Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of auctions and actions

8th May 2011

The overlap between my activities with Andrew and commercial work has been extensive again this week. It was after all, Andrew’s acquisition of the re-railing jacks from Doncaster that enabled me to broker the deal that saw the East Anglian Railway Museum acquire the Plasser crane, and while I was there putting the engine back in, I’d had a chance to have a quick look at more bits coming up for auction. So it was that on Wednesday I back yet again in Doncaster, “officially” inspecting the lots of an on-line auction due to close on Friday.

Friday morning therefore, was allotted a dash round West and South Yorkshire collecting overhauled lift pump, profiles and other sundries, before taking up my place on Andrew’s computer with a list of lots he would like to get and, mostly, guide maximum prices. The site was not e-bay for once, and works slightly differently – instead of automatically ramping up your bid as others come in, you make a bid rather as in a traditional auction, but if anyone bids in the last ten minutes, the auction automatically extends ten minutes on. So I was saved the frantic dash around the keyboard to get my bid in in the last 15 seconds, and instead sat there with a clipboard logging how other bids were and calmly watching the ones Andrew was after. Calmly, yes, but Andrew had hoped to pick up a few starter motors and maybe an alternator, but these rapidly moved way over his maxima and I began to worry that we may be completely unsuccessful, or I would have to ignore his prices and ‘go for it’ – a worrying decision when, for once , I was spending HIS money rather than he mine! I need not have worried – one of his “must gets” was one or more radiators, and out of the four offered, I secured three at less than the prices he had set, and a smattering of other lots with useful goodies – for him or me – made me reasonably content with my efforts, as was Andrew.

Part way through I was interrupted by a phone call – the second or third in as many days – lamenting a major burglary at Long Marston one night at the beginning of the week, which has seen much copper (cable, radiator elements, etc) taken from both the Stratford & Broadway Rly Soc shed and commercially stored vehicles. Andrew used to have many of his locos there – I am relieved that we moved out several years ago. The price of s/h copper is now so ludicrously high that the activities of those for whom private property is no impediment should be a concern of all preservation groups, especially those with diesel electrics!

The "heart" of the Plasser crane is this Dorman V8 - the lift pump is attached to the fuel pump which is right in the centre of this picture...

Anyway, the quid pro quo was that on Saturday Andrew and I meandered down to Chappel & Wakes Colne armed with the repaired and fully-functioning lift pump for the Plasser crane. Fitting the pump back into the vee of the engine was an exercise of delicacy in confined spaces – oh and a bit of blue language – but eventually it was on, the compressor refitted, the cooling system filled and the crane fired up – for about two minutes. This was exactly what I’d had at Doncaster, so it seemed that although the lift pump was in need of TLC it had not been the root cause. That only left a Swiss-made priming pump, and having fitted another later pump, I removed the original and replaced it with a 3/8 BSP sleeve. Bingo! Off went the crane and although air pressure was still not rising like it should, Andrew proceeded to test its various slew, teleport and hoist functions to the assembled multitudes. Satisfied that it was on its way to full health, we ate a celebratory Ginster’s pasty and headed back north.

Swan necks look so much better than malleable elbows, don't you think?

Sunday: Surfacing late, we headed over to Rowsley. The swan necks had been machined during the week, so Andrew set up the pipes to which they were to fit and posed them for my pictures, though they are off again now and back at Briddon Towers for painting. “Charlie” was in operation shunting a flat wagon with sleepers on for Matlock platform road – “Charlie” was first across the Rubicon it seems when it ventured off Peak Rail metals onto the Network Rail sidings at Matlock, the connection having been signed off. In a few days working parties will be laying the platform road at Matlock so “Charlie’s” headlamp bulbs are to be checked! I have demanded proof – nothing less than a photo of “Charlie” outside Sainsbury’s!

Shunters bask in the sun as Roger Hallat drives "Charlie" around Rowsley.

Andrew then disappeared into the VBA to sort out more space that may be required for parts arising from Doncaster, leaving me to potter about on “Pluto”. I did start drilling out the cable lugs that need larger holes for the new master switch, but nearly injured a thumb when the drill grabbed and decided that new lugs would be a wiser investment. Amongst the profiles picked up last Friday were the pad to hold the exhauster mounting bracket, and the parts that will form the two driver’s vac brake valve dummies – one of these was drawn to fit existing holes for the dummy which I removed about 17 years ago: both this, and the exhauster pad, lined up perfectly – a relief after my minor clanger on “Tom”!

The old Enfield enclosure is now fuel tank (right) and battery box.

When I removed the old Enfield-driven exhauster from “Pluto” in 1993 or thereabouts I filled the “lean-to” enclosure with the fuel tank (displaced from the cab where spillage could lead to slippery floor plates) and the batteries. The casing section over the fuel tank I modified by securing the outer casing and just leaving the hinged roof section – the battery half I left as Mr Hibberd intended. But I was never happy with it and today decided that it was time to do something about it. So both the casing sides are now permanently fixed, which will make sealing the area around the battery switch that much easier and more effective, and just leaves the hinged tops free. It also released a couple of the obsolete door catches used by Mr Hibberd – the knobs then used to replace others and the mechanisms put into store for future repairs. With a few more holes drilled ready for the brake valve brackets, Andrew decided it time to call it a day, though on his return he disappeared into the garage to continue the rebuild of a 3 pot exhauster ready to go on to the 03.

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