Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of seals, bushes and carpenters

10th June 2018

Right, back to normal. Have you seen that first programme on carriage restoration (C4) presented by Peter Snow and Henry Cole? (The latter has his own series 'Shed and Buried' which is frequently on in the afternoons on Travel Channel. Steph used to watch it if she wanted an afternoon snooze - his voice guaranteed to put her in a stupour). But why, given he is a motor-bike afficianado with no rail knowledge, is he co-presenting?

So as usual, Monday was off up to Tunstead and RS8. A slightly depleted workforce as one of our regulars suddenly found he had a course to attend, and two others popped back to the workshops to pick up a large Whitworth die nut and tap only to get commandeered on a 'rush job' for another part of the quarry complex. But sometimes on these gigs I am struggling to think of jobs that can keep everyone occupied, so those that remained had plenty to do. I have been trying to get the rear end of the loco complete up to running plate level, as then the cab can go back on, (which is another 'big lump' that declares 'progress!' to the passer by) but also so that cab flooring can go back in and a start on the control linkages, electrics and pneumatics comes into prospect. But the major tasks that need completion at the back end are the torque reaction link, brake weighshaft, handbrake screw assembly and rear drawhook. I had opted to go for a pair of M27 bolts through the torque reaction bushes to save the trouble and expense of machining up two special 1.125 inch pins, but M27 is not a common size (indeed, the senior manager with whom I liase didn't know it existed), so a quick turn-down of a larger bolt was organised.

The cross-stretcher we put in at the end of last week was originally right in front of the firebox, and so right behind the rear axle. As the gearbox needed its space, ICI moved it back and turned it to 45 degrees and added a bracket which then supports the handbrake screw linkage. (With a much higher cab floor than hitherto the original handbrake screw would have been useless.) so an enormous arm was added to the weighshaft, that comes above the old running plate level and rests against the handbrake screw's nut. So here's the cross-stretcher and bracket.


Now really, what I should be doing is starting from the bottom and working up, it makes more sense when you're delivering heavy lumps by overhead crane, but of course I tackled it differently by cleaning up the nuts and bolts getting both ends of the torque reaction arrangement into position, expecting the M27s at any moment. The frame end was secured by six 3/4 Whitworths, so was straightforward. but the gearbox end had an arrangement that picked up on both sides of the gearbox, and the two lugs at the top. After several attempts we resorted to removing the paint on the mating surfaces with coarse emery, it was that tight a fit. Even then it needed encouragement but as the M27s still hadn't arrived we started down at the bottom, carefully lowering the weighshaft in at an angle, then re-slinging the weighshaft level and securing it and its bearings into position. Rather to my relief it rotated quite freely once it was all tight, in fact a bit too freely and we tied the handbrake arm with rope lest it flopped over unexpectedly.


The six dots in the right of the above picture are the countersunk heads of the bolts that are holding the cross-stretcher. Or to look at it from the other side...


Meanwhile our main man had taken delivery of a large, good quality steel vice with quick release, at a price of £500 he assured us, and proceeded to spend some time opening up the holes in a workbench to get it mounted. Anxious to encourage such a common-sense acquisition, I started making use of it immediately, with spring hangers and such to have their threads cleaned out.

The handbrake screw mechanism had been overhauled up at Sigma6 last year and I kept looking at it trying to put my finger on what was wrong. Eventually it dawned on me that they had re-assembled it 180 degrees about, so we stripped it, reversed it and put new bolts in in the process. Andy H continued his policy of priming and painting everything in sight. Late in the day our lost members returmed with two M27 bolts with enooooormous heads and I attempted to wangle the beam into position. As I have said, this torque reaction assembly is somewhat over-engineered and some peculiar 'knobs' by the bores of the arm refused to pass over the spherilastik bushes. I decided these knobby bits needed to go - a washer could take up any play!

Next week, that is tomorrow as I write this, hopefully the cab has returned to the loco assembly area and 2" pipe and fittings will be on hand to start getting the vac pipe into position. Outside, Trackwork were installing a short headshunt just before the departure starter signal. It is at the top of the site so is not to protect against runaways, rather to prevent a departing train doing a SPAD and landing on the main line. The headshunt takes the alignment of the old line but terminates in a buffer stop. If only they had connected it up to the existing track, it would have afforded a longer spur for braking and would have meant RS8 could have returned to the quarry under its own power. Ah well.

We all take things we have learned over the years for granted, and tend to assume that everyone else knows at least the basics. This is not always so and recently I was reminded of this when I saw the first copy of my novel (The Railway to Merhead - yes, of course I'm going to plug it un-mercifully, I've even created a new category 'Pete Briddon Fiction' in the LInks section of the site so that you can all find it AND BUY A COPY!) and realised that the Copy Editor had innocently changed every one of my 'tons' to 'tonnes', probably thinking they were the same thing, just correctly spelt. Back in 1963 (yes, I was quite young, buit I can still remember it) we didn't really know what a tonne was and even today, in common speech we say tons rather than tonnes. So, this week I spotted an ad on e-bay for a firm offering 3/4BSF nuts. Well to be exact, it said '3/4BSF Nuts British Standard Whitworth' but I took it at face value and ordered some. They arrived on Friday and I took one down to the shed to try it on a 3/4BSF bolt wanted for RS8. It wouldn't go on. Consternation. Check taps. A 3/4 tap screws in perfectly. Was the bolt thread damaged? Hang on, what tap have I just screwed through the nut? 3/4BSW? Goes back to check ad on e-bay in case I had ordered the wrong thing - well I'm getting old, y'know. Re-read description - do you think they don't know the difference between BSF and BSW? Fire off note to seller.

Another mix up this week, I chased up the gearbox shims for RS8 which I had down as due on Tuesday, and got a reply from the supplier that until I paid the Pro-forma they wouldn't proceed on them. Good if I'd received the pro-forma, not so when I hadn't seen it before. And I really want to get most of these low level jobs done before refitting RS8's cab, etc...


Andrew had a prior commitment on Saturday so I spent most of the day at the shed on my own. First task was to finish separating the forward reverse box from the change speed box on the Wickham, but barely had I completed that when a pre-arranged visitor called. His main object was to see the Wickham, which is currently in about as un-photogenic condition as you could ask for. Which brings me round to an interesting debate. Is or is it not a Wickham? This all stems from conversations with Jonathan F of the Rail Trolley Trust. Wickhams built light but sturdy, and frame members are normally pieces of steel sheet folded into channel sections. But 6607 - or what purports to be it - has a fame built out of I beams.


So is it a genuine - if rather special -  Wickham, or has it been re-chassised at some time in the past? Andrew's view is that it is original, arguing that if you go to the trouble of replicating the original in much heavier material, would you then re-attach all the original body parts? Surely you'd build a whole new body and this too would be manufactured differently, if looking much the same from the outside. The matter is I suppose a  trifle academic, since having been repowered from its original Ford to a Petter PH1, Andrew now plans to repower it to a Lister with a hydraulic drive (shades of what I did for ICI Wilton back in the 90s) so its authenticity will be even more lacking by the time we've done. Never mind, it just adds to the intrigue.

Saturday evening though, Andrew and I were both around to meet a family visit. John G had last seen the shed when it had no cladding, so it was something of a transformation. We showed them round what was now on site and they went off with the Wickham's change speed box, clutch and Ford flywheel to mate up with the Ford engine recently acquired for their Wickham - from an e-bay seller in Leicester. Only goes to show what a resource e-bay can be for preservationists.

Sunday, and by the time we got down, Charles was already hard at it on 1382, and Toby wasn't long in arriving. They pressed on - literally- with the bushes for the brake gear on 1382, using our press.


1382's brake rigging was some of the worst I'd seen, with considerable play in the crossbeams, their ends worn and the original Yorkshire bushes sometimes worn through. We'd had the ends built up and re-machined back to original sizes, some of the hangers had had to be reamed out oversize to get away from ovality, and as a result every bush (18 in all) was a different O.D., but for the most part went in without problem. Toby then set too to drill a grease connection into top and bottom bushes.


Charles looked on at this point. Can you read his 'shirt? It says: Anything a Carpenter can do, and Engineer can do too! Of course it will take 3 engineers, 6 times as long, cost 7 times as much, 10 times the mess AND the assistance of a carpenter. Do you think he might be a little partisan?

We all ended up assisting getting the hangers on at one side, the crossbeams out from under Pluto and back under and into the hangers at the first side, after which the second side's hangers were put in. Of course, this is all the easier that the loco is sat on stands, as the next tasks include the side rods and putting in a vac line from front to back.


I was back to bits and bob jobs, but one task I looked at was the sanding valves for RS8. Being RS8, these are located under the driver's seats(!) and had had their copper pipes stolen. Had the valve bodies not had a dark patina, they would probably have gone too, as they were actually cast brass. As it is, one was minus its operating lever, but at least the valves themselves were intact, if jammed. Stripping them required a 3/4 socket and the breaker bar. The springs had disintegrated, and a pile of rusty dirt occupied the innards. I drifted the valve spindles apart and put them on one side to sort out new springs and seals over the next few weeks. The knobs on that torque arm were also removed with a 9inch grinder (the 4.5 inch couldn't get in far enough).


As I have been writing this, Andrew has been out and about again with the van, collecting a job lot of aluminium chequer plate for the low loader: He aims to be back on it tomorrow as it is due to be in use over the next week or two with a loco move, and he has the other side tyres to check pressures on, as well as weld those brackets for the beacons, wire said beacons, fit a reflector at the back and turn the rails around ready for loading. He might be a bit busy for one day. A box of those cute plastic arrow things has arrived so that he can mark all the wheel nuts and make sure none of them move.

Peak Rail plc accounts came out this week, and pretty depressing they are too. Income from traffic (passenger ticket sales and refreshments, etc) fell roughly 8% on 2016, but that is eclipsed by legal costs, which run into the £70,000s. The money handed over to Grinsty last September is largely covered by the 'anonymous donation' plus a loan from a Director, so the company has posted loss of £111,466 for 2017. As a shareholder said to me today 'The company's as good as bankrupt'. Perhaps the anonymous donor can be prevailed on to put his or her hand in their pocket again for the further bills and writs that exist, or are imminent. The AGM is due on June 28th.

So, a final reminder that you can find a link now in the new 'Pete Briddon Fiction' category in the Links section from the Home page, which will take you to Amazon's page on 'The Railway to Merhead' and no, I still don't know how many have been sold. Have you bought one yet? See you next week..

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