Monday, 14 December 2015

Beware of Amorous Reindeer

The Santa season is now in full swing, the duties being shared between the Planet's Favourite Prairie, 5542 and Dinmore Manor.  It's a long day for the crews, starting in the morning long before day break and finishing long after dark.  Mercifully for the crew of Dinmore Manor, the forecast rain held off on Saturday.
5542 and Dinmore Manor being prepared for Santa duties
Raising steam
 2807 has been suffering of late from excessive oil loss from the fireman's side pony truck axle box.  A new set of underkeep castings have been made to rectify the problem and work is now underway to fit them.
The pony truck axle boxes
2807 with her pony truck pulled forward

The new underkeeps, awaiting fitting.
All that is of course in addition to the usual winter maintenance, Clive and Cliff were busy painting the coal space in 2807's tender.
 Carrying on with the theme of GWR 2-8-0's, Martin & Sam were at work on 3850:
Sam at the rear and Martin extricating 3850's sanding mechanism
Little work was in evidence on Dinmore Manor's tender, however Dan, fresh back from his studies was to be found cleaning up the steam heat connectors:
Dan at work
 The postman failed to deliver my copy of the Cornishman (why can't he just forget to deliver the bills?) so I popped into the shop on platform 1 to pick up a copy.  It's a dangerous place to visit at the moment, all of Santa's little helpers were on hand.  No sign of Santa though, which is a shame as I have a long list of very expensive things that I'd like him to deliver on Christmas day.
The Snowman, more TTI than abominable
Santa's little helpers.
Elf 'an Safety, AKA Chris & Frances
 Last week, one of our recently qualified firemen sent out a message asking for the hat that he managed to leave on the footplate of one of our locos be rescued.  His cap is now hanging up in the mess coach.  When last seen, it also had an emergency lump of coal attached to it, just in case he should run out... again!
If the cap fits...
The big news of the weekend relates to progress with a certain large, green pacific.  The big news, isn't that it has had its speedo fitted...
...even though it has
Dan, making himself at home on the fireman's side of the cab
 Or that it has had its brick arch fitted...
...though that has happened too.
The big news, is that the centre con rod big end bearing was now machined and ready to fit:
The big end, ready for trial installation...
...well, ok, nearly, Steve did a little last minute fettling
Jeff used the FLT to deliver it into the pit
I have always considered the fitting pf 35006's centre con rod to be best undertaken as an observer rather than an active participant.  That con rod is a significantly large chunk of steel and more than capable of doing some serious damage.  You'd probably notice if you dropped it on your foot for instance, steel toe-caps in your boots can only help so much.  Anyway, it was against my better judgement and my instinct for self preservation that I found myself caught up in the proceedings.

The con rod was to be fitted the hard way, a deceptive statement, as there is no easy way to fit it.  It was first manhandled into what was judged to be the correct spot in the pit, and 35006 was shunted over it, being brought to a halt when the crank shaft was in what was believed to be the best position to facilitate fitting the con rod.  35006 was then moved out of the way again, the con rod shifted again to what really would then be the easiest spot from which to manoeuvre it into position, then 35006 shunted back over it once more.  After that, a series of lifts using several sets of block and tackle commenced, starting from a position nearly, but not quite under the ash pan and shifting the con rod, up at a fairly steep angle, through the counterweights on the crank shaft and over a couple of frame stretchers to finally join up with the cross head of the centre piston.
Steve using a block and tackle
Dan peering down from a spot near the cross head
Slowly progressing through the counter weights
Tantalisingly close at the little end
 Inserting the gudgeon pin through the little end proved a little tricky, as we were fighting against a wood ruff key that didn't quite want to line up and a very heavy con rod that wouldn't locate in quite the right position.  "Just think of it as gynaecology for beginners" was the less than helpful quote from Andy (I'm not saying which one, there were at least two Andys present).
Not that I'm any expert, but nothing like gynaecology.
Finally, gudgeon pin inserted and secured in place
That just left the big end to be located onto the crank shaft.  The blocks and tackle needed re-setting up to permit the required movement, and the con rod and piston pushed as far forward as they would go.
 Andy setting up a block and tackle, yet again
Once the con rod was fairly close to being in the right place, we split the big end and removed the bearing.  Even splitting the big end required the use of a sledge hammer.
John giving the big end securing pin some therapy with a sledge hammer
Dan's turn with the block and tackle
 The trick now, was to very carefully shunt 35006 just a little bit backwards, to bring the crank into the jaws of the big end.
The crank at the top, big end at the bottom.
Much closer, post shunt.
 Then it was a case of easing the con rod back and up, whilst keeping the front half of the bearing in the right place with a few blocks of wood
(l-r) Andy, Dan & Steve manoeuvring the big end bearing into place
 Bearing in place, it was now a simple case of refitting and securing the end cap.
John continues with the sledge hammer therapy
Job's a good 'un!
One fitted centre con rod
It turned out to be a very long job, not finishing until long past the usual clocking off time, and at various times, perhaps as many as a dozen people were involved.  This is of course another significant milestone passed.  Although this was only a trial fitting, the bearing surfaces at each end will require some fettling over the coming weeks, there will be no need to completely remove the centre con rod again, just temporarily disconnect each end, one at a time, fettle the bearing and then reconnect it again.  The major jobs left before 35006 can enter traffic are still considerable, but mostly centre on the tender, the tender brakes being the most significant mechanical work left to be undertaken.

I received the following in an email from Steve of 35006's owning group.    

"Could you please put on the blog a "BIG THANK YOU" to all the steam department, including yourself, who helped get the centre connecting rod in place today underneath P & O."

I hesitate to mention the names of those involved, as I didn't write them down at the time, but they all know who they are.

And finally, at around the time that the work on 35006 was approaching a conclusion, 5542 returned for disposal. She had to remain on the ash pit overnight, as 35006 was still on the pit on road 9 and unable to be moved. All had gone well with the Santa Specials, many children had been to see the jovial philanthropist in the red suit and get presents (strange how they all turned out to be on the 'nice' list), and the adults had been filled to bursting with tea and mince pies. Only one small issue had arisen, one of the lamps had been struck by a low flying reindeer's hoof (it was more than just Rudolph's nose that was red) and had fallen to earth with a bit of a bump. The inside glass had broken and the top was no longer as well attached to the body as it should be. The theory that Rudolph had mistaken it for a lady reindeer because of the antlers was never quite discounted.

The lamp, after Rudolph's amorous advances.
 A spare lamp was obtained from the lamp store, and Jamie set about transferring the antlers from the broken lamp to the spare.  I did wonder if he was planning to use it as a  decoy, with a view to having venison for his Christmas dinner.
Jamie, attempting an antler transplant
Well, it had to happen didn't it!

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