So the alarm clocks at the Briddon Country Pile were sounding at 05.30 on Monday morning, but although Steph and I got up, Andrew was not fully-functional until nearly an hour later and it was about 7 a.m. before we had grabbed a few things from the shed and hit the road. Our target was just south of Oswestry, not far from Llynclys, and according to the Satnav in Andrew's company car it would take two hours, so took us on an interesting route which included the edges of Stoke on Trent and Market Drayton. It actually took 2 hours 40, and as we finally arrived at the south end of the Oswestry by-pass we spotted the two wagons of Reid Freight swinging around the roundabout ahead of us. In consequence we all arrived together at about 10 o'clock.
There waiting us was Andy H, who has shocked us all by deciding to emigrate to North Wales. He had driven over from Blaenau via Bala and Llangynog. After a slight delay gaining access to site, the two lorries started to get themselves into position.
You may recall that the two locos were placed ready in early May, with operational Hudswell 'Claire' leading the engine-less 'Hunguard' (actually this loco, or least its chassis, has been referred to as Adolf ever since its repatriation from Germany in the '90s). With limited space available and even more complications about unloading both locos, Andrew had devised a plan whereby a low loader with sloping rail deck acts as a ramp for the first loco, which then passes over the back and on to a second trailer butted up to it. We did something similar when coming out of Scunthorpe a year ago, but that was with the late-lamented Heanors: this was the first time we'd tried it with Reids.
But in a sense it wasn't. The 5 axle 'bogie' that would carry Claire was in fact the same 5 axles that carried RS8 and another loco into Darley Dale last year, Reid's had bought it at the auction in March. The only difference was the blue Cometto neck – which was longer, but let's not worry about that right now. Andrew was more concerned that the 6 x 4 tractor unit with HIAB he'd expected had been replaced with an 8x4, as we needed the HIAB to lift the ramp into place at Darley.
Andrew had thought we wouldn't need to start Claire, we'd left everything ready in position, but a reality check with the two big rigs showed that we needed to back up a bit to give the lead tractor space to disconnect and move aside. So I fired Claire up and moved the pair a little further west.
In the 4 months that the pair have been waiting, they have been visited it seems. Two cab windows on Adolf had been broken, the front left had a hole in it, which we judged might have been a shot-gun or other firearm as the rear centre window was completely smashed and outwards over the fuel tank. Headlights had been broken, one codelight stolen and another detached. Subsequent photos we've seen show that this took place around June. Not even Claire was completely unscathed, although in its case only the radiator cap had been removed, which Andy H found a hundred yards away. All in all, it was time the two locos departed.
Once the ramps and trailers were all ready, I brought Claire up to the bottom with Adolf on the 3-link behind. The winch rope was attached, I left Claire's clutch in and engine running to ease the load (but not try to overtake) and we ascended. When we reached the point where Adolf needed to be, we stopped to uncouple.
That was the first snag, because of different levels and angles the 3-link was taught and couldn't be undone. After spending some time trying to detach Claire's 3 link from the hook, the locos were lowered slightly until the chain could be slackened, another securing chain used to hold them together, and the winch took us back up again. As he was at the front and facing forwards, Simon Reid driving the 5 axle trailer moved away without difficulty, but after connecting the other tractor unit back to its trailer (still not easy as the ground had been churned up and was slippy) it managed to move Adolf back out and turn, with Andrew operating the rear wheel steering.
We bade farewell to Llanyblodwell, or whatever you choose to call it. Andy H took up an invitation to head up to Nantmawr quarry and have a ride on Mark H's monorail circuit, which has been assembled since our visit in May, but we had no time and a not-inconsiderable thirst, so drove through Knockin to Nesscliff services, and sat enjoying a tea as the two locos went by. We overtook them on the M54 by Telford, and went ahead.
So there we were sat with another tea and piece of cake awaiting a train at Leicester services, and what do you know but two come at once. The low loader with Adolf parked up and the driver came to assist Simon.
This whole shindig was being sponsored by UK Rail Leasing. Andrew has friends there and had agreed to lend them Claire for a while as using a class 56 as a shunter was neither economic nor environmentally-friendly when the smoke and noise result in complaints from the nearby school. But the road access to the depot – just north of Leicester station – needs either a loco that can sneek under a low bridge or can turn almost on a sixpence to come through streets of terraced housing with parked cars on either side. The 5 axle bogie fulfilled the latter requirement, but needed a ramp, and Reid's had sent in theirs on a HIAB fitted flatbed.
Just before we'd left Llanyblodwell, Claire's engine had started hunting badly and we'd feared that maybe an injector had stuck. When I came to start it to get it off the lorry, the engine died after 10 or 15 seconds. At this point I lifted the removable panel in the floor and realised that the two fuel lines (the converter is still fuel-fed for the present) appeared to have their taps in the shut position. In other words, Claire had been running for almost 2 hours with no fuel other than was in the 1 gallon float-tank. Andrew came and confirmed my diagnosis (we didn't remember turning them off in May but must have done) and after a bit of cranking, the engine fired up and maintained a steady rpm.
Darkness was falling as Claire took up a berth surrounded by 56s, 37s and 47s. As Brush have an identical loco in a similar shade of green, we wonder how long it will be before some innocent declares that Brush have lent/sold theirs to UKRL! (There are already pictures of it on Flickr!) We took our leave and headed home, but Simon was not finished, as back at Leicester Forest the 5 axle was backed up to the low loader and Adolf winched from one to the other.
We were a little pooped on Tuesday morning but were down at the shed for quarter to eight. The locos were drawn back and the Conflats brought over. In due course Simon arrived with the 5 axle followed by the HIAB-fitted flatbed, deputising for the missing HIAB tractor. The flatbed headed in first. Simon now demonstrated his handling abilities backing in to the yard. But with the longer Cometto neck and 8 x 4 tractor it wasn't easy and took over quarter of an hour – some car-drivers being less than amused.
Before we got on with unloading we stopped for a cuppa, and I accidentally gave Simon his tea in a Calkeld Heavy Haulage mug! He saw the funny side and who knows, maybe we'll get a Reid Freight mug in due course!
The flatbed parked next to the Conflats and lifted the ramp sections over and on to the track at the other side (it still had the Reid ramp on board but for reasons I won't bore you with, we couldn't use it). The 5 axle was backed up and aligned – and at this moment BSS turned up with all that pipe I was telling you about. I was deputed to deal with him, so missed the actual unloading of Adolf, but our ramp came through its first test satisfactorily, although there are a number of improvements to see through before we use it again.
Andrew and I had been discussing Adolf in the car on Monday. The chassis, being one of a class of loco once described by an MoD engineer as 'the most unreliable locos the MoD had ever bought', has done very little mileage – under 2000 in fact. The superstructure is off a Vanguard, so fits UK load gauge (which the original Hunslet cab never would) so aside from cutting the running plates and buffer beams down to UK width, a considerable part of the envisaged loco exists. We have an engine, radiator and transmission. We have a transmission cooler (maybe the 99p one), air and vac equipment, air filters and the like. Given that it will have a top speed of 40mph and the running gear to suit, Andrew thinks it's worth making an early start on it, but bowled me a wobbly by asking if we could go for a flexibly-mounted cab to give the noise levels compatible with more modern locos. I suppose it might even be time to rig up that multiple-unit system so that it can operate with the PCV. Not that the chassis is entirely ready for use – cutting the sides down loses us both the step and sandbox assemblies, and Andrew plans a set of steps more akin to Vanguard practices (the Hunslet steps are simply folded chequer plate which gives a rounded tread-edge which can be slippery, and Vanguard steps, like Hudswell's, used a open-mesh bottom step to scrape dirt off your boots as you step on) but certainly we shouldn't need to take the wheelsets out.
Saturday saw a contingent from the IDRPG arrive – Toby, Stephen and Jagger initially, then Andy H augmenting the numbers. While they concentrated on progressing 1382 – fitting dynamo, water pump and such – Andrew and I took time out to install the main length of ¾ inch bore pipework down the main line side of the shed to become the water feed down to the front. Using girder and pipe clamps, we assembled 6.5metre lengths of galvanised pipe plus the bends at the ends. There was no point in going much further – I don't possess a tap yet – and Andrew has agreed that that essential item can stay inside the shed as bringing it outside would be fairly complicated, given the shed construction, but that it must have some means of catching any drips.
Although the razor wire and CCTV, plus the two lads who were visited by the Police, has reduced the unwelcome visitors to the site, this has not stopped our intention to upgrade the CCTV and for some weeks a high-resolution camera has been awaiting fitting. Andrew decided it was time to upgrade one of the lower resolution cameras with the new one and as I do not have a good head for heights, Andy H took over the ladder. Part way through two enthusiasts waved from the gate – Colin G and Terry, up from Somerset had stopped off and received my guided tour and pushed our teapot capacity to the limit. The new camera has substantially improved the image but does give a slight distortion to the horizon – Andy also applied the insecticide to the cameras to see if it repels the spiders. The low res camera will be deployed in another location shortly.
We had intended to head down to the Colne Valley Railway today to get 14901's pump back on, but the van's Engine management warning flagged up again so the trip was abandoned. By the time I had organised lunch it was early afternoon when we got down to the shed. Andrew decided that he wanted to get the 1inch bore pipework up the other side of the building that will carry compressed air. The principle was the same as the water pipe on the other side, malleable iron saddle clamps held to Lindapter girder clamps with M10 studs, but unlike the water pipe which is intended to have one point of entry and exit at the other, this air main will have a couple of branches feeding filter/regulators, so most of the pipes had to be cut to suit. The filter/regulators are ex-BAOR loco units, but Andy H had presented us with another regulator that Andrew had no use for but which will be utilised for the shotblast cabinet. As assembling the pipes is a two-man job, I was unable to get started on anything else, but did start to take a detailed look over Adolf, after all, it has been over a decade since I tacked the superstructure down to the running plate with the intention of making it look presentable for transport.
We had a quick conference outside by the loco discussing where and how to cut the various bits. Andrew favours a plasma cutter, possibly one capable of cutting through the 50mm thick buffer beams and stretchers underneath. But we may yet do it all with gas. The continental code lights are coming off – they straddle where the cut will be made and I've always thought them completely inappropriate on a UK loco. So I decided to start removing them. The front LH one had a lens missing, but as I removed the bottom lamp assembly to get at the fixing bolts, I did not expect to find what was inside. It was well filled with soft greenery as clearly some small bird had been using it as a nest. And small it must have been to have squeezed through the hole in the reflector where the bulb holder protruded. But it cannot have been a successful enterprise, for in a small depression in the back corner was a number of tiny eggs, white with brown speckles. Andrew has said I can convert one of these lamp housings into a nest box, 're-purposing' it as they say on Salvage Dawgs.
Anyway, Andrew has persuaded me that he wants a 'conventional' Vanguard cab layout with desk set toward the front, so the cab will need to be positioned farther back, hopefully sufficient without impairing the rear walkway, while in return he has agreed to the in-principle shortening of the rear casing section by 300-400mm so as to enable a front walkway too. The loco has standard UIC buffers and drawgear, the latter's spring units stretching much farther back into the loco than is the case with British drawhooks. Consequently the front of the loco is 'out of bounds' for mechanical bits so there should be little or no reason for equipment to go there. It may be that the superstructure will come off quite soon to clear the deck for the trimming. Given that we have a transmission as well as engine(s) allocated, it may soon come in to the shed so that the power train can be trialled in place.
This must be the first week in ages that I haven't mentioned RS8 – oh dear now I have. I have been to-ing and fro-ing about the new oiler pads for the axleboxes, but that has been about it and I imagine I'll be getting a chase-up call from Tunstead shortly.
So there we are for another week. My thanks to those various correspondents who have been in touch during the week – I seldom put up Readers' comments but nevertheless I get them and usually respond. Ah well, back to it.