Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of catches.

8th March 2015

My faith in human nature is being brought into question. I mean, three brake vans full of camera-toting enthusiasts, and doesn't common-sense tell you that at least  one would have posted up a picture on Flickr or a video clip on you-tube? There must be thirty or forty on Flickr from visitors who did a tour on the 7th February, yet the lot we took round last Saturday, when 03 901 and I were in command – is there one single picture showing the loco or even my smiling/scowling face at the cab window? Despite a whole week of checking all the usual tags – not a sausage.

On Monday though Andrew had the day off and we headed in to Darley Dale. When the contractors installed the roller shutter doors last September, they put the chain catches in the simplest places, oblivious to the fact that the concrete panels which went all the way round the rest of the building, and butted up to their doorways at one side, might well also be required between their roller shutters and our personnel door too. So when we came to install those panels we had to take the catches off, and for the last few months the chains have swung free in the breeze, and when Rob had need of access, he simply hopped up and pulled on a chain and the roller shutter was raised.

But while I was driving 03 901 up and down and round and round every empty siding in Scunthorpe, Andrew had produced two simple brackets from a piece of 100 x 100 angle that I'd scrounged, and thus we had two new brackets to re-mount the chain catches. It did however mean lifting back out the two upper panels either side of the doors and here once again possession of your own forklift is a boon. Soon the panels were out, brackets and door frame drilled, bracket secured in place and panel refitted. It does mean I can sleep a bit easier. It is not that the “compound” is 100% secure – if anyone is determined to get in they will do so until such time as there's a roof and sides – but that as odd things of value come to be stored there it is no deterrent if access is all too easy.

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While there we also dragged in the 4 remaining flat bottom rails required to complete the west side track – these had been left outside the door when the works train departed so it was merely a matter of encouraging them forward until we could get near the point of balance. There seemed little point in attempting to lay them – mainly because I was down to my last few sets of clamping parts until a fresh set of profiles could be ordered up - so we got on with some other jobs.

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I've been out and about again this week but managed to get the order away to the profiles for a number of pieces including the rail clamp sets, which on the usual turnround should see them ready early in the next week. But part of the run-round was a trip to Norfolk to collect our grandson for a few days, so this weekend has been taken up with more mundane matters. On Friday though I did spend some time at Darley – Dom Beglin was carrying out work on the lever frame and signalling installation at the exit point of the yard and needed me to release the point clip we hold on our side. In the end, he found he had to grind one of the tie bars down so I set up a grinder in the shed area and used James to shuffle up and down as it was ground and trialled, to save an otherwise rather long walk carrying a large lump of metal. By early afternoon, when Dom had to leave to take his daughter swimming, the disc was operating but only moving about 15-20 degrees, and an adjuster on the detector bar is Fubar so it will be a little while longer before the installation is complete and signed off.

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Friday and Saturday were lovely days for weather and one might almost have thought that spring was on the way. But today was wet, although the forecast said it would perk up later, and watching the rain fall (and consoling myself that it was wetting the footballers who insist on parking and part-blocking the road outside the Briddon Country Pile)  I decided not to go down until early afternoon and even then on doing something that wouldn't be adversely affected by the precipitation. So using the forklift, I had a satisfying afternoon placing rails down in position and fishplating them, and dropping the bolts in behind to make sure that the socket holes don't fill up with debris floating in the water. Having put two in on the western track,  (the last two will need trimming to length) I turned to the eastern line where two single rails reach all the way to the end. But first I moved various stillages, pallets and workbenches around to make some room. This track base is especially cloudy and has built up a mulchy layer of leaf debris and fine concrete dust that needs shovelling out of the way but immediately means that you cannot see anything below the surface.  It took some very delicate operation of the forklift to get the first rail lined up and then crowbar'd into position. The second will have to wait for another time,  but a  quick count of the number of clamp parts I need compared to the number I randomly ordered, suggests I have managed to call up just about the right number, and a lot of them can now be installed straight away.

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A couple of weeks ago I made a brief statement regarding my position on the Board of the Peak Railway Association Ltd and a forthcoming EGM. That situation has now changed and Peak Rail members, and any others should they be interested, might like to reflect on my story.

As you may recall, I stood for election to the Board (technically called a “Council” in the PRA's case) at the AGM on the first of November last year.  Various people encouraged me to stand, but after considerable thought as to whether I had much to contribute, once I'd made my decision it was all a  bit of a rush to get the formalities completed before the deadlines. Fortunately I had an e-mail address for the Company Secretary so filed with him a note confirming my willingness to serve if elected,  even though at that moment I was not sure whom, or maybe even if, I would be nominated by.

On the actual day of the AGM I was rostered driving '901, so could not attend, and I half expected to find my nomination rejected on a  technicality, and I must rely on the description of the meeting by Andrew and Steph and subsequent reports by the Company Secretary.

When it came to it, I had in fact been nominated by Roger Hallatt, a PRA Director, and another PRA Director was intending to second me, but in a slight mix-up, Steph put her hand up and nominated me from the floor of the meeting, and when the Chairman asked for a  seconder, Andrew caught his eye (even though others also had their hands up to do so).

On the vote, with 32 members recorded at the meeting, 30 voted in favour, no-one was against and two abstained  - and they were, I am reliably assured, two people who hold Directorships in both the PRA and Peak Rail plc.  Such a majority (93%) would be run-of-the-mill for a traditional communist dictatorship but for a free-thinking railway group in the UK must be something of a landmark event!

Even though the Chairman stood down at the end of the AGM there was no Board meeting scheduled until mid-January, by which time, in between messages of 'good luck', I had heard rumours that not everyone was delighted by my election. That became painfully obvious when the January meeting's paperwork appeared and it was down as the first matter on the Agenda. Seeing that the minutes of the previous meeting were condensed down to a couple of sides of A4, I decided to take small tape recorder with me to the meeting as a precaution.

I won't go into that in detail save that I got a couple of choice quotes, and found my Directorship, though its legality was unquestioned, being  “suspended” pending an EGM to be held to amend the Articles of Association in a manner to prevent Directors being nominated from the floor and a ratification vote on my election.

That EGM was due to be held on either the 21st or 28th March by hiring a  room at the Whitworth Centre and even as late as February 18th I was asked to provide a “profile” of myself to go out with the paperwork of the meeting.

This week I received a letter from the PRA informing me that they had discovered a technical defect in the nomination – namely that I had e-mailed the Company Secretary rather than writing and signing it personally and that no-one had nominated me in writing prior to the meeting – and that therefore they were declaring my election null and void. And with that, they have decided not to proceed with the EGM (and all the attendant expense of mailing the members and hiring a  room) even though when I was present the importance of altering the Articles was the primary purpose of the meeting.

There are of course, several simple ways of resolving the situation and keeping faith with the demonstrably strong support I received from the rank and file members – for example, although I had rejected co-option at the January meeting (as you can't co-opt someone to be Director who is already a Director) declaring that Directorship null and void makes co-option an entirely normal and correct procedure.

So, my apologies to all the Peak Rail members who voted for me: I regret that I am unable to champion any of the reforms which I see Peak Rail as desperately needing.

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Returning to more constructive matters, most of the blockwork at the shed so far had employed a cement mixer that normally lives on the works train, and with that back at Rowsley perhaps semi-permanently, I had been looking out for a  s/h one to carry the job onward. E-bay being one of our regular haunts for such things – from the forklift through washing machines (for overalls)  to deadmans pedals (you'll have to be a long-term reader to recognise that one)  - you'll not be surprised to know that Andrew used his keyboard nerve to grab one over near Bolsover, which I'm due to collect tomorrow. There's still a large number of concrete commons to lay under and supporting the concrete panels, plus bedding in a slot drain across the front,  hard standing and container support points outside, etc so it should be a worthwhile acquisition. Next week, with no distractions from 2 year-olds in hivi, it'll be back to business as usual: whatever that is.

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