Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of rotabroach and slogging

27th May 2018

I am unashamedly going to start with a picture that illustrates what no bedside table is complete without.


Yep, I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was proof reading a copy of my novel, which has gone through several reincarnations as technology changed (the first which only got to a couple of chapters, was typed on an Imperial 66 typewriter, but the slog of having to re-type pages after I decided on tweeks and other improvements discouraged me until word processing began to be available) and was actually finished some time ago, though I kept delving in and making the odd edit here and there. Anyway, whilst filming Murder on the Orient Express last year I got talking with one of the other of the rail crew and it transpired his partner was a copy editor. One thing led to another and the book is now available from a quaint little bookstore in darkest Brazil, so here's a link . Please don't be put off by the price - my royalties are less than 7% with all the rest going to Amazon. (Of course, it's printed to order so quite a complex process). Oh and that's a Bala Lake Railway book mark sticking out but that's optional and sourced seperately.

So, what's been happening this week? Well of course first was Monday and Tunstead day, and the regular gang were on site and raring to go. Unfortunately I forgot to pick up my camera, but Andy H had brought his so I am indebted to him for sight of this week's progress.

We are concentrating on the back at the moment, since we need to show progress for the benefit of certain Tarmac management floating around, and it is a sad fact of locmotive work that you fit some large component in a few minutes and the untrained eye perceives great strides, yet spend several hours on something complex but essential - pneumatic pipework or wiring for example - and it goes by un-noticed. For the moment, I would like to get the cab fitted but it would block access to the torque reaction arm, the rear cross stretcher and the brake weighshaft, so these must get fitted first,. But for this week's big luimp(s) I had concluded the fuel tanks could be fitted, partly because they had come down from the brick shed already. These bolt to the running plates, with a layer of rubber between as a joint, but of course much of the running plate on one sde had been replaced by the fabricators at Sigma6. So we scrounged a mag drill with a Rotabroach, and Liam and Jack back-marked the virgin running plate so that the two tanks were square and matching before they were secured with new M20s. Meanwhile up front I mounted the rubber sandwich mounts for the front engine assembly, and then refitted two of the horncheck ties after cleaning the bolts of paint with a 3/4 BSW die nut.


The rear cross stretcher was a bind. When we rermoved the brake weighshaft, we had to make up a tool to go with the enerpac to force the fitted bolts out of the frame and brackets, but none of us recalled the cross stretcher giving any particular difficulty. But the frame has had a lot of disturbance since and the cross stretcher was too wide to fit. So a dimension was taken, a piece of thick-walled tube cut to length, and it and an enerpac forced the frame members apart until the cross stretcher slid in, to be secured by as many of its original countersunk Whitworth bolts as we still had (and had cleaned up) and a handful of M20 to make up the shortfall. This cross stretcher was originally right behind the rear axle and probably supported the front of the firebox, but it was in the way of the final drive gearbox so ICI repositioned it higher up and at 45 degrees, where it doubles as supports for both the exhaust pipe and the handbrake lead screw.

While all this was going on (and bear in mind the cross-stretcher had been primed last week and painted black before fitting on Monday) Andy H was contenting himself cleaning and painting sandbox lids, brake pull rods, and any other loose parts that seemed in need of TLC. Sigma6 had painted up the 3 main components of the torque reaction bracket so the arm stayed up at the build area but the two ends returned to the workshops to await the new spherilastik bushes.

And that was pretty much it so far as progress at Tunstead went - nothing next week (as Monday is the Bank Holiday) but read on for progress elsewhere.


(And if you look closely at the above you can see a copy of 'The Railway to Merhead')

I was around again on Wednesday to enable Ben R and his Dad to recover two trailer-loads of wagon metalwork. Ben stripped a 1921 Midland wagon earlier this year - it was ex Shackerstone and in a deplorable state, so as much as could be was painstakingly separated from rotten timber for use on other MR wagons.

Andrew had ordered up some steel on Thursday and although a few small bits came back with him from Twigg's in his car, the 6metre lengths of 40 x 40 angle was delivered at eight a.m. on Friday which involved me dashing down having been a-bed twenty minutes before. I left them outside and returned for breakfast, before doing a special run back up to Tiunstead with the bushes, which I left with one of our regulars to press in to the housing brackets as and when they have a bit of time to spare. Originally Andrew had proposed popping in to Ashbourne to do some work on his trailer, but fortunately that hadn't been convenient - as it was the one day of the week when the weather was wettish.

First thing Saturday though we loaded up the van with all manner of bits including two brackets that we made up a month or so ago, oxy-acetylene, mag  and hand drills and grinder, etc and headed over to Ashbourne where Andrew's low-load trailer is currently based. It was fortuitously under cover with a tractor unit attached, so first task was to detach the swan neck and gain clear access to the very front of the deck. When the trailer was first deployed, it was neccessary to use conventional 75lb FB rail as ramp to come up and over the front of the trailer deck, which means a long ramp to achieve the height without excessive angle. The two brackets I had prepared should make the ramp shorter and thus lighter/quicker to assemble. For instead of coming over the deck, the ramp rails sit in the brackets, with a peg through the leading fishplate hole to retain them, and the top of the rail is flush with some 40 high strip to be fitted to the trailer itself as rails. That strip is due this week, so it isn't on yet.


Fitting the brackets required some 8 M20 bolts, the holes for which were marked out and rotabroached - we may add some strengthening plates behind them in due course. The swan neck was refitted and we moved to the back, where as a typical plant trailer, there were two hinged ramps that were of no use to us for rail vehicles. The only snag was that the rear light clusters and reflectors were fitted to them - so although cutting the ramps off was a straightforward bit of gas-axing, we had had made and powder coated two new brackets to carry the (new) light clusters and reflectors, together with a length of new cable to reach the junction box. Andrew cut the redundant pieces and tidied up his cuts with the grinder. Meanwhile I had removed the old cables from their bundles and identified the colour codes and where our light boxes didn't quite agree with the old ones. The new clusters were drilled and fitted in position, the tractor re-connected and - thank heavens - all the lights worked first time. I shut up the junction box while Andrew applied primer to our newly exposed metal.

Sunday, and with the van emptied, first port of call was Rowsley, to recover some of the smaller bits that are still up there. Many moons ago we had some bits under-cover in the signalling store, and had almost forgotten about some of them. Indeed, when we had filled the van with what he could remember, Andrew spotted some casing doors from NB27932 and a couple of Hunslet casing doors, but too far buried in S&T gear to be extracted today. As we loaded up a member of Peak Rail management watched from a distance, ducking out of sight as soon as spotted. One of the components brought back was the original instrument panel from the cab that is now to adorn Adolf. That's a convoluted way of putting it I know but you get the idea. When Adolf and its Vanguard cab went in to purdah at Nantmawr, the instrument panel and its associated desk came to Rowsley, so the two have been apart for about 8 years. The desk base and top (controls and levers) are also marooned at Rowsley, but whereas I plan to re-use them in Adolf's cab, the instruments are not so simple as they may simply not be usable without uneconomic surgery. With Andrew planning a dual-fiitted loco, there is simply no space to incorporate train air and vacuum gauges, it had a train air gauge fitted in the past, as a seperate gauge bracketted off the top. This will be sorted as the job progresses.

Anyway, with this lot reovered to Darley Dale, we made a start. Andrew wanted to get his new battery rack finished, for which some of this 40 x 40 angle was allocated, but he had anticipated cutting it so as to yield me 4 lengths of 1.9m each. Along the west wall, we have a water pipe to take a feed down to the south end where we can connect a pressure washer or similar. The pipe has been in place for some time, but unconnected, in part because with supports at just under 6m intervals, it visibly drooped in the middle and that without the weight of water. So these new angles are intermediate supports, bolted top and bottom to purlins, (and with an additional bolt to the cable trays for added rigidity) and with a pipe support at the appropriate level. As the day went on, I completed two and got the third well under way, which is not bad when you consider my reluctance at working off ladders.


Andy H had joined us and had resumed work on the remaining two of RS8's buffers that had yet to be stripped. Three of RS8's buffers are genuine Avonside ones and retained by a nut and split pin. The fourth is an ICI(?) exchange of a slightly different pattern and retained by a cotter pin. With the split pins drilled out, the nuts refused to budge and Andrew assisted with a heating nozzle on the oxy'.

With the nut red hot, a slogging spanner was substituted and slogged with a sledgehammer until it finally gave, although it needed three of us at one point, with Andrew stopping the buffer from jumping all over the floor!

So at last all 4 had been dismantled and Andy turned his attention to the odd-ball buffer and made up a new cotter pin. After a bit of experimentation this was assembled, meaning that the first buffer is ready to go to Tunstead and be fitted back to RS8. The two freshly dismantled ones will be added to the day of sandblasting which we're currently working towards. Andrew got his battery rack almost finished, and at one point during the afternoon, a heavy but brief shower saw torrents of water in the slot drain, but by the time I got out there to photograph it, the rain had eased and the torrent reduced to a modest trickle.


So that's about it for another week. But if you cannot contain yourself to wait 7 days for more of my inimitable prose (and even if you can), feel free to spend a few modest pennies with Amazon. What's it all about? Didn't I say? It's like this......

It is 1963. Beeching is slashing through the railway network. In a remote coastal village, an unlikely trio - an MP , a garage owner and an undertaker - band together to save their railway. But with no practical rail experience between them, they must learn fast if they are to get the tracks and stations repaired well enough to pass inspection by the Railway Inspectorate's Major Pitfall. Or will the domineering Mrs Smith-Bishop succeed in stopping them in their tracks?

Follow their trials and tribulations through the eyes of George Haskett, as aided and abetted by a variety of colourful characters, they battle their way through bulls and bulldozers, snow and sleepers, bureaucracy and sabotage, to reopen The Railway to Merhead.

See you next week.

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