Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of steps

22nd April 2018

Not been firing on all cylinders this week. Steph went to see the Doctor, got the usual 'take paracetamol and plenty of fluids' which didn't encourage me to seek the same advice.

It's a good job that I haven't had much in the way of call-outs this week. I really haven't felt up to strenuous work. A few runs around in the van have been about as much as I could manage. Then take Monday, I was up in West Yorkshire and pulled up at some traffic lights, and when I came to put the handbrake on instead of it going clickety-click and coming up 3 inches or so, it came up with a bang barely half an inch and went solid. Further experimentation over the next few minutes found that I could waggle the handbrake lever in a number of different dimensions that I didn't recall being able to do before. So, until Wednesday afternoon I was driving 'sans hand-brake' at which point I got it into my friends at Matlock who found that one of the mounting screws had come out and two others were loose. Everything was put back together and all was back to normal. Which is more than I was. As an asthmatic it doesn't take much to affect my physical performance. I have my own peak flow meter, and when I am in reasonable health I blow a pathetic 275-80 (it's a good job I don't drink and drive as I could never breathe out long enough to operate a breathalyser) but Saturday morning I was down to 230, which the medical profession tend to treat as being rather inadequate, and breathing in gave me pain across my chest from shoulder-to-shoulder. Nonethless the IDRPG were coming, and by the time Andrew and I got there Toby, Jade, Charles and Stephen were already at work and Jagger arrived not long after. Our first task was to load last weeks' empty oxy bottle and take it down to Twigg's for a refill.

Whilst physical things might be beyond me, driving Charlie wasn't so Adolf was hauled out and pulled over to track 3A where Andrew could continue cutting the left hand side of the frame down. For the moment we've left the rear left hand step assembly in order that we can continue to get up on to the running plate. The steps have taken up a bit of time this week. The last time I narrowed one of these chassis down I re-used the Hunslet step assembly, just slid it 200mm or so over and re-welded it in place. Well I didn't, I had contractors do it all over a weekend. But we never did like the Hunslet steps – the formed treadplate did not seem to be very slip-free and so we'd agreed that Adolf would have better. You might think that it is a simple enough thing to design, and yes, I could simply measure up a set of steps like Cheedale's and replicate them, complete with sandbox. But this is not quite so simple.

On the original Hunslet loco, the final-drive gearbox sits right under the joint between cab and fuel tank. The fuel tank was recessed and a bench seat put at the back of the cab, between the doors so effectively boxing the gearbox in. Access for any gearbox issues (such as the plastic box containing two open frame relays which obviously was wired up before the cab was fitted) was next to impossible. In our case we are re-using a cab and gearbox from a former Thomas Hill 0-6-0DH from 1975. Generally on rod-drive locos with an RF11 final drive, the gearbox doesn't come much above running plate level and the false floor in the cab accommodates anything that does. So positioning the cab so as best to clear this tall 'D' type Hunslet box is a bit more of an exercise in Autocad.

It wouldn't be so bad if the loco wheelbase were the usual 6ft 6 or so but Hunslet having built it for speed (roller bearing fluted side rods and a wheelbase of 2450, or just over 8ft) the rear axle is further back than you'd expect for an 0-4-0. My original plan had been to accept the gearbox in the middle of the cab, mount the desk assembly over it and make it an 'island' desk, i.e. one you can walk around. But Andrew wants the gearbox as far forward as possible, so it impinges only on the cupboard area in front of the desk if possible. But that means moving the cab further back, which means the fuel tank moves further back, and the nice angled steps like Thomas Hill designed give you an impossible configuration to get safely in and out. One solution would be steps like Charlie's, but these, although I regularly climb down them facing out, aren't intended for that. Other step assemblies like those on Yorkshires work the same. But not Sentinel. Ever original, they came up with a compact step system that I've always had a sneaking admiration for. Many years ago, I was collaborating with a French loco builder for a possible MoD job. Basically they would have supplied me a complete rolling chassis (to UK width) and I would have put a cab, casing and control system on top. As they didn't have a frame design to suit UK width, I got sent the drawings and returned them a 'UK-ified' version. I copied the Sentinel step design. It caused more comment and intrigue than anything else. Some idea of what I am planning for Adolf can be seen on the following picture, converted from Autocad.

Now of course, one of the features that Hill's built in to loco steps latterly was the bottom step being a grille. Cannot claim that Hill's thought of it first – Hudswell Clarke's had been doing it for years, the idea being that as you get on the loco, mud adhering to your boots gets scraped off and drops down through the grille to the ground, so helping to keep the loco cleaner and less slippery. So that's built in to the plan. Now of course I need to design in sandboxes and make the whole lot capable of being lifted up and welded in position. So, to return to Saturday. While the IDRPG were mostly working on 1382 (the cab centre casing section was primed and refitted) and re-arranging their container and Jagger plodded on a bit with the Wickham, I sat around with little more energy than to continue breathing, although later on did get as far as manhandling a couple of concrete trough sections (well I got all the way with one and Toby grabbed the second off me) which are for now temporarily inverted over the slot drain where we back vehicles in.

Sunday morning and feeling a bit better (back up to 270) I let Andrew head off to Foxfield where the IDRPG stalwarts are stumped by a problem on Janus 'Ludstone'. Having pinned down the problem he returned, and after lunch we headed down to the shed. To get the gearbox as far forward in the cab as possible means cab and fuel tank have to move as far back as we can, and in this case means that the rear walkway will only be some 300mm wide. But to get the fuel tank this far back means cutting a recess in the Hunslet running plate for the fuel tank sump, so we lifted off the fuel tank and I removed all superfluous pipework ready for sandblasting. While Andrew continued cutting the marked out recess, Hunslet engine and radiator mounts, and also unbolted the old handbrake linkage, I was left with the fuel tank and the task of removing the mounting strips. On the Hill's loco, the cab was bolted to the fuel tank, but Adolf's cab will be flex-mounted, so the fuel tank and casings in front will be separate, with an overlapping gutter between. So off came the mounting strips, by cutting through the outside welds with a slitting disk and striking the strip until the inner stitch welds gave way.

Hunslet used some peculiar unequal angle in various places, and Andrew earmarked two lengths of them to act as new base mounts for the fuel tank. Cut to length on the hacksaw, I marked the first out and drilled/tapped the first of 6 holes before it was time to wrap up. Meanwhile Andrew had made a surprise discovery when he took off the exhaust tail pipe, which was still attached to the silencer in the casings. Sat in the silencer exit pipe was a Fleetguard LF777 oil filter. And judging from the amount of carbon deposits around and over it, it had been there quite some time. Not only that, Black Beast had a Rolls-Royce C8TFL, and the LF777 is a part-flow filter on a Cummins 855. So quite which comedian put it there and when we will never know, but it surely the first ever exhaust system fitted with an oil filter. So apart from the rear LH steps, virtually all of Adolf is back to UK width and cutting complete – the building back up can start to begin, although the many body components will have to wait a visit from the sand-blaster. The new front engine mounts have been drawn up, based on a set I did for Libby nearly a decade ago and the rears will be based on the 03. but with an amendment or two in the light of experience. Then there's the cab re-mounting, casings to modify, exhauster and compressor drives, pipework, air inlet and exhaust systems: yep, plenty to keep the decaying brain cells from atrophy. Even if the lungs can't keep up.

See you next week.

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