Weekend Rails

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Of rainwater and signalmen

Of rainwater and signalmen

16th November 2014

Sunday night again. Another week going in to winter and have we much more to show for it? Judge for youselves.

I persuaded Andrew that Ashdown might be required and as it was currently parked in front of the railcrane, that it would be a  good idea to get its cooling system refilled, so as darkness fell, we headed in to Rowsley and refilled it with a fresh anti-freeze/water mix, before man-handling the rest of the 45 gallon drum into the oil store for safe keeping. In the event, Ashdown hasn't been required (yet) but it is at least ready for action should it be needed.

Later in the week I collected the remaining parts from the machinists, mostly for the '03, to whit the new handbrake relay shaft, the replacement door hinge pins, and the assembly for the new belt-drive for the exhauster. Indeed at one point I contemplated taking myself over to Scunthorpe and making a start on some jobs, but as you will see, other events took over.

Down at Darley Dale, the occasional Peak Rail volunteer aided Rob in re-grading the trackbed  down to the shed, uncovering successive layers of tarmac as it appears Peak Rail must have re-surfaced the yard 2 or 3 times during its occupancy. It also revealed what looks like a land drain – or a ballast-filled trench anyway - which conveys rainwater northwards and thus creates a pool whenever it rains heavily, as it has done rather a lot this week.

IMG 3605 blog

According to the laser level, the difference in rail level between what we have at the shed and the farthest end of the turnout is some 16”, and 4 of these have been lost by grading the turnout accordingly, leaving some 12 inches in the roughly two panels needed to span the gap. With the vast majority of the old arisings now gone, (and space for some still in the way to go up the side of the shed next to the footptath) the route for the first road (although probably to be named Track 2) has gradually appeared is a muddy groove in the general ground level. Oh, don't be confused by the appearance of rails sticking out from under the doors, there is still no track down inside the shed, but two were placed in the doorway, approximately level on the concrete to establish the rail level and where the joints will be.

IMG 3613 blog

By the end of the week Rob had got to lay out a number of sleepers and next week there may be more visible progress (along the lines of big lumps being obvious to see).

IMG 3614blog

One of the things we are going to need with the shed is a forklift, and as these are often to be found on e-bay, we had been watching several candidates and as Andrew was away at the time, had me bid on one which was only 15 miles away at Sutton-in-Ashfield. Sadly I was outbid, but it made me search around and I found a slightly smaller one in Birmingham which, reportedly, had nothing wrong with it but a duff alternator, so starting cheap.

Andrew was unconvinced, but I persuaded him that one was better than none, and that if we had one, we could trade up for a bigger one later and without any pressure to acquire, the natural law of  these things would result in a more suitable one falling into our laps. Thus I had another go at bidding on Friday night and this time, such is e-bay, no-one else bid on it against me. I should also, I suppose, record our mixed success with e-bay and some of its more naive or downright disreputable sellers. A couple of years or so ago I “won” a miniature loco, described as 7.5” gauge, for the starting price of the bid. But the seller wasn't happy and refused to take my calls, and a couple of weeks later the same loco appeared on another sellers listing, correctly described as 7.25”, and sold for much more. More recently, Andrew won a Foden FD6 as a spare for “Pluto”, but, would you believe it, when he contacted the seller, the latter cancelled the sale as the engine “had been stolen overnight”. The same engine (or from the photographs, the absolute spitting image of it on an identical transit frame) turned up on another e-bay auction at a higher price “being sold for a  friend”. In neither case have we parted with money, so “no-one has suffered”, but as one brought up with fairly strong ethical standards I find such conduct wholly reprehensible. As for my forklift, well, I've paid for it, and received a considerable number of messages on e-mail and text from the seller, who is very anxious that I get it collected this week...

On Thursday Rob asked if I would be up for some more blockwork on Saturday but as Steph and Andrew were away at our daughters, it would just be me and Rob and subject to the weather. On Friday night he texted me to say we were on, so any plans of going to Scunthorpe were out of the question. At 10.00 I was heading down to the shed and passed Rob at the newsagents.

First task was to drain the lake that had formed  out front from this drainage trench, and as Rob's submersible pump appears to be lacking in oomph, I got mine out and at last it proved its worth. While that was in action the mixer was set up and a load of mortar produced.

Together we completed the last of the Anstone Buff Split which clears the way for the cladding (once I have finalised the specs and got it all ordered, that is) and with some mortar left over, we laid a short row of concrete commons which will go under the concrete panels the whole way round.  That, and some highly intellectual discussions on drainage pipework over sandwiches, saw the day through.

Today I was out on 14 901 with Roy Taylor, and got in early to refill the loco with fresh water. Getting the system full requires patience, the hose-pipe must be turned down to what seems like a far too modest rate, otherwise the filler backs up and overflows. As you get near the top (or so you think) it proceeds to gurgle and spurt out of the new air vent, and you just have to be patient with it, it cannot be rushed. Eventually the water seems to stabilise and you can shut it all off. Hopefully the new pipework will get rid of a lot of the problems.

I wasn't really in the mood for driving today so Roy did most of it – I played at being secondman and the atmosphere was quite jovial. The second run of the day was the most eventful, for as we started away from Darley Dale for Church lane crossing, Roy had to ease back as the signalman was not the fastest on his feet.  Indeed, it was almost one of those “do I brake or do I SPAD?” moments as we rolled up to the Home with it still against us. But at the very last moment the signal came off, Roy put the power back on and I placed myself in the cab doorway ready to collect the Church Lane to Rowsley token.

Now, normally the signalman comes out on to the signalbox walkway and holds out the token at arm's length, and I make an exaggerated display of aiming for the loop. But he climbs out with his arms at his sides. I assume he is not yet ready to lift up the token, but as we get nearer and are accelerating, it sinks in that he is not holding it. Does he think that I'm surrendering one to him?  There is no time to waste. Roy realising our plight bloops the horn, and shakes the signalman out of his daydream. We are now barely a  loco length from the box, and the token is hanging  from a  hook on the shelf  inside. If we fail to collect, it's an emergency stop and I've got to walk back and get it.

With a split second to spare the signalman reaches back into the box, flips the token off its hook and gets it back out for me to catch. We breathe collective sighs of relief. Strange to relate on the next run, it was held out with plenty of time to spare...

I drove the last run of the day, and this would seem to be my last of the year, as 14 901 is rostered next Saturday under Roy and D8 is booked for the Santa trains during December. Whether that means I can get on with other shed or loco work remains to be seen.

Next weekend's blog may be - no, will be - late, as Steph and I are out seeing Fascinating Aida in Chesterfield. If you have never seen them, do try, they are an extremely entertaining and witty trio.


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