Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Grace and favours

20th July 2014

These weeks are anything but normal, though come to think of it, I don't know what is “normal” at the Briddon Country Pile. On Monday Steph and I headed back to darkest Norfolk to return our grandson from his long weekend with us, and although there was muttered talk of “doing some work at the shed after you get back” there wasn't really much chance of it.

On Tuesday I was rostered on 14 901 for the last time this month. I was apprehensive that something “might happen” - it would just be our luck before a major Gala event – but nothing did. We were able to admire in passing the work that has begun in moving some of the piles of “arisings” to create anti-trespassing mounds by the footpath at the far end of the Darley site, but it has made little impression on the piles that still lie between our shed and the tracks to which it awaits connection.

Tuesday evening though, with Andrew back from work, we got the last of the mesh into position.

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This left me with Wednesday and Thursday to get the remainder of the shuttering ready, and I'll admit that the novelty of assembling strips of plywood, screwed to cross beams every 1.5 metres or so, maintaining a straight and level line on top while compensating for slightly not-so-level concrete underneath, had rather lost its charm. Nonetheless, I plodded on, though it was not as strong in places as the other side was, and this now shows, but anyway.

Rob had taken the works train down to Matlock (Riverside) on Thursday to complete the repairs to various rotten planks in the platform, and would be headed straight through to Rowsley on the return since he must concentrate on getting ready for the Warring 40s event so won't be back at Darley for at least a fortnight. I had finished my shuttering as the train appeared through the bridge, so chased up to Rowsley to meet up with him, as by agreement, we would put D9500 on to the turntable.

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In between shuttering, I had used up some spare wood and ply to make a display board to wire to one of the fence posts, and with a laminated A3 information sheet and some Duct tape to seal around the ply's edges, was all ready to make an impromptu tableau to celebrate the loco's 50th anniversary (commissioned at Swindon on 24th July 1964). I ended up driving Charlie as Rob acted as shunter, and within an hour D9500 was on the turntable and everything else repositioned.

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Friday was the final floor pour, and to make it worse Cempump, our faithful concrete pumpers, had set things up for 07.00 so that they could get another job in later in the day. The usual suspects favoured us with their presence, for Terry it was set off much as if it was a work day, but in Dom's case he had been on a night shift so came straight from work, and then limped around in a pair of wellies that were a size too small. As we were pumping through what will be a personnel access door, it made sense to pour the two sections alternately so the new concrete floor appeared on either side of the planned second track, so that we didn't do the civil engineering equivalent of painting ourselves into a corner. Indeed, the final pours didn't need Cempump at all, it was merely chuted through the doorway and spread into the back corner. Although I had received “commiseratory” messages about how unbearably hot it would be, it wasn't that unpleasant and indeed we had a light shower - Wednesday and Thursday had been far sweatier.

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By 4pm it was all over, we had a floated concrete floor, my shuttering had bowed a bit in places where it should not have done and concrete had crept under in a couple of places (the edge of the track slab underneath had been very narrow in places as the original hardcore base had been a touch undersize) but all this was nothing compared to having the major hurdle of a floor in place and so see it all taking shape.

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Saturday we popped back in to see how it looked. It was quite safe to walk on it in most areas, but track 2, like track 1, has a slope down to the north so rainwater was collecting in. Indeed, track 1 was so full that rainwater was pouring out through the end slots where in due course the rails will be – I was tempted to erect a fresh sign to confuse the passengers -


But we were off to Scunthorpe to press on with body filling on D2128. Arriving at the steelworks though, we were rather less than happy to find that a member had, despite being requested by a committee member not to, dragged D2128 outside so that a scaffold tower could be erected to change an overhead lamp. In fact, D2128 didn't need to leave the building at all, and given that it has no cab windows, the desk and instrument panel are covered with paper/dust sheets (and primer, in case you are unaware, is no protection against water causing corrosion on the metal underneath) one must wonder at the bloody-mindedness of the person concerned.

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Fortunately I had taken up the new code lamp again, as during the week my local machinists had bored the lamp front to accept the glass bullseye, so we drilled out the front in various places and it is now ready for painting. I'll save giving you another picture until it looks the part.

We had taken over the prop-shaft mentioned last week which was a good excuse to measure up a few bits, and as the rain ended and the sun came out, D2128 eventually dried off to the point where Andrew could, after all, get a bit of filling done. By now our little clique -Toby, Stephen, Ashley and new member Richard, were discussing what has still to be done and they have offered to continue doing the body-fillering and sanding while we are away, as the next few weeks will see no chance of getting over to Scunthorpe and October is not that long off.

Indeed, the clique decided to see just how easily D2128 would roll back into the shed (now that the scaffold tower had been disassembled). And although it took a pinch bar (ably handled by Stephen) to get it moving, it then bowled along quite happily so much so that there was some panic in the assembled company that we might not get it to stop before it encountered the restored tractor/loader at the end of the track, but the parking brake works quite well.

To cap it all, as we started off for home, the exhaust system on the van suddenly dropped and started dragging on the ground. Readers of this blog might recall that this was fitted by Kwikfit in Saturday in May last year – two months out of warranty and it has corroded right through. Have you ever noticed how after-market components never last as long as the original equipment? Fortunately, Toby had not left and favoured us with his assistance and a short piece of chain which he happens to keep on his person, suspended the offending part with a piece of wire, chain and an M6 bolt and we were on the move again.

Now, if you have been living on Mars for the last few months, it may have escaped your notice that it is the “14s at 50” event next week at Bury. Otherwise I hope you have bought your ticket or at least allocated a day to attend. Our specially branded hi-vi arrived during the week (I was going to show you a picture but instead have decided; to keep the secret until the event – needless to say you will (a) know its us and (b) see the joke. (That is, unless you are one of these 'Paxman-for-ever' types who regard repowering the erstwhile D9524 is on a par with being an infidel...)

So anyway, Roy Taylor having had 901 in traffic on Saturday and not broken it, we had a few jobs to do before it leaves for Bury Monday morning. Actually, there are a large number of little jobs we had wanted to do, from changing all coolant hoses to swapping the Voith heat exchanger for our spare, but the realities of a loco in traffic 2 days a week and building a shed often results in the 'ideal' being sacrificed to the 'what's possible'. Head of Andrew's list was the matter of a brake block. The centre axle, right hand side, has a brake block which has cracked right across one lug. It has been like that since the loco came back from abroad, and the crack closed up when the brakes were on, so unless you noticed as it rolled by, no-one was aware apart from Andrew and me, and as the damage had got no worse, we regarded it as something that we casually monitored. But Rob had passed comment and so we thought we ought to do a repair to ensure the block remained serviceable until it and its fellows are fully worn out and we can decide whether to fit a fresh set of ferrous or do another of my composite conversions. So first job was to remove the block, which Andrew took off to get heated up and welded. I meanwhile took the profile which I had had made to act as an emergency gear-change handle (if you don't know 14s, the Hunslet gearbox can be a little temperamental, and BR brought the linkage outside to give a visual indication of whether it is set forwards or backwards, and enable you to lock it in mid-position for towing). It presumably came out of Swindon with a suitable tool to plug in and pull on, but I've never seen one, so made my own, which I had expected might need a little attention from a grinder to fit snuggly. To my surprise, it fitted straight away, and I even checked D9500 with it to see that it wasn't a complete fluke.

By the time the block had cooled enough to be refitted, we had adjusted the main air pressure switch (which had crept up until it was uncomfortably close to the bottom end of the compressor unload/reload range) and had some lunch, it was after 2pm which had been our planned cut-off time. We packed up, dashed back to the 'Pile and by 3pm were on our way again north.

Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0DH “Grace” is the third of the trio that comprised Claire and Beverley. Grace was one of the first two that Andrew acquired from the former Shropshire collection, and we spent a lot of time on her at Long Marston in 2005, bringing her up to a running condition and reasonable paint finish, after which she went as a guest to the NRM at Shildon.

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During our work we had been mystified by her propensity to ooze oil from unusual places. We had replaced the crankshaft oil seal. When oil emerged from the shafts of the supercharger,(which drives the dynamo so was in danger of being invaded) we replaced the supercharger shaft seals (and were told by Cummins that these were the last as they were not making any more). But still oil appeared where it shouldnahave.

If the engine had been rough, a poor starter, or shown some other sign of internal distress we would have assumed the worst, but although the possibility of excess crankcase pressure was always in our minds, it didn't seem to stack up. Only when I took a “breather” pipe from the crankcase (but above the oil level) all the way up to the top of the exhaust stack only to have sump oil emerge there did we accept that the engine must come out, which seemed a shame after all the efforts made on the paintwork.

The NRM deal had lasted 2 years, and I felt bad that though this time we had made repeated visits but had not got to the bottom of it. At that time, we were also well on with rebuilding Beverley at Middleton. But Beverley, although laid down at much the same time as Grace, was less historically interesting as Grace, we eventually discovered, was the last s.g. Shunter to leave HC's works, in 1971. So Middleton campaigned to have Grace in lieu of Beverley, and it was in Leeds where my final “cure” was trialled and failed.

Since then we have postponed, with Middleton's informal blessing, taking on the job of opening up the engine and finding what the hec is causing the problem. But with the Shed on the horizon Andrew took a different tack, proposing instead a fresh agreement whereby the loco comes to Darley, we overhaul, repaint it and fit vacuum braking so that it can work trains at Middleton, before returning it to Leeds. It was beneficial to both sides, as shed space at Moor Road is limited and travelling costs for us would be significant. Negotiations took a long time, and indeed, we have had a sarcastic remark from one Middleton member who was presumably not in the loop as to what was going on.

With a haulier coming in to collect 14 901, and starting off from Keighley, Andrew grabbed the opportunity to get it down under favourable terms and so Grace was shunted out ready for collection. It was perhaps moved out a trifle too early, as such is the attitude of the local unwashed in Leeds, that it immediately became vandalised and I must temporarily make the side windows weather-proof.

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Anyway we rolled into Moor Road yard at about half-past four. The train service had just finished and the last passengers were departing. Grace was sat at the end of the line through the car park, looking a little tired in the paintwork department but otherwise pretty much as we remembered her. Andrew Gill was on duty in the Engine House and we were favoured with a cup of tea as we waited for Calkeld Heavy Haulage to arrive. Meanwhile I found myself face-to-face with another reader of this blog, one not only prepared to admit it but tell me how much he enjoys it. At this rate I'll be getting asked for autographs...

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At quarter past five the lorry approached, performed a 180 degree turn through the gates to the disbelief of some watching members, and lined up with the track. In just over an hour the loco had been ramped aboard, secured down, and Grace started its journey southwards. It has an escort vehicle, not that it needs it but 14 901 is heading up the A6 to Stockport in the morning and Derbyshire police insisted.

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Of course, Grace spent its working life at the Avenue coking plant just south of Chesterfield, about 10 miles as any sight-seeing crow might fly from Darley. The fan of exchange sidings with the Midland main line are now an overgrown nature reserve, the plant itself having been redeveloped as an industrial estate. 'Wouldn't it be nice,' pondered Andrew, 'if on its way back to Leeds it made a whistle stop visit to its old home?' It's always good to look ahead.

Tonight Grace is sat outside the gates at Rowsley. First thing tomorrow she comes off, 901 goes on and heads north. Andrew follows to see it off and go through a FTR exam with the ELR personnel, so that if any issues emerge we have time to sort them. Meanwhile I have a van exhaust to sort.

It all kicks off on Friday. I hope that any of you reading this will make yourselves known. Next week's blog will be dedicated pretty much to the event, for better or worse, and may be a little late depending what time we get home and what state we are in. Let us all hope it is an event that will go down in history for all the right reasons. See you there?

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