Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of batteries and belts

17th April 2016

I was tempted to start with 'Did anyone miss me?' but given the number of e-mails and text messages I've had, mostly worried that the tardiness of last week's edition was indicative that something untoward had occurred to me, I know that many did.

In truth I was fine, but when I finished entering last week's blog and came to save it, instead of doing so, the software wiped the entire entry clean. I first assumed that I had done something wrong but after the fourth time I was tearing my hair out (and those of you that know me will be aware that I haven't that much I can afford to discard) and abandoned the whole thing, passing the problem over to my hoster, Priday Design.

Bill Hyde initially assumed it was a problem with my computer, despite maintaining up-to-date versions of the anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-everything software that he recommends, so I sent over the text file with all the photo prompts in and he tried it, but had the same result. So he checked the user-forum for the software and found I wasn't the only one in trouble: a recent update had apparently created a conflict with certain configurations and the software originators' only recommendation was to undo our configuration to suit the update.

So spare a thought for Bill, who has spent most of his waking hours this week trying to get to the bottom of it and restore it all. This included winding the clock back a few weeks (well before the update) and reconstructing things entry by entry – which prompted one of my readers to enquire if I had manufactured a time machine, and if so was there a spare seat in it for him? I apologised, explaining that the passenger seat in the Delorien had had to be removed as its space was needed for all the AA batteries.

Anyway, around about Friday last week's entry began to appear, in two parts. I won't bore you with the reasons for this, and I hope I won't have to resort to it this evening, for one thing come the next milestone edition it will make it much harder to keep count. Equally one problem did arise – the edition two weeks ago (April 3rd) somehow did not have a copy made of it before it was wound back. So here's a challenge for all you regulars: it has been restored from the original text file, but it was one of those weeks when I only made up the title at the last moment, that's not on the text file and I can't remember what it was (so one has been made up). Can you remember what the title was??

If Bill spent most of his week on the Weekend Rails software, I spent most of mine – well bar Friday – in the workshops on Cheedale. First task Monday was to trace the wiring fault, and after two or three hours on it, i.e. lunchtime, I was no farther forward and determined that what I should have done was run a new multicore so that I had a good set of known wires to the right places. This was of course, what I had done on Charlie, but also on Tom, and as Charlie had had variations to Thomas Hill standard incorporated, I printed off my drawings for Tom (Autocad has its benefits) set to work and by late afternoon had everything re-connected. Casually I turned the batteries on and pressed the start button – and somewhat to my surprise the engine cranked and ran for a few seconds. The surprise was not because I have no faith in my ability to wire to a diagram (I don't but that's another story) rather that it proved how good the batteries were that had not been run or charged for coming up 12 months (silver alloys – always worth the bit extra) and that the engine ran at all despite having the fuel turned off.

That evening Andrew joined me for a late night session and we had the engine running and filled the converter, but as we got near to achieving base pressure one of the torque converter flange joints started weeping. The converter flanges are unique to Twin Disc I believe (though the Covrad coolers on these locos have matching ones) and are a flat face with a port in the centre that is basically an oval and secured by two bolts. The 'land' around the actual hole is quite limited, and we had used the joints supplied by the firm who had re-sealed the converter. We knocked it on the head for the night.

On Wednesday I had the fun of draining the converter down to change the offending joint. This is normally easy as most Twin Disc converters are despatched from factory with a ½ inch plug in the bottom, which we remove and substitute a nipple and a ball valve. But the plug on this particular converter was in for life, and all Stillsons did was gouge marks into the head of the plug, so we'd taken the decision to leave it. That was regrettable, as now I had to drain it by cracking the flange and catching the escaping oil with a funnel and drum, with which I was not entirely successful. But eventually I had substituted the offending joint for one made out of our favourite rubberised cork (just the 3mm thick stuff though) and I hoped that would be that.

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I won't bore you with a full blow-by-blow account of the week though. Amongst other tasks I manufactured a new chain guard from surplus cladding sheet, scraped another wheelbarrow full of Tunstead from various parts of the loco's nether regions, and cut the remaining floorboards. In between times I repaired one of the 5ft striplights that we got from auction some years ago and converted it from fluorescent ready to accept LED tubes, and made up the wall brackets to carry it, then brought in our planned circuit breaker box and mounted it on the frame on the wall (it may may not be its final resting place, but I liked to feel I was making progress).

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I did remember that the lift off door that we made a few weeks ago had no budget locks on it yet, so put it into place on the loco to determine where to fit them. Or rather I couldn't, for although the repositioned air cleaner didn't foul the door skin, the handles most definitely did. Nothing for it but to cut some 60mm spacers and mount the air cleaner that much farther out.

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On Friday I headed up to York. Andrew had won another compressor set on offer on e-bay as it had the same compressor as was fitted to Cheedale as well as other locos I've augmented over the years.. When I contacted the seller about collection he told me it was at the Nestle site, which didn't mean much until, while I was still talking, I looked it up on streetmap and realised it was what I knew as Rowntree-Mackintosh. To explain why this is significant, let me drift into an anecdote -

Back in the early 1980s, Thomas Hills had come up against a little upstart of a company called Resco. The likes of Hunslet and Barclay we had the measure of, but these people were to us rather like Hills must have been to the other members of LAMA in the 50s. Anyway, they attended an exhibition organised by the Private Wagon-owners Federation at Kensington Olympia with a refurbished Ruston LSSH, and an enthusiast friend tipped me off that they were bragging that they were getting an order from Rowntree-Mack. I went to my boss, who instructed our Sales Manager, John Maclagan, to get to the bottom of it. So Mac went to his contact at Mack, and sure enough, they were in the market to replace one of the ageing Rustons with something more suited to the long wheelbase vans that they were now dragging up the steep slope from the Layerthorpe branch.

Now, if we were going to wrestle the business away from Resco, we needed to put on a more competent appearance, and it dropped back on to me to set up dynamometer tests. I mentioned this a week or two ago, basically we had a heavy hydraulic cylinder on dee-shackles that went in place of the 3-link, and we drove through the duty, recording drawbar pulls, speeds, etc in relation to track plans with known gradients and curves. Back at the office, I compiled the figures, checked them against the gradients, etc and wrote up a report describing the duty, the results, proving the recorded results against theoretical calcs and recommending the size of loco required. It was a bit like writing up experiments in chemistry back at school, with the advantage that with no teacher to catch you out, I could slant my figures to suit a particular loco that I wanted to sell. In this case, the LSSH was 42tons, so my figures proved that in fact you needed a loco of 48 or 50 tons – which we just happened to have in stock. It worked of course, Rowntree ordered our 0-6-0 (once we'd train air fitted it) and Resco lost out.

There was an amusing footnote though – a few weeks later there were reports of a BR loco being seen in Rowntrees sidings. Concerned, I made enquiries. But there was nothing to worry about. It seemed that the new 0-6-0 had hooked on to one end of a rake of vans and set off before the BR crew had detached their loco, pulling them, rather red-faced, up into Rowntrees without knowing they were there.

But Nestle today is a nothing like the Rowntree Mackinstosh I remembered, and I collected said compressor and beat a hasty retreat back to Sheffield, there to collect new M20 bolts for Cheedale's cab mounts and such.

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On Saturday we were booked to go to Scunthorpe and progress the vac fit on the 03, but first we had to go to the workshops, extract the compressor and collect various tools that were scattered around. Arrival at Scunthorpe found the 03 once again parked a long way from the shed and the weather was to say the least non-conducive to work. Yes, five years ago we were out in wind rain, ice and whatever repowering the thing but at that time nobody believed we would ever get it running, now that it is they want the vacuum functional and driver training carried out. But eventually a Janus brought it across, and we set about assembling the propshaft and belt drive.

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We have what we call a '50% rule'. If you achieve 50% of what you set out to do, call it a good day. On that basis, it was. We had the plan to assemble the propshaft between exhauster and pulley assembly, and to put in the belts between the pulley and the auxiliary shaft which already drives the compressor, fan and charge pumps. The propshaft, extended by 100mm, fitted with little trouble but the belts, being the inside dimension we had determined last visit, just would not go. They need to be an inch or two longer. Anyway, Andrew suddenly remembered that he had not yet got around to installing the pipe between the vac train pipe and the gauge in the desk – so it would have had a bit of difficulty making any suck or knowing how much it was. So I must sort out 3 more belts and return armed with plastic pipe and fittings.

Before we left we went over to check on Tom, which has seen little use of late, partly it seems because someone has got it into their head that it keeps derailing (it hasn't since we sorted the springs out and got the axleloads somewhere near even) and partly because it has flat batteries. We hadn't grasped that the batteries were not merely flat, but in fact weren't holding charge. For various reasons, we had left Tom with one silver alloy battery and one 'of lesser variety', but so far as we knew, of similar age. The silver alloy despite several months standing, was sat at 12.67volts. The brand X battery showed 9.3, and fell to 3volts as soon as we tried cranking. We'll sort out some better ones for our return visit.

During the week since Cheedale was sat on its new cab mounts, it had settled a little and a close examination showed that the boss welded to the running plate, through which the M20 bolt passes, was smaller in diameter than the cork discs so was trying to punch its way through rather as we had done but more bluntly. As I had provisioned twice as many 5mm discs as Andrew had used, it was a simple decision to add a disc at the bottom to spread the load over the entire surface of the cork: though the actual act of getting them in was strenuous for Andrew (on a crowbar to lift the cab at each corner) and required an act of faith in him on my part in letting my digits get anywhere near a limited gap between unforgiving pieces of steel. But all ten are still intact and as result we have a significant gap between the underside of cab and top of running plate. The cab is once again flexibly mounted.

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The brackets for the new silencer front mounts were welded in place, but our attempts to roll a piece of steel to form a strap the radius of the silencer were less successful and we'll put that out to them that can do it better. On went the casing section rear top and the exhaust cowl. We fired Cheedale up again and were close to moving off when Andrew spotted that another converter joint was weeping.

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I had been manufacturing spare joints earlier in the week, discovering that the Tullochs cut 3mm cork easily and more quickly than the Stanley knife, so it was decided to drain it down and change the other 3 joints. Andrew got on with this while I made up some more joints for stock and a couple of other little tasks. By 5.30pm it was all sorted (the rigid pipes having been an absolute swine by not quite aligning with the bolt holes) and we fired it back up, refilled the converter which remained dry at last. Cheedale pushed Pluto (rather slowly until I popped into Pluto's cab and found the brake still on) out into the evening sunshine. James took over Pluto and cleared the way, and for a half hour or so I took Cheedale up and down, getting temperature into the system and searching for defects to attend to. Fortunately there seem to be relatively few that we didn't already know about.

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Andrew meanwhile decided to indulge in some basic track maintenance, banging loose keys back in and checking fishplate bolts for tightness. Most of our fishplates, by agreement with Rob S at the time, have only two bolts in, but 3 or 4 pairs have one only because there isn't a hole in the other rail. We've decided that it might be opportune to get the gas out and cut fresh holes (we don't posses a rail drill) to reinforce the infrastructure.

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So, hopefully you are reading this at normal time, in one instalment, and all is back to normal. Next week we are planing to finish that vac work on the 03 as well as continue Cheedale and maybe even get back to 14 901, given that someone is jumping up and down about it. Ah well, no peace for the Briddons.

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