Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of a landmark

25th May 2014


According to the counting system within the software that runs Weekend Rails, this is the 200th edition of the blog, which began back in July 2010 on Railnuts. It has become a part of the Briddon family tradition over that time: indeed, we often find ourselves hunting back through it as a means of checking dates when things happened. If you are a new reader, feel free to trip back down my memory lane. If you have been with me for all or most of that time – well, I'm touched, but you should consider getting out more!!

Any man will know seven words that send a cold stab through the heart when uttered by one's partner or spouse. “We need to have a little talk”. Steph uttered these words on Monday as she returned from dropping Andrew off at the station, but in this case it was to preface her declaration that we needed to get on with the blocking around the base of the shed. I had to agree, and once I had got some paperwork out of the way and what we hoped was the hottest part of the day had passed, we headed down to Darley.

Actually, I went on first intending to get set up but instead discovered Dom Beglin single-handedly tidying things up where the signal cabin used to be at the end of the up platform, so I gave him a hand for a little while before setting up the mixer.

Strange to relate, it was Steph who, some years ago, did a bricklaying course as a “women in the construction industry” initiative, and although I was laying the foundation blocks, she was working away with the trowel tidying up the mortar courses at one side while I did the other. Between us that Monday we finished the back wall section which took the work to exactly half way, which did at least give us a sense of progress.

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On Tuesday I was rostered with 14 901, and Roy Taylor was on board again. Having got the loco started up, we moved it around Cheedale to get at the water hose and I topped it up until it came out of the air vent like a fountain. Nervous in case it was over-full, I left the screw cap deliberately loose for the first couple of runs so it could eject any that it didn't take kindly too. The signals at Church Lane had been giving trouble in the heat at the weekend and we'd been under caution flags but they were in operation again on Tuesday, and I couldn't resist bursting into (a sunny) song...

The signals they are working
Hip, hip hip hooray!
The signals they are working
Which they weren't on Saturday!

But you are dieing to know what temperatures we achieved, aren't you? Well, put it this way, I haven't seen the engine over 70 degrees on the gauge since! Traffic levels were moderate, and one run I dashed up to the footbridge to get a couple of shots from a different angle.

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Fired up by the feeling of being over half way, Steph and I returned on Wednesday afternoon to continue blockwork, and got about two thirds of the way across the front of the shed before imminent return of Andrew brought work to a close. That night though, the heavens opened, and we haven't had a dry day since, and where our blockwork had paused on Wednesday was soon standing deep in H-two-Oh.

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Incidentally, while we were setting up blocks at Darley, up at Rowsley the Matterson post returned freshly overhauled and certified by the makers, so that part of our strategy can proceed forward again.

As regular readers you will remember my lack of satisfaction with the nearby builders merchants “M”. Since their rep had promised me “competitive pricing and good service” on the 23rd April, all that I had had was a letter from the General Manager (based at another branch) welcoming me as a customer. Having a few spare minutes on Thursday, I concluded that his e-mail address would follow the same format as the rep's, so drafted him an e-mail telling him if this was typical of his company's performance, he could expect to see his competitors vehicles again soon. It gave me some satisfaction drafting it, and the effect was entertaining. Twenty minutes later, the General Manager rang me, full of apologies. It was in fact, he who had seen Travis Perkins delivering and had read the proverbial riot act to the staff at the branch, and set the rep on to ferreting me out yet it seems that the rep had forgotten all about me ( I am of course instantly forgettable). A few minutes later the rep was on, finally quoting me some of the prices I had been waiting for, and his price for DPM is good, but he had found another alternative to the jointing material I must add to the inside of our foundation blocks (to allow the concrete to expand and contract) and whilst I am sure it is extremely good stuff, it is about 7 times more expensive than what I have been offered elsewhere.

Yes, Andrew has convinced me that we must lay the concrete ourselves, and as part of this, we need to agree some minor alterations with the Structural Engineers to make sure it is all “do-able”. I did a drawing to illustrate what we want to do and e-mailed it over on Thursday. Meanwhile we are looking for any kind soul, experience not essential (after all, we haven't got any) to assist in laying this 'ere concrete, with the first planned sections, to whit the low-level slabs on which the rails will sit, planned for Friday June 13th. We have a couple of extra hands lined up so far, but feel free to get in touch! Refreshments will be provided.

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On Saturday we had a late start even by our standards, brought on by Andrew having had a long day Thursday-Friday shifting some e.m.u's on another of these nocturnal jaunts for work. When we did get off it was a quick run into Rowsley to weld up the leak in the bottom coolant connection on D2128, which he'd brought back the previous week. This involved an extra detour around the site as the rather toned down “Mixed Traffic Gala” was in process and the Heritage Shunters were running brake van shuttles to their sheds and, naturally, gates were locked to prevent the public straying into running lines through the yard.

Thus we didn't get to Scunthorpe until, around 2pm, and I found myself admonished for referring to “Toby and Co” in some past edition of the blog, whereas I should apparently be careful to namecheck not only Toby but Stephen and Ashley too. Having refitted the coolant pipe, Andrew disappeared off and went over “Tom” with a grease gun, leaving me to pick what I felt like doing on D2128.

Now, at this moment the first weekend in October seems a long way away (the AFRPS gala which will feature D2128, remember?) but in reality it isn't and we have a lot to do if D2128 is to look presentable by then. Much of the cab area requires thoroughly needle gunning and the holes in the cab sides heed cutting out and re-plating, as we did with Libby. It is much the same problem – water getting into the floorboards (which butt up to the side sheets) is retained and eats its way through the metal. You can see the sort of work we need to do, and as having it clean and ascertaining the extent so the needle gunning is required. I started to unscrew the window frames, which had been secured with overly-long brass OBA's and as I could not reach both ends of the screws, after a while I was joined by Toby. Not long later it was a race with loosely formed teams trying to get more screws out than anyone else. Andrew and Stephen were primarily pitted against me and Toby, with Ashley holding the ladder on which Stephen was working and Toby hanging from the roof like a demented chimp.

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With the windows removed we switched to the floor. With pry-bars and hammers we chewed our way through the well worn timbers. At one point Stephen picked up a hammer to use as a fulcrum under his wrecking bar, and the wood instantly broke. It was just a pity it was the shaft of the hammer and not the stout Swindon floor boards! Toby decided it was his hammer and he'd take a back under warranty: some chance. All this may be sacrilege to some, but we would only set the boards alight trying to weld next to them and they weren't really worth hanging on to. In due course the loco will receive a new set of timbers like I did last year for the Drewry.

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Today I was back out with Roy on 14 901. By the time I arrived at a bit after ten, the loco was prepped and as I got changed into my train driver's outfit, Roy fired the loco up. There had been no pay'n'play so Lord Phil and we went round in convoy, with a slightly different route to our positions on the train as our normal access track was point-locked off for the HST shuttle. Indeed, if we'd had a bit more forward planning, we could have crossed the access road side by side, 14 901 on the platform road and Lord Phil on the loop, but alas it was not to be. The rain fell steadily but did not seem to affect passenger numbers. I drove the first and last runs of the day, leaving Roy to run the middle ones. His departure from Matlock on one occasion was a little slow, prompting the stationmaster to be seen to push the carriage adjacent to him. The fact that several members of the public had their heads out of the window prevented me from responding with the gesture I felt most appropriate. Yet in truth it was one of those days when the train feels as though it was dragging, and in all probability we had a cylinder or two slightly applied throughout – certainly when I drove, I would normally throttle back half-way down the bank after we set off, by which time the whole train is pushing – today I was having to hold power on until after the roadbridge or sense it slowing.

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Normally at 5.15 that would be it, but during the day Andrew had been at work, aided by another Tom, de-mounting a Rolls C6 from the tamper that Peak Rail has deemed only fit for scrap.

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After the service finished Rob came over with the JCB and we lifted it out – it will be used as a replacement power unit for Charlie in due course. With that done we took Cheedale across the yard and collected Ashdown – we have a visitor tomorrow who has a soft-spot for Manchester Ship locos – and put this across at the loco shed. Meanwhile Charlie moved the works train up and the JCB was loaded aboard its Lowmac for the journey down to Darley, as work continues on the yard alterations this week. Amongst the loads it took down this evening are all the crossing timbers required for the repairs to the existing and the new turnouts to be created, plus a 3-lever ground frame to replace the 2-lever, the third being for the shunting dolly which will supersede the “Stop until called forward” board, as the S&T department gets in on the act.

Indeed, no less than 4 of Andrew's locos were in use on Peak Rail today, as James, still attached to the tamper (having brought it over the pit for de-oiling last Tuesday) had been shuffling it up and down, Charlie and Cheedale did their bits whilst 14 901 was out front. As we drove back this evening, we looked forward to a “Briddon Locos” event on Peak Rail, when a selection from the collection might run the service while we had an open day at the Geoffrey Briddon Building. Well, we all need to have a dream.

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