Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of portal frames and Mars bars

25th November 2013

I see from the site stats that as usual a number of people logged on last night and earlier today. Sorry, but I did say last week that this edition would be late, but failed to explain why as even my wife has been known to read this blog and as it was all to do with a surprise for her birthday last week I could hardly say more.

However, before I touch on that, there is earlier in the week to get through. Some months ago, Andrew climbed precariously over the steelwork high up on the BDA and called down dimensions to me of the vertical columns and roof beams. For the drawings we received from the building supplier were, shall we say, not as comprehensive as they might be. From all this info I started to prepare CAD drawings of the main beams to see how they went together, and establish, amongst other things, the centre lines of the crane rails so that Andrew could talk to crane manufacturers (which he hasn't) and I could be reasonably satisfied that the positions of the holding down bolts could be put in on the concrete foundation drawings.

But there is always that nagging doubt. For one thing, the roof angle makes a considerable difference to the overall width (and I cannot remember where I got the angle from, other than scaling off the original (photocopy) drawing) and for another a few millimetres gained or lost here and there while operating a large tape measure over pieces of steel stacked on top of one another would be entirely understandable. No, some weeks ago I declared that we would have to bring a set of girders off the wagon and assemble them on the ground to check. Last weekend we were advised that the crane would be in operation on Thursday to turn a boiler around or sideways or whatever and we (or rather I) could have Rob (crane driver) and Harvey (certified slinger) for the rest of the day.

So Wednesday night we zipped in to Rowsley and started up Cheedale. While Andrew walked down the siding, coupling everything together and releasing handbrakes, I had the air built up and the loco on its way round to move them. For the BDA with all our steelwork on is somewhere down the back and needed to be released ready to save time the next day. In the event, Cheedale had to move two 48ton 0-6-0DEs, one GUV, one loaded Lowmac, the VBA, the Brush 0-6-0DE, Jack and James, D9500, Coronation and the 0-6-0 NB, the german flat and finally the BDA and another flat wagon, and only when it got some way up the siding was it noticed that the BDA's brakes had stuck on one axle. All this in one go and in the dark (which has no effect on loco performance but does challenge my memory of shunting signals by torchlight) but apart from a little bit of slipping over the crossings (flangeways clogged with dirt) Cheedale moved the whole lot without significant difficulty, though it certainly got the engine up to temperature!

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On Thursday morning I got back in and soon the crane was in place. Another flat wagon with side bolsters was to hand and we transferred shorter lengths on to it and longer lengths to the ground until it could all be reached, then took two side columns and two roof beams up to the grass and laid them out. As my two colleagues went for lunch I had bolted them together and with a crowbar to make sure that all bedded firmly together, I was able to check my overall dimensions.

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It is strange how small the frame looks on the ground. There are some triangular-ish brackets part way up the side columns which in fact, are about at the top of a loco's cab roof, and we have a couple of metres from there until we meet up with a roof beam (so the Mattersons can lift any loco high enough to get the wheels out) but you wouldn't think so laid out flat. After lunch I unbolted it, and we put everything back, but now spread over two wagons so that the BDA is not quite so top- heavy. This sounds simple but took the rest of the afternoon, and the final shunting was again in the dark.

Oh, and what was the result? The CAD drawing had arrived at a dimension of 15162.5, whereas my tape measure, repeated, gave 15150, so I was 12.5mm (about 1/2”) in 15100, or an error of less than 1%: if only I could be that close every time.

So, from Friday I was away at a select hotel, leaving Andrew in charge and to attend the Class 14 event meeting at Kidderminster. In fact, had it been a day or two later they might have been adjourning to inspect D9551, which has now reached the SVR from the Royal Deesside, but anyway, he tells me that all is looking good for next July's event.

On Sunday, while Steph and our daughter Jennifer attended an event in Harrogate, her fiancé Gareth and I went to the NRM. Years ago, when I worked for Thomas Hill's, we had the class 02 D2860 in to Kilnhurst for overhaul, and some time later I had followed it up with a service visit, to find John Bellwood, the CME, had the compressor apart because it would not make air. Trying not to sound too much the naive twit I was at the time, I suggested it was more likely to be the unloader valve than the compressor, and so it turned out. (Moreover it is a piece of advice I have found useful on a number of occasions since.) Trouble was, thereafter John Bellwood assumed I was some sort of guru of all things appertaining to the loco and caused me to learn a lot in response to the periodic unexpected phone call. Later I was involved with recovering the Sentinel 100hp steamer from the NYMR, and we used D2860 to unload it (a story that is too long to recite here) and later still that same steamer was taken to Treeton for cosmetic restoration and I attended the handing-back ceremony on the turntable.

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My last visit was for Railfest, and Andrew and I had then little time to tour the “normal” parts of the Museum, so the opportunity to do so with Gareth was more than welcome. If I am honest, I am not a supporter of the “great gathering” so the fact that 3 A4s were there together will not have me waxing lyrical – I spent more time with the Q1 alongside, a design which appealed to me for having a stark, functional, yet impressive appearance - the very antipathy of streamlining. And as a life-long fan of narrow gauge and internal combustion, I was pleased to find the Hibberd Planet that was the last new motive power for the Ashover Light Railway, although standing on a flat wagon in a quiet backwater of the museum, quite near in fact, to D2860.

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We enjoyed “made at the Museum” sandwiches in the Great Hall, and Tea Loaf and Tiffin in the restaurant in the other side (what do you call it nowadays? It used to be the old parcels/freight place). You can get teas, waters, coffees of all types, crisps and cookies, full dinners to snacks. But can you get a Mars bar? No. Not a choccy-bar to be had anywhere.

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