Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of grout and grinders

16th March 2014

Those of you who are regular readers will have twigged that my titles usually correlate in some manner with the text. Indeed, usually when I sit down to write this, the first bit I commit is “Of ?” and I return when I have got to the end and work out what common theme(s) have escaped from my musings to become proper prose. So, you might have wondered, why did the word “jacks” come in to the title last week when there was nothing much about jacks in the text. Ah. Well, there was, and then Andrew observed that I committed something of a faut paux, and it was much easier just to delete the entire bit and so I did, but clean forgot the tweak the title.

When, some weeks ago, we had the man from Zurich in to inspect the Mattersons, while he was floundering around convincing himself that the lifting and safety nuts (which are renowned for being brick s**t house on this size of Matterson) might be all but worn away and lifting on congealed grease, we had noticed that on one post the thread was waggling, indicating that it was out of its top bearing. In these jacks the lift thread is anchored at the top, and takes the weight through it on a large thrust bearing – the gearbox at the bottom is not supposed to be taking weight, but if it was out of its top bearing, then that is exactly where the weight may be.

We therefore proposed to Zurich that we send one post up to Mattersons as a sample, in the basis that if all 4 only get used together as a set, and have always been a set, then one should serve as adequate proof for all four. They need not know why we picked that particular post. Needless to say, in the risk-averse mind of an insurance examiner frightened by the unknown, this does not necessarily follow, but we decided to go ahead and do it anyway, as with the limited facilities at Rowsley it would be a pig of a job for us to strip ourselves and another interruption to our programme.

But when I rang our regular haulier, his first reaction was that he couldn't do it this week. Meanwhile Andrew and I had been investigating the flooring scheme and whilst not yet committed to going it alone, there is a rising desire to supply as much material free issue as we can to keep control of costs. At four o'clock Monday afternoon the haulier rang back to say he had had a cancellation for tomorrow, was that too soon? Within the last hour I had succeeded in setting up that and negotiating special price for 48 sheets of A252 reinforcing mesh and booking accordingly.

So first thing Tuesday morning the Matterson post, which had been manoeuvred out on Sunday, was loaded on to the wagon and sent north to Rochdale, and then the wagon went on to return to Darley at twenty to four with the mesh.

I suspect Mattersons haven't an excessive amount of work on at the moment, for they had started stripping our post almost as soon as the vehicle had left and the following day we had a call inviting one or both of us up to inspect the components. Andrew has a 'real job'.

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As we had always expected, the lift nut was entirely satisfactory, with no significant wear at all. There had been some damage to the safety nut (which is in steel) but it spun easily on the thread and a bit of dressing with a mounted stone would easily improve it cosmetically.

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Whence the threaded bar had been pulled out of position there were score marks where the grub screws had fought back, but so far as lifting safety was concerned, there was nothing of concern. But the gearbox was a different matter. The drive, where it came out of the top, was slightly angled and clearly all was not well within. I regretted in a sense that they had not asked my authority to open it up yesterday, for now I must give it and return again in due course.

Andrew incurred a minor work injury last week – he scratched his leg getting off a rail vehicle – and as it wasn't seeming to heal properly he had finally gone to the doctors and on to the Minor A&E unit at the nearby Whitworth Hospital (and yes, as I have said before, there are various landmarks around here named after former local resident Sir James Whitworth, inventor of that wonderful thread form that undoes when demanded of it instead of seizing and shearing like a metric) who had re-dressed it and demanded that he return on Thursday lest there had been no improvement. So he dutifully returned first thing Thursday, to be put on anti-biotics to counteract an infection, though the nurses seemed rather disconcerted by his low blood pressure. Amazing how much wear there must be in his big-ends for his age.

Anyway, Thursday afternoon I had another call from Mattersons, to be told that the gearbox was “a bit of a mess”; a technical description which encompasses everything from moderate wear and tear through to totally FUBAR'd. I drove up again Friday morning (Mottram hill again mostly clear – where has everybody gone?) with considerable trepidation. Quite what has befallen this unit in the past I am not sure. There was, if you see the cavity in the middle, once upon a time a bearing sat there, but remains there were none, with the result that the bottom gear wheel had been gradually chewing its way through the bottom of the 'box. Of the bearing that had once been above said gearwheel, only the inner race and cage survived, and the combined total of debris you can see in the picture does not amount to much. Fortunately, the gears themselves have suffered only minor damage, and the gearbox casing and shaft end can be recovered one way or another, so it will return with a clean bill of health – at a cost.

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Thus, when it came to Saturday, Andrew declared that, thanks to his painful leg he was in supervisory mode, but as I was not feeling well either, I eventually vetoed a return trip to the DVLR, but headed over alone to Wickes to stock up on cement and such. After this we headed in to Rowsley, where, with due respect to his lascerated limb, we carried on installing windows in Libby and securing the casing sections dropped on last week. Late in the afternoon we took a break and filled James up with coolant, giving the engine a run for the first time this year. In due course James is due to become works shunter at Darley, but for the moment it is trapped in between ours and others bits on a siding with no opportunity to stretch its legs.

Now, we have been thwarted twice in two weeks. The week before last, the bogie bolster had been dropped at Darley and with the crane on site, the crane beams/rails were to be craned on for return to Rowsley for us to cut and re-drill, but Peak Rail has only one certified rigger and he had had to go home early on the appointed day. Plans had been re-cast for this week, but the day before Rob got called back to Rowsley to carry out some essential task for the weekend (so essential that it hadn't been thought of sooner) and our beams still lay at Darley. Moreover we had Terry lined up to assist, so there was nothing for it but to try to make a start at Darley after all. In a way this suited me, as it meant that I could attempt to grout in the first set of holding down bolts without fighting with the others over which end of the railway the van would be.

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But on our arrival at Darley we were met by a sad sight. The wind had been quite strong the last couple of days, and it had all proved too much for a brave banner. It had ripped at one end, its eyelets had been severed from the material, it was, shall we say, an ex-banner. We went over to the station and collected the ladders and put it out of its misery.

You will recall that last week my favourite 4.5” grinder had become an ex-grinder too. I took it in to the Power tool repair specialists in Sheffield on Monday and they had declared that it would grind no more, so gave it a decent burial (skip) while I came away with a spanking new Makita. Now, we were not about to try cutting through 533 high beams with a 4.5” grinder, and had dug out not one, but two 9”grinders that have come our way s/h through e-bay or auction over the years. Terry got himself suitably equipped and started off with the Bosch, which although I have used it a couple of times before, is a bit of a monster. In Terry's hands it started the task of hacking through the steel before suddenly stopping (and not when actually grinding!). A thorough check of all fuses, circuit breakers and continuity followed, before concluding that it too might need a trip to the repairers, and Terry switched to a DeWalt, which did get a bit warm as the cut went on.

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I meanwhile, had temporarily re-positioned a concrete block which supports the weight of two of our concrete panels (with me so far?) so that I could get in and fit my shuttering to cast a neat cement'n'water mix to grout in the holding down bolts in their cones. But first I had to extract the rain water that had filled them, and for this Rob had leant us a underseal-gun. This is rather like a spray gun, but designed to suck out thicker liquids and deliver without the finesse. It would, he assured us, suck all the rainwater clean out in seconds. And were it clean not muddy, it might have, but I soon discovered that it needed regular de-debris'ing to get the job done.

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Nonetheless by early afternoon I had cast my first grout, forswearing the old adage “Ne'er cast a grout til May is out”, and had moved on to clamping new purlin brackets with a view to adding a new, lower line around where our cladding sheets will end. I was thus engaged when my phone rang, and a Peak Rail MD anxiously enquired 'was I on site?' It appeared that “Lord Phil” had developed a fault with one side injector and if I had been poised ready, 14 901 might have deputised. Realistically though I could not have got up there and had it running and on the train in less than half-an-hour, and pointed this out. Lord Phil got through the day with a cloud of steam from the injector overflow.

The Class 50 boys had been doing PTS and some sort of meeting in the conference room, and some of their members wandered in after they'd finished. I greeted them with my usual “Official Tours are half-a-crown” and when that didn't scare 'em off (we could of course have stood on H&S rules and thrown them out for not having appropriate PPE) they asked us how many locos we would be getting in. Sensing that they might just think that we could take one track and they might offer to fill the second road with a 50, I reminded them that Andrew currently has 17. (They had been offered the Darley site some time before us but declined it).

Terry had headed north, and Andrew and I were winding down, when Rob and Pete Waller appeared to drop Rob's car off and head back to Rowsley before bringing down the works train. But first they came for an inspection, and a further discussion on the numerous topics that confront us – like what to do with all the arisings from the forthcoming floor excavations, where to put and position these cranebeams so we can get on and sort them (having proved we can do it here there seems little point in dragging them up to Rowsley after all) and how long we'll be hanging on to his underseal gun if it doesn't rain and we continue to grout one column base per day. Such weighty matters need careful consideration and debate..

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