Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of plus one to the collection

5th June 2016

I said last week that I'd have some good news to impart, but in truth I'm only going to give you half of it, as the second thing we had planned for the week didn't come off. Never mind, we've rescheduled everything back 7 days and hopefully, it'll be on the agenda for next week's blog instead.

If you haven't been back on last week's blog and read the Readers Comments section, then I had better start off with a repeat of the apology there as it seems I inadvertently ruffled a few feathers at Cheddleton, not helped by my being unfamiliar with the line. Although Andrew thinks he had mentioned the point about which way the loco faces relative to grades, it seems that it hadn't been appreciated, or maybe the Allelys driver unloaded the opposite way round to that which Andrew requested. Whatever: the gradients between Froghall and Leekbrook aren't worse than 1 in 200 so that isn't going be an issue, it's just the Ipstones side that may have us sweating for the first time or two…

So back on Monday, and it was decided that grandson had been without a suitable railway experience for long enough, and that should be rectified. And as it was time to announce the acquisition of loco 18 to the collection (and it was one which, to the best of my knowledge I had never been introduced to before) then we should take a day out – to Rocks by Rail.

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We have been here a number of times in the past, when it was the Rutland Railway Museum, indeed, the Sentinel “Tom” came from here back in 2010,  but it has had significant development, as well as re-branding, in the intervening time. Most obvious is the appearance of a new 3-track display shed, giving them the ability (though to be fair after a thinning out of a few exhibits) to keep all their locos under cover, which few groups can achieve. In front is a new platform from which brake van rides are provided. When we last came parking was alongside the track further up, but since then an adjacent field (which, if I read the old maps correctly, was once sidings with another spur across the road) has been bought and turned into a permanent car park and entrance, enabling the former parking area to be developed for shunting demonstrations to add interest independent of the brake van rides.

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For that matter putting the locos under cover has enabled sidings to be used for wagon storage, and as they used to occupy the bottom of the running line, has permitted a longer trip. The only real snag with the new arrangement is that currently to access the building and platform requires visitors to cross the running line, so two volunteers have to deployed to man the gates when the train is in action, but as we speak a new access path around the end should obviate that and free-up a rather inefficient use of manpower.

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But you're all desperate to know what Andrew has gone and bought this time, aren't you? So, a little history lesson.

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Once upon a time there was a father and son called Stephenson. Dad tends to get all the credit (and quite right too, says he as a Dad) but son Robert is generally reckoned to have been the brains behind much of the success of the 'Rocket', and the locomotive building company that he set up was called Robert Stephenson. Later this and a nearby company, Hawthorn Leslie, amalgamated to become Robert Stephenson Hawthorn, and was taken over by English Electric. EE also bought Bagnall and Vulcan Foundry, but recognising their heritage used the brand 'Stephenson' for their industrial locomotives.

Later on EE became GEC, and the subsidiary GEC Industrial Locomotives (let's call them GECIL so as not to get confused with the American firm General Electric who build class 70s) won an order for a batch of 25 75ton 3-axle diesel electrics for what was then British Steel at Lackenby. On the back of this they proceeded to get an order for a batch for Llanwern, and the NCB came on board for half-a-dozen, though some of theirs were only 65tons. A while later, ICI ordered one for Northwich, the 'other end' of the duty that 'Cheedale' was involved in at Tunstead, and like Cheedale, this new loco – weighing only 50tonnes - was to be dual fitted, air and vacuum. It was named 'Ludwig Mond'.

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The introduction of this design though was not plain sailing. It is not an 0-6-0, rather it is a Co, or a 6-wheeler, depending on your preference, in other words, it has 3 axles, and each axle has an (uncoupled) traction motor. Now that gives the possibility of uncontrolled wheelspin, especially when weight transfer takes place and unloads one end or the other, and to minimise this, GECIL designed a complicated suspension system intended to keep the weight evenly distributed at all times. It also had the effect of making the loco – shall we say – preferring straights to curves. My old boss at Thomas Hills told me the tale, passed on to him from Lackenby managers, that they had had to spend thousands relaying and aligning tracks to prevent derailments with the new fleet, with the GECIL reps saying 'You cannot expect our locos to run on track like that!' – this being the self-same track that Sentinels and Vanguards traversed daily.

Whatever the truth of it, the locos had been delivered with a cast spoked wheel and they began to crack. Not just the odd one, checks on the locos brought out the record of one loco with 17 detected fractures. There was nothing for it, GECIL initiated a campaign change from 'thin' spoked centres to 'thick' spoked centres. Only it didn't stop there, as the thick spokes started breaking too. GECIL were forced to begin a second campaign change from cast steel centres to monobloc rolled steel wheels, which meant that the cracked spokes stopped but Lackenby engineers were worried that it only transferred the problem somewhere else.

Strangely some of the NCB batch still ran with (thick) spoked wheels, either the NCB were unaware or perhaps the 65tonners were not so stressed. The Llanwern engineers showed me modifications that they had made to the suspension, introducing additional wear pads and such (if only I had had foresight, I could have kept full notes, but this was long before Andrew was born). Anyway, having delivered 'Ludwig Mond' to ICI, Lord Weinstock, who I'm told had a reputation for being a bit hard about the bottom line, took notice of the money lost by not one but two changes of wheels, and shut GECIL down. So 'Ludwig Mond' became the last s.g. industrial from Vulcan works, the last to bear the Stephenson name and by lineage the last loco to trace its origins back to the 'Rocket'. I'm told, though I am not able to confirm it, that it is in fact the last GEC loco ever built and thus the last from Vulcan works too.

All the 65/75 tonners had the Dorman 12QT engine rated at 750bhp (Dorman was also part of GEC) but 'Ludwig Mond', being only 50tonnes, has the 8QT rated at 500bhp. And if 8QT sounds familiar, it was the engine that BP had fitted to 14901 that put a leg out of bed and was thus donated to the SRPS. The Dorman 8 and 12 QTs had a bad reputation for such antics, so we will have to treat this engine with care, and Andrew is already muttering about making manual priming obligatory, rather like 14 901.

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For the moment, the loco is runnable, though has a couple of minor issues to sort, and we intend being back to Cottesmore at some point to get to know it and deal with them. By the way, you've read it here first - I'll put it up on Andrew's website in the next day or so.

We had scheduled a return to Scunthorpe for the weekend and managed to make it, indeed, by our normal standards we arrived relatively early.

Tom has been out of action with a starter motor problem. The older Rolls C8s and C6s have strap-mounted starters, which are easier to fit but occasionally slide themselves out of mesh, damaging the pinion, and generally we prefer the flange-mounted version where 3-bolts hold it to the flywheel housing. But Tom's was still in position, though clearly wasn't engaging at all, making a most unpleasant sound reminiscent of a learner driver and an un-synchro'd box. Andrew pulled out the starter and started to clean the burrs of the pinion, whereas I moved to 03 901.

I had, at long last, got around to soldering up the LED boards for the code light boxes, and had brought them, plus the switches, ready to fit and make all 4 functional, even if they still require a diffuser to prevent the individual LEDs being visible rather than a complete red or white mass. So I got on with fitting them, and making the connections up in the cab for the two feed wires to the front.

Meanwhile Andrew got the starter refitted and summoned me to be button-presser while he observed in the engine bay. It wasn't a whole lot better – we have a similar, but not so marked problem, with James back at Darley. Often the first two times I press it fails to engage, but I speak sternly to it and on the third it goes in and cranks. Not so with Tom. In fact, Andrew had to bar the engine over a bit to get a better bit of starter ring for it to engage on, and as the batteries hadn't had a boost for a while they cranked a bit slow as well. But off went Tom at last and I was left to watch over it while Andrew wandered off to drain the coolant from 03 901.

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The 03 has been running on plain water but it was time to put anti-freezed mix in and we'd come over with a load. But he also found a recurrence of the front end oil leak. We filled the cooling system and started it up, and he soon found that transmission oil was leaking from the orifice filter assembly joint, which has unfortunately ended up in an accessible position since we added the ducting around the cooler matrices that prevent hot air recirculation. Hopefully he managed to seal it up but maybe a re-jigging of the pipework would be a longer term answer.

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During this time the day's tour had returned with Cranford at its head, and I was engaged in conversation by a kindly old gent who had seen the Inter City Railway Society piece about us at Darley but did think that one of us was called 'Mark Breeddon'. I regaled him with a quick tale about the abortive loco deal Hills had had with the American firm Varlen Locomotive Inc which had meant that one of the Steelman locos he had spotted had been to the USA and back, and he bemoaned the fact that this sort of thing 'wasn't known about'. Well you'll just have to wait for my memoirs…..

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I suppose I shouldn't finish this section without recording that Captain Idiot and StephSec were in fine form, and that Scunthorpe having quietly and unobtrusively departed from the Tata empire, employees have obscured their Tata logos with assorted tapes and written 'British Steel' in felt pen over the top...

We had an easy morning today and got down to the shed after an early lunch. The shed looks rather empty, but our first job was to deal with an unexpected emergency – the joint behind the tap on our sink, which I had made up with an o-ring, had failed and was spraying a fine watery mist in all directions. It hadn't been yesterday morning and Andrew took it in hand, finding out as I had, that Dowty washers, etc, merely left the tap at the wrong angle. Eventually copious quantities of PTFE and a new o-ring seemed to do the trick, but we'll have to watch it. Maybe one of these 'liquid gaskets' - Bosswhite or its ilk - may have to be tried if it recurs.

Prime intent of the day was to get the shed tidied up a bit and put sealant on the track area that we had cleared last week. Andrew wandered out into the heat and sorted out a couple of short rails required in connection with a ramp (more on that next week) and I knelt down with the vacuum cleaner to continue removing the dust prior to applying sealant. Some time in and the vac suddenly stopped working. I concluded that either we'd had a power cut (no, the radio worked), the fuse had gone (no, it was ok) or the vac had a thermal cut-out. While it cooled, we emptied it and made a determined effort to de-clog its filter.

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The fishplate bolts for the 113 FB rail on track 3A are 1” BSF and some are rather stiff (one we still haven't been able to undo from when we lifted it) so as an interlude we cleaned out the nuts and bolts with dienuts and taps so that they spin freely. We had finished all this when the vac started working again and I was on my knees in where the 4ft should be when our Hon Elec Consultant arrived, having been up at the HST event at Rowsley. After plying him with tea, I reminded him that I was looking for something in the way of a circuit diagram to work to, and he sat down and started sketching.

A while later the vac stopped again and with the job nearly ready, we decided to go for it and opened the tin labeled 'Floor sealant'. I don't know quite what we expected, but inside was a liquid that I have to say resembled the tea we had just consumed (well, without the milk), except if anything thinner and with a decidedly more pungent aroma. With Andrew using a roller and me a brush to get into inaccessible bits, we applied about half the the tin-full to roughly half of 3A's track base. It dried rapidly in the heat, and presumably, because it was so thin, sank into the concrete and does, well, what it says on the tin. Maybe tomorrow we'll get in and apply a first coat of concrete floor paint on it and admire the result. Certainly ideas I had of showing you an 'after' shot wouldn't work as you wouldn't tell the difference.

So that's about it for this week. Various things are planned for next week as I said, so if all goes well I'll have lots more bits to pass on. See ya.

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