Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of non-rectangular batteries

23rd October 2011

The cold-snap that occurred in the middle of the week sent a chill through Andrew’s and my spines – in this case because, I had a strong feeling that “Pluto” was only filled with plain water. There was nothing we could do on Wednesday (and in truth, the possible frosts had not appeared in Sheffield but the Vale of York is usually somewhat worse) but on Thursday I popped up to Murton and drained “Pluto” as a precaution. Pluto’s radiator drain tap was also showing its age.

The pipe emerged from the bottom of the radiator in a banjo bolt, twisted around and terminated in a tap with no handle. Not that it would normally matter that much, as the radiator is not the lowest point on the system. That distinction is held by the water pump (a characteristic shared with Dorman 8QT’s amongst others) which means that draining from the radiator alone is not sufficient to protect from frost – water would remain in the water pump and this, being a relatively thin casting and external, is an expensive bit to lose. So I drained it from the tap strategically placed on the bottom of the water pump, but, noticing that the radiator drain was leaking anyway, removed the whole assembly.

Saturday was Andrew’s 25th birthday. Sheffield was invaded by Andrew’s girlfriend, our daughter and her partner, and locomotive work was declared verboten. But Sunday, well, after a brief gathering at Briddon Towers (and any hangovers duly eased) we loaded the van and headed back to Murton with plans to get Pluto’s exhauster running at last. While Andrew made up a new radiator drain assembly from a concoction of 1/2″ pipe and fittings, I was tasked with creating the oil suction pipe from our separator to the exhauster, but found I could not drop the bottom of our separator off from the upper part. Closer examination revealed that the pipe connection emerging from the bottom was just long enough to strike a frame stretcher. Nothing for it but to move the separator over a bit and drill a new hole. By the time this was completed, Andrew had finished the drain arrangement and was preparing to fill the system with anti-freeze mix. I moved on to make up a joint for the suction flange by the filter assembly, and after adjusting a hose to better length, fitted the suction and delivery lines. Andrew topped up the engine oil and between us we filled the separator bowl. The old fan belts were dropped off, and the new sectional belts made up (everybody I know calls this stuff “nutlink”, except Fenners, who make it, who insist on calling it “new-tee-link”). With adjustment on both the fan assembly and the exhauster mounting, we soon had the belts tensioned, a few drops of oil down the feed to prime the exhauster and we were all set.

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Call it what you like, there it is ready to drive our exhauster

Pluto, I had been told, was running a couple of weeks ago so I had every expectation that it would start first time. Instead after the first half-hearted attempt the lights dimmed and it made little more effort. Andrew went to find a battery charger. The DVLR has two for 24Volt work, one is an “intelligent” charger but which had a label on top advising all those hopeful of using it that it had somehow suffered a nervous breakdown, and a second, less intelligent device with no charge rate control whatsoever. We set it up and pressed the on switch and after a few seconds of deliberation the charge rate needle swung straight across, past its maximum 20amp rating to the far end and proceeded to shimmy there. We left it a few seconds in the hope that it might fall back a bit, but then had to face the fact that the batteries were beyond redemption. So near and yet so far.

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