Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of impeccable timing

5th May 2013

I usually say that on Bank Holiday weekends I will leave the blog until Monday, but then by the time Sunday night comes around I am convinced that to postpone it another 24 hours will only result in my forgetting what it was we were doing. So here we are again, and already it's 3 days on the trot and still one to go.

But the bad news during the week was a verdict on 901's fan motor. I won't say it is entirely FUBAR but it is certainly not good. Two of the bearings are fixed so firmly to the main shaft that removing them is next to impossible, and in any event, the shaft itself is so badly worn that the appropriate seals are unlikely to be able to do their job. Frankly, it is beyond economic repair. Andrew leapt into action, or rather, the trusty Golf, and headed over to the Peterborough area where Dave Hartley leant him the motor out of D9520, which is known to have a poor top bearing but was still working when stopped. So on Friday morning we dashed over to Sheffield, dropped it in with the repairers, stopped off to order hoses, etc at my main hydraulics suppliers, stocked up on gases, and various sundries and returned to Derbyshire, all the time keeping tabs on what was going on further north.

Back in 2000, when Andrew first persuaded his parents to let him have his own loco, it was left to me to select a suitable candidate. We had done a lot of work on a loco at Ford's Halewood factory, but Ford had opted to switch to a hire contract from me (as a stop-gap until the site was turned over to Jaguar) rather than spend any more but I knew the state of the loco pretty well. There were in fact two, but Ford's had been very loathe to spend money on the other and it was in poorer state, but when it came to disposal they declined to let the better go alone, knowing that the other would attract little interest. So Andrew's collection began with not one but two, which he named "James" and "Jack". James and Jack had always been together. Built new for the South Yorkshire Chemicals works at Rotherham, when that closed they had been acquired by Thomas Hills and moved to Kilnhurst for resale. Halewood was thus their third home together and their fourth, under Andrew's ownership, became Long Marston.

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But their the partnership ended. In 2006 Jack, resuscitated, went south to Hollycombe, while James went first west to Oswestry and then later back north to the DVLR at Murton. Locos needed to be vac braked at the DVLR, and though we made a start, it clearly wasn't going well and in the end "Pluto" was sent instead. We did remove the fuel pump for attention as the engine hunted excessively at idle, but though Andrew put it back on, we had not got around to running it. The DVLR didn't push too hard about getting James out, though we did promise to do it before their anniversary event this year, and Friday the 3rd May had been allocated for Heanors to go and collect it.

I won't go in to the full story, but Andrew was not best pleased with Heanors as plans went a little awry, but James arrived at Rowsley just as we finished shunting the German flat wagon and the NB 0-6-0DH out ready for some work on Sunday.

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We rushed to get James off, using Cheedale to take over as soon as the slow-but-steady winch could get it down to us. Then Charlie was fired up to release Cheedale from behind James, and having parked them up I spent a while on Tom, fitting a grease connection to the fan bearing assembly, charging up the grease line, replacing the upper half of the fan cowl, and then, for no better reason than we had been told to clear track 3 because D8 might be coming out at the weekend, transferred Tom and 901 from there to track 2. That was no less than 3 of Andrew's locos in operation at the same railway on the same day. If it was a record, it was one we hope to surpass again soon.

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On Saturday though it was over to Scunthorpe, to resume our efforts on Beverley. I had finally managed to get the right length belts, so these were fitted to drive the exhauster and while Andrew occupied himself on various pipework chores, I returned to the casing bulge and drilled the uprights by backmarking from the new hinge pins. Andrew is well on the way to completing the 2" pipe runs so we must address the small bore control lines and linkages soon, but before we left, he applied a coat of red-oxide to the bare metal of the casing. Hopefully in a couple of visits the doors will be painted and hung, and I'll put up a finished picture. Before we left though, we recovered Beverley's batteries and brought them back for an overnight re-charge.

So Sunday was back to Rowsley, and an early start for us as we had to shunt the NB 0-6-0, the flat wagon and James using Cheedale and place them in a suitable location so that Terry, who was joining us for the day, could get on with cutting out various unwanted parts of the NB with the oxy-acetylene gear we had bought on Friday. This does not mark our commencing serious work on the NB - on the contrary, it is well down our priority list - but rather the pipework, engine mountings bits of old radiator, etc that will not feature in our refurbishment could be cut out and weighed in for scrap at a time when, with shed construction on the horizon, every penny helps.

While Andrew and Terry took stock of what they had to cut, I made a start on James. Our last efforts, a few weeks ago at Murton, had been to try and start the loco following on from refitting the fuel pump, but the battery master switch, the old type that CAV replaced with the 444, had failed to pass electrons so was slated to be replaced with a spare one of the later type. Terry broke off to squeeze inside the casings and undo the old fixing bolts and tighten new ones, and I carried on with connecting the new isolator, dropping in Bev's batteries to the (dry) battery compartment and cabling them up. By early afternoon I had also topped up the oils in the fuel pump and Andrew had joined me and together we filled the cooling system with plain water. I pressed the button, the engine cranked, smoke came out the exhaust and - not a lot else. After several longish cranks it was apparent that although it was producing white smoke, the engine was making little if any attempt to go. We called in Terry for consultation.

Timing on a Rolls is a comparatively straightforward exercise. On the flywheel are a set of marks, including "TD" for top dead centre of No.1 piston, and various numbers and lines including the vital 28 representing 28 degrees before top dead centre of that piston. All of this is visible though a little access hole in the flywheel housing, but typically on the opposite side of the engine to the fuel pump - they do believe in ensuring that fitters get plenty of exercise. The drive to the fuel pump appears from the timing case in the guise of a short prop-shaft and a pointer on the pump body plus a line on the pump driving disc marks the point at which No.1 element is fully injecting. Thus, you line up the 28 to the pointer on the engine flywheel, the two marks on the pump also line up and all is well. Or rather, you've a 50-50 chance, as the 4-stroke engine means that the pump shaft does one rotation to every two of the engine crankshaft, so you need to check that both rockers on No.1 are free, i.e. valves closed, to confirm you are on the firing stroke (Remember the sequence - suck, squeeze, bang, blow).

Something was not quite right though, because our pump marks were about 70 degrees adrift. We reset the drive so that the lines came together but it made no difference to the enthusiasm of our engine.

Under these circumstances there is nothing for it but to go back to first principles. Andrew removed No.1's injector and while I barred the engine around, he watched down the hole waiting for the piston to appear at the top of the stroke.

To cut a long story short, he identified the firing stroke and the Top Dead Centre but the flywheel timing markers were way away. Someone, it seemed, had managed to put the flywheel on the engine in the wrong place.....

Sadly, it must have been one of my fitters, long ago in the last century. Only as I write this does it occur to me that one of the jobs my company did at Fords was convert the loco from the troublesome single plate clutch to the usual twin-plate, which required the appropriate flywheel for the converter drive ring. As he had no reason to time the engine, he wouldn't have found it, but how he managed to get it wrong (there are dowels meant to make sure it cannot happen) I don't know. One day we must correct it.

But for now having marked the true place for Top Dead Centre we wound the engine back to the TD mark, counted ring gear teeth thence back to 28, then forwards to our new marks and created a new timing mark the same number of teeth back, followed by correcting the fuel pump back to virtually where we had started. With injector, rocker box and other bits and pieces refitted, we had another go, and whilst it did not immediately fire, but after we'd pressed the cold start the engine responded quickly and spectacularly, the additional gas flow ejecting a gallon or so of rainwater from the silencer over the loco and assembled onlookers!

Of course, having started it proceeded to hunt from 625 to 725 rpm, exactly as it had done before so having the pump overhauled and going through all this performance on timing had achieved absolutely nothing! But a few minutes later, with air pressure raised, brake function checked, temperature and pressure gauges indicating satisfactorily, James moved under its own power for the first time in 3 or 4 years.

With the afternoon drawing to a close, I shuffled James up and down making sure that everything was functioning and when Terry had finished his burning for the day, James took the wagon and NB forward, and propelled Cheedale up and back onto the siding we have most of our locos on. As far as Andrew is concerned, James will be works pilot - once our works is established.

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