Weekend Rails

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Of Le Grand Pour (Part Deux)

6th July 2014

I've had a couple of messages during the week from readers saying that they are enjoying the shed saga, and hopefully they should remain pleased as that will form the majority of the blog this week, I think. With Andrew back at work, progress has had to be maintained and with Andrew only there for some evenings, DPM and mesh were largely placed and prepared by Steph and I.

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Meanwhile the headshunt is now truly connected, although a couple of sleepers need renewal. Unfortunately Rob during the week carried out a “buffer stop audit” and noticed that some of the plates are broken and need re-welding, so the 'stop will have to come out and back up to Rowsley for a repair and maybe some paint. Aaagh! With that, the JCB's alternator playing up and the works train heading on to Matlock Riverside to replace defective planks in the platform, there has been little progress at that end of the yard this week. I do hope that by the time the shed and its internal tracks are ready, there is some likelihood of it getting connected!

But the first setback of the week was on Tuesday morning, as, after a final re-check of calculations to ensure my order would be somewhere near correct, Lafarge said they could not deliver on Friday and would Monday do? Previously they had said that provided I gave them 2-3 days notice, it wouldn't be a problem. With people having time booked off work, and the concrete pump already reserved, Monday was not an option so I phoned Cemex, who advised that they could do it, but deliveries wouldn't start until noon, as they had another major job already booked in the morning. I had no time to argue so told them to go ahead, before heading down to Rowsley to take 14 901 out for the day.

After the fuse incident the previous Saturday, I was a little anxious lest '901 let me down in any way, but all went normally and for variety we had Ian H as a trainee Secondman sharing the cab with Roy and me. Down at Matlock, there was an unusual Police presence and the news filtered through that in the near future there was to be a Royal visit, and that means a Royal train up the branch, which all explains those DBS guys ogling the lever frame last week.

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Over the next couple of days the flooring section was prepared to cast about 60% of the “floor” floor (as opposed to the “track” floor) which was estimated at 36 to 38 cubic metres, or a minimum of 6 lorry loads. The DPM is of course blue, and by Thursday I was getting a mental picture that I was preparing a swimming pool, as everywhere I looked seemed to be in blue tiles as the mesh hatched the blue Visqueen. The final shuttering went in on Thursday and formed a longitudinal break all the way down the building a little over the centre line. In theory, this should have formed a level top from foundation block to foundation block, with a constant height of 150mm, as it was deliberately offset to avoid the area where the concrete was supposed to increase to 200mm for the area where the Mattersons will stand. Like I said before, accuracy in civil engineering is not the same standard as mechanical, and despite the best efforts of amateur and professional, it starts at around 165mm at the Matlock end but after a while, increases to 200mm all the way north, which as my shuttering boards were 200 high made life easier, and instead of a mad panic trying to get everything done in time, by Thursday afternoon I was drilling through the shuttering and Fillboard to slide in long lengths of 16mm rebar to form what was termed on the drawing a “daywork joint” and wrapped up the job at a civilised hour of around 6pm. (Does this all make sense? Where we are supposed to have 150mm on the drawing, our slab is up to 200 thick, and where we expected 200 thick, we have nearer 250. As our original plans were for a dry earth floor and concreting at some date in the future, this has gone to the other extreme!)

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On Friday though, I was back in fairly early. On our first pour, the track slabs, we had ended up with a cubic metre or so too much and had run out of places to put it. Just in case this happened again, we wanted to have somewhere we could usefully have ready to receive any excess, and to that end I spent some time laying an additional sheet of DPM and mesh in the area where we plan to concrete last. Andrew meanwhile went off to hire the concrete float. First Dom Beglin, and then Terry arrived, closely followed by Andrew, and then Steph bringing us a lunch of bacon and sausage sandwiches and sundries. Tea and coffee were consumed by us and Matt, the concrete pump man, whose humour and willingness to muck in and assist has been immensely useful.

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I had of course, rung Cemex first thing to check that everything was OK and been assured that the first delivery was to arrive between 12 and 12.30 and that 2, possibly 3 lorries would be on the job. This was particularly important as rain was forecast for later in the afternoon and we really needed it setting for as long as possible before precipitation arrived. Andrew wanted to get sufficient tarps and rope to tent off the entire area, but apart from not being able to source suitable sheets locally I remained dubious that the weight of heavily-loaded tarps could be kept tied safely enough to prevent water either cascading down between sheets, or worse, becoming detached and sheets falling into wet concrete. Anyway, no suitable tarps meant that it was academic.

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But to return to the tale and yes, you've guessed it – no concrete was delivered between noon and half-past, and for that matter, before 1pm. The first lorry-full finally began pouring at 13.20, and the second not until 3pm, and was the first lorry having gone back and refilled. The third lorry it seemed had disappeared off to attend to a slow puncture, but after this inauspicious beginning, Cemex tried to redeem themselves and two lorries were shuffling to and fro as fast as they could. Nonetheless the final load didn't discharge till well after 6pm and by then we were soaked through. The finish on the concrete is a bit the worse for being pelted with water drops.

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And yes, the 36 cubic metres not only completed all our planned area but had a half metre of so which was deposited in our overflow area, spread low so that the final pour will bond with it and the mesh. One advantage of the final shuttering work is that I can now, with a taught piece of string, see how high the shuttering must be against the second track slab to meet each side and it appears that this slab (the left hand track as you view the shed) is in itself higher than the right hand one. So further trimming of the shuttering coming out of the other track will be necessary. The final pour MUST take place on July 18th – the social and commitment calendar is too heavily booked for that date to slip. Meanwhile my deduction that the right hand track slopes down as it goes north has been confirmed as the rain water, trapped by shuttering and new concrete has created my swimming pool after all.

I think I mentioned some weeks ago that the weak spring we found on “Tom” had gone in for repair. I had a Pro-forma invoice to carry it out but had specified that the leaves must be “bobbed” rather than drilled through in the centre and had asked the supplier to give me a specification of what they were doing with the spring so we had a record for the future. A few weeks later I chased them and was immediately promised the information, but it never materialised.

On Wednesday, in an idle moment waiting at a locked farm gate near Crewe (long story) I phoned up again but it was not until Friday that I got a response. And it was a corker. To try and save time, someone in the Production department had decided to make a start on the spring in anticipation, and having no formal instruction from Sales, drilled the leaves through instead of bobbing. This may sound like a minor problem, and according to the manufacturer, the centre section of the spring leaf, trapped inside the buckle, does not see any stress, but I have seen at least three of their springs snap, and each leaf failed straight through their drilled hole. The old method was to create a dent – or bob - in each leaf to locate it into a recess in the dent of the leaf above, and when they do eventually break it is after much longer service time. So having effectively rendered my spring unacceptable, they are starting from scratch and I will get a brand new spring, with bobbed leaves, for the price of the repair.

Saturday had 901 back out in traffic and for once I was rostered as Secondman with Roy as Driver. I was content to play that role but Roy insisted that we take turns about driving. As it had been raining when he left home, Roy had head to toe waterproof hi-vi and looked like an overgrown lollipop. But by the time he reached Rowsley the sun was out and he must have been hot all day! The signalman at Darley Dale was not one of the fastest operators, and twice we came to a stand just as the home signal protecting the crossing finally came off.

While I was so engaged, Steph and Andrew returned to Darley, Andrew to cut the obligatory slots in the top of the concrete to prevent unscheduled cracking, and Steph to spread more sand out ready for the next sheets of DPM.

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We were, er, rather late off on Sunday, largely waiting for Andrew to get up. Scunthorpe was the destination and after a brief detour to Rowsley for some body-filler we hit the road east. At the AFRPS shed Toby, Jade and Ashley were wondering where we had got to. While Andrew cracked on with cleaning up the welds on the cab side ready for fillering and painting, I formed the profile I had into a bracket, and mounted it on to the engine where it now carries the tacho generator.

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A special drive cable needs to be made but other than that it is ready to cable back to the head in the panel. But as the desk area is carefully sheeted off at the moment while the local team carry on needle gunning the underside of the cab roof, cabling was out of the question and instead I contented myself with carrying out some of the assembly work on the new code lamp assembly, which now has its “cartridge” LED lamp card mounted ready. I just need to get the bulls-eye glass set into the front plate and get an idea of how it looks in action. At one point as I was walking by, I thought that three of them were sat playing cards. In fact, they were squatting with a tin of Brasso, removing the paint and polishing the brass window frame beneath.

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It is now a fortnight until 901 leaves for the 14s at 50 gala at Bury. If you go onto the website you will find the timetables and what locos are supposed to do which turns. Friday seems easy as we are not due out until after noon and finish around 6pm. Saturday is the killer (remember that we are commuting from Matlock to Bury) with a northbound run from Bury starting at 09.35, and finishing the day with the mammoth 10 coaches for 10 locos leaving Bury at 7pm. Sunday is not a lot better – with a solo leg from Bury to Heywood departing at 09.06, but our duties finish just after lunch so we can maybe recover and admire the other 14s. Even when we're not on '901 I suspect you might be easily able to spot us – for reasons I'll reveal a little nearer the time. For now though, I have placed a set of wiring diagrams and a PLC input/output list in a plastic wallet inside the electrical cabinet, and I suspect there may be a fuse or two about my person on the day. The loco is in traffic at Peak Rail on the 19th, leaving us just the 20th to check it over, but Andrew has decreed that we must also be somewhere else as, taking advantage of the inbound transport, another loco of his is coming in ready for its restoration in the shed. There's nothing like keeping me on my toes.

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More in this category: Of Royalty and damp proofing »

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