We went back down to the shed on Monday evening, primarily to give the floor a second coat of grey paint but having done so, we wandered out to look over RS8 and take stock of what bits might be required to get it going again. For the most part, there is nothing unusual. It is beginning to look as though the torque converter output is seized solid (as we cannot turn the prop-shaft in any way, although as the gearbox is out of mesh there should be no resistance at that end) so out of curiosity we detached the starter motor, and apart from finding it has a well-chewed brass pinion (which dates the motor to start with) a pry-bar onto the ring gear proved that, after twenty years stood in the car park, the engine is still free to rotate.
Not, I hasten to add, that that will encourage us to bodge it up to 'see if it will go' - there are two many sawn off pipes and such and there's every possibility that after this length of time the fuel rack could be seized in any position up to full fuel and rpm. Our first real task will have to be to photograph every little bit of the loco so that, when we pull it apart, we will have a record of how it all goes back together, as unlike any of the others in the collection, there is no other loco like it we can refer to if we get stuck. So while I am tempted with the idea that we strip it to running plate level and merely clean up everything below, Andrew has dug his heels in that we do the job properly, but if there are offers of assistance (and several people have expressed interest during the week) we might bring it forward in the queue.
Phoenix Railtours came on to Andrew a week or so back and this week the itinerary for their tour on July 23rd has been amended to include a stop at Darley Dale (though no mention as to what they might find) and their organiser seems to think they won't need more than half an hour. It might take me that long to get through the Site Induction! I also got back in touch with the ICI engineer who was involved with RS8, to learn he had been away receiving the Legion d'Honore as a D-day Vet, so wasn't aware that we had moved the loco at last. We look forward to him visiting Darley in the future.
I was booked to return to Cheddleton on Friday to continue crew-training on 14 901. At the end of last weekend we had four loco crew well versed in starting up and shuffling up and down (I mean with 14 901 obviously), but they needed familiarity with the response of the vac brake and especially how much (or little) to give it without 'over-cooking it' as with the belt-driven exhauster it can be a trifle unforgiving.
So I went over for 11 o'clock and joined Dave and Nick who had already prepped the loco and were about ready to go. But first we added about 140 litres of fuel and waited while the resident 33 detached the 3 dining vehicles leaving us with the 4 carriage service rake for our first foray.
14 901 was attached and we set off downhill for Froghall. Dave took the throttle first and I decided my role was largely to keep my trap shut and be there with guidance if needed or asked, but otherwise enjoy myself. The line twists and turns through a variety of landscapes, pastoral and derelict-industrial, canal and riverside. There seems to be a great deal of livestock, apart from the birds and squirrels that walk along or across the rails, and two ducks that stood and watched from the boarded crossing at Consall, we encountered two sheep and a calf that wandered onto the line between our southbound run and our return. (Quite where they entered and exited railway land was a msytery as the fence seemed intact and in good order throughout.)
The only thing to worry about southbound was judging the stop at Consall, and controlling your speed after because there is a TSR a half mile or so further on. Thus the required experience in braking came quite rapidly and with it the recognition that the best technique is to coast as much as possible and only applying the brakes when you really are ready to stop.
Everyone wanted to know though how it would perform northbound against the grade and with only 4 on the answer was easily, reaching the 25mph limit and maintaining it if required. At Consall a photographer was on the platform, he later commented how good it sounded coming up the valley. We paused at Cheddleton for the level crossing gates (a DIY operation) and went on to Leek Brook where we ran round, and returned to Cheddleton for lunch.
When we returned from our nosh, 901 was being a little cranky and refused to start. I've had this before on occasion and can only conclude that at certain temperatures the fuel pump decides to stick. But with a couple of casing doors open and 5 or 10 degrees lost, it started up again and we re-attached the dining set and set off for a second run with Nick in the hot seat.
Again, no issues southward to Froghall, but how would she behave heading north? The extra load caused much slower acceleration, and we had the phenomenon, which I've seen so many times at Peak Rail, that as we reached 15mph she would struggle to get the last 1 or 2 mph that would make the Voith decide to change up into second. In the end we reached the 10mph TSR still in first so stayed that way into Consall.
But re-starting from Consall she made it up into second and the better efficiency of the converter/gear ratio brought us up to a respectable 19-20mph up to Cheddleton, then a steady first gear slog to Leek Brook and back. We disposed of the carriages and loco and I headed home, though I will endeavour to be over again to do a couple of minor jobs before next weekend's 'Anything Goes' gala.
Andrew meanwhile had been off with Steph collecting grandson, who had immediately declared that he wanted a train ride, so Andrew checked around for somewhere interesting we hadn't been to, and found Amerton had a gala on.
The Amerton Railway, a few miles out from Stafford, came about as somewhere to run Bagnall 'Isabel' which once sat on a plinth outside Stafford station (I remember seeing it there briefly one night on my way somewhere else, though for the life of me I can't recall where we were going unless it was a roundabout route to Tywyn) after it had been restored. A site next to the Amerton Working Farm was selected, and now a 1 mile line weaves it way around a large field with a passing loop on the far side.
The gala meant that two visiting locos were on site, the Joffre from Apedale (which we saw at the Tracks to the Trenches event a year or so back) and Hudswell Clarke 'Alpha' from Statfold Barn, while resident 'Isabel' and 2005 Hunslet Wren 'Jennie' were in steam too. With Day Tickets in our pockets we sampled rides on all 3 coaches and behind at least three of the locos. The Joffre I find I liked the most, a highly compact 0-6-0, (so probably a b****r to work on) in contrast to the 'Alpha' which was more spaced out and resulted in a significant rear overhang that makes me think it ought to be an 0-6-2.
The day was thoroughly enjoyable (not least because Andrew bought me a couple of s/h books for Father's Day) and it is a line we must get to again one day, though it could do with toilets and refreshment provision on site rather than somewhere over in the Working Farm. On the other hand, nice touches are the lineside details - the 'snake in the grass', herons and crocodile in the pond, gnomes in a home in a tree-stump, that would appeal to children and adults and made the journey the more entertaining.
Today was a return visit from Team Frodingham – Captain Idiot, Phil, Charles, Jagger and new man Luke – and I was despatched to open up with Andrew promising to be down later once fatherly duties and obligations had been completed, but gave me a list of jobs to get through. But before any work could begin they all insisted on having a close look over RS8, and I suspect we may get a lot of pressure to progress that loco, if not working parties on it.
First task though was to get all the timber that had been used on the various ramps last week stacked away in the VBA, and with that done James was fired up and moved the train forward so that the ex Buxton Wickham-ish trolley could be deployed. With the rail tongs and sleeper nips we acquired a few weeks ago, the two ex NSC track panels were split down and moved piecemeal up the yard, the rails being laid out alongside where we intend to extend the siding in due course. Meanwhile James brought brother Jack down to the shed, and eventually lunch was partaken.
Toby and Charles disappeared in the direction of RS8 clutching hacksaw, hammer and chisels, and removed the padlock from the cab doors (we know not where the key might be) so that normal access is now possible instead of climbing in through the front window.
Up at Rowsley there was a bus gathering on, and occasionally a single deck yellow coach passed by over the level crossing. The trains seemed to have a reasonable number of passengers, with lots of passengers pointing cameras out of windows. (I see one passenger on Saturday photographed just about every loco as he passed by, and posted them on Flickr, except that is for RS8: maybe he didn't realise it was a loco!)
After bacon and sausage sandwiches the group split, one group concentrating on digging the ground in front of the shed for the long-awaited slot-drain, and the other starting on lifting out bits of Jack, as we'd promised Charles that the power unit would come out on his next visit. This took rather longer than planned as a number of bits had been overlooked on their last session back in January (like radiator stays attached to the casing top, wiring and Layrub coupling) but by late afternoon it was achieved and they insisted on taking a team-photo over the engine.
Then Jack's casings were replaced, the loco sheeted back down and returned to the end of the middle siding to await its next turn for attention, and the group begin to wind down.
Without a doubt we were more ready to deploy the manpower this time and hopefully they got more out of it as the work was there and materials/tools to hand. We look forward to further visits from Team Frodingham as it does make a significant difference having lots of young enthusiastic muscle to progress things. Oh, and an advance warning, my hosting provider - Priday Design - will be moving all my sites - Weekend Rails, Andrew Briddon Locos and Pete Briddon - to new servers in a month or twos time which will result in a few days when they're 'off the air' while the relocation filters through the internet. I'll warn you again nearer the time but if you get a 404 one day don't panic, all will come good in the end.