Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Thelma and Louise's road trip

6th December 2015

December is upon us, and all around houses are lit up with garish lights, a large Christmas tree has appeared at the crossroads by Station Road, and tinsel and twee models of Santa and reindeer will shortly be taking over shop windows. It's not just that at my age Christmas has lost its freshness – I just have to tell myself it's for the kiddiewinkles anyway – but heavens, on our Freesat service there's been a channel broadcasting 100% Christmas tosh since... well it seems like forever now but it was probably about the beginning of November.

Anyway, no sooner had I got the blog out last week than a message came through on e-bay to the effect that the vendor in Todmorden had to take her dog to the vet's and as it was a 40 mile return journey by bus (I know, either it's a bus that likes sightseeing or there's a shortage of vets in Todmorden) she wouldn't be in for part of Monday. Now I had most of my week planned out and it didn't work with having the Todmorden trip pushed back. So I got on with some admin on Monday morning and at about half-one, rang her. She answered immediately, no she had been in all day – the dog was too ill to go to the vet's. Aaaagh.

So Steph and I dropped everything and set off for Todmorden via Glossop and Rochdale. A pleasant, if slow run, and although 5 miles less in distance than it is to my profilers, it took ¾ of an hour longer. Two cabinets were duly loaded, cash handed over, the back doors strapped up with another nice new lorry strap and we ambled back through the evening traffic on the M60 and M67, getting home just before Andrew, who had worked late in order to avoid the traffic on his way home. After tea, we both headed down and unloaded the van at the shed, as I had an early start on Tuesday.

The plan I referred to above was that on Wednesday I would have a quiet morning applying paint to the underframes and sundry parts of Thelma and Louise before the lorry came in to collect them during the afternoon, for a Thursday a.m. delivery. So there I was on Tuesday, over 200 miles away when my haulier rang and asked could he pick them up today? I tactfully explained that this was not going to be possible. After a thought he said what about first thing tomorrow? How early, I asked. Eight he suggested, eight-thirty I countered.

So I got back home at 9pm, ate, and then Andrew and I spent an hour or so putting on some last bits just leaving me to get in at seven or seven-thirty the following morning to get some frenetic painting in.

And so I did, only the lorry nevertheless arrived at ten to eight.

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I had planned to get a number of shots of the finished wagons on a before-and-after basis, as it was I grabbed but two, as I was hurriedly trying to paint missed bits while he was setting up to load. Since we had removed the 5tons of ballast, and installed a much lighter floor, and BR had removed the brake cylinder (vac) and half the brake rigging when they installed the pocket and the Tightlock, we figured the weight per wagon was within 6tons (just) so that they could go stacked on top of one another. That way the size of vehicle would be easily able to negotiate the switch back bridge which is the only way in, apart from getting in or out of Darley Dale yard as opposed to hauling them up to Rowsley which would have involved arguments over our enshrined right. I must admit I did wonder how high the CoG would be, but with that hefty hydraulic crane adding to the low down vehicle mass, the driver was not concerned. With a gross height a gnat's under 13ft6, it could even clear the railway bridge at the south end of Matlock.

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Why the shift in time? Well, one of haulier's biggest customers had sprung a job on him in London for Thursday night, so he had to complete my run, get back and get his statutory rest in before loading up for the capital.

And so with a shuffle out of the gate, Thelma and Louise began their next road trip together down the A34 to Eastleigh, where for the next twelve months or so they are to assist Arriva TrainCare in shunting 455s in connection with a refurbishment programme. I must remember to ask them for a pickie or two. (Oh, and just to clarify, when I say Eastleigh, I don't mean Arlington, Arriva is on the other side of the road).

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With the wagons away I started to do a bit of tidying up, but then 400 miles, two early mornings and a late night caught up on me and I locked up. At about three o'clock I heard that Thelma and Louise had landed safely.

W have kept meaning to get back over to Scunthorpe but repeatedly postponed it as other events took precedence, so yesterday we at last made it. Now traditionally we have said that the last weekend in the month is when everything goes wrong, and the first is when everything goes well. But maybe now we have our own shed and such all that is set to change. We went over with – amongst other things – the adaptors for the exhauster drive on 03 901, 'Z' section belts to replace the 'A's on the engine and a bottle of gas for the mid-size MIG welder which lives there. After the inevitable catch-ups Andrew set to work to assemble the driven pulley on its stub-shaft. The bracket was assembled and machined months ago, not without a problem in that the two profiled holes didn't quite line up but not sufficiently out as to be scrap. As you can see from the photo, the stub-shaft itself is located off centre in two round cap plates that hold the bearings, and these caps have slots in their edge for which I had had profiled matching 'C' spanners - which, I realised, were still on a shelf in the garage.

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I meantime, had removed the 'A' belts and installed the 'Z' belts on the water pump, which look much more the part – next time we run it hopefully there'll be no more screeching noises.

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Then I tried the spacer/adaptor on the exhauster. This at least fitted perfectly, tapping up with a hammer to be a snug fit on the drive spider. If I were making another I'd probably get some more holes drilled to reduce its weight, but it has to be thick to bring the face of the drive out over the large retaining nut in the middle. But then things went wrong. In the middle of this drive is a prop-shaft – an ex-Land Rover propshaft we acquired many moons ago from – yes - e-bay. (One of my readers in Scunthorpe wanted to know if we buy everything on e-bay. Well no, but it is a useful source of goods at prices below that which we can get elsewhere. You just have to be aware of what the prices are in the 'open' market, allow for carriage and spend hours on your computer checking the various categories for anything you might happen to need.)

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Anyway, I had not had this propshaft to hand when I drew up the adaptors to go on each end of the drive, and now, it seemed, that I had picked up the wrong pattern propshaft from my companion flange drawings, for when I came to present them together I found that the spigot was male when it should have been female and the 4 bolts were not equispaced. Things were going rapidly downhill, as the plan had been to get the entire drive assembled, and then weld the driven pulley assembly into the required location. Somewhat deflated I moved into the cab and Andrew went off to assist Toby, Charley, Phil and Mark on stripping and cleaning valves on the Yorkshire 1382.

It was a time to get on with some jobs I had been meaning to for ages. Up the right hand side of the panels in the cab, I had routed two plastic pipes that go to the horns. They needed P-clipping so I drilled and tapped some holes and secured them to look neater. As nothing there had gone wrong I was tempted into changing one of the flexible conduits that went to the horn valve into a rigid one – telling myself it would look more appropriate. The enclosure for the horn valve- a Telemec' aluminium box that I do believe was one of a job lot bought through e-bay - was secured to the cab front with two M5 round headed screws deep in the sides of the box. I started to undo them with an Allen key but they were stubborn and eventually I snapped off the end of the 'key. The day was going so well. The other end of this short section was another enclosure of the same type, so I managed to get that off without further incident, but no amount of shuffling to and fro on the rigid conduit would enable me to get the enclosure back to its original location and the screws to go back in. We packed up, bringing the Land Rover propshaft back for detailed measurement.

Today was supposed to be an early start, but it didn't work out that way, indeed we had an early lunch before loading the van with a Hydrovane air end (yes, from an e-bay vendor) and some lengths of cable tray (more tackle for the shed electrics) and heading down to the shed. It had been very windy for the last few days, and I was relieved to find no structural or other damage, but the lid was off the incinerator (again), an empty oil drum had blown off Charlie and an empty cardboard box had appeared having been blown over from the builders merchants.

After a general sweep up James was fired up and the Midland well wagon brought across – various things had to be loaded or reloaded on it, sheeted back down, etc etc before it could go back and that took up most of the afternoon. Having put it back outside Pluto was collected and brought in – we're hopefully going to get some work done on it shortly.

Late in the afternoon Dom B popped in and went off happy with his two prototype lever frame labels – once he's confirmed they're OK (or whatever amendment he wants) I'll get on with the other 28 for the Rowsley signal installation.

So that's about it for the week. The shed is looking a little tidier, materials for forthcoming work are coming to hand, but nothing really worth taking pictures of today. Next week? I'm not sure yet. You'll just have to log in and find out.

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