Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of being cut down to size

4th March 2018

OK, I admit there's been a bit of snow this week. Three or four inches judging by the layers on cars and locos and such.

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I had planned to get out first thing Monday before the 'Beast from the East' (or the 'Hysteria from Siberia' as it got called for the first day or two) swept in but ended up waiting to go to the Doctor's instead – back on steroids for the week. Then it was down to the shed to await a customer, so while I was sitting around I ordered up the replacement air cleaner matrix for 14 901 from Cummins. That arrived Tuesday, the TNT man knocking us up as we'd over-slept. But the snow had arrived and to some extent I've hibernated, but then with month end and various jobs to do with regard to the Peak Rail Action Group I had plenty of excuses not to stray too far from the front door step.

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Andrew and I did pop down to the shed late one afternoon to check all was OK, and to my relief it was comparatively warm inside the shed thanks to the insulation in the walls and the insulating effects of the snow. It had blown from the east, with the result that several vehicles, like to PCV, had snow on the builders merchants side but the footpath side was bereft. Given that I had only put temporary glazing in the cab of the footpath side, which thus kept the wind-blown snow out of the cab, this was fortunate.

In contrast to the efficiency of Cummins, I had the TNT man back twice on Wednesday. Late on Monday a customer came on in urgent need of some parts. Too late to do anything, I had got on to a supplier first thing Tuesday and arranged for them to be sent direct, and told the customer to his relief, that he'd have them by noon on Wednesday. But then the nice TNT man arrived first thing Wednesday morning with the parts here in Derbyshire! I got on to the supplier, and a couple of hours later he was back to uplift them, telling tales of villages he couldn't get to, and businesses which were closed when he managed to fight his way there. Unfortunately my parts should have been in Scotland, and given that the weather really closed in that night, I still don't know if they've even made it, or whether anyone was there to accept!

After the drama of not selling the old van last week, it was re-listed on e-bay after a day or two and towards the end of the week a fresh bid was accepted. Hopefully that will be resolved and depart shortly.

And so it gets around to Saturday, and slight signs of a change in the weather. Andrew wanted to make a start on Adolf but the forecast for Sunday (temperatures well above freezing) sounded more hopeful so when we got down we bunged the space heater on and largely stayed inside. I compared the new air cleaner matrix with the old one (to check it was the same) then destroyed the old one, presenting its metal parts to the scrap bin and taking the paper element in the direction of the bonfire. Which seemed like a good excuse, so emptied it out, filled it with paper element, bits of rubbish Wickham floorboarding, etc and had a nice warming bonfire outside, just missing a few horse chestnuts or a slice of bread for toast. Peak Rail had already abandoned services for the weekend and we had the whole area pretty much to ourselves. Except part way through we had one of our occasional visitors, our man from GCR Ruddington, and we compared notes on personnel we all knew, friends who'd fallen out, the opinion of the railway managements, and all the usual gossip to while away an hour over a cuppa.

Once he'd headed off, I had a few electrical jobs to do, and assisted Andrew in stripping a supercharger, but towards half five we called it a day.

Sunday, and despite plans for an early start, it was noon before we arrived at the shed, but in noticeably warmer air. While Andrew dragged the gas bottles outside, I fired up Charlie and put James to one side, then shunted Adolf out of track 1 and brought it back to the shed. With Adolf being about 3metres wide, this was done with some delicacy, as some of the clutter we have accumulated on site is rather close to things that are UK standard width, let alone something with another 200mm on each side, but it sailed by without touching anything, just.

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My role for the afternoon became something of a minder. Monitoring Andrew's safety, checking the gas pressures, popping into the shed for a widget or such, and of course Chief Tea-maker. Oh, and recording progress.

Last time I had a hand in this job (that is to say, narrowing a Hunslet BAOR frame from German width to UK width) it was for a commercial rebuild for Alstom's test track. I had contractors do the work over a weekend, but in their case I stipulated that they cut the entire step assembly at each corner out as cleanly as possible, move it back 200mm and re-weld it there.

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But I have never liked the Hunslet step design. Being a piece of folded diamond pattern tread plate which forms both step and riser, the radius at the corner of the step becomes very slippery, so we'd had decided that rather than muck about, we'd manufacture new step assemblies in due course. Then it becomes a matter of how best to cut it out, given its weight and areas of restricted space. After a joint discussion the first stage was to get rid of the 'orrible steps.

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Then Andrew decided he wanted to tackle the rear buffer beam, which took some time and doesn't look very pretty, but is actually cut away a bit too much so it can be dressed and a strip welded over the edge to make it look presentable when we're finished.

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The square hole in the back (behind where the steps were) was for shunters' recess lights, which I had to extract first. (Considering my normal experience of metric nuts after thirty years, they came apart quite easily but the loco has a number of holes from its earlier incarnation that directed drips of melted snow down my neck while I was underneath.)

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After the back plate had been removed, there was nothing for it but to tackle the sandbox. The weld between it and the side skirt turned out not to be a neat fillet but a rough fillet beautified with filler which doesn't cut well with gas. But once through Andrew worked his way around, even going behind, with most of the hot sparks going into the sandbox. Eventually we cut a notch in the top, so that a crow bar could be got in to encourage separation. Again it doesn't look pretty (it isn't even cut far enough back here yet) but starts to clear the dross out of the way.

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By now the day was drawing in and it was raining – and there was much less snow than there had been yesterday. Indeed, from time to time we'd hear a 'whomp' preceded by a sliding noise as another avalanche slid down from the roof and landed on the ground alongside. We returned inside for another tea, put the heater back on to keep us warm, whilst waiting for things outside to cool, then shunted Adolf back over to track 1 and put James and Charlie in their usual places.

For the moment, the plan is to repeat the exercise with the front steps on that side, then build up the new steps and sandboxes before tackling the left hand side, so that we can maintain access to the loco in the interim. Meanwhile Andrew is muttering about picking which 14 litre Cummins to prepare for it and getting the 2-speed Twin Disc transmission (one of the originals, but not that fitted to this particular loco, and the same as that fitted to 03 901) tested and brought back ready for installation. Which probably means it's time for me to open the CAD files and start drawing bits up.

As for this week, Andrew has a meeting booked on Tuesday to resolve uplifting his former National Collection wagon which has been awaiting 'urgent removal' for several years, but work may take precedence so I may yet find myself deputising for him. Apart from that, in about a week's time Tunstead should have finished its annual shutdown and they'll be expecting me back with my 'RS8 reassembly manual'. So I'm going to have to spend some time banging a keyboard again. Then there's that Lombardini engine to collect, which may be in Sheffield at Palletline or stuck in a snowdrift somewhere – I haven't heard. Oh and collect grandson on Friday. Still, at least I won't get bored (or rich).

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