Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of 'What is the collective noun for a bus-load of civic dignitaries?'

30th April 2017

We used to believe that the last weekend of the month was the one where everything went wrong and the first was that when everything went right.

It doesn't seem to follow any more, it is a function of more recent events that far from driving home on the last Sunday afternoon wondering why we bothered when progress had been frustrated by x or y, we now seem to have so much work at our grubby fingertips that there is no time for any hiccups to slow us down. We do have a 'break' coming up for a family get-together and I am wondering how to find the time to squeeze it in, and how much time commuting to Tunstead is going to take out of my work-time overseeing Tarmac's restoration of RS8, but all that is in the future, for now, let's get back to the last few days.....

Monday afternoon was a return visit from Tarmac to view progress on RS8 (which did at least give me time for a quick dash into Sheffield and back for lunch). Our contact man, Reg, not only brought his photographer again but also two more guys who are interested in getting involved. Indeed, they apparently have half-a-dozen apprentices keen to take part plus some interest from other employees too. I have mentioned previously that it hadn't initially occurred to us that the transfer of RS8 – as it was to become – from Denbigh to Tunstead was to start the development of the quarry. Now, they say, the photographs in the quarry archives of the “opening” - with some sort of ribbon breaking ceremony – shows none other than RS8 did the honours. But the two workers with Reg had not previously been involved with locos, and although they obviously knew what a diesel engine looks like, the converters and forward/reverse gearboxes meant little, so leaving Reg with Steph I took them out on James and showed them how it all functioned together, then opened the casings so that they could see that James was much the same inside as RS8.

All this of course augers well for the restoration of RS8, but needs us to progress the preparation work, and later in the week I visited the nearest shotblasting company, surprisingly only about 3 miles away, to find out what they can do, what they can handle and their rates. For now I've agreed with Tarmac that on 12th May, their wagon will make the journey to Darley, lift various bits off RS8 including engine and converter, take various parts up to the shotblasters and come back, by which time the converter will be separated from the engine, and the two engines, RS8's old and its replacement, migrate to Tunstead while I take the converter over to the transmission specialists.

I also on a whim stripped the rest of the handwheel mechanism on the engine turnover stand. Not only is the shaft bent but both the oilite bushes are damaged, so these will be replaced, meanwhile the plan is that the bulk of the stand heads off for shotblasting on the 12th.

On Friday, after a couple of false starts, our Safety Inspector came in and gave both the Mattersons and the forklift a clean bill of health (although he did flag up the brakes on the forklift being a bit below par – which we knew about and have it in mind to deal with). We also showed him the HATRAMM and discussed the procedure for getting this fully certified when it can be got running.

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On Saturday we had put an appeal out for Team Frod to come over and assist on RS8, but in the event the call was only answered by Charles. I was down for nine-fifteen and after a cuppa and a natter I shunted the 03 and the 14 across for a visitor due sometime during the day, and then continued on fitting the bearings on a commercial job while Charles extracted the floorboards from RS8's cab , thus gaining access to the bolts that hold the cab to the two fuel tanks.

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Once Andrew had arrived the two of them cracked on, removing the fixings between cab, fuel tanks and running plate. My visitor came and went, and after lunch, Steph stayed on to sort out a quantity of Rolls-Royce engine parts while the three of us moved over on to the commercial job and returned it to its wheels, refitted horncheeks and lubrication hoses then dragged it forward a few inches to check that it did in fact move. (Bearing issues, this was the second time).

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By late afternoon Charles headed for home and Andrew and I returned to RS8, starting on the 9/16 Whit bolts that hold the engine mounts to the frame. Most of these are now out, almost ready for the power unit to be lifted, and with space in front we will move the loco a few feet forward to give space for accessing the air receivers that are under the casings and need to be removed before the casings go for shotblast. You might in all this see elements of a plan, but it is still a trifle ad hoc.

Sunday: As I have said before, this Sunday was the day the prizes were to be awarded at the Yorkshire Wolds Railway at Fimber for the short story competition jointly organised with Fantastic Books. Whilst I was still somewhat bemused at having got on to the long list (12), and then on to the short list (6), I was certain that my effort wasn't going any further, based on the logic that surely someone would have e-mailed or phoned to check (subtly) whether the important ones hadn't forgotten about it. Indeed I did check the website at one point during the week lest it had been postponed. So Steph and I drove the hundred miles north fairly confident that I could remain incognito. These sort of events I don't shine at – to my parents chagrin I declined to attend my own graduation ceremony, back at what was then called the Sheffield Polytechnic. Although seeing that my father was offered but declined a gong when he retired from the civil service it might be hereditary.

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The YWR is a start-up group that has been going barely 5 years on the ground. The Malton to Driffield line – conceived as a significant cross-country artery which failed to lived up to its promoters promises like so many lines did – was completely removed and in many places you would find it hard to believe that there was ever a line there. So on a piece of what you might call 'green field' some 250 yards east of what was once Fimber and Sledmere station (now a picnic site), the YWR members have created Fimber Halt, which is rather a misnomer since to have a 'halt' you would have to be passing on your way somewhere, and so far the track extends to a mere couple of hundred yards.

But don't get me wrong, the YWR clearly has its head screwed on and an innovative one at that. In his presentation today, Lord Faulkner – him of the Heritage Railway Association – commented on what an excellent idea it had been to run a short story competition and how he would take the idea back to the HRA Council. And this was not the only sign of enterprise from a group which is, if you like, at the stage of things where lines like the Colne Valley or Reepham and Whitwell were years ago. So far the only rolling stock on site is a nicely presented GEC 'Stephenson' 0-4-0DH, one of 3 built for the Shotton High Line (for the unfamiliar, the 'High Line' at a steelworks is a line built on stilts, from which raw material is tipped into the furnaces - the locos are fairly light 25tons in this case – as they shuffle up and down a straight and hopefully level track) and a Mk1 full brake on an adjacent and unconnected track. Made me wonder whether if we borrowed their B4 bogies from it for the PCV they'd notice.

YW sales

Anyway, on arrival it seemed as though the entire on site population comprised volunteers wearing YORKSHIRE WOLDS printed hivi or members of the public who appeared to be wearing chains of office. Indeed, I did ask one of the YWR staff whether there had been a dress-code issued that hadn't got to me. We bought a couple of cups of tea, supplied from a goods van body which doubled as basic refreshments and sales outlet, and admired the range of imprinted goods on sale. I am a firm believer in this, though at least one railway I know has literally nothing that is unique to its sales outlet, yet here was a very small group offering wineglasses, calenders, books, shopping bags and fridge magnets which as well as Fimber, featured every station within a 25 miles radius. Yes, a cab ride for £1.50 is a very good return (it works out at about £6/mile for an out and back) but the souvenirs, apart from being a reminder and advert for the name, give you more profitable turnover and with on-line sales income round the year. They have a long way to go, but I do hope they will succeed, as they deserve it.

But to return to the day, we had moved on to the museum which is within the full brake and were part way round when they called out for people to assemble ready for the prize giving. A small marquee had been erected and after a short introduction the Mayor of Driffield did an opening speech, during which he mentioned that the YWR was his sponsored charity for this and last year (and hence in part, all the mayoral personages present, who had arrived in a vintage bus) and started with the highly-commendeds.. He then handed over to Lord Faulkner, who gave a speech and then moved on to the runners up.

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After the first I was slightly alarmed. As Lord F got through the third place and the second place, Steph was convinced that there must have been more than 6 on the short list. Like I said, these ceremonies are not the sort of thing I am comfortable with, and when Lord Faulkner quoted my name and the story title as winner a part of me wanted to hide, and wondered why I'd come in the first place.

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And having stayed right at the back, I then had to pick a way through the multitude to receive my certificate (above) and cheque. I did regret that I had not made time to get a haircut, so I nipped smartly back to the car to put the certificate safely away.

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But I wasn't able to get off that easily, as I had to sign several copies, including one for the Mayor of Beverley, and made a point of using my 'special signature' – the one that looks vaguely like my real name but that the bank wouldn't recognise. Worse still, the local press photographer wanted a 'proper' photo, so the 'Stephenson' was posed as a backdrop, a table placed in front and the various dignitaries and authors positioned either side of me, as winner, posing shaking hands with Lord Faulkner and holding my certificate between us. In fact, it was taking so long to set up that we parted hands and I took the opportunity of presenting him with my business card! I am not sure what he made of it.

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After all that we finished our tour of the museum and secondhand book area, had another cup of their tea and I took a ride on the 'Stephenson', but no, didn't try asking for a drive although I had changed to my 'Rolls-Royce of Teddy Bears' hivi which had the side effect that some visitors thought I was YWR staff. We did though, buy a Fridge magnet for Wetwang: it seemed rather appropriate

A bit after 3pm we climbed back in the car and headed south, and spent much of the journey inventing new collective nouns for all these civic dignitaries – a diatribe of dignitaries, a diarrhoea of dignitaries, a dearth of dignitaries and many more, none of them quite seeming to achieve perfection. In actual fact, the Mayor of Beverley had already explained to us their regular title – the Chain Gang.

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I would love to be able to point you to either the YWR or Fantastic Books websites from whence this book should be obtainable, but as yet they aren't updated, so I'll offer a shot of the cover and an assurance that it is well worth the money and I'm on page 61 on. You can though see pictures on the YWR Facebook page (I'm told) and the Fantastic Books announcement is here.

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So that's April. Andrew and I are off again tomorrow – you'll have to wait until next week to bring you up to date again. Now, about the film rights.....


From Michael Bentley:

Well done to the winner of the short story competition, well deserved I`m sure - keep up the good work - all of it.

Pete in reply:

Thanks - and here is the lnk for the Fantastic Books website sales item, and they say it is also on some website called Amazon.

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