We were in fact, in company with our daughter Jennifer and her husband, as Jen was taking part in the annual Carron Trophy competition. Held at the Radisson Blu Hotel (and fortunately this was the Edinburgh branch, not the one in Mali), five young engineers did presentations, Jen's being on the practical application of CT scanners to establish the condition of underwater pipelines. Sadly she was runner up – we were told later by 1 point – to another presentation about laying a new sewer outfall pipe in Barrow. Is there no justice?
Anyway, it was Steph's birthday on Thursday so we spent most of the day wandering about central Edinburgh. I found Edinburgh rather strange – on the one hand, there is this massive slot along the middle through which the railway runs in to Waverley station, yet the buildings on Princes Street seem almost to have been built as though there ought to be matching structures opposite. We saw a few of the Edinburgh trams, but considering that they run to a terminus that wasn't meant to be, there didn't seem to be all that many when compared with (say) Sheffield, Manchester or Nottingham. The other image I was left with was the homeless. Not just the Big Issue sellers or a few running around with Tabards labelled 'Shelter Scotland' but men sat outside shop fronts, often with their pet dogs looking equally despondent, and cardboard notices explaining their plight.
As we didn't return until Friday evening, and now accompanied by grandson, there hasn't been a great deal of activity. Come to think of it, we had an additional distraction because the van failed its MoT on Monday when the examiner condemned its brake pipes. It was also Andrew's first week in his new job, and to compound the parking difficulties at the Briddon Country Pile, they have given him a van – admittedly a hired one at the mo', but that means there are 4 vehicles outside the edifice, and making sure that everyone is up and ready to get whichever vehicle is required is going to be even more complex than it was before. Remember the set pieces on 'Butterflies' when Geoffrey Palmer's staid and reliable Volvo had to be released by moving out the boys' car and Wendy Craig's mini with the union jack roof? It'll be much the same here.
We had our first snow of the winter on Friday night, and when I popped down to the shed on Saturday morning to check that all was well, I got to hear a new noise that I will have to get used to, I suppose. It sounds rather like a rake of model railway wagons suddenly charging off when someone tips a baseboard. In reality it was an avalanche of snow, detaching itself from the roof sheets in the winter sunlight, and sliding down the slope to crash onto the ground. Must remember not to stand outside if it is coming your way.
Andrew and I returned after lunch and made a start on the uncoupler gear, welding the various bits together and then making the (un)couplers work, and tweaking things a bit when they didn't. Apart from cleaning bits of chassis member on Louise, I was also stripping down some of the lightweight pallets, a veritable glut of which are on site having been under our bundles of cladding, with a view to using some to assist in securing the floor planking on Louise, and other parts to make up some 'planter boxes' so that Steph can maintain the appearance of the shed area in due course with tubs of flowering plants. In a return to the shed after grandson had gone to bed, we were able to get the uncoupler mechanisms working roughly to our satisfaction, drilled for split pins, and hung out on a rudimentary washing line and given an initial coat of white paint.
On Sunday we were due to receive a visit from Toby, who has received numerous mentions hitherto in connection with the AFRPS at Scunthorpe. He was expected to appear around 10.30 or 11.00 and as Andrew was having quality time with his son I went down alone and was painting the headstocks on Louise when I heard voices outside. Going out to investigate there was Toby, together with Charles and 'Jag', having penetrated our security and parked their car alongside my van. I broke off to do the usual grand tour of the shed and collection outside, at the end of which, to my consternation, they declared that they had come intending to work.
This was very welcome, but unanticipated, and contrary to what you might think, setting three young people to work really requires forethought and planning. For the moment I set them on cleaning the upperworks of Louise's framing while I finished cutting bits of wood ready for flooring. Toby also brought me a 'shed warming present' of a novelty phone in the style of an American loco, and all I had in exchange to give him were two invoices for parts I'd supplied to him at the AFRPS. I almost found myself feeling guilty.
The three had neglected to provision themselves for lunch, so by prior agreement we adjourned at half twelve to the Briddon Country Pile for home-made soup and sandwiches. It turned out Jag was a fan of both narrow gauge and Rustons, so we were on common ground, and even one or two of my 16mm models were brought out for the occasion. Eventually we made our way back to the shed, where Toby started sweeping up, I managed to make a bonfire to get rid of some rubbish, Jag applied a second coat of timber preservative to Thelma's floor and Charles returned to chassis cleaning.
A guy on the footpath by the shed looked to be a typical gricer so I went over and said hullo. He produced the latest edition of the Intercity Railway Society's magazine 'Tracks' which contained a two-page article on the 'Andrew Briddon collection at Peak Rail' complete with a loco list and photos taken with long focus lenses from the level crossing. I was intrigued and at the same time slightly annoyed – it is all very well writing an article on something in history, when no-one is alive to provide first hand information or correction, but to publish an article specifically about us – or maybe just Andrew, after all, I haven't seen the text yet – without making any contact to check accuracy or political implications, is in my view rather poor conduct – rather like Phoenix Railtours turning up at the gate and expecting to be let in. (Never heard from them since).
Anyway, I invited this visitor around so that he could identify each loco (and would you believe, their 'definitive list' asserts one loco is at Tanfield! Heavens, Andrew's website would have shown that to be in error) and he proceeded to ask if we were part of the Heritage Shunters Trust, which fills me with more forebodings about what the ICRS has put into print. (Their Editor has had a slightly acerbic e-mail from me tonight).
Once he'd gone, we fired James up and dragged 14 901 outside, the idea being to sweep some of the water from that track (3B seems to be its designation) out to speed up the drying process. (Things are drying: 3A is almost bone dry, surface water that stood on various slightly indented areas of floor have gone, and even the hacksaw, which had rainwater around its base only last week, is now dry: but the ornamental pond remains.)
At about this time Andrew asked me to pop out and open the gate as another visitor had arrived, our old friend Andy H. He has been here several times before but never since the cladding went on, and like everyone else, his first impression is how 'cathedral like' it is inside: rather like the Tardis, it is now bigger than it looked when it was just a steel skeleton. Soon with two brooms and other improvised tools we were swishing the water uphill and out through the narrow channels by the roller shutter door. Toby even dug a trench roughly along the line of our future slot drain, to aid this evicted water to sink away.
We couldn't sweep it all out, but we've significantly reduced the level though there is a surprising amount of debris that has found its way in and will have to be shovelled out in due course. 14 901 was put back in its resting place and the lads forsook the offer of a cup of tea preferring instead to assist in re-arranging the wagons so that the ex MR bogie well wagon is more easily accessed. For later this week there are two exhausters to be collected by the West Somerset, and one of these is on the bogie well, plus there are various pallets of buffers that need “stashing” on the wagon, and maybe even time to pull the other 6m crane beam off ready to swing up into place. For the moment, the bogie well is now head of the line.
At the end of the day, the three posed by Louise, and so enjoyed themselves that it might become a regular thing. We had better hurry up and get the electrics and water sorted so that tea can be prepared without having to go to the Portakabin. Sorry for the blotches on this shot – I must have some muck on the lens, there was enough of it flying round with scrapers, wire wheels and chipping hammers in full flow.
The cladding contractors are due back later this week to finish the remaining flashing jobs and that should see us 100% weathertight at last. Even now the shed is noticeably warmer than outside (indeed, one of my customers paid a quick visit this week and went away visibly impressed – even to see the insulation in the cladding panels made his jaw drop). But quite how to divide my time up this week I just don't know, what with two customers both wanting me to do work at opposite parts of the country, a third chasing me for quotations, a compressor to collect, profiles waiting for collection, and Louise and Thelma needing to be finished and out – and I would much rather be quietly tinkering with 14 901's electrics in the calm of my very own shed.