Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of the Common and the unusual

3rd September 2017

If you thought last week's blog was a little 'flat' then maybe this week's will make up for it. Like I said before, you never know what's going to happen around here.


We got into the shed on Monday and Andrew continued welding the remaining bits of the ramp fabrication – at this point we had ideas of finishing assembling the ramp about Wednesday, but the reality of the situation dawned and plans were re-cast. I started pulling through a fresh cable to provide a 240V feed along the eastern wall, making use of the fan assembly of the recently-received radiator for Pluto as a means of paying the cable out easily. Andrew and I had a conference about where the 240V outlets are required, which in effect was a decision on where the shotblast cabinet and the workbench (still in the VBA) with its bench drill has to be located.

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On Tuesday the sandblasting man arrived, as expected, and was soon at work on RS8's underframe. Andrew was off work but looking after grandson, who was not disposed to getting dressed and going out with his Dad to purchase zinc-phosphate primer. Andrew's plan had been to be out starting on the priming while Paul M was getting his lunchtime fix of chips, but it was afternoon before the primer was finally purchased and so only when Paul moved off the underframe – about 4pm – could Andrew make a start spraying. Paul meanwhile attacked some loose bits so was finished and away by around 5pm. While he was busy I had been making and installing the first of two junction boxes to suit the 240V outlets, and assembling the various legs to the two side beams of the ramp, ready to be lifted off with the forklift and assembled with the crossbeams. During the afternoon, Twiggs delivered the two lengths of 40 x 40 mm solid bar which will form the rails.

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Although Paul had gone, Andrew was still spraying furiously, so I brushed some of that rubbish grey water-based primer over the loose parts – and rust started showing through within 30 minutes. This will all have to be rubbed down and done again. In the end, it was nearly 8pm before Andrew finished spraying (I had brushed a little with the zinc phosphate to help save time) and cleared away.

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Wednesday, and although little progress was made, I did collect the overhauled D&M driver's brake valve for RS8.

On Thursday we had an old friend returning to the fold. This was a case of third time lucky – the contractor had let us know at short notice that he could collect it three or four weeks ago but it couldn't be made ready in time, then it was set up for last week only for a previous job to get delayed and run out of time, but on Thursday Andrew's Wickham left Embsay.

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Since this hasn't featured here before let me introduce it. We first found out about it in about 2007, when it was sat forlornly at the end of a siding on the network of the Tees & Hartlepool Port Authority. It was abandoned because an 0-6-0 loco - probably a Sentinel – had misjudged its stopping distance and severely re-shaped one end with its buffers. Andrew was donated it and it was brought back to Briddon Towers. But in those days our fabrication facilities weren't a patch on what we have today, and after lingering for some time in the place previously occupied by my 2ft gauge O&K RL1b, it went on loan to two members of the E&BAR, who planned to restore it, leaving in August 2009.

Recently it became apparent that their best intentions had come to naught, and so the Wickham was loaded Thursday morning and I opened up ready to receive it just after lunch. Unloading was a tricky business – the trailer it was on was towed by a large Transit type pick up with a HIAB, but the Wickham was right on its limits and had to be moved a little nearer before the last wheel left the deck and it swung round and on to the track outside the shed. It was, of course, on the 'wrong' track – Andrew had given me instruction that it was to be pushed inside on what we know as '3B' - so James had been fired up and moved the VBA clear.

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But the Wickham had always been stiff – a result of those years stood at the Port (the drive chain had been so rusted that I'd had to saw through it) plus another eight at Embsay – and I couldn't budge it. So with the aid of a strop, I hooked it to the back of the VBA and pulled it up, leaning out of the cab so that I could see that the wheels were actually going round.

Now, the track from 3A up to the turnout is uphill, and the line thence to 3B is downhill, but I still couldn't push it more than a foot, so resolved gently to push it down to the shed. Whereas with the length of the strop between it and the VBA, and the slight curve, I had been able to lean out and see it, its profile was so small that it now hid behind the VBA and judging where to make gentle contact was something that I can only hope I achieved. Eventually I got it into the shed and parked the VBA and James back as normal without sustaining any fresh damage, so far as I can tell.

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Wickham aficionados may notice that it has a non-standard engine. It has at some time been fitted with a hand-cranked Petter PH1, with a fabricated bell housing for a clutch, interfacing with the original Ford gearbox. I'm arguing that we ought to remove this and return it to something more 'in keeping' as the original was a Ford 10hp petrol engine. This will be resolved in the near future.

Anyway, I finished the afternoon off by assembling a second junction box for the east wall, and as soon as the batch of Metalclad sockets arrived, that was to be progressed.

Andrew was at work, but at 4pm Thursday things began to happen. Some months ago we had been sounded out about loaning 14 901 for the Old Oak Common Open day. As D9524, it had been allocated to OOC from new, but some weeks ago, having heard nothing more, we learnt that instead they had decided to take D9516 out of Didcot. But on Thursday afternoon Andrew was informed there had been a paperwork SNAFU, and might 14 901 be available to fill a Teddy Bear-sized hole in their line up? Two and a bit hours of telephoning set the whole thing up, and late Friday afternoon 14 901 departed Colne Valley for London and a former home.

I had issued a heads-up to Tarmac about the cracking on RS8's running plate and the loose crankpin, with the result that I was asked for a meeting on Friday with Reg G and Craig. Just as I was setting off to open up, Phil G arrived (for reasons that will become clear) and so he followed me down. The upshot was that RS8's frame will leave Darley Dale for Tunstead on Tuesday, and Tarmac will carry out the repair of the crankpin under our direction, with the wheels leaving later in the week. The next edition of the BLI staff newsletter will feature the loco and ask for volunteers, so they especially want parts of the loco there, ready to get going. I know I have said this before, but I may well be spending a lot of time up there before much longer.

Late in the afternoon, Andrew, Phil G and I set off for an excursion a little farther north. You may recall that Andrew has had an ambition to own a low-load trailer to reduce haulage costs, and the acquisition of a winch was with that in mind (most sane people buy a trailer and then hunt out a winch to fit on it: we bought the winch first...). Our attendance at the Heanor auction was with the hope of acquiring such a trailer, but prices were well out of our budget. However, Andrew had seen one on ebay which had not sold, and had later been up to see it. Not only that, he had found two Cummins 14 litre engines hiding in the undergrowth, so negotiations had commenced, and he thought he had a deal sewn up. Phil G, being a professional trailer fitter, was along to give advice and (Andrew hoped) comfort about the purchase, and I was there to find out just what he had gone and got this time.
A certain amount of haggling took place, but eventually some money changed hands so Andrew now has a low load trailer, but before it can be brought down for rails to be fitted in the deck, and generally made ready to move a loco, it requires an MoT, so he envisages carrying out such essential repairs at the vendors that Phil has indicated it requires. This does not mark Andrew branching into the heavy haul market, rather, trying to get better control of cost – haulage prices having climbed since Heanors pulled out – by hiring in a driver and tractor unit when a move within its capacity is required, with him acting as second man.

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Have you ever tried getting a 4yr old up, fed, washed and dressed and out the house by seven in the morning? That's what was achieved - almost - on Saturday as the Briddon family headed south by first class East Midlands Meridian. From St Pancras we walked to Euston, and took a short run to Willesden Junction. Now once upon a time you knew trainspotters by their anoraks and Box Brownies. Nowadays it is by their digital cameras and above all, the ubiquitous rucksack. Even as we got off the train at St Pancras we spotted others heading for Old Oak, and as we walked up the platform at Euston their presence was obvious.

The open day had begun at 10.00, and we were barely leaving Euston by then, but somebody with a rucksack told me as we got off at Willesden that 'the queue's over half way back to here' and he wasn't wrong. We shuffled forward for nearly 45minutes with many others behind us. This was an all-ticket affair and of course, we didn't have any, but the organisers had promised ours would be ready when we arrived and, sure enough Exhibitors badges were produced (see header!).

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We headed first to see 14 901, which had arrived at Old Oak at 11pm the previous night (there's an abnormal load ban in London until seven at night on a Friday) and we learned later that they had only finished shunting at about two in the morning. Now of course 14 901 has not been painted since 2010 and there wasn't even a chance to give it a bit of a wash, it was a working loco, save that its fuel pump is still in the back of my van. I was concerned to see that whereas other locos were admitting people to their cabs, it was with stewards present, but as 14901's doors cannot be locked, any Tom Dick or Harry considered it was free to climb in. I even slammed the doors shut at one point and two minutes later somebody walked up, opened it and went in. Andrew was quite laid back about this, taking the view that if any damage occurred, it was FGW's problem, but I felt a little more responsible and wondered how their insurers would feel about it if a visitor was injured. Everyone bashes their head on a class 14 doorway sooner or later, but I watched as one guy misjudged it so much that instead of just catching his scalp, he hit it smack on his forehead, just above the eyes. His legs folded and I thought he was about to fall off, but he hung on with his hands and after a second or two the air turned as blue as 14901 with profanities. He climbed down, checked he wasn't actually bleeding (I'll bet he has a bruise there now!) and then climbed up again and in.

Fortunately, the starting procedure for the loco is such that no-one is going to get past the PLC, so then engine remains in the position ready for us to put the fuel pump back on, but for myself, if only there had been a little more notice, I would have gladly spent the day acting as steward and warned people to mind their heads!

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Elsewhere there were various locos associated with OOC over the years, and a few crowd draws which were less connected, like Tornado. The Railmotor was carrying out shuttle runs, and several other steamers were in light steam sufficient to blow whistles and such. A surfeit of Class 50s were in a line, perhaps mimicking the A4 line-up, and one of those, and Hymek D7017, periodically started up and impressed the crowds with slag and noise. I wished we could have done the same with 14901.

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Down in the Heavy Maintenance Area, 57603 was up in the air, minus its bogies. This was a loco which Andrew had been much involved with in his time at Porterbrook, as its engine had failed spectacularly when a big end bearing picked up. Andrew recognised the crankshaft, also on display, although looking somewhat more careworn after some time in open storage.

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Apart from meeting up again with Phil G, in London for the weekend, Andrew ran into a number of work contacts from various places, and even I networked a bit here and there.

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By about quarter to four we were heading towards the exit, and looking across at 14901 I saw that the codelights were on. Yes, some kind soul couldn't resist operating switches they had no right to do because no-one was there to say 'don't touch'. I turned off the battery master switch and knocked the lights switch back to off. On the way back from St Pancras, grandson finally fell asleep after a long day during which he had had many turns on the funfair rides, miniature railway, steam railmotor etc., on the last day of his summer holidays with us.

Back in Derbyshire, it had been the two day autumn event of the Heritage Shunters Trust up at Rowsley, and we normally expect that a smattering of visitors will be found, leaning over the fence or otherwise trying to see what some seem to think is the 'rest of' the HST collection. Indeed, I already was expecting 3 RCTS members from Cambridgeshire, so wasn't anticipating getting too much work done. That batch of 240V outlets had arrived while we were at Old Oak, so I had made a start mounting one on the east side circuit when the blockman came in. An enthusiast was wanting to look round, he said, but as he didn't have a mobile phone he couldn't ring me, so the blockman had walked up instead. In the end, I did the grand tour 5 times, with visitors from East Lancs, North Yorkshire and Severn Valley (et al), one at least of whom had also been at Old Oak yesterday.

In between times the Donation tin received contributions, and I managed to get both the 240V planned outlets mounted and cabled, installed the 3-phase plug on Column 3 ready for when we have suitable cable, and terminated the end of the 240V line in a box pending a decision on what and where I am fitting at that end. And as the weather turned to steady rain, I set myself the target of connecting this line up at the distribution box, and changing the C-rated MCBs for the 110V transformer to D-rated ones, then bang and function testing the new 240V outlets. What I didn't get around to included getting RS8's wheels pressure washed, tidying up, etc., etc., but there's always another day.

This week will see RS8's frame move to Tunstead, I hope, and final assembly of the ramp ready for its forthcoming deployment. I seem to have acquired an oil cooler assembly, complete with cooling fan and hydraulic motor, from an e-bay vendor for 99p, so that must be collected (I have a nagging feeling that it might be another case of a disgruntled seller – I certainly shan't ask for a VAT invoice this time!) so it should be another varied week of mayhem. See ya.

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