I don't want it to descend into something reminiscent of a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in the pub sketch – 'y'know Dud, it was only last week that I was removing a torque converter over-centre toggle with a 3/16 hardened steel punch and a nylon-faced mallet...' - but I know that many readers aren't familiar with what's behind the casing doors and maybe intrigued enough to learn a thing or two. So until someone says otherwise I shall bumble along with whatever comes into my head.
The highlight of the week though was the working party that came up for 2 days from Tunstead to assist in RS8 and its on-going striptease, sorry stripping. Their first day was Wednesday, and the convoy that rolled up just after nine a.m. comprised Reg and his photographer in Reg's car, and two matching Tarmac vans containing Nigel, Liam, Alan and Jack. They had made the mistake of coming through Bakewell on Fair day and whether that had put them in a bad mood or not, I couldn't tell, but they looked rather glumly at our rather untidy workshop. Nigel tactfully asked if it was all right if they tidied up first and cleared a few things around the loco to give them room to work. I felt a little embarrassed, particularly when it became apparent that things like dust-pan and brushes were 'here somewhere' but had no regular 'home' that could be instantly accessed.
Reg was fascinated by the drawings I had, and took them away with him, firstly to make paper copies for day-to-day reference but after that for scanning into jpg or maybe even vectorising into dwg files for my benefit, as my little office here at the Briddon Country Pile cannot cope with laying out massive drawings and still find my keyboard. When I was inspecting RS8's drawings it was on the dining room floor...
But after a while, once Reg had long gone, the atmosphere began to ease and with a reasonable clean area around the loco, things started to progress. Off came the remaining vac pipe sections, the rear sandboxes, the remaining front spring hangers. Out came the silencer and rear cross stretcher (this cross-stretcher was once immediately behind the rear axle, i.e. in front of the ashpan, but ICI had moved it backwards (it was in the way of the gearbox) and turned it 45 degrees to carry the exhaust silencer). The JATE blocks were deployed in earnest for the first time and I jacked up the back of the loco sufficiently to extract the rear springs, and then they tackled the spring hangers, each nut requiring heating to cherry red before it would condescend to rotate at all.
By the end of Wednesday we were confident of getting the gearbox out on Thursday, so I set to work and drained the oil out, and an 'orrible, brown, emulsified yuck it was. Having disposed of most I left it to drip overnight to get out as much as possible. What they had told me was that they were not allowed to use grinders at Tunstead. This was something of a surprise and meant that any grinding to be done had to be by me. They asked me to have ago at cutting through the collars that hold the brake hangers to top trunnion and crossbeams, as although I had managed to extract one split pin the other pins and clamp bolts I had tried broke off. New collars were no problem to a CNC lathe, they said, so first thing Thursday morning I cut a couple away. It seemed a shame to destroy these bits of original Avonside (they had the AE works number still visible) but there was no chance of drilling out the fixings.
But to return for a moment to Wednesday late afternoon, I was under the loco draining the yuck from the gearbox when I thought I heard a 'helllooo', and by the time I'd put the plug back in, dried my gloves, climbed out and looked around I'd heard it again. Thinking it might be someone in the doorway I went round and looked at the monitor for the cameras and when that showed nothing went outside and sure enough, there were two- no three- gentlemen on the footpath trying to get my attention. They asked to look around at the BR locos, so I said I'd meet them at the gate. You must remember that I take a dim view of enthusiasts who are prejudiced against industrials. Ignorance I can accept, and will try to redress, but a dislike of industrials as being in some way second-class to BR versions of the same thing just gets me annoyed. But despite their initial approach, these guys were taking notes about each loco as I took them round, so I did warm to them a bit. And I think I've got it cracked with regard to the donation tin. I make sure that the 'tour' finishes back through the shed, and as they are about to go I point to the tin and say 'there's a donation tin, it's not compulsory but if you would like to contribute something it would be appreciated' – then leg it outside so they are not pressured. The result, when I took a look later, was a £10 note.
Wednesday night too, I had a rendezvous with our fuel pump man, who kindly turned out and met me in a pub car park near Bamford to take 14 901's fuel pump for some TLC.
Anyway, on Thursday me and the Tarmac guys had begun to work together as a bit more of a team. To get the gearbox out though, we would need the forklift, and this couldn't get near the loco for Andrew's two 6m ramp beams, which we had meant to move Tuesday night but grandson had had other ideas. So out came Peter the forklift driver – definitely not to be confused with Klaus the forklift driver, and if that means nothing to you look it up on You-tube and what starts as a conventional German training video gets gorier and gorier – and with Alan's help, the two beams were moved across to the far side and placed on Andrew's stands, which actually put them at a much better working height. Before the gearbox could be removed it had to be blocked underneath and the torque reaction bracket detached.
Andrew and I had previously attempted to remove the two bolts that go through the ends of the torque reaction arm without success – the split pins came out, the nuts came off but the bolts themselves remained rock solid. So Plan B was to remove the bolts that held the bracket at the gearbox end, and the pad of bolts that were at the frame end, and lift out the assembly intact. The forklift took the weight and that was what was achieved although the frame end of the assembly was awkward to get through through a small aperture underneath which doubled as access to the drawhook tail. Our Tarmac guys had looked at it yesterday and said they couldn't access one bolt whose head was rotating. My standing was raised somewhat by doing exactly that.
So out came the assembly, leaving the gearbox resting on its wooden blocks. The RF25, like its bigger brother the RF11, splits horizontally on two axes, which are the axle and the top (input) shaft. Thus if you have a problem with the bottom end, you can drop the bottom of the box and inspect the final drive spur and oil pump. Indeed, if you want to reprofile the loco, you put a support up top somewhere, drop the box bottom and you can take the wheelset out without disturbing the upper half, propshaft, air connections, etc. In contrast the Hunslet boxes, noisier by their straight-cut gears and reliant on splash feed lubrication, are split vertically so any significant attention to their innards requires the loco lifted 4ft six to get the whole box and wheelset out.
The axle bearings are capped by two shimmed plates with labyrinth seals, and in addition to the ring of bolts around the flanges of the two portions, there are 4 long bolts, one either side of the axle bearings. These all came out quite straightforwardly, and all the Tarmac guys congregated at the rear of the loco to watch the two sections come apart. As they started to separate, my aura of expert-ness evaporated when I remembered that we – ok I - had forgotten to disconnect the oil pump feed pipe, which leads up the front! This was corrected and the upper half came out, followed by sliding the lower half down and back before lifting it out too.
Reg and his photographer re-appeared startling all of us, but did at least see plenty of progress, and after they'd gone I explained the laws of 'big lump engineering' which means that dropping in some large item, like an engine and transmission, may only take a half hour and result in congratulations about making progress, but spend two days wiring or piping pneumatics and someone will say 'oh, you're not getting on very well, are you?'
Some of the brake gear was now dropped off, and they took measurements to make a tool to assist in pressing out the weighshaft bearing bolts, which I suspect are fitted bolts and showed no sign of releasing. The two brake hangers, with the blocks still attached, came off the right hand side.
To finish their second day with me, they extricated all the rusted ballast from the front boxes that Andrew and I had been unable to budge, and dumped them, bar a couple as patterns, into the scrap bin. Then they vacuumed and swept up, leaving that area at least cleaner than when they came. Nigel, while I hadn't been looking, had even rinsed all the mugs and scrubbed the sink clean. Three of the team at least are back next Thursday, and we hope to have the loco ready for lifting off its wheels after their efforts.
After they'd gone I undid the retaining bolt for the rear brake block (right hand side) tapped it and the pin slid out. The front block however was solid and so I took it over to the press. At 15tons it finally shifted.
As you know by now various things come our way through e-bay and this week was no exception. You'll also know that Andrew has a penchant for the traditional twin cylinder Broom & Wade compressor and in recent moths we have picked up examples from Longcliffe (a few miles away) and south of Cambridge (many miles away). Thursday evening he won another at Loughborough. This is designated a VR11, but although V normally indicates vacuum (Broomwade did do an exhauster version, we have one) this was a compressor, and as Andrew says, if nothing else, it should be worth the bits. The vendor had put it on with a starting price of £10, or a Buy-it-now of £150, but there had been no interest, and as a result, Andrew won it for a tenner. As it happened, I was heading in that general direction on Friday so I agreed to go and collect. Andrew had messaged the seller but had no reply, and having had previous occasions where a vendor, dissatisfied with the finishing price has either just ignored all communication or come back and claimed it was stolen overnight, I was slightly apprehensive.
So when I pulled up outside the firm on Friday afternoon, I rang the vendor on his mobile and introduced myself as the winner of the compressor from last night, come to collect. 'Oh' he sounded friendlily, 'I haven't even looked at that yet. Just give me a minute.'
It was a lot more than a minute before he came out and waved me over to the Goods In bay, with a comment about 'you have to pay for this you know' in a tone that I didn't think quite as friendly as before. I backed the van up and opened the doors, brandishing Andrew's tenner as I did so. He was on his forklift, and rammed the compressor (it came with electric motor and baseplate and some loose pipeworks) into the van with little regard for what he clipped in the process. One of my toolboxes took the brunt, and he'd dragged with it the newly cut beams I'd collected earlier too.
I maybe should have taken this as a hint, but as his e-bay sale had promised a VAT receipt, I asked for one as he walked away and he made an arm gesture that I took to mean he'd get it. So I killed a few minutes talking to one of his fitters about Broomwade and Sherry compressors. When he re-appeared his demeanour was definitely no longer friendly, not even particularly civil. 'You were joking, weren't you?' 'No,' I replied innocently, 'I just thought I'd get a quid or two back from the government.' 'It ain't worth raising the paperwork' he growled, 'I had a bloke in during the week, offered me £50 just for the unloader.' I hadn't the heart to say that we probably wouldn't use the unloader ourselves anyway. Instead I made a tactful departure, but when I finally got home Andrew reported that he'd given us positive feedback.
We popped into the shed Friday night for an hour or so, and Andrew was able to rotabroach out all the remaining fixing holes in the I of the beams for the cross-stretchers.
Andrew hoped to join me on Saturday but later on as he had grandson to look after for a while. Really I had two tasks I ought to be doing, one was a commercial job and the other was applying more intumescent paint. But once again neither really appealed and I took a look at the plate at the rear of RS8 which obscures the drawhook spring and retaining nut. It appeared to be held down by a number of 11/16Whit bolts, and I worked my way around these until I was defeated by one which was so corroded that its head was no longer regular, true, or of any size known to Whitworth, Unified or metric.
One reason why the sink had got so dirty and moved Nigel to clean it was that when I had assembled it, there had been a slight lean to one corner away from the plug hole, so water tended not to flow away entirely and evaporated, leaving a stain. It was a 'sometime' job to jack that corner up and mortar in the leg with a little more height, but motivated by Nigel I raised the corner and packed it with a bit of 5mm plate which I will mortar in properly 'sometime'. The spirit level now shows the sink will drain appropriately so I will try to keep it sparkling. Cillit Bang anyone?
I had lunched and moved on to preparing another rusty piece of column and priming it when Andrew rang to say that I needed to empty the van. It transpired he had won some chains and shackles off an e-bay auction, been to collect them some five miles away and found that the vendor was a son and his wife clearing the home of his late father, who had been into tractor restoration. There had been several other things that caught Andrew's eye and a deal had been struck, for collection Sunday morning. So Andrew arrived and first set about rotabroaching the one remaining bolt in the back plate on RS8 for me. Yet still the plate wouldn't budge, and then we found - ok he found – one, two and finally 3 slotted, countersunk bolts that were almost completely hidden in the rust. These were also rotabroached out and finally the plate could be lifted to expose the drawhook nut.
Then it was time to fire Charlie up, draw the train back out the way and empty the van of the compressor with the forklift. Andrew returned to cutting one cross-stretcher that needed rebating in order to fit into the longitudinal beams, and cut the nuts that held the front left hand sandbox on RS8, clearing the way for me address the hanger top collar. When he headed home to attend to grandson, he left me on 'fire-watch' for an hour (in case anything we'd cut started any minor conflagrations – no need to test the intumescent paint too soon). I occupied myself, amongst other things, with replacing the socket on a 110volt extension cable that had proved to be a bit hit-and-miss when anything was plugged in to it. The feather duster was also given a permanent position on the end of a 3m 'extension pole' I bought some weeks ago, and the spiders on the security cameras got another visit from it.
Sunday. Steph, Andrew and grandson were off to Crich, but first we convoyed to Wingerworth, and up a dirt track amid a forest to a number of quite expensive houses which reminded me of Center Parcs. The main goody to be loaded was a 45 gallon drum and barrel pump but which contained 15 gallons or so of gas oil. Then there were some wood blocks, two traditional oil jugs and a few other minor bits. The building that he had used as his workshop was rather like ours on a much more modest scale, and I was struck by the poster of a bright red tractor on one wall. It struck me that that was one thing we were lacking. Not that Thomas Hills ever indulged in poster sized hand-outs. Even the pictures of that that petite, basque and stockinged model that was posed on a Steelman in a dry-iced paintshop got little farther than being drooled over in the sales office. But maybe a few pictures of Andrew's locos in strategic places could add a little colour and character. And cover that slot where we accidentally punched a dent in one cladding sheet with the forklift. I went back to Darley Dale and emptied the blocks, realising that some had woodworm so these were put aside and taken to the bonfire.
Regular readers will know hat some 3 weeks or so ago we ran James out of fuel, and hadn't had time to do anything about it since. So I swapped the barrel pump for our drain tap, tipped the barrel over and started decanting the contents into the larger of the two jugs – slow process but easier than any other that came to mind. Most of it went into James, but a couple went to the forklift. Ever now and again I put a little into a clear plastic bottle and let it stand for a while to see if any dirt particles or condensate settled out, but it remained good, clear gas oil.
With James at least sufficiently replenished, I bled it through and started it up, taking it for a run up and down a couple of times to see that all was well. While I was up the far end a southbound train passed. When I parked James back outside the shed, it occurred to me that the barbed wire down by the headshunt had been moved by persons short-cutting across the track, so I went back armed with tie-ing wire and tools, and a mug of tea, so as the train came back north there I was again but in a different green loco. For effect I 'sipped' my tea as the train passed, though in reality the mug was empty. The barbed wire is now back up at the top of the fence: we'll see if it stays there.
Andrew returned and recommenced fabrication work on the ramp components. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves; I was progressing the commercial job. He's been back down this evening, as I have been writing, to spray the engine turnover stand. Hopefully that will soon be back together and taking up less space.
There have bee some other things in between times – like assisting someone in getting a better way to move his saddle tank – but as this edition has already become rather longer than usual I'll stop it here, wish you all a good week, and hope you'll be back again soon.