Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of chickens and speedos

30th March 2014

Firstly, my apologies if you have had difficulties getting on to Weekend Rails this week. As I write this, people are telling me that they are getting server error messages. Now I “check” WR (and Andrew Briddon Locos) every day, a legacy of the trouble that has been caused by past hacking attempts (as a matter of interest, there have been over 500 spurious attempts to “log-in” to my side of WR this month) but I do so by means of the monitoring package which has been unaffected, so remained unaware. Hopefully it will not take long to fix.

So what has been happening this week? Thanks to the early week wet and cold weather, I managed to get only one more column grouted down at the Geoffrey Briddon Building (aka the shed) at Darley Dale, but on Tuesday night, we took advantage of the fact that the JCB was around to move the crane beams and such to clear the floor area. On Thursday morning, before Andrew headed off to college, (he's doing a MSc on a day release basis) we presented a brick to the Town Hall. Tempted though I was to deliver it through a window, the fact that it had a letter taped to it and a colour sample for the cladding material included would have been a bit of a give away. But the manufacturer had couriered (!) to us a sample of the walling stone, so Planning department received it, though the lady on the Town Hall reception, was, said Andrew, somewhat taken aback.

On Thursday too the contractor got under way digging out the floor area, following the coloured diagram I showed you last week (save a minor change – there really is no point putting the rails all the way up to the shed wall). Meanwhile we have been evolving and refining a plan – yes, a cunning one – that should produce us a workable concrete floor. It does require the remaining columns to be grouted, and a wall in foundation blocks all the way round which will give us a floor level to work to.

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Anyway, by Friday lunchtime the floor area had been roughly excavated down, but had transformed a “slightly muddy” floor area into something reminiscent of a First World Way no-man's land. He's back tomorrow to start building up the stone base, and you remember how I said last week that the MoT Type 1 was coming from a nearby quarry? Well, it's coming from another one now, as the price has improved yet again.

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Come Saturday and Andrew and I argued as to where to go. I would have liked to have got some more columns grouted, but there again I wouldn't have minded doing some bits on D2128 at Scunthorpe, but equally we had been intending a return to Pluto on the DVLR to get the windows finished and the loco checked over, and in the end, the fair weather forecast favoured the open air of the DVLR.

As I headed up the M18, we came up behind a lorry with an advertising slogan on its rear. It read “Eat healthy British chicken”, above a picture of a suitably roasted bird surrounded by potatoes and vegetables. I found this somewhat perplexing. Could it be racist? Were you allowed to advertise something that discriminated against chickens that just happen to be of a different ethnic origin? For that matter, why would I be stupid enough to go searching for a chicken to roast that was obviously sick or diseased? As I pulled back into the slow lane in front of the vehicle, the real cause of my discomfort dawned on me. How could it be healthy if it was dead?

The DVLR was getting ready for the new season which begins in a week or so. Piqued by my last remarks, batteries had been charged, coolant topped up and the loco had been run a week or so ago, so we removed the old side sliders and resumed cutting the cab column out a few millimetres with the new grinder and a slitting disc. I had taken to wearing my new prescription safety glasses, but returned to the van for my hard hat after grinding sparks started bouncing off the underside of the roof and on to my not-as-well-thatched-as-it-once-was head. The windows were duly installed, and a very smart Planet it looks too, although personally I think a dab of black paint on the plated bolt heads wouldn't come amiss. We fired the loco up and Andrew found an air leak on the horn valve connection, which I had had off the previous time so as to drill some of the holes for the front right window. He tightened the offending connection, and it promptly snapped, revealing an old crack of long-standing in a brass fitting. We scoured the workshops for a temporary substitute and eventually cobbled together some bits, but it still leaked. By now the DVLR members were heading home, but we ran the loco to check that things were otherwise OK and decided that a new brake cylinder seal might be a wise precaution – I have some in stock. We changed it back in 2003 or thereabouts, and had to have the cylinder skimmed a little to remove corroded areas. Andrew has decreed when we get the loco down to the shed for a thorough rebuild (much of the cab platework has jack-rusted) we will “improve” the brake cylinder plumbing, since the drain connection intended to remove condensate that might otherwise build up in the chamber, is at the 9 o'clock position the way Planet fitted it, which is not the brightest idea.

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As we set off for home, I glanced down and found that the speedo on the van had ceased working. Oh bu***r.

The clocks went forward overnight and so Andrew and I were a little later than usual getting going, though he insisted this was due to exhaustive late night on-line research he had been conducting into the science of concrete spreading. We headed down first to the shed and set about grouting not one but two more columns, as I hastily put together a second set of formwork pieces and the rainwater that had been surrounding some of the columns was no longer standing following the excavations. That took us over the halfway mark, nine done, seven to go, but with stone now about to be laid the pressure is on to get them all finished.

After lunch we headed back to Rowsley, and I hooked up the cable to get the battery charger on to James while Andrew got set up to do a repair to the front casing platework of Libby. I found myself pottering a bit – the original cab sand levers on Libby are being removed (but saved just in case) and their mounting positions used for two buttons to operate ep valves for sanders. I measured them up ready to source profiles, as I did also for Cheedale's missing lift-off panel, where we must create a Thomas Hill look-alike panel for authenticity. Both James and Ashdown were low on coolant, so the anti-freeze we had taken to York yesterday was used after all to top them both up.

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Ashdown had been in use on Friday, when another rather decrepit Austerity had arrived, and it was now parked on top of the sometimes termed “Briddon siding”, that which holds most of Andrew's locos that are not in regular use/stored, including James and D9500. After the service had finished, we split the rake and Ashdown drew the front vehicles, including the 31, out of the way, while I followed up with James, the VBA, the german flat and D9500 so we could access a component that we needed to take off but was too heavy without assistance.

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Finally back on my potter-list I headed up into 14 901's cab. Back at home I have nearly finished the first speedo head to Andrew's required specification, and to make it work I need to route two more wires to the desk from the control cabinet, were a pcb is ready to send a 4-20mA signal. There are spare ways in a multi-core specifically for that purpose, but I feared (and found true) that I have no spare Termate connections left. You think you've got oodles of 'em when you first assemble the back-plate but by the time it has all got wired up every last one has been utilised. I'm loathe to start trying to add more to the back plate – I'm sure to slip and destroy a pcb or drop swarf in the computer or something. Besides, 14 901 is rostered for several days of running during April, starting with a mid-week turn on the 8th, so I best leave it for now and dream up a suitable alternative. I'm sure there's a solution. You all know the old schoolboy howler - 'Complete the following saying “Where there's a will – There's a dead man".

More in this category: « Of duck tape and Baby Powder

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