Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of chickens and eggs

18th February 2018

Slightly fewer miles this week, so slightly less fatigued. Migraines temporarily averted. No need to go to Tunstead. Has it been a holiday? Naah..

We had hoped for Jagger to be joining us for the week, but having had car problems for the first few days it was to be Thursday before he finally made it across to the Briddon Country Pile and I could set him loose on stripping the Wickham.

In the meantime, amongst other things, the additional two 50W LED floodlamps arrived (unfortunately on a day when Grandson was expecting a generous gift organised by Jennifer, so he tore into the package to discover it wasn't the Lego Dimensions characters he was expecting!) and I stopped off with the preliminary axle drawing for costing at the firm where those 2ft diameter wheels are. And if that makes no sense you are either a relatively new reader or have a short memory, for they have been sat waiting for a long time. So long in fact, that it took me a while to find the blog entry, back in July 2013.

So, nearly 5 years on, and two pieces of recovered axle steel later, and I am handing the drawing for machining them over to see about getting them assembled back as wheelsets once again. Some projects seem to go on forever.

Thursday came around and Jagger finally arrived to do what was left of the week on the Wickham, And he made a creditable start, especially since he was working on it pretty well on his own, and not much of it has been apart since it was built, well, not in the last 20-25 years, anyway.

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But, just as we were about to get down to the shed on Friday morning, news came through that his Grandmother had had been taken ill, so he dropped everything and returned home. Hopefully he will be back some time this week, as his boots and overalls are still in the shed.

That left me at a bit of a loose end on Friday, the more so because an old friend had indicated he was up north at a meeting which ought to be finished about noon, and could he stop off as he travelled south? Naturally I agreed, and reckoning that he might be there as early as 2pm, was on site at one-thirty. Rather than get into anything too serious, I tend to start pottering on these occasions, so began by emptying the van (a pallet full of bits from Thursday, plus some bits from Tuesday I'd collected and forgotten were still in) then opened up the container and moved various things like starter motors, lengths of heavy cables, etc in there out the way and off the shed floor. It was time for another bonfire too, especially as Jagger's ministrations with the Wkm the previous day had yielded up a quantity of timber with little use other than firewood. It tidied things up a bit but got me nowhere nearer meeting up with my friend, the phone remaining silent.

It was ten-to-five, as I was literally locking the gates, that he reported he was just setting off, his meeting have lasted far longer than expected. I popped home, had tea, and Steph and I returned just as he arrived. Of course it was pitch black, so an outside tour of the yard was out of the question (he has promised to return in daylight) but at least we could show him around the Geoffrey Briddon Building and ply him with tea and Steph's home-cooked buns. Alas, it didn't sweeten him up enough, and although he has filler caps suitable for RS8's fuel tanks, we are still a long haggle-way apart.

Saturday, and Steph and Andrew had to return Grandson leaving me a quiet day alone at the shed. It was, indirectly, a frustrating one. I was woken up one morning (at 04.45 to be precise) by a text message from someone wanting to view the old van, which is currently listed on e-bay. He proposed Saturday, which I had hoped to keep clear, but never mind. On Saturday morning I texted to see if he was still coming and got a 'Maltock m8' in reply (for those not into 'text speak', m8 is of course 'mate' and Maltock is presumably a typo for 'Matlock' or it may be some other abbreviation for 'don't be silly I was pi**ed when I first texted you, why else would I send it at 4.45 in the morning?') and that was the last I heard.

But I had the fun of watching Peak Rail trains go by on the first day of the 2018 season, with newly-arrived Austerity NCB 72 on hire. For myself, having done a little more tidying and removed a couple of bits from the Wickham (and bless old Mr Whitworth, those nuts and bolts will undo) it occurred to me that James hadn't been run for a month and so I started up Charlie, moved it aside and then started up James and used it to bring 03 901 across to the shed. For it was a pleasant – one might say spring-like - day and not one to spend entirely indoors.

When the 03 was last run, (bringing 'Doncaster' down from Rowsley) it had shown up that the rear code light boxes weren't working and that there was a significant air leak from the air pipe where it entered the gearbox cylinder to engage reverse. (Actually, I had these faults at Longcross last year but I had forgotten.) To investigate them meant having the floor up, and being a trifle damp (not to mention oil impregnated thanks to the activities of certain un-invited guests last summer) it took a few minutes to prize the boards up. The electrical fault was easy – the common neg had somehow come out of the choc block, so that was remade, tightened up and boxed back off. The gearbox air pipe though was different. It ended in a standard nut and olive fitting, but the pipe was free to rattle, not within the olive but the olive within the fitting. I suppose in hindsight I might have shortened the old pipe, put a fresh olive on and succeeded in sealing it, but I tend not to think that way. Rather put on a standard fitting to get into 8mm OD plastic pipe and expected to join it at the next union upstream.

But whatever Swindon used in the 50s was a new one on me. Given the popularity of Ermeto in that decade it could be one of theirs, but the next union turned out to be a special flat-faced fitting brazed onto the end of the pipe, and its mating cap nut defied all known threads. It was certainly much finer than BSP (hence the mind thinking Ermeto) and in the end I cut it farther back, made up a fresh union with an Enots fitting and 5/16 OD olive, through an adaptor and back into a plastic pipe fitting. Messy, but saved dis-abling the loco when there is a hint that it might be required shortly, or removing all the pipework back to the gearchange valve where it will have a conventional BSP port.

IMG 4018 blog

That of course meant an excuse to test my work, so the 03 was fired up and driven up and down, pausing while a PR train passed by. Nothing is ever simple though – curing the gearbox air leak made another leak under the desk much more audible (identified for tackling next) and although the code light boxes came back on, the red on one side won't light up. And the gearbox reverse detection light won't illuminate. So the 03 may be coming back over for some more tlc this week.

While I was in the midst of this, I got a shock when Dom B appeared out of nowhere, seeking loan of a pry-bar. Always happy to oblige PR volunteers, I gave him a choice of 3 and he went off content.

I also made my way into the HATRAMM cab (it's been securely chained since last summer) as one of the drop-slide windows had dropped and I felt it time I investigated just how much damage had been sustained internally, as for some time a spare relay had been lying on the deck where an un-invited guest had dropped it. I got the droplight closed and hopefully secure, but it does not seem that they did anything serious inside, even though the electrical panels were open.

Amongst the little snag jobs inside, although the junction box in the corner where Row A lights separate has at last been lidded, there was an earth connection projected to the adjacent column which had never been made off, so I drilled a fresh hole through the column, combining the earth strap with an additional brace for the cable tray, and then added some more tie-wraps above the water heater where some of the cables had dropped down onto the purlin below.

Talking of electricity, there has been another minor skirmish with Peak Rail management this week. Back in June 2015, we were suddenly served with an electricity bill from PR. At the time, we had no meter (remiss of me with hindsight) so had no figures to dispute it, but as our only supply was a single-phase one to the Portakabin (we had no roof on the shed then) and used a portable generator a portion of the time in the shed area, our usage had been minimal. So we were somewhat surprised to be presented with a charge of just under £300 + VAT, being, it was stated, half the total bill for Darley Dale station for the previous 6 months. Quite how the station could get through nearly £600 of electricity was another matter, though the fact that the heaters in the 'conference room' next to us had been turned on after a pipe-burst in January to dry the place out and were still blasting out heat in a heat-wave in June might have contributed. Granted we did have a dimplex heater in the Portakabin, but it was set just to protect against frost. (Why were their heaters still on in June? The Peak Railway Association-owned Conference Room gets little or no use nowadays. In fact, there was a break-in last April which resulted in 3 broken windows which have never been repaired.).

So we asked to see sight of the bill, and the request was ignored. In the end, on advice, we paid it on account and installed a meter, dutifully recording our use every few months.

Wind the clock forward to February 2017, and a meter reading at 31st December was demanded. We advised that up to 11th December (the quarterly anniversary of the meter installation, i.e over some 18 months) we had used around £50/worth and considered that we were well in credit. We heard no more about it. Now this month we again get a demand for an electricity reading as at 31st December, and we again pointed out that our reading date is historically on the 11th. By now we have two meters and are making better use of the facilities, but our total consumption over two-and-a-half years is still only amounts to about £127 (at a generous rate of 14p/kw/hr) so we still consider ourselves to be much in credit, against the £350 paid in June '15.

This time we did hear more about it – Peak Rail proceeded to bill us the entire 2.5 year use figure as at 11th December, notwithstanding what we consider a gross over-charge paid on account. We have responded with a Debit Note to adjust it and we'll see what transpires. Financing the on-going litigation and boiler repairs for 'Royal Pioneer' combined with the usual lean-period as the Santas proceeds are spent up might explain it.

At last Andrew was back with me today, which for starters meant that I could get up on the Terrypicker and change out that defective 50W floodlight. Having done so I opened up the old one, and apart from finding 3 of the cover screws are tapped into sheet metal and the 4th nutted (thinks – could it have been opened up before?) proved that the voltage regulator inside (these units can run on any voltage from 110 to about 250) is a sealed, encapsulated, can't do a thing if it goes kaput type. I might have a play with it out of curiosity – certainly they are too cheap to bother trying to get 'repaired', but a shame just to bin – er, recycle.

Andrew spent some time at the top corner of the shed on the planned water pipe which will be where the pressure washer or steam cleaner take their supply. The route of the pipework to the down pipe will be a little convoluted, but the down-pipe itself needs to be in place first and the clamps we have in stock are of two types, and the ones he'd initially used were too loose to clamp the pipe. They'd be fine as overhead hangers, but not on the vertical. So today he's changed them to the other type, which do better but need greater effort in fixing them to the door column, especially as access to the other side isn't possible.

While he was at this I had popped out to get something from the van when I saw someone leaning over the level crossing gate trying to photograph the locos. I wandered up and he asked if he could take a few pictures. I invited him in. Darren, it transpired, works for the Highways, for when he saw 1382, lettered 'Colsterworth Mines', he asked if this was 'Colsterworth, as on the A1'. I assured him it was.

As we toured outside he paused by Adolf and pointed at the german lettering on the rear side skirt. 'How long has this loco been here?' he asked excitedly. 'Since last September', I replied. 'Did it spend a night at Leicester Forest services?'

It seems Darren had come to work at the depot on the Services that morning and found a loco sat on a trailer in the HGV park, but was unable to find out what it was or where it was going, despite research. Now, 5 months later, he recognised the German markings and all was revealed. Subsequently he has forwarded me a copy of the picture he took, still dark, with Adolf on the modular (so this was after it had been transferred from the low load trailer it had travelled over on from Oswestry and before Simon Reid had set off or Darley Dale).

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The sand-blasted parts for RS8 got attention from Andrew with red-oxide primer. We are aiming to get buffers and other such components ready to go up to Tunstead rather than pass over additional tasks for their volunteers. Which reminds me, I must get back to that long and wearisome job of planning out the restoration – a sort of 'RS8 for Dummies'. I had a commercial job to get finished and also set about replacing another of the broken windows from last May/June, this time on a customer's gronk. That still leaves Tom's side sliding window to attend to, and the other (sheltered) side of the PCV cab.

As usual we ended the day discussing quite which project is to get priority. Yes, there is good reason to progress Adolf, but having the HATRAMM operational would ease a lot of our material handling issues, such as placing things like Adolf's cab and casings for sand-blasting. It becomes a chicken and egg situation. We have spent many, many man hours progressing the shed to make the work go more expeditiously – at what point do we say 'that's it, now let's get on with that work'? Apart from accepting that there are simply not enough hours in the day, there was no earth-shattering conclusion – yet. But it would not surprise me if the circuit diagrams for the HATRAMM are once again being researched before long to figure out what was preventing us getting throttle control. And once we have that, travel and hydraulics won't be far behind.

Oh, a service announcement. For technical reasons which I won't bore you with (and because I'd probably get it wrong) the 'movies' section has been suspended for the moment. So no need to e-mail me to say it's not working!

There is though something in the offing this week. Won't trail it here and now, you'll just have to come and read for yourself. You know you want to.

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