Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Guards and Brakes

13th October 2013

Oh what a miserable morning
Oh what a dis-mal day
I've got a frightening feeling
Blizzards are coming our way.

I found myself singing this yesterday morning. Summer seems a receding memory and the weather was damp and depressing. I had planned to get in prompt at nine and do a few minor jobs on 14 901, but in the end it was quarter past ten by the time I'd rolled in and picked up Roy Taylor as secondman for another day of playing, sorry rostered operation with the '14. Between us we did the checks – I collected the oil store key so that I could recover some of our SAE 30 for the exhauster and compressor (did you know that you can actually buy a machine that creates a vacuum at one side by extracting the air and delivering it as compressed air at the other? It's called an Expressor, but I've never seen one, though we did have it specified on an overseas tender we were bidding on, years ago).

By 11-ish we had gained our qualified driver for the day and were heading over to take our place at the top of the train. Passengers were surprisingly plentiful, given the weather. 14 901 behaves very differently between start and end of the day. First thing it is cold and reluctant, barely wanting to move off when the Voith is engaged. The engine is idling at 550, the cab is cold, and being towed all the way to Matlock hardly makes any difference. It's only after the first trip back up the hill that much temperature gets in the block, and even then after a first run on a cold October morn it has barely got up to 60. By the end of the day the DV8 is up to 75-80 degrees and is idling at 650, the cab is noticeably warmer, and when you engage the Voith light loco, '901 promptly sets off and bowls along contentedly at about 4 mph without touching the throttle.

Anyhow it was a drizzly day on Saturday and as I wasn't sure whether 901 might experience any wheelslip under such rail conditions I may have been holding back a bit on the way up. But as I have said before, this is an entertainment, not a commuter chase. In fact, the loco seemed as sure-footed as usual (and to be honest, it ought – two of the major factors in determining adhesion are he gross weight of the loco and the relative length of wheelbase and overhangs (weight transfer) and the long wheelbase of '901 ought to mean it is more steady than the kettle at the other end). But I wasn't expecting, as I waited in the cafe queue for a cuppa tea, to be harassed by the Guard -

“Were you having a problem on the way up?”
“Er no..”
“Only I had complaints from the passengers that you were going too slow.”

What, so had they missed their connection at Rowsley Junction for the branch train to Baslow? I decided I had better gun it a bit for the rest of the day, and watch the clock more closely.IMG 2263 blog

With the damp atmosphere the steam and smoke effects from the Austerity at the easy end were nonetheless quite impressive, and sadly my picture cannot really do it justice, but here's my best effort, with the train just pulling out of the platform and the loco swinging to the left.

Down at Darley, Dominic Beglin was combining the pleasures of S&T work and getting wet (he was probably painting something, he usually is) and got this short but sweet video as '901 fre-wheeled down the short slope into the south end of Darley. You can see just how dull it was by how the headlamp stands out, and also hear that we might have to take a look at a side rod bearing before too long.

I had no more complaints of slow running, but did wonder, as the batteries on the Mk2 were being given additional charge during layovers, whether the real problem was just that the power wasn't enough to maintain his forced air heating and I wasn't making his dynamo turn quick enough.

As I wandered back up the platform in search of a later tea, I was buttonholed by another reader of this blog, who had spent the journey up with his head out the nearest window listening to the song of the DV8 at work. A not insignificant part of my railway engineering career has been spent reducing the outputted noise of such engines, with flex-mounted cabs and casing designs, spiral silencers and a/v mounts, and now I am being persuaded that a minimal exhaust gives a “nicer noise”. As far as '901 goes, I can fall back on the famous Rolls-Royce Oil Engine Division view: “Sir, if you have a turbocharger, you do not need a silencer.”

I have mentioned before my “Royal wave” as the train sweeps out of the station with 901 at the rear. Steph accused me of being “limp wristed” with it, so I am practising a firmer, more confident rotary action from the cab window. It is bringing results. On Saturday the shop lady was pressed to her window attempting to emulate, and one gentleman was even photographing me doing it. You watch, I'll find myself flickr'd or something soon.

The weather on Sunday started equally dismally, but my first port of call was Darley, where I had arranged to meet a contractor regarding breaking out the base of the concrete garages and digging out one of the two tracks that are in our way for the foundations. Some of this I'd hoped would be done by now, but such is the customer service ethos of one local firm that after promising to ring me back 2 or 3 times simply to come and view the job, we had started investigating hiring concrete breakers to do it ourselves. Added to all of that, the railway's JCB has been poorly sick since July and mechanical remedy or replacement is still not determined. However, this guy turned up on time, eyed the job and quoted with confidence and I await a further call as to when he can see it through. What concerns us, of course, is that we are now much later in the year than we had intended (I had hoped for steelwork erection during September) and with rumour of a more severe winter in the offing than last, we don't want to be casting concrete in frost.

IMG 2266 blog

While I was there, Lord Phil returned on a 'Pay and Play' and as Charlie and the works train are stabled at Darley (sleeper changing being the order of the day) I grabbed a quick photo as it set off for the crossing. Then I headed up to Rowsley and seeing as it was still raining, decided that a nice job to progress would be take off the three remaining motor brakes from the Mattersons. The motors each have a brake on the top – the idea being that when you release the switch the beams stop dead, whereas ours, on our first trial, spun on for a turn or two. We examined one and found it had suffered from rain ingress, so took it off and up to Mattersons for assessment and repair. Having established a cost, it is ready to come back and the other three need to go up as they are all in similar condition. Even the screw connectors are seized solid and the wires must be labelled and snipped, then 4 large cap screws, hiding away in the accumulated brown of rust and brake dust must be scooped out and undone. By the time they were off it was middle of the afternoon and the weather had changed for the better, even a bit of blue sky to be seen. Over on '901 I nipped up the bolts securing the filter bowls where we may have been leaking a bit of oil, and took a grinder to one of the door securing pegs to give it a bit of a lead as it tries not to engage. But without Andrew to nag or assist me (he's been away all weekend) I left some tasks for later and instead fired James up to see how the batteries are holding up.

Next Sunday 14 901 is out again for the last rostered day that we have been told of: I wonder what weather that will produce?

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