Weekend Rails

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Of Christmas and shorthand

Of tachos and shorthand

14th December 2014

I can't believe that it's less than two weeks to Christmas. For one thing, I don't feel at all “Christmassy”: although, to be fair, I never really do feel Christmassy. I have told people in the past that Christmas lost its appeal for me after 1997, when my mother died of cancer in the early hours, but  it probably goes back farther than that.

One of the effects of running your own business, whether it is a limited company or 'merely' self-employed, that you start to resent all those times when your employed suppliers and customers start to wind down and waste time when you feel you need to be getting things done.  This year though, Andrew's son is due to be with us over Christmas and so once again I may have the chance to re-live Christmasses past through the eyes of a young innocent – but you don't really want to hear about this, do you?

Having disabled Ashdown for a  couple of days by borrowing its batteries, I felt bad and got around to returning them on Wednesday, and for reasons that would take too long to explain, fired the loco up to check that the batteries had not suffered too much and give them a bit of charge. Rob told me not to shut it down and proceeded to use it on shunting. I was in Rowsley again on Friday afternoon and sure enough Ashdown was out at work again, this time coupled to the BG and sat in the loop. Sadly on neither occasion had I brought my camera and the quality of photos off my phone isn't up to much. So you're just going to have to take my word for it.    

I had been dropping hints about getting back to Scunthorpe and Andrew eventually took the bait.  So on Saturday morning after a heavy overnight frost, we set off over the hills. One of the routes I regularly use avoids Chesterfield and brings us to the M1 past a well-priced petrol station (yippee, the diesel had dropped below £1.20/litre)  but the highest section had not been gritted and was distinctly icy – even Andrew could tell I was making course corrections on the steering that the van wasn't really responding to. But once on the M1 it was plain sailing to Scunthorpe, and on to site to tackle jobs on 03 901.

This time we had remembered to bring the replacement water pump, so while Andrew and Toby started to strip out the old one, I headed into the cab, lifted out the floor and removed the old handbrake relay shaft. This Mk 1 had been created by welding the levers onto an M16 bolt, and I had assumed that one of the welds was all that had “gone”.  In the end I had to cut the bolt shank through in order to extract it as two portions, but not before I had realised that apart from snapping the weld, the bolt itself had been bent. Clearly someone had really tightened up the handbrake, way beyond where it needed to be to hold the loco, and indeed, one of the knobs from the outside of the “ships wheel” handbrake had turned up on the desk as though someone had  broken it. The Mk 2 relay shaft is machined from 16 diameter bar, but has the top and bottom levers set on square sections and retained by the M10 fine pitch nuts. Clearly I need to come up with either some stops or other means of stopping over-exuberant shunters from treating the handbrake as they would  if it were the old, inefficient tread-brake. (A cattle-prod would be ideal but arranging it to activate at the right moment might tax my powers of invention).

Replacing the cab floor, I removed the lower instrument panel and replaced the tacho head that was in it with the one I had got back from conversion a few weeks ago. To recap, the tacho heads were available with different internal electronics to suit the speed at which the 3-phase generators were driven. While I had acquired a small stock of one spec (which will suit such locos as Charlie and Cheedale) the generators on the DV8s  required a different one.  When we were building the panel for 14 901, I only had available to me the square speedo or tacho instruments with the 90 degree movement that Andrew thought was inappropriate, so we installed a tacho head borrowed from the Brush loco. Thus in early 2012, when Andrew had considered making a serious attempt to get the Brush loco working, I sent a sample tacho head to a firm who said they could convert it. It took them two and a half years, and having got it, given that the Brush had slipped down the priority list, it was re-allocated to the 03.

IMG 3687 blog

With the head remounted and cabled up to the upper panel, it only remained to cable the tacho genny which I had mounted during the autumn through to the other end of the multi-core cable at the break-out box on the side of the transmission. Stephen had joined me by now, and between us we persuaded the 3-wires down the conduits to the box, where they left me to it to go and have a  cup of tea. Meanwhile Andrew had followed my lead and descended through the cab floor into the bowels of the loco in order to remove an axlebox bottom half to obtain a sample oiler pad. This done, he had gone to the mess cabin.

Once the wires had been terminated, I joined them up there. The group which I once referred to as “Toby and co” (because I couldn't remember all their names) has swelled (so I still can't remember all their names) and now comprise a band of enthusiastic young enthusiasts that many a preservation group would be delighted to have.  But it seems that my shorthand “Toby and co”  still rankles -

“.. and it's all because of your blog!” declared Toby with finger pointed at me. “How do you plead?”
“Very effectively when necessary,” I replied. Some people get so sensitive.

Back at the loco, the pump having been changed, coolant was refilled and when all was ready, the engine was started. Gone was that sound like a buzz-saw (though within the shed, to be fair, was not a place to be revving the engine up much) and round went the needle on the tacho head, confirming that the engine was revving about the 600-625 at idle (which sounds about right, though maybe we will put the hand-tacho on sometime and compare). We must push on with the other jobs on the 03, for Andrew has spotted on a forum that the Branch Line Society has requested the loco for an AFRPS tour they have booked at the end of February. This snippet doesn't seem to have filtered through the AFRPS yet though, but it would be nice to have a few other bits completed – like the codelights, vac exhauster drive and braking system.

Toby produced two pieces of an embryo miniature locomotive for me to admire. In truth, he was wanting me to buy them but I have my own 7.25” loco to finish (and that has only been in progress for a decade or more) and wasn't really thinking of starting another, least of all one requiring a riding truck to operate with. In the end he told me to take it with me, and he'd pass the wheels over for it later. On the drive back to Derbyshire, I pondered whether or not to do something with it on a commercial basis and pay summat to him out of the proceeds. So let me introduce you to it – as yet un-named -  on display at Darley Dale today for the amusement of passing train crews.

IMG 3688 blog

Yes, today, or rather, the afternoon, was spent at Darley, mostly on some commercial work but I got some time in on the forklift, fitting a new joint to the lift pump, reconnecting and priming the fuel system and removing the alternator in order to get an exchange. After the leak it had when we were pulling it in, the sump oil is below minimum so it is time to give it a service before I investigate and remedy its various electrical defects, like the keyswitch hanging down under the dash.

And that's about it really. We were satisfied with Saturday – all the jobs we'd planned to do got done, which when you recall our usual “50% Rule” (which can be summarised as 'if you get half as much done as you planned to, consider it a successful day') and although we didn't get back to Rowsley to press on with bits on 14 901, Sunday was at least heading in the right direction. And I must revisit Rowsley soon, for Dom Beglin needs to source some missing parts for the peculiar lever frame destined to resignal the north end of the station and I have promised to manufacture some using my artistic and technical prowess with CAD and profiling. Thus I must take a close look at the bits he has got in order to better replicate them. Christmas?  It'll only get in the way.

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