Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of bits of wire

Of  bits of wire

24th November 2014

Judging from the website statistics, quite a few of you came in last night and this morning, looking for this week's edition, but I did say I'd be out, and by the time I got in, with songs like Boomerang Kids and Spending Nigel's Bonus still ringing in my ears, it was too late to even think about writing it last night.

The week got under way with me off to deal with a reported warranty problem at a customer, but not before I'd initiated 4 enquiries about moving my little forklift.  That yielded an interesting range of responses – one never replied to an e-mail, one never answered their phone, one gave me a day rate of £440 and the last gave me a figure of £250 and could do it Tuesday or Wednesday. Late in the afternoon I told them to go ahead, and, being the honest, upstanding fellow that I am, told them to e-mail me a pro-forma so that I could pay them.

Tuesday was wasted by returning  the 'defective' assembly to site (it was working perfectly) but there was no news from the haulier about moving it, save an e-mail that was basically saying “Thanks for your money, we'll be in touch”.  Perhaps I should have stressed the importance of moving it by Wednesday night, certainly with the benefit of hindsight. For Wednesday night the works train was due to return from Darley to Rowsley, and thus the JCB and various other useful material would be unavailable too. By Wednesday lunchtime I was sending a stern but reproachful e-mail to the haulier about their not having got back to me, with the result that they promptly replied with a “we'll do it tomorrow”. That put me in a bit of a fix, as at 08.15 Thursday I was due back at the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield (an hour away and within sight of the erstwhile Briddon Towers) and didn't know how long I'd be.  But I wasn't going to make them delay, so crossed my fingers that by the time they'd collected it and driven it up from Dudley, I'd be back in action.

Anyway, I popped down to Darley late Wednesday afternoon to view progress and tell Rob (who had been primed in case it turned up unexpectedly) that I'd be coping alone. Now I did say last week that there might be some big lump progress this week, so here it is, the line designated “Shed Road 2” is now laid, and while it would have been great (as Rob said later) to have posed Charlie on it, it is as yet unballasted, unpacked and with some sleepers resting lightly on the clay, so it will remain rather more decorative than functional for the next couple of weeks.

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Charlie was about to propel the works train back to Rowsley, and I saw it over the level crossing into Darley station before heading back home.

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Throughout the week I had been receiving e-mails and then texts from the vendor of the Forklift in Dudley, which had started with “when are you collecting it?” although he had yet to give me an address to collect it from!  Indeed, he then gave me a postcode that took me to the opposite side of Brierley Hill, but later provided me a  full address with which I was able to derive the correct code. In the end I had the haulier contact him direct to finalise the detail, and as I headed back from Sheffield, had a text through at 11 o'clock to say it had been collected.  Guessing that a couple of hours and maybe a lunch break would be sufficient to see it nearby, I wandered down to Darley and, having nothing better to do, set about making the plate that will sit above our normal entrance door and carries a bulkhead lamp which I will link to a timer or a PIR to see us in and out on cold winter nights. The plate itself had been in the Portakabin but needed drilling and cutting to fit.

This was completed by 3pm and I had cleared up and was on the point of heading home ('they must be bringing it in the morning') when my phone rang from an unknown mobile. 'Twas the driver half way up the A6 from Matlock. I guided him to the junction and waved as he came down Station Road. Pulling up alongside me, I asked if he could reverse into the entrance, though I doubted it as it was a big 44ton artic. He shook his head, so I suggested he pull forward across the level crossing. He looked a bit askance until I assured him there were no trains until Saturday.

Inside the massive canvas tilt sat two forklifts side-by-side.  I naturally enquired if I could have the one on the right, which was a nice new one, but he used this to unload mine. Rob had lent me a battery – the driver assured me it drove but the battery was completely b****d, but he gave me a hand substituting Rob's and it started first swing of the key. Actually that sounds good, but to swing the key you had to hold the keyswitch body in one hand as it hangs down under the console on 4 wires and any careless movement can result in a flash as one or other crimped cable touched a pipe.

Anyway, off went the lorry in the direction of Birkenhead and an Irish ferry, and I set off on the journey up the yard. When first started, it revved up quite well, but the throttle pedal was stuck so it was a case of driving on what throttle it had. After about 20 yards it died off so I started it up again and did another 18 yards. The third time it dropped to about 15 yards, and by the time I had reached the Rowsley end of the new shed, it would barely idle and certainly wouldn't produce enough torque to drive. Besides, this is a forkift intended for warehouse use. It'll be fine on concrete, OK on the rough but firmly compacted ground that comprised the access road, but now I was on to the recently laid rough on top of the new siding and it was sinking in. Anyway, it was getting dark, starting to rain and Rob's battery was getting tired of re-cranking this engine with no returning charge (the forklift's alternator being a known problem). I checked the air cleaner but after that, headed home.

Andrew's view was that it was a fuel problem, and I had to agree having deduced that the fuel pump was at maximum, so wandered down on Friday with replacement fuel filters. It had two, and both had gained more than twice their original weight in clag, but the primary glass bowl filter was mucky, and the gauze on top of the lift pump was similarly blocked, in fact, I think a  quick dose of biocide might be in order. But try as I might, I could not re-prime the system, as there appeared to be no manual lift pump anywhere, and trying to prime by cranking was a tall order for Rob's battery, despite breaking off regularly to re-charge it. I admitted defeat and Andrew arranged for Terry to pop in after work on Saturday.

On Saturday though Andrew had arranged to go to Peterborough to take down a selection of compressors for rebuild and come back with 3 stainless steel air receivers. Plan A had been to load him up Friday night, but the weather was somewhat inclement and so we switched to Saturday morning, with Andrew aiming to be on the road by 08.00. Meanwhile Steph had arranged to take a table at a sale in the school at Churchtown, with set-up at 09.00, so my morning envisaged loading up the van, then assisting her. Of course, it didn't work out like that. By the time Andrew was up, the van emptied of its usual essentials, 4 compressors loaded (3 out of Rowsley and one from Darley) it was 09.00 before we returned to the house and finding Steph already gone, he took me down and dropped me of at Churchtown.  

I did what I could to help set up, and she said “Go and look at that stand there, the lady has some train pictures.” We went over and there was in fact but one, a large framed print of a Hudswell Clarke 3ft gauge 0-4-0ST, and inscribed Derwent Valley Water Scheme, Chatsworth Park, March 1906. (there were some other local views, including Edensor village which is within the Chatsworth estate so it seemed to be consistent). Being originally an n.g. fan, I bought it. A moment later my mobile rang, it was Peak Rail's MD – 'could I come and run 14 901? The Austerity “Lord Phil” had failed during Pay-and-play.'

Leaving Steph I walked home, changed into my train driver's outfit and taking the VW Golf, headed  in to Rowsley. It was the weekend of what the Warring 40s re-enactors refer to as “winter camp” and parked under the trees was a 40s vintage Army truck and a number of tents, but a line of  GIs were in a line in the middle of the access road to the shed, being addressed by their CO. Now I say this is a road, but it is a rough made-up track and after heavy rain, becomes a succession of  large – well, puddles sounds too small and ponds too large - so just picture all these Gis lined up with a suitable expanse of water right behind them. Oh, the temptation! Floor the Golf, charge through the water, soaking them all and shouting
Und zat ist for Der Fuhrer!
at the top of my voice.  But I slowed down and drove by very slowly.

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“Lord Phil” had spat out a gasket from a steam pipe which had then filled the cab with steam, so had retired to the pit at Rowsley for disposal. That left the service to be handled with 14901 and D8, and a driver for D8 was en-route. Actually it was first thought that it left us short of a secondman, but I pointed out that with two diesels, only one secondman is required since the trailing loco is part of the train and the secondman needs to be on the leading loco. Nonetheless we needed all hands to get D8 prepped and '901 moved on to the train, and it would have the Matlock end as there was no point in having that big heavy green slug doing the easy bit.  By the time I got there, 901 was almost ready and Roy and Dave L had gone on to prep D8. I finished off and pressed the button to crank '901.  Nothing but a  click from under the casings.

This has happened before, once or twice. Because it was only intermittent I had not got as far as checking it out, as usually on the second press it responded. Today no amount of pressing got me any further. Roy came over and I traced through while he pressed. Everything was happening right down to the solenoid coil on the starter contactor, but the contactor itself wasn't making. A short bit of wire and a lot of fiddling under the contactor and 901 came to life.

Roy and I would take 901 on its first run while Dave L and the Ops Director would take D8 once he arrived. We shunted across and waited for D8, but with the usual vagaries of traffic by the time he had arrived, started up and driven it to the north end of the train we were 20 minutes late departing.  Another minor problem was that with no kettle there was no steam heat, so a larger number of coaches than usual were locked off and the (quite numerous) passengers herded into a smaller area to keep them warm.

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I played Secondman for this first run, enjoying the variety of seeing the line downhill, dropping the token off at Church lane and collecting another at Darley crossing. One of the fastest-ever turnrounds at Matlock, having walked the token up the train to meet Dave L and returned to '901, I had barely sat down when we were moving back north.  At Rowsley I dropped off and walked back to the car. Mike S, fireman on Lord Phil, looked down -
“'ere, I'm not going to be named in your blog as the man that broke Lord Phil, am I?”
The thought hadn't then entered my head...

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I got back to Churchtown just in time to help Steph load up all the unsold stuff and have a bite to eat, before Terry rang to say when he'd be at Darley. So it was back into work clothes and down there to open up, when a big orange van arrived. Terry is a plant fitter by profession and has worked on these forklifts before. He soon revealed why there was no manual priming pump – the lever had been broken off. He rigged up a temporary fuel feed and the forklift came back to life, but I swear it was sunken deeper into the ground than Thursday night. Andrew arrived and had his first look over it in daylight.  

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After much mucking about with jacks and bits of wood, we were not getting far, the small, slick tyres of the forklift, intended for concrete or tarmac surfaces, are no match for the loose, uncompacted ground, but we had to go all the way up the shed, and then across to get into the building. In the end, with Terry on the forklift, a long sling as a tow rope, and me on the van, we managed to get it up the length of the shed, but with my slipping the clutch to get the power through without stalling it stank 'orrible and has probably  drastically reduced the clutch life. We concluded that as it was getting dark that was as far as it was going that day!

Saturday evening was the Peak Rail Association dinner and having been made a  Director, Steph had decreed we should attend – it was a good job I had booked to see Fascinating Aida at Chesterfield on Sunday rather than Buxton on the Saturday.  Not much to say other than how strange it is to see  people out of their “volunteer garb” and some I could not even recognise. Our table included Peak Rail's (other) MD Roger Hallatt, Archivist Mick Bond and C&W man Harvey K,  and was notable when it came to the raffle that for a while each successive winner seemed to draw a ticket for another round our table.

I wasn't rostered Sunday but had told Roy I'd be around in case 901 gave trouble – in fact it hadn't been rostered either but the decision had been taken not to attend to Lord Phil until Monday. Sure enough I got a call to say the contactor still wasn't working, so I dashed in and got out my bit of trusty wire. Another bit of fiddling and it cranked, but showed no inclination to fire. After a moment's panic it occurred to me that in the software I had written a “fail-to-start” sequence – should a start be attempted but the system not detect the engine running within 5 or 10 minutes, the computer shuts things off to protect the batteries. It had timed out while I had been driving in. A quick re-set and off it went. I watched the loco head for the top of the site and drove back home.

I had literally just got out of the van at the Briddon Country Pile when the phone rang. 901 had cut out just as they were buffering up. I drove back to Rowsley and straight to the end of the platform, where a small crowd  had gathered making comments about sending for the AA and such. Within a couple of minutes I had the engine running again and train departed only a minute or two late.

Back home, and waiting for Andrew to get ready I did a little research into the picture I had bought yesterday. Harold Bowtell's book on Reservoir Railways of Manchester and the Peak gave me most of the answers. As part of the construction of an aqueduct from Grindleford to Rowsley, a pipeline was laid through Chatsworth, the Duke giving the contractor 6 months to lay the pipe and make good within Chatsworth grounds.  The contractor was a George Bell, who actually died before the work was completed, but built a 3ft gauge line from the goods depot at Rowsley (today's Peak Outlet shopping centre) up the valley past Beeley, reaching the south end of Chatsworth in August 1905. Work in the park itself was completed on 28th July 1906, exactly on the 6 month deadline.  Bowtell shows a rather contrasty picture of the same locomotive (only one was used) with Chatsworth House in the background, but could not positively identify it.  It was known to have come from a reservoir contract near Newcastle-on-Tyne but nobody remembered it having a name, so he deduced it to be HC 506 of 1899.

Now, my picture is much closer, and apart from confirming the loco in every detail (contractors locos tended to get modified by accident or design) the faded paint is discernible on the tank side. It was called “BRIGG”, which identifies it as HC 504. The worksplate is on too, but I'll have to take the photo  out of the frame to see if it can be deciphered. Ironically, 504 went on to work in South Wales, then back to the Fernilee reservoir (by which time it was named “Heswall”). It then went to a plant depot here in Darley Dale by 11/1939 and was bought by Twigg's in Matlock, being scrapped just after the war.

Back at Rowsley, we had some work to do but broke off for a  break around 3pm, and I wandered over to see if 14 901 was OK.  Roy assured me all was well but when I glanced up in the cab, I saw that alternator warning light was on again. There was no time to lose. I advised the Stationmaster and the D8 crew that there would be a  short delay and  phoned Andrew to grab a couple of adjustable spanners and meet me. I shut the loco down, Andrew refitted the belt, and for the third time that day I started the engine up with that piece of wire. Barely two minutes behind time the train left.

Meanwhile Rob was sorting out the arisings from the works train, so both Charlie and Ashdown had been running, but I was largely unaware so didn't grab any photos. At the end of the day 14 901 was parked over the pit as usual – we will be draining it shortly and starting on a winter maintenance programme which now includes those new coolant pipes, fresh oils, a new fuel header tank and a new alternator belt and starter contactor. But in the short term, there is a  forklift to sort so that we can get the shed rails bolted down on “Shed Road 2”. Oh for some dry weather.


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