Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of battles and wars

22nd October 2017

It has been busy this week for most of the wrong reasons.

The vendor of the insulation panels I was cutting and fitting last week contacted me to say that he had another 2 and a bit bales and was I in need of any more? I thought it might be useful so on Tuesday afternoon I made the trek up to Whaley Bridge and chucked them in the back of the van. Andrew and I went into the shed on Tuesday evening, and were joined by Phil C, who had been promised some bits by Andrew for his Bagnall 0-4-0DH and was dropping off a dual high-pressure filter assembly which, if I understand things, is from a Foden FD6 and might be used on Pluto. It should replace the filter assembly which has been known to give us trouble once in a while as it was Foden's practice to filter the oil before the relief valve, rather than the other way round. We have been known to prove that Fleetguard's spin-on filters will dismantle themselves at about 300psi! We got in again on Wednesday night, which enabled me to get up on the Terrypicker to assemble another light in the Row C, as well as finish pre-wiring the last two required on that row.

I got up to Tunstead on Thursday it was to find that progress had been made in my absence on RS8's engine. They had made themselves up a slide hammer and extracted the injectors, removed the flywheel assembly and measured everything, determined where the interference had occurred and machined the flywheel to correct it. So now everything turns again, and the slide hammer that Toby had made a year or so ago and had lent me wasn't required. I had brought up a couple of fittings which enabled me to re-connect the fuel delivery pipe off the lift pump and blank off the oil pressure line for its lubrication, so we moved on and changed the oil filters, renewed the fuel filters and finally lifted the whole assembly and drained the oil.

Now that the use of cryogenics to refit the crankpin has been agreed, Craig, the workshop manager, asked after the drawing and went off with it to discuss with one of his men. They returned a while later and asked whether it would matter if they simply machined a new pin rather than metal-spray the original. It was fine by me so after a quick natter about materials, that was put in hand.

With the injectors out we had talked about putting a camera down the injector tubes and having a look around inside. Although a proprietary camera-on-a-bendy-thing was produced, the actual hole in the bottom of the injector sleeve tube is too small, so whether they can find a slimmer camera or will resort to simpler means of assessing it - like pouring a little fuel down each bore, turning the engine to pump it out and see if it comes out clean or dirty - may suffice. It bars over sweetly enough so there is no suggestion of any rust on bores or other defect so I am hopeful that we'll get the injectors refitted next week and be about ready to give it a run. On advise from my old friend the ex R-R Service Engineer, we'll replace the studs and nuts with setscrews as Rolls did in the 80s.

Finally it is likely that the gearbox and wheelsets will travel up to Tunstead this week, but I won't know exactly when until the workload on the Tarmac wagon has been determined (it's been block-booked by a part of the quarry that is doing a refit, but won't be needed all day, every day).

On Friday it was my turn to collect grandson from Norfolk once again, and a thoroughly-miserable drive it was too. The A17 east from Newark and through to Kings Lynn must be one of the slowest in the country, with virtually nowhere to overtake and a high proportion of HGVs with a smattering of tractors, trailers and for good measure, a combine harvester. It also involves crossing the River Nene on a former M&GN railway/road swing bridge (now two lane road bridge) at Sutton Bridge. On our return leg it must have been opening and shutting repeatedly, as we stopped and waited more than a mile away from it (with nothing whatsoever moving in the opposite direction) and when we finally could see it on the horizon, the barriers came down and we actually saw it rotate. It would have been an interesting spectacle if we didn't have another two-and-half hours of driving and every delay put us into the Friday afternoon rush as we got nearer home! That the A17 for the next 2 or 3 miles utilises the trackbed westward and has obliterated every vestige of the old line is no consolation.

So on Saturday there was no rush to get into the workshops. In the end I went down after lunch and the first thing I noticed as I opened the door was that Robin flying around on the far side. I told him to get out of my building and didn't see him again that day. Being on my own I set about moving pallets of bits so that I could move the engine turnover stand, which I then picked up with the forklift so that I could move the Terrypicker past it. Yes, it is still a game of chess with the accumulated clutter that has yet to be tidied. Eventually Andrew came down for an hour or so and between us we moved two of the Matterson posts and I got up to install the 7th of the 8 lights on Row C, and hoped that I would be able to get the 8th up on Sunday.

But Sunday was Andrew's birthday and we had a family get-together planned at Wentworth Garden Centre near Barnsley, so I haven't made it down at all today. Good news came through late in the afternoon though; down at Castle Hedingham 14 901 had been in operation all day, clocking up 12 miles (which is nothing like what it was doing in daily use at Peak Rail but is an awful lot of toing-and-froing on a line of CVR's length) and had performed it all without any recurrence of its previous problems. That tends to lend weight to the theory that the fuel pump has been the problem for quite some time, and what a pity that we didn't investigate it sooner.

I said at the beginning that it has been busy for all the wrong reasons. As many of you may know, Peak Rail has been involved in a long-running court case over the last twelve months. I mentioned it in my report of the Peak Rail plc AGM. That case is now over, but the 'war' continues. The case is over with Peak Rail having capitulated, and reviewing the way the case has been handled rings bells with the way Peak Rail tried to deal with the case we were forced to bring. You will read about it, I'm sure, in the magazines in due course, but the case ended last last month when Peak Rail agreed to pay Grinsty £130,000 plus costs – satisfying a 'Part 36' offer which Grinsty tabled in March. This followed a case management meeting in Judge's chambers in early September, where the Judge expressed disapproval of Peak Rails' reliance on the implied term in an oral agreement which was contrary to the express terms of a written agreement. That's a bit legalistic but I gather it boils down to PR's entire defence hinging on a conversation recalled by Mrs Statham which, if correct, infers that Grinsty agreed to pay for use of the shed at Rowsley for its Grinsty Rail business even though all the paperwork says its use was free. Indeed, I am led to understand that even this conversation was not included by Mrs Statham in PR's initial defence. (And before you question why PR should allow free use of the shed, remember that not only was Mike Thompson a Director, but he had bought 3 more locos to the railway for future use (after Joint MD Roger Hallatt commented that PR needs a minimum of 3 working steam locos), had bought and was getting overhauled a dmu after PR had apparently expressed a need for one and had acquired framework said to be for a new carriage shed for PR to erect. The benefit was by no means one-sided).

But I observed how many similarities there are to our case. In our case, PR produced an initial defence, but when it came to more serious court action radically changed its position, especially after it saw our evidence 'bundle', and told the Court that there had been an 'administrative oversight' whereby it had not fulfilled the Court instructions to file its paperwork on time. In the end, it went into our Court case with a 'Statement of Truth' comprising 4 pages of testimony solely from Mrs Statham. In the Grinsty case, I see that at an earlier hearing (8th June, before the Peak Rail AGM when all discussion on the matter was verboten) the Judge was critical of PR submitting a radically different defence and effectively adopting a wholesale change of position at that stage (this was already 6 months into the case). So PR had apparently produced a defence, then changed it, and relied on the testimony of one Director. Distinctly similar.

How do I know all this? Well I'm taking most of it from a 'bullet point' list prepared by Grinstys' solicitors and being widely circulated. I am sure you'll see the story soon in the railway press.

Anyway, one can reasonably assume that after mid September, PR's solicitors must have advised PR that it most likely would lose the case. The 'robust defence' that the Board claimed it had in place at the AGM in June is unmasked as anything but. But £130,000 plus Grinsty's costs – maybe £20,000+ - and PR's own costs which are probably of similar order, cannot but make a massive hole in the finances of a company whose total turnover in 2016 was only £397,000 and which only declared a profit before tax of £8572.

Oh, and I said that the case is over but the war continues? Both sides have issued threats of further legal action. It makes you wonder whether PR Directors haven't taken their collective eye off the ball.

And why has it been busy for me? I have been watching the goings on with mounting dismay. Having spent a considerable sum of money on that shed at Darley Dale, I want to see a strong, inclusive management of Peak Rail developing and expanding the railway and securing its long term future. Andrew and I have tried to negotiate with PR over wrinkles in our shed Agreement but have been met with obstinacy and mostly silence. Early in September I filed a request for a list of PR plc shareholders, under Section 116 of the Companies Act 2006. I already knew (because PR, like every company, has to file shareholders lists at Companies House, and they are available either on line, or in this case on a CD for £20) that PR has about 4500 shareholders, but the lists it files are 'bulk lists', i.e. without addresses. The law views this sort of information as needing to be freely available. If you were a parent sending your offspring on a coach trip, would you accept any secrecy that prevented you discovering that the shareholders of the coach company were the likes of Gary Glitter or Jimmy Saville? Thus a company must provide such a list to a valid Section 116 request within 5 days or seek a Court Order to relieve it of the obligation. Yet a friend of ours put a request in earlier this year, was stalled for weeks and eventually told it would cost £6 per page to reproduce, and 89 pages in all. In fact, Statutory Instrument 2612 came into effect 10 years ago limiting the charge to £95 for the entire list.

So as I say, I filed a request in early September, and PR took legal advice and rejected the request, claiming it invalid on two technicalities. Quite what purpose this served I am not entirely sure, all it succeeded in doing was occupy more solicitors time and delay things. Neither technicality (and one I doubt was valid anyway) was insuperable, all I did was re-word my request and re-submit it. Indeed, I had used exactly the same wording that I used in 2015 to obtain a list of members of the Peak Railway Association Ltd. When I was (briefly and that's another long story) a Director of the PRA, I was told by other Director(s) that there was no chance of my getting a list of members, it was kept in the Matlock office and no-one was allowed to see it, not even the Board. I forced Mrs Statham to hand one over, threatening legal action if she did not comply. Actually I then had no idea what legal action that would have been! Anyway, I now possess a full list of PR plc shareholders, which was curiously dated the day after my original request was handed in to the office, so presumably PR knew it would have to hand one over eventually? I'll leave you to ponder what to do with it – suggestions on a postcard to the Briddon Country Pile.

Sorry that there is not much loco news this week. I hope you will accept the above in lieu and bear with me. Normal service will resume soon!

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