Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of razor wire and free tea

11th June 2017

So here we go with another mix of progress and folly.

Back on Monday, we had planned (as Andrew doesn't start his new job until later this week) another day in the shed and were joined by regular reader and Peak Rail P-way volunteer Kevin, who had asked if he could join us. For the most part, this involved RS8, which is slowly – all too slowly – being dismantled ready for sandblastng and relocation to Tunstead. With occasional assistance from Andrew (who was trying to get on with some work for me) off came the front sections of vac pipe, one of the brake pull rods, and the front right hand sandbox (if for no other reason than the crane coupling in the vac pipe was right behind it). The front sandboxes had been secured with slotted countersunk screws, but I only know this because you can make out the slot on one bolt top – the rest have all been worn away by countless shunters boots. We tried drilling them out but in the end it was quicker and easier to use the gas, although with a slight damage to the running plate. Kevin seemed to have enjoyed his time with us, working in the dry and with regular injections of free tea.

We had been a little unhappy with the bill from the shotblasters for the parts up there. Certainly the shotblasting rate was what we had expected, but additional costs for 'primer' and 'priming and handling' more than doubled it. So we had had a discussion and in between times I rang another blasting company who does on-site work. I got a call back at lunchtime, as it was raining the guy had a free hour or two and could he pop in for a chat? And so I got pulled away from productive work as I showed him what we had to do and where we had to do it. He had already done things like coach bodies at Wirksworth as well as work for GCR, et al, though he had never been to Peak Rail before even though local to us. Our plan is that future work will be blasted at Darley, and we do the priming immediately after.

On Monday evening I spent a long time on the phone with a long-standing Peak Rail volunteer, who, in their youth, had spent much time at Dinting, riding a yellow-painted ex-steelworks loco. It didn't take long for me to twig that it wasn't a steelworks loco but dear old RS8, so I am hoping they may find some old pictures to add to our dossier on it.

On Tuesday evening I had a run to Coalville. One of our (frequent) e-bay purchases was a quantity of razor wire, and we had decided to add more to cover the weak spots we had identified from recent 'incursions'. The 13 reels of concertina razor wire would have cost about £350-400 from other suppliers, but I found the bungalow and the guy produced them all from his outhouse – fortunately I had taken a pair of the special gauntlets to handle them.

Another item that was bought – a couple of weeks ago in fact – via e-bay was another compressor of the Broomwade type. The problem was it was down in Cambridgeshire, and although we thought that we could tie it in with a run to Castle Hedingham for crew training on 14901, this hasn't yet happened and the vendor was getting impatient. So I allocated Thursday and set off early to get down there before lunch. The compressor was ex-military, and came with a JAP engine and together on a two wheeled trolley with handlebars. When I got there it had obviously been used as a garden feature, as it shared lawn-space with other agricultural pieces. My first thought was eek! Would it fit? It looked far bigger than it had on the photo, but it turned out to be 71 inches overall and the van could take 73-ish. I dragged it over the grass to the back of the van (not easy as the once-pneumatic tyres had split). The vendor went and got his forklift which appeared to have no silencer (he drove with ear defenders on) and I suspected, little or no brakes, scooped it up and slid it into the van. I was back on the road within 15 minutes and back home by 3pm, in good time to vote as well as get ready for my usual Thursday evening out.

On Friday I spent some time down at the shed and decided for a complete change to crack on with the slot drain arrangement work. Toby had dug down and found the planned connection point many moons ago, but we had decided instead to add a branch tee to the connection from the adjacent downpipe, so I replaced the cap in the unused branch and cut a section of pipe to repair the hole Toby had accidentally made by epoxy-ing a patch. With that achieved I added a layer of postcrete to reinforce the joint area further, and backfilled the hole. The first troughing sections were then re-positioned, and jointing them one at a time with more postcrete and the occasional sand to give a little slope to aid flow.

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On Saturday we were to be joined by Toby, Ashley and Andy H, and once again RS8 got the attention with more brake rigging being removed. The handbrake linkage was extracted – the bolts heads that held it in place had corroded to the point where it was necessary to select a socket that 'most nearly fitted' then hammer it on, yet out of the 6 bolts 5 unscrewed – Whitworth of course.

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I said in last weeks blog that rule of thumb on RS8 is that if it is welded or bolted it's ICI's work and if it is rivetted it's Avonside's. Andy H though pointed out though that the front buffer beam was bolted. I had noticed this and had pondered whether it was original or an ICI version, but if so, as Andy observed, why the big cut-out which was classic clearance for the smokebox door to swing open. Now, I'll take this narrative out of chronological order because as I was looking the loco over again this morning, the truth dawned. You can see on the photo which I've annotated, (I also highlighted the weld line) it is the original buffer beam and it is ICI's work, for 13 inches back the frames and running plates have weld lines where extension pieces have been added. Ironically, if the loco had had the standard converter and a very short coupling, it might have fitted, but with the unusual converter and short prop ICI had had no option but to extend the frames by those 13 inches. Look closer still and the original rivet holes can be made out, filled. The extent to which the engineers at Tunstead went in this conversion turns out to be even more involved as we get deeper.

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I had removed all the other 3 sand ejectors and largely emptied the rear left sandbox (cue Flash Gordon references) of ballast, litter and surprisingly, sand, and with a bit of assistance tackled the brake cylinder, one of whose retaining bolts actually went into the sandbox. Sadly the wet sand had corroded the nut and bolt so much that it had to be gassed. The cylinder itself is good, but has seized on the piston tube, but once off, the weighshaft was able to turn,

We have had no 'incursions' for the last ten days but Saturday afternoon changed all that. We noticed lads up the yard climbing over the fence, so we all charged out in pursuit. Jeering and taunting, they ran out up the line, four of them sitting on the rails and mocking us. On the one hand it would have been irresponsible to have pursued them as we knew that a northbound train was not long away, on the other PC Tammy had told us to dial 999 if we had more such visitors, so we waited by the buffer stops as the Police responded. To cut a long story short, they heard the train approaching and legged it up the cutting side and over the road bridge, jeering at us all the time. A Police van arrived and guided by Andrew and Andy H, nabbed two of them who refused to give other than their Christian names and were generally arrogant and 'gobby'. A group of girls that we spoke to told us that one of them had just been let out having been grounded by his parents – could that be why it was quiet? They have definitely been in before.

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With the drama over, the others departed and Andrew decided he wanted to see inside the one buffer of RS8's that we have removed to date. We knew that it was a volute spring, but most volutes are plain, rolled strip of rectangular section. When we finally released the retaining key and it flew apart, the spring turned out to be an oval section, almost coil spring-like but in volute form.

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The gobby one had shouted that he'd be back later (this from a safe distance, naturally) so we stayed on in shifts until after dark, Andrew taking the time to strip down some cylinder heads for recoverable parts, as well as give further attention to the south end personnel door which, although seemingly secure, had not been locking properly. Setting up these security door arrangements have had us both head-scratching but Andrew reckons he's now got the hang of it. (Yes, they came with instructions, yes, we read them, and no, following them didn't make them work properly.)

This morning Andrew was due at Leek between nine and nine-thirty to collect something from – yes- e-bay, but it was ten to nine before he finally staggered downstairs and yet he claims that he made it for twenty-to-ten and had to wake up the vendor! We had decided that our day was to concentrate on deploying our razor wire across the more vulnerable places on the fence, and so determine how much more we would need to deter the 'oiks' further. But to secure the razor wire we needed ground-pegs, essentially U-shaped staples, which we did not possess. But we did possess a large number of rebar pieces about 12inches long, over-bought from the flooring work, so set to work warming up the middle 2” or so and bending them over RS8's rear buffer beam. We got quite proficient at it, which is useful as we made about 50 and will probably need more. Steph grabbed some pictures as we processed batch number two.

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Ben R dropped in to borrow a wheelbarrow and later returned it and stopped for a cup of free tea. During this time the gobby one passed by on the footpath and cat-called to us, throwing a frisbee into the yard where it bounced off the roof of the VBA. We debated chasing up to the end of the path and confronting him, but concluded that was probably what he wanted and not to rise to the baiting.

Instead several hours were occupied placing out another 200m or so of razor wire, pegging it down and wiring the joints together. While we were out we got into conversation with two walkers who had also seen children a week or two ago playing in the yard and had seen them off, they said. We explained what had been happening and why this rather unsightly razor wire was being put in place. It is not that we want to make the place into a military barricade, but when you have people so mature as to treat the yard area as theirs to smash or graffiti as they choose, and would probably sue for compensation were they to fall off a loco, or otherwise injure themselves while so doing, standing back and taking no action isn't our way. The weakest area remains that 5 bar gate at the entrance. We have written to Peak Rail formally requesting permission to change this for something more secure in line with the Agreement, but have yet to see reply or even acknowledgement, though of course Peak Rail was back in Court on Thursday so may have had things it regarded as more important to see to first.

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We were taking in turns to eat again tonight so while Andrew was feeding I decided that I was sick and tired of this compressor set in the back of the van and as there was no time to pull the train out the way or get the forklift anywhere near to the van, I built a plinth out of pallets, put two timbers on top and successfully wheeled the compressor set up the van floor and out. Andrew took over and stripped the compressor and engine off the trolley part and parked the latter up the yard. The compressor is seized but may yield good spares. The engine – which I think is a JAP Model 6 – seems good and we may try starting it before deciding what to do with it.

So that's about it. We're off to Buxton first thing tomorrow to sort out work on the engine for RS8, plus ascertain why we haven't heard from the Tarmac liaison manager and hence, why the lorry hasn't been down to sort more out.

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