Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Thelma and Louise

15th November 2015

Andrew has had a week off between finishing with his old employer and starting with his new, and it was fortuitous that this coincided not only with getting the conflats ready but further work from our contractor on the building. We are now about 95% weathertight.

The weather during the week has been somewhat wet. But the roof over our heads has made work a practical possibility, even though the contractors were in along with us cutting flashing sheets as they made the doorways more secure. But rain coming down on the roof tends to find its way to the sides, and, having as yet no guttering to catch it, proceeds to slide down the walls and land on the ground all the way along. But outside our side door we had (many moons ago) used surplus concrete from the floor-laying to create ourselves a little concrete entrance, and here there was nowhere for the water to soak away. So we ended up with a foot-bath that threatened to flow into the shed itself.

Talking of which, although the west side track (under Cheedale, Ashdown and the first conflat) had been drying out steadily (if unspectacularly) the eastern side has retained the appearance of an ornamental pond. So far it shows little sign of evaporation, though perhaps we should expect that at this time of year. It is sadly, too shallow for my submersible pump (I've tried in the past) so sometime soon we shall drag 14 901 out and attempt to sweep the pit clear.

Anyway, aside from flashings, drip strips and rectifying a couple of minor leaks from around a rooflight, they tackled the gutters, and hey presto, the rain is now conveyed from the edge of the roof through 4 downpipes, 3 of which feed drains put in last year and the fourth, well, it needs to have a slot drain brought to it, but that will have to wait its turn. Ah, and almost but not quite, for somehow we've ended up about 600mm short of guttering. Quite how this happened is a mystery, and slightly annoying as I had to order a 4m length just to get 600mm....

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Dom B turned up from Rowsley after another favour. The new wire operated lever frame for Rowsley, because the levers move through a considerably greater arc than rod-type levers, require two labels each, and that makes 30. The originals were in cast brass but could we fabricate him some, with separate labels? Always happy to assist our friends at Peak Rail, I've converted the original into CAD drawings and will order up enough profiles to make a couple to see if they fit alright and go together easily, before committing to the rest.

By Wednesday, on my return from a customer's, things had been finished as you can see but the roller shutters, sides and top, could not be finished as they had run out of flashings, but had 5 lengths of smaller section flashings left over. Curiously, they were 5 lengths of bigger flashings short. Sounds like yours truly mucked up that order too. I'm never going to get my Boy Scouts' 'Builders' badge at this rate. I ordered more flashings from Coverworld, although I had to drop in with samples of 'my' Juniper green as apparently Juniper green comes in all sorts of different shades. Coverworld's will be fractionally darker, but whether you would spot it unless I told you, well, we'll have to see.

We've been trying out various names for the two conflats this week. The numbers are a bit of a mouthful: calling them 'Conflat One' and 'Conflat Two' lacked, shall we say, the human touch. Besides, in their current form they are barrier or match wagons. So we've been trying out ideas on each other as the work progressed. We went through the twee ones like 'Abbot” and Costello'. I quite liked 'Thames' (barrier) and 'Cream' - (Barrier cream? No? Andrew wasn't impressed either.) I was even tempted to suggest 'Swan' and 'Vestas'. (Match wagons, do keep up!) But Andrew declared that they should be called Thelma and Louise, and so they are. We shall apply their names before they leave, I just hope nobody tries driving them off a cliff.

By Friday Andrew wanted the van, but I was allowed it first thing while he took his Golf in for an overdue service, I headed down to Matlock to collect the 4m length of guttering. Now, I can squeeze two metres into the back of the van, three metres provided it will go through the aperture in the bulkhead behind the seats, but four metres? Just getting it across the road from the supplier to the van looked like it might be a problem, but some kind Derbyshire motorist saw me at the roadside in the rain, saw nothing was coming the other way, so stopped and let me cross. I threaded the length into the van, and sawed the last metre or so off off with a wood-saw, standing outside in the rain, before dropping it off at the shed and returning home.

Andrew was off to collect the turbocharger for Coronation, which had been away for overhaul when he bought the loco back and which has been somewhat protracted. Given that Coronation's 6RPH Mk1 is only 312bhp (at around 1250rpm admittedly) you can't help but marvel at how the technology has progressed. Nowadays a 300bhp engine would have a turbo little bigger than a wall clock, why even 14 901's is only a bit larger than a biscuit tin, but Corry's - well, it doesn't mount on the engine, it is a stand alone turbo that is a 2 person lift, and when we last ran it (long before this blog was even thought of) you would hear it spinning long after the engine had shut down. Heaven knows how much the repair cost. On his way back he picked up a drum full of gas oil for James, not that we've had time to fuel it yet. In the afternoon he was out again, this time to meet up with a contact over at Butterley to investigate the condition of a torque converter and its clutch. I have explained to people before (I even put it in an FAQ on Andrew's website) that if you have a Twin Disc converter, you should from time-to-time check the orifice and its adjacent gauze filter on the return line to tank. Any debris arriving here should be treated with alarm – if metal, it indicates that bearings are failing and bits that shouldna be touching are filing themselves. If black/brown dirt, this is the result of 'cooked' fuel, (if your converter is still running on engine fuel, but I assume by now you know my views there) or contamination which has made it through your suction filter. Andrew showed me the photographs- the orifice was so blocked it took them 15 minutes just to get it apart, and rotating the converter made some nasty noises. Definitely Fubar.

Meanwhile Steph and I went down to the shed and made a start on planking Thelma's floor and continued painting. We had earlier shunted out Ashdown, and put it and Pluto over on the main siding so that the second Conflat, i.e. Louise, could come in and be drying out, and that evening the Tightlock and draft gear were extracted, and with the experience of Thelma, cleaned, painted and serviced in half the time.

On Saturday morning we were down early and pulled Louise out, then dismantled our temporary fence and pushed the train back up so that the VBA returned to the end of the siding and provided additional shelter at the side door. Although, rather as I suspected it might, it creates a wind-tunnel effect which periodically catches the side door and slams it shut. Again, with the experience of Thelma, getting the rails off the wagon onto a fresh pile on the ground was completed in half the time, and knowing that the timber underneath retained no physical strength at all, it was also performed more safely. The weather forecast had suggested that we would have heavy rain from first thing, but it only just began as we finished emptying the wagon and propelled it back in the shed, and packing up to attend the PRA AGM in the afternoon.

After a somewhat acrimonious meeting, we returned home and were joined by two former PRA directors for tea and chat, but thanks to the lighting, even if temporary, returned later in the evening to continue on Thelma and Louise (heavens, sounds like we were having a foursome), me finishing securing the floor planking while Andrew completed servicing the tightlock and between us, return the draftgear and coupler to the wagon.

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Today we returned to the shed to resume the attack, first fitting the two replacement side sheets to the chassis (I had arranged them with my friendly fabricators and Andrew had picked them up with the Golf earlier in the week). Steph joined us after lunch, and got down to the task of coating the floorboards with preservative on Thelma, Andrew with rotabroaching the headstock to fit the replacement Oleos on Louise, and me darting about scraping debris off Louise, grinding the rivets to release the corroded side panels and starting on some of the paintwork.

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Tightlocks should have an uncoupler mechanism at one side. Normally all such vehicles have one at the right hand side (facing) and as uncoupling either coupler causes both to disengage there will always be a lever mechanism to use at whichever side you're at. (Actually many EMUs fitted with Tightlocks had an air cylinder to pull the mechanism so to uncouple merely needed a touch of a button.)

But somewhere in their lives Thelma and Louise have lost theirs. Andrew knew from research that they had had them (the brackets are still on the headstocks) and had an undimensioned arrangement drawing, but that was it. In anticipation I had purchased a length of 25mm black bar, but was worried that this would be a stumbling block.

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After scaling from the arrangement drawing (never regarded as good practice but needs must) Andrew had arrived at a cutting list and we set off with the first pieces which we then took to the vice and proceeded to heat up with the gas. Bending it, using a piece of 1” pipe as a former, proved easier than I had expected and having produced a 180degree twist on the end I took the red-hot end out to look for a puddle outside to cool it. Then I realised how stupid that was, did we not have an ornamental pond not fifteen feet from the vice? Just how many bent bits will it take to evaporate all the water off?

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I fear, rather a lot. But before we broke up for tea, we blacksmithed the various bits ready for final tweaking and welding up into a working mechanism one evening during the week. Even just to get these made ourselves, in the relative comfort of our own workshop, was quite satisfying, rather than my going out to get bits made at the forging company in Rotherham and having to wait, and wait, until my order got to the top of the queue. Thelma and Louise wouldn't have stood for it.

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