Monday, and as usual I was up to Tunstead to progress RS8. It's startling to think that it is nearly 12 months since this project got started, and this was brought home because, for the moment, we need to tidy up and vacate our space in the Sigma6 workshops because it is the quarry's annual maintenance shutdown. But there's a week left before that, so instead we dragged down the second tank and started to process that.
It has been several weeks since the driving wheelset had the loose crankpin replaced, and although it is probably as rock solid (I should say that in a quarry) as it will ever be, we wanted to have the back of the pin welded to the sleeve in the cast wheel centre as 'belt and braces'. Finally last Monday this got done, so the drive axle is now ready to have the gearbox reassembled.
Meanwhile over in the fabrication area, we commandeered a couple of workbenches and Jack N measured up and guillotined some pieces to refill the holes we had cut in the tank to extricate all the ballast and muck. Meanwhile Liam started cutting matching apertures in the second tank so that we could extract the ballast etc from that one in the same way. Incidentally, one of my readers took me to task last week, saying that it didn't look anything like 'half a bucket-full' that we extracted from tank No.1. So this week I took a genuine bucket and once Liam had cut the holes, we scooped out enough to half-fill the aforementioned bucket.
One of the issues with these tanks I will have to address is the fuel filler caps. According to the drawings, they had a puccah chromed spring cap that was anchored to the thread on the end of the pipe. The obvious answer is a replacement cap that screws to the thread. But the thread is worn and damaged, and is, of all things 3.5 inch BSP. Yes, there is such a thread, but it is scarcely in use today, and although I think I know who manufactured the original, they certainly aren't made now. I might be able to buy something that would look half-decent at 3 inch BSP, so maybe a machined adaptor that fits into the top of the filler pipe and is welded there might be a solution.
Finishing tank No.2 may have to wait until after shutdown though, but at least that damaged axlebox was sorted, with my doing two or three mixes of plastic padding to build up the damaged section on the box, after which it was sanded smooth.
Now, at this moment the back of the van contained many more parts of RS8 wanting sand-blasting, and these went back with me, and out and about again on Tuesday, until I arranged with our favourite blasting contractor to visit him at his base on Wednesday morning in order to leave them with him for attention. It had to be Wednesday morning latest, as by 1pm I was up at Tunstead again for a meeting with Reg, Liam and Craig to discuss the project and how it is to proceed, once shutdown is over. There are various volunteers waiting to come in and make a start, but the feeling that things weren't quite 'jelling' at the moment was a topic for discussion. The result is that, while they are on shutdown, I must produce a detailed 'how to put RS8 back together' guide (at least the first stages of getting the chassis back on it wheels and the power unit in) to enable others to take things on when I am not around.
After the meeting, Liam and I went back to Sigma6 and collected the smaller radiator that had been retained to test the Rolls' engine, and which we are passing over to the IDRPG as a spare for their Yorkshires. With that in the back of the emptied van, we went down to the 'South stores', once the loco maintenance facility, and found RS8's frame ready and waiting to take its place back on the rails where it was converted from steam to diesel almost 60 years ago. The facilities may not be quite as good as in Sigma6, as much of the engineering 'tackle' has moved away, but hopefully there'll be a start made there soon.
Now, as many of you know, I started out as an enthusiast for narrow gauge, and up until 2001 I had amassed a collection of n.g. locomotives and rolling stock, but had to sell up when YEC was forced into liquidation. And although, thanks to employment and latterly Andrew, I am well-immersed in s.g. I still have a hankering to do a bit of 2ft i.c. but prices have climbed so much in the interim. Some weeks ago I saw on a website a couple of 'bogies' for sale at Maldegem, a heritage line in Belgium, and decided on a whim to follow them up as they appeared to be using Diema wheelsets, one even still having the final drive gearbox installed. A deal was struck before Christmas, but conventional transport would have cost as much as the bogies, so I elicited Andrew's support for a day trip. After all, Coquelles to Maldegem is barely 100 miles – it's roughly 230 from home to Cheriton.
The date was eventually set for Saturday, February 3rd – and couldn't be much later as my passport expires on the 6th and I hadn't the spare time to get it renewed. So at 04.00 Saturday morning I was getting up, and by 5am, a little later than planned, Andrew was driving the van south to the Channel Tunnel with me trying to snooze.
We swapped at Newport Pagnell and a quick mental calc said we were cutting it fine for our due time of 08.50, so I had to push it a bit hard the rest of the way, and we made it at 08.47. But even that wasn't enough, and by the time we had got through Border controls (only the French customs officer noticing that I had only 3 days left on my passport) including waiting for a big white Sprinter with about ten lads inside that seemed to take forever, we got to the loading area to find our scheduled train (which at the time I booked was said to be 09.25 but on the day was 09.19) had finished loading and we had to wait for the next. Not a good start. It had been bad enough to discover that anything over 1.85m was classed as 'over height' and carried an additional charge. As the handbook told me the new van was 1.894m high unloaded, I had had to pay it. Whether it was still over-height on the way back was another matter!
So to pass the time I decided I would set up the dashcam which I had been bought for Christmas, but so far had not had the time to mount.
Out of the far end of the tunnel, I had half-expected to see hordes of asylum-seekers crowding around the fences but there was nothing untoward. Andrew had elected to drive this leg, and we headed east along the E40 past Dunkirk and Ostend. I had driven this many times, usually turning north at Brugge and thence Antwerp and into northern Germany, though once, I recalled, sticking to the E40 to go direct to Genk (no, not Ghent) when YEC completed its first and last export order. This time we turned off the E40 before Ghent, and north up to Maldegem, where there is a Heritage railway combining both s.g and n.g.
Our contact was awaiting our arrival, and had arranged for a guy to come over with a forklift to put both bogies into the van, one on top of another, which saved time on our original plan of dismantling everything and putting it in as a kit. We then locked the van and started a grand tour, under the guidance of ex-Pat Kevin.
One of the UK origin locos there is none other than RS16, a sister/brother to RS8, and the one depicted on the RS8 restoration website. Kevin owns it, so we had much in common to discuss.
Also on site was a Hunslet 'Austerity' 0-6-0ST, now liveried as WD 75196, the former MoD 196 'Errol Lonsdale' which I can remember in steam at the last Longmoor Open Day in 1969. Amongst the various historic exhibits – some classed by the Belgian government as National Treasures – is this 0-6-0 of obvious English origin, for it was designed by McIntosh, the CME of the Caledonian, and over 1300 locomotives of McIntosh designs were built for Belgian railways with 0-6-0, 4-4-0, 4-4-2T and 4-6-0 wheel arrangements, involving a wide range of European loco manufacturers. I wonder how they coped with drawings all in feet and inches?
By around 2pm (UK time) we had to set off back to Coquelles, me driving this leg to take it easy and still ensure that we reached the tunnel in good time. This time we had time to kill at the terminal before our 'letter' was called for loading, and even then we had a 25 minute late departure owing to 'technical difficulties'. When has someone ever had a problem whose difficulties were not 'technical'? It wouldn't be so bad except that although we could clearly hear the pre-recorded announcements, those made by staff on the train were almost completely inaudible over the sound of the ventilation fans. To pass the time, Andrew re-arranged my dash-cam. On the return leg in the UK we made two stops at services to see if W H Smith had the latest Todays Railways which apparently has a piece about the Peak Rail Action Group. I say apparently because we couldn't find one, but Andrew did pick up a copy of Railway Illustrated because of an article about Yorkshire locos which included a bit about 2654 and the IDRPG. It went on to talk about 1382 and its presence at our shed, and said that Andrew has 3 Yorkshires, one of which - 'Jack' – is used as works shunter. How strange. Jack is of course sat at the end of road 2, with a sheet over it, and its engine and radiator are inside the shed awaiting time to continue their repair. Yet a photo caption in the recent Todays Railways article managed to attribute Jack's name to James, sat outside the shed. I wonder if the RI correspondent used TR as his source material??
Sunday: It was going to be a late start, it was bound to be, and Andrew only really woke when he had a phone call. Eventually we got down to the shed around noon, fired up Charlie and pulled things back so that we could get the van into the shed to unload it with our fork truck.
I was under no illusions as to the quality of manufacture of the 'bogies'. The frames were a mixture of welded sections and bolted straps. The latter included nuts and bolts whose heads, although obviously manufactured to metric dimensions, were not the appropriate sizes we would expect for the shanks. Presumably before the ISOs were applied each manufacturer chose his own hex bar sections and hence we made much use of 14 and 15mm spanners which seldom come out otherwise.
The rubber chevron spring units were not all there (no matter) but clearly one had been missing for some time as it had been replaced by what turned out to be a wooden imitation! The frames mostly went in the scrap bin – save for some bits of strip that were thick enough and straight enough that they might come in handy. Sadly the final drive gearbox turned out to be casing and axle drive spur only – someone had removed the input drive gear and bunged up the hole with a screw cap from an oil drum! A quick check of the back-to-back revealed 3 axles at about 540-543 and one of barely 523 – it must have bounced a bit over check rails! For the moment, I shall measure up what I've got and then make a decision as to what and how to make of them.
It has been nearly 12 months since Charlie returned from filming at Longcross and during that time we haven't had the chance to remove the fabrication that Fox fitted for their fixed-bar couplers. Today turned out to be the day we – well Andrew – tackled its removal, and here he is with 90% of it gone and just some dressing to do to finish the job.
And that's about it, unfortunately. By the time we got this far it was too late to contemplate setting up the Terrypicker and carrying on with the cabling, even though I had picked up some SWA specially in the hope of getting it all done. I did at least refill the space heater with kerosene (we're reading that it will be very cold this week). And I have a full week too, with Tunstead on Monday, a visit to Morris Lubricants on Tuesday and finishing up with collecting grandson for half-term on Friday. And of course next Sunday is the Peak Railway Association AGM which I hope to be attending and available for anyone, member or shareholder, who wants to hear the truth about the present Peak Rail position and the plans of the Peak Rail Action Group.