Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of gas and guests

13th December 2015

If you notice, I try to start off each week's piece with something sightly philosophical, a perceptive observation or maybe an insightful commentary on something topical. And guess what? I can't think of anything that fits into any of those categories this week. Ah well.

I dug out the hose swager from the garage this week as I needed it for an on-site job, and so it found its way down to the shed. That is hardly something earth-shattering, but the fact that I kept forgetting about it has rather made it difficult to finish those fuel hoses on 14 901, and really for the first half of the week that was about the only progress made on the shed or the collection, save that I hurriedly drew up some miniature fishplates which would enable us to joint the electrical traywork, plus two 12mm thick discs to replace my mis-drawn adaptors for the 03. (I was going to say mis-machined but realised that would be an unfair slight on my machinists – the error was all mine in not reading the drawing properly, which in my defence was a photocopy of a photocopy of an old-type fax.)

But then having ordered said parts from the profilers I got to wondering whether I couldn't just correct the error by re-machining the originals, which would obviously save time and money compared to machining two up from scratch. And of course it would work – although the metal would be a trifle thin in a couple of places – and as the bits concerned had come back from Scunthorpe in the van (together with the propshaft itself) I determined to leave the replacement discs on order but get the originals back to the machinists.

We took the decision later in the week to make a start on Charlie, and on Thursday evening grabbed a few minutes down at the shed to pull Charlie in to dry out and shunt the middle siding to make Jack more accessible, as Charles was coming over from Scunthorpe on Sunday to have a closer look.  But a look at Charlie in the shed revealed that the rear engine mounts have sunk and the engine was sat on the bump stops. The mounting system that Rolls-Royce developed with the Sentinel (and thus got offered with R-R power packs so can also be found on Barclay, Hunslet and others locos) used two sizes of Metalastik mount (and left and right handed to boot) which have been obsolete for years. I designed a mounting system to supersede them back in the 90s, and which can be found on the 03 and 'Tom', so it is time Charlie had the conversion as its Metalastik ones are unfit for further use. But to change the mountings really needs the power unit out, and anyway there is a problem with the clutch operating shaft in the converter which cannot be rectified in situ. But Andrew reckoned that he would have to burn off the M16 bolts on the exhaust system (we had to on Cheedale) and as we were out of gas, could I collect fresh bottles on Friday while he and Steph went to collect grandson?

That hadn't really been my plan for Friday, but as we were intending to try out the Energas agent in Matlock, and I could run on from there to the machinist, I figured it would only dent my plans a little and a shame not to make best use of Sunday. So after they had got on the road, I finished some e-mails and took myself down to Matlock. After signing for one acetylene and one oxygen in 'midi' size (small but much more handle-able) we moved across to the compound and – no acetylene. The boss came over 'we must have sold it' he said. So much for stock control. 'I can get you one for Monday'. Yeah but I want it sooner and I won't be around Monday. I put the empty acetylene back in the van and with the boss's promise to hold a couple in stock for me for next time, sauntered on.

By the time I had fuelled the van and been to the machinists, it was lunch time and I abandoned my original plan. I could go to either Sutton-in-Ashfield or Sheffield to collect acetylene, but if I went to Sheffield then I was a large chunk of the way to the profilers, and my oil stockists, so I could pick up the profiles and a 100 litres of hydraulic oil for converter conversions. So that became the plan, and I got home a bit after 6pm with oil, gas and profiles ready for the weekend.

On Saturday Andrew and Steph were having time with grandson, taking him to the Steeple Grange line to see Santa as there was no need to book in advance, but as the lad did not take kindly to the sight of a gentleman in red and sporting excessive white facial hair, went on to Markeaton park in Derby where they got to look round the 15in. gauge line and a large model railway, which was much more to grandson's liking.

That left me to occupy myself and I headed down to shed. The rain was fairly steady, which meant that (a) the pond that forms outside the personnel door was threatening to inundate the shed and (b) the leak from one of the rooflights (I've agreed with the cladding contractor that they'll come and rectify it, but we can live with until the new year) was a steady drip, drip, drip into a plastic container.

So I had a quiet potter around. There was a tank top to be drilled and fitted with breather/filler and return line connection, 14901's fuel feed pipes were finally swaged and refitted, the miniature fishplates were deployed to test-assemble a couple of pieces of traywork together and the van unloaded. I have previously started making things out of some of the pallet material that came with the cladding, and there are several piles of pallets remaining that offer much useful wood for me to indulge in some cottage-industry-product – or if all else fails, sell off as firewood. But once the corner panels have been moved, then I can make a start on the incoming electrical connections and the sink, and once we have sink, there'll be a need for a draining board and a bench or such alongside where kettle, mugs, etc can reside, so the rough trestles for that draining board were cut from the thickest bits of pallets and nailed up. Outside the rain continued and on three occasions I stopped to sweep the rainwater away from the door – no this isn't on a scale with Cumbria but it was lapping at the threshold. Water too was oozing in under the roller shutters: presumably the concrete is not entirely level and is thus encouraging rainfall to go the wrong way. When we get around to the slot drain across the front of the shed we must cut a little groove in the concrete outside the door as a drain to take it away.

Up until Saturday-ish I had been expecting to be down at the shed first thing on Sunday to welcome Charles from the Scunthorpe crew (over there he's 'Charley' and Andrew took to me to task for calling him by the posher 'Charles' three weeks ago, but by agreement with him I am sticking with that otherwise there is going to be complete confusion over Charley/Charlie, let alone suspicious innuendoes) and possibly one other with him. But by Saturday night this had burgeoned into Charles, Toby, Jag and the Pie-man, which meant that I really had to get my act together and make sure that the work was there and they could crack on rather than stand around. As Andrew would be looking after grandson for the morning, I got down a little after ten, fired up James and swapped Charlie and Pluto around, as having Charlie in the middle of the shed would be more accessible to the forklift. But as I put Pluto back it occurred to me that rather than pull 14 901 out (as we had planned) to make a space for Jack to be brought in and un-sheeted, I might as well leave Pluto out. While I waited for the gang to arrive, I started doing some more tidying outside, splitting offcuts of composite cladding into steel sheet (scrap bin) and insulation (lobbed into the wall cavities) and piling up more pallets into tidier piles.

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The car-full eventually arrived at nearly 11.30 (an hour behind schedule) and  after they had watched the train go by I brought Jack into the shed and set them to work lifting off Charlie's casing top, and draining down the coolant. By then it was nearly lunchtime and we retired to Briddon Country Pile for a repast of bacon butties, buns and jaffa cakes. Thereafter it was back to the shed with Andrew as well to resume work on Charlie, although Andrew did go over Jack thoroughly with Charles, who has a mind to take the loco on loan. The Pie-man complained that the shed was cold, and on a forage into the container to find something, I stumbled over a small drum of paraffin (which I had diligently searched for, and overlooked, earlier in the week) so I topped up the space heater and showed the caring side of management!

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Charlie is a post 1976 loco of Hills, and as such is largely metric, so M8s and M16s were the order of the day for dismantling.  Toby (et al, I wasn't closely observing who did what) succeeded in cracking the bolts on the exhaust, so the acetylene wasn't needed after all (!!!) and off came the silencer and tail pipe. By the time we broke for a  cup of tea (around 4) the casing itself was almost ready to lift off, while I had disconnected batteries and isolated fuel supplies and Andrew had undone the propshaft and engine mounts. Jack was sheeted back down and the team headed of north and west leaving us to shunt Jack back out on to the siding and bring Pluto back in, before lifting Charlie's casing section off with the forklift. For now, the casing bits are sat in the middle of the floor, but maybe one evening we'll find somewhere out of the way to put them. As Andrew said, a flat wagon would have been ideal. What a pity he has one – in fact has had for some time – that we cannot get to collect, but that is another story.

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(Some of those spots are back - I've realised that they're not dirt but condensation on one element of the lens. Must let camera aclimatise.)

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The trouble with all of this is that priorities change as events unfold.  We really must crack on with relocating the panels at the back corner so that the sink and electricals can take shape (I've over 20 metres of traywork stacked up and more expected) but here we are taking on some serious work on Charlie (OK, not before time as it has several more defects than we were aware of from its years as Principal Peak Rail works loco) while Cheedale waits patiently with its converter and replacement compressor on the floor nearby. But variety is the spice of life, and Darley Dale is certainly providing it.

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