Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of tin hats and Ford Fiestas

3rd August 2014

Now look, if you're expecting another report like last week, with drama and theatrics as 901 pounded up and down the ELR, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.

As I said last week, '901 was booked to be first loco away from Bury and Calkeld Heavy Haulage duly turned up Monday morning to collect it. By mid afternoon it had wound its way down the A6, no doubt causing a considerable tail back as it crawled up out of Buxton and mayhem through Bakewell, and arrived at Rowsley for unloading.

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Peak Rail's SMS prohibits the removal of the buffer stop while train services are in action, and as PR was operating on Monday (which is unusual) the loco had to be unloaded and wait outside the buffer stops until the end of the day. In any event Rob was having a footplate turn so wasn't available to do the honours until Lord Phil had been disposed of, but with these formalities out the way, 901 trundled back to the shed to await its next turn of duty.

Before we pass on from the “14s at 50” event, it was interesting to record that the ELR have reported that financially, it did better than their Deltic event, and I am pleased to hear that the special headboard is being auctioned on e-bay, with proceeds going to the repairs on D9523's engine. I see it is already exceeding £700 (see here) and hope it does well. Finally, Rob reports being asked by someone at Peak Rail when the 14 was leaving – it appears that they hadn't noticed it had been away!

We had hoped to start wallstoning during the week, but a planned evening session fell through and other activities – month end, etc – had got in the way. I did pop down and found that the warm weather had dried out track 2 and was well on the way to drying out track 1. Then on Thursday evening we had a violent shower for half-an-hour or more – water invaded the station building and the loco shed to some degree at Rowsley – so no doubt they're flooded just like before.

However, the additional steelwork required to form the surrounds to the front personnel door and support its adjacent concrete panels has been ordered. The channels are due in to Rowsley on Tuesday and the profiles should be collected on Wednesday. If things go to plan they should be down to Darley Dale later in the week, all ready for assembly.

Additionally, I am reviewing the costs of the remaining bought-outs to make sure we are getting the best deals, and I expect to being ordering the roller shutters shortly, which would at least make the shed a “secure compound” until we get the cladding on.

The first weekend in August is traditionally Peak Rail's Warring 40s weekend, and as Andrew's 1940s Drewry is still away, instead the railway decided to utilise “Charlie”, for which purpose its yellow wasp strips were papered over with black-painted wallpaper.

This year, taking inspiration from the film “The Monument Men” , the nasty Nazi's had arrived at a loading dock with a quantity of paintings and other valuables in crates (but sadly not one with the symbols blacked out from inside – think Raiders of the Lost Ark) to be loaded on a train for onward despatch to the Fatherland, and barely escaping before the American's arrive. Like last year, this involves having the brake van shot up and clouds of smoke emerging.

I am coming to the conclusion that we require a rehearsal for this! The battle is due to take place at 3.15, i.e. just after the train has left, and thus be completed before it returns, although, just to be on the safe side, it is held at Darley until this has happened. On Saturday I was duly waiting on Charlie with my two wagons and brake van, right up at the Bakewell end of the site, with instructions to remain until J (one of the Americans) gave me a signal to proceed forward. But things weren't quite ready at 3.15 – a Range Rover and the Armourers white Transit van were still incongruously in the battle area, and the Germans' half-track and lorry were at the opposite end of the site. While all this was being sorted out, the guy running the Tannoy commentary on the platform was apparently blaming my late-running train – just like British Rail, etc., etc, whereas I was waiting, like a coiled spring ready for action. Bloomin' cheek.

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Eventually gun-fire started at the far end of the site, J started waving and I set off, my 1970s UK loco and 3 distinctly UK wagons being time-warped into 1944 Germany. Having loaded I set off for safety in the south of the site, but some kind soul had parked his Ford Fiesta too close to the track so we couldn't go as far as we would have liked.

For Sunday they had ironed out the snags. Instructions came through that first, a German motor bike would head over the level crossing, recce'ing how far the Americans were away, then J would wave for me to set off, and as I departed after loading up I must hoot, which would be the signal for the American jeeps to swing into action.

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There were two minor hitches – firstly a motor bike headed across the crossing several minutes before the battle started and I nearly took it as my cue, but more seriously, the half-track had developed a flat battery and not even the Range Rover could jump-start it. Nonetheless, gun fire eventually began, another German bike made a foray, J waved me in, I collected my quota of art treasures, and hooted, which was scarcely necessary as the Americans were already charging in. We made our escape, with black smoke trailing from the brake van, Rob alternately opening and closing the van doors else it filled up the interior.

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It hadn't apparently occurred to the owner of the Ford Fiesta that my parking Charlie less than 6” from his rear lights was a hint to move it. It was still there and while the gunfire and bangs continued, Rob and I calmly removed the black wallpaper. Apparently for authenticity I should have been wearing a genuine German tin hat and jacket but these never appeared and anyway, seemed a touch pointless while driving a 1970s loco in a 1940s re-enactment. This time last year I postulated that for the next event we might arrive with the Drewry heading a troop train, starting from our own sidings at Darley. Well that certainly didn't happen, but maybe by next year...

So for now, the next panic is the AFRPS diesel gala and the realisation that we have barely two months to get D2128 ready and presentable. The plans to add the front ballast weight have been postponed, as have the new silencer. Instead we are going to try and get the vac brake system up and running (including the exhauster drive), 4 or thereabouts of the code light boxes, a cab floor and some paintwork. No pressure then.

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