Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Crewe, Severn and South Wales

23rd July 2017

No, not a hitherto unknown Col Stephens type railway but a selection of visitors that have passed through our doors this week.

Well, prompt on Monday morning one of my readers, David S, identified Jate as standing for 'Joint Air Transport Executive' and merely an authority that 'sets the design criteria for any products that fell within their governance'. It also explains the international markings that are to certify that the wood is bug-free. (Some years ago, the firm I was then working for had a batch of components arrive from South Africa without the appropriate symbols on the crates. To get them out of customs, we had to liaise with the Forestry Commission, get the contents emptied out at our customers' premises and I had to produce evidence that they had been burned within 7 or 14 days – I forget which.) So anyway, it suggests to us that these plywood block kits were envisaged as packing stands to support things that were to be air-lifted somewhere and the slots in the upper half, being too narrow for forks, must have been for straps or other securings. For the moment, they remain in a pile in the Geoffrey Briddon Building until we have need of them.

On Wednesday I was down at the shed first thing to fire Charlie up and draw the train back out of the way so that Andy, the Tarmac driver, could get in and collect the cab and sundries of RS8 for transport up to Tunstead. That cleared a fair amount of floor space inside as well as outside. Though in a moment's aberration I did run over - and shall we say 'customise' - a sabo in the process.

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On Thursday I had been delegated by Andrew to meet and look after a couple of members from the Crewe Heritage centre who wanted to look around the collection and discuss aspects of their restoration of Sentinel 10007 (a 34ton chain drive) where our experience might be of benefit to them. In the event they were on site for most of the afternoon and tried their hands at driving Charlie to get the feel of how a diesel hydraulic works.

I had sent an order up to my profilers on Monday but Andrew had, by Monday evening, concocted a long list of additional bits which I managed to get through to the profilers with a promise of it being all ready by Friday. And so on Friday I headed off to Palletline and various others before winging it northwards up to Ingrow.

I hinted last week that contact with the Bahamas Loco Society might be interesting with regard to RS8, but what I chose not to divulge was the news that their Chief Engineer, Steve Allsop, had had the foresight to retain all the drawings that had been passed over to them by ICI personnel when the loco came to Dinting, and having seen that RS8 was in good hands and actively being restored, he was willing to hand them over. We had settled on Friday as it tied in best with my movements. On arrival at Ingrow I found him and another Director, George Bowler, in discussion over a correspondence file that covered the disposal of RS8 after their forced relocation from Dinting. They proceeded to give me a lot of additional information about those intervening years – for it seemed that the vandalism at the Stone Centre had commenced almost as soon as the loco arrived. They also gave me leads as to the vac exhauster that I need to follow up on.

The drawings however were the most valuable prize, and explains why Tarmac has found next to nothing in the quarry archives – these are the originals! Here at last was the long-sought-after pneumatic diagram, a drawing that tells us the nominal ballast weights added to the frame, plus confirming the 13” extension that ICI had made at the front. Explained at last was the gearbox installation – the wheels had been sent to Hunslet, together with the RF25 final drive gearbox (which was delivered from the manufacturers complete with axle) and Hunslet retyred the wheels and fitted them to the gearbox (and presumably did the crank-pins, too). A short 6” section of plain exhaust pipe, it transpired, was the replacement for a butterfly-valve type exhaust brake unit that had been there, and the control handle for which had been linked to the loco brake control shaft using the mysterious sprocket we'd found.

In there too were complete manufacturing drawings for the rear engine mounts (which we need to change as the Metalastik mount has been obsolete for over a quarter century) which gives me reliable measurements to start with. And of course most of these drawings are on imperial-sized paper that roughly equates to today's A1 and for which I have no space in my little office here at the Briddon Country Pile to store nor refer to, so scanning them, or at least obtaining fold-able paper copies, seems like first order of the day.

It does after all seem that all the pneumatic valves, apart from one midget cylinder, have survived on the loco, and that it was as simple as it could get. The two push-button valves at the extreme corners of the cab did nothing more than retract the locking midget cylinder (provided the loco was stationary) to enable the gearbox to be reversed, but these two buttons had originally been planned as a single footpedal. The clutch control did indeed have no means of unloading the clutch cylinder once the clutch had gone over-centre, either engaged or disengaged, but possibly the fact that it was an amazingly small cylinder may have saved the clutch from much greater wear on its thrust faces. Whether I re-use the original cylinder, or use a more modern one, I have yet to decide, but an unloader system for clutch engaged is a must.

So I came back from Ingrow with some satisfaction and have promised that we will stay in touch and they will get to see RS8 running before too long. But my day wasn't over, for Friday night I was off to Derby to collect a quantity of intumescent paint – yep, e-bay once again.

Saturday, and our anticipated grand working party of Team Frod had been whittled down to just Charles once again, Andrew had received his new company car on Friday, and as I was ready to head down before he was, I set off with the van, confident that despite his assertion that he would walk down, he wouldn't resist showing the car off to all and sundry. I was right. But while we waited Charles got on with a spot of painting on 1382 and I tested my Mk 3 bracket for securing the cable trays to the purlins. Originally my brackets came off the M20 sockets that were used for handling the concrete panels, but I had not realised that some of these had a distinct bow in them so the Mk2 corrected this by providing a slot rather than a plain hole. But they still are a bit 'wippy' so the Mk3 reverts to a simple triangle which attempts to derive more rigidity from the purlin.

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Once Andrew arrived it was agreed that Charles and I would make a start applying this paint (I use the term loosely), working on separate columns so as not to splash one another. Now, this stuff, once you've mechanically stirred it for a few minutes, resembles whipped double cream but is denser and definitely not as appetising. The odour is not as pleasant either and we were both pleased to take a break when Steph arrived with sandwiches.

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During the morning though we had had an interruption when Andrew received a phone call from a strange woman. Strange, I hasten to add, in the sense that we did not know her, nor recognise the name, but it became clearer when she declared she was mother to one of our miscreants who were to come in and remove their graffiti. (She even asked directions and Andrew pointed out that her son should know perfectly well!) In due course both mothers and sons assembled over at the station and we went to meet them, the three of us walking up the path to the gate like cowboys striding to a shoot-out on main street, USA.

I let Andrew do most of the talking, since I felt that being lectured by someone much nearer their own age (than I am) might be more effective. The two lads, whom I had last seen striding away from me as they exited, stage left after I'd challenged them climbing over the fence, were much more subdued and apologetic. Once again they asserted that they thought the locos were abandoned (Andrew pointed out that the presence of a new building nearby ought to have suggested otherwise) and may indicate that this rumour has been doing the rounds in the area schools. We showed their mothers not only the graffiti that they made in bitumastic paint (which they claimed to have found on the footpath, but I suspect was the result of earlier touring the council yard) but the damaged roller shutter door on the PCV, which (and I laid it on thick) would take Andrew and me a couple of days to dismantle and repair, and the only reason their sons weren't doing it was that they hadn't the skills. Anyway, they are due to return, with one or more parents, next Saturday at 09.30, armed with paraffin and rubber gloves.

We were barely back to work when there was a knock at the shed door. A slightly rotund gentleman with a Welsh accent asked if he could see any ex-BR diesels we had. He assured us of his interest, that he'd only entered when he saw cars here and that he didn't trespass on railway property. I pointed out that he just had.

Now, you may declare that you're only interested in ex BR locos but I always consider it my duty to expand your education. There is no point in looking (say) at James and dismissing it out of hand because it is not an 02. So I did my normal tour and the only mistake was not bringing him face-to-slot with the donations box. Not that I am suggesting the Welsh are un-generous. Despite the accent he was born near Sheffield and had moved Wales-ward after 1978, so as a Yorkshireman, I knew he was tight.

Andrew had been making a start on the ramp during all this. Too many weeks ago we moved Claire and the Hunguard ready for transport and the latter, being 3m wide, needs to unload direct to Darley Dale, and although we got away with it with RS8, the ramp we used then was far too steep for a longer-wheelbase machine. Thus the materials that we have been amassing for a second stage ramp were about to be utilised, and the profiles I had collected on Friday were all to do with it.

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Sunday: we were expecting a small group from the Severn Valley railway. They have D9553 and it has a dodgy transmission cooler, having been frosted while up in Scotland, so Andrew had agreed to lend them the one that was once in 14 901. That we know leaks a little but should be readily repairable. At 10.15 they texted to say they were passing Cannock, so we set off to the shed, fired Charlie up and got involved with shunting. The name of the game was to get the west shed road (3A to us) cleared and the ex-MR bogie well wagon in so as to lift the cooler off with the forklift. But the well wagon was too far down the siding to access in one go – the headshunt simply isn't long enough. So a simple extraction became a more involved shuffle, and we were barely ready when they arrived.

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After tea we lifted the cooler off, and I pulled the wagons out the way while they backed their van in and loaded the cooler. After goodbyes and guiding them out, the bogie well went back and instead the two conflats, Thelma and Louise, came in and we lifted off the steel sections. though not, as yet the 'first stage' ramp assembly. Andrew resumed fabrication work, this time marking out the two girders and rotabroaching holes through what will be the undersides, to which various legs will be bolted. Next he must tackle the holes for the cross-stretchers, but after a sudden shattering of a 9” cutting disc when a girder he was cutting snagged it, some of the section cutting may get left to others.

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For myself, I was plodding on with some commercial work in between making tea. I managed to resist the urge to paint more of that smelly whipped cream on to the columns (but I will have to get back to it I suppose) and should have made time to get up on the Terrypicker and mount another light or two in the roofspace, but that will have to wait for another day.

So that's about it for this week. I'm hoping for a working party from Tarmac to help progress RS8 and at the end of the week there's some bits and bobs coming in from points south and west, but to find out more, you'll have to came and read for yourself.

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