Weekend Rails

what we do for our kids

Of weather and needle bearings

14th Jun 2015

It has always been a British tradition not just to talk about “the weather” (“Britain has no climate, only Weather. Discuss” was an exam question that my old geography master used to trot out about once a week) but to mock the efforts of those whose job it is to forecast it. Meteorology (which surely ought to be the study of meteors, not weather) in the UK probably reached its nadir when Mr Fish declared that there would be no hurricane, but over the last few years I have come to the conclusion that they doing it pretty well.

Take this week, they forecast that we would have good weather up to Friday night and then an 'orrible wet day on Saturday, and so it has been – but let's take you step by step.

Andrew has continued on welding up his “bridge”. On Monday several large bits of Durbar plate were collected from Matlock, and these have been welded to the frame you saw last week, using the “mini” MIG set. In between times we have been making the last purlins ready for assembly, but these must wait until we have access to a scaffold tower or cherry-picker (and maybe both) to get high enough up to fix them. And since the eave beams must be changed too, that must all be done at the same time so that we are as ready as possible for contractors to come in and clad the building at long last. In addition around each doorway there need to be angles which will form the anchor points for the cloaking sheets (also known as flashings) which are decorative sheets that cover the exposed edges of the cladding and fill gaps back to the building frames. Here's the completed one over the main personnel door – the plate over the door will carry a bulkhead light so that we can see to lock up on cold winter nights – but they must also go around the front personnel door and the two roller shutters, which now they do. In fact, we can think about removing the blue protective film and painting them dark green to match the rest of the building before much longer.

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Oh yes, on Tuesday, we had a run over to the East Lancs. Andrew was going to go on his own after work but wasn't feeling well so we went up together. The main purpose of the trip was to do an exchange of exhausters, but we got to see progress on former Rowsley-resident D9502. While Andrew talked on, I wandered over to the other half of the Baron Street site to use the loo in the loco crew block, and while in there, some security-conscious soul locked the door. Trying not to panic (I'd left my mobile in the van) I hunted for an internal phone or land-line, but if there were any they were in locked offices. Eventually I escaped through the Fire Exit at the back. On the return run we stopped off in darkest south Manchester to collect a new (to us, i.e. e-bay again) mag drill which came with a selection of cutters – and a super piece of kit it is too.

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I said last week that I suspected the forklift might need a bit of TLC shortly – the steering had starting making some squeaking noises and the rear left wheel had always had a bit of toe-in which was not matched by that on the other side. The LOLER inspector too picked up that the steering rod that side had no retention (a circlip was missing) and everything points to some event or other having occurred to it in the past. Anyway, Terry rolled in after work on Friday and we stripped it down – it came apart quite easily but left a pile of needle rollers on the floor. The kingpin should be running in bearings top and bottom, but of the top one there was little to be found and the bottom one disintegrated as we took out the 'pin. Fortunately neither the pin nor the housings seem to have taken any damage so we'll have to sort out new bearings and seals and get it back into action pronto – and probably go over the opposite side as well shortly. For it seems in the very bottom of the kingpin, recessed to protect it from damage (and make it virtually invisible) is a grease nipple intended to lubricate the lower bearings and adjacent thrust pads. There is, on this machine at least, no means up lubricating the upper bearing, yet on the Cat manual I got off e-bay earlier this year, it does show nipples top and bottom – so maybe we'll get that modified in due course.

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So for the present, even if Andrew's Bridge was completed, the first ceremonial drive across will have to wait until the forklift is back in action. All the more of a pity because when we added fuel to it earlier in the week, the fuel gauge needle actually rose – or in other words all its gauges are functional, if not calibrated!

But as I said rain was forecast for Saturday, so we scheduled a trip over to Scunthorpe and the forecast was true once again. We arrived at Scunthorpe just after a tour of Severn Valley members had arrived at the sheds for the break/refreshment stop. We had barely signed in when one of the AFRPS group came up and told us that one of said visitors had declared that we had the 'number wrong' on our 03. You will all know that such an inflexible view on numbering – the attitude that 'BR gave it a number and let no man put on any other' – is tantamount to the proverbial bull and coloured cloth where we are concerned. (I have been blocked by one photographer on Flickr after he pontificated on the number carried by 14901 and refused to entertain any debate about it!) We went in search of the gentleman, hoping to expand his horizons, but we couldn't find him.

The “team” have been working hard on 1382 but clearly the brake rigging has not been apart for many years and stripping it down to component parts for cleaning and lubrication was taking a lot of time and manpower. Andrew joined them for the first hour or two, leaving me to progress 03 901.

When I left it last, my gearbox sensors were seemingly working OK but only by hand operation, and the problem was that, as the pistons are floating but the hand lever operates the selector parts that go between them, once I had got the pistons in such a position that the sensor came on, I couldn't get them return at all. I needed air to do that, and that meant running the engine ( or hooking up an air line, but the former was more enjoyable).

But first I decided I would finish the revised wiring, which took a while to feed new wires through tie-wrapped bundles and extract old ones. The new little pcb I had put into the console had relays which would operate as soon as the sensors turned on, and these relays would carry the heavier currents necessary to operate two relays in the control system. But the two desk indicator lamps were operated direct from the sensors, and I thought I had put these in as LEDs, so needed to make sure of their polarity as I re-wired them.

Once the wiring was complete, I collected the belts and pulley assembly and set about reassembling the water pump drive. Curiously, although the belts we took off were A section, and I had A section belts to renew, these actually touched one another. It is OK for the present, but I had better work out if they should really have been Z section, or if this was once a poly-vee and either way the wrong belts were on.

Anyway, I turned on the power and panicked as both forward and reverse lights came on at the console – was my wiring wrong? Then I remembered that I had left it with both pistons registering on the sensors so fired the loco up. As pressure built one sensor turned off as its piston moved to the selector shaft, and once 60psi or more was on, I operated the gear change. The gearbox clunked audibly over, and after a couple of seconds, the direction light came on. The time delay bothered me, it should have been instantaneous. I opened the cover on one indicator lamp and found myself looking at an ordinary bulb, not an LED. It is over 3 years since I wired this loco up so I may be excused for not remembering, but the relay plus a fully-fledged bulb would be close to the maximum load the sensor would accept and it might be deciding whether to treat it as a short circuit. I toddled back to the van and found a LED with a BA9 bayonet cap and swapped one bulb out. Now when the gearbox went over, the light came on without any delay, so I must change both the indicators to modern white LEDs.

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Andrew meantime having “done his bit” towards 1382, had moved on to conduit-making. We had travelled over with two lengths of 20mm galvanised conduit between us, and with my new conduit-threading dies (e-bay again), he had started making up the sections that join the two new code lamp boxes at each end and pass through into the loco. We did in fact possess the original conduit from the rear, but the chances of it lining up with the apertures in my new boxes was remote, and stocking up with imperial conduit threading dies wasn't worth the cost of the conduit, so new lengths were provisioned.

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Being galvanised they must be properly primed before they are painted, so at the end of the day they came off for that to happen. Finally he got out the midi-MIG and welded up some profiles for Dom Beglin, part of the S&T installation for Rowsley.

When we got back to Darley Dale, Steph reported that it hadn't stopped raining all day (it had eased of at Scunny later in the day, though I often wonder how much the heat discharged from the steel and coke plants affects their climate).

Today it was back to Darley, for Andrew to complete his bridge welding, but first we had a visitor from the Churnet Valley calling to collect some parts. Cheedale's batteries were given a boost: once the forklift is back in action we will top the fuel up a bit (lift a 45 gallon drum on the forks and gravity feed – beats rotary pumps any day) and get it running again. There are some holes in the cab to fill from equipment removed (I took off a Cat battery charge socket last week as it was sticking straight out of the cab side: didn't foul the load gauge but looked awful) and handrails, casing doors, etc to return to original appearance.

We fired up Ashdown briefly – like Cheedale it has been returned from Rowsley with next to no fuel - but a quick check revealed that it is also distinctly lacking in coolant. Whether this is from some unreported leak or deliberate draining we know not, but will top it up and get it running again shortly. James had a bit of time on it during the week – the coolant temperature sender and gauge were connected but there remains a pos and neg to the gauge which needs a bit of ingenuity and a hole or two before it will function. That leaves Charlie, which of course is available for Peak Rail as works loco at reasonable notice (measured in days, not weeks which we hear is being rumoured around Rowsley) but has yet to be requested.

I placed an order during the week for new eave beams and flashings – after waiting a long time for the firm who supplied purlins at a good price a few weeks ago but inexplicably went stumm after promising to quote – and the order has gone to a firm in Cardiff, who, despite the transport cost, came out best overall despite other firms much nearer. Not only that, after discussing the problems of access to Darley, they happened to have a rigid wagon heading our way this next week so our order will be rushed through double-quick to be on it. What a pity that Andrew will be at work when it comes and the forklift may still be only on three wheels. Still, the forecast is for it brightening up again during the week and I for one believe them.

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