Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of visitors, submersible pumps and driving tests

1st June 2014

Monday was Bank Holiday and the gala continued at Peak Rail, but as I said last week we had a VIP due so once we got onto site we dragged Ashdown around to a water hose outside the shed, and having replaced the suspect drain tap on the water pump with a plug, started to fill up.

Our VIP promptly arrived, and having already made arrangements, we packed him off on the 11.15 to Matlock, but riding on “Lord Phil” southbound and back on D8. That gave us the time to fill the cooling system and find that it was not the drain tap that was at fault but the shaft seal at the back where the drive comes through. Why the effort on Ashdown? Well, our VIP grew up with Manchester Ship his nearest railway and he had a soft spot for MSC locos, so to see (and drive) Ashdown, aka MSC's D1, and see MSC's E1 (sadly not in operation) were his main reasons to visit, but we also had 14 901 in operation and he had photos taken of him driving it, to wind-up certain of his employees...

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Our efforts down at Darley were thwarted by the weather for much of the early part of the week, but fortunately less so for Rob, who continued re-sleepering the king turnout It is as well that this was progressed, as for the moment Charlie and the works train are stranded there! The track it is currently standing on is due to be lifted too – partly because the rails are worn out (laid in the early impecunious days of Peak Rail) but mainly because this track will be extended and aligned parallel with the shed, and needs re-grading to get the level right at that end.

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The middle track of the old three track yard is viewed as our “long term storage” track. This will be the siding where locos that we have yet to make a start on will await their turn, and includes the former Peak Rail ashpit. Having been out of use for so long, the pit has not only flooded (there is a submersible pump in there somewhere, but somebody drove over the cable and until we get the electrics set up in the shed, we can't get power near it) but has developed its own eco-system. Rob drew my attention to the fact that it is now home to a hundred or more tadpoles, and as there are (as yet) no fish in it, they have a fair chance of becoming adult frogs. I can't remember, was it the Ffestiniog or Talyllyn that had “Tadpole Cutting”? We have a Tadpole Pit.

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14 901 was out again on Wednesday and I was able to watch progress on the king point as its rails were laid back into position ready to be track-screwed together. There was no pay-and-play so the steamer was on shed and we came off first – taking the Guard by surprise as we were coupled on before he knew we were even there. The day went without major event: I let Roy take four runs while I did the last. Temperatures stayed well down, but I had a report that one of the tail lights at the Matlock end wasn't working.

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On Thursday I had another visitor – this time a customer – and it was brought home how small the heritage rail world is. I was showing him around Rowsley, and entered the shed just as Ed came out of the mess room carrying a cup of tea. “Hello Ian,” says Ed...

Despite borrowing the submersible pump from Rowsley, the weather had kept pace with our efforts and it was only by Thursday that we were winning by reducing the water levels with the prospect of getting some more blockwork done at the shed about Friday. Indeed, I had in the meantime ordered up my own pump as once DPM starts going down, we may need to shift the water in a hurry!

On Friday it was the turn of my third visitor of the week, and a reader of the blog to boot. A former service engineer for Rolls-Royce Diesels, it was he who was called out to ascertain why the DV8 coupled to a genset in the bowels of a GPO sorting office in Glasgow would not govern sufficiently accurately and thus, from his notes, not only provide confirmation of the story of the DV8 coming out of a Clayton class 17 via St Rollox, but give us an engine number that confirmed which class 17 it had been in. Moreover this time he turned up with some old paperwork, which I have borrowed to copy for our archives. On the one hand, I can now study the BS2953 Type Test Report that RR carried out to convince BR of the engine's suitability for rail traction purposes. On the other, and in a slightly morbid way the more interesting, are various technical reports on failures that occurred in the DV8s in use in the Claytons, including engine number 4 which is that now in 901. Of course, I have always heard the stories that the Paxmans were unreliable, even a tale of one crew who considered it not unusual for the secondman to leave the cab whilst in motion, open a casing door and empty a fire extinguisher into the power unit bay in order to deal with a fire that had broken out!

But it seems that RR were not immune from issues. Now, if you have been reading a lot either on here or on the pages on Andrew's site, you may recall that the original planned performance for the DV8 envisaged an output of 1000bhp, but the detailed design had hit snags with the big end arrangement to the crank, and it was never released commercially above 750bhp. (Years ago I was eating lunch with a draughtsman who had worked at RR. Casually chatting he revealed that one project he had been given was to improve the bottom end on DV8 – he had had to report back that the design was as good as it was going to get within the size constraints). Back at Hills, we never offered it above 640bhp at 1800rpm, yet here in D8586 and D8587, with a low-boost turbo and a rating of a mere 450bhp at 1500rpm, it was suffering piston and liner troubles, excessive tappet and cam wear - and all in comparatively few operating hours. The report concluded that the problem arose from the build up of carbon deposits between the rings resulting in the rings jamming and unable to prevent rapid wear or pick up, and blamed it all on the quality of oil BR was buying.

So anyway, we headed in to Rowsley to look over 901's engine. When it was in the Clayton, and probably when it was in the genset, it had a Woodward governor mounted on the front of the engine, using a large right angle bevel drive. When we got our hands on the loco, the drive was still present but drove nothing, and the fuel pump in the vee between the banks had gained a hydraulic governor. Whether this was some recent change was unclear (the Woodward governor was applicable to other loco engines so may have been “retained” before sale at some time) but it never could have run like that as the injector pipes had been connected in the wrong order. Certainly our visitor could compare the build list he had for the engine and confirm, as we suspected, that this was not the fuel pump it left Shrewsbury with, as he found a RR part number on the side which did not match. It still leaves us with the question as to what power rating we are actually running at.

One of his recommendations we will be carrying out is to fit a stiffener ring to the flywheel housing. If we had a generator or a torque converter bolted to the housing, this would provide additional rigidity, but with nothing but a heavy torsional coupling and propshaft, the housing is “open” and there is a risk of cracking, especially with the rather poor engine mounting system it received in Scotland. He headed back on his way and Steph and I decamped to Darley to continue blockwork, completing the front face of the building and turning the corner onto the back straight despite kneeling in standing water and confusing midges who had made it their home. I was having bad day on the mixer – the sand in its bags had also been open to rain, so adding what I thought would be the right amount of water resulted in a mortar that was too wet, especially when encountering surface water which, notwithstanding Steph's frequent brushing, kept coming back.

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Saturday was not only the 31st May but a red letter day. Up to now, as you may recall, I have been manning 14 901 with Roy Taylor. When I was driving, he was not only my secondman but my pilot, being passed as a driver but not on 14 901. When he drove, I was nominally supervising him and he me as secondman. But Saturday was our driving test day, and just to keep us on our toes, our two assessors (the TTCO and the Ops Director) had decided that we should be at the south (Suicide) end of the train. There is a natural purpose here – we could almost write down a set of instructions for driving in the north bound direction: when to power up and what to, when to throttle back, when to start braking, etc., we've done it enough times. But the southbound run (it's technically the “up” as it faces London but the majority of the line is actually downhill) is a rarity and I didn't think Roy had even done it. Consequently it would prove whether we could “drive” or merely follow a mental list of wheres and whats.

But before all this I had a look at the BMAC light unit. I had brought a spare bulb but found the old one was still good electrically so cleaned its contacts up and hoped it would work, but it made no difference, which was a pity as running this way round these were the two that should be 'on' on our way back to Rowsley.

The last time I had had the train at this end, I had nearly SPAD'd when the home signal at Church Lane failed to clear as I expected it to, and as I took the first run (11.15 ex Rowsley) I was a little apprehensive but the signal cleared in good time and we rolled on to Darley Dale. As I came into the platform, again the words “DON'T SPAD” were flashing before me and I pulled up a few feet earlier than I would have liked, but the Ops Director didn't seem to mind. The TTCO joined us here so I had both assessors watching me for the section to Matlock.

After the initial climb under the road bridge to the summit at Redhouse it's downhill for a mile or more but the sting in the tail is that you can't go too slow and lose time, yet at the bottom there's that speed limit of 10 mph over Bridge 35 and 5 through Riverside. With 901 and its belt-driven exhauster it is much easier to apply a brake than release it, so judging how much, how long and when to go back to release on the brake valve can be a black art. Fortunately the only working speedo was on my side of the cab(!). Up the bank to Sainsbury's 901 had plenty of power and we were back up to 10mph as I hooted for the platform, got a wave from a nice lady Guard on the East Midlands train and brought 901 to a gentle stand as close to the buffer stop as I dared. As the Ops Director bent down to pick up his case, his bum hit the engine stop button despite my last moment warning, and 901 obediently shut down after the programmed 10 seconds. Exit one slightly red-faced Ops Director!

For the second run of the day we had the addition of Paul as secondman and as Roy was taking charge I went along for the ride to Darley Dale where the TTCO came forward from the train. As this meant 5 in the cab and the rule book says 4 maximum I dropped out and was able to photograph it leaving without me. I wandered around Darley like an expectant father, hoping everything was going OK and when the Austerity hove into sight, thumbed a lift which the two in 901's cab tried hard to deny me.

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I had the third run and Roy the fourth, but by now the assessors were satisfied and, surprising though it might be, I got my first ever ride up the line in a carriage as we signed off the paperwork declaring me a fully-fledged driver on 901 or any loco of Andrew's or in for my commercial work. The last train of the day I left to Roy, but again rode in the loco “for old time's sake” and dashed up the ramp at Matlock to get a view of 901 from a different angle.

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Andrew meanwhile, had been in Rowsley shed, carrying on painting on “Libby”, but we agreed that first thing on Sunday all 3 of us would head to Darley to carry on blocking. He wasn't up quite so early though, and it was nearly quarter to eleven when we got down and realised there was a bit of a crisis. Something had gone awry with the rostering and the Ops Director had had to fill in as a signalman! We set up the mixer and got under way, getting about a third of the way along the back wall in the heat of the day before clearing up and returning home for a late lunch.

Suitably refreshed, Andrew and I returned to Rowsley. While he went off to start painting casing doors on Libby, I re-opened the BMAC box and discovered that one of the spring-loaded contacts for the tail lamp bulb had stuck, so freed it off and cleaned it and hopefully sorted that for now, Then I went up to Ashdown, and set about removing the water pump. I was not far off when Andrew joined me and we finished it off together.

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