Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of purlins and guano

26th April 2015

Golly, Sunday again already. It hardly seems a week since I was sat here writing this. The grandson was returned to his mother's on Tuesday, restoring tranquility to the Briddon Country Pile for another couple of weeks, and you'd think from that all manner of things could progress once again, and you'd be right, and then again wrong.

Andrew and I have made a couple of visits to Rowsley during the week, to collect oil which we had in store there. There's still one 45 gallon drum to uplift (it's full so neither of us are looking forward to it – easy to get off at Darley, just back the van into the shed threshold and hump it out on to a pallet which the forklift proffers) but while we were at Rowsley, we discovered that 14 901 had been moved over to the pit. Not an inconvenience, but as (presumably) one of those who moved it left the cab door open, a bird has been inside and yet again we have guano to clean off the desk and one of the cab seats. Guano – what a more socially acceptable word for bird c**p.

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Did you know that there is an island called Nauru in the central Pacific? It's the third smallest state by area in the world (only the Vatican and Monaco beat it) and at one time its principle export was “phosphates” which started out in life as guano. Just before I started at Hills they had supplied two 20ton 3ft gauge 4wDHs - some of the smallest locos Hill's ever built – to operate on a double-track main line between the mines and the port. The mines ceased production some years ago, and one or two pictures I have seen show at least one of the Vanguard pair still surviving – derelict - but heavily modified. Here's one on Flickr when it was actually in use in 2008, but you have to know Vanguards to recognise its origins!

Now, I keep saying that my commercial work shouldn't feature in this blog, but it seems to have crept in of late, and as Andrew pointed out, it was the first loco to arrive at the works and, provided there are no issues put in its way, the first out, so it ought to have a place to record it. There is of course an argument for saying that in fact it was only the first loco at the shed rather than in it, but maybe we'll use that fact to have another celebration later on. So for now, here is the traditional “smiling faces” photo of the two engineers who had been inspecting the loco, with me sandwiched between them after it had been given a test-run and passed satisfactorily.

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Saturday this week we had a “family get together”, ostensibly to celebrate my daughter's wedding anniversary before they jet off for a week in Portugal. Unfortunately it was arranged for a lunch in a nice pub in a village near Wetherby, which rather put the kaibosh on getting much done, although Andrew did use the morning to clean the cars down with the pressure washer.

So instead it was today, Sunday, when we got back to work, and for almost the first time since last December, it was to progress construction of the shed. For although the cladding, roof lights, cloaking sheets and guttering have yet to be ordered, before they are, we must complete the assembly of the purlins.

When we bought the original building, it was a kit of parts for a much longer one, and we didn't have a clear idea of where the tracks would fall and therefore, what end columns we would need. In the event, the supplier made us up 3 columns with purlin brackets in the same heights as ones he had placed on the end columns. He was not to know that firstly we would need to raise the columns on “stools” (or to be exact, lower the foundations on the advice of the structural engineer and thus need to extend the columns to recover the headroom)_which screwed up the brackets on his columns and secondly that his men had in fact, identified some wrong columns for adding end brackets to. He did supply us a quantity of purlin material, enough to do the sides and roof in one section, and a number of lengths in another section that turns out to be insufficient. You may gather that I am not entirely convinced he is worth recommending as a supplier to anyone, although for all I know he may be as good or better than any other firm in the secondhand steel framed building dealer industry.

So anyway, before I commit to expensive materials and assembly dates, we need to make sure that all the purlin material, brackets, etc are correct and hopefully in place, so today we made a start on the ends.

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I had previously manufactured and painted a number of additional purlin brackets in two guises: one with extremely wide lugs for welding in to the end columns, and a smaller one which grips the side of the column with nuts, bolts and clamps. Some of the latter had been put on the building nearly a year ago, in the heady part of the spring when I hoped that we'd be clad by the summer – that is, before the harsh reality of the costs of the concrete floor hit home. But none of the former brackets had been welded in to place. Today was the day to change that.

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It may not seem like much, but we have completed the first two (lower) purlin runs at the north end of the building. The lengths we had would not reach the opposite end columns in one run, so we had to measure up, cut it off so that the longest lengths reached the 3rd of the 4 verticals, and then complete the last length in a separate cut, each time trying to make sure that the redundant length would end up suitable for something at the south end, where the roller shutter doors break up the longer lengths. Of course, the holes for bolting said purlins do not line up even on the end brackets, as my brackets envisaged using the smaller section purlin (I did not then realise that we had been supplied two different sizes) and the column centres are unique to our installation, so the marker pen came in handy, as did the 16mm hole cutter.

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Charlie was at Darley Dale too, having brought a works train down from Rowsley to progress re-sleepering the down line at DD's loop, so all trains were using the up line and northbound trains approached the level crossing under a yellow flag from the blockman. Rob Sanders was back as a volunteer, and he'd brought his road/rail Land Rover with him from Crewe with some kit to assist. As the last train went by, he joined us to see progress, and re-joined us after Charlie had headed back to Rowsley, to seek advice on quantities of smoke and a whistling noise the Land Rover had just started emitting. Andrew broke off and opened up the line to his intercooler (Ok, the Land Rover's intercooler), and finding a quantity of oil in there, advised him that almost certainly the turbo shaft seals had failed. Rob passed the Land Rover his friends at Station Road Garage with an instruction to sort it, and hitched a ride home.

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While I busied myself attacking Ivy (the parasitic plant, not some hitherto unmentioned volunteer) Andrew cut the remaining purlins into lengths suitable for the ends in various places and we together did a role call for the remaining brackets we will need now that we have a better idea of how the purlins will all fit. We have decided that I need to get some more profiled and bent, as well as a number of additional lengths of purlin to complete the ends and provide plenty of support for our highly expensive, insulated sheets.

We did get quite excited at the beginning of the week when Andrew spotted a Cat forklift very similar to ours on e-bay, but with side-shift and, because of a steering defect, going cheap. In the end though we didn't even try to bid as it crept up and up. Granted, it went for a price less than I paid for ours, but ours did in fact run and steer. It has been proving its worth and I am sure it will again shortly as it will be called on to lift purlins into place .

So that was about it for the week. Looking forward, we have a date pencilled for James to bring two of the wagons down from Rowsley, and next Saturday, all being well, we should return to Scunthorpe, which I suppose means I ought to have some of these lightboxes finish-assembled and the LED cards built-up ready to be wired. Oh, but I see that next week's edition should be the 250th. Hmm, what can I dream up as a logo, I wonder? And finally, in case you hadn't guesed, all this week's pictures were taken by Steph, during her visits to the work site bringing very welcome cups of tea and biscuits!

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