Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of microbes and doors

7th September 2014

Originally, I believe, 14 901 was due to return from Loughborough on Monday, but as Allelys had their prefabricated ramp in place to take the 66 back to Brush (from where it can rejoin the National network) the move was postponed to Tuesday, and as Reid's couldn't make Tuesday, a compromise was reached and it moved on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, on Monday I had rung up Cyrex, who manufacture an efficacious biocide called Eradicate. I had a little left over from 2010 but as it only had a 12 month shelf life it probably lacked potency. Eventually I got through to someone who said that if I sent my address through, he'd get some shipped to me.

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On Wednesday, first thing, I headed over to Loughborough, having arranged with their Ops Manager to drive the loco down to Quorn. I checked it over, poured in what little Eradicate I had, and, once the 10.15 passenger train had left platform 2, we had the road – we being Craig Stinchcombe as pilot and a secondman – and headed through and off southwards. At least as far as the section signal, where we were held until the passenger train had cleared Quorn. Two lads who had lineside passes were in the right place to picture us - see here.

I was of course, acutely concerned as to how far the infestation had affected '901. It is not the microbes themselves that are the problem – it is their waste products – their pooh if you will, that turns up as a rusty brown sludge and clogs filters. But '901 has a hydraulic fuel pump governor – that is to say the fuel pump is governed by a device that uses engine fuel to create pressures to drive the fuel rack to and fro, Had it been a mechanical governor, it would have been unaffected, but a hydraulic one is open to microbe pooh once any of it by-passes the filters. Initially it affects the governor operation, and the engine starts hunting: normally it will hunt but only by 25rpm or so, but if the governor gets bunged up with this sludge, it can start hunting violently.

Nonetheless, we easily made 25mph on our way up to Quorn, but being light loco this was hardly surprising, and although I had the feeling that things weren't quite right I couldn't quite decide whether it was in fact nothing more than my being not used to running light engine.

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Meanwhile at Quorn the signalman had his own problems. He could set the road onto the loading siding, but couldn't pull off the auxiliary signal on the bracket. Eventually the pilotman received telephoned instructions to pass it at danger, and we cleared the section, opened the gate and advanced on to where Reids were waiting. Within a short time, 14 901 was winched aboard, shutdown, and I had ten minutes or more to wait to catch the returning service train back to Loughborough. On my drive back, I stopped off at a supplier in Nottingham and ordered a tacho drive cable for D2128.

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Back at the Briddon Country Pile, it occurred to me that my Eradicate had not yet arrived, and I was more than a little peeved to speak to that same someone who said he'd sent me an e-mail that morning with a query about payment. I resolved that, but even then they said they were unable to get it shipped until Thursday.

Wednesday evening we had been due to do some more blockwork, but as 14 901 had been unloaded outside the buffer stops, and the buffers could not be removed until the service finished, that got put back a day. I called in to Rowsley to see '901 off the lorry, and as Reid's were still building the ramp, wandered along to the station cafe for a cuppa. One of the cafe volunteers did not twig me straightaway ...
“I didn't recognise you without your little hat” she said (as part of my “train drivers outfit” I wear a grease top I bought from BR Collector's Corner many, many years ago).
Quick as a flash I replied with -
“I'm not wearing my wig either” hoping she would say
“Toupé?” - to which I was ready with -
“No, it was on credit card” - but she didn't.

After the service had finished and 'Lord Phil' had been disposed, Rob brought the JCB up, swapped the stops for plain rails, and '901 trundled gently back and parked on the pit road. By the time I'd disposed of the loco, Rob had the buffers back in place, and the JCB was swaying along towards the loading bank, where it was to be reloaded for the return to Darley. Rob went off to get Charlie and some wagons, passing me his key to go and open Church Lane crossing gates.

I had the padlocks off and waited ten minutes or more before Charlie came into sight, propelling the Lowmac with the JCB on, etc. As he trundled over the crossing, I passed Rob his keys back, shut the gates after him, and drove on to Darley. Quite quickly the JCB was off, and the train proceeded over the crossing, to be left on the main line as there were no services on Thursday.

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Down at Darley the track panels which you saw a couple of weeks ago roughly laid out had been barred into place and levelled by a team which included Tom-from-Newark and Pete Fisher, who more normally is to be found cutting grass or boscage. On Thursday Rob set too to bury it with the JCB, so that vehicular access to the south end of the shed was again possible in time for the planned roller-shutter door assemblers next week. By early evening Steph and I joined him and set up to lay more blocks. It is an interesting measure of how the nights have started to draw in that only a few weeks ago we were tidying up at 9pm whereas now it is dark by about half-eight. We almost completed the second course up the track side of the building (which would mark the half-way point) but were about 3 blocks short when the mortar stocks expired.

I spent most of Friday pacing the house waiting for my delivery of Eradicate, with the idea in mind to heading in to Rowsley, adding it to 901's tank and running the engine to get it circulated as quickly as possible. I was also hoping for a delivery from Cummins of the filters used in the secondary canisters on the engine, but as they use TNT, who turn up at around 08.30, it soon became clear that they would not be arriving until next week. Steph had taken her car for an MoT and to do some shopping, and she got back after lunch. Meantime I had learned that the Eradicate was coming by UPS, and had been scanned out of the depot at 4.46am, but we are towards the end of the UPS route so they don't turn up until about half-past four. So I headed down to Darley to measure up a few things and estimate how many extra Anstone Buff Split blocks I needed to order. I wasn't away long, and Steph patiently sat listening for the doorbell to ring, but when I got back there was a UPS “nobody in” slip through my letterbox.

I wasn't best pleased, and my temper was not assuaged by their automated “help” number which apart from being charged to me at 3 point-something pence per minute, sweetly told me that they would re-deliver on Monday. Eventually, two re-dials later, I got hold of a human being who told me that I could collect from the depot (which was at Alfreton) but not until early evening. So straight after tea I drove to Alfreton, and managed to get my parcel. While I was there, another not-happy customer arrived. Like me, he had waited in all day. Like me, his parcel had been scanned out at 4.46 a.m. What got him was that he lived in Alfreton, less than a mile from the depot...

So first thing Saturday, I was rostered on the 14 and I dragged Andrew in to check the primary filter which had been blocked last Sunday at Loughborough. While he was doing that, I poured the entire 1 litre bottle of Eradicate into the tank (rather a greater concentration than recommended, but I was determined that it should reach the parts other microbes might have reached) and with my fingers crossed we went into traffic. Starting to pull the train back from Matlock, it was painfully obvious all was not well. I could not get the engine above 1300rpm, and we limped back to Darley at about 14mph.

I explained the situation to the crew on the kettle, and for the rest of the day we received banking assistance and working as a team, got through the service even though on the last run, starting away from Matlock, I couldn't get much above 1100rpm and '901 was struggling to get the train moving.

Having cleaned the primary filter, Andrew had headed off to Scunthorpe and joined the team sanding, body-filling and undercoating D2128. He returned in the evening with all the casing doors to be cleaned and painted.

First thing this morning we were in to Rowsley again. Andrew again checked the primary filter, while I changed one of the secondaries using the one paper filter I had in stock until Cummins cough up. Andrew also had some South African diesel engine cleansing chemical that was reputed to be effective against microbe-pooh, so on his instruction I opened up the header tank and added half-a-litre. Andrew then came around to bleed/purge the hydraulic governor and discovered, rather graphically, that I hadn't quite made the filter bowl seal when it filled up, flowed down the outside, and was sprayed into his face from the crankshaft underneath. Once sorted, we started up again and I could only get 1100rpm, but a bit more bleeding got it up to 1200 and with time ticking on, there was nothing for it but to see how it went in traffic, for at 09.30 that morning D8 had been down to Matlock, a through pipe rigged along it with tie-wraps on the louvres and a DCR '56 had taken it to Derby to join in the Etches Park celebrations.

You can see now why this problem with '901 is so serious – for this week – today, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 901 is “it” - no back-up.

After appraising the steam crew of the situation, we packed up, headed back for lunch, then decamped to Darley and the shed.

Some time this week the roller shutter doors are due to be installed, and in the section between them, our south end Fire Exit door was due to go, using the steelwork you saw started a couple of weeks ago. But finishing the job was more than I could do on my own, plus being too long for just an evening, so this was the first day we'd had time to tackle it. First task was to shim the two columns until they sat somewhere near vertical and true to each other on what is turning out to be – er – a subtly imperfect concrete floor. On my recommendation, and aided by Steph, we brought out the door and tried it in place, only to discover that no way would the two columns, thus shimmed permit the door to sit between them. Off came one column, and the slot I had beautifully created by laser in the profile at its foot was unceremoniously extended with an angle grinder. In went the door, but somehow it didn't seem right. Eventually we got out the instructions and sure enough, we had it in upside down.

These instructions also told us to lift the door off its hinges and merely bolt the frame in and refit it. The door is no lightweight and lacks good handling points, and as it didn't look like the door in fact came off its hinges, we unscrewed the hinges from the door frame, back-marked the mounting points,and drilled the columns with the mag drill and a Rotabroach. Once secured, we picked up the door and discovered that indeed the hinges did split as they proceeded to fall off the door! So back went on the hinges, and the two of us, (Steph having left but available if required) managed with the aid of fishplates and pry-bars to get it in. The top bar that holds it all together was then marked, lifted off, drilled, the two columns drilled and the bar refitted. The door side columns were duly checked and re-checked for er – verticality – and the whole lot bolted up tight. For the moment the door has its protective cling-film in blue still on it: in due course we will paint it Juniper green to match the cladding.

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From time to time during the afternoon 14 901 trundled past, and we got the feeling, reinforced by a text later from Roy, that it had got better during the afternoon, so maybe the South African gloop has helped. As I am due to drive it again on Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday, all will be revealed in next week's edition.

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