I headed back down to Rowsley on Monday afternoon and even as I got there, Chris the haulier was there with several lengths of nice long I beam which will make the final stanchions for the shed ends. We unloaded the pieces alongside the shed and off he went. When Andrew got home from work, he headed on down and we dragged the welder half out of the large workshop doors by which means the cables just reached the beams, and he could weld on the base plates. This was an entertaining practice, trying to line the plates up and get them somewhere about square (we fall back on the plus or minus 10mm tolerance of structural steel!) and in the near dark.
So, there we were on Monday having a quick meeting with the contractor and reviewing progress to date. We are all agreed that the floor design wants modifying, and that none of us can work out exactly how we are supposed (in reality) to get the DPM to go the way the drawings show it, so I have gone back to the Structural Engineers with fresh drawings and asked them to come up with an alternative scheme. Meanwhile I was sorting out the personnel doors, and the concrete panels that will form the inside walls of the building up to head height. We had agreed with the contractor that work would commence on the steelwork on the 17th February, and I planned deliveries accordingly.
With many years of building and re-building locos behind me, I have come to understand it from the clients' viewpoint when they visit to view progress. The customer is anxious to see his loco assembled as quickly as possible and arrive on his network. Progress therefore, is perceived in large lumps. Because he is not very every day, he forgets exactly which tooters and squeakers were fitted when he arrived last time. He will remember the large pieces – the engine that is now installed but wasn't there before, the cab that now has its control desk fitted, and so on – but the little bits he cannot remember and does not see them as progress.
So at 07.55 Monday morning I was driving down to Darley for an 08.00 start when my mobile rang. Not having the hands-free on and not recognising the number I ignored it, and called it back on arrival. It was my contractor to say that there was a problem with plant transport and start would be delayed. My first thought was to head back home, but then I remembered the portable loo was due between 08.30 and 09.00, so I decided to soak up the solace of Darley Dale from the inside of my nice warm Portakabin. At 09.05 I tried to ring the portable-loo-man without success. At 09.15 I headed back home (to find his landline number) and as soon as I walked in the door, my phone rang. It was the portable loo man to say he was outside the gates.
First thing on Monday morning I had a call from a dealer in Portakabins. To be fair, I had been in touch with one of our hauliers whom I knew did a lot of Portakabin moves. He rang them and put a word in and they rang me, so Monday afternoon I was off to Doncaster in the van to inspect and do a deal.
And so, Weekend Rails breaks into another year. Yet before I quite say bye-bye to 2013, there were two days this week when Andrew was off work and I was apparently available. So on Monday it was back into Rowsley – I had some work to do on a customer's loco but we brought Ashdown in to the shed (having drawn Austerity “Lord Phil" outside for a while) so that we could reach it with the MIG welder, and having removed the new sliding windows, Andrew cracked on with welding in the radius'd corner pieces and filling the holes for the old bolt holes from the original wooden droplight frame. For comparison sake, you may decide for yourself which looks better- (the welded bits had been hurriedly primed and sprayed back to prevent rusting).
I suppose this must go down as one of the most unusual Christmases I can recall. Steph having gone up to our daughter's the previous Friday, had then transferred to her sister's in Barnard Castle and I was supposed to join them on Christmas Eve, but in the event wasn't feeling well so left departing Briddon Towers until first thing Christmas morning. The roads were quite quiet, indeed, in the 130 miles I counted 13 goods vehicles actually on the road (including two AA recovery trucks and 3 milk tankers) and reached Barnard Castle at 10.30. Knowing that my brother in law is a keen walker, I had brought my work boots which served me well as by early afternoon we were out tramping, crossing the Tees and gaining the trackbed of the former Stainmore line at its junction with the branch to Middleton-on-Tees, and following the main line for half a mile or so before turning back.
Having had not one but two minor migraine's this week, it would appear that I am feeling a little stressed. I have had 3 on-site meetings, two with potential contractors and one with the CDM co-ordinator (and if you don't read this blog every week, I suggest you drop back and read last week's or you won't be able to keep up).
I see from the site stats that as usual a number of people logged on last night and earlier today. Sorry, but I did say last week that this edition would be late, but failed to explain why as even my wife has been known to read this blog and as it was all to do with a surprise for her birthday last week I could hardly say more.
Christmas is on the horizon. One of the satellite TV channels we get has been showing “Christmas movies” for weeks and now even the usual commercial channels are beginning to show adverts to convince us of all the things we simply must buy if our Christmas is going to be fulfilling. Quite why a 47” TV is absolutely essential for this Christmas when we have had perfectly acceptable Christmas's before without one, I know not. Is it my imagination or did the “Christmas season” not begin until December 1st when I was a lad? No, OK, so you weren't born then, don't rub it in.