It had been a frosty morning and as we headed east, we were already aware of at least one prang on the M180, but actually there were no less than five, one of which involved a lorry load of flat bottom rail not long out of Scunthorpe and another which, from the look of the cab, may have been fatal for the driver. The consequential traffic queues cost us over half-an-hour on a tight schedule if we were to get the dropside back by 5pm.
The AFRPS had a schools special top-and-tailed by Janus No.1 and the Peckett 0-4-0ST and we had hoped that before they left they might have shunted the Palvan around, but no. Arnie was on shed with a battery charger humming away, the "02" had flat batteries too and we had 2 attempts at starting Arnie which merely took the batteries back from 'struggling' to 'totally knackered' . With over an hour now lost the Peckett returned for coal and water after its tour and was prevailed on to shunt - I got a pickie on my phone and if later I find the cable to download it I may add it in!
By now the Police had closed the M180 so we fought our way back along the A18 and on to our transmission specialists, where the powershift was dropped off with an instruction that, when they have nothing more important to do, they set it up and test it. (Once we speed up the delivery pump on D2128, it might turn out there was nothing wrong with this transmission, in which case we have spent rather a lot of (my) hard-earned money on repairing and changing it. But as the unit is earmarked for another loco, it would have had to be spent eventually).
With this off it was charge headlong for Rowsley, where Charlie was utilised to bring the VBA into a position for loading the radiators, etc. But it was too late to return the dropside that day, and as the van was parked at Briddon Towers, it stayed there overnight and I had a similar early start Tuesday to return the hired dropside. Rather than fight my way back out through Sheffield's morning rush, I did a few things and loaded a few boxes, before setting off at about 10.10.
At 10.35 my mobile rang. It was the next door neighbour at Briddon Towers....
"Do you know two lads are taking things from round the back of your house and loading them into a van?"
I assured her that they had no authority to do so and would she kindly ring the Police? I turned around and headed back. Arriving just after 11..00 I was amazed to find two squad cars, 4 police officers, and two hooded lads with a Ford Transit van who were just returning a hydraulic oil tank that has lived behind our house for the last few years. Our neighbour had not only rung the Police, but given them the registration of the van, and one squad car had seen it half-a-mile away and brought it back.
So far so good, and you might be thinking that I would be spending the rest of my day making statements for the Police and pressing charges for theft. But no. I found myself surrounded by the 4 police officers as the two lads, one of whom gave me a grudging "sorry", climbed in to their van and drove off. Whilst accepting it was attempted theft, the senior officer explained to me that the CPS would not press charges, so there was no point in arresting them so he had given them a thorough talking-to, got their details and that of their van, and that henceforward the lads would be "on their radar". Thus far I was still on the pavement outside my house, as the Police officer went on to admonish me for not keeping 'anything I wanted to keep' locked up out of sight. Indeed, I felt that the four officers were deliberately preventing me from going near the two lads (do I look that threatening?) and they were taking the lads' words for it that they had returned everything rather than allowing me the opportunity to see for myself. Subsequently it was noted that a Petter AA1 engine, pump and bedframe, and several parts of a Rolls-Royce DV8 had disappeared. These parts were all intended for scrap, but the proceeds from such scrap should have been mine/Andrew's, not that of two lads who, (they had said) having knocked on the door and got no reply, considered themselves entitled to remove whatsoever they chose from behind the house. Indeed, seeing that they were helping themselves within 20 minutes of my leaving, and scarpered immediately afterwards, leaves me to wonder whether they were waiting for me to depart. With all this and more the officers of South Yorkshire constabulary saw no reason to concern themselves
With Andrew away on Saturday, Steph and I took the afternoon to clear the back of Briddon Towers of all remaining metalliferous objects.
Mention has been made that 14 901 is returning from the Gwili - in fact it is due to be collected by Reid Freight on Thursday 21st and unload at Rowsley on Friday 22nd, so Andrew nominated today to go inspect. As he only got home at 11.30 the previous night it wasn't quite an early a start as we would have liked and I was driving to the land of mountains where herds of Arafs roam free and every footpath leads to the mythical city of Llwybr Cyhoeddus. (What's an Araf? I dunno, I've never seen one, but all over the roads there are large painted warnings to slow down for them.)
We got to Bronwydd just before 1pm and found that no-one was expecting us, despite ten days notice. Clearly 14 901 has not been used for a while, as although it had been dragged up to the loco sidings since I toured the area a couple of weeks ago, the batteries were low and were unable to start the engine. We noted a number of obvious defects but a detailed assessment will have to wait until it returns to Rowsley, and rectification will eat into time that would be better spent on other pressing projects. When, like recently, I receive a pithy e-mail from someone suggesting that we do not spend enough time 'restoring and maintaining the existing collection', I start to wonder just who or what some people think we are. I referred him to this blog.