Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of 'are you the Briddons?'

4th September 2016

The first week of September has seen us having to turn our temporary lights back on inside the shed by nine pm and mourn the passing of yet another summer. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were able to work outside as late as half-nine at night, but the nights are drawing in quite markedly, and the need to crack on with the proper electrical installation to get those ceiling LEDs not to mention the various sockets around the shed that will obviate a multiplicity of extension cables, is, well maybe not uppermost, but always in the back of my mind.

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I'll start with an exciting view of the next section of floor that has just been painted, not just the red but the green at the doorway: everyone points out that the join line is anything but straight (everyone's a critic) but all that can be sorted later. The main advance is that it is yet another few square metres no longer generating dust to circulate around the shed.

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As I was saying, we had Team Frodingham due last Monday and I got down about half-nine to find that they had arrived and were milling around outside the shed waiting for me to unlock. The horsebox was with them with various bits in, so I fired Charlie up and dragged the train clear so that they could get around the back and unload. They even had a little present for RS8, in the shape of a spare R-R rocker box cover to replace the one that was stolen: I duly gave this a degreaser treatment and solemnly installed it. (OK, I know we don't intend to use that engine when RS8 gets brought back to life, but it's the thought that counts.)

The rest of the day was occupied with various wide-ranging tasks, trying to sort things out in the shed; for example the little Hydrovane, which we acquired from e-bay some weeks ago, was relocated on top of the air receiver that we intend to connect it to (previously this had a Broomwade and a motor, but we like our Broomwades in locos – 14 901 has one, 03 901 has one, Coronation has one and Tom is likely to get one in due course – so this was removed and has gone out for overhaul and the Hydrovane just fits the plinth in its place.

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I mentioned that I had plans to finish a sort of 'kitchen unit' next to the sink which would contain all the cups, tea and such as well as have the fridge and a drainage surface on top. Charles of course is a joiner so aided by Captain Idiot he set too to complete the partially built shelf unit I had started using redundant pallets left over from the cladding delivery (we've rather a lot of them, I have enough that I could probably build a garden shed if I so desired, though it would be a little rustic). As a drainage board we found a large piece of coated aluminium which was cut and bludgeoned into shape. Once the electricity supply is sorted we can fire the fridge up.

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Part way through the day I was hailed by two men at the footpath alongside, one asked if it was possible to see Dxxxx. My reply ofAre you from Milton Keynes, then? somewhat floored him, but little did he know that I am a member of the same forum on which he had been asking directions the day before and saying he was coming up the next day, so I had been expecting him. I duly gave him and his father the official guided tour.

Another rather unusual visitor flew in during the afternoon – literally. We had one of the roller shutters half up and a swallow swept in, and was clearly alarmed; firstly at all the humans on the ground and secondly that it could not find the way out – well, I expect it could but was too scared to fly low enough because of the first concern. I raised the roller the rest of the way and it rejoined the others of its flight that had remained outside.

Andrew had been with us or for part of the day, once fatherly duties had been satisfactorily completed, but had to leave when Team Frodingham departed, leaving me to wander around the shed and yard, pondering what to do next and reflect on the progress that we have achieved so far.

We popped down to the shed again a couple of evenings, and on one we decided to have a go at starting the HATRAMM. Another of the tasks Team Frodingham had achieved was manufacturing a rudimentary battery isolation switch key, so bringing the other keys down we powered up the lights (it's got loads, there's more indicators lit up than Matlock illuminations) but when we turned the main key and pressed the start button, nothing happened beyond the clicking of the first relay. This was something of a disappointment for what was supposedly a vehicle in running order, and later that night, back at Briddon Country Pile, we pored over the circuit diagrams and came to the conclusion that a second relay, which makes the starter do its stuff, hadn't engaged and most likely wasn't getting its neg connection, which routes through the gearchange selector being in neutral. This diagnosis was re-affirmed when later in the week Andrew was told by one of the Colas fitters that the last time it had run it had needed a screwdriver to achieve cranking. We'll return to the HATRAMM in due course, but for the moment it is not our highest priority.

Team Frodingham were so enthused that they decided to come back on Saturday. This time Stephen McB was part of the group. Captain Idiot arrived a little later, having diverted to purchase a birthday cake – with a well-known blue tank engine on, naturally – as it was Stephen's birthday. What it is to be 21 again and again and again. We joined in a chorus of Happy Birthday to you – though the resulting cacophony may have been more reminiscent of intimate feral cats – after which Stephen attempted to blow Thomas' fire out.

We had hoped for good weather so that we could crack on with cutting and repositioning concrete wall panels (which are taken outside to be cut) while the assembled multitudes were there to assist, but instead we had almost non-stop rain all day. We did succeed in clearing out the cabinets that were sitting in front of the next pair to be cut down, plus clearing all the loose items – half-a-dozen rolls of loft insulation, generator, MIG-gas bottle, floodlights on tripod legs, you know the sort of thing – that were occupying the space in front, and later in the day I swept, vac'd and finally painted the cold tea over the concrete to make best use of the time, though it was really doing the job the wrong way round.

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But to keep the team occupied and under cover, we brought James across and pushed RS8 in to make a start. It must be a quarter century since RS8 has last had a roof over its cab (was it ever under cover at Dinting?) and it dripped rainwater over my nice fresh paint (we put plastic sheeting and such down to keep Team Frodingham from muckying the paint up until the 3rd coat has been applied). But some of the initial stripping was put in hand. Off came the front plates either side of the front buffer beam, to gain access to the nut on the front casing bolt, and just as I have extolled the virtues of the fine Whitworth standard, all 6 bolts proceeded to undo, granted with considerable effort, plus the front right buffer was lifted off and the front drawhook extracted. Behind those front plates incidentally are multiple plates that constitute the front end ballast that helps balance the loco. It would have been nice to have taken the casings off and the rad removed but time didn't permit that.

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In one of the lulls between bouts of heavier rain I had been out the back and once again got called over by enthusiasts on the footpath. These two had come down from Carlisle, and as I feared that we might have visitors who had come for the HST gala, unaware that it had been cancelled a few weeks ago, it seemed only polite to take them round. At one point, one of them asked if I was Andrew Briddon – such is our fame: well his anyway. Fortunately I had made it clear when they entered that they were at their own risk, and when they wanted to go have a closer look at the wagons alongside the shed, I had also warned them of the big 'ole that Captain Idiot had dug in his pursuit of the elusive drain that we have yet to fill back in. I say all this because despite that warning, one of the pair was so intent on writing notes that he went straight in!

All too soon Team Frodingham packed up and set off back towards Lincolnshire, but I imagine it will not be all that long before they grace our doors again, dine on Steph's sandwiches (normally sausage or bacon but freshly boiled gammon this time - the least we can do, we believe, as recompense for their time and effort in assisting us at the shed) and consume tea bags and milk. Anyone out there got a catering-size teapot to spare?

We didn't get down until lunchtime today but were determined to get those two panels cut and re-mounted. The procedure is to lift off the first panel (which at roughly 6 square metres and a ton-and-a-bit in weight is not to be taken flippantly) lower it on to the trolley, run it outside and trim each end off by about 40mm with the diamond saw blade on the 9” grinder, then roll it back inside, and swing it into position behind the lower panel that is still in situ. The gap behind must then be filled with insulation (about a roll of itchy loft stuff, or the rectangular wall panels which are easier to handle), after which we lift what is now the front panel out, take it outside and trim it, and finally fit it back on top of the first, in other words, the (old) upper panel is now the lower one and vice versa.

That sounds straightforward but requires careful driving of the forklift (usually me under the direction of Andrew), especially to ensure that we can work around the wind-brace beam. As an experiment on the second panel we cut 80mm off the one end, which halved the cutting time but had some unfortunate side effects when it came to breaking the last bits off the panel so we shall not repeat that. The panels are held to the columns with M16 bolts and clamp plates, and reaching down from the top to do up the lower clamp bolt of the upper panel Andrew had the misfortune to drop the spanner and see it disappear through the insulation we had inserted after the first one! Fortunately it was the corner adjacent to the pedestrian door, so in due course we shall temporarily remove the cladding sheet on the outside corner and recover it.

Moving panels, as I have said before, reclaims a considerable amount of space but exposes an area of floor which was never properly tamped level as when we laid it it was going to be invisible. In this case also a surprising quantity of loose bits of concrete are revealed and as we wished to apply the first coat of paint before we finished for the day, I hurriedly swept and vac'd once more, but Andrew, who was in charge of the roller (I was Chief Paint Pourer), proceeded to find no end of chippings that had either eluded me or came adrift when touched by the paint. The roller too had decided it had had enough of all this and the handle became permanently disengaged from the important bit at the end. But we saw it through, and later this week Andrew plans to apply a second coat to this area, and a third to the bit in the picture at the beginning, so that normality can be restored and the cupboards returned to their homes.

It seemed though that the procession of visitors had not ended, an erstwhile volunteer arriving for natter just as we were about to pack up, and as we were literally climbing back into the van to head home, we spied someone wandering around the station who came over to have a talk with us. He was involved with a large scale modelling company and was looking at various locomotives and rolling stock as prototypes for 5 inch gauge models. Scarily, after a minutes conversation it was Oh, are you the Briddons? - fame again.

There have been several rather less satisfactory events that have happened during the week that I am not going to comment on as to do so might exacerbate things, but it does have a direct bearing on what is due to take place during the next few days, so make a note in your diaries, set your Smartphones to stun and make sure to tune in next week: same time, same blog.

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