On Tuesday, at long last, we were scheduled to do a test run with 14 901 on a passenger train. I gather someone on the Peak Rail Facebook group asked why, and it is a valid question: after all, there is no reason why '901 cannot handle the loads at the speeds required.
We had two main reasons, though. On the one hand, having had to carry out serious work to the turbo and the engine cooling system, just pottering around the yard, or the light load of a works train, was scarcely going to prove the loco's performance. On the other hand, we had not, when the loco was last in operation at Peak Rail, operated in top'n'tail. In fact, the deadmans/vigilance system (DSD to all you BR-ophiles) was only commissioned down in South Wales, and if the loco was to be towed in one direction with the other loco in charge, a means of partially isolating the DSD to save the poor driver having to sit there with his foot on the pedal the whole way was both practical and sensible. There was also too the interaction of both vac systems - on a normal operation one would turn off the exhauster of the trailing loco but with a belt-drive exhauster that is rather difficult. But then, with a belt-drive exhauster you must pitch the maximum rpm of the exhauster to be achieved at the same time as the maximum rpm of the engine, thus at idle the exhauster runs far slower, and, as the efficiency of these units tails off as the rpm falls, at idle its suck is not much.
So anyway, having been over to Sheffield first thing Friday morning, I reported in to Rowsley early in the afternoon to do a full FTR and complete a few little outstanding jobs left over from the weekend. I got a few of the grease nipples on the prop-shafts greased, but with half an eye on the time left the last few for later. By ten to 4 14 901 was sat in the headshunt at the Matlock end of the station, as D8 arrived with the regular 7 coach formation and Austerity 0-6-0ST “Lord Phil” at the back. The Austerity uncoupled (after they'd walked the token from D8 down the platform) and came over the crossover, leaving the way clear for 14 901 to drop over onto the platform road.
Now, if you cast your mind (or go read the entry for the 14th April) you will know that I was still in some trepidation, for the last time we were on a rake of carriages in the platform road was to handle “Tangmere”'s train and it had not gone well. But we hooked up, hosed up and with the loco brake firmly applied, I opened 14 901 up to get the vac restored in the train.
I was not to undertake this sojourn alone, of course. Joining me were Rob Sanders and Chris Bodell. Rob has driven the 14 before (but not with the DSD) and Chris is regular on train crew but had never ridden 901. With the usual warnings to those unfamiliar with the cab about keeping one's bum, hips or other extremities away from the engine stop button on the electrical cabinet, we got the green from the guard and I started the run south.
The first leg of the journey is straightforward, and largely downhill. Apart from an almighty rattle (the turbo bellows, though I had forgotten this at the time) at certain engine rpm, we had nothing of interest save the warning from Rob (on the far side of the cab) that the home signal for Church Lane crossing was against us (but cleared as I began to get a view of it from my side) and we sailed over the crossing and along the straight into Darley Dale.
I have a recording of an after-dinner talk given by David Gunson, a former Air Traffic Controller, about how flying works, wherein he explains that take-offs are “easy, it has to go up, but landings bite if you get them wrong”. It is not dissimilar with stopping.
“Stop with the cab door by the museum door”, they said, and I did my best, but the braking response for every loco is different and in 901's case, almost as soon as I put it into first application the train came to a stand. The Museum door was, well, a foot or two away but not too serious.
With the Station Road level crossing open and the Right Way from the Guard, you are torn between a rapid departure to minimise blocking the traffic, and a gentle one so as not to spill drinks, soups or excited kiddies. In practice the speed limit until you have cleared the trailing turnout on to the line south rules the show, and you regret this as in fact, beyond the Red House road bridge at the south end of Darley Dale yard, there is a definite upward grade in the line and I gave 14 901 a fair amount of power to climb it. But once over that it is downhill as far as the 5mph speed limit past Matlock Riverside. The DSD has of course screeched at you a couple of times by now (its vigilance function in the software) and demanded that you release and re-apply the pedal, and will probably do so again between there and Sainsbury's.
This 5 mph limit though, again prevents any sort of a run being taken at the next bit, which although straight, is definitely a bit uphill and continues almost all the way into the platform. Now, stopping the train in the platform is like Darley Dale, except that, if you really over-cook it, instead of just taking out the Station Road crossing gates you destroy Network Rail's buffer stop and the paperwork is horrendous. So the fledgling 14 driver takes advice from his more experienced crew mates as to where to apply the brakes.
“I'd put them on as you pass the waiting room,” comes the reply. Now of course, I should have learned from the way 901 brought things to a stand at Darley, but I am thinking of that nice, innocent buffer stop and do as suggested; making first application as we pass the new waiting shelter.
Once again 901 proves that stopping is every bit as easy as pulling, but that releasing the brakes again with a belt-driven exhauster and an engine idling is a bit of a no-no. Another reason for using the last train of the day becomes obvious, as no-one wants to get out from the last carriage anyway, which is fortunate as it is not in the platform
My only remaining worry was whether with the switch on the panel flicked over, the DSD software might produce some unforeseen quirk. In its partial-isolate position, it should, if my programming was right, mean that the DSD only activates if I were to engage the Voith, whereas normally beginning to move would trip it too. As we start off I hold my breath, but apart from a couple of quick flashes off the DSD status LED it does not interfere, which is how it should be. And as the DSD is not active, the vigilance timer stays off too, and I can enjoy the ride.
We paused at Darley, and spotted that one of the side rod bearing corks was missing, and had sprayed the underside of the fuel tank with oil. Never mind, most of them were not the ones we'd fitted it with anyway. At Rowsley we dropped off the train, and I took the loco back to shed. In fact two corks out of 8 had parted company.
Andrew's partner and the two children came up on Thursday for a stay, so disappearing off to do loco work on Saturday was frowned upon, but Sunday was acceptable as Andrew had a meeting to host. Thus we ambled down to Rowsley and as Andrew attended to a generator he is dismantling, I decided to strip the dynamo from “Ashdown” that has languished on the garage floor for the last couple of weeks awaiting investigation. You may recall I pulled if off Ashdown having found that it had an open circuit on the field windings. With the armature in place this is almost impossible to investigate, so it had to be stripped down by removing both end covers and the pulley before it condescended to open up. Almost immediately though, it was apparent to us both (Andrew having fortuitously returned) that (a) this dynamo has been reworked as it is suspiciously clean inside and (b) the open circuit is because the wire from the D- terminal to the first field coil had been fractured. Now, in order to fit the solid state regulators that I produce for dynamo systems, we need to separate the first field coil from the D- terminal, so it couldn't really have worked out better. I crimped on a new wire to the outside world, reassembled the dynamo and refitted it. I'll have to get on with soldering up another PCB now.
Andrew disappeared off for his meeting and I pottered about on Ashdown. The regulator has the option of a Field isolate relay linked in to a feed from an oil pressure switch, so the dynamo is “off” with the engine stopped. The Gardner has no such switch, but a quick investigation found that installing one is extremely simple. The coolant temperature capillary is FUBAR and as I had a couple of electric senders of the same thread spare in the van, I did a quick change along the Dutch dyke boy principle. The capillary cable then ran along a support bar in the casing top, so I pulled it back and pondered how to pick up the requisite pos and neg to suit an electric cab gauge.
I broke off to talk to a visitor. He had been studying intently the boiler sat next to Ashdown, and admitted when I told him that he had been unable to decide whether it was from a Britannia or a 9F. It transpired he had joined the railways at age 15 at Westhouses, and worked up to Passed Fireman until Beeching closures took away all the local freight turns and forced a transfer to Camden Town. He started regaling me with stories of the first 9Fs that had come to Westhouses, including one, brand new from works, which when the loco first worked really hard on the climb out of Chesterfield, got so hot that the firebox doors seized shut and they had had to be sidelined, smashing the (cast) doors with a crowbar as the fire steadily deteriorated for want of coal. I figured he must have encountered 4Fs at Westhouses and sure enough, when he clapped eyes on 44422, he was over the moon, proceeding to tell me how they would press onions between the boiler and a pipe at the front right side of the cab to be cooked on the way round. Makes a change from eggs and bacon on the fire shovel.
Andrew's meeting was the steering committee for the planned 50th anniversary class 14 event which I am told, I can now start referring to. I want to call it the 'White Elephant Extravaganza' but Andrew tells me I am being insufficiently reverential. It will be held at the East Lancs next summer, and as none of the committee members had seen '901 in operation before, when they emerged back into the light we cranked her up and gave them a few runs up and down the back straight. All being well, 901 will be taking part.