Watercress Line

A Happy New Year from all at the fun-factory.

It's 2017, if you hadn't noticed; all the Xmas madness and New Year eve "celebration" is behind us now and we can get on with being grumpy old gits again without the forced "Oh what fun we are all having" nonsense for another year. As I heard someone say the other day, now is the best time of the year, because it's furthest from (next) Xmas.. Hmm, not sure it's quite the best time; it's still cold and dark after all, but we are downhill to Summer. Positive vibes...

Anyway, probably slightly fewer of us than normal this morning to start proceedings but after the usual tea and chat, Andy went through what he would like us to prioritise today. Incidentally, I'm sure you noticed there was no blog for the couple of weeks before Xmas (you didn't??) so there are a couple of pix from then, including one of the splendid Xmas cake that was almost too good to eat; Almost.

Before Xmas, two or three of us had assisted Matt in removing eight very large bolts from beneath the 9F which had been found during an earlier inspection to have worked slightly loose. Originally, not surprisingly, we were just tasked to tighten them. But split pins prevented that so Matt decided we'd remove the pins then fit new bolts, rather than try and re-drill the bolts after tightening. But, of course, nothing is that straight forward. After removing split pin and undoing the first nut, we noted than the flippin bolt couldn't be withdrawn. Someone, sometime, had welded a bracket to the frame just above two of the bolts; it was serving no purpose now, so cue the gas-axe and angle grinder. Then the next bolt we tackled was impossible to get a spanner to and so it went on; you get the picture. So that day, the last we were there before Xmas, we achieved the sum total of removing two (out of eight) bolts...

On to today then and we expected to pick up where we left off on that job, but fortunately, Matt had spent yesterday doing most of it leaving us only to check for final tightness and replace a couple of split pins (beneath the nuts, interestingly); but as per drawing!

Cheltenham is next to the 9F in the wheeldrop still minus it's driving wheels. The braking system is also being overhauled and Matt asked a few of us to remove the very heavy cast iron vacuum cylinder to the machine shop for some fettling. He pointed out that this thing is a one-off; there are no patterns for it, never mind replacements, anywhere in the country and cast iron, as we all know, is very fragile! No pressure then Matt...

We also had an interesting discussion (?) about rolling ring seals (on the piston that works in the vacuum reservoir) and their mode of operation. The main reason, it seems, for getting the vacuum cylinder to the machine shop, is to "rough-up" the surface that the rolling ring seal traverses. I argued that the thing would work better like an O-ring which needs a smooth bore to work on...  Not so it seems. And, don't tell Matt, but I did go on t'internet when I got home to see how the system was constructed. He was right....

Lord Nelson is currently residing in the boiler shop to keep the weather off it and a couple of the guys were asked to carry on with some cleaning we had started before Xmas; John and Graham were doing the wheels when I popped up there with the camera; a job I personally hate as they get so dirty and they are so awkward to clean. The guys did a splendid job though so any visitors should be suitably impressed...

Elsewhere there were the usual little gangs doing their various things; Bob the welder was pouring white metal and asked me for a hand at one stage; it always amazes me pouring liquid metal from a (very) hot cauldron using a very heavy ladle; it sort of strikes me as some sort of witchcraft with such down-to-Earth basic casting methods that haven't changed for ever.. Not quite sure what some of the I-phone generation would make of it... They've probably got an app....

So that's it from me until next week; have a great 2017 one and all (and ignore my cynism!)

Your Ropley Scribe.

Dave.

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