Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of plans and Planets

13th February 2011

There is a view that a blog is nothing more than a diary that exists on the ‘web, but there is one important difference. You can pour your heart out on paper, insult anyone you choose, outline your aspirations, all in the knowledge that only you – and perhaps your spouse – are ever likely to read it in your lifetime. The blog is a different matter, and there have been “things going on” which I could not report until all parties had agreed. Too soon would have screwed it all up.

But earlier in the week Andrew had booked me for a day running round with him as he consigned some metalliferous junk to C F Booth’s and oversaw the loading of parts belonging to a friend for despatch to Norfolk. The day went smoothly, if taking a little longer than expected, and Andrew came away a few £s richer.

Meanwhile the go-ahead for moving “Pluto” was given and Heanors lined up to collect it on Friday. As “Pluto” has not cropped up in this blog before, a word of explanation. “Pluto” is a Planet, one of 3 built for Royal Navy, Rosyth in 1955-6. Like all Navy Planets it has the Foden FD6 two-stroke, delivering 105bhp from an engine half the size of most diesels of the period, by having power strokes on every downward thrust. As it had an aluminium alloy crankcase, the Navy had adopted it as a standard for vessels needing a low magnetic signature, like minesweepers, and hence it got used as appropriate power for other applications. Hibberds must have regarded it as a pest when they first came to use it – the FD6 ran at 1800rpm, rather than 1200 of the Dormans and the SCG change speed gearing that Planet used normally, so required a 1.5:1 step-down box between the engine and transmission. Being lighter, the locos had to have a distinctive tapered ballast weight to achieve the required 22tons mass, but the design sold to all the main Navy docks and ammunition dumps. “Pluto’s” life at Rosyth came to an abrupt end about 1990 when it collided with a rake of wagons, and the MoD duly disposed of it, while hurriedly train-air fitting the other two. When it came up on tender (1992), I was assured by a friend that this was air braked, so I aquired it for my company as a works shunter as it was a design that had always appealed to me. But he was wrong, it still had the original vacuum fit, which I removed and sold.

Come the day in 2001 when I was forced to liquidate the business, poor “Pluto” was stood, engine in bits, having returned in a deplorable state from a hire job in South Wales, but Andrew knew I liked it so bought it to add to his embryo collection. Shortly after a reconditioned FD6 was found in a scrap yard (although Foden no longer made them, manufacture was taken on by Rolls-Royce Motors at Crewe for many years after) and Pluto rejuvenated, heading to Chatham Historic Dockyard where it resided for two years before moving to the Colne Valley Railway.

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"Pluto" just after arriving at Rowsley

Of late, Andrew had become concerned at lack of progress on “James” at Derwent Valley and that “Pluto” too, had to be vac-fitted to be usable on most heritage lines. But the CVR is a good 3 hours away and would mean a whole weekend to get much effective on-site time, plus Andrew was aware that “James” on a half-mile long dead flat line at York was really too big, whereas the CVR had significant grades in its short length and “Pluto” was too small. So late last year the plan was hatched to swop the two, but staging them in to Peak Rail so we can get the vac-fit (or in “Pluto’s” case, vac-re-fit!) done, close at hand. With all three parties finally agree-able, Heanors were loading “Pluto” at 11.00 on Friday and we were to head over to Rowsley about 5pm to see it off. Heanors however made good time and as we drove over, the news came through that it had already arrived. I got there first, and moved it around to the loco shed.

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35 years and no lid on the TH-wiring box. Gonna need a new timer relay...

Saturday: Andrew had had to dash off to aid his girl friend with a domestic crisis, and asked me to head over to “Tom” at Telford to continue work there. Having completed a few minor matters and loaded the van, I was away by 10.30, and it was a wonderful day’s weather – sun-shining, birds singing, etc, etc,.”Tom”, like “James”, “Jack” and “Charlie”, were rewired by Thomas Hills in the mid 70s, so share a common electrical system for which I have all relevant drawings, so re-wiring the power unit is simple, as “Tom’s” wiring is growing brittle with age, and Andrew is anxious that I re-wire it again, complete with electronic gauges. But despite the weather I was having a rubbish time as everything I started ran into snags. From screwdrivers whose blade simply wouldn’t go into slots on “choc-block” connectors, through to odd-ball pipe threads, nothing went right, but I stuck it out and had at least fitted new gauges in the desk, and some work on the new engine mounts, by 17.30.

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…well, at least 4 new gauges got installed.

Sunday: Andrew was meeting us at Rowsley, so Steph and I travelled out together. What a contrast on the weather though, steady drizzle with a cold wind. “Charlie” was in action shunting the works train, and to my surprise Roger Hallat (dedicated steam man and joint MD) was driving – has the diesel-bug bit? “Pluto” was moved to the shed for Andrew to start working out where all the pipe runs were that I took out in 1992 (I can’t remember all the detail after this length of time) while I alternated between him and Steph, cutting new pieces for 14 901s cab trim. After lunch Steph headed home and Andrew and I had a conference. When I rejigged everything in 1992 we ended up with the battery master switch and electrical box occupying spaces needed again for the vac pipe to the desk and the air/vac proportional valve for applying the loco brake, so they must be relocated. In fact the battery switch has never been a particularly good one so first job was to make a new bracket to mount a s/h CAV one we just bought off e-bay. By mid afternoon the weather had turned to steady rain, we had a list of pipe lengths to cut, fittings required and ideas for where to put the exhauster, but damp overalls from running from shed to van or VBA, so packed up.

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Dignity and impudence? "Pluto" barely reaches the 14's casing top!


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