Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of on-train training

15th September 2013

OK, so if you are a regular reader, or at least been here before but not for the last week or so, what you are seeing looks a little different. Not much, you understand, we've kept the same colour scheme and the header photos, but the sub-title “what we do for...” has, at the insistence of my daughter, changed to “...our kids” as she felt that 'kids unspecified' might give rise to unsavoury interpretations.

The categories up the left hand side have been broken down into quarters, though for the moment you will not necessarily get them in date order, as they are displayed in the order they were transferred from the original site. Of course, from now on, that should straighten itself out for all new postings. There is however a new “Search” function up the top right hand corner which does pretty-well what it says, and a new “About” page that augments the “Home” screen and provides another chance to admire my chiselled features but with me train-drivin' hat on.

In fact about the only thing that it lacks (and I may find a way around it in due course) is a link straight to the latest entry from the Home screen, so you'll have got here I hope by clicking on “Blog” and it will be the top entry of the list!

Andrew and I popped in to Rowsley on Tuesday night and had a quick chat with the Operations Director about where we go from here in getting my trainees passed out for driving solo. Then we took the coffee table  up to “Cheedale”, and bolted it down so that I could get some “as built” dimensions to create a sliding base for the compressor. The compressor itself, incidentally, is an old friend of mine – late last century I fitted it to a loco I was supplying to the Poole Harbour Commissioners and when that went for scrap a couple of  years ago it was one of a number of “useful bits” we acquired through the good offices of a friend. It wants a check over before we bolt it in, but should augment the capacity nicely.

IMG 2221 blog

You can see the coffee table itself in this photo, straddling over the crankshaft extension where it drives the fan. The compressor will come off the left-most grooves, while the farthest are lined up with the exhauster underneath.  The coffee table has four gussets with locating holes through, and my base will bolt to them while providing slotted holes for the compressor and the method of dragging it to-and-fro. (Years ago I had a contract for the MoD to install an additional compressor on Ruston LSSH's. Out of curiosity I subbed out the compressor base design thinking that I might get back some useful ideas. What I received was a wonderful arrangement with machined slides and Acme threads that resembled what you'd find on a lathe or a machine tool. I could have happily wound the compressor to-and-fro all day and every day on its little wheel. But once the belts have been tensioned, they should not need adjusting for months at a time, and the cost of machining this lot would have exceeded the budget for the entire job. I concluded that I was better off designing it myself on the KISS principle - Keep it Simple, Stupid).

I was back again on Thursday, with more trainees to take through the intricacies of 14 901. I followed the same format – an hour's talking in the mess room, then out on the loco up and down light, and after lunch up and down for the afternoon with the BG to get a feel for the vac. Two of last week's appeared for the afternoon session, and I was pleasantly surprised that they appeared not only to have remembered everything, but handled the loco  more confidently and proficiently. But again, I was too busy Mother Hen'ing to get any pictures.

Andrew's main line  move from last Friday was re-scheduled for this Friday, and I dropped him off at Chesterfield station Friday evening so that he could get to Doncaster. Just as I was settling down to sleep, my mobile rang and he reported that it was cancelled with technical problems and as there was no public train heading my way, could I come to Wabtec and pick him up? Consequently I was late up Saturday morning, and in any event Andrew's SO is up with the children, so Saturday was a largely loco-free day. Did I say that? I was finalising the CAD drawings for the compressor base bits for ordering tomorrow.

Today however I headed back in to Rowsley with a list of jobs and a  weather forecast that suggested the “outside” tasks should be completed first.  The AV2 valve on '901 relies on a precision regulator that has always been a little finicky and we had decided to see if giving it a greater volume would improve things, by adding a capacity reservoir between the reg and the AV2. A suitable-sized reservoir was sitting in the VBA, so I Band-it strapped it in to the rear casing section, broke into the pipe that connected the reg and AV2 and thus tee'd the reservoir in. I had several miscellaneous measuring jobs on Cheedale and “Ashdown” as well. New sliding windows have been manufactured for Ashdown and await collection. These will replace the old drop-lights,  however in order to give enough sliding space to get one's head through without bashing one's nose or scraping the scalp, the complete opening must be made a  touch longer and will require some careful attention at the corners to accept the aluminium-framed window units. That will not be for a week or two though, and my plastic window will serve a little longer.

I had not, as I had planned, implemented the software tweak on '901 in time for Thursday's training session, so had brought in my notebook and interface cables, and was sat reminding myself how things worked and eating my sandwiches when one of Thursday's trainees arrived as planned (but a little early) so I packed up, oiled round, and had him go through the daily checks and priming before driving up and down light loco. By now the rain had started in earnest, and it was difficult on occasion not to stop without the loco sliding. This was of no real consequence at the far end, but at the shed end I was more than a  little concerned as a graceful slide into a parked Ashdown would have cannoned the latter into my van immediately beyond! But my trainee was on top of the situation and we stopped short every time.

Once he'd gone I set the computer back up and completed the program mods. Basically it was adding a few interlocking conditions with the intention of preventing “common  mistakes”. As I have said before, the reversing of the Hunslet box can be troublesome like a lot of Hunslet boxes, but exacerbated by the layout of this one, in that the reversing crown wheels and  pinion are the second stage reduction, not the first, and in consequence the loco can stop with a  considerable load on the teeth that the air cylinder must fight to overcome. On “normal” 14s, there is an “inching device” - an air cylinder acting on a ratchet drive into the 'box, but 901 had none when it came to us and really there is a perfectly good inching device already fitted, it's called the Voith L217u.  So my operating manual basically says, 'if the box doesn't reverse, bring the Voith in to turn the teeth a bit' and the software mods were to prevent driver's forgetting exactly what I've taught them.

Once loaded into the PLC, I needed to test that I hadn't disturbed anything else in the program and in any event I wanted to double-check that the Deadmans was functioning as it appeared to play-up in front of the trainees on Thursday.  I'd gone through it earlier on. The gearbox obligingly stuck and enabled me to prove my software mods performed as planned, and the deadmans functioned perfectly, each time though putting it into a skid on the wet rails.

Crunching footsteps on the ash presaged the arrival of Pete Waller who booked himself on to this Thursday's course, and after another run up and down I parked the loco up for the night, aiding Rob with a little shunting before setting off home. On Tuesday, 14 901 is due to run in traffic with “Lord Phil” (the Austerity) and next weekend it is rostered both days for the Mixed Traffic Gala. Well I suppose it keeps me off the streets.


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