Weekend Rails

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Of plans and progress

13th November 2011

There are two ways to run an engineering project and it applies to even something as relatively simple as re-powering a loco. In approach one, you carry out a task, complete it, then wonder what happens next. In version two, you endeavour to keep all the aspects of the job on the go at the same time, so that you’re planning what to do several periods hence, drawing up bits you need, getting them made or ordered, so that as this job is complete, other than maybe a quick check against the drawings that all is correct*, the next task is at hand and ready to go.

Approach one gives small bursts of progress followed by long periods where you kid yourself that the job is progressing but just not-on-the-ground-at-that-moment, and usually somewhere along the way something has to be un-done when you realise that failure to plan left you with an impossibility. Back when I worked for locomotive builder Thomas Hill, we proceeded to design our very own road-rail loco when our negotiations to licence-build Trackmobile machines fell through. As the Design department had no spare capacity, we brought in a sub-contract designer-draughtsman, who worked short term contracts and when he wasn’t employed draughting, had a milk-round in his village. I can’t remember the guy’s name but his nick-name, unsurprisingly, was The Milkman. Given that the Milkman had no prior locomotive design experience, he must have been given some guidance, but although he was expected to base this machine on an existing Trackmobile, there were sufficient technical “improvements” and Hill-isms that it ended up nearly 50% overweight, and as a clear sign of lack of forethought, pipework came to a slab-steel chassis member, and had to be bent/jointed up, over and back down the other side because no planning had foreseen to profile a hole through the slab. We built three, finished two, and the third (so I heard after I’d left) became a Christmas tree to fix the other two.

(*In CAD I can work to fractions of a millimetre. In the real world things are not so precise, indeed, Wickham used to quote chassis dimensions to + or – 5mm)

I permit myself this diatribe in part because Andrew was Best Man at a wedding on Saturday, so was unable to see any loco work through for 50% of the weekend, and I too was not wielding any spanners. Some of my time this week has been directed at designing and sourcing, The location for the compressor for the D2128 has now been determined, and the base on which it will mount and slide (to obtain belt tension) drawn up. The forward drive shaft too, has been finalised following a dimensional check last weekend. After a lot of pondering and doodling, the two assemblies that will steady the top of the radiator to the casing frame were drawn and ordered. The top and bottom a/v mounts arrived during the week. Brackets to carry the powershift cooler were issued to our friendly fabricator and various bits, including the instrument panel surround and the gauge panel, have gone down to a nearby shotblasters for cleaning and priming. I also located a firm near Scunthorpe that do shotblasting and fabrication and enquired about them doing all the casing tops and nose cone rather than drag them back to Sheffield. Andrew has asked the AFRPS guys about getting the wagon with the casing parts and fuel tank back round from the far end of the farthest siding, but that may not happen straight away.

Andrew apparently got home at 03.20 in the morning, having, he assured me, stayed entirely sober throughout the nuptials, but by the time he had surfaced and loaded the van, it was mid morning on a damp and sombre Sunday. In the back of the van was some of the miscellaneous ferrous scrap that has amassed around the back of Briddon Towers, and destined for our very own scrap skip. Andrew’s German flat wagon had been emptied of its bits and was now in the works train formation – apparently it had been planned to put PR’s Austerity 0-6-0ST boiler on it but the steam crane had burst a tube. Anyway, Andrew was rather dischuffed that certain shunting of locos that are about to leave meant that our VBA was not accessible by the JCB, so plans to re-arrange its contents got put on hold again. We wandered down the yard to the stillage containing the second powershift transmission, ostensibly to recover a pipe flange for the powershift cooler, but as the two coolers were still coupled together and sat on the flange we wanted, Andrew voted to buy it a new one. We did however, discover that the powershift charge pump would still turn – (that with D2128 has seized) so it was decided to flush it through and re-use it. Pity in a way, as I would have liked to tandem the two pumps (powershift and torque converter) so it will have to be separate pumps, pulley drives and bracketry.

The ex DR flat is about to be utilised by Peak Rail

After that we went our separate ways, Andrew to continue work on “Libby” – starting with the last bit of welding on the rh cabside – and me to the confines of the Brush’s cab to start gutting it. Amongst the “special features” on the Brush is the Westcode braking equipment, which means that the loco could couple to a Tyne & Wear metro car and drive or be driven by it. This, and the multi-way sockets at each end, go in no small way to accounting for a mile or two of wiring for which there is no likelihood of ever being required again, Added to that, the Brush-built relay and control cubicle takes up a large amount of the cab space and what little is left is made all the more hazardous for the luckless driver by peripheral enclosures (like the Westcode), conduits and pipes that catch on limbs and clothing. Thus starting by removing some of these makes life a little less painful when getting at other parts later.

By the time daylight started to fail, I found Andrew painting black paint in a corner of a dark cab in a dark loco shed. How he could see which bits he had painted I know not.

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