Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of a weekend that seems to have lasted all week

3rd April 2011

There is an old adage that says “a job takes the time available to do it in”. It can be all too true. I was back at Rowsley anyway on Monday, and Steph followed me over later to resume work in 14 901’s cab, this time rubbing down and giving the old grey steelwork a coat of Magnolia. When I had finished I joined her, and when Andrew had got home from work and changed he came over and we all three carried on until nearly dark, Andrew taking over on Magnolia detail while I was handed the masking tape and after Steph and I had masked off the desk top, I painted it with a fresh layer of Hammerite.

Cleared of all clutter and freshly painted, the desk looks acceptable...

.. the pedals are ready.

On Tuesday I dutifully collected the valve that would form the vital part of the deadmans system.

On Wednesday I was elsewhere, but on Thursday I arrived at Rowsley with a customer, and when he had gone, got changed and continued this time with the black paint on the lower desk parts and various other bits of metalwork around the cab. I could not start this immediately though, as 14 901 was in use shunting things around the shed to make-way for the arrival of Hunslet Austerity “Lord Phil”, but got finished about 8pm.

Rob Sanders in charge on 14 901’s last duties at Rowsley.

By 09.00 Friday morning I was back again,with a list of miscellaneous tasks I had hoped to get through before Allelys arrived (not John Antell after all) and was part way through when on glancing out, saw the flashing orange lights of the Allelys tractor unit lining up over at the main gates. I cleared away, started 14 901 up, and drove it over to them. Loading was uneventful, but departure somewhat delayed by the need to wait for an escort vehicle, so it was not until 12.15 that 14 901 joined the A6 north to Bakewell, thence back to Baslow and Chesterfield.

Setting off on the journey back to South Wales

When Andrew arrived home he started looking for a hotel at a reasonable price for the night, but I was still converting several pages of scribble into Ladder diagram for the PLC and after some heated discussion we came to the conclusion that a very early start Saturday made more sense. In the event, I didn’t finish all the software until 9pm, too late to set off anyway but a little late not to have made a mistake or two…

Saturday, 05.00, and Briddons Senior and Junior are on the road. It turns out to be 260 miles from Sheffield to Bronwydd (via Heads of the Valleys) and although we were apprehensive coming down towards Neath in rain and low cloud, by Carmarthen it was bright skies and sunshine. We arrived at Bronwydd Arms at 09.15, but Allelys had been there since 08.00, and 14 901 was literally rolling down the ramp as we drove in. Allelys had overnighted at a lay-by off the M4 near Port Talbot, and at least one DBS crew had arrived at Margam expressing the hope that this was their new yard pilot, in a ‘proper’ livery (their 08 is down with suspect engine bearings and they are using a 66 for shunting…)

First taste of Gwili rails

Anyway, after getting all necessary clearances, we took 14 901 up to the loco sidings, making way for an 0-6-0ST to be loaded on its way to Cynheidre. I knew exactly where Cynheidre was, but Bob-the-driver (whose command of Welsh place names is on a par with mine of China) did not seem to believe me and in the end, a member who had been filming it all agreed to act as guide..

The departing 0-6-0ST for Cynheidre had a tin roof that made it look like a cross with a Dutch barn...

Andrew and I meanwhile, got on with the last few jobs. I finished wiring the Deadmans ep pilot valve, while Andrew broke into the train air pipe feed and inserted the long-awaited valve and plumbed in the pilot. He then installed a snubber into the gauge line on the Broomwade compressor, and with my little laptop I loaded my new software to the PLC. All seemed ready for a “clearance test run”, so I started back up and did some static deadmans tests and with all seemingly OK I started to move the loco back to the loop area. Thirty seconds later the deadmans vigilance sounded which was a surprise and even more of a problem when it refused to cancel and brought the loco to a stand. In the course of a simple shunting movement the ruddy thing went off 5 more times, and I admit I was getting more than a bit rattled – clearly in rushing the previous evening I had got the vigilance timing period wrong and missed out the line that reset the timer by releasing and re-applying the pedal! Re-boot laptop, make the necessary corrections, and at last we are good to go.

Andrew and I celebrate arrival at Llwyfan Cerrig

And at Danycoed having checked all clearances.

The Gwili gives one the impression that it was laid out by a child with a box of Peco Set-track or Triang System 4. There are no generous transitions – the line climbs as soon as you leave the loop (actually that’s not true, the whole station is on a grade, it just gets a whole lot worse after the loop turnout) and after a few straight pieces a few left hand curves were put in taking the line through about 90 degrees. A straight or two and the line curves a bit back right, past the temporary Thomas Event platform, then another curve and a long straight, which, I was told was the only “original” track, having not been removed on closure, but installed by the GWR in the 1930s as an experimental length of bullhead with steel sleepers. Pretty much at the end of this is a sharp right, another short straight and then a left hand which seems to turn almost through 180 degrees, under a road bridge, immediately across a girder bridge and over the turnouts into Llwyfan Cerrig Station. We paused here: I was under some vague impression that this was the end of the line, but no, off we go again, right alongside the river we just crossed, with a couple of derelict carriage bogies on the riverbank as a reminder not to exceed the speed limit, right, left, right left and into to Dan-y-Coed station, which is the end. 14 901 went to the very farthest reaches of the headshunt and back through the loop (to prove it could) then returned to Lwyfan Cerrig, a change of personnel and back to Bronwydd Arms to try again with two coaches.

With train at Llwyfan Cerrig

Duane returns to the cab after coupling (I hadn't reversed the 'box so my tail lights are still on)

With Duane as pilotman and Rob as Guard, we set off again, but Andrew stayed behind to help on a shunt leaving me with the stern admonition “Don’t break it” after we had coupled up and performed not one but 3 or 4 vac tests – with gradients like Gwili’s it pays to know that every brake block will do its duty. Again the pause at Llwyfan Cerrig, although I had made an unscheduled stop in section after I thought I saw smoke coming out from a casing door, but the verdict was that 14 901 ‘didn’t seem to notice’ a mere 2 carriages and we went on to Dan-y-Coed and ran round properly. Coming back down was a matter of setting off and giving the train a squirt of vacuum whenever the speed began to rise too much. With the train back at Bronwydd Arms, the locos were sorted out into order ready for the next days passengers (steam hauled by the resident Austerity 0-6-0ST) and after a final check over, we made our tearful goodbyes to 14 901.

Evening at Bronwydd

We drove back to Carmarthen, paralleling the new extension that is more than half-laid and will result in a new, grand terminus at Abergwili Junction (as was). Though I cannot comment on the gradients, it seems it will be of distinctly different character to Bronwydd and northwards as it is predominantly straight – no violent lefts and rights to contend with. It was 270 miles back via the M4 past Cardiff, and a stop at Raglan for something to eat saw us rolling home at about 10.30pm.

Sunday: After Saturday’s exertions it was a slow start. Not having 14 901 awaiting our attention is strange, but we returned to “Pluto”, and armed with specially made pipe clamps, trialled again the main vac pipe, removed the obsolete and unreliable battery isolation switch, measured up for more pipe and fittings. A social call from Bryan Lawson of Alan Keef Ltd was welcome late in the afternoon, but a heavy shower was not.  By 17.45, we were packed up and returning home.

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