-de-combat JCB by bringing in hired plant to proceed with the clearance down at Darley Dale (which is delaying progress on the shed) which hopefully will bear fruit in the next week or so. Then I donned my loco driver's outfit and with Roger Hallat and Roy Taylor aboard, headed for the station.
“I'm not going to say how many coaches we've got” said the Guard “I might end up in your blog”.
“Aaah, another reader,” I soothed, amazing how even grown men will admit to reading this.
And then “You might anyway” I reflected.
Pete Waller showed me a clandestine proof copy of the next Peak Express magazine before breaking the news to me that he wants another issue out before Christmas and that means a further contribution from me.
So 14 901 has accrued another 5 trips to Sainsbury's today. I was told this evening that one couple, arriving to discover that '901 was on the train and not the 31, got back in their car and drove off, but it's not as if it said the 31was listed as out on the Peak Rail website (actually it doesn't yet say which locos are out this month) and I spotted two other couples and a few others photographing both at Rowsley, Darley and Matlock, so I shall not take umbridge. It has been a largely uneventful day in the Derwent valley, save that a cable fault at Darley had precluded operating the northbound home and instead we were summoned over the crossing by flag. The Rowsley Fire Crew had taken their big red Dennis out for a spin, and were practising by soaking large sections of Darley yard with their hoses. If I'd known, I'd have given them shampoo and a brush and asked them to wash and polish our container. Andrew meantime, had been stripping some bits down, aiding a member on the DDNGR with a problem on the tamper and charging the batteries on James so that it could be run up for a while.
And since I am back out on 14 901 next Saturday (12th) I had better make sure I am not out late on my birthday the previous day. No cards, please, cheques and postal orders only.