Yes folks, another milestone on the Briddon blog has been reached with this, the 250th edition, and only a few weeks to go to celebrate the 5th anniversary (there being a week or two more per year than fifty) since the very early version of Weekend Rails first appeared. But trust me, it is not worth going back to the first edition – there wasn't much to it as I merely tested the mechanics of writing and publishing under the aegis of “Wordpress”.
But enough of this self-congratulation (I have to, no-one else will) and back to what has been happening during the week. On Thursday we spent some time back at the building, welding more purlin brackets to the columns around one of the roller shutter doors. The dry weather over the previous few days had just about dried out all the track slabs from their more usual paddling pool condition – a rare sight over the last 9 months. Andrew had splashed out on new earth clamp and rod holder for my trusty old welder, but having seen some smoke coming off the cables at the weekend, we raided another welder of mine to provide some 25 sq.mm cables rather than the 10s that the manufacturer had provided, and the combination, declared Andrew, was far, far better. Some more purlin bracket profiles had been collected from the profilers earlier that day, and dropped off in Sheffield for bending to shape. Hopefully we'll have enough to assemble all the purlins required, but must source some more lengths to finish the job.
According to the agreement under which the Geoffrey Briddon Building is being built, Andrew and I have a right to move locomotives et al to and from Rowsley, but we have had a certain amount of difficulty in turning that into reality. On Friday however, we had arranged to drive “James” north to Rowsley to bring back some wagons loaded with our materials (i.e. the ex Deutsche Reichsbahn flat, the VBA, and a Peak Rail wagon with an engine and sundries of mine on) and combined the move with the departure of the Bagnall 0-4-0DH “George Toms” - the commercial job of mine which crept into view last week. Steph came too to record the event on camera. Consequently we were on site first thing Friday morning, ensuring everything was ready. An hour or so later Harvey Coppock arrived with the token(s) to act as our Pilotman-cum-Gate-opener, and released the ground frame at the bottom of the yard.
First little problem was that the point detection at our side didn't quite work, but a kick or two made it go the last little bit and Harvey pulled off the conditional dolly to let us out. Only the disc didn't move. It did when Dom installed it, (although not all that much when it came to it) but now it didn't tip at all. After a hurried consultation, I was authorised to drive past it.
We had agreed that “George Toms” would do the work on the way up, and as it was the rear loco, that meant that I was propelling James, simple enough as the glass areas on industrial loco cabs mean that you can see straight through. James though was idling the whole time, as otherwise we would have had to de-mesh it or run the risk of overheating the converter. With a dead loco you'd take essential precautions, but for a simple move you leave the engine idling, and Andrew rode it just to act as look out and add brakes if the need arose, (or even, heaven forbid, had GT packed up part way, James could have pulled us onward). Nonetheless to an untrained observer it was not obvious which loco was powering, and after at least two slow drive-bys over the level crossing at Darley Dale, a certain person turned up at Church Lane crossing and summoned Harvey over to confirm that Andrew was not in fact driving.
On arrival at Rowsley we separated the locos, George Toms headed round to where the low loader was waiting – not out the end of the site but alongside the storage building of the Heritage Shunters Trust, a perfectly accessible and straightforward loading point. The vehicle had been outside overnight and by the time we reached it (10.30) was all set up and waiting, so on went the winch cable and I rode up the ramp, ready to slam the brakes on if anything untoward occurred. Of course it went without a hitch and by 11.15 the loco was on its way back to Loughborough.
Meanwhile I was back on James. Someone had shunted the VBA out in front of the two 37s – but as this was not the only vehicle we had planned to collect it had been a pointless exercise and we shunted the two 37s out of the way to access the line behind. Out came the German flat and the PR flat, and since it was there, a Dutch “gronk” which was also destined to head to Darley. Although our original plan was just to uplift the wagons, the exceptionally dry rail conditions and a reassessment of the risk factors convinced us to take a bit more, so we headed around to the ash pit and collected 14901 too. Soon it was all formed up, but we had a bit of bother getting the 14s gearbox to de-mesh prior to hauling it south. Harvey joined us with a mug of tea (for himself, not us) and we took the ensemble south, with Andrew riding the gronk and a signal code agreed so that he could operate the brakes if required.
On arrival at Darley we split the wagons onto the first road alongside the shed, where they will act as a deterrent to any undesirable persons driving lorries or such around to the front, and then put the locos away in the shed, proving, as Andrew insists he always planned, that the shed is long enough to get 2 class 14s on each track- not that he is planning to own 4 – well of course he may be but if so he's not told me about it – but at least D9500 and 14 901 can sit on the same track if the need arises.
Having cancelled our planned trip to Scunthorpe last week, we were determined to make it on Saturday. For myself, I was hoping to get some wiring done and test the forward/reverse detection sensors and connected circuits, but first assemble the 4 code light boxes to the loco. Alas, though, the soldering iron has been cold all week, so there were no pcbs yet ready to populate the boxes, though for that matter we must install a bit of trunking before I can cable them anyway. Of course, as built, D2128 had 8 of these code lights, and so far, 03 901 is receiving only 4, but I gather we may rectify that later. For the moment, I had considerable difficulty in assembling the boxes, as a combination of tolerances in fabrication, and especially my inaccuracy in positioning certain 'oles meant that nothing quite lined up and the whole job took up most of the afternoon.
Andrew meanwhile resumed his attack on the vac pipework between the driver's brake valve and the exhauster, and by dint of an additional crane coupling and sundry minor re-arrangements, professed himself satisfied with that section, bar the need to take it all apart again to manufacture proper joints for the flat-faced flanges. That done he climbed into the casings to take a closer look at the water pump pulley and its nearby jockey. It became apparent quickly that one of the two drive belts was severely shredded and would probably have snapped before much longer, and when he extracted the jockey pulley and turned it in mid-air, you could feel each roller 'clunking' in the race. It may well have been seizing and what we heard was the belts screeching. Anyway, Andrew brought it back with us to strip and replace the bearing.
Andrew's MIG welder being based there, I had brought over some profiles for him to make up another bracket for Dom Beglin's new signalling installation at Rowsley. The original was a casting, its replacement was to be a fabrication out of 4 profiles, and I knew they would be awkward to set up and get the torch in to weld properly, but Andrew coped pretty well, as you'll see. Meanwhile, the AFRPS's “Arnold Machin”, a Yorkshire 'half-Janus' 0-6-0DE was in the shops for attention as it was down on power, and Andrew's joint inspection of comms around the traction motor and generator showed that the brushes are about ready to flashover and some TLC is overdue. However, with Bagnall 0-6-0DM “Richard Clark” having departed for Ludborough some time ago, that leaves only three operational diesels – the Janus, the 02 and Andrew's Sentinel 0-6-0DH – but few came forward previously for driver training on the latter so it looks like we'll have to do some more very soon.
As we drove back we discussed the difficulties in assembling the code light boxes and agreed how to do it better next time.
Overnight the heavens opened and it was still precipitating considerably this morning when I got up. Dreams of welding more purlin brackets soon evaporated (which was more than the rainwater did) but we needed to get some of the equipment unloaded, particularly to free-up the Peak Rail flat wagon for return to Rowsley. By lunchtime the rain appeared to have ceased, so we had an early sandwich and headed down. Almost immediately Dom Beglin appeared to take possession of his new bracket, and having told me previously that he only needed one, Andrew had a message later asking if by chance we had another in the van?
The dry track slabs were once again paddling pool depth, but we fired James up and brought the first wagon in for emptying with the forklift, armed with its new hook attachment. A year or so ago I had sent a lorry to South Wales to bring back a Rolls engine I had acquired for resale, and by chance won a Cummins NT380C in the Bristol area to make the load worthwhile. These engines had been transferred hurriedly to a convenient wagon (if I remember, it had just returned from Darley having carried shed steelwork) and although the Rolls had moved on to my customer, the Cummins plus some other bits needed transferring. I mentioned a few weeks ago that our practice in years gone by with a Toyota forklift and a Cummins 14 litre engine (same size, different designation) with fitters sat on the rear to add counterbalance was to say the least, slightly er – not-an-approved practice, so I was quietly concerned about lifting this one, but the T50B is a higher rated machine and it handled it in its stride. The carrying frame we had nearby was slid under it and it was soon safely on the ground and secured.
The wagon was then used to transfer some bits to the scrap bin before being parked on a siding out of the way, and we brought the German flat in to be sorted.
Amongst the “useful equipment” we have amassed over the last two or three years can list a mechanical hacksaw and a compressor set. Well most of the latter, which was redundant as it had no motor, but coincidentally Andrew had acquired a suitable motor attached to a Broomwade exhauster. The latter was long since separated off and put elsewhere, leaving the motor and belt guard with nowhere to go, so we lifted them off the wagon and married them to the compressor. Once we get the shed roofed and things sorted, they will be set up and cabled ready. For now they are stashed under a sheet and their spaces vacated assumed by the Cummins on its stand, and the flat wagon taken back out, with its load carefully sheeted down against the inclement stuff.
So, looking forward, 14 901 is now sat somewhere where we can contemplate getting back on with the modifications (improvements) to the cooling and fuel systems, and carrying out the service due after over 350 hours operation at Peak Rail last year. More purlin brackets will take us toward crunch time when we order the cladding, rooflights, cloaking sheets, guttering and downpipes, and liaise with our planned contractor as to when he can do the work and whether all the equipment that we have been compelled to take down to Darley will be in his way. But at least we are looking towards the summer, when the sun shines, rain is unheard of, and fluffy white clouds drift through a beautiful blue sky. Am I dreaming again? Probably.