Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of watchers and watches

20th October 2013

Well now, this weeks instalment may be a disappointment. It has been a quiet time. Amongst other things, I've been down to the Eurostar depot at Temple Mills. (That's Temple Mills on the East side of Borisville: I gather there was some sort of sporting event held near there last year.) I've been in to lots of rail depots over the years, but never before have I had to empty my pockets, and pass through a metal detector whilst my personal particulars are X-ray'd, not to mention a nice (but not English) lady searching my car. Of course, were I to work at a Heathrow I daresay all this would be commonplace and not raise an eyebrow, but it just seemed so unnecessary just to get into a rail depot.

Meanwhile back in darkest Derbyshire, Andrew dragged the Drewry out of its siding and parked it on the ash pit road so as to determine the next bit of work to proceed on, as it may be going out on loan – but we'll return to that nearer the time. When we separated the train brake valve from the straight air brake, apart from the fact that the linkage isn't quite finished, we always knew that sooner or later we must provide a means of activating the straight air from the train pipe(s) and so the time has come to start installing a distributor.

I also booked the contractor to make a start on breaking out the concrete base of the old “machine shop” (aka double garage) at Darley and dig out the track adjacent. He is due to make a start on Monday 28th. Rob Sanders has meanwhile, being doing some dismantling of the rearmost siding: I had expected him to lift it out as complete panels but being some of the oldest track still surviving from the revived Peak Rail, he thinks the sleepers are too far gone and if lifted would likely dismantle itself. The concrete, incidentally, I am told is 12” thick and has two layers of reinforcement. I am not sure what they intended to use it for – pity it is not at the right height or position, it would have been strong enough to jack just about anything on.....

We've had a number of discussions about Ashdown during the week. On the one hand, Andrew has spun the traction clutch manually and the whole lot tries to rotate – the book says there should be a 1/32 clearance but clear(ance)ly there isn't. The “secret” of a SSS box is that while the gears are shifting from first to second, this clutch provides a drive to maintain traction, then comes in again as top gear. But it isn't supposed to drive at the same time as either of the other two and when it does, makes reversing and moving off slightly awkward. We were also agreeing that it is high time that 'orrible box on the side of the casings comes off, and the modern sculpture upon which the exhauster resides heads for the scrap bin where it belongs. Of course, this will mean Ashdown losing its vac-fit temporarily, and there our thought-processes are not yet crystallised. Shall we stick with the existing exhauster on a new base just above the dynamo (as has been the plan up to now) or indulge ourselves with a hydraulic drive at the front and thus able to place the exhauster -maybe even a rotary one - somewhere more accessible?

For once there is nothing much to report on Saturday- Andrew was attending a steering group committee meeting of the Class 14 owners up at the East Lancs. I am allowed to start releasing some of the details now – there looks like 6 visiting “Teddy's” joining the two resident ones, with some preliminary events on Friday 25th July, with most of the events happening on the Saturday, and on into Sunday. There will be a special website to drool over in due course. What was I doing on Saturday? Well I do have to try to earn a crust and there were a number of drawings and things I had to get on with.

So we come around to Sunday, and the last day that 14 901 is rostered for 2013 (that we know of!). We got into Rowsley early so that we could have a  go at that annoying rattle. Ever since we changed the turbo, at certain rpms (around 950-1050) a loud banging noise starts up which is most irritating. Andrew confirmed my diagnosis that he could see fretting between the end of the exhaust stack and the box (for want of a more technical description) through which it emerges. There is however very little clearance around the pipe, and so a relatively small amount of vibration down at the engine will wiggle the end of the pipe enough to find the sides. After several attempts we thought we might have achieved a compromise: so nipped everything up tight and resumed prepping the loco.

I was joined again by Roy Taylor and this time had John Patrick, the TTCO (Traction and Train Crew Officer) as pilotman. Having been in early, we were fired up and sat on the loop as the Austerity came back in from (I presume) a pay-and-play booking.

For today's runs we were both under scrutiny, and trying to be on my best behaviour I pulled up at Darley exactly opposite the pile of ballast which I assured John (afterwards) was my marker, and just beyond the tank wagon at Rowsley. Our first run had a children's birthday party in the dining end of the train, and afterwards several came forward, with their parents, to see the loco, and I did my jovial driver act by taking them up into the cab, sitting them on my seat and letting them sound the horn – and if you are getting any in-appropriate images out of that description then I suggest that the problem is in your mind, not mine.

This evening, while I have been writing this, in fact, a visitor to Peak Rail today has e-mailed Andrew with links to pictures he took today, and as he is saying nice things about how 14 901 looked, unlike those that pontificate about “imaginery liveries” and “pretend numbers”, feel free to go and have a look.

Anyway on one of my later runs, leaving Roy to occupy the hot seat under John's eagle eyes, I was standing by the cab door droplight, when my watch strap snagged, broke and within a second my watch had exited the loco. At last! I had the perfect excuse for poor time-keeping. Not only did the loco not have a speedo, but I now had no timepiece to work to. (Well, OK, I could look the time up on my mobile, but come on...) Up to now, when occupying the role of third man in the crew, I have argued that I do not have the qualifications to hand over single-line tokens, but seeing as how John has a bit of a bad back, I thought I better do that bit and have been hanging out the side of the loco, dropping off the Matlock section staff at Darley and collecting the Rowsley section one from the Church Lane box.

Oh, did our morning efforts fix that rattle? Er no. It's different, but it's still there.

Left to his own devices, and facing an uncertain weather forecast, Andrew had retired to the shed and had concentrated on Libby. When last we ran it, the smoke had been greater than we would have expected, (the engine was fully overhauled, professionally, before we fitted it) and after so many hours one should adjust the tappets, which on a Cummins, includes the injectors. So he concentrated on that and followed it up by removing the fan (he wants one of the posh, aerofoil plastic ones for it) and reassembling the first part of the exhaust system. Mind you, refitting the casing sections may have to wait until that dear old JCB gets fixed.

As darkness fell, Andrew and I parked up at a car park just outside Matlock and scoured a quarter of mile of the line for my watch. But to mimic Shakespeare -

“Casio, Casio, wherefore out thou, Casio?”

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