The trouble is, when you add up the number of weeks to go it's not many. Not that I am counting shopping days, you understand, rather I am frustrated at what little time remains of the year and thus how little progress we will make on the shed. As you will see from the pictures, we have largely completed the site clearance – the tracks have all been removed (bar one panel which is exposed and ready when next the crane is in the vicinity), all the sleepers removed from the siding that lay next to the boundary fence (most of them disintegrated when picked up) and all the ballast recovered down to dirt level and piled up ready for when the track can come back down.
But the next stage is the foundations, and I am still awaiting the 'final' drawings from the Structural Engineers. The delay is to allow some revision to ensure that the slot drain planned to run across outside the front of the shed (to stop rainwater migrating up the flangeways when the wind blows – feature of a shed I spent a number of years carrying out loco work in) is lowered sufficiently to allow my rails to pass over rather than through, and similarly where the foundations pass across the doorways. We don't have all that much headroom to play with so there's no point in losing 160mm of it in rails. Once I have these drawings, I can at last go out to tender, but as that will take a couple of weeks and I cannot expect the tenderer to make a start the day after awarding the work, I am resigned to the fact that little or anything will be seen on the ground before the Construction Industry goes off for its annual two week binge into the New Year. Resigned yes, but happy, no.
It has not, however, prevented us from discussing holding an 'Open Day' when once the building is up and we are settled in. We have to have something to look forward to!
On Friday Andrew and I popped into Rowsley late in the afternoon to collect something which I had agreed to take down to the Swindon & Cricklade railway on Saturday. Since we needed mechanical assist to get it out of the VBA, we had arranged to move various vehicles up with the VBA at the back to get it to an accessible position. Charlie though was on the wrong side of the works train, and Cheedale was, to our delight, on duty in the platform holding on to a carriage while Harvey K carried out some attention to the latter's knuckle coupler. Indeed, we received a complaint: it seems that whereas before it was usual to fire up Cheedale and go and have a cuppa while the air pressure slowly built up, now it is so rapid a rise that they have lost the excuse! Anyway, we fired up 14 901 for a few minutes and drew the vehicles forward and extracted the lump with the aid of Chris B and a loader.
On Saturday morning Steph and I set off for Swindon, the road to Oxford being all too familiar from the runs surrounding my father's last few months and subsequent house clearance two years ago. We rolled into Blunsdon and summoned Richard M, who was “up the line” and would be along in 5 minutes. And sure enough he appeared.
Now the S&C has many of the attributes of a model railway. Its 2 significant stations, Blunsdon and Hayes Knoll, are sufficiently close together that you can see one from the platform of the other, something that always gave me crises of conscience in my 00 gauge days. On the other hand, when it comes to doing a tour of the line to view the sheds at Hayes Knoll and there is no train to hand, it does at least mean there's not too far to walk.
The shed at Hayes, of which an appeal is out to extend by 2 more tracks, is full of the usual railway paraphernalia including timber bodied coaches, steam locos, 03s and 08s (ugh). Outside Monty L was shunting with the Fowler 0-4-0DH “Blunsdon”. Originally operated at the Pressed Steel plant in Swindon (now the BMW Mini plant) it was typical Fowler using a Leyland engine, but when it expired Monty decided to replace it with a Rolls C6. Additionally the carefully formed Fowler nose cone had rotted through with rust, so taking a leaf out of Thomas Hills' book, Monty built a new front end in Vanguard/Sentinel style with a steel framework (intended originally to protect the radiator from damage by overhanging loads). The result is quite a smart loco, and we rode it back to Blunsdon station with ECS ready for an event with the local Mayor the following day.
Steph meanwhile, had waited at Blunsdon, and was made aware of our approach not by the sound of the engine, horn, nor the ting of wheels on joints, but by the repetitive “puck” of the Brair traps (fart valves to you and me) which apparently carried distinctly through the Wiltshire air.
Overall though, once the S&C reaches farther afield, there is the nucleus of an excellent line close to a centre of population but far enough out to be rural. May it prosper and extend.
Andrew reappeared on Sunday morning and we headed over to Scunthorpe. Toby and co had moved the Sentinel in once more, and Andrew began to adjust spring hangers yet again. I meanwhile checked the hydraulic oil level on the 03, and then moved forward to set about adjusting the unloader valve for the compressor. I opened up the casing doors and had a bit of a double-take. There are 4 grooves on the compressor pulley yet there were only 3 belts, and the empty groove was one of the middle ones. I peered into the gloom and saw a belt loose on the auxiliary shaft, and as my eyes adjusted, saw that the unused pulley destined to drive the exhauster was no longer on its taper lock bush. Indeed, further examination revealed that the fan drive pulley was also further back than it had been - in short, the only pulley that appeared still in its correct place was the one I'd fitted when we'd speeded up the charge pumps.
Andrew was now running “Tom” up and down to settle the springs. And when he returned, I called him over for a conference. While I continued connecting up the shop air supply to adjust the unloader, he did final a dimensional check on Tom, decided that it is as good as it is going to get at the moment (given that we have 2 wrong spring hangers and one spring, the rear RHS, is clearly weaker than the rest) and left it to join me on the 03, climbing inside and carefully re-positioning the pulleys.
Given that Andrew is often keen to remind me that anything that works loose is because I haven't done it/them up tight enough, it is of modest satisfaction to note that the problematic pulleys were entirely his responsibility.
In the end, it seems that 2 of the grub screws from the exhauster pulley have gone AWOL, so I must sort some replacements and we could not get a run out of it, but everything else is back together and the unloader valve set for about 100psi (the shop air would only get us to about 93 so I set it a touch higher) and a test will have to wait for next time, when maybe we can get over the weighbridge and find out just how the axleloads are.
Now, Thursday this week, all being well, we are hoping to extract one of the portal frames for the shed, and trial assemble it on the ground at Rowsley so that I can confirm the holding-down bolt centres to superimpose on the drawings. It will also give us some idea of just how large the shed is going to be in a way that no drawing can ever do. But for reasons that I cannot explain at the moment, you will probably have to wait until Monday next week for the next edition of the blog.