After pumping grease into the fan bearing I fired up "Tom" but could hear a distinct rattle from up front, so called Andrew over and together we investigated. Sure enough, there is a conspicuous amount of play in the fan shaft and running it that way was out of the question, so off came the drive belts, leaving the fan stationary. "Charlie" was down the line though and as the crane had been left foul of the turnout ahead of Tom, "Cheedale" was brought into action to clear the crane to another siding.
With no fan to cool the rad, Tom's engine temperature rapidly passed the normal 40 deg C maximum we'd seen before and we were into uncharted territory. We had always hoped that with temperature the rings would unstick themselves and start to seal better, so curing the breathing that is apparent. Far from it though, as the temperature came up to 80 degrees we had nearly as much smoke out the breather as out the stack and the engine idle speed rose by 50-100 rpm. All this left us both rather concerned - I could see the smoke drifting out the casing sides (normally the fan would have blown it out through the rad matrix) and couldn't help wondering whether the whole loco was about to burst into flames! It is a shame that, after producing good oil pressure indicating a sound bottom end, the pistons, liners and rings should apparently be so poor. Andrew speculated that the NCB had run it without an air filter for a while and he might be right. So the future of Tom's engine must be debated and how it fits in with our current workload.
On Wednesday we had a phone call first thing that Cheedale had blown a fuse so Andrew popped in and grabbed one off "Jack" on his way to college. Cheedale was stopped at Buxton by the amount of fuel leaking from the converter circuit and we still had not actually traced where it was coming from, other than Andrew was convinced that it was not the converter seals themselves. One leak has now got worse, which makes it obvious that it is emanating from the converter temperature sender (on the converter body) and temp switch on the pipework adjacent, and maybe a third on a bleed nipple. All of these are reasonably easy to fix, - just means draining the converter circuit down which is a pain when the converter has a plug in its bottom rather than a tap that we like to fit. I had also noted that the 3 remaining windscreen wipers had been de-wired and gathered from Rob that all of them had suddenly started working despite the switches being 'off' - so it seems I have some wiring faults to trace and may have accounted for the fuse.
14 901 was due to leave Gwili on Thursday and as I viewed the weather forecasts I was hoping that they might just get through before the weather and be at Rowsley Friday morning. Alas, Reid Freight only collected late on Thursday, apparently just starting to load as the heavens opened and it poured down, which might explain why they overnighted in a layby just outside Carmarthen (see here). At 09.00 Friday I spoke to Reids and was told it was near Cardiff but delayed by an accident. I wandered in to Rowsley about 2pm reckoning that 5 hours should have got it somewhere close, but Rob and Claire, busy preparing the station for the next day's traffic, had more up-to-date news that it was somewhere near Birmingham and they'd let me know, so I returned home.
I should have mentioned that the snow had started late Thursday night but by Friday morning was relatively light: it was due to get heavier as the day went on. At about 3.45 Rob phoned to say Reids were negotiating Bakewell and by the time I'd got my gear on and driven down it was sat at the unloading area. The weather was not far off blizzard by now yet the Reid's guys appeared to have no waterproofs.
14 901 was soon back on Peak Rail metals and Charlie was on hand to tow it back to the shed. Plan A had been for me to get the 14's batteries charged and started up, but not in the wintry conditions then prevailing I wasn't! I settled for refitting the exhaust cap to protect the turbo and retiring to the warmth and comfort of the Briddon Country Pile.
Our original plan for Saturday had been to finish emptying Briddon Towers, but the weather had already put paid to that idea and to just about any others. We had about 4" all told and as Andrew was returning from Norfolk he swung round by Sheffield and picked Steph up, and I cleared the drive just in time as they arrived. All normal activities were suspended.
On Sunday we had an early lunch and then headed in to Rowsley. Outside the shed was no less than 25% of the collection covered in "virgin" snow.
Years ago I drooled over a fashion magazine photo shoot entitled 'Bikinis in the snow' where they argued that the Alps could be pleasantly warm in the sun, it was just the presence of the snow that convinced you it was cold: but it may have been just an excuse to pose scantily-clad young ladies against the dazzling white landscape. When the sun came out today it was indeed noticeably warm, but unfortunately the arctic wind that was blowing most of the time did take the edge off it. A passing cameraman said I must be 'mad' (we were the first people he'd found, there were only two others on site) - I merely replied that it was not my given name.
I deployed an extension cable and we got a battery charger rigged onto 14 901's batteries, but then fired up "Cheedale" to take another close look at where the converter is leaking fluid from. We identified 3 places, of which the worst by far was the temperature switch and we had come equipped to drain the converter by removing the 1/2" plug in its base. To make it more accessible, we took Charlie and Cheedale in convoy over to the ash pit, where Andrew swept the snow to one side and proceeded to do an in-depth survey of Cheedale's underparts. I brought forth two empty drums and plastic funnel from the van and Andrew balanced on a cross-stretcher and prepared to undo the plug. If there is one thing you can be certain of with converters where the plug has not been disturbed for 30+ years it is that they will not go down without a fight, and this stubborn blighter defeated all Andrew's efforts. The only other way to drain it is to crack one of the main circuits at a flange and try to catch the escape into a drum - of course the fluid has other ideas, sneaking round the body of the converter to the bottom or jumping off the conduit that passes underneath, but between us we managed to keep control of most of it. Having got the level down, we opened up the peculiar flange for the torque converter temperature switch, and found 2 square section sealing rings that were cracked and hard from age. Not having anything quite like them readily available, Andrew moved over to the temperature sender, removed it and fitted a new electronic transducer ready for me to wire. By now past 4pm, we decided to wrap things up, and having put Cheedale in neutral manually on the gearbox towed it back across with Charlie. I was driving Charlie and as we trundled forward I was slightly perturbed to discover we were coming to rest and no amount of revving Charlie up would move forward. Momentarily fearing the clutch had "gone" it was a relief to discover from Andrew that Cheedale's "auto-emergency" (low air pressure protection) had cut in and applied full brake! We vented the remaining air off and completed the shunt.
The batteries on 14 901 seemed to be much better, but we were reluctant to try starting it with the ambient below zero, (the oil is so thick it puts extra load on the starters and goes sky high when it runs) so that will have to wait for another day. As we drove out, Ben Riley, sorry Doctor Ben Riley, who has been mentioned before in this blog in connection with his collection of LMS carriages, was walking in, armed with food and sleeping bag, ready to get as many hours in at the LMSCA shed as his day off from the hospital will allow. If people like us are mad, then there's a lot of it about.