Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of no fun in the snow

18th March 2018

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Two weeks to Easter and we've snow everywhere.

On Monday afternoon I sent an e-mail to the Sheffield Palletline franchise asking if the Lombardini engine had arrived and if so, why hadn't I been informed? Oh yes, it's here, came the reply within a couple of minutes, but no explanation or apology. So Wednesday I headed over to Sheffield, and they slid the pallet into the back of the van. Somehow I have yet to get a photo of it, but Andrew favours installing it on the low load trailer as a power pack for the winch (and under some circumstances, the neck hydraulics) so we'll have to sort out a few bits, like mountings and such, and get it ready for installation.

Saturday has been planned to get back down to the Colne Valley Railway at Castle Hedingham, to complete the 'A' exam in 14 901 in advance of their diesel gala next weekend. We had interrupted it, you may recall, when we discovered the air filter element had collapsed and partially blocked the air intake. The weather forecast was not brilliant – there had been light snow and the hillsides over the other side of the valley here at Darley Dale were white, but we set off regardless, over to Newark and down the A1/A14, where the overhead signs proclaimed 'severe weather forecast'. We knew all this, more continental European snow was due but not until after 3pm and Andrew confidently thought we'd be finished in plenty of time. Then some way south he remembered he hadn't brought an empty oil drum, he wanted one to drain some excess oil out of the sump and investigate its cause. No matter, I thought, doesn't every heritage railway have 25 litre plastic oil drums lying around?

We got down to Castle Hedingham around 1pm, and drove straight up to where the loco had been when we saw it last, only it wasn't – it had been shunted down to the platform and stood on a rake of Pullman carriages as if waiting for the right away. We signed in and found only 2 volunteers on site, which gave us added impetus to crack on. It was snowing slightly, as Andrew fitted the new air cleaner, using the brass setscrews which I bought specifically for the job seven years ago and had been waiting in a box ever since. For me, as the loco had been moved, it had exposed all the grease nipples I had been unable to reach last time so I worked my way around the running gear.

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At this point I wandered off to find the two volunteers and ask if there was an old oil drum I could scrounge. We went off in search of one but seemingly without any luck – the only oil drums seemed to be those containing unused oil and I was beginning to think we wouldn't be able to sort that, when some sixth sense drew me to their rubbish skip. And there, right on top yet almost hidden by a layer of snow, was a 25 litre screw top drum, which I was happy to prevent going for landfill.

Back at the loco we used the priming pump to lower the sump level and then fired the loco up. Again it ran unevenly and smoked but after a short while it began running on all 8 and later Andrew noticed that injector line A1 was weeping and tightened it up – maybe that was the cause. Andrew went of for a few tools to adjust the throttle air cylinder and its return spring, leaving me to go through the brake test sheet.

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One thing was apparent was that the exhaust pipe was banging the exhaust cowling with monotonous regularity, it's never been quite the same since we had the turbo overhauled. As we wrapped things up it occurred to me to check the rear engine mounting bolts, and sure enough they had slackened. The engine mountings on 14 901 are rigid, and while we have improved them over the rather rough-and-ready engineering it had when we acquired it, the mounting bolts still get a lot of vibration and have become slack before. We ended up tightening all four, 2 on each side, and asking one of their people to check the other mounts, which are only accessible over a pit.

Getting away at about half-three, we spent part of the journey back discussing overhaul alternatives, including whether to swap Voith transmissions between '901 and D9500 (the former being geared for 1800 rev input engines, while the latter is an unknown and still geared for 1500rpm) and at what point in the priority queue does D9500 come in and begin a full base overhaul. As usual, we are being consistent – the queue consistently changes... Meanwhile the snow had started and the gritters seemed to have been caight out - for as we went through Mansfield, with Andrew driving, the traction control warning light was flashing as he put it later, 'like a disco ball' and everyone seemed to want to drive at 20mph, even those in 4x4's. We were planning a return trip to Cottesmore today, but deferred a final decision until eight a.m., and a look out of the window meant it didn't take long to decide that it was a bad idea. There had been upwards of 2 inches overnight and it was still snowing. Instead, we drove down to the shed.

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The IDRPG have been waiting the chance to get 1382 on the Mattersons in order to refit air receivers and brake gear. But the floor painting had taken priority, and having an unexpected day extra we decided it was time to set them back up.

The two Matterson posts at the north end of the shed should be the 'datum' pair, only the two at the Matlock end of the loco needing to move depending on the length of loco concerned. So first task was to position these, but as the crossbeams have for some time been sat in the 4ft with Jack's radiator on top, it required a fair amount of shuffling round with the forklift to access it, and then we had to shift the 'bridge' down in order to get the forklift over to adjust the position of the Matterson post on the footpath side. Then the crossbeam was put in place and the bridge lifted back out again.

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Then the 2 Wickhams, the powered and the un-powered, were lifted off the lines with the forklift, by which time blank floor space in the shed was verging on zero, and 1382 manhandled down onto these two posts. The second two posts now needed positioning just outside the buffer beams, but Jack's power unit was in the way so that had to be moved along a bit. Eventually the second pair of posts were in place, the beam swung into position and then raised up to the lifting brackets ready for a proper lift next week. The two Wickhams were returned to the rails and rolled to where 1382 had been standing. And that, in a few paragraphs, describes what took up most of the day, punctuated by teas, breathers, and other breaks to allow the forklift's exhaust fumes to dissipate.

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At one point Andrew was hoping to do some more cutting on Adolf (he took delivery of a new in-line gas cutting torch this week), but given the hassle of shunting it across, the wind-chill outside and the limited daylight, it got postponed, and we got on with a few incidental tasks before locking up and heading home, noting that whilst much snow had melted, the temperature now at minus 2 had frozen it all up again.

I said last week that a letter signed by Pete Waterman had gone out to all shareholders and Peak Rail Association members and contained a number of serious and potentially damaging errors with regard to me. I had in fact written and e-mailed Dr Waterman to set the record straight, invited him to meet Andrew and me but in any event sought a reply within 7 days. No response has been received and therefore the matter has been passed to specialists in 'reputation management' (to give it the modern euphemism) for them to deal with.

So that's it for this week – a bit shorter than usual but these things happen. Next week the IDRPG are due over and plan to hold their AGM (we've stocked up on chairs!) and no doubt see 1382 lifted. As for anything else, I'm really not sure, so you'll just have to come back and find out then.

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