Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Pluto's return

9th August 2015


Well, that wasn't a very auspicious start to the 6th year of this blog. To all those who came looking and couldn't find it, when I came to finish laying out all the text and pictures and uploading it, it proceeded to “lose” all the text and pictures and 'publish' a blank entry. I hurriedly tried twice more with the same result, then 'unpublished' to prevent confusion, though I know a few readers had already logged on.

Anyway, over the next 24 hours the piece got published – with help from Bill Hyde at Priday Design who host this site – but then did what it did once before and wouldn't appear under 'Latest Post' or 'Blog', merely under the '2015 Jul-Sep' category. Hopefully you all found it in the end (some temporary links were established to make it possible) and this week will run more smoothly. The cause of my initial problems turned out to be malware, and I have had to make a large note to myself that anti-virus software merely protects against virus's (or is it virae?) and does not consider malware within its purview. I pass this on for all of you, like me, who innocently believed that when your anti-virus assures you that “you're protected” it is honest, and not subject to what is hidden away in the small print.

So, it has been an eventful week, not the least of which because our grandson has been here the whole time. On Monday we had transport booked to collect Hibberd Planet 'Pluto' out of the DVLR at York. It appears Pluto has not been used at all this year and had been left with radiator drained and batteries flattening possibly since late last autumn, although no report was issued to us, nor request to come and sort it.  Andrew had the day off to go and see it aboard, and he had given 7 days notice of its arrival to Peak Rail (more than specified under the agreement) but had met with objection.

In the end, as it was a short folding neck trailer, we thought that we could just squeeze it in at Darley Dale, but when I joined Andrew there (I'd been in Sheffield having had a visit to the Dentist booked) it was apparent that without the benefit of rear wheel steer, it couldn't be done, so we headed up to Rowsley to see if there was any possibility of unloading there, which is after all, what the agreement states we have a right to do. After a reconnoitre while the driver had a statutory break, it was apparent that there was no chance of unloading so the lorry was returned to depot with Pluto still on board.

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After further exchanges of e-mails, it was confirmed that unloading on Friday would be possible so Pluto re-appeared at around 1.30 by which time I had brought James up in company with Harvey C. Unloading with a folding neck trailer is rather simpler than with a 'conventional' swan neck, but the loco cannot be more than about 30tons, which of course at 22Tons Pluto is well-within. Once lined up the loco was at the bottom of the ramp within 20 minutes, James pulled it back onto the ground rails and the unit was away within the hour of arrival. Once the buffer stop had been reinstated, and I had checked around that the loco was fit to move,  James pulled its old friend (they were together both back at Long Marston a decade ago and then again at the DVLR) down to Darley Dale and the Geoffrey Briddon Building.

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Andrew had arrived home from work and after a  confab we decided to do a shunt. Well to be honest the 10-metre flexible tape was deployed to see the best way of getting Pluto in the shed area. I had had a gronk in for some time expecting an order to get some work done on it, but as the order has not yet been forthcoming, and the blessed thing was dripping oil, Motak and coolant from places onto my nice concrete floor, we'd decided to drag it out. (Somebody will be pedantically about to point out to me that Motak doesn't drip, but it sounds better as a description.  For the uninitiated, Motak is used as a traction motor gear lubricant. It is a little more liquid than grease, but much more solid than oil. Years ago a fitter in my employ smeared a lump of it at the top of the wall in an inspection pit.  It took about 7 months to slide to the bottom. I'm not sure which is worse, Motak or fishplate grease).

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Anyway, according to the tape measure, we could just fit Ashdown, Pluto and Cheedale into what we refer to as track 3B, if we transferred 14 901 to track 3A, which had the advantage that it put the loco on the correct side for lifting out the Voith oil cooler. (Oh, and as an aside the 14's compressor has been overhauled ready, albeit by pooling parts out of a couple of others as the bore of one pot is badly damaged by broken rings – possibly it has been run dry and seized at some time in the past - so that will be ready to refit shortly). But although the numbers didn't lie, looking at the 3 of them did make us wonder whether it was actually possible. As you can almost tell from the photograph, it is, and what you can't quite see is that there is just enough room at the front of Cheedale to walk by.

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On Saturday it was time to expand grandson's experience of railways, and so we all four headed over to Butterley. Since 47 401 derailed at Hammersmith a short while ago, MR-B are also top-n-tailing, and on Saturday it was 73129 at the Hammersmith end and visiting Class 31 5580 at the Riddings end. We got off at Swanwick and after visiting the West Shed, the main Kirtley building and various others, grandson was obviously tired and had maybe had a bit too much sun. We took the train back to Riddings, through to Hammersmith and disembarked at Butterley with enough time to see a little running on the 16mm garden railway. My photos are all of grandson, so the illustrations are some that Steph took.

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We had just got home and sat down to eat when Andrew had a call from Andy H who was hoping to pop in to see us at Darley, so instead he came to the Briddon Country Pile and joined us for a cup of tea.

After feeding overweight ducks and bit of time in the park today, Steph looked after grandson while Andrew and I headed down to the shed. We rigged up the battery charger to see how Pluto's batteries were - first thoughts were that they'd be knackered but they did seem to recover a bit. Sure enough the radiator drain tap was open (but not the engine block drain, which, being lower means that it was still full of coolant. That Pluto had been idle for some time became apparent when we found the casing door hinges and battery master switch extremely stiff.) We topped it up with plain water for now and being unable to find any leaks, left the batteries on charge while we attended to other things.

A few weeks ago I spent a tedious afternoon trying to remove the blocks from the top of the ex-Bombardier loco stands with a combination of grinders. We had agreed afterwards that gassing them off was more practical so after getting them into a  clear space, Andrew set to work, leaving only some cleaning up to do later.

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Actually his first task was on Cheedale, where having tried to release the M10 bolts on a badly corroded plate in the cab mounts, he cut the bolts off instead only for the plate to break up into 2 bits in the process. I'm beginning to think that the flexible cab mounting arrangement I did in YEC days was better for more reasons than I knew, but in the short term I need to re-engineer the plates with new replacement profiles and get ready to renew the rubberised cork dampening layer.

I had been tinkering around on small jobs, including putting M20 bolts into the holes on the top of the concrete panels (I may be using then to support cable trunking in due course) and stripping a  redundant heat exchanger while Andrew cut on until late afternoon when it was time to try Pluto out.  It is not that long since we fired up a Rolls-Royce only for the fuel pump to stick open from long-standing, but after a few 'almosts' Pluto fired up and proceeded to run smoothly, with clean exhaust and oil pressure stabilising at round 2-3 bar.  But the final drive was out of mesh and as air started to build, drag through the change speed box started the sliding gears ratcheting and as there is no manual control lever, we could not stop it. A charge up from another loco before we run it again seems likely to get the gears back into mesh. All this must be pushed on with, as another heritage railway wants to come and witness it running with a view to taking it on loan.

Grandson returns to his mother's on Tuesday and if the weather holds, we  might get an evening or two in drilling and installing the next 12metre crane beam, or finishing 14 901's coolant pipes, or carrying on with casings and handrails on Cheedale, or getting Pluto running up and down, or – well you get the idea.

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