Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of rain and drains

26th January 2014

With many years of building and re-building locos behind me, I have come to understand it from the clients' viewpoint when they visit to view progress. The customer is anxious to see his loco assembled as quickly as possible and arrive on his network. Progress therefore, is perceived in large lumps. Because he is not very every day, he forgets exactly which tooters and squeakers were fitted when he arrived last time. He will remember the large pieces – the engine that is now installed but wasn't there before, the cab that now has its control desk fitted, and so on – but the little bits he cannot remember and does not see them as progress.

Of course, it can work to your advantage, if you are, as I have been on all too many occasions, the harassed host suffering the wrath of a customer who does not see much difference to his previous visit. With luck and human memory, you can probably show him pipe-runs, brackets, handrails, or whatever that were actually present last time, but can be presented as newly-fitted parts that demonstrate steady if unspectacular progression in the locomotive build. (You can go too far though – on one occasion back at Hills the decision was taken to swap a locomotive rebuild that had been started for customer A with a rebuild of the same type of loco for customer B, which, for reasons of political and financial importance, needed to be finished first. With the best will in the world, I was unable to convince customer A, on his next visit, that “his” locomotive had moved forwards when last time it had an engine in, and now it did not).

Yet if there was a formula for man-hours of fitting vs physical size,it would probably be very much in favour of the small part taking up the time. A temperature switch can be small, almost invisible to the uninitiated, but installing it, getting it wired, along with all the other switches and sensors, takes far, far longer than dropping an engine onto its pre-assembled mountings.

I would like to show you the progress on the Geoffrey Briddon Building that has taken place this week. The remaining foundations were cast on Monday, and promptly disappeared under an inch of rainwater. On Wednesday the contractors returned and started on the principle drains. Fine large lines of brown drain pipe, couplings and elbows duly appeared, only to be buried in concrete or aggregate by the end of the week. A drain whose route and function had baffled Peak Rail for years turned out only to progress some ten or fifteen feet from the manhole where it was known to emerge, to a soak-away in the ground which thus became a highly suitable location to connect our new rainwater drains to.

But by the end of the week there was very little really to see. A line of concrete in the ground is there, true, but in places it has been deliberately back-filled in order to get the digger and dumper in and out of the middle of the shed, or where said shed will be. A new manhole was added to the drain that runs parallel with the running line south from Darley (that is, as far as the brook where it disgorges) but even that you would be hard-pressed to spot as the new drain leading to it was dug, installed and back-filled within a day and with ballast seemingly undisturbed on top. Only the fact that the builders merchants next door had the moulded plastic chamber but not its lid left the job slightly less than complete.

IMG 2466 blog

Andrew was away this weekend but he had spent a while at Rowsley after his exam on Thursday (he's doing an MSc), armed with a coil of MIG wire, finishing off the last two stools and starting painting the first 5 in Hammerite. I have been ordering up more pieces of I beam for the end gables, which should be with us next week sometime, leaving Andrew another task to weld the base plates on them which, in view of their handle-ability, looks like being easier to take the welder to them rather than the other way round. I have also been applying pressure to ensure that the insurance examiner visits soon to get the Mattersons inspected, although when the phone call came through, it was a bit of a surprise (to both parties) when the examiner revealed he had been informed that the Mattersons were located at the old Briddon Towers address in Sheffield!

So on Saturday morning I was down at Darley early to open up and see our plant depart back to the hirers, after which I wandered round to the builders merchants only to be told that our chamber lid was on its way across from Clay Cross and would be here in an hour so. So I headed back home and after partaking of an early lunch, returned to Darley and after some kerfuffle, came away with a chamber lid. I walked round past the ground frame (informing the signalman as to what I was up to, naturally) and headed down to the chamber.

Of course, not being a civil engineer, and not specially conversant with the intricacies of drainage components, I may be excused, I hope, for only then discovering that this lid was substantially smaller than that required. I walked back round to the builders merchants and back to the guy at the counter -

“They haven't given you that one, have they?” he exclaimed, “That's an 11inch, you want an 18inch”
Dismissing ideas of replying that at my age, even 11inches would be something to be proud of, I instead suggested that this one might be OK once it had grown up. After a few minutes, during which claps of thunder shook Darley, followed by hail and heavy rain, the correct 18inch lid was produced.

I stood at the exit door watching the pools forming on the car park before braving the downpour once again back to my chamber by the line. I discarded the road cone and piece of metal that had been used as temporary covers and dropped the correct lid into place, thus completing the main drainage works for the building – and yet there's almost nothing I could photograph for you that would be of any interest at all.

Back at Rowsley it was time, the rain having eased, to check over the Drewry as it is going on holiday later this week. Back at the Warring 40s in August I had had a problem with the fuel filter on the rear of the Gardner block, and it has subsequently been running without one. (This is not entirely irresponsible as (a) it hasn't run much and (b) there's another filter nearer the tank.) Now however I had a nice new one to fit so removed the nut from the back of the housing and promptly dropped it. So far I had had the wrong size housing, got wet fitting the right one, and now was scrabbling around on a wet loco and ballast looking for an important brass nut. I think I really should have got the message and retired home. But there are times when even the obvious doesn't register. I refitted the filter and housing, found the nut hiding on a cross-stretcher, checked the loco over and started it up.

When I fitted the floor last August, it was summer and dry. Now it is winter and wet, and the timber has swelled a bit. This manifests itself most at the lift-out panel over the gearbox which you really should lift out from time to time as else you cannot get at the drain valve for an air receiver that sits in the front of the cab. In August it was a close fit, with a gap, unplanned, but fortuitous, into which a lever could be applied to encourage it were it to stick. Some weeks ago I took a Surform to one edge in an attempt to give it some additional clearance. This Saturday I had to do it again, and again, and again.

Having satisfied myself that all was well, I headed back in to the shed. A couple of bulbs in the Matterson panel weren't working but appeared to be OK (well, they bleeped happily on my meter) so I assumed that they were merely contacting badly and cleaned them up and refitted them. Another on one of the posts (which are meant to reveal to the operator which posts are live and ready to move, as you can turn them on and off individually) was not so healthy and I must pick up a spare or two.

And that, by our standards, was a not very productive day but was about all I got done. If the thunder storm on Saturday was heavy but compact, the rain on Sunday morning was lighter but went on all morning. I had some paperwork that was a good excuse for not venturing forth, but after lunch I headed back to Rowsley and although there was a job outside beckoning, the prospect of more rain convinced me that I should get back to Libby.

Andrew had asked me to crack on with getting two pieces inside the cab refitted. The desk on Libby is mounted to the cab front, and sits over the rear axle and its gearbox, and there are three pieces that form covers under the desk to the floor. Two of these were badly corroded and were professionally repaired years ago, whereas the third, across the front, has always been missing and we will make a new one when the other two are in. Despite the advances in lighting in the shed, the front corner of the cab is still a black hole and so first task was to pull out the extension cable and the inspection lamp. Having worked out where the original holes were, I discovered that these were already bigger than the M6 I proposed, so I deepened the holes and proceeded to tap them, but a trial fit showed that it really wasn't going to work, and I needed to go to M8, a tap which we don't yet possess. Nevertheless., I started opening the holes out to 7mm, and snapped the drill off in the first hole.

As an alternative, I thought I might get back to refitting the sliding windows, so hunted them out from another part of the shed and carried one down to the loco. The windows frames had the remains of old sealing material which I cleaned off, as we would bed them in in a black mastic. I then presented the first in – or rather out – through the cab window aperture and swung it around and back in.

Now I suppose you're all expecting me to drop it aren't you? Sorry to disappoint, I hung on to it but although logic says I had the left hand window, bringing it back in to its aperture did not appear to get any holes to line up. I am sure this is the left hand – the frame has drain slots to discharge the rainwater which really ought to be at the bottom – but just in case, I took it across and tried it on the other side, and the holes don't appear to line up there either.

By now I had decided that this wasn't just being my day or days. I took the hint and packed away. And it still hadn't occurred to me that this was the last weekend of the month.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the subcontractor to sign off the drainage and foundation work and discuss dates for assembling steelwork and alternative solutions to the floor. Then it is back at Rowsley Wednesday to put the Mattersons through their paces.

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