There was a programme on tv last night talking about Britain's last 'big freeze' in February 2009, and referencing earlier severe winters of 1947, '63 and '91. I wasn't around in 1947 but do remember '63: we built a 6ft high igloo in the back garden and immortalised it on Standard 8 cine film – mum squeezing out through the doorway in a fur coat and knocking part of it down, me emerging and attempting to harness the family poodle to my soap-box 'sled' (and a very uncooperative poodle succeeding in pulling me face down into the snow) – it was all very much 'fun' for children in the family and although I remember it lasting for several weeks, none of the more severe outcomes impinge on my recollections.
Nothing much to do with anything except that I am writing this blog 12 hours earlier than usual and preparing to set off through the overnight snow to take grandson back to his mother's as Andrew is still unable to drive, although the stitches do come out tomorrow and hopefully all is on the mend.
At long last that paperwork came through this week and although it is wrong and needs correcting, it does at least mean that I can release a bit of the tale from two weeks ago. On Monday 20th, Andrew and I were off first thing, dashing up the A1 to Wolsingham formally to inspect a Hunslet 0-6-0DH that RMS has decided to dispose of. Andrew has been after this loco for some time – latterly it was standing at Tata's Trostre plant, christmas-tree'd for parts for the other two radio controlled Hunslets there (both of which I had spent many hours re-powering and r/cing in my Locotec days) but a price couldn't be agreed. So the loco was hauled up to Wolsingham by road and we remained 'interested', should things develop.
Why this particular loco? You need to turn the pages of industrial loco history. Back in 1959/60 the appearance of the Rolls-Royce/Thomas Hill 'Sentinel' shunting loco range changed the perception of an industrial loco in the UK. It did not initially though alter the offerings of Sentinel's competitors. Sentinel were not then allowed to join LAMA (the Locomotive and Allied Manufacturers Association, predecessors of RIA, today's Railway Industry Association) because of its 'ungentlemanly' sales techniques. Sentinel used 'demo' locos, touring private sidings, proving what steam Sentinels could do, and the diesels followed the same pattern again under TH auspices. In addition, the wholesale steam to diesel switch following the Clean Air Act meant that business was buoyant and for a year or so, order books were unaffected. Hunslet, Hudswell and others of course, had much business from mines locos, which Sentinel never tackled.
One of the first to realise the need to change was Hunslet's neighbours, Hudswell Clarke, who had been wedded to the Gardner engine/SSS gearbox for years complete with steam loco chimney for an exhaust because, it was said, HC's works manager refused to let a loco go out without 'looking like one'. In 1962 they produced the first of their Cummins-engined, Twin Disc converter 0-4-0DHs, a good looking loco of which Andrew's 'Claire' is one and 'Grace' the last. In contrast, Hunslet had invested much money over the years in gearbox manufacture and management policy was to utilise that capacity regardless.
It was 1964 before Hunslet changed, and it came with two locos, 6294 and 6295, produced for Snibston colliery. I saw them on my one-and-only visit to Snibston in its coal-mining days in 1982 (it later became the Snibston Discovery Park, recently closed) and they later went to C F Booth's from whom I hired one as a stand-in loco at Ford Bridgend during YEC days. Even then the scrapman didn't burn them, and Locotec acquired them as hire locos, becoming their H006 and H005. H006 (6294) is still out on hire, but H005 had suffered a broken flywheel housing about five years ago and stood forlorn at Trostre, where I saw it again on and after 2013 when Locotec had me go in and fix problems on the others.
The Hunslet design though, became their standard and many more were produced, though they had many detracting points – the Hunslet gearbox, being straight-cut gears (all that Leeds could cut) were noisy when compared to the SCG or Wiseman equivalents, and Hunslet's method of retaining the direction gear in mesh – sprung-loaded plungers – became renowned for their capacity to go on retaining the gear even when their driver's didn't want them to! Up top, the casing doors hinged outwards, no problem on the initial locos but when later front-side handrails became de-rigeur, no-one apparently considered it necessary to re-design the doors, which could no longer be swung fully open.
Andrew's one Hunslet is scarcely typical, even less so after we rebuild it (hopefully a 2018 project) and it seemed to him that one of these 'first of breed' ought to be saved. He tried to secure it direct from Trostre but the price asked was a 'take it or leave it' and unrealistic. So the loco went to Wolsingham for storage, but following the recent sale of DCR (whose main-line locos were leased internally through Locotec) it seemed as though Wolsingham would be full to overflowing and a deal was at last possible. So here's a first view of Andrew inspecting it (I was worried that the springs might have been removed) on a damp November morning.
It will require a lot of work, so will not be too high on our list, although the broken flywheel housing is not in itself a problem (quite why it occurred may be another matter, though!) sourcing missing buffers and replacing all the items removed from it (the gearbox in particular will be a challenge) may take some time to resolve.
So, although I got an afternoon in at the workshops during the week, it was on largely uninspiring tasks like swapping individual MCBs on the 3-phase outlets for ganged-together sets, and manufacturing the connector box and mountings for the next planned striplight on the footpath-side wall. The next two LED 'tubes' for the striplights arrived later in the week, and I popped in to Wickes to pick up some more jig-saw blades and a fresh handle for the 9” roller we use for applying cold tea (floor sealant), after all, Andrew had promised that we'd have ALL the floor painted by Christmas (and I'd accidentally thrown the ends of the 9” roller away with the previous roll!).
Friday I was collecting grandson with Andrew, so next day was Saturday, when no less than 8 of the IDRPG lads descended on the workshops, filled with zeal and a determination to progress 1382 towards running condition. Such numbers put a strain on things. The large teapot that has been featured in this blog is good for about 6 mug-fulls, as is the capacity of the kettle, so tea production becomes a matter of two goes at it, and then standing back as the stampede comes to collect their drinks before it gets any colder. It is in sugar consumption that we especially notice that the IDRPG is present, as they all seem to have sweet-tooths.
For myself, I got back to mounting not one but now two connector boxes for these two striplights, having decided that to locate the one to sit over the workbench that is as yet stuck inside the VBA was a little pointless, so provide for it but mount the first further up where the 'fabrication bench' could at least make use of it. In between polite requests from Toby to borrow X, Y or Z, (which culminated in my having to pop back to the Briddon Country Pile to grab some fuel filters) I got on with running a cable back from these two new boxes around to the existing striplight box and joining it in. The test proved that these LED tubes are connected differently to the previous two I bought, so a quick re-arrangement of its internal wiring was made before it too came to life. A press-ganged posse of IDRPG then moved the fab bench over and placed it underneath.
That began to reveal more space by the area which we need to seal next, and as Phil had been making a mess cutting and welding a piece of 1382's corroded casing top, and Ashley seemed willing to tidy it up, I dragged out the vacuum and began to clear this particular area, some 18 square metres, including fork-lifting two Matterson posts aside.
Meanwhile Toby had produced batteries, and Andrew, who had arrived and was acting in a supervisory capacity, was on hand to see them cabled up correctly. Coolant had been filled, hose clips tightened, etc., etc. Stephen had had to leave for a family social engagement, so it fell to Charles to turn the Start-Run-Isolate battery switch to 'Start' which places the batteries (4) into 48Volt series, ready to crank the start windings on the generator. For a few seconds nothing happened, then there was an almighty flashing and wooshing noise and a terminal post on one of the batteries disintegrated. That it had not happened immediately suggested that an undetected wiring defect was not the culprit, and Andrew investigated further and fund a 3/8 bolt had been dropped at some stage during cosmetic restoration and had become lodged in the switch contacts, earthing them. Coolant was drained back out and the group packed up, a little deflated.
With dust settled and a final go-over with the vac, I was going to finish my day with applying cold tea with my new 9” roller attached to the pole. I went to the cupboard and drew out one of the stock rolls. My new handle was to suit 9 x 1 3/4 inch rolls. I was unaware that there might be any other size. Our rolls were 9 x 1 ½ inch. Snow was lightly falling outside, I could see the little white blobs falling past the security cameras. I decided it was time I went home.
So that's it for the week. Only two more weeks to Christmas. What will Santa bring?