Filming is over – all the scenes requiring train movement are completed and – unless there are any technical hitches, rewrites or new scenes - my involvement in Murder on the Orient Express is complete. I stood on Friday in one of the indoor sets. Ahead of me Charlie sat, bathed in bright filming lights, and beyond stood the Orient Express of the film. I stood for a long while taking it in, trying to etch it onto my memory for cameras are banned on set and no photo anyway could quite recreate the atmosphere of the scene, the crew and 60 extras going about their work. And all there will be to show for it all is a footnote on my CV. The film, I'm told, is due for release on November 22nd, and though I suspect I'll go to watch it, you can never enjoy something on screen in quite the same way once you've seen how it is all done. After Andrew and I did Scrapheap Challenge in 2004 I couldn't watch the show without a touch of cynicism. It's like a magic trick. Once the Magician reveals how it was achieved, the innocence is lost.
Anyway, back to normality.
While I was away on Monday it fell to Steph to pop in to Sheffield to collect the tilt ram cylinders from repair and view a number of auction lots so that Andrew and I could assess whether anything was worth bidding on. And on Tuesday to she returned and bid on a number of items, some more successfully than others but came back with a quantity of verniers and micrometers which will be of benefit in due course. Meanwhile I wandered down to the post office to collect a package that would have been delivered on Monday (had anyone been in) which contained the special high pressure hose and elbow for the 50ton workshop press. Later on I popped down and connected it, if only to see the ram move.
We were dismayed to hear that Heanor Haulage is closing down at the end of the month. They have featured in this blog on more than one occasion and as our nearest heavy haulier, they have given us good service at competitive rates. We have nothing against (most of) the other hauliers around, but they are farther away and the access routes for such loads into Rowsley add to the costs. It has given Andrew reason to ponder, especially as he had planned several forthcoming moves with Heanor's rigs in mind. Unless a buyer comes forward there will be an auction of the plant at the end of March and we hear that several other firms have enquired after their trailers and tractors.
Saturday saw a bumper turnout from Team Frodingham - almost double figures - and we were down early trying to keep them all in order. Captain Idiot (or rather I should perhaps say Toe-bee) was limping somewhat having, he bragged, dropped a rail-chair on his foot which you might think was living up to his name a trifle too far. While they continued on 1382, I set about fitting a new blade in the mechanical hacksaw and continuing to cut some 25mm slab into spacers for the cradle on the press. This took rather longer than we'd expected and closer investigation made Andrew question whether we had the blade in the right way round. I was certain I had put it in the same way as the previous one had been, but watching the action came to the conclusion that it had been in wrong all along – an impression reinforced when on changing it round, it proceeded to romp through the metal and just as rapidly turned the length of former eave beam we had to hand into two lengths of 850mm.
By now it was time for an early lunch and then Andrew and I left Team Frod in charge while we went up to the Whitworth Centre to attend the Peak Railway Association AGM. The meeting room was packed – perhaps in more ways than one - and once again we pointed out that the Association accounts had been presented to Companies House long before the members at the AGM, and the summary accounts, which were endorsed on the bottom 'These do not form part of the statutory accounts' (or some such) were insufficient to comply with the Companies Acts requirements for the accounts to be circulated to members. All this had been raised hotly at the previous AGM and at that point the Board had apparently agreed to take it on board but it somehow did not appear in the minutes and nothing had changed. Similarly an undertaking made by the then-Chairman to ensure the members got 3 months warning of the date of the AGM (this in response to an amendment to the Articles whereby nominations for Directors had to be in more than 3 weeks before an AGM, but only three weeks notice was necessary to call it) had not been honoured nor mentioned in the minutes, despite a request to the Company Secretary to record that bit verbatim. There was consternation when one director was re-elected despite a significant vote against in the room because sufficient proxies were in his favour. Another Director on the top table demanded a recount as she seemed reluctant (to me) to accept the democratic vote, but the result was confirmed.
After the meeting we returned to the shed and were followed by a number of PRA members whom we'd invited to have a look round. Andrew resumed setting up the cradle bits and welding them, but with a couple of inches of weld to go, the wire in the Big MIG ran out so he called it a day. Team Frod swept up and tidied and we all adjourned to the Briddon Country Pile, for the second AGM of the day, the IDRPG one. But first Andrew insisted on showing everyone the microfiche scanner and displaying a number of 'might-have-been' GAs that the Rail Traction Department of Rolls-Royce, Shrewsbury drew up and we are hopefully about to digitise. Suitably fed by Steph working valiantly in the kitchen, and me toddling over to the chippy to pad out the burgers and pizzas that she was preparing with their excellent chips, we moved on to the meeting and had a number of interesting discussions and an election. The new Committee then went outside for a committee meeting, coming back in to the warm to declare that Captain Idiot had stood down as Chairman (fatherhood or a second time being not that far away) and Plumtree had taken over.
Afterwards I was pressured into recounting some tales, and Captain Idiot, serenaded by a violin tune on Plumtree's mobile, told the tale of how a certain AFRPS member at Scunthorpe had rashly decided to drive a locomotive with no brakes out of the shed successfully, and thus emboldened, driven it back in, not taking into consideration that it was uphill going out but downhill on the return. Thus he came forcibly into contact with 03 901 – the disc parking brake proving to be very effective as whilst it did something to retard the errant intruder, it was propelled, with all 6 wheels sliding, into a tractor which was the private property of another member. I endeavoured to match his tale with a few of mine, and admitted that I had long had a dream of railway groups booking me to entertain them along the lines of 'an evening with Pete Briddon' but that I was reluctant for it to happen in case it marked an end to my career. I think I've a good few years still to go on that. For the same reason I have declined to write my memoirs, though I've had a couple of offers for it, or at the very least a 'definitive' history of Thomas Hills. Considering I have finished a novel but have yet to find anyone prepared to publish, spending many hours on writing another tome for no – or at least distant - return doesn't really appeal.
A few weeks ago I declared that the short-story I entered in the Yorkshire Wolds Railway/Fantastic Books competition had got through to the 'long list' and that was I suspected as far as it would get. Even that had earned me a prize – or perhaps a bribe to attend the presentation – to whit a free cab ride in their English Electric 'Stephenson'-class 0-4-0DH at Fimber. Now strangely enough, I don't think I have ever ridden in an EE 0-4-0DH: there weren't that many and apart from the unique chain drive one that passed through Thomas Hills while I was there and which I don't think I ever got to cab, my involvement has always been with the 0-6-0DHs. Of these I have driven 4 or 5, solved the sequence of events behind a fatality being investigated by the H&SE and remanufactured several more.
Anyway, having returned from Longcross late on Friday night after 12 hours on set I hadn't even pondered whether the story had progressed further, although the 'short list' was due to be announced that day. It fell to Andrew then on Saturday to look it up and I was wrong – it has progressed from the long list to the short list together with five other entries.
Incidentally, if you're in to creative writing or poetry, you might like to follow up a small book that my old school-friend Greg Freeman published under the title Trainspotters. Our paths in life diverted when we left primary schools for separate grammar schools, but when he contacted me about a year ago it transpired that he'd been sculling around Yorkshire for many years unaware that I was living in Sheffield. I promised I'd give his book a plug, and I do fulfill my promises eventually!
It was a late start today before we got down to the shed. As Andrew had no spare wire in stock, but a grand plan to re-arrange the Big MIG and Midi-MIGs as to what wire they carry and the gas bottles appropriate, he opted instead to finish the cradle on the midi-MIG but it clearly wants a replacement torch as the wire feed was jittery, but with so little left to do it wasn't felt to be too important. We then positioned the cradle on the press and, for something to do, pressed out the worn bushes from one of 1382's brake hangers. This only called for about 12 tons at worst on the gauge, but even this revealed an oil leak on the ram which will require a fuller investigation.
We left the press and returned to the forklift, eventually reassembling the rams and the various bits that had been taken off to release them, but the eyes on the piston rods, which we had not previously stripped, merely de-greased, had a surprise in store as it became apparent that one had a fair amount of wear. We removed them both and the other broke up in pieces. Fortunately this is a standard spherical bearing and Andrew has already ordered a couple on-line, with them, and a thorough (overdue) service the forklift will be back in action.
As the evening approached we headed over to Eckington to collect a universal column that Andrew had spotted on e-bay, dropping it off at the shed before returning to the Briddon Country Pile.
So that's about it for this week. Grandson is up again next week so Andrew will be otherwise occupied for some of the time, but I daresay there'll be something for me to write about. You'll have to come back and see.