Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of vans, Wickhams and wheels

3rd June 2018

I'd love to start by telling you how many copies of my novel, The Railway to Merhead got sold this week but I honestly don't know.

When I was writing this last week Andrew was out in the van collecting yet another piece of tat - er recycled paraphenalia - from a guy over in Southwell. This was yet another piece of 'pigeon hole' racking which it is hoped will help contain the surfeit of nuts and bolts, large numbers of which are stacked in boxes on the floor, making the whole shed appear untidy. But nevertheless it remained within the van for most of Monday as we got on with other jobs. I continued with the pipe supports, easily finishing the last two (even more easy as there were holes in the upper purlin at almost the perfect place and diameter, so no high-up drilling to do!). Meanwhile Andrew had finished the fabrication of the battery rack, and I realised I had enough ply left over from the second layer I put in the van to add the shelves to said rack, basically to ensure that batteries which are not the largest that we normally use could not fall down. So I broke out the jigsaw and started cutting.Later in the afternoon I moved across to the Wickham. Now basically a rolling chassis with an engine and transmission, we had been contemplating lifting these units out as one lump, but as I looked at it it seemed easier to see if the gearboxes would split off the engine. And so it proved, with only eight or ten bolts the gearboxes slid back until the input spline slipped out, revealing the clutch on the back of the engine. By now it was late in the afternoon, just enough time to get the racking out of the van and inside the shed to await sorting out some space for it to live.

I was supposed to get a large number of profiles on order this week, including pieces for Adolf and RS8, but that included a first set of steps for Adolf and I was hung up with how to incorporate the sandboxes. In the end I had other things to do and didn't get any ordered, which at least guarantees a June invoice! On Friday Andrew asked me to pop down and collect two pieces of rectangular section steel that were awating collection at Twiggs, and chase up the enquiry he'd made on them earlier in the week for two simple right-angle brackets. I'd drawn these to carry the two Xenon beacons he wants to fit at the back corners of the low loader, but he had heard nothing. So dutifully I drove down, and found that the enquiry had never been passed to the fabrication department. (I would normally have used my regular fabricators in Sheffield, but hadn't plans to go in this week). But they rose to the occasion, and just before 5pm I got a call that they were finished and could be collected in the morning.

So Saturday before 9 o'clock I returned to Twiggs and collected two thin brackets, then collected Andrew and a load of equipment to head over to the low load trailer. But first there was a surprise vehicle in the yard. Charles had been asking me for advice on vans and being a satisfied user of Peugeot, gave him my views. Lo and behold he had bought a slightly older version of the Briddon-van, and was on its maiden voyage, so here's the twins:


We left him and Andy H to their own devices and headed off to the trailer. On the way over I voiced my thoughts on sandboxes and we brainstormed it together.I was surprised to learn that many multiple units do not have sandboxes from new, but when this turned out not to be such a good idea, they were retro-fitted with 'one shot' boxes for emergency use only. There was no sound reason, we both agreed, to manufacture sandboxes in thick plate (those that we have cut off Adolf are so heavy we have been unable to lift them into the scrap bin!), nor so capacious. A smaller sandbox will be less likely, we considered, to get wet sand if it was 'turned over' more frequently. Checking sandbox levels could be instrumented and the on-board PLC left to monitor (I objected to this, I could see no reliable method of tracking sand levels that wouldn't be inordinately expensive), but otherwise checking and topping up sandboxes would become a routine driver's daily task. We had been pondering buying commercial tanks, like those we use as hydraulic reservoirs, with the advantage that the lids could be removed, meaning the cleaning blockages would be simpler and the sand ejector, normally bolted to a thick plate with tapped holes as the other side is inaccessible, could be simply bolted through the tank, saving further manufacturing cost. From this we dreamed up a simple, thin tank, with angle iron forming a flange on one face, and the remaining face being thick, clear plastic bolted to it. Thus instant sight of sand levels. We'll try it out on Adolf.

On arrival at the depot, my first job was to mark out and drill the new brackets for the beacons, and trial them in place but Andrew had to wait for a tractor unit to be available (it was having new transfers applied) before he could lift the neck off. To make up time he slackened the wheel nuts as the plan was to check tyre pressures, and because of the way they had been fitted, this wasn't possible in situ.


As I could go no further until the brackets were welded, Andrew asked me to change the Licence plate and MoT cert holder, as these were old and tatty. The old pop rivets were easily drilled out and new M5/M6 bolts fitted to hold the new holders in place. Once the tractor unit was available, the neck was removed and the new 'rails' could be lined up ready for welding down. Once carefully positioned and checked, I ran a scribe up one 'rail' to mark its position and got a nasty shock - a sharp edge cut through my glove and then my forefinger. As regular readers know, I am especially unhappy when my blood starts leaking out, but had to go wash it and apply my own first aid. I still have an elastoplast on it now, and its making typing this blog especially awkward as it is catching adjacent keys and giving me loads of extra typos to spot. Anyway. Andrew duly welded down the rails which should, if his measurements are correct, meet up with two of the deck rails (75lb FB with tapered ends, currently facing the other way).


So back to the tyres, several of which were definitely 'a bit soft' but are now all up to 125psi. A rather slow process, especially when the air receiver on the shop system dropped to below 125, but not low enough to re-start the compressor!


Well this side anyway. The far side has had to be postponed, as the transport yard owner wanted to lock up and head home. We returned to Darley Dale, finding Andy had been cleaning and priming bits of RS8 and even Charlie. We had a visitor waiting for the latest gossip, so had another cup of tea before returning home.

Today it was back to the workshops. Mostly it was a bit of a tidy-up day, The battery rack was sited, loaded and a first battery charged on it.


I had another look at the Wickham. Taking the exposed clutch off was easy, but behind it was a flywheel. Initially I assumed it was the flywheel of the Petter, put on an extension shaft, but Andrew poiinted out that the Petter's own flywheel was much heavier and still present. It became apparent that this was the original Ford flywheel, mounted on a keyed boss at the end of a PTO shaft from the Petter. Getting this all apart wasn't straightforward, as the grub screws had not been disturbed for donkeys years and were actually screwed into holes drilled radially in the PTO shaft. But after Andrew had gassed most of the adaptor away to give better access, it all came off and later I split the reverse box from the back of the Ford change speed box. I've put a 'bagsy' on the reverse gear components, but the Ford gearbox, clutch and flywheel may be headed to another Wickham. Andrew also blew the bolts that hold the Petter to the chassis and this will be lifted out shortly. He has his eyes on another Lister and pump for use on this, but first we need to get the frame off the wheelsets, ready for a visit from the sandblast contractor.

So that's about it for this week.For a blog that is supposed to be about railway equipment restoration I'm ashamed to see not one rail vehicle photo, must try harder. For that matter, must remember my camera when I go up to Tunstead in the morning. So, a final plug for sales of my novel, available on Amazon, and hope to see you all again next week.


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