Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of coal and corrosion

21st August 2011

I was back at Rowsley for Andrew on Tuesday, to meet with two gentlemen from a company who repair traction motors and generators and for whom we had brought the Brush over to the shed late last Sunday. With the aid of the Drewry, and Gary Hibbs who was conveniently available to act as shunter (thanks!) I put the loco over the inspection pit. Regular readers may recall that just over a year ago we had Bowers in to look at the motor, but they never confirmed their price and as Andrew is now considering making a “serious start” early next year it was time to plan ahead.

Now, I don’t know quite what these guys expected. I am sure I had told them that the “lumps” were still in the loco, that it had been on fire, and surely they didn’t think that it would be clean and tidy did they? Yet they stood there in their crisp white shirts and pinstripe trousers while I was attired in grubby hi-vi (grime-vi?) overalls and boots. Finally one drew the short straw, put on a orange jacket and prepared to climb under the loco with me. I took pity on his (balding) head and lent him a bump-hat. There is nothing worse than coming out from under a loco with your thinning hair caked in muddy grease – I’ve done it so many times.

We were expecting news from my Father on Friday night – his cancer has recurred – but was unable to get an answer and when finally the phone was picked up on Saturday morning it was by my sister: whom the neighbours had phoned at 1 am and who had charged down to take command. At one point it looked like we might be following, and our plan of heading over to Scunthorpe was shelved, but by lunchtime it was apparent that everything was now under control – though not medically – and Andrew and I headed back over to Rowsley to make something of the day. [Lest that sounds a trifle uncaring, I have made the 240 mile trek twice in the last 3 weeks and will be going again on Tuesday.] First task was to extract the brake column from the Drewry – such is its construction that I suspect it was assembled to the loco before the top of the cab was fitted. To extract the rest of the damaged shaft required the heavy cast column to be unbolted from chassis and cab back, after removing some of the floor planks. Andrew is now resigned to re-flooring the cab – probably not before time – but it got us the part out so that Peak Rail’s Paul Wainwright can crack on with a replacement Acme thread.

Planks away, column on the left

We had a conference too about the train brake control. The Drewry was fitted with train air by my company (YEC) back in the 1990s in order to shunt nuclear flask wagons at Devonport, and I used my patented system which used a control valve mechanically linked to the straight air brake linkage but with a by-pass control to enable the train brake to be released while the loco brake is held on. The Drewry is now technically dual-fitted, i.e. the newly installed vac is slaved off the train air, but the by-pass is not so convenient when operating with passenger stock so the two systems are to be divorced, and new cross linkage installed with a proportional valve or similar reconnecting them pneumatically. That sounds simple but the Drewry’s cab front is a mass of cross linkages handles and pipes so deciding where to mount the dummy handle (leaving the existing valve as the master) took a while to determine – well, no it didn’t really, there was only one place it could possibly fit.

With the site now pretty quiet we took the opportunity to re-arrange the locos on “Andrew’s siding”, getting the Brush to the back and the Drewry at the front, then brought “Libby” over to the shed, where it neatly filled the space vacated by “Pluto”. Again, regular readers may recall that around about July last year we refitted the radiator (itself having been away from the loco over 12 months) and had had little time to do anything since. Andrew is now determined to crack on and get it into full running condition, and complete the work which has actually been quite extensive (and read expensive). When he bought it ten years ago it had no engine or converter and careless removal had caused considerable damage to the casings. So far we have installed an overhauled Cummins 855 and converter (a/v mounted rather than rigid as Yorkshire originally did it), new exhaust and air inlet systems, all new electrics and everything up to getting it operational bar the planned throttle control. But the radiator started leaking badly and other projects got in front, notably 14 901. “Libby” for a while was housed by RMS Locotec and we would work on it at weekends – recalling one infamous day when as we left the works (in Wakefield), the Land Rover jammed in second gear and we plodded slowly back to Sheffield – all 22 miles. We were not popular on the M1 that evening.

Libby as we begin

Sunday: Having checked that all was as well as could be expected, we headed back over to Rowsley. Andrew disappeared in the direction of D9500 to continue stripping bits off, leaving me with “Libby”. Having unsheeted and taken stock, some of the Calverton Colliery customised fittings were removed from the hand rails. If there is one thing that characterises an industrial loco, it is the way in which it gets ‘modified’ with both properly (if unsophisticatedly ) made additions and sheer bloody-mindedness. You can see marks around handrails, buffer beams and side skirts where some moron driver has decreed that the loco will clear that rake of wagons even though the physics of the situation are clearly in disagreement.

Headstock and buffer beam

You can see too how Yorkshire built a loco frame with a headstock and then added the buffer beam as a bolt-on to achieve the desired adhesive weight. Sooner or later (and I suspect sooner) we will be drilling through that to install a train pipe. Yorkshire had a distinctive Simms headlight sat in a large steel bowl set into the top of the handrails – the lamp is the same as that used in the Hudswells and other contemporary locos, but the housing is unique, and prone to rusting through if not water-tight. Andrew has been told that a standard BR high intensity (=halogen) headlight fits in place of the Simms, so they are to be refurbished. The front Simms had disappeared anyway and an equally obsolete Butlers one substituted by the NCB, leaving the bowl to suffer the combined effects of Nottinghamshire coal and rain.

The lesser of the two rotted slots

It is coal again that has caused our next problems. Although the cab sheets are 1/4″ thick, coal dust has got below the cab floor and rotted through the cab sheets at both sides. It also ruined the bottom sliding door runners, the desk bottom around the gearbox and the crew cupboard in the back corner, and this is so rotten, and obstructing the bigger hole through the cab sheet at that side, that it will have to come out. I was going to cut it out with the grinder, but on reflection, concluded that gas would be more practical.

A soon to be "ex-cupboard"

By now I was for winding down a bit, so got out the jot-book and started measuring up for bits that will need to be made shortly. Andrew has decided that it is time we changed the converter cooler from the shell-type on the Cummins to an air-blast for which I (hopefully) left enough space when I positioned the radiator. I measured it up and although we have a spare cooler recovered from a loco I supplied in YEC days, I have a nagging feeling it won’t quite go. Then there was the compressor input which needs a special fitting so that it can draw filtered air, the alternator which was left tensioned with a block of wood… yep, time to boot the CAD up again.


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