Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of things going up in the air and down in the ground

19th January 2013

So at 07.55 Monday morning I was driving down to Darley for an 08.00 start when my mobile rang. Not having the hands-free on and not recognising the number I ignored it, and called it back on arrival. It was my contractor to say that there was a problem with plant transport and start would be delayed. My first thought was to head back home, but then I remembered the portable loo was due between 08.30 and 09.00, so I decided to soak up the solace of Darley Dale from the inside of my nice warm Portakabin. At 09.05 I tried to ring the portable-loo-man without success. At 09.15 I headed back home (to find his landline number) and as soon as I walked in the door, my phone rang. It was the portable loo man to say he was outside the gates.

I drove back to Darley. He wasn't there.

The “trouble” with Darley Dale, as someone has remarked, is that it is a village without a centre. In fact it is a long, stretched out village that barely finishes at the north end before Rowsley takes over. Although the MPD in BR days was called Rowsley, it is, according to today's road signs, right at the top of Darley Dale, and as Peak Rail already had a station called Darley Dale (and which as an aside, was merely Darley from 1849 to 1890) they called their current northern terminus Rowsley (South).

I guessed immediately that my portable loo was sat outside the gates at Rowsley station, but when I called him, again his phone would not connect. I set off for Rowsley, and half way there he phoned me back. The conversation went something like...

“I'm sat outside the gates.”
“No you're not, I've been there.”
“I'm by Ashbrook Roofing”
“I thought so, that's Rowsley station, you're supposed to be at Darley Dale”
“You mean I should be at the other end?”
“No that's Matlock, Darley Dale is the one in the middle.”

Anyway, I guided him back to Darley Dale (if you know the roads, he'd actually come down the hill from Darley Bridge, and turned left on to Church Lane 250 yards before Darley station!) and got the loo slid into position.

By lunchtime it was apparent that the transport haulier was unable to bring the plant in until Tuesday, but the boss was coming in to start marking out, etc, which he duly did during the afternoon.

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Tuesday morning saw more activity than Darley has seen for several years. On the south side of the level crossing, my team was busy studying markings and pegs and drawings, whilst north of the crossing, a large crane had arrived to lift the signalbox top off its base for Peak Rail. There were of course, a horde of lookers-on for the signal box exploits, and I conducted a few down the track to see where we were about to start. A mini-digger and a dumper truck duly arrived and the first slices were taken out of the earth. I wandered up and down, photographing the flying signal cabin and our first sod-turning..

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By Thursday afternoon they had dug out as much as they could. Although the building's foundations are a rectangle, lack of access for ready-mix wagons means that you cannot reach the far end directly and a short causeway had to be left in place for access. At 09.30 Friday morning the first ready-mix wagon arrived, and pouring commenced. The high-tech piece of kit that had facilitated all this was a laser level, that constantly blasts out a signal all over the site a fixed height and provides the datum for both excavation and filling. At lunchtime it broke, and I dashed back home with a part of it it to effect a solder repair.

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Once the head of concrete had moved away, the boss followed up behind with the holding down bolts. All assembled with their waxed paper cones and plywood spacers, they were simply pressed into the concrete and lined up firstly with grid markers and secondly by height, referenced to the laser level. As they tended to try to float upwards, a convenient lump of stone (or later, and even more convenient fishplate) served to keep them fully immersed.

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I was assured that by Saturday morning it would be safe to walk on (but nevertheless it'll be four weeks before steelwork appears) and so we might sneak down with a stool or two and try them out in advance...

Oh, but I forgot about Tuesday evening. After he got back from work, Andrew and I met up with HST's Gary Hibbs and while Gary drove the crane, we shunted PenyGhent our the way and together we repositioned the Mattersons ready for a formal inspection. Not only did we reposition the two outer posts slightly farther in, but we also slung the crossbeam in place so that we could use Libby for test purposes. But after we had put Pyg back, we realised that the posts were slightly trapezoidal in plan and the two on the station side needed to be slightly closer together. Now once we are ensconced at Darley, we aim to have our overhead crane able to pick each post in turn and place it perfectly in position: but there is nothing to aid us at Rowsley so there the matter (posts) rested.

Andrew had a move planned for Friday night – to be exact a 458 delivery from Wabtec back to Wimbledon – but even by late afternoon it was touch and go thanks to serious problems with the overhead wire at Hendon closing off a large swath of the Midland Main Line. In the end it went ahead with Network Rail lifting its possession to allow the special through, but leaving Andrew to fight his way back north via Kings Cross as St Pancras was still closed the following morning.

To some extent this was planned, or in other words, I was already expecting to be his chauffeur while he caught up on sleep, as he had a meeting to attend at Bury (East Lancs) and the all-nighter to Wimbledon would be catching up on him. Consequently Saturday afternoon I was sitting in on the steering committee plans for the class 14 50th celebration this July. Railways Illustrated has already printed a list of the “pool” of locos from which the final selection will be made, but without giving too much away, it is sounding like a first class affair, and above all, a never-to-be-repeated event. The ELR has a reputation for mounting worthwhile events and some of what is planned is quite astonishing. I've already given you the link for the website – I gather there is also a Facebook page (I am a fuddy-duddy and won't go on to Facebook) and a Twitter thing is imminent.

After the meeting, we were given a private viewing of progress on the ex-Rippingale D9537, lurking in the Baron Street carriage sheds. It has had a reprofile (though sadly wear on one flange has resulted in much tread loss to bring them all to size) but much of the upperworks is off and undergoing repair. The target is that D9537 will be out there in July, and it is do-able if the momentum is kept up.

For the last week and a half I have been van-less, whilst it had a heart-transplant, but the news had come through Saturday morning that it was finally leak free and ready and I'd arranged that we popped up to collect it this morning. Consequently we'd had lunch before re-loading all the tools and such. First call was Darley, to inspect how the foundations are, and the answer was “flooded” as they are now half an inch or more deep in rainwater. Then it was back to Rowsley.

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Peak Rail's Hudswell 0-6-0DM “E1” had been dragged up from down the yard and was sat next to “Ashdown”. They are both ex Manchester Ship locos, indeed, E1 is like a dwarf version of ours, except that the driveline is the other way round, as indeed, it is in the Mines loco it was scaled up from. E1 was built for the MSC Engineers department as a works loco, in the heady days when they had sufficient need of a works shunter rather than utilise whatever was awaiting or just out from repair. Anyway, I couldn't resist a quick photo as they haven't been together for many years.

With two lorry straps tensioned up to provide “encouragement”, the two Matterson posts were persuaded into position, after which we fitted the newly arrived ammeter and refitted the older one I'd repaired. Then we deployed the cables, coupled up the 3-phase, and after a bit of adjustment, the crossbeams took the weight and Libby went up in the air. It was good to see all 4 motors taking a steady current (around 7 amps) and although a couple of bulbs need changing the test was highly satisfactory and I must set a date for the independent examiner to give them the official OK.

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With Libby back on the rails, it was back to the fan drive. We reassembled the drive shaft to its bearing assembly, put it back on the radiator, and then Andrew fitted the fan, but it refuses to run as true as we'd like but after thought, we decided to leave it alone for now but make a mental note that it requires further attention when we next have the loco back in the works at Darley.

With that though, the night had drawn in, the kettle had come back on shed (and no-one had closed the door behind it) and so we packed up and headed home. Tomorrow the merry men should be back again to complete the foundation cut and crack on with the drainage and service connections. I should in the next day or so, have a firm date for steelwork erection, and then it seems we put the roof on so that we can do the floor in the dry. At last, it is beginning to take shape.

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