Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of snow and souvenirs

11th February 2018


OK, first off, those of you who are looking for lots of pickies this week are going to be disappointed – for whatever reason the camera has had a quiet week.

Not that I have, and this may have been a factor. For not only was I in Tunstead on Monday (last time until after annual shutdown) but I was at Shrewsbury on Tuesday, London on Wednesday, knackered on Thursday but still made a trip to Sheffield to drop off a starter motor and collect some bits and Norfolk on Friday to collect grandson. In years gone by this would have been quite typical (I was regularly driving 45,000 miles a year during the 90s, and put 180,000 miles in just under 4 years on a Montego diesel estate) but nowadays I have to admit that I don't quite have the stamina and it all triggered a mild migraine Saturday morning. But let's go back to the beginning.

I wasn't sure when I got to Tunstead on Monday whether we'd be doing anything positive or just clearing the space in time for the shutdown. In the end it sort of became both, but I did begin to think that it was a 'one step forward and two steps back' kind of a day. Since Tarmac vehicles weren't readily available, we used my van for a total of 3 trips up to the brick shed, where much of RS8 continues to be stored. The first trip brought down various bits of RS8's old engine, such as the compressor and its mounting bracket, which we started cleaning up ready to fit.

We have two issues to deal with in swapping a very early Rolls-Royce built up for a loco, for a comparatively late one built up for a genset. For there is the obvious, like the bracket to drive the charge pump for the converter comes off the thermostat housing, to the not quite so obvious, where Rolls changed from 3 A section belts to 4 Z belts, but as there is no provision on the genset pulley for the charge pump drive, it follows that all the pulleys need to be changed to suit 3 As. The alternator proved to be stubborn. I managed to undo the top clamp bolt, but the pivot bolt at the base is seized in the alternator casing and bracket, so in the end I took the whole caboodle off the engine to bring it back to Darley Dale for sorting. But getting the two bracket securing bolts out of the timing case was a nuisance, and both got damaged to some extent having to drift them out.

Meanwhile the main crankshaft pulley and damper over the intervening years have changed in the numbers of bolts retaining them, and this had to be swapped to get back to the A section belts and provide two extra grooves for the exhauster, which needs to go underneath. But the nett result of this pulley change is that the bolts aren't long enough, so we've had to identify and order new ones.

Thus once Jack and Liam had completed cleaning the outsides of the compressor and bracket we attempted to fit them. But there were no suitable bolts. Liam was adamant no bolts had been thrown away, so we made our second trip to the brick shed to try and find more bolts, but to no avail. However, lining up where the bracket fitted made me aware of another issue that hadn't really sunk in until now – the genset engine doesn't have the auxiliary drive peeking through the timing case, whose pulley is used to drive the compressor. To re-install it means taking the engine off its front mounts, removing the timing case and re-instating RS8's old one with the gear to suit. I decided not to raise this with Liam and Jack at this stage, but take the time to think about whether to re-design the front end drive completely, though space is at a premium. Instead we collected together all the loose bits, plus some others which I didn't want to get lost or were no longer required, and we made our third run up to the brick shed.

So now I have a week or two of grace to start putting together a detailed rebuild plan, and first day back may be a full-scale planning session. But before I leave RS8, I wrote at length about the fuel filler caps, and one of my readers this week got in touch as he thinks he just happens to have a pair of fillers of the same make, 3.5 inch BSP and all. If true, it will save a lot of hassle as well as being authentic, and with luck we'll meet up this week and haggle.

As I said, on Tuesday I was in Shrewsbury, to attend a course on lubricants at Morris'. Due there at 09.30 for a 10.00 o'clock start I reckoned to do it in about 2 hours so was on the road at 07.00 thinking I should have plenty of time. But as I have said in these pages before, digging up the A6 is a popular pastime in Derbyshire and two road works had sprung up between Duffield and Derby which lost me 20 minutes or so, still, once clear of Derby, I reasoned, I should still be able to make it on schedule.

'A38 closed after A5121' said the overheads. I knew the road number but couldn't think where it was, but surely there would be diversion? Well, I won't bore you with tedious details, suffice it to say that by 10.00 I had travelled only 61 miles, but I had cleared the crash site and with determination covered the next 30 to the edge of Shrewsbury in 30 minutes flat. I reached the course room at about 11.00 after parking, and was welcomed as the course booked for 30 had only yielded 7 other participants, which was a shame as the remaining part that I listened to was very interesting. I backed out of the factory tour but having had to pay £5.30 for parking thought I would wander round Shrewsbury, as what little I had seen of it trying to get around to the station car park had been attractive.

But the falling snow was not as conducive to a leisurely stroll as I had hoped, and after 20 minutes or so I headed back to the car park and the trip home, but not before I found a W H Smith with a copy of the latest Todays Railways. You can spot it easily on the newstands by the 'Tale Over Bid at Peak Rail' banner across the top.

Shrewsbury has two main bridges labelled 'English Bridge' and 'Welsh Bridge' indicating its former role as a frontier town between Anglo-Saxon and Celt. I had 'done' them both on the way in (took a wrong turn) and road works meant that as I came out of the station car park I found myself unable to take the correct lane so improvised a route over the third bridge which carries a 20p toll (but not for the van in front who charged through behind someone and had the barrier arm bounce on his roof).

Like I said, Wednesday was London-bound and Thursday was a reasonably quiet day, but Friday it was off to Norfolk to collect grandson. As usual we stopped at Dereham, in the Morrisons across from the Mid Norfolk Railway station, for a cuppa and saw the yard was unusually full. Then someone came in the cafe with FILM CREW on the back of his hivi and I concluded that filming was going on, hence the lorries, high-reach cherry picker, etc. (All that observation at Fox hasn't been wasted after all!) Not enough posh caravans to be anything of the big-budget variety, maybe just an advert, but a Class 47 was idling in the platform possibly to provide heating to the carriages.

As we set off back to Derbyshire I had a phone call, this time from my friendly sand-blast man, to say those bits for RS8 were ready and could I collect them tomorrow morning?

Saturday: it was supposed to be an IDRPG working day but in the end only two showed up, the ever reliable Charles G and the slightly less-frequent Stephen M, famous for accidentally leaving us a souvenir in the shape of his camera a few weeks ago. I got down for about 09.30, to find Charles had already turned the heater on and was busy rubbing down casings on 1382 for a fresh coat of paint. Earlier in the week I had finally remembered to collect the machine vice from the bench drill that is somewhat buried under things in the garage and set it up for use on the bench drill in the workshops, so put this to good use making up brackets for a service job. Stephen arrived and about a quarter to eleven and I asked him whether he was going to leave us any souvenirs this time. He said not. Then I took the van up to the blasters and collected all the bits and pieces. By the time I returned Andrew had made it down and it was nearly mid day, but once lunch was out the way we pushed the Terrypicker up into position and I began to install the SWA cable that goes down from the Row 'A' lights.

SWA cable is horrible stuff. Even straightening out a coil of it is an exercise in dogged determination over determined resistance. Eventually the connection was made at A8, Andrew aided me getting it down the corner column (and rescued a spanner he'd left up there from installing the CCTV cameras) and left me to make the final connections at the box in the corner. That done, the power went back on and we had grand switch on, with 23 out of the 24 floodlights all on together. Impressive though it is, that left me with B7 to investigate so we set back up again and I went up hoping that it would be bad connection, but no, the connections were sound, so we have a duff 50W LED floodlamp and I disconnected it for the present. Two have been ordered and should be in in the next day or two, so maybe next weekend it will be changed out.

Back at ground level, Andrew and I set about repositioning one of the Matterson posts. They were all moved late last year during floor painting and apart from returning the first two to a 'permanent' place at the end of track B, we had agreed to reposition them to that they correspond better to the layout on the control panel, to minimise the risks of turning the wrong post on or off during adjustments. In the near future the plan is to get 1382 on to the Mattersons, so that its air receivers can be refitted and brake gear attended to, but it would be useful to have a line painted on the floor at each side to indicate where the posts must sit for the beam that connects them to span. For the moment we must install the first beam at the Rowsley end to check our measurements, then bring 1382 into the area and position the other two posts to suit. But as the Wickham and trolley are in the way, this will be a bit of a re-arrangement exercise (though come to think of it, we could probably lift these aside with the forklift).

Charles and Stephen had long departed before we noticed that Stephen had left behind his travel mug. At least it wasn't anything so valuable.

Sunday: I got down reasonably early through light snow and continued manufacture of bracketry before being joined by Tom D, back from holiday in Tenerife, on the cadge for news and a cup of tea. By half twelve I was back at the Briddon Country Pile and an hour later, with daughter Jennifer babysitting grandson, we drove down to the Whitworth Centre for the Peak Railway Association AGM.

A few years ago I made a determined effort to collect together proxies for the PRA meeting but for the last couple of years it has been obvious that the PRA has more apparent importance than it does in reality. Again, the undertaking made by the Directors that the date of the AGM would be announced 3 months in advance so that prospective Directorial candidates could fulfill the time limits imposed by the change of articles was breached with only the minimum 3 weeks notice given. And again the company appeared to be showing disregard for company law and its articles by the fact that the accounts had been filed at Companies House last December, and here we were being asked to approve them in February. The Chairman blamed this on the accounts examiners, a firm who I was once told were responsible for having accidentally filed at Companies House Mrs Statham's resignation from the PRA in January 2016, when it should have been from the Derbyshire Dales Railway company. Nonetheless they were re-appointed though Roger Hallatt did undertake that the Board would look at it further.

We were called on to re-elect two of the Directors that the Board had decided to co-opt shortly after last year's AGM (the third of their co-optees having already resigned). When it came to the matter of the Peak Express, the editor spent much time in explaining the reason for the mag getting thinner (to save postage) and how even the extra paperwork of the AGM notices had pushed it over 100grammes. This time last year, he had been trying to hand the job over and had sought offers, two volunteers had come forward and the Board had, I understood, accepted one, but here it seemed the incumbent was continuing to soldier on. Never got a chance to ask about that.

Andrew did get to ask whether the Board had achieved any of the targets it had declared it had set itself at last year's AGM. Roger Hallatt, who did most of the talking (and couldn't be heard easily at the back) recounted all the things they intended to do, like a new Peak Rail website with improved PRA information section, a new volunteer recruiting poster, an Open Day for prospective volunteers – by which time everyone seemed to have forgotten that the question was 'what had they achieved' and the underlying answer was 'nowt'.

With the meeting over, I gave a lift to one member back to Matlock bus station before returning to the shed. I had managed to get a few minor jobs done and handed over materials to a customer before a member from the meeting arrived and partook of tea. He hadn't, he thought, been at the shed since the floor had been concreted, and kept commenting how he could see things were happening here, as opposed to another workshop slightly farther north. The snow was falling outside, looking all the more dramatic on the CCTV screens.

The work of PRAG has continued this week as more shareholders have pledged their support. One of the more entertaining moments was an e-mail from a deceased shareholder. Now, up to now PRAG hasn't tried writing to deceased shareholders – apart from those whose widows have come back to complain that their spouses have died years before (but whose entries are not marked 'deceased' in the share register) it would seem unlikely that we would get a response from a shareholder marked as 'deceased' as I have yet to find a postcode for anywhere beyond the grave. But we may have to revise that policy after just such a deceased shareholder proved that even this is not infallible in the share register. I thanked him but pointed out that his support might be ineffective as his status might be an impediment. He e-mailed the office immediately, and copied me the reply – an apology but an insistence of 'receiving information in the office some time ago' about his reported demise.

Anyway, that's about it for this week. Work which I didn't manage to tackle this last week is piling up for this. One of the IDRPG members is planning to spend some of his leave with us, and Andrew is muttering about him stripping the Wickham down. We'll have to see. It's now 11pm and the road outside is covered in snow. Given that a half-inch here translates to 3ft over at Buxton I'm glad not to be going to Tunstead tomorrow. I wonder if I could hide under the duvet until spring?

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