Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of fuel and priming pumps

6th March 2016

A pile of drawings arrived from an e-bay seller during the week. Ostensibly all of '04' class locos, some of them were relevant to '03s', several were duplicated, and some turned out to refer to the unique Southern 0-6-0DM numbered DS1173 (but inexplicably referred to on the drawings as a diesel electric!) which was mechanically like an 04 but whose jackshaft drove onto the middle axle and had a more simplistic style of bodywork. Ah well, I'm sure it will all come in handy some time.

If things had worked out one way this week, we would have made it to Scunthorpe on Saturday, but Charlie needed a bit of TLC and I collected his original fuel pump, now fully restored to health, on Friday afternoon. My pump man was curious to know what had happened to it. All I knew was that during the last few months of use on Peak Rail it was prone to cutting out if you throttled back too smartly and when we used it at Darley seemed low on power. He remarked that he had found the quadrants that engage with the fuel rack to be out of place, as though someone had had the pump opened up and forced them with something.

So Saturday was spent on Charlie, and Andrew said he might surprise me by being up early this morning to get a long day in at the shed. Rest assured, he didn't.

I have always found myself getting emotionally involved with locos. With perhaps the exception of '08s' I can only recall one occasion when I have sent a loco to the scrapyard without the feelings one might have when putting a pet to sleep. On that occasion I was livid with a loco that I had had on loan in London as a stopgap until (another) loco I was to supply the customer was ready, only for its clutch go down with a week or more to go. Actually it was a Yorkshire 0-4-0DH with one of those manually-operated single-plate over-centre clutches that grip between a pressure plate and the engine flywheel. With the engine angle on the YE being about 11 degrees, when you set the clutch up, the crankshaft is resting 'at the bottom of the hill'. But in action the crankshaft rides up against a thrust bearing and so you tend to lose the over-centre force that stops it slipping. Apparently these clutches are popular on cranes as they give a smoother take up (but the engines are probably mounted at a saner angle) but I've never found them much good on locos. Both Jack and James were built with them – James I had converted at Ford Halewood's expense before they were laid up and Andrew bought them – Jack was duly converted when we brought it back to life (and will probably be doing that again before much longer).

Oh, yes, well anyway not only did I feel obligated to keep the customer running (I was brought up with strong ethical standards) but having nobody spare or the parts in stock to do it with, I had to engage sub-contractors to go in and fit a new clutch plate over a weekend. I recall the bill was well over £2k (this was over twenty years back) and for that, and some other reasons, I decided the loco was a wrong'un.

Anyway, I have been feeling sorry for 14 901 of late. It hasn't been run since its last day in Peak Rail service in November 2014, and although brought down to Darley in May last year, progress has been spasmodic. Where it sat in the shed area it could only watch as the shed advanced everywhere else – it was the last to be walled around and covered over. Even then the track over which it stood remained the ornamental pond for months. It has watched Thelma and Louise come and go, Charlie and Cheedale receive time and trouble but it has had to wait patiently as others seemed to jump ahead of it in the queue.

Today, while Andrew cracked on with some air valves that Team Frodingham have been on about for YE1382, I returned to 14 901. In part, this was brought about because earlier in the week Andrew had issued a formal letter terminating the Agreement for '901 between Peak Rail and himself, which had technically remained in effect even though PR had declared to the Chesterfield court that it had no intention of using the loco again. Now that all that had been found in our favour, and PR had paid up, it was really time we got back to getting the loco serviced and back to running order.

When I left it last, I had half-pulled a new YY multicore from the front of the loco to replace wiring I had put in around 2009. At that time pennies had been tight and I had thrown things together with anything that was to hand, which included a connector box and a long length of 35mm flexible conduit for which I had no ends at all, so did little to protect the wires inside from water, oils or muck.

Last year's re-wiring around the front end of the DV8, in connection with the improved header tank arrangement, had produced an excuse to run new flex conduits forward from the side cable tray, although they still need a p-clip or three to support them properly, and round to the front conduit box where this previous cable fed the front lights. Today the new multi-core was connected up there, and then persuaded through the flexes back to the traywork (where the oversize flex ended and the connector box obstructed the tray) and I carried on pulling back the cable from there around under the bulkhead into the cab area.

When I put the traywork in, I never envisaged quite how many cables would be negotiating it and they rather exceeded its capacity under the cab floor. In this, I like to think, I was only caught out in the same manner as Swindon itself, as the first five class 14s have an additional conduit visible under the cab at one side where they were unable to find anywhere to route their wiring. Like Swindon too, when it comes to doing the next '14 (aka D9500) I will have learnt my lesson and do a better job.

But for today I had to take up the middle section of the floor, squeeze down underneath the upper propshaft and slowly thread the old cable, now jointed to the end of the new, within the narrow gap where many years ago Andrew won an RSPCA award for recovering a feral cat and its litter. And so long ago had I wired all this up that I simply could not remember which one it was where they all emerged at the far end of the cab in the transmission bay. Consequently I called Andrew over, waggled the one at my side and he obediently tugged it through until the old had been replaced by the new, after which I emerged from the bowels of the loco and reconnected the wiring at that end.

IMG 1261 blog

Eventually Andrew finished what he had planned to do and came over to resume work on 901 himself. The vast majority of the new cooling system pipework was finished months ago, leaving only a rather awkward connection from the engine oil cooler back into the block. Awkward, yes, but there was a standard Rolls-Royce cast 135 degree elbow for the purpose, though presumably the original installers of the engine had either been unaware or unable to source one. Actually Andrew had harsh words to say about the RR designer, since the elbow was held to the block with 6 UNF bolts, and the middle bolt on one side lined up with a 3/4BSP tapping in the elbow. One could slide the bolt in provided there was no plug in the tapping, but even a slim recessed plug prevented the bolt head from passing, and getting the plug out first had the whole workbench jumping with the elbow in the vice. But as you can see between us we got it in – that's it, the slightly rust/red-oxide coloured bit over to the right of the picture, pointing back down to the conical cap of the oil cooler underneath. The other open bit you can see is the front crankcase breather – it'll have a hose back on before too long – none of your namby-pamby closed circuit breathers on this engine.

IMG 1262 blog

Anyway, once the plug has been replaced and maybe a couple of support clamps added for comfort, the cooling system will be ready to fill, and after that the fuel header tank. I should perhaps get back to the remaining wiring alterations in the cab (the new level switch in the header tank is wired back to the wiring cubicle but not to the PLC and anyway the controller doesn't know what to do with it) and probably will before much longer. Meanwhile Andrew started to put together anew mounting bracket for the hand priming pump. Up to now, this had been crudely clamped to a coolant pipe at the front of the engine. The clamp was less than perfect and as a result the rigid pipework was always slightly slack and tended to leak as it was pulled this way and that by the semi-rotary pump. (Andrew had insisted from the beginning that the loco must be hand-primed before each day's running. This is written into the software, and the PLC waits to see the oil pressure switch close for a few seconds before it will allow any crank attempt to be made. For the poor driver (though if he has any sense, he will have nominated the secondman to do it while he waits to do the responsible bit of pressing the Start button) the completion of this undertaking is marked by a loud 'clack' as the stop solenoid pulls in, signifying that the PLC (or computer as we usually refer to it) has been satisfied.

IMG 1264 blog

But the coolant pipe to which it was attached is one of those that has been replaced, so the pump is to move to a new home just ahead of the compressor, on a new bracket which Andrew knocked together out of bits of angle that once were part of a casing frame on a Hunslet 0-4-0DH. Here it is before being fully-welded up, in roughly its planned location. That's the replaced transmission cooler underneath and some of the new blue coolant pipework visible too. There will be some longer pipework to create to reach it here – it shouldn't make the secondman's arm ache any more than hitherto, and should afford him an alternative view of the cooler group bulkhead (out of picture to the left) as he works away. Perhaps we should attach a poster of a pleasant country scene, or a steam loco in full cry, to take his mind off his labours. (I was going to say a picture of a topless Miss June but decided that was so politically incorrect nowadays, even my friendly fabricators annual calendar can now be taken out of its envelope without scaring the horses).

In between assisting Andrew I had been pondering installation of sink, cable trays and the 415-110 transformer. Searching through our various useful bits in the container, I had already found that we had in fact a fair few accessories for Unistrut (I hadn't known what they were when I bought them, they were just part of an auction lot that included a lot of nuts and bolts) but realised today that we had a number of rectangular plates which might just be intended to be used with our girder clamps in the manner that Andrew was adamant they should be employed. So I've dug four out ready to try. Meanwhile I was marking out where the sink should go. Given that today has been unprecedented – we actually had two cups of tea each during the afternoon, tea breaks are normally reserved for when we have visitors – which involved me sallying forth to the Portakabin to get kettle, fill kettle, switch on kettle and once boiled return to shed to make tea; that I had been muttering how nice it would be to have a sink, and an adjacent bench to place tea cups and associated paraphernalia, not to mention the opportunity to wash hands before driving back home – I do so hate a dirty steering wheel – I felt it reasonable that a start be made. For that matter I was measuring up the various pieces of cable traywork that we will be assembling shortly and debating how to secure them to some of the columns. A few J-bolts of appropriate length would be handy but there was nothing in our hoard in the container quite suitable. Never mind, there'll probably be some on e-bay...

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