I said last week that this would be a high mileage week and I wasn't wrong – about 1400 on my reckoning though not all in the van as you'll see.
On Monday I was headed to London with the hope that, if all went well, I would get away with enough time to collect a compressor set from Amersham that Andrew had won on e-bay. Coincidentally, Andrew was headed to London also, but in his case, to inspect some wagons near Wembley. My job was a bit of a wash-out, thus I got away in good time and collected the compressor set, which was really only required to get hold of the Broomwade AC41 that was a part of it. To get it in the van, as you can see, it only just fitted and the unloader pipes had to come off the cylinder heads. To shorten it a few inches, we took off the outlet stopcock and associated pipe, which left the end of the air tank (the far end in the picture) open. As I set off back to the M25 I heard a few sloshes of water, and wondered whether the previous owners were one of these who don't appreciate that compressed air produces condensate.
But I had little time to ponder it further as the overhead signs were flagging delays around Luton, but a glance at my map suggested the alternate routes would be long and tiresome so I stuck with it – and it took me an hour to get through.
Meanwhile the radio was warning of further problems around Leicester, where some lorry had rolled over at the apex of the A46/M1 junction and blocked most of both roads. But I assumed that by the time I got there, things would probably have been resolved, after all, how long does it take to recover a lorry? By now I had discovered that Andrew was a mile or three ahead of me, just insufficient that when his call came through to tell me to get off the M1 at Junction 20 if I could, I was just literally passing it. He had encountered the back of the queue about 4 miles short of the services; by the time I got there it had lengthened by another half-mile or so. This was somewhere after 5pm, and I managed to get into Leicester services at 7.25, about 3 minutes after Andrew, who, like me, was in dire need of the loos. We met up, had a snack, and then rejoined the queue. As I went down the slip road I passed a lorry which had been at the exit slip road when I turned off into the services! We reached the Briddon Country Pile at about 9pm.
The following morning I came to unload the compressor set and sure enough, there had been water and it had come out through the hole we'd made in the end. But not just water. There was rust and carry-over oil, in fact, a goo with the consistency and colour that our grandson produces after he has eaten something he is intolerant to, just without the smell (thank goodness). I set about cleaning tools, etc., before setting off for the A1 where I encountered another traffic queue, which, after 4 hours of it the previous day, did leave me a trifle grumpy. However this turned out to be a short one brought about an inconsiderate VW Golf driver parking his car half on the grass of the entry slip road, requiring deployment of a police car and a quantity of road cones. Though I suppose the fact that it was upside down might have had a bearing on it.
On Wednesday, after Andrew and Steph had returned grandson to Norfolk, we headed over to Scunthorpe together to attend a Special GM of the AFRPS. There is a time in any group's life when there comes a change at the top: when the key member(s) of a committee or Board choose to step aside. In the case of the AFRPS, the long-standing Chairman, Rob Harkness, having retired from work at the steel plant, indicated at the last AGM that he wished to stand down. He did not do so straight-away as no-one put themselves forward to succeed him, but at least there was a 'new' and comparatively young committee in place that seemed to be trying to take things forward. But Rob then decided he had to step down, and forced an election, with a special General Meeting called to fulfil it.
There are of course, contradictory pressures in any group: it is human nature that not everyone will see eye-to-eye, that there will be those who take a dislike to others because of their apparent stance or attitude. As Rob observed in his valedictory speech, it is up to the Chairman to bring the group together, calming fevered brows, preventing frictions bursting into flames (they're not direct quotes, but you get the idea).
The Meeting was a packed one, not least because, in the weeks since the meeting had been called, an unusual surge in new members had taken place – indeed, two had only signed up that day. That it would appear that these new members had all chosen to turn up to this meeting, and seemed to be in support of one particular candidate, was perhaps coincidental. In the opinion of several of those present, it was not, and close consultation of the Constitution would have taken place had there been one to hand, but – and if you are beginning to see parallels with certain political party events of late, you are not alone – one long-standing member insisted that the members were valid and entitled to vote. In the event, the particular candidate won by 3 votes, and I personally think that it was unfortunate the way the vote has gone. In the aftermath of the meeting feelings were running high, several committee members were of the opinion they could not work with the new Chairman and that resignation was their only option. One ordinary member was in tears, as he felt he could no longer come to the railway.
Over the next 24 hours, five committee members resigned, including Andrew and another who had only been elected (unopposed) the previous night, with the combined effect that the Committee had insufficient remaining members to be quorate. However, when a Constitution was consulted, it was clearly stated that new members had to be approved by the Committee, so obviously without such approval, they could not be fully-enrolled members and thus ineligible to vote. The AFRPS is technically an offshoot of the steelworks' Sports and Social Club, so they have become involved. No doubt there'll be more on this as the matter is still on-going, but in the short run it has resulted in the formation of the succinctly named 'Industrial Diesel Railway Preservation Group; Team Frodingham Division' - not that even IDRPGTFD spells much, and I don't recommend trying to say it with a mouth full.
On Saturday Andrew and I were back down at the shed, him giving me a hand on a commercial job but taking time to complete stripping the pistons and conrods out of Jack's old engine. But before all that he had a look over the van for me, as I had noticed a drop in power coming back from Scunthorpe on Wednesday night which had been worse when I was out on Friday, and showing a tendency to black-smoke. The air cleaner was fine (it is only 3000 miles old) and nothing else was obvious.
Sunday was planned to be back at Rocks-by-Rail, as Ludwig Mond was to be outside and we were going to assist its previous owner to identify remaining faults and maybe – maybe - make it move under its own power. As we set off from Matlock though, the hill out from Tansley had me down to 20-25mph and laying a smoke cloud sufficient to hide a battleship so we turned back and transferred some of our gear to Andrew's Golf.
Sure enough at Cottesmore Ludwig Mond was outside and soon running up. With a belt-driven air compressor and oodles of air tanks it is slow to build pressure, but just as we got brave and tried to see if it would go was when a contingent from the IDRPSTFD – oh hec, I'll stick to Team Frodingham even if it turns out to be but a nod to times past – appeared.
And sure enough Ludwig performed, although a number of air and vacuum leaks conspired to trip power out from time to time through safety switches. And so a part of the afternoon changed to one of a social gathering. Plumtree has forwarded the following picture this evening as illustration. Andrew can just be spied, sat in the shunter's recess and lecturing the assembled multitude. Toby is carrying his daughter, and I am to the right with blue hands clasped behind my back – that's nitrile gloves not poor circulation – and probably wondering whether I dare interrupt him.
Meanwhile news came through by phone from Chapel & Wakes Colne that WD72229 (the Drewry) was not pulling like it ought to and a check of the fluid coupling suggested it might be low. We promised to check the correct grade of oil out when we got back. We haven't mentioned this loco of late (though it gets plenty of pickies published on Flickr) and I thought I'd mention it.
Eventually the group broke up, not before Toby asked me to be Treasurer – well actually Treasureman but I got the idea – of the new Team Frodingham group. I am not sure whether to be honoured or cynically deduce that he was merely recruiting, as to be Treasurer I'd also have to be a paid-up member. Perhaps I had better wait until I see a constitution...
They returned north and we headed over to Rippingale to meet up with John Scholes to collect a vac gauge he had offered on e-bay. Years ago, Steph favoured us buying an old railway station and we did actually look at a couple – one was beyond our means to renovate (there was a tree growing through the roof) and the other was still on an operating line. John's however was one closed in 1965 on the former GNR Sleaford to Bourne line. He has though decided that the aspirations of his youth are never to be achieved, so is selling up, although one or both of the 0-4-0STs on site may stay with the new owner, along with a few hundred yards of track and a turnout. With another mile or so of trackbed to north or south, it could be a pleasant little heritage line. Sorry, left camera in the car.
So that's about it for this week. I'll leave you with a quote from Andrew, that 'RS8 should be running within 12 months' and to go with it, a photo he uncovered during the week. This was RS8, in the NSC car park, around 1995-6, which Andrew himself took on his second real camera (and first 35mm one) when we had had a family excursion along the High Peak Trail. This was not that long after its arrival from Dinting and as you can see, patch priming was in hand and the glazing protected by boarding. Strange to think that at that time Andrew was around ten years old and the idea of him even owning one loco was way off – let alone acquiring this one.
Anyway, next weekend could be a strange one – you'll have to wait and see how and if it all comes off. But first I must sort the van out, or plan to go nowhere where the roads are anything other than level, which means staying in the valley. Maybe a low-mileage week then.