It has been a strange sort of a week. On the face of it, 14 901 could slumber on in silence, as the Tuesday to Thursday service (it is half-term week) was rostered for D8 throughout. On Monday, Ashdown was in use, as the restaurant carriage required for Palatine services had to be shunted out of the rake for some attention, bringing it back down to 6 again. (Thus on Tuesday morning, there was a minor crisis – no-one had remembered that the Rowsley-Church Lane token, required to access the carriages in the platform, had been left in Ashdown's cab!)
Meanwhile still on Monday but down at Darley, Rob resumed clearing the soil and stone to make way for the new track to the shed – this time it is being piled on the other side of the main line, building up the former trackbed adjacent to the builders merchants. But don't get too excited, there is still much to clear before the “head of steel” meets up with our “head of concrete”.
On Wednesday I had set off to see a client when a phone call came through from the railway – could I man 14 901? I had to decline, but they muddled through without me, as D8's crew had turned up having forgotten their cab keys, and no spares could be located! I got back in time to see the 0-6-0 coming back up from Matlock with Roy at the controls, but dressed in his Stationmaster's uniform.
Andrew was free Friday afternoon and we headed down to Rowsley to carry out a bit of shunting. The plan was to position the bogie well wagon down one of the sidings where its basic restoration can be carried out without getting in anyone's way, and to sort out an equivalent length in locos ready to go down to Darley at some convenient date. Ashdown was started for the work, but to extract two of the locos meant shunting a rake comprising “James”, two 37's, the VBA a weltrol, the 31, a couple of other wagons, a Dutch gronk and a Brush 0-6-0, and it was scarcely a surprise that Ashdown was not up to the task. I headed over to start up 14 901.
I had just checked the oil when I looked up and realised all was not well. In the early days of 14 901 in our possession, I had created a header tank to provide a slightly pressurised fuel supply to the injection pump, replacing the 12volt garden-fountain pump that had been immersed in the fuel tank when it came down from Scotland. This tank had been mounted on a piece of tube bracketed off the engine, and we had had to do some running repairs to the tube a year or so ago, so much so that it was intended to change it for a complete new tank and mountings last winter, but the tank still resides in a cardboard box at the Briddon Country Pile. Anyway, this original tank should have been sat in splendid isolation above the Rolls' DV8, but it wasn't. It had collapsed onto the injection pump – the tube had fractured completely through.
This was a bit of a worry – the loco was rostered to run the next day, and although we could have rung up the Operations Director and invited him to get D8 manned instead, it hurt our pride not to have 14 901 out when scheduled. But our immediate problem was to complete the shunt, and so Cheedale was fired up and even then, pulling James, two 37s, the VBA and the 31 proved to the the limit of Cheedale's adhesion (some locos can be very stiff) so we took the rest separately. With Ashdown running to speed the job up, the bogie well wagon was shunted into a new home, the two locos were extracted ready to go to Darley and to fill the track they had vacated, D9500 and Grace took their places, and all the rest put back as before. We finished the afternoon (afternoon? it was dark) crawling over the bogie well wagon with Ben Riley, Ben pointing out the various BR modifications and summarising the bits of steel that will be needed to reverse it all back to the way the Midland Railway built it. He had clearly given it a thorough examination, pointing out for example, that while we had observed the buffers drooping at the outside thanks to the rotting timber headstocks, the buffers and the 4 long bolts through each were not original, as there were holes for 6 bolt buffers through the channels behind.
That evening, we had planned to go back in and weld some some code light boxes destined for 03 901, but instead extracted the broken tank from 14 901 by torchlight, welded it back together with additional strengthening, and put it back on the loco. Part way through the machine shop lights circuit breaker tripped and wouldn't reset, so much of the welding had to be done by torchlight too! But at the end of the evening, 14 901 was running, ready for the next day's service.
First thing Saturday morning it was down to Darley, for we had a half-day lined up with Rob to carry on with blockwork. In theory this would be the four of us, at least for the first hour until I had to go off and change into my train driver's outfit and man 14 901, but in practice Steph needed to do a bit of shopping and Andrew was still in bed, so Rob and me made a start at 08.30, Steph arrived by nine and Andrew got down there – later.
Back at Rowsley, I pulled out a couple of adjustable spanners and checked the exhaust pipe off the turbo was tight as it seemed to have developed some additional movement, then chucked the spanners on the cab floor and started up to go round and into traffic. Roy had reported that the tacho was behaving oddly on Wednesday, and sure enough it has started reading 150-200rpm low across the range. Must check the connections are all clean and tight.
With it being November, there are now only 4 return trips not five, and with 6 coaches on 14 901 is in the platform (or just about) both at Rowsley and Matlock which enables more interaction with the passengers. We had just got down to Matlock on the second trip, Roy had left the cab to collect the token from the other end, I turned round and realised in a sickening moment that the Alternator warning light was on. It had not been when we'd left Rowsley. I opened up a rear casing door and there was the belt, swaying to and from as it rode on the propshaft that extended beyond to drive the exhauster. Thank heavens for those spanners! I shut the engine down, slackened the alternator adjustment and got the belt back on.
Now of course is the time I did not want passenger interaction, but was the time I was suddenly surrounded by onlookers who wanted to know what horsepower it was, how many cylinders the engine had, etc.. I endeavoured to multi-task, closing casing doors, returning spanners to the cab, starting the engine back up, and, wondering whether they thought that I had been working on “the engine” in the rear casing section, opening the casing doors to reveal the Rolls-Royce in the front section and all the while trying to answer their questions as though clambering about inside the casing section with adjustable spanners was entirely routine.
If it had been a full day at Darley, I am sure the blockwork would now be finished, but Saturday was the day of the Peak Rail Association annual general meeting, and Steph, Rob and Andrew were all attending. I would have had I not been driving the 14. This time last week, I had been approached about standing for the Board of the PRA ( and for those not familiar, the PRA is the supporting group, whereas the actual owner/operator of the railway is Peak Rail plc). And after much reflection, I had agreed. In the end it took Steph and Andrew to nominate and second me, and Steph to read out a statement on my behalf as to why I might be thought to bring value to the team. I got voted on with no dissent.
So the blockwork will take a little bit more time to finish, and after the 14 had been stabled, Andrew joined me and we started to weld up the code light boxes we had planned to do the previous evening, having dragged a workbench into the main part of the shed, where the lights still worked.
Today down at Darley, Rob and a p/way gang continued work on the turnout, shovel-packing and such, while Andrew and I were up at Rowsley, finishing welding the code light boxes and carrying out some other work.
Next week Andrew decrees we are allocating Saturday to Scunthorpe – so maybe that water pump will get changed and the tacho made to function.