Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of ramp at the ready

10th September 2017

14901 is still on holiday in Old Oak. It was supposed to be collected on Wednesday, but early on in the week it was apparent that Reids would have to reschedule so what was the last exhibit to arrive at the Open Day looks like being the last to depart.

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Everything was pretty well ready for Tuesday, when Tarmac were sending in the crane and the lorry to collect RS8's frame. I was there from ten past eight, drawing the train back to clear the access and parking James out the way and into a position I thought might make a good vantage point for photography. And then I waited. It turned out that Tarmac had rescheduled things with a job to be carried out first at Hindlow, but they had forgotten to let me know! So instead of half-eight to nine a.m. start, it turned out to be 11am, and as the first train left Rowsley at much the same time, gave me another little issue to watch out for – all craning and other movement stopped while trains passed by.

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That said, it all went together quite easily, though RS8 was to say the least a 'snug' fit on the lorry. My plan had been to have been on the road by 11-ish, so by the time I'd locked up, had lunch and got started it was 2pm. My first stop was Burscough Bridge where I had acquired a large oil cooler for 0.99p on e-bay. Quite how large I could only guess from the picture of it on a pallet. And I went in with some trepidation after ruffling feathers at that compressor company a few weeks ago: but they couldn't have been friendlier, and apart from politely declining to give a penny change (I hadn't expected it) and a few ribald comments of it being worth more as scrap (hec, the pallet it was on was worth more) I came away with a large oil cooler, fan assembly and hydraulic motor which I guess new would amount to around £2000. The cooler matrix should be good for a transmission cooler, the rest, who knows. Andrew had taken advantage of where I would be to acquire some new slings from a seller in Ashton-in-Makerfield , who merely messaged a postcode and house number. Most sellers give you a full address and a contact number. A house number and postcode ought to be sufficient to find, but it helps if they are correct! The postcode took me to a cul-de-sac with a dozen bungalows clustered around – his house number? Yeah 13.

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Trouble was, although you can reasonably expect people to get their house number correct, a dodgy postcode could take you miles away – what if it was WN14 not WN4? Andrew messaged the seller from his smart phone while I waited, then wandered off to relieved the boredom and my bladder. Eventually a road name came back: I'd been only a quarter mile away, it seems, so I returned and collected them (without a hint of an apology), missing all the Manchester area traffic not because I was passing early as I'd originally envisaged but because by then it was about 7 o'clock. Oh and on my way out, as I am in a rush to get to Burscough before end of business, what intervenes but the Engine Management System on the van – aaagh.

I've had a couple of messages during the week congratulating me on progress with RS8 and the arrival of the Wickham, including offering assistance on parts, etc from the Rail Trolley Trust. I think I've persuaded Andrew that the PH1 would be better suited to drive the hydraulics for his winch (etc) on the low-load trailer (nothing much to report there at the moment, save that Reg G [Tarmac's man on RS8] was talking last weekend with Stan, the seller of the trailer, and somehow the conversation turned to us. It's a small world in Derbyshire) while seeking something more appropriate for the Wickham.

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Saturday came around, and it was back to the shed to be joined by Toby K, back after several months away which coincided with his becoming a Dad for the second time. The plan, in essence, was to get the two halves of the ramp assembled, and together but with half the shed floor still occupied with pallets-full of parts awaiting housing, plus sundry other stuff, moving the 6 metre beams of the ramp, now nowhere near as well balanced due to feet bolted to them, would have been downright dangerous.

So a grand tidy-up was called for, well at least in part. But first task though, having assembled the gear mechanism for the engine turnover stand on Friday night, was to lift the frame itself over and assemble it. Apart from a Woodruff key to fit the handwheel, and a couple of last support bearings at the other end, it is now complete, but there ought to be a cover over the gearwheel. This we think, went up for shotblasting but has maybe found its way to Tunstead. The ones back in my days at Thomas Hills also had a drip tray, which might be a good idea for the future.

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While Andrew and Toby continued tidying, I returned to a task I had started Friday night. For while there are no large piles of insulation left, there were several rigid sheets and a large cavity next to one door that required filling. The sheets were duly cut into handle-able pieces, forced into place and then several battens of glass-fibre insulation squeezed in on top. That leaves but one last roll of loft insulation in stock to be apportioned to a few places where what he have put in could usefully augmented by a little more, and another job is ticked off.

The removal of the engine turnover frame had freed up the Wickham-ish (ex Buxton) trolley, so RS8's gearbox was put on, ready for washing down, and everything squeezed up so that the VBA could be shunted in. Years ago, the VBA was envisaged as our mobile workshop at Rowsley, so we kitted it out with workbench (with vice and bench drill), racking and even a 240-110 transformer. All that is changed and Andrew wants two of the racking units transferred to the container but for today he planned to manhandle one, for which he had made space. The south end door on the VBA is particularly awkward – the MoD withdrew it I suspect after accident damage which is obvious here – so we don't use that door much. It requires a combination of pry-bars to lift and propel the sliding door which otherwise won't. The first racking was emptied, lifted out and repositioned in the container, and promptly refilled, clearing about 3 pallets-worth out of the shed itself.

Two of these pallets were then utilised to collect together some of RS8's larger bits, and with sufficient floor area now freed to enable the forklift an increasing amount of manoeuvring space. The track in front of Pluto was emptied and Thelma and Louise brought over.

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(Now do keep up, Thelma and Louise are our two Conflats, linked by Tightlock couplers so go around as a pair. Thelma has the bogie frames from the PCV on but Louise has the lower ramp section.)

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The lower section was duly lifted off and laid out at the shed entrance, and between us the main beams and cross members to make the upper section brought across and bolted together. Once he was satisfied, the two lengths of 40mm square steel were laid out on top, and Andrew commenced stitch welding the first 'rail'. By now it was 5pm and Toby had to leave, but I made up a quick track gauge from a piece of point rodding and the second rail was laid to it. That left the two halves to join together, and although something better is planned for later, for now the two sections were dragged closer, and the lower section gas-cut to fit over the end of the new section. There's a bit of a step which will need ironing out when it's done properly.

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We had said we'd be back at the Briddon Country Pile for 8pm, but after all this it was after 7 and we still had to re-load Louise, park them back, put the locos back under cover, the VBA back out, clean and lock up. Even loading Louise was a logistical effort as the forklift had to be positioned, the lower ramp lifted and the wagon propelled underneath to be loaded. As I was driving both the forklift and Charlie, it wasn't a quick process. But the new ramp section is taller and needed to be lifted over the first, and turned out to be almost at maximum height on the forklift. But we did it, put timber blocks for them to stand on (they overhang Louise and a quick break discussion had us agreeing that their long term home might be on the German flat) and strapped them down with a couple of lorry straps that Phil G had donated last week.

Charlie took the wagons away and I walked back to fire up James to complete the shunt. I guess it was around 8pm by now but what we didn't need was the VBA van door to refuse to shut. Even two of us alternately pushing, pulling and crowbarring made no apparent impression. In the end, James shunted the two locos back into the shed, returned to the VBA and with the aid of a strop and handsignals from Andrew, the door surrendered to 30tons of Yorkshire. The VBA was repositioned, the shed locked, we washed up and headed back home only 40 minutes after dinner had been put out.

Ben R was staying with us overnight as he and Andrew were heading off to the Quorn swapmeet first thing, though getting Andrew up at such a time (on a weekend too) can be problematic. Anyway, I drove down to the shed just after ten, since Toby was due and had arrived about that time on Saturday. Unbeknownst to me, Charles was there too and had been waiting for a while. I put the kettle on and showed them yesterday's manufacturing task, partly to check that it was still safe and secure.

The wheelsets and gearbox for RS8 are wanted at Tunstead soon, so James pulled the VBA and the Wickham railcar out of the way and a procession was made across to the other track, the most convenient place to set up the pressure washer. The Wickham was pushed back in the shed.

I got chatting to an enthusiast who was leaning over the fence and eventually invited him round for a cuppa. He was a PRA member he told me, disenchanted with the scarcity of magazines for his subscription and demoralised by the lack of progress on the railway on all fronts. I endeavoured to fill him on what was happening and encouraged him to renew. Charles meanwhile, was quietly applying varnish to the paintwork of 1382.

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Both Toby and I took a turn with the pressure washer, me liberally sloshing Traffic Film Remover over the parts first with mixed results. In some places it all came away cleanly – in others it was caked so hard we had to attack it with scrapers. I really must make time to get the steam cleaner back into operation.

Speaking of which, the plan has always been to make a permanent water connection from the sink down to the south end of the shed – Andrew wants an external tap (he would) to which we can then connect either pressure washer or steam cleaner. The pipework for this has been ordered for delivery this week, as has the pipework for the air-pressure main that is planned to run along the east wall. This is because he has received the necessary repair kits for the Hydrovane sat in the corner. As the control panel for this has received some superficial damage I spent a little time this afternoon hunting out a replacement Stop/Start button combination.

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Andrew arrived at the shed a bit after 3pm, having gone on from the swapmeet to the Electric Railway Museum at Coventry. I was relieved that he had not returned with a commitment to squeeze an e.m.u. in somewhere! But he was suffering from back-ache, put down to his Herculean welding efforts yesterday and so it was a relatively early finish. The wheelsets and gearbox for RS8 are back inside and other rolling stock back in their regular places. That oil cooler is still in my van, but I shouldn't need that tomorrow unless Andrew's back gets any worse, as first thing we are off to the edge of Wales and to collect the Hunguard which will be first to test the ramp. 14 901 is scheduled to return to Colne Valley tomorrow – not for a year that 2 or 3 of Andrew's locos have been on the move at the same time – just over twelve months since 03 901 and Tom returned from Scunthorpe. Pictures, pictures, pictures. Pop back and see.

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