Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of SPADs and weddings

13th April 2014

(SPAD – of course UK readers will know, but for the benefit of my overseas readers (Hullo Sweden!) means Signal Passed at Danger; a cardinal sin.)

Readers who go through this prose with the proverbial comb will have noticed that there was no tally last week on the number of columns grouted, and that was because, with contractors busy digging and rolling, and the weather, we had not had opportunity to get any more done.

As more quotes come in from Builders Merchants, my ignorance on these things comes to the fore. I have asked for 2000guage Damp Proof membrane, but 2 out of 3 have offered 500micron, and the last just gave me a price with no technical info at all. But the other two have also offered different prices (wildly so) and such hidden codes as BBA and PIFA. I turn to the structural engineers, who first off don't know whether 2000 gauge was the same as 500 micron either, but eventually discover it is and it really doesn't matter whether we have BBA or PIFA provided it is all stuck together properly. When the time comes I will probably toss a coin! For now, I have ordered 180 foundation blocks and ten tons of sand which are due next week.

At the end of last Sunday, the class 31 was failed after a small fire developed on or around the traction motor blower, so its duties for April have been split between D8 and 14 901, with the latter already booked for 2 Tuesdays and Easter weekend. Hopefully by then I can see at least one other driver passed fit to operate it and take the load off me.

So on Tuesday I arrived moderately early to see to 14 901's needs and was surprised to find “Lord Phil” was out- I hadn't expected a Pay-and-Play on a Tuesday. I couldn't find the correct fitting for the grease gun in the van so satisfied myself with a thorough survey from the pit under the loco before doing all the normal checks and top-ups above ground level. I then fired up and while the air pressure was building, got changed into my train-driver's outfit.

By now, Lord Phil had returned and come straight past me and back to shed, which indicated there was something wrong as normally it would have gone on the front of the train and waited there. I soon discovered that a steam joint had spat part of a gasket out and couldn't be rectified until the boiler had cooled, and so the activity now around Penyghent was that we were both on together.

Now faced with a choice of an 0-6-0 or a 1CoCo1, it was surprising, though entirely logical, that I got the Matlock end, which is at least downhill most of the way. But this end is referred to as the “Suicide run” - a trifle dramatic perhaps, but in this direction, given that the platforms are not really intended for 7 coach trains, the opportunity to screw it up is magnified. At Darley, brake too late and not only do you SPAD, but you take out the level crossing gates. At Matlock, as I think I observed once before, an overshoot takes out the buffer stop and as it belongs to Network Rail, their paperwork is a bit of a swine. But at least 14 901 could have an easy day, even if its driver was fretting when, and how far, to pull the train brake valve control.

I was joined by Lord Phil's crew for the first run, for with fire dropped there was nothing to do until pressure dissipated, and Mike surprised me by promptly hunting out my nice new speedo, having read about it in this blog. Up to now I had only been shunting around light loco, and seen the needle move up to about 8mph, and all had seemed in order. But as we set off with the 11.15 I was a somewhat taken aback to discover that is as far as the needle will go. This is, I admit, something of a disappointment and requires more thorough investigation. Still, I suppose if I am ever interrogated as to my speed through Darley loop or over Bridge 35 (both have 10 mph restrictions) I can honestly pronounce that my speedo told me I was comfortably within the limit.

Anyway, we settled down to the initial leg of the journey, and the first thing to worry about is the state of Church Lane crossing. The controlling signal, which cannot be pulled off until the gates are open, lurks amongst the trees on the outside of a long, gradual curve. The station staff at Rowsley phone up the box and tell the Church Lane signalman of our departure, so our appearance is not entirely a surprise, but it is not unusual for the peg to be 'on' until we get close, and pulled off as the signalman makes it back up the stairs having opened the gates.

So as the peg was on, I throttled back but wasn't too concerned.

As you sweep further around this curve, the box comes into sight, and the signalman could be seen in his hivi on the balcony, ready to collect the token. 'Oh,' I instantly surmise, 'he has forgotten to pull off the peg'. I think this deduction is reasonable and is reinforced when a moment or two later he disappears back in through the window of the box. So I make no further effort at slowing down.

But the peg remains on, and is now rather closer than it was.

The signalman steps back out onto the balcony. Whatever is happening, the peg is still on and I am in danger of adding a SPAD to my long and inglorious career. I brake hard: thank heavens the Palatine dining carriages are not in use, not even birdsnest soup is supposed to go airborne without prior warning. A couple of vases full of artificial flowers though repositioned themselves on the table tops.

Just as we come to rest, the signalman returns to the balcony with a yellow flag. Of course, with 14 901, I cannot pull the brake off just like that, I rev the engine to accelerate the exhauster and curse to myself. As we pass the box and drop the token, we hear briefly what has happened. The lever was moved but the peg did not. (Our S&T engineer assures me that this was entirely the signalman's fault – but I don't understand all this wire tugging stuff). I pull up a little early at Darley on this first run, but not to worry, by the last run of the day I will stop with 901's buffers inches short of the starter. Matlock is the one to be wary of – the latest advice is to start braking as you pass under the new footbridge (provided you have entered the platform at about 10mph, but of course, I have entered it at an indicated 8mph, having been at that speed almost the whole way). Watching the buffer stop a few feet away from me, with its pristine red and white paintwork, I play the brake valve and not only do we stop in good time, 901 momentarily locks up on the fresh rust.

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The rest of the day was uneventful, save that 901 ran a trifle warmer than usual, and seemed a touch languid going up the bank past Sainsbury's after the speed restriction through Riverside – no problem keeping within 10mph coming in to the platform, real or indicated.

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On Friday after work, Andrew and I popped down to Darley and grouted not one but two columns, leaving only five left. The works train was sat in the yard, and the JCB unloaded ready to make a start on re-landscaping there, for it has now been agreed that the “arisings” (aka the 120 cu metres or so of soil and clay so far removed from where our building is), will be rearranged into grassed mounds alongside the boundary fence (next to the public footpath) and with Hawthorns seeded on top to make it unwelcoming to anyone proposing to employ that route to make unauthorised entry. But to accomplish this, the relayal and rearrangement of the yard tracks must be run in parallel, so we may yet the have shed connected as soon as the rails go into the floor! (Well, I can dream).

On Saturday morning, armed with a replacement end for the grease gun, I made a start on greasing the boxes, brake gear, spring pillars, etc before Roy Taylor arrived. With his assistance and our second man, the loco was ready in good time and we were out in the loop just as Lord Phil returned from another Pay-and-play. As usual, when working with steam, they get the suicide end and we have the long pull back up from Matlock. Roy takes the helm for a run or so, but increasing engine temperature is worrying me – we're in the 90s as we are getting back to Rowsley.

Unlike industrials, where an engine over-temp causes the engine to shutdown, my software on 901 will merely switch out the Voith on the basis that if you take the load off the system, the engine will cool off, which in Peak Rail service at least means that the kettle can keep things moving in an emergency. Getting anxious after run number 4 I wander down to the back at Matlock and ask the crew to bank us on the final run back, which they do and none of the passengers can have been any the wiser.

We had the Palatine coaches in operation for a couple of runs, with a wedding party en-training at Darley Dale after the ceremony and doing a full round trip. We were given strict instructions by Peak Rail's MD, Jackie Statham, to make it a smooth ride as she would be serving champagne, citing Darley as where the start had been “jerky”. Hurt at the aspersion, I suggested that by the time they got to Darley they'd be so sloshed they'd never notice, but just in case, let Roy take the throttle!

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After we dropped them off at Darley (more photos, more late running) we passed through a cloud of assorted female perfumery.

The last run out of Matlock also, we had a trespassing photographer at Riverside. Wearing a hivi with “No.1 Ned” (or was it Nerd?) on the back, Andrew found his photo later that evening on Facebook – apparently he had wanted to fot the 31.

First thing Sunday morning we headed back to Darley, determined to break the back of the grouting before going on to Rowsley. Having discovered that the forces imposed by the grout were nowhere near enough to to test my well-engineered formwork, Andrew bodged together a few other bits of wood, ballasted them with spare fishplates and we grouted 4, leaving me one to finish off this week. A track crew were under way doing some of the preliminary work – they will be back Tuesday and Wednesday this week and then Thursday they're due to go to Matlock to collect a quantity of bull head rail and chairs donated by Network Rail from relaying going on at Cromford. Kind yes, but a pity the message didn't get through to the right personnel as the rails had been cut in half on lifting.

Back at Rowsley, we looked over 14 901. I had assumed that we had lost some coolant, so we brimmed it but it wasn't really that much short. The trouble is, as you may have gathered if you've been with us on this for long enough, we haven't so much “restored” 14 901 as sorted out others' bodges. When we have a shed and time, we will bring it in and give it a thorough job, which will include a proper a/v mounting system for the engine, and numerous other improvements. The cooling system is a case in point. The Rolls-Royce engine is intended to have a pressurised system, like your car. Generally Paxman do not, at least not in this hp range. The cooling system on 14 901 is basically that of a “normal” 14, save any mods done by Barclays for the Dorman and a weird and wonderful pipework arrangement grafted in by the SRPS volunteers. Its performance may or may not be up to scratch: it may, or may not, be susceptible to small changes in coolant level (after all, the “normal” 14 has a coolant header tank up in that box in front of the cab where the exhaust comes through, 14 901 does not). We shall see if it is better next Tuesday.

While we were topping up the fan hydrostatics, that nice Mr Timplerley nobbled us about getting the job finished on his tamper, so while I started taking stock of the coolant hose sizes required on 901 (as we are planning to change them all in a week or two for silicon ones: indeed, one or two are looking a trifle ancient and, for all we know, may be restricting coolant flow internally) Andrew went off to start making the key from the keysteel I had generously donated him. After a while I wandered over: by now the key was made and the wheel almost on. I hoped this was a spectator sport, but of course having got all 4 wheels back on his tamper, Mr T seemed to think we should get it back on the rails as well. Trouble was, after 4 years or so up on blocks, no-one could remember where it had been jacked under and anyway, the wheels at one end were somewhat out of line with the rails.

With great care (not that an H&S inspector might agree) the unit was lifted, lowered onto steel plates, slid back into line and finally returned to the rails without injury to man or machine, but a few hundred woodlice were rendered homeless.

We had had reports from both Rob and Harvey (who have been using Ashdown during the week) that a serious leak could be found on a tap in the bottom of its water pump, and we were all set to whisk out a drain tap and refit a more modern one only to find that there wasn't one in the van, so that will be left for another day. Instead we moved on to James, fired it up and Andrew re-adjusted the fuel rack stop, interspersed with stall testing until on stall it just begins to smoke and makes about 1400rpm. It should do better but the supercharger is tired so the boost won't cope with much more fuel. I am looking forward to driving it down to Darley, but Andrew is in favour of extracting it from the siding and getting it used as yet another Peak Rail works shunter.

With a few other minor tasks completed, we headed home.

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