Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of meetings, planned and chance

1st July 2018

We have a new clock in the shed. Well not new exactly, it came from my late father's house but I only found it again this week when having a tidy-up in my 'office' at home. It was still happily displaying the time, date, day of the week and temperature. I thought that it would be of better use at the shed, so now it looks down on us (the LCD display looks blacker from below) and I can exclusively reveal that the temperature in the shed touched 29.5 degrees today. Much tea consumed to stave off dehydration. But I digress...

First of all, I can acknowledge the guidance of one of my regular readers, another Andy H (sometimes I think that an awful lot of 'good guys' I know are either an Andrew or a Gareth, now back to topic). He wrote and suggested that in fact., the Lister engine destined to power the Wickham is not a TS2 but an LT2, a 3.25inch x 3inch (bore/stroke) engine, which if so is slightly lower horsepower but still more than adequate. His identification comes from the astute eye of a former Lister employee, and with his guidance we have now found where once the data plate was fitted, but alas, it is definitely missing. I was hoping that Listers, like some other manufacturers, engraved or stamped a serial number somewhere to identify each core before the data plate was finally applied, but sadly it seems not to have been their practice.

So, back on Monday it was time to return to Tunstead for further battles with RS8. To my surprise Jack and Liam are still on board for a week or two more, and the plan was to start progressing the vacuum train pipe, for which purpose a 6.5m length of galvanised 2inch pipe and various fittings had arrived. I dragged out some of the old pipework to determine where it fitted, because the original ICI drawing obtained is one of those 'this is our idea in Drawing Office but you fitters do it as you think best' drawings and an 'as built' version, if ever prepared, hasn't survived. Heading off with two pieces our original pipe, which we had had to cut to a key to maintain the relative angles of the fittings at each end, they set about removing the original fittings to clean up and re-use where necessary, and also took the two standpipes which included the swan-necks and dummy brackets. They returned embarrassed. They had had to heat up some fittings in order to get them to release after nearly 60 years, and instead of unscrewing, the first swan neck shattered into about 6 pieces. Seems I'll have to think about buying more.

Meanwhile I had brought up a new seal for the brake cylinder and Andy and me started to fit it. Before we did, we set about removing any traces of dirt and rust and came across a nasty surprise. At some time in the past, the cylinder wall has been cracked around where the mounting brackets are welded (it's quite a thin wall cylinder and the bracket material is thicker). It has been welded up and is a fair way up the bore, under normal circumstances the seal shouldn't travel that far, so we have left it alone. Funnily enough, later in the week I was offered a s/h one, but at £250 I thought it a bit steep without being convinced of its servicability.

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The brake cylinder on RS8 is well up under the cab, so it makes one wonder how it could have happened, but it is directly driving down to the weighshaft arm, so possibly a derailment, with the loco landing on the arm has given it a momentary shock, or maybe it's nothing more than a fractrure due to weld stresses. You watch, there'll be a metallurgist out there reading this who'll write in and tell me exactly what it must be!

While the boys were away separating fittings from pipe, regular Alan was painting the rear frame mounts, and Andy H was rubbing down the two servicable springs and sorting out the spring hangers, which it seems are different lengths just about everywhere on the loco. I had been cleaning up the threads on the pull rods and their nuts (they are 1.5 inch BSW) .and so the first section of the brake rigging has had the pull rods refitted loosely but the rear section passes close to the gearbox and as we have some parts to fit to the axle bearings on the 'box, these would constrain access so are being left off for now. Eventually the day drew to a close with the rear frame mounts roughly in place (I need some shorter bolts) and the completion of the first long length of vac pipe, where it runs from under the cab to the back of the front steps, but it waits on the floor for our return tomorrow.

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Tuesday and I went to camp out at the Doctor's. While I was walking around Matlock on May 16, waiting for the van to be MoT'd. something climbed up my sock and bit me. Five weeks later and it still hadn't healed and I asked Dr Ben who told me I should have consulted my GP after 10 days. As they were booked all Monday (and Tunstead beckoned) I took the direct approach, and have spent the week swallowing big yellow pills. I would like to say all is well but they don't seem to have had any effect! Later in the day, after the post, we delivered about 15 proxies for the Peak Rail AGM into the Matlock office.

Wednesday and Steph and Andrew disappeared off to Norfolk for a meeting at Jake's school with Norfolk Child Services involved. (I won't go into details but Andrew was at last able to see Jake and they are back to Norwich tomorrow (touch wood) for a Family Court hearing. Wish us well). For myself my first stopping point was an e-bay seller in Market Harborough. I had bid on a quantity of various multi-core cables - suitable I hope for locomotive wiring in due course - and on a lot of lorry straps to make the detour really worthwhile. I parked the van just down from the firm and wheeled the two lots in little glass fibre trolleys on castors.I opened the back doors of the van and contemplated how to load them -

'Would you mind telling me,' said a voice 'where you got those from?' I had 4 brake blocks in the back - I was delivering them later.

'It's my line of work' I began, assuming it was the seller. I looked round and found it wasn't.

'Only I used to be in the foundry industry' he continued. Market Harborough is not far from Lutterworth, and the only foundry I knew around there had been Follsain Wycliffe, latterly Wearparts.

'Oh?' I said, 'Follsian Wycliffe?'

He looked surprised. 'Yes, I used to own it.'

Oblivious to the e-bay seller awaiting his cash I started explaining how we'd tried to reverse-engineer his brake block material once and succeeded but it was so wear resistant no subcontract machinist would drill the holes in them twice, and attempts to cast round holes had failed miserably. About then the e-bay seller coughed to remind me he had to go and would like paying, so apologising profusely I handed over the dosh and went to have a natter with this guy for about half-an-hour. There were some possibly interesting developments but he hasn't yet got back in touch - maybe I was unwittingly boring him! (I was still early at my next rendezvous.)

Thursday was the day of the Peak Rail plc AGM, but to give it justice let me save it for later in this edition. Before I move on, though, a letter arrived from a Director of the Peak Railway Association which I will reproduce for you all to see. It seems that not content with making allegations against me in the February 'newsletter' published to all shareholders and PRA members, the PRA is now considering refusing Andrew's renewal of membership based on statements about his conduct made by the PR plc (Directorships of course, have overlaps). Quite what the purpose of this letter is I'm not sure, other than to explain a delay in sending him his card or cashing his cheque, since there is no apparent suggestion of making these allegations known or giving him an opportunity to defend his actions or correct any misrepresentation before the PRA Board makes a decision that may be ultra vires anyway. Judge for yourselves.

PRAltr

Friday I was up to collect the profiles that I should have had last week, and fortunately all were ready giving me at last a special thin spanner to get into RS8's rear drawhook nut and the brackets required to modify the trailer ramp, though practical issues have determined that actually fitting them will wait a little longer.

Down at Darley Dale (yes, it has been a long time getting around to it) we were slightly worried to have noticed that the rear destination blind on the 2HAP had been altered, and not by us, and a carriage door was slightly open. A check of the cameras gave us no answers, but it seems that some of the local oiks may be venturing down again. We shall see..With Andrew braving the sweltering temperatures (it was 27 degrees when we opened up) welding up his new trailer brackets, I set about adding two new emergency bulkhead lights requested by the Building Inspector. The first of these was mid way up on the footpath side, and my dislike of working up ladders was tested with an awkward angle to hold the drill to get holes through the column, which caused me to have to do short bursts before cramping my hand. Eventually it was achieved, the cable p-clipped downwards and late in the afternoon, the mcb was reset and a comforting green LED came on on the unit. We moved the ladder to put up a second but as Andrew had to leave it was not something I would do alone and postponed it to Sunday.

Today, and Steph had come across my heavy duty gloves which I bought to deploy razor wire last year. For Andrew yesterday, employing his best Red Indian tracking skills, had found the undergrowth trampled in that one spot up the top of the yard where we had thought the existing plant life sufficient not to need razor wire, only to have a cameraman climb over with tripod and cases to film a departing special! Either this was where someone might have entered, or somebody is continuing to take a shortcut from Old Warney Road, down the embankment, across the tracks and over our fence and the footpath into DFS's car park. Either way it's trespass so first thing today, before it got too hot, I set about plugging it with our two spare reels of razor wire. Coils of razor wire are easily transported by rail, indeed, locomotives are designed for it, or rather, they are provided with special brackets at each corner for such coils, sometimes however referred to as buffers.

Jagger had joined us today and was returning to work on the Wickham, dismantling the axles and suspension components for refurbishment - a tough task for bolts that have had little attention, and never apart, since building in 1953. Andrew meanwhile arrived after a tour round southern Manchester to collect various trays of bolts won on e-bay, followed by a cabinet of traditional sliding metal parts trays. It was a right car-full. I remembered being at Long Marston in YEC days, when in a skip outside the control building there was a pile of these trays, in army green rather than today's consignment of light grey, I left them alone that day, but returned a day later (a Saturday) when no military personnel were around (the Royal Engineers had yet to vacate) and filled the back of my Escort to convey them triumphantly to the workshops for re-use. I told myself it couldn't be liberating as (a) they'd been tossed out and (b) they weren't leaving MoD property anyway.

Anyway, Jagger made progress actually undoing some nuts -

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And Andrew joined him, deploying the gas to heat up some olf the more stubborn components.

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 Meanwhile glad not to be outside in the sun, I got up the ladder again, reset Dad's old clock (it was still on GMT and 10 minutes slow to boot!) and added a second emergency light to the purlin to keep it company. This one will illuminate the central working area in the event of a power outage.

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And again, as you can see, by 3.25 we had the mcb back on and the green LED shining.

Having had Charlie running earlier, Andrew took it out for a bit of shunting as he has a lorry due in Wednesday with some bits (on that more next week) and intends using the HIAB to move parts around a bit [Indeed, it will be a VERY busy week with the news that there are no trains booked to obstruct us, so it's all systems go for collection of the sleeping beauty wagons, so next week's blog should be full of interesting stuff. How can you dare to stay away?] and wants wagons repositioned to make things easier. Sometimes I think he doesn't have a rail yard so much as a Tardis. There was a 'behind the scenes' event at Rowsley to recruit volunteers and just in case any came down to Darley Dale by mistake or design, I had put out the 'to view the shunters, please ring' sign, but we had no takers, save a solitary photographer who was around as Andrew shunted. Jagger departed leaving his work jacket behind (on an earlier visit he left a pair of Tata overtrousers behind so I washed them, I must make sure that he is not mistaking me for his mother) and Andrew and I started transfering some of the nuts and bolts of today's and earlier purchases into grey metal trays, ready to set up the new rack somewhere and fill it. Certainly it seems most days that I simply head over and find a suitable nut and bolt, rather than plan ahead and go visit a supplier. The emptied Linbins (or their equivalents in other makes) were piled over the other side ready for further use in keeping bits of dismantled locos together. Once this lot gets sorted (finally) it will be a formidable array of fastenings - let us hope we can design components to make use of them!

Now, I know sales of 'The Railway to Merhead' are happening, but I'm still too nervous to find out how many. Then one of my readers suggested that, like real authors do, I should print an extract in some suitable place to tempt the reader into buying. You can of course read the first few pages on the Amazon sales page, but it's neither the funniest, nor that most likely to 'grip you' (which I freely admit is a failing on my part and you should have seen some of the earlier drafts). So here's an extract, as our hero George puts his feet up after a day volunteering on the railway...

But why Four feet eight and a half inches? Some said it derived from the width between the wheels of Roman chariots. A less likely occurrence was hard to imagine, until I remembered that four-feet and the rest had first found favour in the north east, at the multiplicity of colliery railways that lead to the Stockton & Darlington and then, by profit and personalities to the Liverpool and Manchester. It was remotely possible, I mused, as I put my feet up on the Sunday evening.

It was way back in time, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian, advised by his soothsayers to get a bit of fresh air, decided it was time to pop over to Britannicus and see how things were going with the new back fence that he was having built. Naturally, Roman envoys went ahead to ensure that the peasants knew who was coming and how to behave. The peasants in the North East of Britannicus were especially delighted. They had long had trouble from the marauding Scots and thought this enormous wall was the wonder of the age. A number of them were so enamoured with their oppressors (though they chose to regard them as kindly benefactors) that they had got together and formed RAPS – the Roman Artefacts Preservation Society. They were especially fond of catching some stray, rich Roman merchant on one of those new chariot-ways that the Romans had constructed, taking all his money and a few other trinkets, and having found some unlikely spot far away from habitation, burying the lot as a hedge against inflation. The news that Hadrian himself was coming set their hearts all a-flutter. You could almost say they were ‘enRAPSured’. It was like Elvis coming to do a concert in the Merhead Church Hall. Long into the short winter nights they discussed what they could do to celebrate the event. They commissioned a local potter to produce special 'Hadrian’s our Hero' mugs- though it was difficult to find anyone able to write it. The blacksmiths were asked to make special cloak clasps with the Roman eagle depicted and picked out in wode. They had some difficulty in paying for all this. Despite the hoards of Roman coins they had stashed around the area, so good had they been at disguising their locations, they could not find them themselves. Throughout the north east of Britannicus there was talk of crops flattened in circles and mysterious holes dug in the middle.

Hadrian landed on the south coast of Britannicus and headed north. He had brought his own chariot with him – it was guaranteed spear-proof and had a drinks cabinet in the front. But with it came a slight snag. Over in Britannicus, where the climate was wetter and snow came in the winter, the Britons had developed their own wheel that was shown from experience to be less likely to bog down in the worst of the winter weather. But back in Rome, where the climate was drier and snow was the stuff of mountain tops and children’s stories, the chariot wheels were thinner and unsuited to the Britannicus climate. Of course many Romans knew this. The Legion’s chariots had long since been converted to a Roman-ised version of the Briton’s wheel. But an Emperor is infallible. If he wanted to bring his chariot, he brought it and no-one dared tell him that it had the wrong kind of wheel for the winter in Britannicus.

And what a winter. It snowed. It was a strange sort of snow. In the mountains nearer to Rome, when snow fell it was dry and crispy, but in Britannicus it was wet and cloggy. It covered the Roman roads and once the Emperor got north of Embracuum, It became impossible to see the chariot-way. The luckless charioteer lost the road (and probably his life) and the Emperor’s chariot got hopelessly bogged down in mud. Worst of all, Hadrian finished the contents of his drinks cabinet and decided that this fresh air lark was not all it was cracked up to be.

He consulted his trusty Lieutenants, who mindful of their Emperor’s infallibility, assured him that the problem lay in it being the wrong kind of snow. Hadrian demanded that they summon the RAC (Roman Assistance for Chariots) who got his chariot out of the mud and pointed back down south.

For the north-east Britons this was a disaster. All their preparations had gone to waste. What do you do with more 'Hadrian’s our Hero' mugs than you could count when the Hero won’t come after all? They dashed to the place where his chariot had become stuck, to implore him to finish his visit, but they were too late. The Emperor and his entourage had gone back. All they had to mark Hadrian’s visit was the tracks of his chariot in the mud, so they set about saving them as the only tangible souvenir. They put the tracks under RAPS.

No one knows how many generations of RAPS members saved those tracks for posterity. But come the early 1800s and some far-sighted men, perhaps even RAPS members themselves, were looking to transport this black stuff they’d discovered underground called coal to the sea. They decided that railed-ways would be more efficient than these old Roman chariot ways seeing as how the Romans hadn’t come back to fix them for years. And some old RAPS member, on his walking stick and sprouting a long white beard, took them to where the tracks of Hadrian’s chariot were still preserved and told them that there was the only appropriate gauge for their newfangled railed-way, and that was sixpence each entry fee. And as these far-sighted men had no tape measure to ascertain how far apart these wheels had been, nor enough sixpences to go and get one, they stole the old man’s walking stick, marked the distance as best they could and behold, it turned out to be about Four feet eight inches.

'George, wake-up, its time for bed' said Dora. 'You’ve been snoring for the last half-hour.'

Oh go on now, push the boat out for £11.95 - there's plenty more funny bits.

Not so funny was the Peak Rail AGM on Thursday. Normally an AGM is agendered to cover the essentials of company annual practice - approve the minutes of the last meeting, acceptance of Director's Reports and the Accounts, elections of Directors, Appointment of Auditors and AoB, that sort of thing. But with a time slot of only 2.5 hours in the ballroom at the Whitworth, it was somewhat strange to have an additional item slipped in before the essential business to hear a verbal report on the efforts to secure the extension, a monologue originating from the Chairman which took up rather more than an hour of the slot. Indeed, even this monologue seemed to comprise a long diatribe on how we tried to get things moving and failed. Had the project Directors really learned anything from all this? Yes, it seems they had concluded that PR had missed the boat, that what might have been possible 40 years ago was not possible - given the sort of finances and volunteer support PR receives - in today's environment. Having started by admitting that there was no way the Government would ever finance a railway re-creation project in England (harumphing type laughter) his speech got around to pinning his hopes on Rail North (or Transport for the North) a government think-tank currrently developing a 30 year rail strategy but with no budget to see it through. Indeed, he proudly told us, Pete Waterman was attending a meeting on it rather than our AGM as President.

Further pride was taken in his chance meeting with a consultant during a public meeting in Buxton. This man, he assured us, was the country's expert on rail freight and he was going to see the project through, he was a regular consultant to the DfT. Now, I've never heard of this giuy and I have been involved in rail freight for the last 40 years, and neither has anyone I asked who might know. I did however gather that there are quite a few such experts doing the rounds, charging up to £800/day to give you their considered opinions and propositions, whether you be the DfT or a private developer. If you've got money and don't know much about trains, then there's a man out there who'll examine commercial and technical feasibility and produce you a pretty report - well at £800/day I daresay you can splash out on a bit of colour. But you know the power of internet: I'm not going to name this particular individual which the Chairman appeared highly impressed by, but if you want to look here,.you can find what Network Rail (et al) thought about one of his projects.

Another interesting snippet that came out of this long talk was that the earlier press release that PR was about to tender for a feasability study is not, or no longer, true. It is Rail North's study and PR has no financial involvement whatsoever. Yet he asserted that 2000ton aggregates trains would amble down the new line at only 25mph (yeah!) and that the new operators might make shareholders an offer they couldn't refuse for the PR plc shares that he was certain would be so profitable once the through trains began. PR would have to pay for all station facilities such as at Millers Dale, loops, etc, and that the Peak Park Planning Board had earlier made it clear that it was all or nothing, no part-way and stop for the PR line. With this new consultant and Rail North on board, he seemed confident, the extension was bound to happen.

A question from the floor, asking did he understand the process of Network Rail's Route Utilisation stategy, its GRIPs and Control Periods, yes or no, triggered a further obfuscation. The question ws repeated, it wasn't 'did you threaten to over-rule him?' stuff but the Chairman seemed to get cross and insisted that he thought he'd already answered that. Yet neither yes nor no had passed his lips.

Finally we got back on to the rest of the meeting. A question from the floor asked whether, had the £100,000 donation not been made, the actual loss for the year would have been £211,466? An executive Director confirmed that was true (had the questioner further enquired that without the Director's loan of £20,000, it would have been £231,466, that was probably true too!). When asked whether there was further litigation in progress or known about, that same executive Director denied, then admitted there was, which appeared to cause some shock to the Audit partner of Beever & Struthers, attending his first AGM after Alan Speakman had left the practice,.The executive Director shortly after stated that the costs (what for was unclear) had been agreed at £12000, which Mike Thompson of Grinsty Rail (who attended as a proxy) promptly denied to be true. The discussion began to get more and more heated. At one point Andrew expressed his disatisfaction that no-one on the Board seemed to accept any responsibility and the executive Director shouted back 'SHUT UP'. (A shareholder subsequently has written to me, describing the meeting as a shambles, and commenting 'a managing director who can tell a shareholder to “shut up” at an A G M needs removing forthwith'). Indeed further comments like 'We know what you want!' and claims of a personal vendetta were made before the Chairman was seen to intervene and calm things down.

A questioner with clear experience in financial matters explained about the term 'cash burn' i.e. a factor that represents how long a company can survive paying its essential bills should its income stream be suddenly cut off, and asked what was PR's?. All the reply he got was that the company had monthly budgets.

Towards the end questions were raised as to why the audit bill from Beever & Struthers had risen by 28%. The Audit partner responded that this was price inflation, which seemed a trifle excessive, but he appeared quite sanguine when the Directors talked of taking the audit somewhere cheaper and we had the bizarre situation that the Board sought a resolution to give them the authority to appoint an as-yet unknown audit practice: We could hardly vote against since the company is required by law to apoint an auditor. You can read various scenarios into the increased audit fee. The simplest was that the new auditor, replacing the departed Alan Speakman, (of whom my favourite quote was a response to one of our questions a couple of years ago when he declared it to be a 'roughly accurate figure') had accrued many more hours simply because he did not know his way around the PR accounting system and required lots of explanations about things AS would have remembered. But he did not seem perturbed about losing PR's account. Even an audit practice has to live, and losing clients is bad news - when I moved my company from one audit practice to another, the auditor came to my office (for the first time) and made all manner of promises as to how much better he'd be in future, he didn't want to be seen to lose a client. One interpretation of the B&S man might be that he is not all that bothered about losing PR, and maybe the price increase was intended to make PR go somewhere else. Maybe we'll know one day.

After the Peak Railway Association AGM in February, when no mention of additional Directors was made, yet two were co-opted on within days, the PR plc AGM admitted that they were bringing more Directors in but other than one was a solicitor, no names or exact numbers were released to the shareholders, whom you might think had a right to be fully informed. Indeed we were told of a new (volunteer/) marketing manager, a function which hitherto was supposedly jealously guarded by a PR member of staff.. As we filed out, a comment was made to me that the meeting had been bizarre: As Andrew bumped into a just-re-elected Director, he casually enquired if said Director was aware of potential defammation action and got an astonished look - did he not know? And what of my proxies? I had taken 14 or 15 (I forget which) into Matlock and knew of at least one sent to the office directly in my name. I was granted 10 only, and on challenging the new Company Secretary she admitted that she hadn't seen the originals.- I suggested that perhaps she should, and will be writing further in due course.

Now you will remember the earlier reference to the defammation action I have been forced to initiate due to the allegations made about me by PR in March under Pete Watermans' name, and the assertion from solicitors working for PR (or is it PW?) that it was true and they could prove it based on information provided by the regulator. We are working so far to the 'pre-writ protocol', i.e. the proceedure under which both parties lay out their cards to ensure that expense and court time are not wasted with cases that could be satisfactorily resolved out of court. We are, I said, but it appears that the other side are not. For to declare that your defence to any writ is that the statements made are true and can be proven to be, requires that you produce such evidence immediately, in order to follow the protocol. So we are about to write, giving them until later this month to provide such evidence, and given that I have never written to the ORR in my life, this may be a doozie, but I suspect PR will have more pressing things on its mind. For not only are the costs which the executive Director asserted were settled at £12,000, not settled at all and indeed still rising (possibly £20,000 so far) but it is my understanding costs of £29,500 (for the Part 36 settlement from last September) must be paid by this Thursday July 5th. I wouldn't like to be in their shoes.

Finally on this topic, did I say much at the AGM? No. I had been counselled prior to the meeting not to get into a verbal slanging match with any PR Director, and had to bite my tongue on many occasions. Indeed, I said more (in hushed tones) to Steph, sat next to me., which resulted in an executive Director staring straight at us as though trying to lip read! The trouble with any group of people who work together in management for a long time is that they get to the point where they can't come up with new ideas, yet any criticism is taken as personal, and escalation to 'vendetta' level is all too easy. We've seen it down at the West Somerset and no doubt we'll see it again elsewhere and in other businesses, it's human nature. But as somebody put it to me recently, the only way the Northern Ireland troubles finally calmed was by talking to the other side, which ended up with the Good Friday Agreement. Not that I am going to ring Tony B any time soon and Mo Mowlem is dead, but sooner or later, talking has got to happen if PR is to have any real future.

So this week is full! Monday is Tunstead, Wednesday sees the low loader in action and I'm chasing it round, then Thursday is the great wagon move at last. Do come and drop by, same time, same website.

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