Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of auctions, values and vandalism

26th March 2017

As you know, we are apt to acquire things from auctions. Not just e-bay, but “traditional” auctions where the bidding may be on-line but more often in person. But years of watching BBC's Bargain Hunt has taught us to know what it is you are bidding for, what it is worth and not get carried away with the moment.

One of the regular auction houses we look out for in Sheffield had their monthly general sale this last week, and we have picked up many a bargain over the years. Sadly more often than not these are liquidation sales from firms that have closed, and indeed some lesser items from my own YEC went through their books many years ago.

Steph and I popped into Sheffield on Tuesday morning for a quick viewing, before I left Steph to attend the auction while I dropped in to a couple of suppliers, one to drop off some parts for powder coating and another to hand over a Hydralite jack for some TLC. Not long after Steph rang to say the lots we were mainly interested had gone for sums higher than I had indicated I was wiling to pay, so we called it a day and headed home empty-handed.

On Tuesday night, I think it was, Andrew and I headed in to the workshops and plodded on with the forklift. But this week was turning out not be our week and when we finally fired the engine back up, there was a slight 'pop' and hydraulic oil emerged from under the cover of the return filter assembly. After another attempt at getting it to seal we called it a night.

On Wednesday it was the viewing for the Heanor auction, and as Andrew was at work he wanted me to go and have a look at the lots he was interested in. And he was interested in lots of lots, having created a spread sheet which ran to 3 pages. It was raining first thing though, and I left it until lunchtime in the hope that it might improve.

I had never been to Heanor's yard whilst they were operating, which is a shame as it must have been quite impressive. Now however it was depressing, with all the tractors and trailers lined up with lot numbers on stickers. The long and wide workshop, which had some sort of rail track down the middle, had several hundred lots laid out on pallets, while many more, from containers and their contents through to piles of mysterious bracketry, were open and displayed outside. Despite the rain I dutifully did my duty and inspected/photographed everything – well almost – on his list, even through the latter got rather soggy as the afternoon wore on.

He had taken Thursday and Friday off so we headed back on Thursday together. The auction started with about 150 people in attendance, and began with all the smaller lots, like piles of half-a-dozen lorry-straps on pallets. And this immediately set the mood for the auction, with people making bids that we thought crazy. They were offering as much for s/h straps as they could have bought new through the likes of e-bay. Andrew had reckoned on spending several hundred pounds on lots he was interested in. Ironically, he managed to buy two lots, neither of which had been on his list, and together spent less than fifty on the hammer. If we'd taken the van we could have easily brought them back there and then, instead, we left a commission bid for something on Thursday, and hoped for better luck. What was I doing during all of this? Shivering with cold mostly: though it did give me the chance to watch others and file mental images. Like the auctioneer's favourite saying ' the more you spend, the more you'll like it' – tongue-in-cheek perhaps, and really the opposite would be more likely – if you realise you spent too much, will you enjoy being reminded every time you look on it? (And to be honest, looking back at the Durley Light Railway auction, where everything seemed to be being bought by someone acting for Statfold Barn and I came away with two or three lots that I hadn't been that interested in and everything I had been went way over what I thought they were worth, it was a definite feeling of deja vu.) But at least Andrew had the sense not to get into bidding wars and pay well over the odds.

Anyway, I was out Thursday night but Andrew returned to the forklift and only succeeded in leaking more oil.

On Friday he and Steph were off to collect grandson for his weekend stay, leaving me to monitor – on line – the progress of our commission bid. I rather wish I hadn't bothered. The bidding opened at twice our bid and finished at around 4 times. Our bid wasn't so far away from its value, based on other, similar items we had seen on offer from dealers. Andrew tried to be philosophical and asked me to try and bid on something on e-bay instead. Changing my plans I stayed on the computer and was pipped in the last 3 seconds. It has been something of a depressing week.

With grandson present Andrew was committed but as Team Frodingham were due, I got down to the shed Saturday morning at 9.15 and usually there'd be a car full mulling around waiting for me to open up. There wasn't, indeed, I was on my own for an hour, when the first carload arrived. One of them, I forget who, pointed out to me that the windows of the Peak Rail Conference room adjacent to our shed had been smashed. I had been too busy parking and getting the milk and such in to have spotted it, but having had it drawn to my attention, I went around the yard and sure enough, several cab doors were open, though luckily no glass was smashed. But then half-way up the yard was a discharged fire extinguisher and on examination it looked familiar. Last time I had seen it it had been on Charlie's cab floor, There had also been some bottles of spring water in the cab, left over from Fox, and these too were scattered around. I phoned Andrew and he sent an e-mail to Roger H, Peak Rail's other Joint MD. Later on the Darley Dale Station Master came over to get first hand info, and told me that the waiting shelter at Matlock (Riverside) had also been attacked.

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Team Frod, now up to 6 members and regaled with tea, asked if I could pull 1382 out of the shed as it was such a nice day, they wanted a photo of it for their website. I fired James up as it had not run for a couple of weeks, but then couldn't release Charlie's handbrake so had to fire it up too, to build the air up and free the linkage. Team Frod cleared out a few obstructions and out it came.

I found an enthusiast leaning over the fence. He had come, he said, just to see 14 901 having missed it by two weeks at Cheddleton, and as it is only partially visible from the footpath I invited him around and gave him the majority of a tour so he could see it fully.

Andrew had marked out a sealing ring in 3mm cork which he thought would do the trick with the forklift, and so I cut this before pondering what I could best spend my time on. I had need of a pallet for a one-way journey to Scotland (something Andrew sold via e-bay, occasionally traffic is two-way) and so set about making one lightweight pallet out of two very lightweight ones that came with the cladding material. That provided me with two pieces of wood that would serve to mount the fluorescents in the container, and while there were spare bodies around, I could take advantage of, I opted for that. But first, aided by Phil, we continued the good work from last week by putting in a couple of retaining boards on turnouts where ballast had been sliding down and getting into the hand lever mechanisms (there's a special name for these which escapes me at this moment).

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By mid afternoon I had the board mounted at the top of the container wall and a light assembly screwed to it. There had been plans for another further along but as there was a large amount of junk – important materials – stored in the way I decided to skip that for now. Instead, I laid out the cable back from the lamp I put up a few weeks ago, leaving a loop so that I can break into it at a later date if I wish, and cabled up the new lamp. Andrew popped in for an hour or two and trialled my newly-cut sealing ring, and it still leaked more oil, so abandoning the way it seems it was supposed to seal, I cut a full face gasket in cork and at last the oil stayed within the circuit. Encouraged, we extended the tilt rams, fixed their ends back on and reconnected the mast.

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As the afternoon drew to a close, 1382 was suitably admired and then shunted back in, and Team Frod adjourned to the Briddon Country Pile for their monthly general meeting.

Sunday, and after going around altering various clocks and trying to babysit grandson for a while, I headed down to the shed – alone – for another pleasant summery day of work. The new fluorescents will, according to Andrew, be plugged into an external 240V outlet on the outside of the shed which will be convenient, for example, to power the steam cleaner, but be switched from inside. As I have yet to plan this into the shed electricals, it follows that for the moment it will plug onto an extension cable when we need it, so I cabled up yesterday's addition back to the front of the container and terminated it in a plastic box to which I added a temporary piece of flex and a 13 amp plug. I duly plugged this in and switched on and – nothing. The obvious checks (plug fuses) proved that wasn't the problem and then it struck me that the two I'd put up were emergency type, with batteries to keep them lit when the power was off (one battery wasn't even plugged in) and needed an additional connection to get them to work 'normally'. So out came the tubes and off came the covers and an additional link was added, then all reassembled and voila, 3 out of 4 tubes fired up. That left the original 110V fluorescent at the far end of the container, which was due to be replaced with another twin tube and brought out, converted to LED and re-deployed in the shed over a workbench. I decided I would try and complete the whole task in the container and so dismounted this one and prepared to install a twin, only to discover this was longer and wouldn't fit in the same gap. After a bit of experimentation I made up a couple of brackets from materials under the bench, cabled it back to the middle lamp, found a wire that had dropped out inside which was why the 4th tube hadn't worked and finished the job.& Our container has always been something of a black hole, now it is bright and breezy and I might have a chance of finding things in there.

Andrew popped in late in the afternoon and resumed work on the forklift: the floor plates needed replacing but first a rod end on the pump linkage had died of old age and he manufactured a new operating rod out of a length of threaded bar and two rose bearings he found by the aid of my new lights in the container. Finally we got as far as lowering the forklift down onto the floor and moving it gently forward and backwards. We must clean up where it has been but at least it is operable once again, even though we meant to do an oil change on the engine and have postponed this for a little while.

So, not a lot of progress on the locomotive side - Charlie still needs its Fox coupler assembly removing, the 14, though operable, needs a few jobs on the electrics around the header tank and probably the fuel pump out for a clean up, the 03 has a few faults with the lights and such plus Andrew wanted to fix some air leaks and install the vac/air valve – we really must take advantage of these light nights and make some significant inroads. For one thing, Tarmac are back this week to take the restoration project for RS8 further, and there are some deadlines looming up. And next week's edition will take us into April. The year is whizzing by.

More in this category: « Of wheels and deals

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