Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of flame and flu

15th April 2018

Being a life-time asthmatic and now a few years the wrong side of 60, I have, for this decade at least, taken advantage of the NHS' annual flu-jab, and queued up both in Darley Dale and earlier in Sheffield to get my dose of what best estimates predicted would be the prevalent strain that year.

And for most previous years it appears to have worked, I have gone through the winters with no noticeable effects, ill or otherwise, and functioned normally. Not this year. By my reckoning this week has seen either the third dose of flu clobber me or alternatively the first strain paid another return visit. Things got worse as the week went on and by Thursday evening I was shivering, coughing and generally feeling that life wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Steph's got it too, worse if anything, and only Andrew appears immune, though walking around the house with a pullover up over his mouth and nose did not endear him to us! So sorry, folks, it won't be a long write-up this week, as I spent all Friday and Saturday at home feeling very sorry for myself and a large part of the time sleeping. In consequence, Andrew's plan that we head to Castle Hedingham and find out what exactly is wrong with 14901 had to be postponed. But today, having begun to feel a bit better (and been able to eat something without feeling nauseous) I dragged myself down to the shed some time after Andrew in order to be 'second man' while he continued gas-cutting the main line side of Adolf down to UK size. What you saw a week or two ago was cutting away the old step assemblies and side skirts – the running plates, outriggers and buffer beams were still intact.

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By the time I had got down and dragged myself out of the van (the spirit was willing but the flesh...) he had Adolf outside, the gas set up and was cutting away, using a piece of box section as a cutting guide. He also has a little wheely thing that enables him to maintain a constant distance from the metal to be cut, and removed the running plate except around the outriggers. Although I had my overalls and boots on, I was of little help and on several occasions retired to the shed, but popped out again to record progress, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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One interesting discovery was a Hunslet c*** up? You will see in the above picture two large holes which are now just on the edge of the cut. But left of them you can see two spots where the running plate becomes thinner. There was apparently two holes cut here, presumably in the wrong place (they form a recess for an air receiver tapping) so two circular profiles had been welded in, just not as thick at the running plate itself.

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By the end of the afternoon he had completed all the cuts up that side – mainly now it is dressing off and tidying up until I have designed the new steps and sandboxes and we can think about restoring access. We had a couple of visitors today, one of whom appeared somewhat incredulous when I said we should have it runnable by the end of the year. It assumes funds are available for bits as and when, and not too much time is committed to other projects that take our eyes of the ball, but broadly speaking it is achievable.

For the on-going Peak Rail soap this week let me return to the Peak Railway Association. As you will recall, they rejected our (Steph and my) renewal of membership and I demanded to know for what reason and under what powers they considered they could do this. The company secretary declined to give a reason, but cited an article in the company's constitution that entitles the Directors to refuse an application for membership. After taking legal advice I wrote back, pointing out that in their own words this was not an application but a renewal, that that article could not therefore apply and so the action was probably ultra vires. This time an acknowledgement came back from Roger Hallatt (PRA Chairman and of course the same Roger Hallatt who is joint MD of PR plc) saying that they were 'looking into it'. That was dated March 22nd and nothing has been heard since, well outside the 14 days response time I had sought. So this week a fresh letter was despatched to every PRA Director reviewing the situation, saying that I had some sympathies if they had all been told what was later to be incorporated in the 'Peak Rail Newsletter', but that they should have known better than to indulge in a knee-jerk reaction. I feel rather bad about it now because as I posted these I was definitely going down with the flu. Maybe the letters were contagious!

Several people have asked why I want to be a member of an Association prepared to treat its members in such a cavalier manner. It is a valid question. The PRA Board have done this to other member(s) in the past – no hearing, no appeal, just a unilateral kick-out. This is not only un-democratic, it smacks of dictatorships where trumped up evidence can be used to consign an inconvenient dissident to a gulag. So in answer to the question, because it is a practice that needs to be stopped and clip the powers of certain people who consider their views take precedence over everyone else's. Besides, I do believe in the objects and functions of the PRA and have done nothing to harm it. But as I wrote to a PR executive some months ago that ...'you and I clearly have differing views … does not mean that you are automatically right and I wrong'.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, Andrew ticked me off over last week's analysis of NR charges, pointing out that he had based it not a 1000tonne train but a 2000tonne one. So he went a stage further this week and calculated the nett saving by taking account of the existing route to Derby via the Hope Valley (which of course has just had capacity upgrades approved). Coming direct through Rowsley to Ambergate would save 40 miles on Network Rail trackages (i.e. 47 versus 7), about £190 per train, or circa 13.5p per ton. (Twenty 100tonne hoppers, tare weight of about 30tonnes, so payload of about 70tonnes/wagon). Meanwhile we watched bemused as commentators on National Preservation forum suggested that as East Midlands trains occupy the entire Ambergate - Matlock line from about 05.30 to about 23.30 each day, the quarry trains could queue up and travel down it at night. I don't think that person really thought it through. You want the driver to book on, take the train down to just outside Matlock, and when the section to Ambergate clears proceed to London/Peterborough (or wherever) discharge the train and get back empty to Matlock again within 6 hours (less for each subsequent train in the queue!). And if he can't (e.g the load freezes in frosty weather, he suffers delays, runs out of hours) does he return via the Hope Valley or park up somewhere and come back later that day? Paying night-time rates for employees at the destinations to run conveyors or otherwise oversee the train unloading is probably going to cost more than the nett saving. Do we really need another feasibility study to prove that this is never going to work?

Pass the paracetamol, I'm heading back to bed.

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