Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of rock salt and hydraulic oil

28th January 2018

Some weeks in this saga mark significant milestones. Others just little stepping stones. This week's is much in tune with the former, as Andrew became equipped to transport a proportion of his fleet (not the heavier ones, yet) on his own low-load trailer.

Well, it wasn't quite the week we'd been hoping for but certainly an interesting one. As you're aware (if you've been reading this blog regularly) Andrew's low-load trailer had passed its MoT and been taken down to a friendly road-haulier's yard in Ashbourne ready for its first task, and had been joined by rails and oak sleepers which would be required to carry and load locos. The fabricated tip rails and the tie bars that gauged them and the rails were almost complete but still back at Darley Dale, as was the tank and hydraulic pump needed to raise the neck hydraulics to operate with a tractor unit with no hydraulic take-off. Common sense would have suggested a couple of weeks were necessary to get everything ready, but...

But first thing Monday, well once I'd dealt with a couple of overnight e-mails and such, I was off up to Tunstead to continue with RS8. Liam proposed we should make a start with the fuel tanks, so we commandeered the works Transit and headed on up to the 'brick shed' (so named because it isn't, I suppose) where most of the bits that had come up from Darley are currently housed, to collect them.

Now I must admit, I hadn't really considered that the tanks were all that heavy. I mean, none of the original fabrication drawings have surfaced, but they didn't look to be more than a 2-man lift. Was I wrong. Three of us managed to manhandle (= drag) one tank onto the tail lift of the Transit, checked its load rating (500kg) and then managed to lift it to floor level and slide it on to the deck.

IMG 3889 blog

Back at the workshops we reached down the filler tube and sure enough, there was the inevitable ballast at the bottom. I had, before, proposed cutting a permanent access hatch in the inside face of the tanks, adding a reinforcing strip with tapped holes ready for a plate to go over and seal the whole back up again, but in the light of what I could feel with my hands changed my mind. We proceeded to cut two apertures out of the tank around the filling tube, as it was apparent that some sort of baffle was right behind the filler and might have prevented the debris from migrating far in to the tank itself.

IMG 3888 blog

And so it proved, as we scooped nearly half-a-bucket-full out of the tank bottom, leaving a layer of sandy deposits which only went a short way from the bottom of the filling area. The tank went back on to the Transit, and we headed up to the quarry entrance where there was a pressure-washer normally available for employees to wash bits of quarry from their cars. There, Liam and Jack flushed out the remaining muck and with the tank half on, half off the tail lift, tipped it to drain most of the dirty water out. At this point I had to leave them, as I had to get to my profilers and collect some 'fishplates' (for want of a better term) that I'd ordered for the ramp and were promised ready for Monday pm.

IMG 3891 blog

I think it was Monday night that we headed back to the shed after tea to start cabling up the pump. It was configured rather like a starter motor – the 24Volt motor had a contactor strapped to it and the idea was that you put 'big' cables between the motor negative and contactor big nut (the other was already cabled to the motor positive) and created two little wires, through a switch or some-such, which would engage the contactor and thus make the motor spin and pump. Initially I was looking at using one of our Telemecanique alloy boxes as a 'button box' but realised they had rather too many holes to seal adequately for something now destined to live outside, and thoughts moved on to using a plastic enclosure, but it was only IP44 or such, when my eyes fell on a Craig & Derricott emergency button box that had arrived secondhand as a donation from somewhere, and looked to fit the bill admirably, with a better IP rating. Thus we made 50mm cables from motor to a common 75-amp rated two pin plug, and the start/stop became a shielded, lockable button in this chunky alloy enclosure.

Wednesday, and Andrew had arranged the afternoon off to go and get things ready on the trailer. Some last minute jobs first (a final tie bar for the tip rails) and then loading the van with tip rails, tie bars, oil, the tank, oxy-acetylene, etc; we got up to Ashbourne (which turns out to be about 17 miles away) late in the afternoon. No time to contemplate properly mounting the tank, it was put in position, the wires and hoses brought out from under and the tank held in place with a lorry strap, having first cut a hole in a plate underneath to enable the drain point to peep through.

Next the two long (20ft) rails (the ones which the locos will stand on) were man-handled into place and the tie bars installed to hold them a millimetre or two over gauge. Then it was a case of blowing some additional holes in the webs of the shorter rails (10ft-ers) so that tie bars could go through opposite sides, and positioning these rails together with the fabricated tip rails, safely in the deck and strapping it all down.

By now it was dark, and a cold wind was blowing, so we called it a night, reloaded the oxy and returned to Darley Dale.

Thursday, and as Andrew had nominated 03 901 to go to Rowsley for the new arrival, I thought it best to shunt it out of the line and get it fired up. Charlie still has its Fox-coupler adaptor from a year ago, which prevents a conventional coupling at the Matlock end – we haven't had time to get it burnt off. We shouldn't have needed to couple at that end (after all it's been back 10 months and not been any hardship) but for reasons I don't recall, he'd said it was the 03s turn. In addition, we needed a barrier wagon to haul the arrival off the trailer, as until Andrew gets a winch fitted, it is easier/safer to propel a wagon up the ramp, grab hold and bring a loco gently down. So not only did 03 901 find itself next to James outside the shed, but conflats Thelma and Louise came across too. It was just a pity that, thanks to that late-running lorry last week, the conflats had more load on them than was ideal as a barrier wagon. (Thelma has the two bogie frames from the PCV – we had planned that one of these would be off, ready for shotblasting.)

In the end, a little reluctantly, 03 901 fired up and I ran it up and down: I had forgotten about the air leak in reverse which was there at Fox this time last year, and another which has developed under the desk since, but the loco ran well enough and the compressor kept pace with the leaks, so it was good to go. I was out Thursday night but Andrew did some last finishing off jobs at the shed, made up a second cable just in case the tractor unit didn't have the 75-amp plug and we needed to go direct to the batteries, loaded the van and got an early night.

Oh five hundred Friday morning and for once Andrew doesn't need encouragement getting out of bed. By five thirty we are on the road to Ashbourne, getting there a minute or two after 6 a.m. when the tractor unit was due. It was dark, and bloomin' cold (frosty). My first job was to climb up the slippery swan neck and start pouring oil into the tank. You may think that this is cutting it fine, what if the tank leaks? What if the wiring isn't right? What if the pump doesn't work? I was thinking all that too, and although the fabricators had tested the tank with dye-penetrant to check for pin holes or other defects, I have reservations about that ever since they made me a fuel tank twenty years ago and when we first put fuel in it, the weight of the fuel came out through such defects, pushing dye pen' in front of it! The only consolation today was that it was dark, so if it leaked, we could pretend not to notice. As for the rest, if it didn't work it was 'game over'. So it had to.

But the tank didn't leak, and as Andrew finished loading the last bits (mostly additional thin packing material) he began to fret where the tractor unit was. Eventually it rolled up at 07.00. It turned out the driver was a model railway enthusiast and keen to move his first real loco. Now it was the moment of truth. The connectors on the hose ends were nipped up, the 75-amp plugs mated together, the switch unit set to 'on' and the pump immediately sang the sort of song we were hoping for. The hydraulics lifted the neck, the tractor slid underneath and with air and electrical lines connected, the ensemble prepared to depart. I took the van out at this point, and snapped this as Andrew stood in the road blocking traffic, as the trailer swung out on its way south.

IMG 3932 blog

The plan went something like this. Down at the Nene Valley Railway, there was a Yorkshire 0-4-0DE whose owner had died part way through a prolonged restoration. Eventually a consortium of IDRPG members had clubbed together and bought it, and it was coming to Darley to be restored after 1382 is finished and departed. They had put off the move until Andrew's low loader was ready: now it was time for the proof.

Now I didn't go with Andrew on this: my job was to stay at Darley and bring 03 901 and the barrier wagons up when it arrived, and haul the incomer back. I had rather hoped that I might have a picture or two of it loading to grace these pages, but nothing has yet arrived. But from what I gather, the lorry arrived at Wansford at 10.00, the loco was loaded with Dave Hartley employing his ex London Transport Sentinel 0-6-0DH, and loose bits like casings dropped in place and made safe. Meanwhile various other loose bits – like a spare traction motor – had been loaded into Toby's van and he'd set off straight for us.

The lorry meanwhile got rolling at about 13.30 with a maximum legal speed of 40-mph and on a pre-determined route which was basically A1 to Doncaster, down the M18 and M1 then across through Chesterfield. And whereas if you or I in our cars encounter a traffic queue we can turn off and follow our noses, the low-loader must not deviate. Of course, there had been a 'coming together' somewhere around Blyth, this added to the journey time that was already somewhat long and circuitous.

IMG 3935 blog

Toby had arrived at Darley at about 2pm, and we'd parked his van up rather than rush to get it unloaded when the plan was for the 03 to set off north at about half-three. Harvey C duly arrived and the 03, propelling Thelma and Louise, proceeded up to Rowsley to wait. A car-load of the IDRPG were ready and waiting, but it was about 5.15 when the lorry rolled into view, with Phil G having dutifully followed behind as 'escort'.

IMG 3936 blog

The trailer hydraulics had given no trouble at Wansford but here we had a slight problem, as instead of both side rams moving together, one would move without the other. After a few minutes battle, supremacy was achieved and the neck came off the trailer - whether this was just stiffness/lack of use or whether there is a flow-diverter in the system which needs a tweak is something for investigation. For now, with many hands available and the experience of Wansford under their belts, the ramp was quickly assembled, secured and I propelled the conflats up the ramp to connect to the Yorkshire, bringing it down to terra firma. All this under the combined work lights of the tractor unit and Phil's SUV.

IMG 3938 blog

We stuck a tail lamp on the Yorkshire and with Harvey C and Dave R, set off south. It was of course pitch black and as neither of the rear lights on the loco functioned (something else I noticed at Fox but had forgotten about) it was a dark trip with only the distant streetlights to see by. A quick check of bearings at Church Lane showed nothing untoward, so from then until Darley I gave 03 901 a bit more throttle – kept up to the speed limits until finally we propelled the train into Darley Dale yard and shutdown. I found Phil fretting outside the shed. The long period with his working lights on had literally frazzled a relay, but I had a couple of 12V ones spare so passed him one so that he could fix it before setting off home.

Toby and Jagger were staying at the Briddon Country Pile that night but had arranged with Tom D and Rob S to go up to see their model railway at a nearby farm – Tom picked them up and dropped them off later. But my work was not yet over. With everything locked up I had to dash over to Ashbourne yet again, as Andrew had had to go with the trailer and see it safely into the yard. I found him sat talking to Mike, the lorry driver, in the cab, no doubt planning their next loco move.

Saturday, and I came downstairs to find Toby and Jagger huddled over one of my books, Jagger trying (and failing) to interest Toby in anything narrow gauge except in some limited mining applications. After breakfast we headed down to the shed: Charles and co were already there and busy, indeed, when Andy H finally arrived it brought us up to 9 bodies at work.

I fired up 03 901 and brought the Yorkshire over to the shed, and here I suppose is a good moment to take a daylight look and explain its history.

IMG 3940 blog

Built in 1957 and as works number 2654, it was named 'Doncaster' and shunted for Pilkington Glass at their Cowley Hill works near St Helens. There apparently it was their habit to throw rock-salt on the walkways as an anti-slip in cold weather – effective maybe but resulting in significant jack-rusting. Somewhere along the way a previous owner has done some exceptional work, though the fact that for a while it was resident at BREL Doncaster may have helped. One or both buffer beams have been off (Yorkshire always bolted buffer beams to a headstock plate on the frame ends) the running plates have been renewed, the wheels look to have been re-tyred and in the cab (which was also off for a while) the driver's straight air brake valve has been repositioned and driven with chains, whilst its old location has received a train brake valve. There may be a lot still to do, but it is an excellent basis and the work carried out worth far more than ever paid for by the group.

IMG 3941 blog

As Andrew was a little slow in getting going (exhausted both physically and mentally by the week) I had loaded the van with both empty oxy and MIG bottles ready to go down to Matlock, and we only just made it before they closed. Back at the shed, I left Andrew to get the traction motor out of Toby's van while I went up and finished light A7 and fitted the final light, A8. At this point I came down and started looking for the drum of 5 core SWA, only to remember (eventually) that I had used it all in cabling up row C and I would have to get some! Pity that, I was looking forward to the grand switch-on.

With plans to start on Adolf shortly, (Andrew intends to have the superstructure parts off and sandblasted by Easter) it would help if it were more accessible, so a massive shunt-around was carried out to move it from the northern end of the long siding (track 1 in our parlance) to somewhere farther up. Given the relative shortness of the headshunt, this isn't easy, but it is now ready to be pulled across when we are. Doncaster, now with a sheet secured over its cab, has been parked there too.

Meanwhile the wiring had been progressed sufficiently on 1382 to enable it to be run up and prove it would take traction. Ben and Ashley were sorting out jack-rust on the centre casing section, Charles was painting, Stephen wiring and others.. - well I couldn't follow everybody.

Andrew loaded up some bits having announced he would be heading down to Leicester this morning as Claire had had a starter motor problem, plus an oil pressure switch that was leaking. Thus he set off this morning with the van, leaving me time to do some admin work before lunch and sauntering down to the shed. With no-one else around I thought it a good time to finish substituting those RCBOs for MCBs, so did that and a few tidy-up jobs when Andrew finally arrived back, having had some other problems to deal with. There seemed little point in starting anything serious by that time in the afternoon so having achieved rather a lot for one week, we packed up and came home 'early'.

So it's off to Tunstead in the morning, and again on Wednesday for a meeting. A busy weekend in prospect as we do something 'completely different'. Coming back to read all about it? I hope so.

This site runs on a system that employs Cookies to establish a link between your web browser and our site. This link is required to deliver to you the page you requested, let you see any photos or videos or to use the contact form. The Cookies that allow this to happen are automatically downloaded to your device (pc, mobile, laptop etc) when you click onto our site. If you set your web browser not to accept Cookies then its probable you will be unable to use Weekend Rails properly. Click to Accept (or the message stays visible). To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our Privacy Policy.

I accept cookies from this site