Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of jacks and priorities

6th March 2011

The run of bad luck seemed to follow me into the first few days of March.  A commercial job on Monday got delayed an hour after a chap in a 4×4 and a trailer succeeded in parking it at 45 degrees across the A1 southbound. Although I almost caught up with my plan, the knock-on effect was that when I pressed the button on my bit to make the customer’s bit function, the latter didn’t and I had no time to investigate.

And then on Wednesday: I was delegated to assist collecting the combined Andrew/Aln Valley jack acquisition out of Doncaster. I emptied out the van and met up at 10.30. I have been at firms that have closed before – goodness knows I had my share of it when Barclays Bank couldn’t understand a balance sheet – and they are sad places, with a few staff loading up your purchases from otherwise deserted storerooms. Where the electricity and water still flow but no-one will again refresh the supplies of hand cleaner or paper towels. Dave and Craig arrived in a van about twice as big as ours, so while I had a power pack and a jack in mine, they took the second power pack, three jacks and the control panel, and we set off following me to Rowsley. I think they thought I was taking the scenic route, and certainly I was at pains to give them the opportunity of seeing Sheffield Supertram and Chatsworth, but in reality I was conscious that many of the routes that take you in Darley Dale or Matlock involve steep downhill descents.

Andrew had envisaged manual unloading, but that did not appeal to me – he is in the flush of youth, well, apart from his knee - and I am in my impending dotage, so I commandeered Harvey who dutifully jump-started the side loader and emptied my van. But the forks on the side loader were too wide to slide into the sockets on the other set, so there was nothing for it but to fire up the large forklift that has been referenced and depicted in this blog before. But firing it up is easier said than done, for the battery is kaput, so requires a prolonged charge and then the charger in start mode, and even then the engine died after 10 seconds. In hindsight that might have been a warning, but for us, it just seemed another time-wasting irritation. A while later it condescended to go and after manoeuvring out of the shed, gently lined up with the back of Craig’s van, presented its forks and – ran out of diesel. This further predicament can best be understood when I explain that the van was parked up close to a brick hut, and the fork lift was now standing at the back with its forks a foot or so inside. In short, the van could go nowhere. We added some diesel to the forking lift and while the battery was again being rejuvenated, successfully extracted some of the kit over the forks and out, discovering in the process that a hole in the top of the hydraulic oil reservoir of their power pack leaked oil at anything over 10 degrees from the horizontal and had already soaked much of the carpet in Craig’s van. By fair means or foul, the forklift was restarted, the gear unloaded around the back of the shed and sheeted down, and 2.5 hours later than planned, we got away.

Andrew was again off to see his girlfriend on Saturday, and originally I had offered to go to Telford to continue on Tom, but Andrew preferred that I checked over 14 901 ready for its inspection visit by Gwili personnel, and as I was way behind with numerous bits of paperwork it was nearly 3pm before I got out there. First port of call was the light control box – I had noticed that the lights were stuck in forwards and not switching with the gearbox, duly explained by the fact that the relay – a secondhand one and about 20 years old – was no longer functioning. I swapped it with another that wasn’t too important and moved over to a horn valve. The little rod and knob that screws into this had never screwed in far, now it would not stay in at all, so after hunting out a 5/16 BSW plug tap I tried tapping the hole a little deeper – and merely stripped out what little thread there was. OK, I took the valve out the loco, wandered in to the workshops and endeavoured to tack-weld said rod into bit which now had no thread. Refit to loco, test operation: tack weld disintegrates. Start up loco – as air pressure rises, horn starts sounding and won’t stop. Stuff me, not only can I not weld that bit I did want, but I must have welded a bit I didn’t want and jammed the valve. Shut down engine, vent air tanks to restore tranquillity to Derbyshire. Nothing for it, D9500 is sat nearby and has two such valves, but will they still work after 20 years? I recover one and success! Time to go home before I muck up anything else.

The Men from the Gwili

Sunday: Andrew arrives home at 8 am and by nine we are on the road to Rowsley. The four man team from Gwili arrive just before us, having stayed they tell us at some pub where the Midland Railway was established in 1844. After a kind welcome from Peak Rail’s Joint MD, Jackie Statham, we went over to 14 901 and I started going through all the lumps and bumps, before firing the loco up and putting it through its paces on the “back road” from the loco shed alongside the narrow gauge. Three of the Gwili loco crew took turns to get the feel of it, and the loco behaved impeccably – on their last visit to see it, then unpainted and still at Elsecar, it had developed a loose wiring connection that had been a considerable embarrassment. There was nothing slack this time and though I did have to describe exactly how the Deadmans/vigilance system will work when installed (now, Andrew tells me, another priority job to get done – just how many times can you priority a job over another priority? It’s like priority leapfrog here) everything else could be seen to function.

One Hatz-powered power pack with 'ole in top that leaks oil

Each of these 4 jacks is rated at 110tonnes lift - control panel behind

While I was doing my confident trainer act, Andrew had got the jacks moved under cover and returned to Pluto’s vacuum pipe. As the Gwili team headed off (one poor soul was due on duty at 02.00 Monday) we trialled the vac pipe back in, measured it for clamps and then brought it home for painting. Maybe, just maybe, things will start progressing for the rest of the month.

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