But the early part of the week went on much as normal, with 14 901 out in traffic on Tuesday with Roy and me crewing. There was nothing particularly unusual about the day, save that just after we left Matlock on one run we had an unexplained brake application as we descended to Riverside, so pulled up and went to investigate. But the vac soon restored and although the kettle crew had also seen their gauge fall, there was no sign of defect or butterfly to suggest a passenger had pulled the 'cord, so we proceeded on and nothing untoward arose.
But as I said last week, the signs of autumn are all around – at Darley the fresh ballast on turnouts at the south end are covered in brown leaves, and the nights are drawing in. Straight after the service had ended and the loco was disposed, I changed from my train driver's outfit into my builders mate outfit and Steph and I headed down to Darley. But despite mixing only a partial mix of mortar in the mixer, by half-past seven we were finishing pointing by torch light with only the stones around the entrance way to the doors set. We may have another evening this week, but more likely we'll attempt a full day in a week or twos time to get as much of it finished as we can, ready for the last great push to see the building clad.
By Thursday the turnout was pretty well finished (if not levelled) and the straight ahead track points straight at the shed door for what we think of as Track 1 (in that it was the first sub-base for the track in which concrete was poured, back in June) whereas the curve for track 2 points straight at the container.
Of course, when the container was put there – was it 3 years back? – we envisaged the building being slightly farther west and parallel with the main line. Only after the hassle with the Planning Application the building got moved and realigned but the container stayed where it was. Soon it must shift to form a barrier between tracks 1 and 2, where our shunter can rest without fear of those for whom unattended glass and a handy-sized projectile form an irresistible combination.. But in between also is the piles of arisings and ballast which must yet be removed, and another few wagon-loads departed on Thursday to infill what had once been the very southernmost extremity of north yard behind the platform.
And after that, the works train left for Rowsley, leaving Darley in a forlorn and lonely state. When it and the track gangs return, I know not, but we will keep up the pressure to get Darley, as someone recently said “up and running”.
On Saturday 14 901 was out for the last time this month (and indeed, for its last rostered turn until mid-October) but it was in Roy and John's hands, not mine, though Andrew and I did pop in to see it before heading off to Scunthorpe.
D2128 – er 03 901 – (for that mater, a load of names have been proposed for it this weekend, all of them tactfully rejected by Andrew, from “Mavis” through “Blackadder” to “Idgat”) has been receiving a lot of attention over the last few weeks from a young team at Scunthorpe which includes Toby, Stephen, Ashley and Charlie. Under Andrew's direction they have been learning the skills of needle gunning, body-fillering and painting by brush and roller.
By Saturday 03 901 was sitting in the “other side” of the shed at Scunthorpe, or should I say that a wall exists between it and the kettle whose presence makes painting with an adequate finish impossible. (Not just the particulates from the smoke and steam as it comes on shed, but the humidity change affects the paint as it dries and undoes all the efforts made at getting a deep gloss.)
Andrew had brought all the side casing doors back to Derbyshire – the grab handles went to a nearby firm that combine shot blasting with powder coating, while he invested in several cans of etching spray primer as the doors, being aluminium, do not take to ordinary paint. We brought these back with us for the team to paint black, and under them were pre-cut pieces of 25mm plywood which, I envisaged, I could get around the various pipes, door frames and sandbox lids to produce a complete timber floor by the end of the day.
But, as Andrew was unhappy about the possibility of my producing sawdust while jig-sawing these final adjustments, he insisted I set up to cut in the other half of the shed, though he would allow me to drill the holes for the bolts (and slice through all the old ones that were still occupying the holes in the floor frame) provided some of the cab windows were re-instated first, and as these needed the old sealant and putty removing, and in the case of the back ones, their frames scraping to reveal their original brass, the floor took a back seat for much of the day.
I had, incidentally, measured the floor frame twice over the last few months, getting slightly different answers, and more recently Andrew too had measured, coming up with a third set of figures. In the end I produced a CAD layout, worked out how to get what I thought were the correct sizes out of two sheets, then got the local timber merchants to cut the boards as an 8 x 4ft won't fit in the van.
Eventually, by late afternoon I was let loose on the floor, measuring the various angles and door frame parts, and transferring these onto the boards in the other side of the shed and cutting them. Then carrying the board through, trying to make the so-and-so fit and finally carrying it back to cut a bit more out until it did. Fortunately Toby took pity on my frail, aged frame and did much of the portering and lifting up into the cab, and when finally it did fit, volunteered to squeeze underneath and first backmark the holes on the underside of the board and finally wield the spanner as I wound the bolts up with an Allen key.
But it was a long, slow process and by the time we gave up it was past 9pm, we'd had no tea and still had an hour and a half-drive back to Derbyshire, but at least the rear 3 boards were in place.
On Sunday morning we were headed back over there, but no earlier than we had on Saturday. With all the gear left out the previous night I could crack on straight away, whereas the “team” had arrived earlier and begun painting the fixed handrails in white as well as the cab doors in black.
Nevertheless cutting the remaining boards (which included sandbox lids and a vac and air pipes pipes to negotiate) took most of the afternoon. It was strange that, even though I carefully measured the gaps, and, with the same tape measure, found that the boards were “the same”, they still wouldn't drop in until I had hauled them all the way back and trimmed off another 5 or 10 mill whereupon they then dropped in to place revealing a 5 or 10 mill gap. Meanwhile the team had been polishing the windows for the cab front and the air horns, whose trumpets were the old brass ones not the later glass fibre, and fitting these together with the air cleaner mushroom on top of the casings.
I was supposed to finish the floor by laying a rubber mat over the timbers, but in view of the time, and the desire of the assembled multitude to see how it looked and prove it (still) worked, by around 5pm there was a move to get it outside, and the AFRPS Yorkshire 0-6-0DE “Arnold Machin” moved the two locos that were behind it out of the way. Regular readers may recall that when the loco last entered the shed, it was with us all pushing and it moves remarkably freely. Tonight we reversed the process – we propelled it out of the shed (with a little help from a pinch bar to get over some debris) and admired it outside and added coolant before bringing out the casing doors and working out where each had come from. (A process that took a lot of head-scratching). Then despite my concerns about how long it had sat without the batteries doing anything, the loco started up first time, and Andrew, with a cab full of happy faces, drove it up and down and hauled a few brake vans but the light was failing, it was past 7pm so a sojourn farther afield was out of the question. So its first booked tour at next weeks' diesel gala is an act of faith for us all.
Still, there was a satisfying blast of warm air as the loco went by, proving that the ducting around the cooler group was preventing recirculation, but a squeal which was probably the alternator belts needs checking out. During the week the team will hopefully get the cab doors remounted and the remaining handrails painted and re-fitted, leaving me to get back Saturday and fit the powder coated grab handles.
It was nearly 8pm tonight when we left Scunthorpe (hence once again the lateness of the hour that I publish this) and as we drove back Andrew is pondering whether the two-speed powershift really is the right transmission for the loco, as it will easily spin in first gear and in reality isn't heavy enough to make best use of the engine torque given that it now has a Cummins with around 350bhp under the casings. Perhaps, he pondered, we should substitute an ordinary converter for the powershift and reallocate the latter to the North British 0-6-0, whose Voith and final drive are suspect. Given the many hours and months of frustration getting that powershift to work at all, this revelation presages yet more work. At least not before next week.
On a different note, I don't often comment on the realities of maintaining this site, but the recent panics about a virus that attacks Apple software and the Unix system (which is behind the vast majority of servers out there) makes it a little topical. On a typical month, the “page” that is viewed most of all is not the latest posting, but the administration log-in screen: over 1200 hits this month. There is little to read there, but nonetheless this, and other permutations of possible log-in routes continue to form a big part of the activity on the site. Some of these may be automated crawler programs, others may be young people for whom the internet is a playground with no regard for the costs and hassle that their stunts can cause. We have had to hurriedly change passwords again this week after someone found a back-door that had been left ajar (it has been closed and locked!) and it is a daily chore for me to scan the statistics that the site produces looking for any strange accessed pages, dodgy referrals or anything else unusual that my site hoster might need to investigate. I am not sure what the moral of this is – or even if there is one – but those of you who regularly read and enjoy these verbal meanderings might not appreciate the trouble and hassle that goes on behind the scenes. Maybe it is just that time of year, and another birthday approaching (I said cheques and postal orders only last year but it made no difference) that makes me reflective and melancholy. Happy October to you all.