Having had that bit of a whinge plus that at the beginning of last weeks' blog of the downside(s) of being self-employed, perhaps I should have added that one of the upsides is the ability to plan one's week to avoid travelling anywhere long distance on Monday or Friday. If you have to drive regularly on those days, you have my deepest sympathies – traffic is significantly heavier and reaches the point of near saturation. Andrew, if he's going in to the office on Monday morning, reckons it makes no difference whether he sets off at 06.30 or 08.30 or anywhere in between – he still arrives in Rugby at much the same time. This week, well, circumstances got the better of me, and I found myself heading south down the M1 on both Monday and Friday.
Monday, apart from having been called out to investigate 2 faults on a loco which did not occur at all while I was there, I could at least meet up with someone from the East Anglian Railway Museum and hand over a spare centrifugal dirt collector, as they had had the misfortune to have the one on the WD72229 (Andrew's Drewry, if you recall) crack open along the moulding line because of frost action. The moral of course is to drain the dirt collector occasionally, but apparently 72229's had a plug and no drain valve, something we were unaware of. Anyway, my outward journey was tolerable for a Monday – took about an hour longer than it would have done with a clear road and the return wasn't too bad.
But Friday. Well the outward trip to Longcross Studios wasn't bad at all, though I felt sorry for the miles of motorists stationary on the M1 facing north around Junction 17, where an earlier crash had resulted in lane closures. Down at Longcross – (no, I won't be giving away anything confidential) I attended to a couple of minor problems with Charlie – like I'd spotted a 'snail trail' down from the tank gauge which inferred the joint was/had been leaking, so I made and fitted a new one. But while I was there, I got introduced to someone special, someone very important. I mean, you heritage railways go on about Santa coming to your railway to entertain the children, (though quite why he should abandon his sleigh for an ex-BR Mk1 is beyond me) but that means nothing, not when you've shaken hands with the man who carries the title of Head of Snow. And yes, he does give out presents as well: I came away with a bag of his personal snow stock, so there.
So in good spirits I set off back north. My mood was soon brought down by the overheads telling me that the M1 was (still) closed from 16-18, which was duly confirmed by the radio adding that the signposted diversion around the A5 and Daventry was snarled up solid. Yeah, not surprised. As I stop-started along the M25 past Heathrow other overheads recommended M40/A46 which for the uninitiated meant north-west to Coventry then north-east to Leicester. I knew those roads too, and apart from it being a considerable increase in mileage, I could see that getting rapidly overloaded with traffic as the evening rush hour built up. In the end, I opted to go for the A1, up past the Nene Valley Railway and then back across the A52. Was that a good move? I suspect no route was a good choice on Friday, but the journey which took three and a quarter hours in the morning took just under 6 hours on the return, leaving me a tired and irritable.
I did get a bit of time in the shed during the week, and armed with two steel plates that my fabricators had chopped out for me, set about putting the Fire Exit signs up over the pedestrian doors with the two emergency bulkhead lights above them. I am in danger of becoming a 'Fire Exit illuminated sign' geek, as I find myself looking in other buildings at what they've got and wondering whether they are actually complying with the regulations, or at least what I am being advised are the current requirements (spot the pun?) according to my Hon Electrical Consultant.
So at long last we get around to Saturday, and Andrew and me, after a quick sojourn to Matlock to collect a package – for once not summat from e-bay but a calendar from one of my suppliers - got into the shed and made a start on 03 901.
When we got the 03, about 8 years ago, it had two sand pipes and ejectors out of 4, and one of those had suffered derailment damage and was bent and broken. The parts are the same as 08's, and I had acquired a couple from Kingsbury years ago which had gone to Scunthorpe where one had been fitted (though the pipe that joined trap to ejector wouldn't fit) and the other travelled back to Darley Dale along with Team Frod stuff. Andrew now set about getting them fettled and workable, while I returned to the cab and set about sorting the wiper motors. For this, it would appear the front two motors are serviceable, but the rear ones had bent shafts and one was completely seized and open-circuit, so a pair of new ones had been dug out of the container. I also had various bits to identify and sort within the electrical cabinet, and I knew there'd be more faults to trace once we'd had it running. Later in the afternoon Dr Ben Riley and a colleague who had been working on the down platform at Darley Dale wandered over for a cup of tea, and afterwards had a quick tour of the collection.
Today, at last, Team Frodingham made its appearance, having been active yesterday at Foxfield. Indeed the IDRPG seems to have been received with open arms at several railway centres. You may have seen they got a plug in the latest Railway Magazine – even if we rather upstaged them in the adjacent piece! Anyway, Charles and Pieman arrived and cracked on with rubbing down and priming the cab interior of the 03, which of course made it impossible for me to work in there (and as you'll see from the photo, lifted a fair amount of dust!).
That wasn't a problem, as I had a load of parts to make up ready for a commercial job on Tuesday, and Andrew had plenty to do on the sanding gear, as he had opted to make up the longer pipes in rubber hose, which has the benefit of being less susceptible to derailment damage, and we had a number of suitable hosetails that had been kicking around a long time. At one point I wandered over to the station to use the loo: the southbound Santa Special was just departing and a photographer was on the Down platform. When I returned he'd gone, but on a whim I walked past the shed and sure enough he was hanging over the fence trying to photograph a gronk, so invited him over to do it properly, and even made him a cuppa. (Damn, I really must get that Collection Tin sorted out.)
During the afternoon, as the pungent aroma of primer pervaded the place, I returned to the floodlights and resumed cabling up some of the lights for Row C. I tried tinning the ends of some of the wires, even trying to get some of the very small floodlight wires to solder to the larger common feeds, but if there's one thing I do not like about these modern lead-free solders is their tendency NOT to do what it says on the tin. Anyway, a few more got put together, and as Team Frod were getting near to their planned departure time, and we had still not got as far as even firing up the 03 and seeing if my throttle spring did its stuff, we decided a bit of shunting was in order. James was duly started and shunted Jack and RS8 clear of the track outside, and we came to start the 03.
On went the fuel and batteries, some lights came on, others didn't. Did it crank? No it would not. Whatever happened we could not get a feed through to the Start button, and although we found a few other things (like the main studs for the 24V pos and neg on the electrical board were mysteriously loose). Eventually, after deducing that I had the identities of the Anti-Plug and Run relays transposed, we found that there was a crimp locked into the socket of the Anti-plug relay, but it was not the crimp which had the appropriate wire attached, that was underneath it and seldom making contact. This is a mystery. I do not recall changing a crimp, nor would I have left it with the old crimp in situ if I had. For the moment we merely jumpered the relay out (it's function is to isolate the Start button feed once you have oil pressure, to prevent you damaging the starter if you press the button by mistake) and the engine fired – maybe a little reluctantly but then my throttle return spring was holding the speed lever at minimum and it picked up with a little throttle.
Meanwhile the forward and reverse lights were flickering and registering the wrong direction most of the time – another problem to investigate. But the loco proceeded to drive up and down well enough, the throttle return spring doing its stuff and the battery charge dropping back nicely, indeed, despite our earlier fears that the batteries might be damaged by their over-charging they seem to be fit for further service yet awhile.
So that's about it. We're waiting to see what day Thelma and Louise will return, meanwhile Fox have arranged for 03901 to be collected on Thursday. Next week I should be able to announce another loco added to the collection, and review how many of the jobs we got finished on 03901 before it left. All this and only 2 weeks to Christmas. I wonder what the Head of Snow does for Christmas Day?