So what has been happening during this week? Well, not all that much I suppose. The evenings are drawing in so the time available to get any work done when Andrew gets home from the office is limited. We did however, manage to strip the fishplates out of the loose rails that came over from Wirksworth – these had been cut by a scrapman into handy lengths for clandestine removal, so although we first assumed that the fishplates were seized and we would need the gas on the them. In actual fact they all came apart with nothing more than sheer brute force and we recovered 6 pairs. We expressed our thanks to the soul of Sir J Whitworth, who was a benefactor to much of the immediate area, for the thread form that still undoes after so many years, unlike certain more modern threads the seize up and sheer (but we still use them).
On Thursday I collected Cheedale's torque converter from the shed and took it up to the repairers for attention. Steph came with me as far as Sheffield and I picked her up on my return, and having been advised that a further delivery of filler strips was to be expected, was surprised when I got back not to find a 'Sorry you weren't in' card through the door. Ten minutes later my phone rang.
'I'm the driver for DX, I've got a package for you but I can't find your house.'
This is a familiar chant. So many satnavs take you to the middle of our road and announce you've arrived, but we are on a small offshoot.
'Where exactly are you?' I asked after he was unable to tell me whether he'd arrived from the Matlock or Bakewell directions.
'I'm outside a hairdressers'
'Oh, that's you, is it!' I replied, looking at the white Luton van from the kitchen window.
If the day was beginning to go better, I was in touch with our cladding contractors and as a result there was a further on-site meeting on Friday, which elicited the news that there would be a team down on Saturday. That caused a problem, as Andrew had been suffering from a virus so was a bit run-down, and had been expecting me to share the driving down to Norchard for the Class 14 Owners meeting. But one of us really had to be on site so I stayed behind.
The Class 14 Owners group meeting, incidentally, covered a number of interesting areas, from the possibility of a joint tyre purchase through to the future of axle bearings and other strategically important items. Andrew's role is that of Safety Officer for the group and the next meeting, due for September 2016, will be in the Geoffrey Briddon Building: hopefully roofed.
Anyway, while he was getting up and driving southward, I was 'supervising' at Darley Dale. My first task was to draw the wagons clear and erect some temporary fencing so that the contractors would not stray onto the running line, but thereafter most of my time was spent tidying up the packaging and passing the occasional widget. Work started at 8 am, and by the time station staff and blockman arrived, the first couple of the end sheets had been erected. I will admit, that up to the last moment, I was certain that the side sheets were too short. They didn't look as long on the ground as the height of the eave beams. But then, a couple of years ago, I didn't believe the side columns looked as long on the ground as they were going to when up in the air. Then as the first sheet was positioned on the north end of the railway side, it perfectly ended some 300mm above ground level as the planning approval required.
By half past ten things were going so well that I wandered off up the lane to go have a chat with Stationmaster Dave L, but instead found Mrs L putting away the 'Trains Running Today' board and locking the car park gates. Something was obviously amiss – the news had just come through from Rowsley that there'd be no trains today as Lord Phil was broken. So it seemed my fencing exploits were unnecessary, but better cross all the t's than not.
Later on, Dave L himself came over to see how things were progressing. By then almost half the first wall was up, but they had come without a reciprocating saw and their angle grinder didn't quite cut through the sheeting enough to form the aperture for the side personnel door. (Actually they might if they'd persevered, but easier to cut it in situ later). Anyway, Dave L had had to direct prospective passengers to other railways, including crying children who'd been looking forward to a train ride. Around 2pm, a camera-toting gentleman wandered up the lane: my contractors directed him to me. It turned out he was an ex-Pat, now living in New Zealand, and an airline pilot by profession, over here seeing relatives and railways (R&R). He had come 200 miles to see Peak Rail because the website said it was running.
Naturally on these occasions you are an ambassador for the railway, so I apologised profusely and as he seemed interested, offered to show him round our area. Indeed, as James still had air up from the earlier shunting, after touring the shed (to keep him away from the contractors) I gave him a cab ride: though he professed the opinion that flying was easier. Certainly you may have more automation and safeguards on a modern airliner, but at least with James you don't have to steer! When he left, I directed him to Rowsley in the hope that it might be open.
By ten-past three a tired team were finishing the first wall, and were ready to call it a day. By the time they'd gone and I'd finished tidying up it was nearly four pm. So no point in starting anything else, I headed back to the Briddon Country Pile.
There were two alternative strategies for today, either Andrew cracked on with various repairs on Cheedale while I attended to something else, or we pooled our efforts and repositioned some of the concrete panels to improve the floor area, as explained previously. In the end, we agreed on the latter, with the optimistic hope that we could deal with both the corners at the south end of the building, where we believe the contractors are likely to start next. By moving the panels, not only do we gain floor space back (something like 25 square metres once they're all done) but improved the security as otherwise there was enough gap for potentially someone to climb up the inside between cladding and panel.
Peak Rail was back to normal – I heard later Lord Phil's whistle valve had failed; it has been leaking for weeks – but our new wall means that we have rather more privacy than hitherto as the trains pass by.
Our first task though was to move the wind-brace out the way ( a diagonal beam on the end bays) so that the panels could be swung behind it. With this achieved, we took out two small panels between side and roller shutter column and welded tabs to the corner column for clamping these panels back to. These were easily moved, but the adjacent side panels, at about 1.25tonnes each, need a little more respect. These were shortened by 80-100 millimetres with the loaned Stihl saw and copious quantities of water to cool the blade and trap the dust. When these panels were originally supplied, they came with a mastic sealing compound that our steelwork contractor ignored. 'Orribly gooey and sticky (probably not helped by the fact that it was labelled best before July '14 (!)) it was rather like those glues on cartoons where one touch and you're stuck to it. We changed to nitrile gloves but that didn't help much – fingers would stick to other fingers and then the nitrile would tear. It would do well as an anti-theft compound. Layered strategicaly and any would-be burglar would still be there in the morning, unable to unstick himself. Anyway, with a pallet knife we spread it out over the mating joints of the panels – had the original contractor done so, we'd probably never have got them apart!
But as I said we were optimistic. We managed only to complete the first corner before the light began to fade, and shunting the locos back in needed James' headlight for the first time this autumn.
Really, this whole job would have been better done before cladding was applied (well OK, it would have been better done this way in the first place but I was young and inexperienced then) as the hook attachment for the forklift, which is needed to engage the lifting eyes on the panels, leaves little room for error, and I don't want to leave fork-tip-shaped bulges in my expensive new cladding. But it is what it is, and I suspect this will be a task that we tackle fairly steadily, once there is a roof. Sorry there are no pictures to show before and after (maybe next week) in the end we were just rushing to get finished and still see what we were doing.
So tonight, the Geoffrey Briddon Building has its first wall – more of a wind-break than a shed really – and the contractors will be back sometime during the week. Also during the week a couple of wagons are due. It all seems to be happening. First thing tomorrow though, it's off to Glapwell for more Tech screws and plastic caps.