Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of stop cocks and handrails

27th March 2016

D'y'know, earlier on this week I composed a truly fascinating and thought-provoking opening paragraph for this week's blog, and here I am all set to rock the very foundations of my readers worlds and I simply cannot remember what it was.

Hey ho. Been some interesting bits on e-bay this week. One I have yet to pick up is a 20ton load cell. These are intended for use as crane load measurers, but they can also be used as drawbar pull evaluators. Back in my days at Hills we had what we called dynamometers, at least that's what the original drawings said but nowadays that usually conjures different pictures of what to expect. They had been made by a firm in Feltham: we had two which had come to us from Sentinel, who bought them to check the drawbar pull of some aircraft tugs they had been building. For our purposes, fitted with a dee shackle at each end, they were about the length of a 3-link and dropped in place of one, we could measure the drawbar pull as the train went along. How? Well basically all it was was a cumbersome hydraulic cylinder full of oil, with a tapping for a hose and a remote pressure gauge calibrated in lbs of 'pull', though really just the pressure created in the oil. Seeing that nobody knew what oil to put in it, I often wondered how accurate it was and whether different grades might affect it. At one point I did all the theoretical calcs, substituted an alternate gauge and did a dyno test from Portmadoc Harbour to Blaenau on one of the ex-Penrhyn Hunslets, but that's a different story.

Anyhow, a load cell (that's the modern electronic version, not a hydraulic one) came up at a favourable price, so I won it, had some difficulties with Paypal and in the process accidentally charged it to Andrew's credit card – whoops. Still, we'll get it configured as a 3-link coupling with a remote display and we'll be able to test his loco's performance far more scientifically – and weigh things.

On Monday Steph and I headed over to Sheffield, for apart from ebay one of our regular sources for useful bits is one of the auction houses as they periodically have surplus and bankrupt stocks. This week the firm of Beeley Fabrications, which had been trading from a small yard and two large nearby industrial units was selling its remaining assets. Clearly a lot of the stuff had already gone, maybe snatched back by lease companies or sold earlier by private treaty, but there was a list of bits which Andrew thought worth investigating, so we went over and photographed all the lot numbers he'd highlighted and a few more besides. These situations are depressing – they remind me too much of the time after I had to put YEC into liquidation, that feeling of people's aspirations and livelihoods that had been dashed – hard to put into words. That evening Andrew dismissed most of the items as not what he'd visualised from the description, but what the hec, I put in a selection of low priced commission bids on the basis that if nobody else was interested, we might as well have them. Later I went off to the workshops and almost completed the adaptation of the new converter fluid tank for Cheedale. I also had the bearing cap back for Cheedale's Mechanics Coupling, so pressed the bearing in and popped it back on its spigot.

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Part way through Steph rang to say that for the princely sum of about £23 I had acquired two lots, a quantity of 3 cabinets and a vice mounted on a stand. That gave a slight problem, as collection was normally on Wednesday but I was already committed elsewhere, but no matter, Thursday was also possible.

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As I drove back on Wednesday afternoon another customer needed me to come and fix a problem, urgently – that meant going back in to Sheffield first thing Thursday to pay up and collect the goods, back to Darley Dale to unload and then dash off to the customer. Do-able but I had planned and collecting the 3 cabinets in two trips: it would have to be one.

So first thing Thursday I came to have a close-up look at the 'three' cabinets. Only what looks like 2 half-height cabinets is in fact one complete assembly stepped like a dresser. Visions of having to borrow a hacksaw and turn it into 3 cabinets flitted through my brain, and how long that might take. But one of the auction house staff took pity and helped me get it in.  The vice and stand were at the other location. I undid the vice to make it easier to load and headed back to Darley Dale station for 11a.m. Only it wasn't Darley Dale. It was now Marythorpe station of British, not Peak, Rail and a security guard eyed me suspiciously as I opened the yard gates. Peak Rail had a filming contract that evening for some tv company doing a romantic comedy about the creation of Ann Summers shops.

But time was still against me, even if the station had had the clock rewound to the 1980s. The vice, the stand and the other cabinet I could unload and move inside. But the big cabinet? No, I got it out, inch-by-inch, eventually had the end sat on timbers and not much perching on the back of the van. Two pallets made up most of the gap and I smartly drove the van forwards, leaving it behind. There it would have to stay. I sheeted it down against forthcoming inclement weather and went off to earn my living. Oh, and whether it was the security guard or a coincidence, but I received a e-mail from the Peak Rail office informing me that the station was 'closed' from 2pm to midnight and inferring that I should stay away. This arrived at 2.15.

Andrew was working from home on Friday, but reckoned he could still do his hours with a break in the afternoon so we targeted getting that wall panel back in place. But first I popped around to the builders merchants. Earlier in the week I had walked in with my camera displaying a picture of the stop cock on the end of our water pipe and asked if they could identify it and supply me a new union to suit. They shook their collective heads and insisted they'd seen nothing like. What was the pipe diameter it was on? That they could supply. But I didn't know and didn't have my vernier on me, and anyway, to change my stopcock without fighting a fountain I would have to isolate the supply to the yard, and I didn't know where that stopcock was. As I walked out of their yard, I rang Rob S, and with him talking me through it was lead directly to where the main stopcock was located in the middle of an ornamental station garden.

So on Friday morning I went back in having measured my incoming pipe ( a blue thing in MPDE or summat) and purchased one stopcock and adaptor to go to 15mm, plus a large diamond cutting disc suitable for cutting concrete, for we'd decided to try using the 9” grinder.  By now much of Marythorpe had disappeared, and a large hire van was there to transport away some of the more usable props. I turned off our water supply and fitted the new stopcock, ready for our very own tap for our very own sink.

Later on Andrew came down for a bit of panel cutting, but before we did we popped around to the neighbours house. You may recall (Of dust and distraction, 28th Feb) that she had complained about the noise of our cutting and we'd promised we'd let her know when we planned to do more. So we checked in and told her that we'd be doing it with an electric grinder which we hoped would be quieter. She said carry on: she was busy making a bust of a female upper torso from papier-mache (bust being the operative word). We proceeded to cut the panel down by 60mm, and then popped back to see if the noise had been tolerable.
'But you were doing it inside' she said.
'No' we said, 'we were doing it in exactly the same place as we were with the petrol saw.'
'Oh, that's all right then, I could hardly hear it'. (Actually, her biggest complaint was that the tv company had promised a box of chocs or a bottle of wine to every house that moved its out-of-period vehicles farther up the road out of the filming. They had complied and received nothing!)

This is the first panel we have changed on the upper row on the sides except for the front where we had swung the diagonal wind-braces out of the way. The remaining sidepanels have horizontal wind-braces and we have discovered that we need to detach these temporarily otherwise it will be darn near impossible to get the panels into place, hanging as they are from a 2 legger chain from the fork lift hook attachment. We did it in the end, and stuffed the gap behind with more Rockwool. Andrew headed home to get some more work done.

On Saturday, at last, we made it to Scunthorpe, though it wasn't an especially early start and when we got there it was to find both Tom and 03 901 nowhere near the shed and frankly, looked like a washout. But moves were made and a class 20 no less got the 03 and brought it into the shed.

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Meantime we had set about assembling the driven pulley assembly with a new bit of keysteel and taper lock pulley. Last time we had not had the correct section keysteel; Andrew tried to grind some down and accidentally ended up breaking the taper lock. This time it went together like it should and we moved the eccentric end-caps around to get the pulley to its shortest position. I'm not sure whether to be proud of this contraption or not: the jury's out until I see whether it works properly. Basically the driven pulley is on a stub shaft held in bearings in end caps where the shaft centre line is eccentric. Two special C spanners turn the end caps (two so that you can keep them in step) and thus move the relative centres of the two pulleys to take up belt slack, then two clamp screws lock the end caps. To get the belts on in the first place you take out the front end cap and wangle them through.

With the loco in we lined up the assembly and welded it into place opposite the pulley that has been waiting for something to drive for nearly 4 years now. That was the good news: the bad news was that the propshaft (s/h Land Rover from e-bay) was a touch short, but getting it extended 100mm should not be a major issue.

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While Andrew established a belt length by the time-honoured method of string, I ran two wires from the front code-light conduit back through a new flex conduit and along the traywork back to the electrical cabinet. Next time- maybe- we'll fire the loco up and have a working exhauster and vac brake system!

Meanwhile the AFRPS lads were fighting Hunslet 0-6-0DH No. 58, whose brake rigging appeared to have seized up. As we had little else to progress the job on, Andrew went to bat for them and I offered the occasional helpful remark.

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Today we were due to be joined by three members of Team Frodingham and I asked Stephen to phone me when they set off as I expected they'd be on the road before Andrew was on his feet. They rang at twenty-past nine, and Andrew was only half-way through his yoghurt when they rang to say they were on Station Road. I left him to his breakfast and went down to open-up.

On the basis that these young, fit people were just what I needed, I persuaded them that first task was to shift the cabinet (aka two cabinets) inside the building, and as wangling it through the side door was a non-starter this meant going up the side and back through one of the roller shutters. After that they needed a cup of tea to revive them.

Toby in a former life was a miner, or a navvy, or maybe a rabbit, as he had stated his intention to locate the end of our drain which is awaiting the necessary bits to line up with the planned slot drain across the front of the building. We knew roughly where it was but not exactly since Peak Rail spread ballast over it all, and earlier trial diggings yielded nothing. Rob S had suggested that we were too near the building and definitely too shallow, so alone and unaided, Toby set to work. Difficult to be sure whether he was hunting a drain or burying a bone at first -

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Charles and Stephen had come to make a start on 'Jack', so James was fired up and the two Yorkshires brought back to the shed. Jack was brought under cover and, Andrew having arrived with Steph, they went through what needed disconnecting, draining, etc, and got under way.

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Toby meanwhile, was getting deeper.

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Andrew and I got back to Cheedale. The plan was to get the converter back in but we had to disconnect the Thomas Hill wiring first as it was definitely going to get in the way. This idea of mounting it over the converter, pioneered by Sentinel where at least they plugged it in rather than solid wired it, is a bloomin' nuisance when the converter needs to come out. The damage to the old, not-so-flexible-now conduit by disturbing it so traumatically is not good.

The converter went in reasonably easily after lunch and we celebrated by refitting the clutch cylinder and its bracket. Part way through the afternoon the occasional rainshower from storm Katie turned into a couple of very heavy hailstorms, enough to white-over the roads with lumps of ice the size of ball bearings, many of which were still littering the ground by going home time.

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Toby had struck gold, or rather brown drain pipe, and literally struck it, so we have a hole to fix. But never mind, he'd excavated forward and found the end we needed. Being a safety-conscious sort of a chap, he had then carefully protected his excavations complete with a warning notice – which I have had to censor.

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As half-past four loomed, Jack was all ready for its casings and power unit to be lifted out, but that is for next time, and for today it was sheeted down and taken back to its siding. I was drilling holes and fitting the converter reservoir tank, squeezed between the converter clutch cylinder, the front of the gearbox and the air induction pipe.; After Team Frodingham had left, we returned to Cheedale and removed the four pads that once held the donkey engine and its Hydrovane down, before cleaning up and fitting the replacement handrail parts.

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The columns were manufactured about 3 years ago, not long after Andrew had acquired the loco, but had lain in the VBA ever since awaiting time to do it. Now to see them in place is strangely satisfying. I suppose it reminds me of time spent, years ago, in Vanguard Works, Kilnhurst, watching full-time fabricators manufacturing handrails individually on the loco, and racking up man hour totals that were quite disproportionate to the benefit of the finished parts. We wouldn't stoop so low as to use Kee-klamp like Hunslet did, nor would the design side accept simplifying the design so that they 'merely' complied with some inferior standard like the UIC one. No, Vanguard locomotives would each go out with handrails that took several man weeks to cut, bend, assemble and weld, and which would, by the same token, not be interchangeable with any other Vanguard loco even of the same design. We had a cost engineer/accountant who was once invited to attend what Hills called the 'Cost Reduction Committee' . He told me he put forward suggestions like 'economic batch quantities' and 'jig manufacture': so they didn't ask him back.

And so that brings us to the end of March and the 299th edition of this blog. Now let me see, what earth-shattering revelation can I dream up for the 300th? And so close to the 1st of April too...

More in this category: « Of visitors and wall plugs

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