Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Charlie, children and carriages

21st February 2016

Many years ago, when I was committed to n.g., I brought home a 3ton Orenstein & Koppel RL1b (4w Diesel mechanical) back to Briddon Towers with the expectation that having it immediately to hand would mean I'd be happily outside in all weathers getting it restored. Alas, I did not realise that (a) the thrill of lying on your back on a concrete patio awash with rainwater paled quite quickly, (b) I didn't have the tools at home to succeed in freeing seized bolts, etc., and (c) the commitments to a young family and full-time jobs in railway engineering left spare time at a premium. Night work in the open with regard to (a) and (b) did not appeal.

With grandson up with us the whole of the week, the rhythm of the Briddon Country Pile changes around the requirements of a 3 year old. The front room floor becomes a bomb-site of toys but once he has gone off to sleep in the evening, one of us, usually Andrew, takes over my little office as a 'babysitting station' for the rest of the evening. That task has though fallen to Steph for the first three nights of the week as Andrew and I took ourselves down to the shed and continued work on Charlie.

One of the problems about these intermediate overhauls is the balance between fixing everything 'because its needed' and keeping the man hours (and £s) within bounds. For example, we knew that the cab roof lining needed renewing and Andrew was convinced he had enough sheets of black perforated steel to finish the job, but either his memory is at fault or one has got lost along the way. We could have splashed out on a set of new matching sheets, or spent many hours trawling through the 'net and suppliers' catalogues trying to find a material to match the ones he had (which were recovered from the cab of an ex-BAOR Hunslet 0-4-0DH built in 1984). As it was a hunt through the VBA revealed some offcuts of pegboard left over from when we did the '14 back in 2010 that were near enough a match once he'd sprayed them black.

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And you can't tell the difference because the offending bit is not in this picture, though the bit that looks blacker had been painted a pea green so was also over-sprayed in black. The floor too was brought to completion after I'd trimmed a little off that didn't quite fit and the picture below was taken once I revealed it all in its glory by unveiling it from the Peak Advertiser that had protected it, but before I'd gone over it with a dustpan and brush.

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By Tuesday I was running Charlie up and down to get an hour or so on it so that Andrew could check the tappet settings and re-torque the heads. For this purpose I gently pushed James right up to the very extent of our little empire at the Warney brook headshunt.

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By Wednesday night I hoped that everything was in order, and we set the new LED headlights up in the relative dark. One of my irregular readers told me during the week that he had tried headlamps like these and that the only problem he'd encountered was that heavy-handed drivers meted out such shocks that some of the LEDs 'fail'. If that doesn't make much sense to you, it is worth noting that Rolls-Royce did research in Sentinel days into shocks and vibrations that the locos encountered. Partly this was to do with very short life of incandescent bulbs, and resulted in a rubber/metal washer on the spring hangers which apparently vastly improved bulb life but remains unique to Sentinel and Thomas Hill. Anyway, one of the things they discovered was that in a careless shunt, where the driver brakes too late and bangs into his train (scarcely passenger train practice where some railways like you to pull up 10ft short and then creep forward the rest of the way) the shock loads can be up to 5g. At 5g though, maybe some surface mount solder components decide to part company, maybe made all the easier by the insistence on lead free solder which certainly wasn't a patch on the original when it first appeared. (I say that because I was recently donated some lead-free which I think might be as good, but as I still have a mile or so of the 'old stuff' to finish up I shall continue to use that and allow the technology to catch up.)

On Thursday it was down to me to finish off some odd jobs and get the loco up to Rowsley, as once again my full-time commercial work has overlapped into the content of this blog, or in other words, Charlie is off for a bit of hire work. After lunch Harvey Coppock came down to act as pilotman, and the loco set off for its first visit to Rowsley since ordered out by solicitors acting for Peak Rail nine months ago. (Which reminds me, the public statement on Andrew's site is now well over 3000 views and continues to creep up).

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Allelys were due to collect it but the sudden banning of West Coast from the network had an unexpected side effect. In transit heading for York was a steam loco and tender on different vehicles, the one carrying the tender being due to unload and head down for Charlie. But without WCR, there would be no move from the unloading point into the NRM, so Thursday morning the vehicles were redirected to Studley, and the tender unloaded in the yard. So it was not until 4.15 that the low loader arrived by which time the buffer stop had been replaced behind me, and Charlie sat outside the boundary like a child thrown out of its home by exasperated parents.

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We had some time back at the shed on Saturday afternoon – mostly tidying up as the place was looking a bit of a tip (as one visitor actually voiced). Andrew extracted another of the metal plates that go in the cab suspension on Cheedale before departing to put grandson to bed, leaving me to work on. On a whim, I decided to cut up the Unistrut I had bought some weeks ago and get it mounted on the back of the 415-110V transformer which is to be located not on the electrical panel as I had expected but on one of the building's end columns so as to even out the wire runs to the various sockets on either side. I cut the lengths required easily with a chop saw, only for a stray spark to get behind my glasses (I had forgotten I had not put my safety specs on – tsk) which was not pleasant. I also removed the 16 and 32 amp sockets from the front of the transformer – at the height it will be mounted we aren't going to be getting a ladder out just to plug in – but we will probably have to install a lower down isolator to save on electrical losses if 110V is not required.

As grandson is going back tomorrow, and we hadn't had any good railway-oriented excursions, we allocated Sunday to that, though it was originally going to be Saturday but the weather did not appeal. Andrew, after extensive research, decided on Ruddington as combining full size in the shape of the prototype HST power car in operation with ex-Porterbrook Mk3s, miniature and model railways: so off we went.

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Almost as soon as we arrived Andrew bumped into a Colas driver so they started talking shop – grandson and Steph had headed to the children’s play area and getting him to come away later almost required bribery. Sadly the miniature line wasn't in use while we were there, though live steam models of an LMS Stanier 2-6-4T and a GW County 4-6-0 were being prepp'd, but the model railways were in full swing including a long 0 gauge branch terminus, an equally long 00 gauge main line circuit and a small Thomas-themed layout all in operation, as usual making grandson happy. But we were due to get the 1pm departure and soon enough headed across to the terminus platforms, where the train, top-and-tailed with an Electro-diesel on the other end, had just got back from its 11am turn.

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Ruddington is of course a former MoD depot connected by spur from the old GC main line into Nottingham and unfortunately the connection faces north, so trains head out to the main line and then reverse to head south. There are plans to extend the line north, through the old Ruddington station, and meet up with the extended Nottingham tram set-up where this emerges under the A52 on the GC trackbed, but for the moment of course, all eyes are on the southern end and the prospect of bridging the gap over the MML and reconnecting with Loughborough and the other GCR band.

For the moment, after a leisurely trundle through the Leicestershire countryside, stopping at Rushcliffe Halt (just north of East Leake but where the British Gypsum East Leake plant is sited) the train reaches the embankment on the south side of Loughborough where the chord BR installed to the MML to get rid of the bridge in the first place departs the original route. Coincidentally it is right behind and above the Brush works, so anything out the back on test can be spied. Passengers cannot de-train here, so after a few minutes admiring the surroundings we set off back, this time with the ED leading.

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By the time we returned to Ruddington it was nearly time to think about getting grandson back for his tea, though first we re-visited the shop for a couple of souvenirs, and a bric-a-brac shop wherein I found a copy of Bill Hudson's 'Through Limestone Hills' which records in detail the MR Ambergate-Chinley route, albeit written before Peak Rail had achieved more than a toe hold at Buxton. Perhaps one day there'll be an equally erudite tome that records the appearance of the Geoffrey Briddon Building at Darley Dale and what we got up to there.

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