Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of departing vans

16th September 2018

Welcome back. Some of this week's plans didn't happen. Other parts ran late. Some of the week didn't get planned at all.

So, Monday was as usual Tunstead. Unfortunately, thanks to holidays and breakdowns it was a lean working party, with Andy H, Pete C and myself being 'it'. Still, we cracked on, after all, there is plenty to go at. Having no wood primer to hand, I asked Andy H to put some red oxide primer on the front and rear faces of the buffer spacers so as to seal them to some extent. This inevitably brought forth the question 'Why have you red-oxided the wooden blocks?' from Pete C. I managed to resist the obvious answer 'to stop them rusting of course' as it sounds dangerously like that joke about throwing a pinch of salt down at your garden gate 'to keep elephants out' and when the questioner says that he has never seen elephants anywhere near the garden, reply 'see, it works.' No, I didn't do that, I stuck to the 'next best thing to proper wood primer' reply with a proverbial shoulder-shrug. Buffer no.1 went on without problem: it was the one buffer that had a flat cotter pin through the central shaft and thus has a 'conventional' buffer face.

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The other three had an arrangement whereby there is a central bolt with a bit nut, as you've seen, and these have a rectangular hole in the buffer face up which the bolt slides. Now, you'll recall the mix-up over the discs at the back of the buffer, and the fact that the back discs were primed in a yellow-ish hue making some readers think they were plywood? Well, if you'd looked really closely you'd have seen that these discs were slightly dished. Now, I'm not overly familiar with this design of buffer, so assumed that the discs were meant to be so, and that they'd be drawn into the recess in the casting as the buffer was installed. When we came to Buffer number 2 it became apparent that this was not the case. Nothing for it but to extract the split pin, undo the nut and examine the disc more closely and knowing that it didn't 'draw in' it was soon obvious that these were originally flat, and had been deformed. Presumably the wooden backing pieces – largely disappeared by the time the loco arrived at Darley - had succumbed to years of hammer and without their support, the spring acting in the centre of the disc had dished it: the marks of the spring were indented. Pete C took the disc back to the Sigma 6 workshop and returned with it flattened on their press.

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By that time we had stripped the last two, so sent him back with the others. Although I was aware that flattening a dished disc (try saying that quickly after a few pints) was liable to expand it from its original diameter, I failed to check whether the first disc, which we were now assembling to a buffer it had not previously come from, did actually fit the recess, and it didn't. Off it came and Andy and I decided to add 'Bristol pattern buffer stripping and reassembly' to our Cvs. Finally buffer number 2 went on, but buffers 3 and 4 will have to wait until I've had 5 new 7/8 Whitworth studs made.

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Andy H moved up into the cab and started drilling/tapping the instrument panel, while Pete C and I brought the casing structure in for a trial fit. It won't go back on properly until the engine is down and secured, but I wanted to get some ideas about where the air receivers sit in relation to the engine air intake for the planned new air filters, and some inspiration as to where the converter oil reservoir might go. Sadly the old ICI drawings show the Draughtsmans aspirations or earlier musings, and being small reproductions, are relatively unscalable. It gave me some ideas, but not yet much to work with.

On Tuesday we had planned to have a local contractor in with his lorry mounted crane to re-locate things about the yard, but Monday evening he asked to reschedule as his Monday job had overrun. As I had had a call-out we readily agreed, and I got back in the late afternoon and got on with shunting the VBA and ferry van out, together with the RRA, in a configuration that had Charlie in a position to propel the three of them out of the yard and then haul them to Rowsley. Sounds complicated? Yes, it meant doing most of the shunt with James, shuffling to and fro within the limits of the headshunt and in the end giving James a change of scene by parking it on track 1, next to the PR main line. Why was I not doing this on Wednesday, or first thing Thursday? Well first thing Thursday would have meant starting at an unsocial hour both for me and the residents of Station Road, whereas I was in London on Wednesday (dropping off the Fitness to Run paperwork at the PR office on my way out) and didn't know what time I'd get back. And I was right to be cautious. Having been 45 minutes late reaching my appointment, (M1 road works) I returned via Stevenage to uplift some racking which had been kindly collected and stored for us by Roger W. Leaving to head home, I could have merely returned to the A1, but instead cut across to join the M1 north of Luton. Only some kind individual had had a coming-together with another motorist between 13 and 14 and it had already backed up to Junction 12. I got home later than planned.

Thursday and I was down at the shed by 08.00 to prep Charlie, then up to Rowsley to collect Harvey C. At this point I left the camera in the van, so the traditional photos at Darley Dale or Church Lane are omitted. We arrived at Rowsley just after half-nine and ran round, by which time a strange low loader was sat by the rail ends and two men were sweating over sleepers and rail. Mr Smith and his lorry driver friend had come up on an extendable low loader, and for ease of driving this had been on minimum extension with track comprising 113FB rail on timber sleepers, pandrol clips and base plates from neck to rear. Now, having extended the deck to suit the length of the Ferry van, they were feverishly extending their track with loose components and cursing how heavy it all was. Andrew arrived and it was agreed to extend the deck a little more, measuring the vehicle to ascertain where it would fit best. Trouble was, with our ramp rails on our low loader, we had only a pair of 10ft 75lb FB and the tips Andrew fabricated last week. It made for a short, steep ramp, not suitable for a loco but negotiable with the clearances of a VIX ferry van. I had reservations about buffer locking, but there was nothing else for it. As Charlie pushed the VIX, with VBA and RRA in between, we did indeed manage to buffer lock one side only, but by putting a hitch on to the tractor unit and careful teamwork, we got them separated again and the ferry van aboard. All was not yet finished, as the shunters steps and the 'dagger' on the VIX fouled the neck, so I got sent off to the shed (in the van) to bring back the oxy' to burn them off. That completed, the tractor was reassembled to the trailer and the VIX set off on its journey southwest, after repeated measurements to check it would clear the railway bridge at the south end of Matlock.

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We heard later it did, and after a relatively uneventful journey (the M5 was closed after a pile up) the VIX was craned off onto a plinth of track somewhere in Devon. Well not quite all of it – we found a piece that had fallen off, and need to send it on.

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As the VIX departed, members of the Heritage Shunters Trust were arriving and asking after the arrival of their Ruston. They seemed to think that the low loader carrying the VIX had to go somewhere, unload, and then go to Wirksworth – indeed, one erroneous report stated that the wagon was going to Wirksworth. No, all this had been tied together to minimise inconvenience to Peak Rail, Andrew's low loader was due at Wirksworth at 1pm to collect a Ruston, then offload and reload the VBA at Rowsley. Unfortunately the contractor providing the oomph had arranged a job for the morning which ran late, so instead of 1pm, it was 3pm when he arrived. While filling in time we had a natter with Mike Fairburn.

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The Ruston, a 165DS was coupled to a 25ton Noddy Vanguard, but a barrier wagon would have been advantageous. A passenger rake parked behind made it impossible to go get one. A barrier wagon may sound like just an extra weight to push up the ramp, and it is but it keeps the propelling loco on the good track on the ground, and the little Noddy had problems once it left terra firma. I ended up hand-sanding. We remained somewhat apprehensive since the new lifting links on the trailer are not yet ready so we are still reliant on the ones repaired at Chappel & Wakes Colne, but after seeing how crudely the old ones were welded I had more confidence in Andy H's welding than whoever had made them. Anyway, the Ruston was finally secured, the tractor unit reconnected and dimensional checks confirmed we would clear the C&HP bridge at the top of the hill between Wirksworth and Cromford by about 2 inches. I headed back to Rowsley, dropping in to The Country Pile for a fresh bottle of water, meanwhile the lorry reached the top of the B road in the middle of Wirksworth where it needed to make a 135 degree right hand turn on a slope. It was all double yellow lined, but a big 4x4 was parked there. Andrew went to ask the driver to move – but she merely waved her disabled driver's sticker, that is until a blast on the air horns actually made her look in her mirror! She moved – grudgingly – and the ensemble squeezed by. Meanwhile I was patiently waiting at Rowsley, bolting the seat bracket to the re-upholstered (by Steph) seat base for Claire, when they finally arrived. Once again tired bodies assembled a ramp, Charlie propelled VBA and RRA up the ramp to collect the Ruston, draw it off and hand it over to HST's John Wade and 08 016. I saw the job through as far as getting the VBA aboard in its place and loading the morning's ramp rails onto the RRA for the trip back, but had to hand over to Andrew as it was now half-six and I was due to meet friends in Nottingham.

The following morning Andrew saw it down to Leicester and unloaded at UKRL (where it is to become a stores vehicle and mobile 'advert') whereas I was up in Bakewell to see a dermatologist. Why? That's a long story and not really relevant here - suffice it to say that I am now on anti-fungals, anti-biotics and skin creams that are liable to make me combust spontaneously if I rub my legs together too vigorously. After all this we looked forward to a quietish weekend. And Saturday was largely that – we lifted the new pigeon hole racking atop the racking that was already there, and started populating it.

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One of my regular readers insists that this sort of thing is satisfying. Well, getting parts of the floor back to walk on after months of it obscured under linbins of assorted fixings is one thing, but allocating trays, filling them with bolts and then finding more of the same size which then overflows the allotted space and finally trying to get them all in some sort of order – this could take months and make boring reading.

So on Sunday we decided that proper work was in order. I got down first and shunted the yard a bit to get James back to the shed and some wagons back out on track 1. Andrew started welding in filling pieces into holes in the cab back of Adolf – these were once for the handbrake linkage and something else I wasn't clear about – the lowermost one which accesses the fuel cut off tap will be retained.

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The heat caused the back plate to distort as it cooled (we'll attend to it later) and we were accompanied over tea by various welds going bang. These were tack welds of stiffening angle, many of which are jack-rusted so Andrew started removing the most corroded ones while I did a bit more bolt-sorting and tray labelling (by felt-pen this time. The P-touch, for which I robbed every not-in-use AA battery I could lay my hands on only a week or two ago, ran out of tape yesterday!). For the moment it's now down to me to sort the cab mountings, but we put a length of angle on the hacksaw and chopped it to make another edging strip to support the running plate on Adolf, which has drooped a bit after we trimmed it. This was to be expected: when sub-contractors narrowed another of these for me they had new side-skirt material to hand and welded it to the running plate temporarily to reinforce it while they cut. We did not have that luxury so will add these heavy angles to stiffen it, straighten it and add weight.

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Here's the first trialled in place – it must be notched or ground along the top to clear the original welds. So that's about it for this week, except to report a further disappointing development with the Peak Railway Association. Following their declining to accept his renewal, Andrew wrote and requested, amongst other things, an explanation of what complaints about his conduct the Peak Rail plc had made against him, whether the Directors who were also Directors of Peak Rail plc abstained from voting on the matter (which could be construed as being a conflict of interest) and under what paragraph of the Articles of Association the Directors considered their actions were legitimised. At last, Andrew has their response. It will not rest there.

PRA to A 12sep

Tomorrow is an odd day. I must dash up to Tunstead first thing just to see things starting off. I have prepared a possible jobs list that could keep us going 2 or 3 weeks if the bodies are as few as last time. Andy H tells me the throttle levers have had new bolts welded on for knobs, and he has prepared a drawing for profiling the missing brake handle, but then I must dash back and carry on to Sheffield for a visit to the dentists. Then Thursday, all being well, that re-arrangement in the yard with the crane occurs, and the weekend? You'll just have to come back and see. TTFN.

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