When Andrew's collection first started, it developed along the lines of acquiring what Andrew liked and what was available. The two Hudswell Clarke's "Claire" and "Grace" were bought because we could not make up our minds which was the better of the two - only later did we realise the historical significance of "Grace" - the last standard gauge HC loco to be built. "Beverley" came along simply because Andrew took pity on it when it was at the 11th hour before scrap. As the collection grew, and as duplicates however acquired, add nothing to the diversity, "Claire" was sold to a Cambrian member and is, so far as we know, still providing motive power around Blodwell. Beverley, having been displaced from Middleton by Grace, was at Scunthorpe and late last year we discussed with the guys at the Ponytpool & Blaenavon the possibility of exchanging Bev for their former Manchester Ship Canal HC 0-6-0DM. Negotiations took several months - a swap for a loco in running condition and vac-fitted (after a fashion) but otherwise in less than A1 condition for a loco re-profiled with fresh blocks, re-wired, engine rebuilt, t/con converted to oil and given its own cooler, etc., was scarcely equitable. But a deal was arrived at, subject to our completing the vac fit on Bev, hence the pressure over the last few weeks. With Bev checked out, the date for the swap to take place was set for Friday.
In the event, John Antell was booked to carry out the collection of an Austerity from Llangollen, swap that for the HC at Blaenavon, then up to Rowsley to drop it off to go on to Scunthorpe for Beverley, so we availed ourselves of the opportunity to get "Tom" over to Scunthorpe and take up the slot vacated by Beverley. Andrew took Thursday off (he already had Friday booked) to try to get 14 901 prep'd ready for service.
On Monday, though, I had popped in to Sheffield with Steph and looked over the monthly auction lots and 3 lots caught my eye. Innocuously described as "contents of two bays" (presumably because the auctioneer didn't know what half of it was) were bins of pipe fittings, kee klamps and sundry fixings. I put a commission bid on this, and a similar one of 19 bins and boxes mostly of nuts and bolts. The third lot was a 6ft high vertical drill stand. Quite how I would handle this if I had got it I didn't work out, but my "silly bid" wasn't sufficient but I got a phone call on Tuesday to say I had got the other two. So on Wednesday I took the van in to collect, and first thing Thursday Andrew and I headed down to the container to unload.
Site clearance has continued during the week at Darley Dale. The string-vest container had been reduced to flat pack and the contents of it and another van body loaded into wagons. Telegraph poles had been lifted out and the only thing stopping us digging the foundations (apart from notifying Planning, appointing a contractor and Building Inspector, etc., etc) is that it is unlikely that the panels of track currently obstructing our walls will get dug out and lifted until mid-August. Nevertheless the concrete base that once formed the Peak Rail machine shop can now be pecked out and I must get that started - we won't need to buy hardcore.
Charlie and the works train was at Darley for this work, and was about to return to Rowsley, so we witnessed the shunting as we unloaded the contents of the van into the container. Well, most of the stuff - if any of you out there would love to acquire 90-something pieces of assorted kee klamp you'll find it on e-bay.
After a quick lunch we headed up to Rowsley and shunted 14 901 over a pit. We had heard on the grape-vine that John Antell was ahead of schedule (originally it was pencilled in to load at Blaenavon Thursday evening and arrive Rowsley first thing Friday) and sure enough, at 2pm he arrived outside the gates. We stopped what we were doing, and obtained permission to bring the load/unload forward. Rob lifted out the buffer stops and off things went.
By the end of the day the Hudswell was unloaded, Tom was aboard and John was headed for the Hellaby truck stop. We played with the Hudswell for a while before putting 14 901 back out. The P&BR had sent up the loco with their batteries on, as agreed, which we finally took off to go on to Bev.
So I suppose at this point I better give a quick resume of the loco's history. Built new for the MSC, where it was numbered D1 and named "Ashdown" (which I gather from Andrew will be restored to it) it passed on to Hunslet for resale, where I saw it in 1978. Finally it was sold in 1986 under Hunslet number 8526 to the Gwent Coal distribution depot, where it became "Pride of Gwent". When the depot ceased rail, it went on to the Bute Town group in Cardiff, where it met up with the NB 0-6-0DH which Andrew now owns, but when the Bute Town group was forced out by development, it went to the Vale of Glamorgan (Barry) where it was named "Bill Caddick". When the VoG, in turn, was compelled to relocate, the loco was put up for sale and acquired by the P&B, but reportedly did not find favour there. The vac-fit comprises a Westinghouse exhauster in the eaves of a casing extension (front left) and the valvery from a dmu, including a massive vac reservoir which has no virtue on a loco. For the moment, the installation will stay (bar the reservoir) but in due course we will improve it. Still on re-unions, Rowsley of course has MSC "E1", a smaller HC 0-6-0DM built for the MSC engineers, so those two are old friends.
So, instead of unloading at Rowsley first thing Friday, we were on the road by half-six to get to Scunthorpe for eight a.m, meeting John in a lay-by just off the M180 and piloting him through the security lodge (which, as it happens was no trouble). "Tom" was duly unloaded while I put the P&B batteries on to "Bev", and the feeling I had had in the back of my mind that we should have had these on charge Thursday night came back when after two or three attempts at half-heartedly cranking, they gave up and we pushed Bev on with the Janus.
We watched Beverley leave the collection with a tear or two in our eyes - we have spent many, many hours on that loco and that HC design was a simple and worthy competitor to the Sentinel range. In due course will we have to deal with "Grace", and at least have that to look forward to.
But first we had to prove to witnesses that "Tom" was indeed in working order, so we shunted up and down for a while before clearing up and hitting the road south. For the afternoon we were back at Rowsley, to do some of the jobs on 14 901. But first we attempted to fit the batteries we had bought a couple of weeks ago for the Drewry (but lent to Bev for testing) only to find that they would not fit the battery box. Indeed, the battery box is an awkward shape for modern-day batteries, so a pair of smaller ones had to be procured and Andrew decided that a new battery box over the gearbox (where the vac res now is) would be a better proposition. We did more work on 14 901 but the heat did not aid productivity.
Andrew and Steph were off to Norfolk for the weekend where Andrew's partner is coping with a broken wrist, but he was anxious to ensure that "Pluto" was ready for the DVLR gala and it has been out of action for a few weeks with reports of struggling to make vacuum. Consequently I was prevailed on to head north on Saturday, with a detour to our battery suppliers to get a couple of 655s for "Ashdown".
Murton was a hive of activity as things are made ready for the 100th Anniversary Gala Event next weekend. the Peckett 0-4-0ST Merlin was sat in front of Pluto and "Joem" is expected later in the week, although D9523 is off for a month's hire elsewhere.
The expectation was that the belts had stretched a bit as it had got a bit hot when revving to get more vac out of it, but they were not as slack as I had expected. Nevertheless I took a couple of links out and tried it, but the vac still wasn't coming up as readily as I expected. A glance at the oil feed pipe (clear plastic) showed that the oil was being drawn in with air bubbles (and more air than oil) and as the rotary exhausters rely on oil on the blades to make the seal I checked the separator (aka a Land Rover oil bath air cleaner) and found it low. Topped up, Pluto immediately came up to full vac at tick-over, though the separator was occasionally spitting oil. It seems that as a separator the air cleaner is not quite able to cope and we must revisit that in due course, along with a couple of other improvements we have been planning.
I hope the DVLR event is a resounding success, they deserve it to be - hundredth anniversaries don't come around that often - so if you are in the area next weekend, do call.
As you may guess by the fact that this edition is early, I have taken the day off - the call of "Ashdown", the Drewry and even 14 901 insufficient to summon me back for a 4th day in a row.