Terry swung by on his way home from work on Tuesday night and together we went over the forklift. The Perkins within it is mounted so low that in order to reach under and undo the sump plug, you either need a pit or jack the vehicle up. In the future this might be simplified by parking the forklift over the track slots, but for that evening we first attempted to drive the forklift up on to some bricks and timber but without success. This is definitely not an “off highway” machine! So instead we jacked it up and Terry reached under. With the necessary oils and filters changed and inspected, we cranked it up and I was pleased to see my new alternator doing its stuff. Terry's overall view that although its tyres are worn and the wiring is becoming a little brittle, overall it is not in bad order and should be a worthwhile purchase – provided of course it stays on concrete.
I was back down at Darley the following morning, so fired it back up and put in a little practice moving workbenches, pallets, etc around. The hydrostatic drive works off the one pedal – ball of the foot down for forwards, heel for back. The trick of course, is to find the mid-position reliably, and for the moment, in that split second of panic, my reactions are still to go too far and put it into the opposite direction. The Bala Lake's Severn Lamb B-B “Meirionydd” was the same, with the added complication that it was a cable-operated pump from each cab and with stretch on the cables the neutral wasn't always quite consistent. Several times when I was using it I would approach slowly to buffer up, only to retreat when instead of stopping in neutral the pump passed through and powered in the opposite direction.
Of course, not all pumps are like this – you can get them where the flow is proportional but there are two electric valves which determine which way the oil flows. And in consequence they are far more controllable.
Anyway, that afternoon I headed back in to Rowsley with James' starter motor and fitted it back on. The loco had been left full with plain water since Sunday and was still well up, so my thoughts turned to firing it up, but although I gave the batteries a quarter hour of heavy charging, they could barely turn it over more than a couple of times. I was also taken aback to find the batteries almost up to their tops in water – this has been a feature of James for a number of years, water finds its way in to the battery box and rises until it reaches the level of he side doors, whereupon it oozes out. Back at the DVLR, we drilled some additional drain holes, but these had silted up so I prodded them clear, and left the loco draining both battery box and engine as the weather forecast was for colder weather.
So apart from having our grandson up for Christmas, which I am sure you will understand is a sure fire way of passing time on, there hasn't been other opportunity to work (though of course it is not without railway interest, for as soon as he gets here the first toy to be set out is his "Thomas" trainset and hours of fun can be had trying to run "Duck", "Thomas" and "James" around two interconnected circuits. Given that all 3 choose to run at different speeds - due to different motors or battery states - switching turnouts to avoid unintentional 'banking' keeps one alert, even without the 'owner' standing on sections of the track).
As I lay on my sick bed (well no, that's not really true, the bed was OK but I wasn't, but it is what people say) yesterday I did wonder whether to pen a quick pantomime as being appropriate to the time of year. I did one many years ago – there were two versions, one for 'general' and one specifically aimed at Thomas Hills, where I was working, having been taken over by the Hunter Group the previous year. It began like this -
Narrator It is evening on the Island of Sodor, and in the engine shed at Tidmouth, Gordon, Jamesand Henry are discussing the events of the day. There is a lot to talk about. Ever since the mainland railways sold their North Western Region to Punter International, the engines haven't been in one place long enough to have a decent puff.
The Fat Controller had been in control so long , they knew no other, but he'd died of a coronary during a fun run and was replaced by a three man ruling military junta – a Punter Shunter Junta. These men ruled the railway with a rod of iron unprecedented in Sodor. Changes came thick and fast: and not everyone agreed...
Gordon It's disgusting -
Henry Disgraceful -
James Despicable -
Gordon - the way this railway is run today. Why, there I was, all ready to run the Express through to the mainland and where were my coaches? Where indeed? Touring Scotland, that's where. Ludicrous. I had to squeeze all the passengers on to my tender and go anyway. I mean, what sort of decorum can one keep with one's fireman apologising to some young lady every time she fell on her back in the coal?
Henry And the coal. I ask you, who can expect a loco to steam on the coal they buy nowadays. I can remember when coal really was coal. Not that its Punters fault of course, oh no. They cannot put a wheel wrong.
Gordon Oh yeah? You know which side of the cab your regulator is on, don't you? If you don't work your big ends off, my dear Henry, they'll cast you on the scrapheap just like Percy, mark my words.
James Don't say that, the thought of poor Percy makes me weep.
Narrator Percy, as you all know, was a cheeky little engine with four wheels, a large round saddle tank like no other and green paint. He used to shunt all the trains for the tender engines to pull.
Gordon It served him right – if Percy had been a grand tender engine like me, he would have been quite certain of his job.
James Has anyone seen Thomas lately?
Henry Last I heard, he had a job at BR Derby.
James Doing what?
Henry I'd rather not talk about it.
James And Duck?
Narrator Oh, Duck was a Great Western pannier tank that used to shuffle around the Big Station muttering about things being all ship-shape and Bristol fashion, which was strange as he didn't have any Bristols to speak of.
Gordon Don't talk to me about Duck!
Narrator It's all right, I was just telling them out there.
Gordon Who? (Peers into audience) Oh no, not late night trainspotters again! Right ho, chaps, pencils and cameras ready eh? Hurry up then and let an engine get some sleep. The number's on the side and my best angle is a front three-quarter. I look quite impressive, don't I? What? Never seen a real steam engine before? No you cannot get in my cab, it's authorised personnel only on my footplate, you know. What do you mean you prefer Henry anyway?
- and so on. Though reading it again after some years, I see I never got in a “Behind you!” - maybe I'll revamp it in time for Christmas 2015.
So this is the last entry for 2014, and it is customary to look back and reflect. We began the year with high hopes of getting the shed finished in 6 or 7 months but that fell behind as the realities of floor problems and the need to reduce other costs to compensate forced us to do more work ourselves than we had intended. 14 901 has continued in service, though our plans to revamp the cooling system got postponed and has only begun now. For the most part it has been reliable though a recurrence of fuel contamination while at the GCR was an embarrassment. The 03 turned the corner with a lot of help from those kind chaps at Scunthorpe in getting the paintwork progressed. We still need to finish off the vac system and the like but it is heading the right way. Of the others, well Andrew decided that no new projects would be progressed until the shed was available, which was sensible enough, but even work we had planned for Pluto has not been possible. As for me, I have spent much time driving, which is not actually my favourite occupation, then sticking my neck out and being elected to the PRA board may mean a very different year is in store.
Grandson returns home tomorrow, so for the latter half of the week there will be time to get some work done, although the snow that has fallen, and the fact that the loco shed at Rowsley has been locked until the New Year may hamper progress. So best wishes to all readers for 2015, and see you next year.