So one of the early jobs for the beginning of the week was to get down to Wickes and get some more rollers of the correct size. I was hoping to find one of those telescopic towel rails too but although I'm sure I've seen one recently in my travels, I cannot remember exactly where I was. But all this was on Tuesday, which had started off with an unhealthily early start in order to have a blood test at the very unvampire-like hour of 07.40. Regular readers will know that although I am fully aware that I contain quite a lot of blood, I would much rather it stays inside out of sight, so blood extractions are not something I look forward to, let alone the slippy-slidy walk down to the doctor's on a cold and frosty morning. So after extracting the needle and securing a brick-sized piece of cotton wool with 6ft of surgical tape, she asked 'Did you bring a sample?' If I'd been quicker off the mark I'd have pointed out that she'd just taken it, but I was sufficiently awake to realise that she meant a urine sample and no, there'd been no mention of one. So I trotted back home with a small screw-topped pot and a sample bag in my pocket and the promise of something exciting to start my Wednesday morning off with.
But as I say, on Tuesday after breakfast it was off to Sheffield where first stop was Wickes, then the Electrical wholesalers for some bits and bobs, then the pneumatics people whom I remembered stocked nitrile gloves and then, with 15 minutes to spare, I arrived at my dentists, where the car park opposite was surprisingly empty. Or rather I couldn't, for Sheffield City Council had closed the road and was busy tarmaccing it. Said Dentists is quite close to the Northern General Hospital, so the surrounding side streets were chocker. For that matter quite handy is the erstwhile Briddon Towers, but would you believe a separate team had that road closed off and were tarmaccing that too? For the last few years SCC has been giving priority to resurfacing only those roads scheduled into the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race, so draw your own conclusions. Anyway, in desperation I found an on-street parking slot and walked – 8 minutes – back to the Dentist just in time for my appointment. I entered and found it strangely dark, not like them to have subdued lighting, nor turn off the 'soothing' television ads. Then I realised that the only lights were the emergency ones. The power had gone off an hour before. I had a few minutes chat with my Dentist, Simon, as he and his assistant nurse had nothing to do.
That afternoon, a recently de-stitched Andrew and I got down to the shed and put the new roller into action, applying cold tea to the prepared area that was awaiting it. A customer arrived with some brake gear for overhaul, but it was too cold to achieve much more. Andrew did however start preparing tie bars and such for the ramp required for his low load trailer to be able to carry rail vehicles. He also contnued stripping one of the RS8's buffers - the one that Phil G started a couple of weeks ago.
Wednesday, and given that this is Andrew's last week signed off, I took advantage of his presence to drive over and collect the brake cross beams for 1382, which have finally been done. For the uninitiated these are basically 4” square steel bar, drilled through for the pull rods and then the ends turned down into pins to go through the bottom of the hangers. And being 4” solid bar they are heavy. Strangely enough, although the drawing shows the opposite ends to be concentric, our machinists reported they were anything but. This is of no significant detriment – it's not as if the beams go round and round and the geometry of brake rigging, given that the wheelsets the blocks are clinging to move up and down and transversely as the loco goes along – is rather 'loose' but a trifle surprising if the machinists estimates of the centres being up to 8mm offset end to end (and no visible warping) is correct. But either way, we got them into the new van and returned to the shed in rain, so postponed unloading them until it eased. Then we concluded that they were too heavy to manhandle so as the dusk fell, we fired Charlie up and drew everything forward to get the van around the back. The crossbeams were duly slid out the van and up the rails until the shed doors could close behind them, and there they'll stay until the nice, strong IDRPG lads come and pick them up. I then set about applying the first coat of floor paint to the newly sealed area.
At the beginning of the week I'd put an order on the profilers, so Friday morning I headed up their way, but included in my itinerary a trip into the oil suppliers for kerosene for our heater (I thought we were out but as I sorted out a couple of empty drums found we had a full 25 litre one all the time) and a little bit of gas oil for a thirsty James. At the profilers came the first parts for Andrew's planned ramp for the low loader, although this will require much fabrication, probably over Christmas. Finally I managed to find a dealer in s/h circuit breakers and indulged in a bit of horse trading of MCBs for RCBOs.
Saturday, and I had agreed to aid Andrew in getting on with the work on his trailer, which is still in the previous owners yard until ready for its MoT. We didn't get up there until 11am, and it was cold and windy, although the trailer was duly brought into the workshop over a pit, but let's be honest, this is a 'typical' plant yard workshop, no composite cladding, no doors and a muddy concrete floor. Given the efforts we are making to have a clean, dust free work area, I couldn't cope with working in those conditions regularly. Nonetheless we managed to change two air bags and a spray suppression flap, though it did take over three hours rather than Andrew's estimate of two, leaving just a brake hose to change and a wash before it's ready for its foray to Buxton for exam. And it had better pass, because there are already several jobs in prospect for it.
Before we left, we wandered over to look at the two Cummins engines which are part of the deal, and are now extricated from the undergrowth ready for collection. Andrew is quite impressed by the bed frame on one, and thinks we might keep it, with mods for fork-lifting, to aid handling engines at the shed.
Returning to Darley Dale, we had a quick lunch and then got to the shed just on 4pm. Again I set about applying the second coat of paint to the floor, while Andrew progressed a new coat rack. The collection of overalls, jackets and hivi generally always grossly exceeded the hat-stand that Toby brought a year ago: and overalls tossed over chairs make the place look untidy. So behold, the new coat rack, using bits of cut-off rebar left over from the floor reinforcement.
Sunday: Andrew was off for a meeting with a preservation group, so I had an early lunch and headed down to the shed on my own. If it had been brighter, or earlier, I might have started converting certain MCBs on our distribution board to RCBOs, but this is more than a simple replacement, it requires a considerable amount of re-cabling, so instead I had a bonfire outside to sort out rubbish and make the sink corner look more presentable and then on a whim, brought some more insulation in from the Portakabin and finished stuffing up the gap between concrete panel and outside cladding behind the sink and water heater, an area previously none too accessible.
Indeed it became something of a tidy-up day as when Andrew finally made it back with a deal on something else concluded he started getting some aluminium bits ready for weighing in.
Down at Castle Hedingham, 14901 has been performing its Santas duties on the CVR without any issues, underlining that the fuel pump has probably been our single biggest problem for the last 18months or so. Check on You-tube – there are now at least 3 videos of it from last weekend.
Those of my readers who are into Peak Rail shenanigans will recall I had an approach from a person who identified himself with only a Christian name and a declaration that he was a shareholder, but with an e-mail address which curiously pointed to the village where one of Peak Rail's Joint MDs and her daughter are domiciled. I sent the gentleman a copy of the letter that went out to shareholders last October but heard nothing more, making me wonder whether it was the lady herself anxious to get hold of a copy. Well the gentleman re-appeared this week and this time gave me his full name, so at least that one is put to bed. Even now, six weeks after the initial mailing, I am still getting responses from shareholders dismayed by what they had learned and promising support. Our first moves on this issue are imminent and I had a long conversation with one of the WSR Reform group this week to glean some of the lessons learned from that affair. It was amusing to hear from a shareholder that Mrs Statham asserted that she had 'robust defence' against the contents of my shareholders letter. 'Robust defences' feature frequently in the Peak Rail lexicon – sad that the company's management gets itself into such positions as to need one in the first place – the last time I heard it used was at the AGM in June when the Board claimed it had a 'robust defence' against the claim pending from Grinsty – so robust that three months later that same Board accepted a Part 36 offer tabled last March, handed over £130,000 but I gather still have Grinsty's legal costs to pay, said to be accruing interest at around £5 per day. (Interest rates in Court cases are levied at 8%). It is not unreasonable to wonder just how long the long the company can remain solvent, given the outstanding Court costs, its own solicitor fees and now further costs thanks to Grinsty initiating fresh action. Perhaps the 'anonymous benefactor' has a bottomless pocket.
So one more week to Christmas, and a mild one forecast. Andrew's back to work tomorrow, and to think they're giving him a bonus! Many years ago, in Thomas Hill days when they were selling Sentinel diesels, they introduced a system that gave the salesman a bonus for every loco he sold. John MacLagan ('Mac') used to tell me – repeatedly – that a few months in to this scheme he got an order for 10 locomotives – I don't recall whether it was Lackenby or Manchester Ship Canal – and old man Thomas Hill was incensed at the idea of paying Mac 10 bonus- (what's the plural of bonus – boni?) - and killed the whole scheme. He never understood that a bonus scheme is an incentive, but to withdraw it is an even bigger dis-incentive.
Ah well, I'll be here next week as usual. If you can spare a minute from stuffing brussel sprouts into your socks and setting off smoke alarms with your flaming pudding, you know where to find me.