Early on in the week we decided to install the last 4 concrete panels which go either side of the south end personnel door. As there was no steelwork ready, these had not been put in by Industfarm when they put up the main framing, and so now, with the roller shutters and both personnel doors in situ, the shed area is a “secure compound” at last. Meanwhile, as you will see, Rob has proved that the new siding extension which goes alongside the shed (and will, if required, be our loading/unloading area although getting a low-loader to it will be an interesting exercise) by parking the works train all the way up.
As the week has gone on, I am pleased to see that work has concentrated on extending the siding towards the shed itself. This is not merely a matter of slewing it over – for one thing, the rail and sleepers were so bad that the former was scrapped and the latter fell to pieces. More importantly, the back road splits to form the access to both shed roads, and therefore needs a turnout. In this case, coming as a kit of parts that formerly were altogether in the North Yard.
Fair exchange, they say, is no robbery, and in the spirit of such, a piece of South yard has headed the other way. For on a day with no trains running, the opportunity was taken to load several wagons with the soil/clay/stones, etc that came out of the foundations and rail them several hundred yards north to build up the area behind the platform. There is however a considerable quantity still needing to come out from our earlier excavations, plus Rob reckons quite a bit to dig as the new track must slope gradually down to meet the rail level in the shed.
By Thursday more sleepers were being placed down and further rails added, ground scooped out with the JCB and materials moved around - even the pit has been temporarily used as a ballast bunker! What hasn't been achieved this week was any more block-laying – we are after all, only half-way around the building and there are about 200 wallstone lumps to lay, and the nights are drawing in.
This weekend I was rostered both days on 14 901 with Roy, but whereas this weekend last year was hailed as 901's “first weekend in traffic” and was a 4 loco, 2 train affair, this year with both the 31 and 37 out of action, and no prospect of visiting locos, it was just '901 and D8 on a single set, with the Heritage Shunters Trust members operating their shuttles to and from their sheds at Rowsley.
But once again, on the Saturday it was decreed that '901 should be at the Matlock end of the train with D8 at the Rowsley end, giving us the comparatively easy run (as there is more downhill than uphill) although, as we observed before (see here) this is known as the “Suicide end” for the greater potential hazards it offers. For us too, it offered a change of scenery, and an opportunity to do it all the same but differently – dropping the token at Church Lane rather than collecting for example – the nett result of which can be rather refreshing.
Notwithstanding that on the Peak Rail website, posters, etc, the two days were blocked in red and clearly indicated that it was a special diesel event, I had one father, with pushchair, enquire of me as I passed a few minutes outside the ticket office - “What platform does the steam train go from?” and I hurriedly composed my most diplomatic answer. Talking of replies, I had one ready for Pete Fisher, he of the holidaying guide dogs, electric strimmers and cafe crew, when asked if I wanted tea or coffee - “Tea, please, I find coffee when I'm train driving keeps me awake..”
Amongst the faces who had turned up to sample the variety of i.c. traction on offer, I spied Vince and Trevor, the owners of D9523 which suffered sadly that serious hiccough at the ELR. Vince subsequently sent me a couple of photos of '901 (and me!) in action, and since he has them both up on Flickr too (search “14901”) I trust he will not mind my using one here.
Having '901 at the south end does enable some alternative pictures at Matlock, and while I have snapped it from various angles here before, for once I made a sprint over the bridge and got it from the Network Rail side – there's even a East Mids 153 in their platform.
I was expecting that we'd have trouble getting the engine temperature up on '901 – normally when it is towed to Matlock and powers back it reaches the 50 deg mark by the time it gets to Rowsley and is near the 70s by the third run of the day. I assumed that as most of the work is northbound, it would struggle to get warm at all southbound. I was pleasantly surprised though as the temperature built steadily after each run and as some of it transfers into the Voith, the two parts kept each other warm through the day, and its crew too through what was rather cool, dull weather.
And what, may you ask, of Andrew? He had taken the van and gone to Scunthorpe, to progress D2128 with Stephen and Ashley (Toby being at a wedding) applying black paint on top of the undercoat. Since we still have to create a cab floor (so far I have measured it twice, and Andrew once, and we have 3 differing sets of measurements!) finish the paintwork, shotblast the casing door handles, refit the windows, finish some of my electrics, etc. etc., it looks like our work will be cut out and there's only really next weekend to finish it all. Certainly the planned completion of the vacuum brake system has been shelved, although the first machined parts for the exhauster drive were collected on Friday. Similarly although the prototype code light is virtually complete, the plans to have 4 or 6 or 8 mounted and wired by the gala really aren't likely.
Anyway, a little earlier the AFRPS arranged a line-up of the locos planned for the gala, with Sentinel “Tom” at one end and a ghostly D2128 at the other. It certainly offers a variety of locos in differing shapes and sizes, and Glen wants D2128 to have had a test run around the works first....
I had muttered during Saturday that if on Sunday we reverted to our normal position of north end of the train, then would the drivers of D8 please at least select notch 1 to take some of their own weight. For with a train of around 220tons, an additional 135tons of 1CoCo1, not to mention all those traction motor armatures to force round and round, '901 would be hard pressed to maintain time. Clearly the Ops Director had been thinking on this during the day and on Saturday night proposed that we stay that way around for Sunday. We saw no reason to dissuade him so had a second day at the Suicide end. '901 was pulling well, although still hunting a bit, especially as you attempt to take up the load – that fuel pump is still not 100%.
Some news has come through on the fuel pump, incidentally: the part number I read off it a week or two ago has now been traced back and may yet be another unique bit of kit. If it is still calibrated as manufactured, it was intended for a DV8TCA running at 564bhp at 1500, but given the unique features of our engine, I doubt whether this holds good, as it would be fuelling too much for the engine to burn it all at a time. Quite how this fuel pump, supplied to a large RR customer circa 1970, arrived on this engine (which entered BR service in late 1964) still remains a mystery.
Dogs can be fascinating alongside the railway. Some are held, trembling with fear, by their owners as we go by. Some just bark their challenge, confident no doubt that the wire fence between us will prevent our retaliation. One black and white bundle of energy today was exercising its owner by staying some 20 yards or so ahead of her as we approached. With the opportunity of something large to see-off, it barked and raced alongside us, straight past its owner and on towards the bottom of the bank. It kept side-by-side us. barking continuously, and bear in mind we were cruising along at about 20mph. How was this impasse to be resolved? Would it finally tire, answer its owner's repeated call, or leap the fence to end up under our wheels?
Well, no, after a quarter of a mile sprint it ran into three more dogs exercising their owners and transfered its attention to a black Scottie: we escaped.
Not that dogs are the only livestock that catch our attention. Roy's earlier mischance of squashing a Rabbit just below the top of Redhouse has been recorded previously – we still doff our hats as a mark of respect for the Tomb of the Unknown Bunny. A cat near Church Lanethough regularly crosses the line as we approach. A grouse – or some such feathered thing – sprinted along in the cess as we bore down on it today. A week or so ago a large rat was spotted crossing the track just beyond Darley platform, and now three sheep have taken up residence in the station at Rowsley. But then this is “the countryside” and as one born in Wimbledon (I was congratulated today by a visitor for “retaining my accent”, I am still trying to work out whether to take it as a compliment) it would seem such things are to be expected.
Down at Darley today Rob lead a working party and continued assembling the turnout, and realigned the track leading up to it so that, hopefully, it will all start to point towards the roller shutter doors. Andrew meanwhile, was doing some tidying up at Rowsley as we have concluded that Libby will have to wait until we get into the shed at Darley, as work going on elsewhere, or the arrival and departure of steam or diesel locos from the shed, makes painting and sundry activities impracticable. (Rivetting 300 or so stays in an Austerity boiler within the building is scarcely conducive to a good working environment).
So that's about it really. No earth-shattering developments, just slow but steady progress on locos, buildings and trackwork. Next weekend the emphasis shifts to Scunthorpe.
STOP PRESS Monday 22nd 19.05: A YouTube video from Saturday morning, showing 14 901 and D8 coming off shed and the first train away (including a bit of slip as 901 starts off) can be seen here