Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of gifts and gears

9th April 2017

After the all-action report from last week, perhaps something a little more calm and laid-back would be in order. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let's begin....

During the week Andrew took stock of the newly acquired rolling Land Rover chassis. I must admit it looks like the previous owner was one of those who likes driving along the sea shore, but maybe it was off-roading through the cool mountain streams of Mid Wales that explains all the rust and thin-ness of platework. The front end of the chassis is thin, and has been plated in the past, the rear end is well, ready for renewal but as Andrew insists, it was bought as much as anything for the V5 and a new galvanised chassis and front bulkhead will be invested in in due course – like when he has any money.

Now, in case you've forgotten, this is a blog that generally confines itself to rail vehicle work, so has it now become a Land Rover restoration blog? No. It's just that his current thinking is to save the old chassis, 'pick up' a couple of Land Rover axles and at some point in the future (we've a lot of those projects, obviously) rebuild it as a Rail-borne Land Rover, which I suppose would be a Rail Rover. We can dream.

Scarcely a particularly memorable anniversary, but last Monday was the 3rd of April. Not every year has a Monday that is also the 3rd of April. One such year though was 1978, and on that day in that year a naive twenty-something with a Business Studies degree, a wife and 4 narrow gauge diesel locos started work in the Marketing Department of Thomas Hill (Rotherham) Ltd. That might sound grand but in reality the Marketing Department was me and I was responsible to the Sales and Service Director (we didn't have a Marketing Director – even 'Marketing Department' was a misnomer) but then many Capital Goods companies believe(d?) that marketing is a consumer goods function and they merely 'sell'. I shared an office with my boss's secretary on the top corridor sandwiched between his office and the Finance Director's office. At the far end of the corridor was the Board room, and occasionally if Board meetings became heated we could catch the gist of the argument. Indeed, one of the friends I made in Purchasing knew an electronics 'whizz' and I suggested he should make me a 'bug' for us to hide in the Board room. Taking me at my word the guy did just that, and when I had to admit I had been joking (or maybe just didn't have the nerve to do it) he turned the design into a radio microphone and it sold to theatre and TV companies.

Oh, and apparently I drove a coach-and-horses through a Thomas Hill staff rule (or so I was told but never found it in writing) that 'No employee shall own a locomotive of his/her own'. Fortunately, as TH(R) never built anything of a loco less than about 20tons, and none of my 4 (which expanded to 6 while I worked there) exceeded 4tons, it never became much of an issue. (Students of TH(R) will know that the biggest dabble in narrow gauge that Hills attempted was the 'Underground Personnel Carrier' (UPC) which started as a 4wheeled battery electric with 6 seats and evolved into a 30 seat double-ender (B-B) in 2ft to 3ft gauges, but despite a near-miss with a loco I designed for a Bord-na-Mona tender, and serious consideration to buying the businesses of Motor Rail and Wickhams, we never got into real n.g., rather to my chagrin.)

So, for thirty-nine years I have been in the locomotive industry and there are still things I don't know. One, for example, is why enthusiasts think a 'gronk' is such a great loco (I won't regurgitate my views on them, you can find them if you look back far enough) or for that matter why a loco that worked for BR is regarded as having so much more intrinsic merit than the 'same' loco that was instead delivered from new to Joe Bloggs Ltd.

You may conclude from all this that I've spent the week wallowing in self-pity and dreaming of the good old days. If so, you're wrong, I've been too busy. The 31st March was not only a month end, but my financial year end and I really should have taken time out to do a stock check – but with 12 pallet loads of bits all spread over the workshop floor, would you be motivated to start?

I was expecting our Inspector to do a LOLER exam on the forklift and the Mattersons this week, but then on Wednesday he came back to me to say when he'd checked his records they weren't actually due until the end of the month so we've put that off until after Easter. On Saturday Steph and Andrew disappeared off to collect grandson, and as I had other things to do, the shed went un-attended for the day.

Today however I was down by half-nine and Charles and Pieman from Team Frodingham arrived a couple of minutes later. After the welcoming cup of tea they asked if they could have 1382 outside as it was a nice day. (There is no satisfying some people: if I'd left the loco outside for the last 6 months they would have been much aggrieved). So I fired James up, pulled 1382 out and then put RS8 on top. After that I fired up Charlie, and pulled half-the-rake forward as we had done for Phoenix, and taped the gaps off to contain visitors in an area well-away from the running line.

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The first two arrived not long after. I don't know where they came from, but all they wanted to see was D2279, and although I showed them the rest of the locos, it was clear that their main interest was to 'cross that one off' without even taking a photo.

Andy H arrived and Andrew had asked him to make a start on stripping RS8, hence bringing it nearer the shed. First we had a discussion on where I want to site this new 240V external outlet (the weatherproof outlet itself should be here Monday) and changing the isolator for the hot water heater to a timed one, as an hour in the morning is sufficient to provide adequate hot water for the day. After that he started working on the rear covered access to RS8's cab.

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I don't know why but I decided to take a look at the engine turnover stand, maybe because of the good weather. We knew already that it was seized, and had been for some years, Neil had never had time to investigate why. The mechanism comprises a handwheel that turns a shaft with a crownwheel that engages with another that drives a worm and wheel, the latter being attached to the frame in which the engine is mounted. The handwheel we knew was free on the shaft, so I took it and the external cover off and apart from evicting a large amount of cobwebs and such, was not much the wiser as to what was stuck.

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Our second group arrived just after 3pm, and while I waited the afternoon train came by and as I hadn't yet picked up a photo of the Hudswelll 'Jennifer' that has been hired for the season, rectified this omission. Andy H is in love with this loco: it was built for Sam Fox's Stocksbridge steelworks and he has lived all his life (so far) in that valley.

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These visitors were a party that had started off at Barrow Hill and journeyed from there to see the Heritage Shunters Trust at Rowsley. They can certainly come again – not only did the organisers come bearing gifts of tea and bickies (ok gold, frankinsense and myhrr may be traditional but you've got to move with the times) but the others were most generous in their contributions to our Donations tin.

Back on the engine stand, with the worm wheel mechanism off the rotating part still didn't move so I took off the top bearing cap and discovered it was a simple steel-on-steel bearing with a grease nipple in the centre and a groove underneath but no means of distributing sideways. At this point Andrew (who was sorting out a heat exchanger) came over and jumped up and down on it until it condescended to rotate. So we all got together and managed to lift the whole frame out. At the other end all 5 of the ball bearings that act as runners are seized solid (we took one out to identify) but the gearwheel end requires a lot of cleaning to remove rust and solidified grease but will otherwise go back. As for the wormwheel mechanism, we must strip this further – the handwheel shaft is visibly bent, but what is seized and how to strip it is not obvious.

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Charles and Pieman had finished painting for the day, but Andy H was nearly ready to lift down the walkway section and it was heavy enough to require a Team effort. Once it was safely on the ground he moved on to the control linkages (RS8 has brake and throttle levers at each corner of the cab, linked mechanically together) but we will have to start labelling al these things lest we forget which bit came from where. Andy assures me he was taking notes and photos as he went along.

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While on the subject of RS8, I was always suspicious of the 'sliding windows' because the sliders were bits of point rodding which seemed out of character with the rest of the work. Up on ebay this week was a colour slide, taken of RS8 at Dinting in 1988, and the point rodding isn't there. The original windows were as I thought hinged, and we shall return that to original as we progress. This slide incidentally, is in transit to me now – though to my surprise I had competition to acquire it.

So that about brings us up to date. All the outstanding e-mails I mentioned last week have at last been answered, so if you think I owe you reply, you had better message me again! Easter looms and already Good Friday is being floated as an extra day for getting on with things like RS8. So who knows what progress we can report next week. Will you be back?

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