Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of water pumps and tacho heads

Of water pumps and tacho heads

5th October 2014

There are some firms that are easy to do business with, and others that make you wonder how they stay in business at all. Around two-and-a-half years ago, I was in discussion with a firm – I'll not name them – about repairing and converting a tacho head (for the uninitiated, I mean the bit what goes in the desk and has a needle that indicates how many rpm the engine is doing) to suit a different input speed.

You see, we have amassed a fair few tacho heads, but all came from Rolls-Royce C-range engines where the drive comes off the fuel pump drive which is basically half engine speed. On the D-range, the DV8's fitted to 14 901 and the Brush, the drive is basically engine speed, but uses the same little generator, so the electronics in the tacho head are configured differently. Since we had no tacho head for 14 901, we purloined the Brush's. And in due course I contacted this firm, who ostensibly had the knowledge for this make of tacho head, about a price for converting the heads we had into the ones we wanted. They prefered, they said, to see which one we actually had before quoting, so I sent one down.

Then the whole thing about my father's cancer kicked off and I admit it rather went to the back of my mind, but once all the dust had settled, it floated back up into my consciousness. In the end, I turned up on their doorstep, and the man eventually found the tacho head as a pile of bits in a box.

That must have been over 12 months ago. If I chased him, he promised to ring back. He actually did once. He has been “coming in early on Monday to get on with it” and a gammut of other platitudes. Such as 'the machine he needed to set it up hadn't been used for ages and wouldn't function, and the only person who knew what was wrong with it retired ages ago and was on holiday'. The list was endless. On one occasion we virtually threw it back at me across the counter with a “I can't do it” as though that was going to satisfy me after waiting two years.

The matter became more urgent as some months ago we fitted one of these same tacho generators to the 03, and the drive was also at full engine speed so we needed another one of these 'heads at full speed configuration. We also needed a drive cable, so I carefully measured it up and took the generator and remains of the old cable in to show him. He looked them over - “oh yes,” he said “ we know that generator well.”

This week I was in the area. From a phone call last week I knew the cable was ready and the tacho head nearly so (“I blew up the electronics, but I know what I did wrong, it'll be ready shortly. I'll ring you”) so I thought I would drop in again. I rang him up first and he promised to ring me back in 15 minutes. I told him I'd be there in half an hour, but didn't rush. After half an hour I was actually 10 minutes away when he rang to say both were ready. It was just fortunate that I was sitting down.

I was so surprised at seeing my tacho head returned, clean, reglazed and looking like new, that I took the cable without paying any attention, and was pondering whether I could get in early enough on Saturday to get it fitted and wired to the 03. Only after I'd been home an hour or more did I think to look the cable over closely and realised that for all he “knew that type of generator” he had in fact made the cable up with completely the wrong end. So he won't have seen the last of me after all.

Another firm that disappointed us this week was a little company to which Andrew had taken the 03's casing door handles to be shot-blasted and painted. Promised for the early part of the week, they then said it would be “late in the week” and finally “after half-past twelve Friday”, so yours truly had to go and collect them – and pay. Again, I think there will be more on the matter as the nice chap who showed me the bits and loaded them into the vehicle wasn't up to doing the “card machine” so passed it to someone else. That evening it occurred to us that this second person so was wrapped up in making the electronic wonder process my card that he had forgotten to charge me the VAT...

This Saturday and Sunday, in case you failed to pay much attention to last week's blog, was the AFRPS diesel gala, with the 03 due to play a role. Andrew and Steph were off early to collect our grandson for a week's stay with us, leaving me to get over to Scunny and look after it myself. And I must admit I was not on the road as early as I should have been, the last delay being when I looked back and saw a toad in the hall. Yes, not a Toad of Toad Hall, nor a toad-in-the-hole, but a toad in the hall of the Briddon Country Pile, which as I blinked, hopped under the stairs out of sight.

Now I said recently that living in the countryside one must expect a greater intercourse with er- wildlife. I noted squirrels, rabbits, pheasants (or whatever they are that run in front of 901 from time-to-time) and of course, the colony of tadpoles that lived in the Darley Dale ashpit. But a toad lurking amid the general clutter under the stairs seemed to me to be going too far, but by the time I had donned a pair of gloves and gone in search of the varmint, it was nowhere to be seen. In the end I gave up the hunt, shut the doors and set off for Scunthorpe.

IMG 3540 blog

According to my information, the 03 was due to go out on the noon train on both days, and I was on site in time, especially as a few willing hands assisted me in fitting all the nicely shot-blast and powder-coated grab handles to the casing doors, but in the meantime things had changed as the numbers of visitors who had turned up “on the day” had far exceeded expectations and had resulted in the brake vans being brought out in addition to the 2 dmu trailer cars. It had been decided that the 02, as the only loco with a working vacuum system, should stay on every run acting as a brake tender, giving a total train weight of around 190tons.

So although I was ready, the noon train came and went, and the 1pm train set out behind Tata's hired class 20. After it had cleared the area, the 03 – I note even Railways Illustrated has taken to calling it 03 901 – made its way up to the platform.

It was becoming clear that the main reasons for the visitors coming was the 20 and the 03. The latter did work trains at Peak Rail in the 1990s but for many that was a lifetime ago. The train arrived with the 02 on the back, so 03 901 made its way on top of the 02 ready for its first crack at the circuit.

I said last week that the 03 had been making a screeching noise but so far it had done no such thing. It waited till we were a good half mile or more into the journey before the noise could be discerned as soon as I opened the throttle. I can best describe it as a cross between the sound of a large circular saw zipping through timber and that of a jet engine. On these occasions my mind goes into overdrive, imagining what it might be and what repercussion might ensue. The main picture I had was of the fan bearings having run dry, getting very hot and setting fire to what little grease remained, but although the clear evidence of mechanical distress was apparent, there was nothing for it to press on, keeping the throttle as low as possible.

For the most part this wasn't difficult, the site speed limit is 10mph, and the 03 happily achieved this (according to Stephen, who could read the 02's speedo through the windows) with barely any throttle in top gear. But the site is not entirely flat. Having descended quite a bit on the way round, you eventually come to a double-track section known as “Perimeter Hill” because it is a hill running alongside the perimeter road. In the 2008 gala we had the Drewry over as a visitor, and despite being 22tons and 193bhp, Andrew got ticked off for doing 13mph up Perimeter Hill (about 1 in 80) with the dmu trailer cars and a class 14 in tow, mostly because the Chairman was cabbing the 14 and thus had a speedo to watch.

When it came to Perimeter Hill on Saturday, I decided to keep the throttle low and allow the 03 to potter up at whatever speed it chose. It slowed to around 5 or 6mph and some visitors declared it was struggling – well no, not really, I just couldn't face giving it full welly with that banshee noise coming from up front.

The final leg up to the platform is even steeper (about 1 in 50), but by now I was confident that whatever it was wouldn't go bang in the last 200 yards and let it make more of an effort to get us there.

IMG 3543 blog

“Did the 02 give much assistance?” asked a visitor.
“No,” I insisted, “it only provided vac.”

With the next train away we returned to shed, had a cuppa and when it had cooled off a bit, had a look up front. The fan drive was fine, the front of the engine was maybe a little wet, but it had been raining most of the day. Toby clambered in to adjust the alternator and water pump belts, both of which were a little slack and were maybe the origin of the noise.

“Should the water pump pulley waggle like this?” asked Toby, demonstrating by flexing the pulley in what one might describe as an east-west direction.

So if you are one of these people that believe that things happen in threes, here is another example to reaffirm your opinion. For having had failed water pumps on Ashdown and James, that on the 03 was clearly suffering from a defective bearing. We tightened the belts up and ran it for a couple of minutes, and despite upping the revs, it didn't shriek.

Sunday and I was due to do the whole thing again. Again the 03s departure was rescheduled to 2pm, but this time only one brake van was added to the dmus and the 02. We went up to the station earlier, in time to see the Sentinel “Tom” (not Baldric as some wag decided would be the obvious accompaniment to their having called the 03 “Blackadder”) set off with the noon train. While I was waiting around for Andrew, Steph and grandson to arrive, I noticed with a sinking feeling, that something was dripping from the front of the loco.

IMG 3545 blog

It didn't take long to realise that coolant was dripping out of the water pump shaft, down the block by various routes onto a frame stretcher and from there to the floor. Part of me wanted to pull out, not risk any damage to the engine, but that would disappoint many visitors and after a quick confab, I headed back to the shed on foot. A phone call had marshalled two other train crew to start filling plastic bottles with water, and we had about 15 gallons or more (Better too much than too little) by the time the class 20 came by and I hitched a ride with it back to the station. Gingerly I opened the filler cap and topped the 03 up – it took surprisingly little, but the rest was stowed in the cab just in case we had to stop part way round.

IMG 3547 blog

At 2pm on the dot we set off again. Up to now the screech that had been so obvious yesterday had not been heard, but this time we were coming out backwards, so may be it was drowned out by being behind the engine. Either way, a mile or so in we began to notice it and it got worse as we continued. But at least this trip I knew what it was, knew that it would to some extent be cooled and lubricated by the coolant and unless the temperature gauge started to rise – or fall if coolant left it dry – there was nothing much to be done. But frequent glances at the gauge showed it steady at 80 degrees, so although stops were frequent – sometimes because of conflicting steel train movements, others for level crossings or the need for someone to run ahead and change a facing point, they weren't to top up the rad. When we reached Perimeter Hill I gave the loco more throttle not less, and we maintained 10mph-ish all the way up, though maybe I sensed a little wheelslip here and there. The final climb too was not one to hold back on, and the 03 rolled into the platform still screeching but still at 80.

IMG 3555 blog

I hung around a while having put the 03 back in the shed – the 07 returned having had to have assistance up the last climb to the platform, and Tata's Hunslet 73 was all set to take over for the last run of the day, but for many the show was over once the 20 and 03 had been around and the station was winding down. From all accounts it has been financially successful, which is what it is all about.

IMG 3554 blog

Sadly no pictures of the 03 around the site – too busy/stressed to take any and anyway Tata are not happy about them being taken, so just some around the station area to mark the event. Back to normality next week, if there is such a thing here at the Briddon Country Pile. The toad? Having warned Steph, she spotted it jumping into a cardboard box, so she took the box outside and encouraged it to return to the wild.

Born Free!
As free as an amphibian!

No doesn't quite work, does it?

More in this category: Of water - pumps and rain »

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