Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of Cummins and cancers

4th September 2011

With Andrew on hols, much of this weeks’ instalment revolves around his activities, for reasons which will also come clear.

On Tuesday, as he headed south to Wansford, I departed north to Batley to pick up the latest profiles from my supplier. These included the bracketry for the revamped train brake control for the Drewry, and bits for the alternator, rad filler, compressor intake on “Libby” plus a few bits for “Pluto”.

On the way back I stopped off to enquire after progress on “Tom’s” fuel pump, which has been away for a long time, but was assured it should be ready in a week or two. Andrew eventually returned with the crankshaft from D9500s Paxman in the back of the van. Sadly, when the loco was stripped for assessment in 1992 – repairs deemed to expensive by the then-owner – it was inadequately protected against moisture and twenty years later the crank is just half a ton of scrap metal. Scrap may be high in price at present, but it is a shame to weigh-in a half-ton of highly machined crank that would cost many thousands to make just because someone was too stingy to pay even for the loco to be boxed back up adequately.

At 5.45 Wednesday morning the phone rang. Steph knew exactly what it meant – I was rather slower on the up-take – and sure enough, my Father had died at about 05.20. I could not really concentrate on anything that day, and eventually Andrew left to head to Rowsley and take his mind off things by attacking “Libby” with a needle-gun. He returned with all the casing doors to go to shotblast. Steph and I headed south again on Thursday, after first I had run down to the shotblasters with him. He continued at Rowsley on Friday, completing most of the cab floor, both buffer beams, steps, etc., needle-gunned and primed, and finished by loading the welder into the van. But after we left on Thursday he had headed over to Scunthorpe, and with assistance from the Testing House fork lift, unloaded the Cummins 855 and Twin Disc transmission units that have been waiting patiently in the Palvan.

For we had had Saturday 3rd September planned for some time as the day to put the engine in to the 03 (D2128), and although a week before we had regretfully decided to postpone it in view of my Father’s health, he had been unable to reach the crane operator and so in the end, we agreed he would press ahead without me. This really could have been a daunting prospect. The procedure was to lift the engine from its cradle, remove the front mount and fit the fabricated new-one, lower it on to the loco, locate the front end and ensure the back end lined up, then if all was OK, lift it out, complete the welding of the rear mounts and then fit permanently. Second stage was then to lift the transmission unit, present it to the flywheel end, encourage it in to position and bolt up. With two of us, plus the operator, the risk of wind, rain, and unforeseen hiccough it was bad enough, but for Andrew alone it was quite another. Yet Andrew is made of stern stuff, and had confidence in his old man’s experience in re-powering locos. Besides, if we missed this date it would be weeks before it could be set up again and then the weather really would be unpredictable.

The a/v mounts are now in place

The first 03 to be Cummins-powered receives its new heart

The first problem he encountered was the new front mount fouled something on the timing case. Given that I have made this bracket for 4 or 5 other repowers, and the obstruction has hiding coyly behind the viscous damper, I think I may be forgiven this, and a few minutes with a grinder cured it and the engine swung in to place on the front mounts. But the back end – eh? Somehow, despite measuring and re-measuring, the bolt holes at the rear were 40mm too far apart. I know how this might have happened – the drawing specifies a dimension from the back face of the pad, but someone has probably drilled measuring from the front face of a 20mm thick pad. Andrew rang to harangue me in the middle of a family conference discussing funeral arrangements. He could see for himself however that the simple expedient was to extend the holes with gas. Not ideal, but once he has finished his forthcoming welding course, no doubt he can fill the slots and no-one will be any the wiser – except maybe me for not checking the machinist’s work!

..a bit of filler and you'll never notice...

Engine in, and a nice height to work on.

With the engine in, it was time to lift in the transmission. In the end Andrew had to dispense with the lifting eye because it would not hold the unit level and the old “bucket” oil filter on the back of the 855 was in the way. But straps and a bar persuaded the unit into the flywheel drive ring, the bolts were done up and the first major stage of bringing D2128 back to running condition is complete.

The transmission now in place - this 03 is now a DH

All made possible by...

There are of course, a few minor pieces missing – cooler groups, inlet and exhaust systems, compressor and exhauster, wiring, batteries, piping, propshaft, charge pumps, fan drive, etc….. but with the AFRPS hinting at another Diesel Gala next year (the last was 2008 and WD 72229 visited to keep the Briddon head held high) we have – yet another – goal to aim for.

Sunday: I got back home at 22.00 Saturday with a car full of miscellaneous bric-a-brac to unload. So Sunday was to be a quiet day at Rowsley. This weekend was the Heritage Shunter Group’s “do”, rather lower key than 2010 when 14 901 took part, being just a brake-van shuttle from the loading bay to the HST restoration area where many of the locos were available for inspection. As one road of the yard was thus a “running road” for the day the points were clipped and the gates closed to prevent normal public access to the shed area – to see the HST locos you paid your dosh and rode the brake vans. This did not stop me, as I walked over to the Drewry, being hailed by an enthusiast on the other side of the fence who “just wanted a picture of 09 001″. I politely assured him that he could do so, simply by riding the brake van shuttle. Any charity I might have felt towards him being firmly expunged by the fact that the subject of his desire was one of those ghastly 08-things.

A collection of profiles...

Andrew was playing fabricator most of the day. The results of my trip on Tuesday – now seeming so long ago – being gradually assembled into highly salubrious brackets. We broke for an hour or so for a very constructive meeting with Jackie Statham, Peak Rail’s Joint MD, covering a wide range of issues from the arrival of a further wagon which has just been added to the collection to Andrew’s plans on refurbishing the Brush 0-6-0DE next year.

Thus it holds itself together ready for welding!

One of the joys of modern laser cut profiles compared to the rough flame cut affairs of 20 years ago is that you can be far more accurate with the finished result and as an experiment, I had added a “tab and slot” to the latest bracket to see if it aided assembly and accuracy. It was rather like those cardboard kits printed on the back of cereal packets in my youth, cut out, press tab A into slot B and bend over.. Yes, it worked quite well (though laser is limited effectively to around 13mm thickness, and you may find a little tapering especially if small apertures cause excessive heating) and the bracket was true without the hassle of setting up, tacking and checking. This bracket, which will carry the dummy handle for the train brake on the Drewry, is now back for painting, as is the oil separator bracket for “Pluto”, and the compressor air intake flange. Andrew was cleaning the radiator filler plug with a wire brush on the grinder and warned me to stand clear of any ‘flying bits of metal’. He wasn’t kidding. Unexpectedly the wire brush dug in and threw the whole plug – 3inches across and weighing a kilo or two – 30 feet across the workshop. It now won’t screw in and will have to be lightly re-machined!

In April this year I was due to meet up with an old friend who was riding the ‘Great Britain IV’. A week before came the news that he couldn’t come as he was in hospital. I should perhaps add that he was a Dane working for a French rail equipment manufacturer, and had battled cancer a couple of year earlier. We had met when I was working for Thomas Hill and he was still in Copenhagen. Our early phone calls were punctuated by the sound of traffic outside his office and the squeak of his swivelling chair. All our phone calls and e-mails soon began not with the prosaic “Hi” but the highly singular “Beep Beep!” and when I first met him, I presented him with an oil can, complete with machine oil, which I wouldn’t dare take in hand luggage today!! Our friendship was cemented, especially when, on a trip to inspect Thomas Hill locos at BSC Ravenscraig, I stopped off at Carnforth and there was “Sir Nigel Gresley”. He had a penchant for A4s and “SNG” in particular. His intention to take GB4 was solely to ride on the main line behind “SNG”. Sadly the cancer was on the move and he was not responding to chemo, and for several weeks I heard nothing of him until, to my relief, I found he was back at home, on a new “wonder drug” with excellent prospects, and planning to return to work in September. My own thoughts were concentrated on my father’s cancer during August, but I kept meaning to ring Paris and see how he was getting on. Last Friday came an e-mail from his daughter that the “drug stopped working” and he’d passed away on August 16th. Au revoir Ebbe.

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