Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of a Charlie striptease

20th December 2015

Welcome once again to this, the last entry in Weekend Rails before Christmas. I see even last year I was muttering about the Humbug of Christmas so I had better be all light-hearted and looking forward to the festive fracas. So imagine yourself stood outside the door of the Geoffrey Briddon building, a holly-wreath welded to the middle, whereupon it opens to reveal a cherubic father and son, smiling sweetly and wishing you all a Merry Christmas.

Now can we get back to normal?

Andrew is thoroughly enjoying his new job and has been off around the country once again, so there has been little time to do anything any evening, and our best intentions to make early starts on Saturday and Sunday have similarly not quite succeeded. Indeed, our original plan had been to make it over to Scunthorpe on Saturday, but as there was a possibility of Andrew being called out on a work-related matter, and I wasn't sure whether the re-machined adaptors for 03 901s propshaft were ready or not, we scrubbed the trip and instead concentrated our efforts at Darley Dale on Charlie.

As at last Sunday, with help from Team Frodingham, the casings were off Charlie and on the floor, but they were taking up rather a lot of space so our first task on Saturday was to fire up James, draw 14 901 out of the shed and move the casing parts across the bridge to the far side of the shed where they are clear of the work area. The 14 was then brought back in.

Charlie has a standard Thomas Hill arrangement whereby the fan is carried on a tubular extension piece bolted on the front of the water pump. This is cheaper and simpler than a separate fan mounted to the radiator, but as it is shrouded in the fan cowl and with a mesh to stop fingers getting in, the precise order of removing them is to release the tubular fan extension and lift the fan with the radiator. The extension on Charlie is not one of Hills' longest, that probably falls to the original MoD locos, (later repowered to Cummins at Crewe) where a R-R engine rep was supposed to have expressed concern at the weight of the tube and fan and its effect on the water pump bearings. 'Who approved this at Diesel Division?' he questioned. 'You did,' answered the Drawing Office engineer. 'Oh, well we wouldn't approve it now,' came the reply.

But of course, there has to be one little UNF bolt whose head proceeds to loose its corners rather than undo, so I had to cut through it with the slitting disc before the fan could be freed and the radiator lifted out. And later with the fan extricated our first sight of the matrix (the radiator, not the science fiction one) is that it is significantly clogged with what I can only describe as 'mud'. Indeed, the whole of Charlie's front end appears to be caked in oily dirt and our overalls, clean on Saturday are now ready to go back to the washing machine. But for Saturday we plodded on.

One of Hills' standard features was their wiring scheme. The same arrangement is to be found on Cheedale, and also James, Jack and Tom (as they were rewired by TH as they went through Kilnhurst in the same few years) and feature all the wiring coming back to a connection box mounted on the back of the converter, and this being fitted up on the shop floor prior to installation in the loco. On the likes of Cheedale, etc, it works quite well, but on Charlie, the back of the converter is somewhere under the instrument panel on the desk. In Sentinel days, the 'incoming' wiring to the connection box (that is, the wiring from the desk) was a plug and socket, but Hills' dropped this in favour of a simple conduit connection and hard-wire.

Imagine if you will, as I deal with most of the electrical issues, my task of getting to disconnect the wires at the connection box. It's too far away to reach from the access door at the front of the desk console, or the sides. There's nothing for it but to squeeze through under the cupboards, in a 'corridor' that is a bit narrower than across my shoulders, having first removed the batteries that normally live there. Oh, but I am not the first to get to it, indeed, I recognise a wire or two that I put in many years ago, probably when it was on hire at Ford Halewood, but someone before me dispensed with the inconvenience of a cover for the box, so all the connections are submerged in a layer of black, gooey mud.

The old flexible conduit is no longer pliable from age, and several bits are fractured. So I have made an executive decision, Charlie's power unit is to be rewired, and this time there'll be a connection box somewhere where I can get at it!

By Saturday evening we were almost ready to lift it out, but as our shed lighting is still rudimentary we decided to postpone until Sunday morning.

Our 'early start' on Sunday ended up as 11.00 am, in fact we only just arrived before two visitors Andrew had arranged to see from the Churnet Valley Railway. Having 'done the tour', loaded up a couple of redundant bits of ours that will suit one of theirs and had a close study of James (they have what is probably the oldest survivor of this YEC design) we made a start on lifting the power unit out.

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Last week, Andrew had removed all the nuts from the M20 bolts that hold the mounts to the loco base brackets, but several of the bolts stubbornly refused to be hammered (upwards from underneath) to free the power unit with mounts still on. In the end I decided to strip the mounting assemblies apart piecemeal, but even then one of these cross-bolts turned its corners at one side whilst the nut at the other was seized firmly on. We brought the gas out to sort it.

Since the forklift has no side-shift, and the converter is under the cab, a straightforward lift is not feasible, and so, after finally overcoming all bits that stuck, we left the power unit hanging on the forklift's hook and barred the loco backwards until the converter was out. After that it was up and swung out onto the floor by the 14. It is sobering to think that it is barely 13months since the forklift arrived at Darley, and now the place couldn't function without it. We will of course, have a more capable overhead crane, hopefully next year, but for the moment, it remains an essential tool.

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With the power unit safely parked, we removed the old engine mount assemblies and the electrical conduits, the pipes that feed the converter (and drained the converter itself) and took the decision to remove the converter from the engine. For one thing, where the clutch shaft passes through the bell housing it was worn like I've never seen before (although so far as we can see through the inspection covers, the fork has not suffered) but there are signs that the inner shaft seal has started to weep, so maybe it's time it had a reseal while we can. While I was kneeling on the floor undoing the ring of bolts that hold the converter to the flywheel housing, I kept getting a whiff of something that seemed a familiar odour. Eventually I placed it – propane. I remarked on it to Andrew, and a while later he smelt it too. It is strange because we do not have any propane, so it must have been travelling along the ground from somewhere nearby – maybe the Council yard or the builders merchants (whom I think are Calor gas agents). Not strong enough to consider phoning up the fire brigade, nor strong enough to be ignited by the firebox of a passing Austerity. But if we do wake up to find a big blackened whole somewhere to the side of us, we'll have a shrewd idea why.

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I said last week that the old engine mounts on Charlie were kn*****d. Having seen just how much weight has been borne by the bump stops, I consulted my Hills' drawing of the mounting arrangement and see that there should have been some 7mm clearance! So over the next few days I will prepare drawings for a fresh set of profiles to make up my standard mounting system, but what a pity that this Christmas thing is used as an excuse to close down and produce nothing for nearly ten days. I want those profiles now! Christmas? Humbug!

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