Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of shunts and tours

2nd September 2018

Feast or famine – at least as far as pictures go. Last week I had a load – this week? Rather less.

Of course, it being a bank holiday, there was no day out at Tunstead and although I was back down at the shed, there was no Andrew. I did however set about sorting out the German flat wagon from the line on track 1 since our efforts at transferring materials from the the VBA to the Ferry van had thrown up a need for further stillages. On the one hand, there were two on the german flat which were less than fully-utilised and the VBA was home to a Rolls-Royce C6T which, having become property of Andrew as part of a deal, could be safely sat under a tarp rather than the covered storage it had hitherto enjoyed. So Charlie was utilised for the shunt, slightly convoluted but ending up with the 'flat at the head of the siding, easily accessed for whenever we were ready.

Having raided grandson's toys and the kitchen cupboard, enough AA size batteries had been commandeered to get the labeller working so I started the mammoth process of marking every electrical connection box, outlet and isolator with the contact breakers that feed it, at least at this stage, those within easy reach – the task will continue when I'm in a mood to chase around the shed with a step ladder to reach the others. Then I returned to the task of sorting out more nuts and bolts, but also some general overall tidying. No, not very exciting and not photogenic either, but it has to be done.

Most of the week has been taken up with other matters, and it wasn't until Friday I got to do much of interest, starting with an early-morning dash down to the shed to meet up with Dom B and release the point clamp for Peak Rail periodic planned maintenance and inspection of the crossing function. Then it was away to collect materials – some plywood to make seat bases for Claire and RS8, up to the profilers to collect, amongst other things, the profiles to make new lifting links for the low load trailer (you recall one broke in July and transpires to have been a bodged replacement) and parts for RS8's instrument panel and then on to collect oil for a forthcoming service on Cheedale, which is turning up on Flickr several times now it is more public.

Talking of plywood and RS8 though, one of my regular readers saw the round yellow discs on the 'tops' of RS8's spring buffers in last week's edition (picture repeated below) and thought they were plywood. He suggested that they would not long last in service.

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True, but on the basis that for every one who actually takes the trouble to write, there will be half-a-dozen or more thinking the same but staying quiet, let me stress that these are steel discs, it is the primer that has that hue. The only wooden packers are thick hardwood ones that will go between the buffer and loco headstock, to take up the space required by the nut (top) that retains the spring on tension.

So, Saturday came around and first task was to shunt things about and get the German flat into Track 3A and the VBA into 3B. But I had a visitor booked at half-nine so was down by half-eight, had Charlie started up and got the first half done just as he phoned to say he was close-by. It was a running weekend for the HST at Rowsley, so we expected a few visitors, both pre-booked and off-chance, so he was calling here first before going on up there. Having done my usual guided tour Andrew had arrived and commencing to de-sheet the 'flat wagon, found the tarp was depressed into a stillage by the weight of around 36 litres of smelly, green rainwater. Not that rainwater here is normally green and smelly, you understand, but that it had been there long enough to start the basics of its own eco-system. We had got the rest of the shunting completed when the next two visitors appeared, although their main purpose was to collect something. Once that transaction was complete two stillages were lifted off the flat, the C6T brought off the VBA and put in their place, and the flat returned to Track 1, the Ferryvan taking up space in the shed once more. The steady transfer of parts into stillage or pallet, and transfer a few yards away to the Ferry van, is as I have said scarcely interesting or photo-worthy, especially when you're sweating profusely in the heat and humidity and pointing a camera every few minutes is the last thing on your mind. And if I did, you'd probably think I was scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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I heard voices outside on the footpath and left Andrew alone to investigate. I found two gentlemen leaning over the fence farther up the yard, so I wandered up and asked if I could help them at all. No, they were quite all right said one, and feeling suitably spurned, I had turned away, when he piped up with a question as to whether 'the 14' was still here. I asked which one, primarily to get some sort of dialogue going, and it transpired they'd been told that D9500 was visible from the footpath, which actually is seldom the case considering where it is at present. So I did my 'would you like to look around?' (a minute earlier I'd been thinking 'stuff you, then') which they accepted and became visitors four and five for the day. They'd gone and the forklift shuffling to and fro had continued when Andrew looked up and said 'visitors!'. Sure enough a man and a teenager had entered the shed without prior contact, which is something we frown upon, especially as they had climbed over the gate. (They had at least been told by people up at Rowsley that if they came down here they would probably get shown around, just a pity that we hadn't got the sign planned to go on the gate ready so that people could contact us properly.) The teenager was only interested in the numbers, and was moving from each loco long before my rehearsed script was finished, so I cut it down. Indeed he cut me short at the beginning, pointing at Pluto and asking it was a Fowler. Now, off the top of my head I don't think Fowlers built any chain drive standard gauge locos, certainly not post war, so if he was trying to impress me with his knowledge I'm afraid he failed. It's probably most bad-mannered of me that on such an occasion I don't respond with a polite negative but point to something which the questioner has overlooked – in this case the rather obvious word PLANET cast on each of the axlebox covers.

By the time these two had left us the day was drawing to a close, and the final mammoth shunt back was completed. Sunday was not quite so early a start but again I shunted things around while waiting for Andrew. I couldn't complete the shunt until he arrived, for today we needed the VBA further in the shed to access the bits at the Matlock end, primarily a large piece of racking Terry had built back in May 2010. To get the VBA further in meant clearing more space, in this case the accommodation bogie which is home to parts of Adolf's casings since sandblasting. As said bogie has neither buffers nor couplers, an old strop is utilised, but in front of it is the Bridge – the fabrication Andrew made to enable us to drive the forklift over the tracks. (No, not the Nordic Noire series with that Swedish blonde, more's the pity). When Andrew arrived we lifted that out, extracted the bogie, then put the Bridge back in so that he could relocate the compressor (that one we bought a few weeks ago) into the corner before bringing the VBA in for the final stages of its emptying. There was one more stillage available, but that was in the PCV, so we extracted that and brought it into the shed on the RRA – the first 'work' it has done in a decade or more. That racking that I referred to was loaded with Rolls-Royce DV8 bits, mostly from an old engine we bought from the East Lancs many years ago, and included 8 cylinder heads complete with rockers, etc that were 'king heavy for a hot day. There was much more on higher shelves, but having got most of the weight off we decided to lift it out 'as is', which is a bit of a challenge when I explain that the rear corner posts were higher than the front two, and that they were also taller than the door clearance. But we put it in that way, probably with Rob and a JCB (after eight years I don't recall everything) so it must also come out. With Andrew on forklift and me directing, we brought the racking to the outside edge of the VBA, and through gentle lifting and tipping, guided the bottom of the racking outwards until it cleared the door runners whilst the tops of the back columns were still well inside the van, then lowered it down and returned it to the perpendicular. Sounds a bit hairy but nothing moved and nothing fell off the shelves. For the moment it is sitting in the middle of the shed with the last pallet load of bits on top – a new home for it will be resolved fairly soon.

As we started to shunt things back, I found myself on a green chain-drive Vanguard towing a long, air braked flat wagon and an Army-liveried lwb VBA – I got this deja-vu feeling from many years ago when commissioning newly-delivered MoD locos, or other such escapades on Army Railway Organisation systems. Meanwhile Andrew was talking to someone on the footpath and came and told me that he'd promised him that I'd give him a tour if he came back about 5.15 after we'd finished. And so it transpired – he had been up for the HST event, was staying at Matlock overnight and going on to the Ecclesbourne Valley tomorrow.

Meanwhile I'll be back up at Tunstead. Sadly Martin and Dan will not be available, and both Alan G and Pete H are on leave, but we'll have another fabricator, plus Liam G so at last I must get that cab welding done. Another of my regular readers, having had a soft spot for RS8 for many years, insisted on making a financial contribution this week so has 'sponsored' the new clutch cylinder. If anyone else is so moved I'll be passing around you with with a large bowl. New ¾ UNF bolts are now in stock for those engine mounts, (and spares for Cheedale should we need them) plus some others so the t/c pipes may get fitted and hopefully the throttle cross-shaft and such. I'll see how it goes and you can all see next week. (Incidentally, you may recall I had Liam manufacture a new key for the handbrake shaft last time. Well yesterday I found the original. I had put the broken taper lock bush in a plastic bag for later identification and then forgotten about where it was. I found the bag, and bits of taper lock, and the key was still jammed in it!)

Another of my readers read the piece about the reported imminency or otherwise of the re-laying of the line to Peak Forest and joined in with my incredulity. Coincidentally he is involved with the processes that precede a section of HS2. He comments that even if everyone came together and said 'let's do it' now, then there will be 2 to 3 years of environmental studies, site investigation works, flood risk studies et al, then an application for Planning Consent (1 to 2 years) and the T&WO (another 1 to 2 years) and that's without a public enquiry - and don't forget that in the case of the Welsh Highland, John Prescott over-rode the recommendation of the Planning inspector who found against re-instatement. He mentions he is working on plans for utility diversions. You might think that this scarcely applies to such a simple re-instatement as the line through to Peak Forest. On the contrary, during the 1970s the line through Monsal Dale was used for a new pipeline, being some 12 inches in diameter and about 18 inches below ballast level. I saw it being laid (I had discussed plans with the Peak Park Joint Planning Board to relay the line on 2ft gauge before the then Peak Railway Society appeared on the scene) and assumed at the time it was natural gas, as bricked access holes housing shut-off valves were installed at regular intervals. Forty years later those valves were being replaced by a contractor who used Millers Dale station as his base, and I learned that it is actually a major water main. And as it is rigid pipe it doesn't neatly follow one track alignment, but zig-zags across the curves. I am not saying it cannot be done: I am not saying that I don't want to see Peak Rail trains at Bakewell and beyond. But to suggest that tracklaying will begin within months is just nonsense.

See you next week.

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