Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of winge and bracket

1st April 2018

Probably a fairly short edition this week.


There's been a fair amount of planning going on. Although no date is yet set for the wagon extraction, Andrew was able to fit in a visit to site in company with a representative from a crane hire company to firm up how the recovery of the wagons will be achieved, just leaving exactly where each one will be going to be resolved.

Thursday I had a grand tour of various suppliers, timed to give my profilers as long a time as possible because both their super-duper High tech laser cutters were playing up and as they were closed on Friday, they were valiantly getting my bits through. What were they? Oh, well these are the brackets drawn up after our visit to measure the trailer last week. The ramp and associated bits we used to shift Yorkshire 2654 were temporary, and the rails had to come over the end of the deck which meant a longer ramp and lots more effort to put up and take down. Now, as Andrew has no plans to use this trailer for anything but rail vehicles, it may as well be customised, and the first step is to put two pieces of about 60 x 40 section on the end of the deck, right up to the swan neck. This would mean that the top of the ramp need only be 40mm higher than the end of the deck, so the rails can sit lower down and the ramp becomes shorter. The only thing is to make sure that ramp and deck don't become separated, so the rail ends need to be supported and anchored to the end of the deck. That is the purpose of these brackets – to be bolted to the deck and support/anchor the ramp rail ends. Each bracket is only 4 profiles, each of 15mm thick steel, but as usual I had arranged these with interlocking tabs so that the bracket can be assembled and then tacked, checked and fully welded. But first you need the profiles, so I didn't set off too early and had a number of other places to visit with the aim of getting to the profilers about 3pm. It didn't quite work to plan.

One of my calls was to a nut and bolt supplier in Sheffield. Many years ago their name was a by-word in Sheffield. They had premises just outside the city centre, near Kelham Island in fact, that was a maze. Any bolt, nut, of any thread or finish you could name, they'd have it, or something as good. Well, OK, I am talking the years after we'd just gone fully metric (about 1976) so dear old Whitworth and Unified were still stocked widely. (Did you know why Unified came about? Put simply the pre-2WW American standards specified thread details but no relationship to head sizes, and every manufacturer chose to use their own formula. Come the arrival of American kit, and British engineers, used to the standardisation of British Whitworth and Fine, were aghast to find that identical bolt diameters from different manufacturers required different spanners. After complaints and cajoling, the Americans were persuaded to unify their standards by agreeing a standard head size for every bolt and nut. - Actually, what goes around, comes around, and although the metric bolts we use in the UK all have common sizes, when came to dismantle some continental equipment recently, I found that the metric bolts had varying size nuts, and certainly not the sizes I associated with their shanks.)

So anyway,. A visit to their premises was an adventure. It was a really old building, with rumours of ghosts and bags of history. As you went in the entrance you decided which department you wanted – let's say it was some Whitworth bolts – and a notice told you which colour to follow. Sure enough, a series of painted lines on the floor started off together but then guided you around corners, up and down stairs, until you reached a counter where helpful staff produced what you wanted, and you paid up, and set off back, perhaps finding another colour to a different department if you needed something else. Were there ghosts, or just the wailings of lost customers, forever wandering the corridors looking for a painted line out?

But all that changed. They had a management buy-out and moved to an industrial 'unit' on the outskirts of Attercliffe. A single counter, manned if you were lucky by two staff who disappeared off to pick your order, only to return and declare that no matter what the computer said there weren't any or there was no demand for them. Usually there were two or three people ahead of you waiting to be served and you could expect to kill half an hour before coming away with less than you wanted. E-mailing or phoning an order in advance didn't improve things. You just waited until you got to the front of the queue to find that they'd either 'been too busy to pick it' or hadn't even printed it off yet. I started going somewhere else.

Recently I wanted some stainless M10 studs that I used to order through them. I drove up to where they were and oh, the premises were empty. A few enquiries revealed they'd closed some months ago. So I set to work to find an alternative supplier (I found one in Oswestry but they wouldn't set up to do less than 100 – I used to buy in tens) but by chance I found that the Attercliffe supplier had been taken over and relocated barely half-a-mile. Soon I had my studs ordered (OK, now I had to buy 50 which was rather more than I had hoped for) and earlier this week came the news they were in. I got a pro-forma by e-mail, and paid them on Wednesday, sending the guy back a note that I'd done so and the money would be in their account within a couple of hours.

So Thursday I found the new premises and popped in to collect them.

Entering the small trade counter I found 4 people squeezed in in front of me, although the first was just paying and about to leave. There was only one guy serving, but he did seem to be trying hard. Another customer in front of me was after 4 plated Unified setscrews for his Harley Davidson – that's a motor bike if you aren't into that sort of thing – and it seems they no longer stock Unified – no demand nowadays. I was tempted to tell him to get on line as he'd find plenty of suppliers of Unified, some even UK manufactured, but felt that it might not go down well. Anyway, some 20 minutes after I'd entered it got to my turn and after having already paid for my studs, I expected no delays.

The label attached to the bag said grade 'A2' whereas I was expecting 'A4'. I said I hoped it was a minor error (the label was hand-written) so off the guy went to check. I felt bad for the 4 people now waiting behind me. He returned with the good news that the original label had come off (it was probably the label from the manufacturer that they didn't want me to see) and had been wrongly transcribed. Now, it seems, this guy was expecting me to pay, and having done so already (over £500) I wasn't about to pay again. We ended up phoning the salesman.

One of the outcomes of having been taken over was the accounts function was now handled by the new parent company. The only man at the parent able to look at the bank account on line was 'off' that afternoon, and the salesman hadn't thought to get him to check yesterday afternoon or Thursday morning. He tried to transfer the problem on to me – why hadn't I sent him a proof of the transaction? I pointed out that would only 'prove' I'd sent it, not that they'd received it. He replied that he had 'expected' me to send such a proof. I pointed out that he'd acknowledged my e-mail wherein I told him I'd paid and should have asked for it then. He seemed seriously worried that if he let the goods go and I hadn't actually paid, he would be in serious trouble. Eventually he relented and I departed with my studs, on the promise that when I got home I would print off something from my bank, redact anything not relevant and e-mail it to him. I did, and haven't had so much as a 'yes, thanks it's all ok'. You can guess now why I've had this winge and that (a) I am not surprised they went under, (b) they need to get a 'system' set up between sales and accounts, (c) I don't think they'll be on my favourite suppliers list any time soon and (d) why I haven't named them.

Anyway, apart from demonstrating how a fine old company can go downhill, I went in to this to explain how instead of getting to the profilers at 3, it was gone 4 and the evening rush was beginning as I came away, so it was a slow crawl down the motorway back to Derbyshire...
Mr Booth was at work on Friday and Andrew and me dashed down to the shed for 07.20 to find one of his lorries outside with an empty skip. Charlie was fired up and drew James out the way before zipping across to draw the stock on Track 1 back so that the lorry could get in, drop off the empty skip and take away the full one. Within an hour everything was returned to its starting places and I could get some breakfast and Andrew could be ready to start work.

With grandson up for Easter, Saturday was planned for an outing for him: Steph and Andrew took him off to the 'Deep' in Hull. I had something else planned, but as I came back from that, I detoured down into the Manifold valley to spot some of the L&MVR trackbed. I hadn't planned to walk any of it, maybe some other time, but in the end I swung into the Visitor Centre at Hulme End, where the line terminated. In the old station building there are several display boards plus a model of the station as it used to be (unlit so not easy to appreciate). Adjacent was the old carriage shed, which appears at first sight to be original but with a more modern facade as it is now a cafe. I popped in for a mug of tea and found it heaving – there were plenty of cars outside but I'd assumed they were walkers. A Jazz trio were taking a break, but I found one table just as they started another performance. Being up close and personal I clapped with the others as each song finished (I am not into Jazz) and wondering when I could exit without seeming rude. In fact, the carriage shed from the inside has been re-skinned and probably had much newer steelwork added. But if you're over that way, do stop and take a look.

Today we finally made it down to the shed for a conference. With the plan to progress on Adolf, Andrew decided to bring it inside for work and decided if the two Wickhams moved up closer to 1382, we could get Adolf in on Track 3B. I went out to fire up Charlie while Andrew re-arranged things with the forklift. Adolf was duly brought gingerly in (remember that bits of it still are 3m in width) and I contemplated going aloft to get a picture of it, before realising that I hadn't brought the camera down.

Andrew spent most of the afternoon separating old bits of copper pipe from their brass end fittings (another visit to Mr Booth in prospect) before starting to weld up the first of the two brackets for the trailer. I got on with a number of tasks, about the only one of any note being sorting out fixings and re-inforcing backing strips ready for when we put up the three external floodlights ready for winter. (Well, yes, they should have been up last winter but you can't have everything).

This week, weather aside, should see the 2-HAP move from Coventry and precipitate a mass shunt around in Darley yard to accommodate it. So I had better remember the camera.

Last week's press release parody was picked up and repeated on the facebook Rail-loops site (I hope I have spelt that correctly) with some complimentary words, for which I am quite touched, as I have seen and enjoyed some of their Peak Rail send-ups in the past. I was slightly less-happy though at the author's assertion that I was busy suing Peak Rail, which is less than accurate. The original Peak Rail release gained front page in the Matlock Mercury this week, but behind the usual twee headline was an interesting quote from PR Director Mr Paul Tomlinson, who is reported to have said 'We now realise the cost and works involved would be beyond us as a voluntary organisation...'. Had our forbears in the railway preservation movement taken such a view then would there be any heritage railways here today? Would the FR have given up and accepted only running to Dduallt? Would there be lines like the Llangollen or Swanage where empty trackbeds have been transformed, or the same thing happening again such as at Alnwick or Fimber? For that matter, would any organisation with the financial clout to rebuild the line for freight (a DCC feasibility study in 2004 came up with reconstruction costs between £80m and £120m) accept PR owning a 3 mile ransom strip with 2 manually worked l/cs and sub-(heavy freight) standard track?

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