Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of seeing the train for the trees

29th April 2018

Another varied week here at the Briddon Country Pile. Steph has had a go at me for 'putting work and locos in front of my health' as on Monday I was out and about and only tried to get an appointment at the Doctor's on Monday night, which was a forlorn hope.

 As I say, Monday I was out fairly early on, swinging by to see a couple of suppliers in Sheffield then on over to Tunstead for a meeting about RS8, which has managed to slip out of this blog for a month or so. I hadn't had the time to prepare my 'Loco Restoration for Dummies' missive but did spend a hour or so drawing up a Critical Path type diagram  which seemed to go down well, and there were mutterings about turning it into Gantz charts or some such. A couple of new guys have come in to the picture, and things I have been saying need to get done for the last few months, should, touch wood have been achieved this week so that we can start making significant progress back in what they call 'the stores' but is where the loco was converted from steam to diesel nearly 60 years ago. Henceforth Tunstead Mondays are back on an I must first sit through another induction so that I can safely work there. I dunno about you, but I have sat through so many films, lectures or interactive computer sessions at firms over most of the UK that I think in my dotage I have reached saturation point. Apparently RMS staff at Trostre were taking bets as to how quickly I would get through their computerised 'film section then randomised multiple choice questions' and unknowingly I slightly disappoiinted them, though not half so much as a contractor's employee who presumably figuered that getting paid to sit in a warm room was preferable to physical effort outside and managed to take a day-and-a-half over it! Anyway, RS8's gearbox and wheelsets are sat in the stores with the frame, and target tomorrow is to try and get it back on its wheels and show the new Production Director that the job is going forward.

So Tuesday I managed to get to see a Doctor and noting that I had been in on the last two occasions with the same symptoms, she decided it should be more thoroughly investigated. Not only was I put back on anti-biotics (it's a mark of how far we have come with reducing anti-biotic use that merely to say that is greeted with serious expressions) but a blood test and chest x-ray booked. The chest x-ray didn't concern me, but regular readers may recall that a past experience of having blood drained out my arm has left me with a strong dislike of the process. I could never be a blood donor.

Design work for Adoilf has progressed with front and rear engine mountings being schemed but not yet put out for profiling. The front mount is based on a unit I drew up for Libby, and the rear mounts, given the experience on the 03 and the fact that the engine is much higher in the frames than I am used to, is going to be quite a tall one with the mount centrelines wider than I normally do. One thing I did learn was never to put the front and rear mounts in the same horizontal plane. I did do it when lowering the engine on Bala Lake Railway's 'Bob Davies' (the prop-shaft angle was right up at maximum which I wasn't comfortable with for a line of 4.5 miles length, so I re-mounted the engine and transmission lower to reduce the angle), creating a ledge which carried the units on 4 a/v mounts but being on the same level, the power unit moved excessively, far more than I was used to with engines producing far greater torque. My mind went back to Thomas Hill days, when I had asked Drawing Office to prepare a drawing of the Perkins 4.108 and Hydrovane compressor which we were buying off Hindles for train air applications on shunters. In particular, I wanted a drawing of the bed frame they were mounted on, with a mind to cutting costs by fabricating it ourselves. 'But there isn't a bed frame' reported back the draughtsman, who had been to look at a Sentinel 0-6-0DH we had been prepping for sale to Rover at Longbridge.I had no time to look into this further just then, they'd not long given me a company car and expected me to justify it. The loco was delivered  and promptly gave problems, and I was summoned out of a meeting at English China Clays with orders to get back to Brum. I drove up lickety spit and found part of the problem was indeed the Hydrovane. Hindles had cut costs by replacing the bed frame with its 4 a/v mounts with but two mounts, one front and one at the back, on the centreline, and there was absolutely nothing to stop this compressor set rocking to and fro with the only restraint being the exhaust pipe, air delivery pipe and copper fuel lines, which gave up first. Maybe Hindles had supplied installation instructions that had specified a stay bar of some kind and this hadn't got through to Drawing office I don't know, but shortly after a bed frame of the traditional type was delivered and was on all further orders.

Saturday, and Andrew and I headed off south eastwards, pausing for a few minutes at Wansford and then on to Colne Valley. 14901 has been parked up since a driver reported a banging noise which he thought was coming from the prop shaft. We didn't think that was likely and assumed that it was just the tail pipe of the exhaust banging the top of the casings - it has ever since we had the turbo repaired. So after signing in and getting ovvies on, we made a beeline for the turbo and found that the outlet bellows had failed, allowing soot to build up over the pipework around the turbo. The bellows section itself, which you can see in the photo below was hanging on by the skin of its teeth and was making the banging noise that had been reported. The tail pipe came off easily as we'd used steel bolts but brass nuts. The elbow however was a different matter as the steel nuts were rusted solid, so we took the bracket off the engine and brought the whole assembly away.

That rather ended things at Castle Hedingham, and without further ado we set off back westward, pausing only at Cambridge services for a drink and a break to bid for some BSF bolts on e-bay. At 4pm we arrived at UKRL in Leicester, as Claire's starter motor had packed in and we had a brand-spanking new one to replace it with. It proved that to remove and refit starters was a combination of access from the top, and from the pit underneath, although in neither case were you able to see all the way round. Thus while struggling with his hands above his head, Andrew encountered something that got in his way, resting on a part of the loco frame under the starter. Back about 10 years ago, when Claire was on the Ecclesbourne Valley, they managed to lose the oil filler cap. On a Rolls this is always a flip-top lid, as it is with many other engines. But on Claire, there was the usual Cummins which is a plate with a screw handle on top. You put the plate back into position, and tighten the screw, squeezing a large rubber bush which is forced to expand outwards and clamp in the filler pipe. We had fitted a new one, assuming the old one was somewhere in the ballast, but here it was, slightly the worse for ten years of rolling around in oily dirt, having survived through road moves to Nantmawr and back to Leicester, with shunting  etc in between.

Sadly, our efforts on Saturday were in vain. The old starter showed clear evidence (both discoloured paint and smell) of the solenoid having burnt out. But the new one refused to do anything either, until I jumped a wire across the starter contactor. You could hear this operating quite distinctly, so that solenoid itself is working, but the contacts have broken, melted or otherwise become defunct. We had spares back in Derbyshire but not with us, so had to leave the locomotive still not servicable, You can't win'em all, but on Saturday we couldn't seem to win any.

Andy H arrived at half-eight Saturday night so that he and Andrew could be off early Sunday morning. They were heading over to the 'Sleeping Beauty' wagons to carry out undergrowth clearance. There they were joined by Phil G and Chris N, and in a few very productive hours they cleared the front of the wagons that have been acquired and a narrow area behind, all to faciltate craning them out in a few weeks. When last these were featured, I couldn't get a photo of the RRA in its entirety, so here's one of several that Andrew took during the day.


Next to it is a 12ton box van, which Andrew intends using an an 'engine repair facility' by incorporating the engine turnover stand, racking, bench and maybe a bit of extra insulation.


Behind it are a couple of wagons we can't touch, but proved an ideal place to deposit the arisings of the undergrowth clearance but on the other side of them are the 3 Ferry vans, of which one is sold and two available to anyone who may be interested. With central doors 4m wide, they would be excellent storage vehicles with the volume about the same as a 40ft container.



Meanwhile I had wandered down to the shed, emptying the van and changing some of the circuit breakers on the distribution board. I then turned my attention to the exhaust bellows from 14901, and after warming up a couple of nuts, found they would turn if given a sharp blow from a heavy mallett at the end of a good spanner. Wandering outside, I measured up the step arrangement on Tom (the Sentinel 0-6-0DH) but also on Grace. While Andrew had been occupied with Claire's starter I had been looking more closely than before at the Hudswell step arrangement and my mind had pondered whether it wouldn't be an even better layout for Adolf. If I have a few minutes spare during the week, I'll try it out in CAD and see how it goes together. Back inside I got back to those two angles for the fuel tank mounting, and progressed them, almost finishing as Andrew and Andy H returned from their outing as little lumberjacks. I have said before that the hardest job in engineering is getting a hole in the right place, and despite all my careful efforts two of them have gone a touch awry. Ah well, we'll cross that bridge later.

I almost started this week's blog by welcoming a new reader, for it seems that personnel at Pinsent Mason solicitors of Birmingham, acting for Peak Rail plc, have trawled this blog looking for sections that they can use to threaten a counter-action for defammation. I am obviously not going to go into every point here, but one pops up in their letter which I cannot resist. In asserting that I was responsible for making numerous spurious complaints to the ORR Inspectorate, they state 'The statement is based on information provided to our clients by the regulator...'  I look forward to seeing this. Let me repeat, as I have done in various ways lately, I have never been in contact with the ORR Inspectorate about Peak Rail, save for a meeting at Darley Dale which I was asked to attend. Not by letter, e-mail, text, phone, telegram or smoke signal. In fact, so  far as I recall, the only time I contacted the HMRI off my own bat was around about 1975, when I was looking at a n.g. project using a section of ex-GNR trackbed that passed through what was due to become the Shipley Country Park, near Ilkeston. I asked whether they would accept my laying the line initially in 'Jubilee' track (which for the s.g. afficianados is 20/25lb/yard rail clamped to steel sleepers and in lengths of around 15-20ft) and upgrading it to better standards later. If memory serves they wrote back politely saying that yes, they probably would, but would want to see a move towards heavier rail and more substantial sleepers as quickly as possible. It was all a waste of time though, the Council changed its mind and went for an amusement park (I forget what it was called but it had an Austerity 0-6-0ST on static display) which went bust after a year or so, and the site was redeveloped into the 'American Adventure' which had a 15" gauge line but also closed a decade ago.

Anyway, to return to topic, you'll note that the key words in the quote above are probably the 'is based on'. Which suggests that the regulator has not stated it categorically, but rather that someone is adding 2 and 2 and making something other than 4. For Pinsent Mason to assert that their defence will be declare that the statement made in the Peak Rail 'newsletter' is true when in fact it has been wrongly deduced is rather disappointing. I hope they will continue to read this blog.

So that's about it for this week. I must be up early and off to Tunstead first thing as RS8 awaits. See you next week.


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