Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of cladding and couplers

8th November 2015

The trouble with having shed with only about three-quarters of its total roof and three of its four walls complete is that it is neither an open space nor a shed. Not that I should complain, even to have that much is a step up from having no roof and no walls higher than two metres. But if rain falls electrical things continue to need sheeting over, and if the wind blows you feel it.

On the other hand, Andrew proposed that we have an evening or two in the shed after he got back from work to progress the first conflat. He had decided he wasn't satisfied with burning out the holes for replacement buffers, he wanted to machine them out with the Rotabroach. He also wanted to extract the Tightlock from its pocket at the Matlock end of the wagon (you can see this later in one of the pictures) which had the advantage of giving a bit more space to move around.

But the conflat was sat at the Matlock end of the shed, behind the roller shutter door. The roof above us terminated just short of the south wall (because it wasn't yet clad) and the roof on the other side came to an end about ten metres further back. So it was cold, from the breeze passing through the missing wall and roof. But we could do something about seeing what we were doing, and so we collected a number of those quartz-halogen floodlight units from the container (ones we acquired from various auctions and such over the years but never quite got around to making usable) and tried to use them. Eventually one lit up and Andrew temporarily fixed it to Ashdown to give us some light over the Conflat.

Some time ago, one of my kind and generous readers donated us a string of temporary worklights, basically ten of them all pre-wired on to one cable. It could stretch almost ¾ of the way up the shed, but there wasn't really time to do that that night, though I re-allocated one of the bulbs that came with it and changed the broken one in one of the inspection lamps.

That was Tuesday, and despite our intentions, we didn't get any other evenings to work there. On Wednesday I was out attending a meeting, and on my way back, collected Cheedale's torque converter after its repair. Andrew had spotted on e-bay, and I had bid on, another 3 rolls of insulation over at Annesley, so I had got back with just enough time for a quick cuppa and to set off again to go collect. Meanwhile Andrew had acquired a gas trolley on e-bay, from somebody down towards Leicester, so managed to squeeze it in the Golf after work.

I got news that the cladders would be back in on Friday, so zipped down to open up, but had to leave them to it as I had another meeting to attend. I got back to Darley about half-two, by which time a large part of the south wall was in place. I headed back to the Doctor's for a second (successful) round of pressure-washing my left ear, and by the time I got back, the south wall was fully clad and the roof on the western side of the building (the Peak Rail side) had been finished up to it and they were just putting on the corner flashings and barge boards. They were running out of stitcher screws and plastic caps, they told me.

Here we go again, I thought. As I said last week, I was maintaining a supply of fixings as they reckoned to need them, but I didn't want to go out and buy 5,000 and find 3,000 were excess to requirements. But a 'just in time' policy requires someone to keep you informed as to how many they had left and how many they would need, not 'have you any more because we've run out'. The plastic caps are particularly strange. These caps go over the screw heads and, being the colour of the cladding, make the screws 'blend in a bit'. I was convinced that I'd supplied already far more caps than I had screws, yet here they were out again. Were they eating some for lunch, or what?

Meanwhile Andrew had been enjoying his last day at Porterbrook Leasing, and had gone by train in order to attend a farewell party after work. They presented him with a Bachmann model of a Class 57 in Network Rail livery – 57 312 – which had special significance as the NR 57's had been a major project of his whilst at Porterbrook, including the special couplers and jumper plugs that had been intended to make them a “rescue any emu” fleet during snow season. Several of his customers either attended the “do” or sent messages of thanks for his efforts over his time at Porterbrook.

So, Saturday morning I opened up the shed, then hared off to Coverworld, with a Plan B that I knew UK Fixings in Sheffield were open if Coverworld was shut, but were farther away. When I arrived at Coverworld the yard was open and somebody was loading a trailer with corrugated sheeting but the Trade Counter door was locked. I hung around at the warehouse door, and eventually someone asked me what I wanted. I listed my requirements and the guy agreed to collect them together, although, as he explained they were really only open for collections as none of the commercial staff were in on a Saturday. I think he thought I had an account, and probably regretted when he found I hadn't as he had no means of taking payment from me. But I must have an honest face – or look too old to do a runner – as he had me sign for the bits on the promise I'll sort out payment on Monday.

The weather on Saturday morning was, if you remember, a bit wet and windy. Indeed, we spent some time adding guy ropes and ballast weights to our temporary fencing as the wind had caused the flimsy posts to bend and the blue net to billow out towards the running line. Scarcely the day to be up on a roof but our cladders had promised and lived up to it, and as the weather improved so did their rate of assembly, so by the late afternoon we finally had roof sheets and roof lights up both sides of the shed. Some, but not all, of the ridge cladding sheets were fixed, leaving the flashings around doorways, gutters and downpipes, and remaining corner and bargeboards, etc to do. For the first time, when we finished with the forklift that evening, we did not put the builders bag over the seat and controls to keep the rain off.

But while they were up top, we were at work below (well not directly below, obviously, but you get the idea). Firstly, once the last of the rooflights had vacated the space on the floor, two of our workbenches, up to now covered with spare Damp proof membrane to keep the rain off their wooden tops were repositioned along the northern wall and the DPM removed. Out from the container came several containers of spanners and other tools, acquired over the years but as yet never having had a workshop to deploy them in. The temporary lights were strung up along the western wall, and the first of two large LED floodlights was bolted on a left-over purlin bracket and mounted up to see how effective it is. Our plan is to mount about 8 of these along the length of the roof ridge as opposed to the more conventional bay lighting, but mounting and cabling will need either the return of the scissor lift or the Terry-picker.

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We decided to install some of our newly-aquired insulation along the north wall, too, but found that glass fibre has lost none of its un-user-friendly characteristics I recall from insulating lofts forty years ago, and additional PPE will be needed when we come to do more.

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The conflat wasn't being neglected, with the coupler and its attendant draftgear being fully dismantled, cleaned and painted. The southern end received a second coat of'yellow and the coupler pocket black. But for the last half hour or so, as it was pitch black outside, we rejoiced in the 'echo' of our conversation from the walls and roof. From the gloom a visitor arrived. Now that it is clad, the full 'cavernous' effect of the building is apparent. 'I like it, I want one' he said, which I think we can take as a compliment.

This morning was a bit of a slow start, and when we did get going it was to head up to Rowsley to see a couple of things. Pete Waterman's 08 had arrived from Crewe and was parked up outside the HST shed, and 37 188 had left, having been acquired by Colas Railfreight as part of a new Class 37 fleet they are putting together. Who knows? Maybe Andrew will come across it again in due course. Just before we decamped to Darley, the first train arrived back, late. The blockman at Darley reported that the turnout at Church Lane had failed, so it was down line only running through Darley station and under yellow flags at either end.

We pushed the conflat outside and got on with cleaning off chassis members ready for painting and re-planking. In particular, the 'tackle boxes' at each side, having been half full of damp crud for goodness knows how long, are corroded through and will be replaced with cosmetic plates for the present and re-built when the wagons eventually come back. We must push on with this work, and as Andrew is taking a week's break between leaving Porterbrook and starting with Colas, we should make progress.

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Steph came down at lunchtime, and apart from providing a meals-on-wheels service, stayed on to sweep up some of the dust and debris in the shed. In due course we must paint all this but not until it has all dried out, and then probably not until Christmas. Two more visitors arrived later in the afternoon and commented how much tidier it was than when Peak Rail had used the yard as its engineering HQ. Considering there are numerous bags of sand, offcuts of cladding sheets of various dimensions, lightweight pallets, scaffold tower parts, etc., etc I thought he was being too generous, but apparently he meant it.

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From time to time I direct specific comments to other members of the Peak Rail Association and as it is the AGM next week, I would like to offer my opinion again. Those of you who are in the PRA will know that a special resolution has been proposed by the Board that requires nominations for Directorships, unless approved by the Board, must be in 42 days in advance of the AGM, yet under the Articles of Association the AGM can be called in 21 days, and as usual, the notice came out just in the nick of time this year. The purpose of this resolution you can probably work out for yourself – it is though – and remember this is my opinion – a blatant attempt to prevent anyone standing for election unless they will go along with what existing dominant Board members want. It is in short, a shoddy method of stifling the democracy within the PRA, or as one director said to me last January 'You only get on this Board by invitation...' I hear (by rumour) that the Board will promise to announce the AGM date 6 months in advance – how nice. But why hasn't that been written into the amended resolution? So if you are able to attend the AGM, do so, if you cannot, please use your Proxy form to vote AGAINST the resolution and keep the status quo which has run perfectly satisfactorily for the last 18 years of the PRA. Don't let them get away with it.

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