Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of clubs, air and cylinder heads

1st December 2013

Some twenty or so years ago, when we lived back in Sheffield, I was sufficiently interested in a meeting of the Matlock Railway Club to drive the 25 miles over one evening when they met at a pub somewhere (as I recall) up near the council offices. What the meeting was about, other than I think it was a slide show, I do not now remember, but it was clearly not of sufficient interest for me to repeat the exercise.

But in 2013, Steph thinks we should be taking more interest in the local community, and with a meeting billed as “NCB steam” and “unusual narrow gauge”, I thought I might dip my toes in the water again. The club now meets at a pub near Matlock Green. Not hard to find the pub, but had I not followed in someone carrying a copy of “Railway summat” magazine, I would not have seen any sign of the meeting at all. As it was, I was given directions to go up stairs but not so much as a “we meet here” sign for the uninitiated.

There were 30 or so in this meeting, all male, and almost all made me feel a youngster. I passed a £2 coin across to a guy with a large tin whom I judged to be the Treasurer and sat in the dark watching Ivo Peters movies of various colliery steamers, frequently featuring Teddy Boston who always cadged footplate rides. When this film finished the Chairman (if that is who he was) announced there would be a 10 minute break and half the room trudged back down to the bar, dutifully returning to hear the Chairman's introductory remarks (directed at the floor and with numerous 'ums' and 'errs') and off we went into an interesting vintage tour of narrow gauge around the UK, even if the commentary had some errors.

I counted at least 4 members in the dark who did a very passable imitation of having gone to sleep.

At precisely 9.59 the film stopped just as the Isle of Man bit began, the Chairman announcing 'that was it' as the room was only booked to ten pm. The members trooped back out to the bar. I hung around a minute or two to see if any of these officials cared to say “hullo, can we interest you in joining?” or even “haven't seen you before” (well they're hardly likely to recognise me after twenty years - I had a moustache in those days). But no-one did, I might as well have been invisible. The next meeting features a visit by Les Nixon, whom I would like to thank for the pictures he has got of Andrew's locos in Railway Magazine over the last couple of months, but the show will probably be of main line steam and it is not my cup of tea. I presume that the Matlock Railway Club is not interested in recruiting new members, or maybe I do not yet reach the age criteria. Perhaps I had better leave it another 20 years and try again.

On Tuesday Andrew had a day in lieu, and so we spent some time of it at Rowsley. After some minor dimensional checks on the shed steelwork, I started stripping out the front end drive in order to swap the temporary belts with a pair of new ones of the right length. Andrew meanwhile set too to manufacture a bracket to support the distributor that is being fitted to the Drewry, WD 72229. In the end though, I needed his help getting it all back together, as lining it all up - long bolts through the coupling, spacers and into a flange - is a tall order one one's own. The new belts of course are indeed the right length and the compressor drives well, but the unloader, which we reconnected when the second compressor was belted up first time, still refused to function and so the second compressor was unloading via the safety valve.

During the week the Structural Engineer promised faithfully that he'd get the work I was waiting for the shed finished for Friday, and sure enough I received an e-mail Friday afternoon, comprising twenty of so pages of concrete calcs so that we know that the floor will bear locomotives on rails and on the Matterson jacks, plus a .pdf drawing of the floor slab. What a pity that the drawing is all wrong, as somehow they've picked up on an early version where the foundations were 300mm below ground level. I drafted a slightly terse response back on Saturday, then spent some time on a new “master drawing” on my CAD system, with the knowledge now of where the fixing centres and steelwork bases ought to be. I am working on the assumption that my drawing should now be fairly accurate, in which case I can sort out the missing parts, doorways and such, and get the extra structural pieces sorted and the doors themselves ordered. We have had several conversations, Andrew and I, over whether we “project manage” this (and for “we”, assume “I”) or whether we hand it all over to another contractor to get the whole thing done. But really, when you get down to it, we have been carrying out a project management role ever since we engaged the Structural Engineers directly and might as well see it through.

Hence as I was waiting for Andrew to arrive back from Norfolk this morning, I was engaged in reading the “Code of practice for Hardware on Fire and Escape Doors in Commercial Buildings” - oh yes, a cracking read: not much of a plot but plenty of Towering Inferno drama.

Once he was here we ambled in to Rowsley. In order to get the Drewry near the welder, we needed to get it inside the shed and the kettle was in the way, as this is the one weekend respite between the “autumn” service and Santa trains. So we fired up Cheedale and drew the Austerity out of the shed. As I shunted over the first turnout, there was a terrific wooshing sound as though an air hose had blown off, and the main res pressure gauge started dropping. Andrew signalled me to stop and kill the engine, which I did, but we could find nothing amiss and anyway, barely had I stopped when it did too. We restarted and continued, and a minute or so later the same thing happened, but this time it started as main air reached 100psi and stopped as it fell to 82. Clearly, the unloader system had started working, but it seemed as though it was plumbed wrong, or the non-return wasn't functioning, as it was venting main air to atmosphere through a small bore elbow, rather than the excess compressor output. Still, as it wasn't harming the loco we continued on, and put the Drewry into the shed.

Now, the shed at Rowsley has taken a dramatic step forward. Until this week, there was lighting in the machine shop area but nothing over the tracks. Then some months ago the railway was gifted a quantity of light units from the car park of a supermarket somewhere, and this week a whole raft of them have been suspended from the roof beams and cabled up. Admittedly the feed arrangements are, for the moment, rather er-primitive but the novelty of actually being able to see as the afternoon wore on is quite remarkable, and from Andrew's point of view, opens up the possibility of further evening forays progressing Libby, etc..

Anyway, while he returned to drilling and lining up his bracket, I started on a measuring job on 14 901, to whit where to site the new fuel header tank. This however revealed that the handle on the one side casing door that must be used every time we start the loco (as it accesses the lube priming pump) has seized solid. So I opened the next one to it, and then, after idly poking my tape measure in various places, noticed that Dave T was at work on the narrow gauge tamper, so I wandered over to see how it was going.

This tamper was the one which I supplied to the WHR, and much later Andrew acquired it but sold it on to Dave. One of the hydraulic wheel motors was well and truly FUBAR'd and I got that repaired for him, but somehow recently a large quantity of water mysteriously found its way down the air intake. Loan of Terry's fibre-optic thingy showed considerable rust in one of the pots as a result, and the only sane option is to remove all the heads and clean the bores. Dave was struggling to get the first off, and as soon as I found myself helping, I had a phone call from Andrew demanding my whereabouts and shortly after he joined in and we got the first head off between us. This was an hour or so that had not been on our jobs list for the day, and eventually we prized ourselves away and back to the matters in hand. Andrew aided me by forcing the door catch to open, I aided him by assisting him trial fitting the distributor to his bracket and when it didn't work quite right, coming up with a viable alteration. Eventually I got back out to 14 901, made an effort to free up the catch, and then moved on to Ashdown. By the time I had marked out the new window aperture for the left hand side, it was getting dull and as Andrew was still hogging the transformer, drill and grinder it was obvious that nothing more could be done on it today. He had meanwhile modified the bracket mounting and finally welded it in to place, so our closing work for the afternoon was to spray the bracket and bolt the dizzy into position, before firing up Cheedale again to put things back.

When I got home this evening I dug out the original Thomas Hill pneumatic diagram we have for Cheedale, and of course it is perfectly obvious. The original Sherry compressor that Cheedale had fitted had a cylinder head unloading arrangement, same as the BroomWades and the compressor that now sits in pride of place on the coffee table. All we need to do is put in a pipe from the small elbow to the cylinder head connection and all should be well. Simples.

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