Elsewhere - www.andrewbriddonlocos.co.uk - you can see the "official" face of the locomotive collection my son has built up. Here on "Weekend Rails" you can read a blow-by-blow account of our work in restoring and improving them.
Firstly, my apologies if you have had difficulties getting on to Weekend Rails this week. As I write this, people are telling me that they are getting server error messages. Now I “check” WR (and Andrew Briddon Locos) every day, a legacy of the trouble that has been caused by past hacking attempts (as a matter of interest, there have been over 500 spurious attempts to “log-in” to my side of WR this month) but I do so by means of the monitoring package which has been unaffected, so remained unaware. Hopefully it will not take long to fix.
This week seems to have been directed very much at “the shed”. On the one hand I have not quite kept up with an average of grouting one column per day – the weather has not been kind and some of our foundations, being 300mm below surrounding ground level, do not drain readily after rain. But anyway, on Tuesday I headed over to the planned cladding supplier to go through the specification and requirements for the roof.
Those of you who are regular readers will have twigged that my titles usually correlate in some manner with the text. Indeed, usually when I sit down to write this, the first bit I commit is “Of ?” and I return when I have got to the end and work out what common theme(s) have escaped from my musings to become proper prose. So, you might have wondered, why did the word “jacks” come in to the title last week when there was nothing much about jacks in the text. Ah. Well, there was, and then Andrew observed that I committed something of a faut paux, and it was much easier just to delete the entire bit and so I did, but clean forgot the tweak the title.
So, what of the shed floor? Well, the e-mail arrived on Monday complete with a re-statement of the reasons why, but not really answering the questions I'd raised – a sort of “We are the experts, don't question our motives”. But their response might have been more effective if they'd remembered to attach the drawing itself. I got that on Tuesday, and despite having sent them a CAD drawing showing (a) the stools that we'd made after they'd insisted on lowering the foundations to 300mm below ground level and (b) exactly where the internal concrete panels had been located, they insisted that these points had no relevance to their drawings. Insofar as the purpose of the floor slab is to weigh down the foundations and ensure that our overhead crane, tearing up and down the building all day and twice as fast on Sundays, doesn't cause the whole caboodle to shake or waltz down to the river that may be true, but it is a bit galling to have them insist that their sectional drawings are “correct” when they cannot be true to what has actually been built.
At 08.30 Monday morning an e-mail polarised in my Inbox containing Revision C of the plans for the shed floor. My revised spec to the Structural engineers, which had included a large amount of “as built” information on CAD, had limited that area where the Mattersons are to be used effectively down to one quarter of the building. Thus while this retained the “nuclear shelter” concrete thickness, the remainder of the floor could be reduced to “normal” standards.
Work resumed at Darley Dale on Monday with the gable ends, side purlins and various concrete panels still to complete. A framework for the personnel door at the side was duly incorporated, but a framework for the other door, which goes at the far end between the planned roller shutters, is not yet ready leaving that end of the building strangely skeletal.
Right, make yourself a cup of tea, or pour a beer, because this might take some time. And for once, when sometimes I feel guilty that there is only one, or even none, in the way of photographs, this week there is lots to report and lots of pictures to show it with.
I headed back down to Rowsley on Monday afternoon and even as I got there, Chris the haulier was there with several lengths of nice long I beam which will make the final stanchions for the shed ends. We unloaded the pieces alongside the shed and off he went. When Andrew got home from work, he headed on down and we dragged the welder half out of the large workshop doors by which means the cables just reached the beams, and he could weld on the base plates. This was an entertaining practice, trying to line the plates up and get them somewhere about square (we fall back on the plus or minus 10mm tolerance of structural steel!) and in the near dark.
So, there we were on Monday having a quick meeting with the contractor and reviewing progress to date. We are all agreed that the floor design wants modifying, and that none of us can work out exactly how we are supposed (in reality) to get the DPM to go the way the drawings show it, so I have gone back to the Structural Engineers with fresh drawings and asked them to come up with an alternative scheme. Meanwhile I was sorting out the personnel doors, and the concrete panels that will form the inside walls of the building up to head height. We had agreed with the contractor that work would commence on the steelwork on the 17th February, and I planned deliveries accordingly.
With many years of building and re-building locos behind me, I have come to understand it from the clients' viewpoint when they visit to view progress. The customer is anxious to see his loco assembled as quickly as possible and arrive on his network. Progress therefore, is perceived in large lumps. Because he is not very every day, he forgets exactly which tooters and squeakers were fitted when he arrived last time. He will remember the large pieces – the engine that is now installed but wasn't there before, the cab that now has its control desk fitted, and so on – but the little bits he cannot remember and does not see them as progress.
So at 07.55 Monday morning I was driving down to Darley for an 08.00 start when my mobile rang. Not having the hands-free on and not recognising the number I ignored it, and called it back on arrival. It was my contractor to say that there was a problem with plant transport and start would be delayed. My first thought was to head back home, but then I remembered the portable loo was due between 08.30 and 09.00, so I decided to soak up the solace of Darley Dale from the inside of my nice warm Portakabin. At 09.05 I tried to ring the portable-loo-man without success. At 09.15 I headed back home (to find his landline number) and as soon as I walked in the door, my phone rang. It was the portable loo man to say he was outside the gates.
First thing on Monday morning I had a call from a dealer in Portakabins. To be fair, I had been in touch with one of our hauliers whom I knew did a lot of Portakabin moves. He rang them and put a word in and they rang me, so Monday afternoon I was off to Doncaster in the van to inspect and do a deal.
And so, Weekend Rails breaks into another year. Yet before I quite say bye-bye to 2013, there were two days this week when Andrew was off work and I was apparently available. So on Monday it was back into Rowsley – I had some work to do on a customer's loco but we brought Ashdown in to the shed (having drawn Austerity “Lord Phil" outside for a while) so that we could reach it with the MIG welder, and having removed the new sliding windows, Andrew cracked on with welding in the radius'd corner pieces and filling the holes for the old bolt holes from the original wooden droplight frame. For comparison sake, you may decide for yourself which looks better- (the welded bits had been hurriedly primed and sprayed back to prevent rusting).