Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of final preparations

24th July 2011

Saturday: With “Pluto” set to move north on Monday the 25th, this was the last weekend we had to complete the vac fit and other outstanding matters. So once Andrew had arrived back from a week of night shifts in darkest Norfolk, we packed the van and set off for Rowsley. The motive power situation had apparently been a bit eventful at Rowsley. Ever since the extension to Matlock opened, the lack of run round loop has meant that all trains are top and tailed, which usually means the Austerity (68013) on the Matlock end and the class 31 at the Rowsley end to pull it back.

But when we arrived the 31 was on the turntable road having been declared too low on fuel for the days work. D8 “Penyghent” had been called for only to suffer battery problems, so standing in was the Heritage Shunters group 08 , itself necessitating a speed restriction – if only “Pluto” had had its vac system fully functioning, it might have been called on…

Anyway, we had a list of bits to sort from forming a stay bar to hold the exhauster in position, front end dummy bracket, to the beginnings of the suction line from exhauster to driver’s brake valve, etc. E-bay had provided us with the oil separator in the shape of an old Land Rover oil bath air cleaner, but this only left Maidstone on Friday so was not yet available to us, so will have to be installed at Murton. Part way through the day we decided to do a combined air and vac test, so set up the LMSCA’s vac pump and our air line to the compressor and charged both systems. The idea was to trace air leaks, and see if, when the train pipe vacuum was reduced, the loco brake responded proportionately, and to our relief, it did, although the vac brake valve moved with some suddenness, dropping vac straight down to about 6″ (from the 15″ the pump had given us at the time) which was not really what you want for proper control. Clearly the vac valve was much “stickier” when vacuum was present (or should that be ‘not present’ given that vac is an absence of a substance rather than a specific presence?) and the linkage was flexing. It was decided that it would have to come out tomorrow, if we had time, for our Heath-Robinson-ish mechanism to be strengthened. Another problem was that the vac/air valve, after its first operation in an unknown number of years, proceeded to leak continuously so we stripped and cleaned it out.

"Lord Phil" is buffered up to D8: Robin driving "Charlie"

Meanwhile the guys rectifying Peny-ghent’s batteries had finished, so Robin, on his last day as a Peak Rail member of staff, started up “Charlie” to shunt Austerity “Lord Phil” and D8 back onto shed, and Andrew went over to act as his shunter. Towards the end of the afternoon we got around to making up a bracket to support the front hose dummy but this would have to be welded to the front buffer beam, and with no 3-phase outlet in range, a plan was hatched to move “Pluto” over to the other side of the shed on Sunday morning. As we packed away, I was a bit surprised to see Robin coaling up “Lord Phil” – after all, he’d only put it away a couple of hours before – and deduced correctly, that it was to be steamed on Sunday, but hadn’t twigged that he’d concluded his employment with failing the company’s working loco, 68013!

Coaling “Lord Phil”

Sunday: Andrew has declared that we must be in to Rowsley by ten as he has two Embsay members coming down to collect parts ex D9500, required for D9513 which suffered frost damage last winter. I woke him with a cup of tea, which I maybe should have poured over him as he went back to sleep and woke, with a start and much cussing, at half past nine. The cause of his waking was fortunately a phone call from said members to report that according to their satnav, they wouldn’t get there until eleven! We arrived at much the same time, and got started refitting the batteries and filling the cooling system. Andrew assisted them in loading cylinder heads, conn rods and the like and having got as far as I could, I started the engine up (it started first time, most gratifying) and buffered “Pluto” up to the stores van outside to save polluting the shed. Once Andrew had returned, we pushed the van out on to the loop, ran round it and returned it to its home, before moving “Pluto” on to the other road where we could reposition the welder adjacent. In the course of this, having had a bit of heat and oil shaken around, I had a crack at 4th gear and after a moment’s hesitation, it engaged, and later attempts had it engaging even more readily.

Nearly ready now...

Andrew’s prowess with his “big MIG welder” has come on in leaps and bounds and given us a fabrication ability which has been most effective on “Pluto”. Previously I have always worked on designing brackets, getting them commercially manufactured, and then fitting them. This has been time-consuming, not to say costly, but the last few weeks has seen us knocking up parts, hacking and adapting them with gay abandon. The bracket that drives the brake valve was duly strengthened, the exhauster mounting bracket was removed and the stay bar for the exhauster manufactured and trialled on the work bench before being refitted. The vac brake is now more controllable (we did another test late in the afternoon) but we might make a heavier duty version in a month or two’s time. By late afternoon we were in danger of obstructing the shed road when “Lord Phil” returned, so I started “Pluto” up, Andrew fired up “Charlie” and with a bit of help from Rob, the two were formed with a barrier wagon in between ready for loading onto the low loader in the morning. With a final lick of black paint in appropriate places, it was time to head home.

..and as it waits tonight.

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