As soon as I had finished last weeks' edition I was going through with Andrew the details of the order for the vinyl stickers for 03 901, for not only was it to have its number and BR logo but a data panel, and, as the supplier couldn't offer a “Frodingham” shed code, a pair of Immingham (IM) ones instead. The order was duly placed on line and as the supplier promised a 48 hour turnround, we were confident of having them available in good time for the weekend.
On Monday I popped down and found Dom Beglin at Rowsley. He was supposed to be installing bits at the North End of the yard, but as the weather was anything but conducive, he was instead working away in the dry of the upper half of the ex Darley Dale (ex Buxton, ex Bamford) signal box which will eventually take root near where visitors arrive on site. Between us we trialled the ratchet mechanism in place for one of his wire-operated lever frame boxes, and although it is not perfect, he seemed confident of it doing the job.
Later that day he upped sticks and moved down to Darley Dale – the 3-lever frame is now in place and roughly rodded, but as it is not yet signed off, the points are still clipped and locked.
On Tuesday I had an 08.30 clinic appointment in Sheffield, so Monday evening I took myself and the Micra on an excursion to Darley to bring back the two forklift wheels. Rather than bring the fitter out to us, I had arranged with the firm to take the wheels into their Sheffield branch. It is fortunate that we didn't need the Micra's spare wheel during this, as the forklift's wheels were surprisingly heavy and must have weighed nearly the same as a brake block. But actually this trip was later in the evening, since early on, as soon as he was back from work in fact, Andrew and I headed over to Glossop to collect a replacement washing machine that I'd acquired through e-bay. When we moved out from Briddon Towers to the Country Pile, I brought our old washing machine to do our overalls. This it was doing manfully until one day it stopped working part way through a cycle, and after that, it never completed a cycle again. I had a man out to look at it, who diagnosed a fault on the control board, so I bought a replacement from an e-bay supplier, but although we fitted this, it stayed as dead as our original, even though we could prove 240V coming in to it. I sent both cards to the supplier, who confirmed theirs was OK (and they'd happily give me a refund) but ours was deceased. As I had no circuit information or other knowledge with which to fault-find, I accepted the refund and conveyed the rest of our machine to the local recycling centre. Meanwhile a s/h washer cost the same as the replacement card.
So after the clinic visit on Tuesday I popped in to the forklift truck tyre specialist and watched them refit their tyres to my wheels with the aid of a hydraulic press which I judged must have a capacity of 3 or 400 tons. Then it was back into the Micra with them and we returned to Derbyshire, dropping them off at the shed later in the afternoon.
On Wednesday evening Andrew took part in a competition organised by the IMechE's Railway Division. Intended to encourage young engineers, it was a regional heat with 4 presentations, Andrew's being on Class 57 and Translator haulage of emu's, of which he has been closely involved through his employment. I can with fatherly pride announce that he won, and goes on to take part in the finals in London in mid May.
After this, to say that Scunthorpe was to be the highlight of the week is a little inappropriate, but I certainly had been looking forward to it as it was of course to be the BLS tour on Saturday, for which 03 901 had been promised. We actually hit the road at 07.30 – don't think we've been that early since the 14's 50th gala last July. We made it to Scunthorpe for 09.05, actually arriving before many of our “support team”.
As the 03 has been sat next to a loco that is being sanded down preparatory to repainting, it was covered in dust so the first job was to give it a wash and general shampoo. This of course included the cab sides which needed to be dry in order to get the stickers to adhere, so as soon as we could the loco was moved outside where the wind (Scunthorpe is in a relatively flat location – well to be honest it is on a small plateau that stands above the surrounding flat lands, but what it means is that there is little or nothing to shelter you from incoming breezes) would quickly dry it, but it was a cold wind and separating backing sheets from vinyls and sticking them on to the cab side taxed tempers and dexterity. In the event, it took too long, so the 3 brake vans were sent up to the platform in charge of the AFRPS's Janus, brought down to the shed and pushed up into the headshunt where it detached and we took over.
The BLS tours try to take in every possible piece of track they can, which with all the tracks at Scunthorpe (90+ miles they reckon) is a tall order but means that you do a lot more than the regular tour circuit. It also meant that one or two BLS stewards joined us in the cab, one noting off exactly which track we'd travelled on. Indeed, at one point I counted 8 people in the cab including me (Andrew had stayed back at the shed to get some work done!), Tata and AFRPS stalwart Glenn, Toby Stephen, etc - it is a good job that 03 cabs are generously sized.
Of course, with so many on board, and nearly as much movement carried out propelling as hauling, the cab windows were all open and the wind blew right through. I soon had my hivi on for extra warmth but suffered from painful neck muscles brought about by watching backwards out the window through which the gale continued to blow. 03 901 performed without significant incident, although the noise which had dogged us during the October gala could still be heard (much more mildly) and the tacho which I was so pleased to get working last year for some as yet unexplained reason ceased to function.
Thus the 03 boldly went on tracks where no 03 had gone before, including as far as I could up various sidings, and the entrance to one of the blast furnaces (not in use) and a coke oven or two. We crept over rails brown with rust, or obliterated by debris, gingerly past piles of material that threatened to foul the footsteps on the brake vans and all the while our steward made notes like it was a time and motion study. Eventually we broke off for lunch and returned to the shed area.
Yet soon it was out again, this time up to the rail products area which involved an interesting bank which 03 901 took in its stride in 2nd gear. We had special permission to traverse two normally “no go” sidings where long rails are loaded onto block trains and at the end of one could spy “Daisy” ( a Vollert electric loco which according to the IRS is a “conduit electric” - as opposed to say an overhead wire – but I was assured is fed from a trailing cable). Indeed, the shift manager dashed over to remove the STOP board from one siding, but in return we had a favour to do for him, and returned to another siding where 03 901 found itself sandwiched between the 3 brake vans and 8 bolster wagons as it repositioned the latter for loading.
Then it was off to Trent Yard. This is Network Rail property and you could tell the difference in the track standards – every other joint had a dip in it that threatened to buffer lock us vertically. We proceeded as far as we could without actually tripping the tack circuit at the exit on to the main line before reversing back through another part of the yard and round to the so-called Container area, which comprises 3 parallel roads, two for loading and a release road in the middle. We went down one, and Glenn gave me a warning that the headshunt at the end might not be long enough and to be aware that it was a steeper down-grade than it looked. But 03 901 coped and we fitted, so propelled the vans back up the other road, before detaching and running round using the release road. But that was not enough, we had to go back in to the headshunt and bring our happy passengers up through the release road, and even then one was not so happy as he had not “done” half the road where we had deposited them to run round and he wanted to go back down it. But by now time was ticking on and he was overruled. We picked up the usual tour route of the site, but whereas we normally keep to the outside of the circuit towards Concast, Glenn directed us on an alternative route which encompassed the weighbridge, and finally down to the Medium Section mill.
The line through here is single, and rather toy-like as it enters the building, passes straight through and executes a 90 degree turn on the far side. But the red light was on and chatter on the radio indicated that they were unloading something just out of our view. We had to wait five minutes while a bloomin' big forklift shuffled to and fro, but eventually we had the OK, Glenn went forward and pushed a button, the light turned from red to green and we crept through the Mill to a serenade of fifty alarms warbling in different keys. Glenn picked up a red flag and preceded us.
On the far side, 100 yards ahead, a rake of slab wagons, top and tailed by two radio-controlled Janii, was trundling back to the basic steel plant and we followed until they bore off right and we reset the turnout to go left around past Concast. From here on it was a steady run, 03 was pulling well and I might have exceeded the speed limit a bit(!). As we were about a mile from our destination we approached a loop where 20 117 was standing. About the same time Andrew rang me, for it was after half-past four and the tour had been booked to finish at four, to enquire where we had broken down?
The 20 took over the train and we followed it, only separating when as it headed back to the platform we could reverse and aim for the shed. Andrew pronounced he had achieved 80% of what he had set out to do. Two brackets required for the roller shutters on our shed doors were manufactured, the code-lamp bodies (for the 03) flapped down and almost ready for powder coating and some parts put together for the vac brake installation on the 03, although without the loco itself to hand this part was unlikely to progress too far anyway. He had also helped Mark strip the transmission oil cooler from D2853 and reported that embedded in it was part of a turbine blade from a converter , though whether it is from the loco's present converter, or one that has been on it in the past, we may never know.
Eventually, at quarter to six, we got back on the road for Derbyshire.
Terry had agreed to pop in today at Darley to do some work on our forklift. For the last week or so it has sat on wood blocks without its front wheels, that throttle cable we bought was still sat in the garage and the belt that connects the crank, fan and alternator was still not on its grooves. While Andrew and I did some other jobs, Terry re-wheeled it, put on its spare belt and fitted the throttle cable, so my next task is to get a formal LOLER inspection which is not necessary but prevents anyone whingeing. The weather was supposed to be “occasional showers” but we had heavy rain and even thunder which tended to make the day less productive than it might have been, having to take shelter in the Portakabin more than once. But the forklift is back together and that means we can get back to positioning the last flat bottom rails (though they must await a fresh batch of retaining profiles before they are secured and safe to run over). Terry will be back soon to continue modifying the crane beams ready for re-installation, and indeed we will shortly have to think about those remaining purlins and sundry bracketry which we must finish before the cladding goes on. Then we wouldn't have to worry if it rains or not.