Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Dragonfly and HATRAMM

21st August 2016

I said last time that I thought that this week would be a 'strange' week. It didn't really work out quite that way I had expected, but you can judge for yourself.

As I was saying last week, I went into this one with a serious issue with the van but my good friends at a garage in Matlock put it up on the ramp and discovered, as we suspected, that there was a split in an elbow on the pipework from intercooler to manifold. The Peugeot agents said this part wasn't available on its own, you had to buy the pipes either side as an assembly at £180. Now whether this was the correct part was open for conjecture – I had to have the engine changed a few years ago – but anyway all I wanted was a flexible elbow of about 54mm bore, so as I was too late to get an order in that day, I drove up to Mirfield the next morning and returned with a silicon hose of the correct shape and size – even with the mileage it was far cheaper.

But returning for a minute to Monday. I had popped in to Sheffield to look over the lots at an auction house we frequent. After e-bay it is our most prolific source of bits/tools etc., and there were half-a-dozen lots I wouldn't have minded, but part of the auction was another bankruptcy of a machining company (this one apparently tried with-holding payment to HMRC to tide them over a bad spell) and there was enough to attract dealers. But I drew up some maximum bid values, including a couple of ladder sets, which Steph looked over (she is a veteran of these auctions and far better at getting bargains than I am) and said 'you'll never get those ladders at those prices' but took the commission bids in on her way to meet some friends. Later that day I had the phone call to the effect that they were all I'd got!

One day this week, apart from finding a large dragonfly had died and lay on the red-painted floor (I'm being told to encapsulate it in resin, it is a magnificent thing to examine close up) I had a visit from a former Peak Rail volunteer whom we had given a tour around a year or more ago (before the roof went on). I was happy to oblige him again, this time adding the civility of making him a cup of tea into the bargain.

Andrew has been in South Wales for much of the week and having won a couple of sledgehammers on e-bay from a guy in Barry, brought them back with him. And that pretty much brings us around to Friday. As I have said before, my commercial work normally only features in this blog when either I cannot avoid it or when it has been out in the public domain, so I am not breaching any commercial confidences. However as the magazine 'Railways Illustrated' has seen fit to publish that I have had Brush's Bagnall 0-4-0DH 'George Toms' in (and I was a bit cheeky by letting part of it appear in a picture here a few weeks ago) I shall admit that on Friday it was heading north to Rowsley to return to Loughborough, and Charlie, which has been deputising, was coming back.

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First thing Friday therefore, the crossover was operated and 'GT' came out to head north. But at Rowsley we were greeted by Allelys, who had arrived with a TRAMM.

Now, unless you are a student of On-Track Plant, the word TRAMM gives a picture of one of those funny rail-borne things that ply the streets of our major cities once again (except maybe Leeds, which spent so much on consultancy trying to decide whether to have Trams or trolley-buses and where to direct either of them if they ever got them that they've decided they cannot afford either anyway). But in on-track language TRAMM stands for Track Repair And Maintenance Machine. We built a few for Geismar at Hills many years ago. Basically they are – were – two 4w vehicles, one powered and fitted with a hydraulic crane, one un-powered, and both with cabs at the outer ends. We did I think 5 pairs for BR in the eighties and one for Gabon, the latter sticking in my memory as it left on two low loaders for Felixstowe just before one Christmas, but on the road there was an unfortunate accident when the leading low loader managed to stop rather quicker than the one following – both cab of tractor unit and rear of leading TRAMM section sustaining damage. And thus, first day back after the Christmas break the Gabonese TRAMM reappeared at Kilnhurst for repairs.

What Allelys had brought was not one of the ones Hills built (that would be too much of a coincidence) but a later one that was the property of Colas Rail. Moreover, it was not a complete TRAMM, merely the powered half of one, so I propose to refer to it in future as the HATRAMM (Half A Track Repair...) so that none of you – or me – will be deluded into picturing anything inappropriate. The TRAMMs that we built at Hills incidentally, had Rolls-Royce C6TFL engines; this one has a Deutz V6 that looks suspiciously like the engine type I fitted to a loco I remanufactured for Ford Motor Company's Genk plant at the turn of the century.

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GT arrived just in time to ease the HATRAMM off the low loader which then departed and we waited, and waited. ('We', for I was joined at various times by Phil C, who has another Bagnall 0-4-0DH that has been butchered and he plans to return it to original outline, so was getting a few last measurements, and Steph, who operated meals-on-wheels service and stopped to pass the time.) For what should have happened was that another haulier, which we had planned would arrive by about 11 o'clock, would bring Charlie back and depart with GT, but in an uncharacteristic screw-up, the crew, unfamiliar with the particular trailer, did not succeed in loading until 4pm and as Peak Rail's management refused to allow the site to be kept open for a late transfer, that was how things stayed. In fact, Charlie arrived at 7 o'clock the next morning, and by half-past-eight the swap was finished and the buffer stop was re-instated to plan. But of course by now Charlie and HATRAMM had missed the slot for movement down to Darley Dale, so that has to be re-arranged.

One forum has reported that the HATRAMM has been bought by Andrew: that is not true: it is with us on an 'indefinite stay' and remains Colas property, indeed there may be further work coming in for Colas for me in the future.

Mid Saturday morning Andrew Steph and grandson departed north for a date at Lightwater Valley and our daughter and son-in-law. I was tempted to go back to bed and only after lunch could I drag myself away from the TV (hoofing to find anything I could raise the enthusiasm to watch, I don't 'do' Olympics) with enough energy to contemplate going down to the shed. I couldn't have picked a worse time. The journey from the Briddon Country Pile to the shed is just over 3/4 mile, normally a mere 2-3 minutes, but as I set off the A6 was unusually quiet and lots of blue flashing lights further on, plus a car or two broadside on the road, made me realise that it was closed. So I turned around and cut across through the estate to pick up Church Lane, bisected by the Peak Rail crossing of the same name and the 'old' road before Sir James Whitworth built the straight bit. What I had not considered was of course this was the obvious diversion route for a closed A6. But Church Lane is named because there is a church there, and it being early Saturday afternoon they had wedding on and twenty or thirty cars were parked along the lane, reducing a road that is too narrow to be classed as a 'B' into a strip one vehicle wide. Now add Saturday afternoon tourists, etc., etc., - thank heavens there were no HGVs - two level crossings (Church Lane and Darley Dale because the police were routing the traffic down Station Road to get to Church Lane) and you can probably picture the chaos. I think it took me about 20 minutes to get there.

Once finally in I fired up the forklift and started moving stuff around to create a space for the next round of floor sealing and painting. Once cleared I started to brush up the dust, but of course much of it hung in the air and when it got too bad (I am after all a poorly asthmatic) I transferred my attentions to the cable traywork around the opposite corner of the shed. One of the new ladders was deployed for this purpose and I must say it was easy to handle and felt entirely firm as I scampered up and down. With the new brackets going in the progress was easier and straightforward. But after a few hours of this fatigue got the better of me and I locked up and headed home – in the 2 to 3 minutes normal trip time - to cook myself some tea.

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Team Frodingham were over today, so apart from getting myself down early I had to remember to bring large quantities of milk. When I got down there, Dom B was busy tracing a fault in Darley box wiring, so I had a brief natter and invited him over for a tea when Team Frodingham arrived. Only four of them this week (but always welcome) and they concentrated on general tidying up duties including a bit of landscaping. Unfortunately I had left my camera somewhere where they spotted it, and on the pretext that I don't appear in my own blog (I do, only last week in fact) proceeded to picture me continuing the sweep of dust from the floor.

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Experience has shown that this dust clogs the filter on the industrial vac parked by me, so the more than can be swept first, the quicker the final stage of vacc-ing the dregs. (Blocked filter makes suction assembly overheat, trips temperature switch, long wait whilst it cools back down). By early afternoon an area of some 25 square metres had been cleaned to an acceptable level and I proceeded to apply the floor sealant (cold tea if you recall), returning for the rest of the afternoon to the traywork.

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Outside, between showers, Team Frodingham had moved on to manhandling the rails that Andrew cut a week or so ago onto a stack slightly further away, as with Mr Booth's skip full and turned ready for collection, the lorry needs the space to line up.

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The Landscaping? Oh here it is, they'll be back soon to plant peas, carrots and the odd marijuana plant (or maybe not). They hit the road just before six pm, and after a final tour and ponder of what to do when and where, how much cable traywork I have left and how far it will reach, etc., I locked up and headed home too.

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Maybe next week we'll see some 'loco work' take place: but you never can tell. Drop by and see.

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