Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of exhausting days

3rd July 2011

As I was saying at the end of last week’s blog, my next stop was Rowsley to investigate the report of Charlie’s alternator “screaming”. It was quiet enough when I started it up, but it had had time to cool so I took it off anyway and sure enough it was very stiff and probably had a bearing problem. So I hunted out a spare from the VBA, swapped pulleys and got it going again, ready for Matlock duties, though for a day or two Rob was using the HST’s 08.

On Wednesday I had one of those calls I dreaded – 14 901 was stuck at the top end of the Gwili’s line and refusing to change direction. Over the phone we worked our way through all the possible “get you out of trouble” options but had to admit defeat. Andrew was quite adamant that the problem would solely be the gearbox “latches” – Hunslet always relied on sprung loaded pegs to hold the gearbox in gear – other manufacturers like Wiseman used continuous air pressure on the operating cylinder – whereas me, being something of an Eeyore, feared it might be something more serious. In any event, the revised Plan for the weekend was to head to Gwili on Saturday rather than Sunday.

Then Jackie Statham, Peak Rail’s joint MD, rang and asked Andrew not to come to Rowsley on Sunday. Now, one could take offence at this – were we liable to lower the tone of the neighbourhood? But in reality of course it was simple – Pluto was in the shed, we could be expected to be working on it but Sunday was Official Shed Opening Day and they would have parties of members and contributors looking around and additional cables, noise, etc did not look good on the Risk Assessment.

Saturday: Andrew was confident that it would not be a long day at Gwili, so much so that although I was up a little after 05.30 with a view to a 7 a.m. departure, Andrew wandered down at 7 and we got off about 8. So Bronwydd Arms was reached at 12.30 and after a cup of tea we got down to it – literally – since accessing the gearbox latches involved lifting a section of cab floor and squeezing down into the bowels between upper and lower propshafts.

Andrew squeezes in - that's the engine-to-Voith propshaft above him..

The two latches are mounted on a plate atop the gearbox, but one must be stripped off as otherwise the plate cannot be manoeuvred out – a classic example of Swindon not appreciating accessibility when incorporating the Hunslet box into the design. Anyway, one of the latches was rusted solid – presumably, being a cul-de-sac on the pneumatics, some moisture has got in there and gone no further – but with a quantity of emery cloth and copious oil the latches moved freely enough that air pressure could not fail to lift them and Andrew proceeded to put it all back.

But 14 901 still refused to change direction, and it was now my turn – not to say ” I told you so” (I wouldn’t dare, it’s too long a walk back) but at least to give him the occasional “See?” expression. To prove there were no hard feelings I took my turn on top of the box and removed the latch plate again, as this is the only means of seeing whether anything is wrong inside. The operating cylinder on this box is external – a rocking lever pushes or pulls a thick shaft through the box and fixed to this is the big red fork that slides a gear into the forward or reverse crownwheels.

..there's the red fork under the lower propshaft

When we first took on 14 901 this shaft was well and truly stuck, but we were not surprised – the box is splash fed lubrication, that is to say, gears at the bottom are sat in oil and as they turn, like the old Brut adds, splash it all over. Ten years of intermittent or no use allowed the shaft to dry out and seize in its bushes. But hec, 14 901 has done more hours in the 3 months at Gwili than we had in the preceeding two years, yet the shaft was dry and very stiff, yielding best to a 4 foot crowbar, wielded by Andrew and unpleasantly close to my ears. By dint of cleaning, lubricating and levering the shaft was gradually freed up, and by about 7pm I was able to drive the loco up and down again, but Andrew’s idea of a “short day” was now a pleasant memory.

I shuffled the loco up and down to prove it was again working

We cleared away and at 8pm, set off, with a scheduled detour off the M4 to swap some bits with a acquaintance near Pontypridd. No time or desire to eat, we paused at Strensham just after 11pm for Costanawafullot, and at 01.30 arrived home.

Sunday: We surfaced not excessively late to have a role reversal on our hands. Normally, you will be aware, we are off to Rowsley leaving Steph behind. But today, Steph set off for Rowsley leaving us behind. She had offered to aid Lynn in the “Break Van” refreshment outlet for the hordes expected to be lured by the opening into Matlock (Members Friday, public Saturday) and the Loco Shed (Sunday). Instead, we loaded the van with the exhauster for the Drewery. This exhauster was originally fitted over a year ago when the loco was at Elsecar, but knocked ominously so was stripped, and big ends re-metalled. When it was reassembled it became apparent that two little ends also required re-bushing and although it has been sat, finished in the garage for the last 6 weeks or so, the Drewry has never had the opportunity to suck in its own right, merely control suck from a loco at the other end. But in a month’s time it is expected to haul troop trains so a day re-fitting it seemed an opportune moment.

Times like this we look almost professional...

At the DVLR, knowing that it will be leaving shortly, the Drewry 72229 was parked on the new “cattle dock” road that meant it was an easy task to start it up, move it 30 yards and thus be right next to the van. With a bit of assistance the exhauster was swung up on to the running plate and manhandled into position. With Nutlink belts and oil added, we fired up the loco and the exhauster made appropriate noises and Andrew decided to connect it to the “suck” line, though forgot that this had been blanked off!

The exhauster in position.

With that little oversight corrected, 19.5″ of vac was immediately pulled, the rest probably requiring a minor adjustment on the snifter valve. The Drewry has been popular at the DVLR – its use limited only by the lack of this exhauster, so there is a good chance that 72229 will haul passenger trains solo next weekend, as it gets ready to move to another line.

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