Watercress Line

A Regula(to)r Day at Ropley.

Wednesday 16th November; armistice day has come and gone; the last night of the Proms was ages ago and every damn shop is full of Xmas "goodies"; ah, it's nice to get to the relative sanity of Ropley, (eh?) where, apart from the amount of daylight and the outside temperature, nothing seems to change from week to week; our little haven of life away from all the commercial clap-trap of the town centres. I was having a coffee in Costa over the weekend and was being subjected to Bing Crosby wishing me a happy Xmas.. None of that here during tea-break I'm glad to report... We're the same grumpy old gits week in, week out...

Anyway, what did we do today I hear you ask?

Our "white board" in the mess, whilst undoubtedly a fine idea, didn't seem to have been up-dated for the last couple of weeks, so we were left to go seeking jobs from them wot know down in the workshops. Though Dave 2-Jags has his regular band of chaps still sorting whichever Bullied tender chassis is now residing the right way up in the workshop; by sorting I mean slowly drilling out masses of large rivets that weren't quite in the right place as delivered many months ago. It's a slow process using both of our mag-drills to the full and blunting many a drill bit along the way. But the growing pile of swarf under the tender frame shows that progress is slowly being made. Meanwhile, the large jig erected over the tender frame to use as a bridge to hang blocks and tackles from to manoeuvre bits on and off the tender frame is being cleaned and painted to look like the workmanlike piece of kit it is whilst it awaits some essential safety checks before use. 

Les and his merry men continued with their five (anyone taking bets??) year project to achieve the finest set of Bullied bogies in the land; I say five years, but that is probably a conservative estimate given the number of Bullieds we have about the railway.. Just think, they could sub-contract to other preserved railways running Bullied Pacifics after that for another five years.. How does that make you feel guys??

The continuing Winter overhaul of Cheltenham continues, with more bits being removed week after week. Today was the turn of the regulator to come off and Ian commandeered me to help him atop the boiler whist he set about removing said regulator. It looked simple enough (stupid boy...) being held in place by 2 x 3/4 nuts on rusty looking studs and 2 x 3/4 bolts, also looking the worst for a bit of corrosion. Not a lot of room to work there, we (well, Ian really) attempted to remove the "easier" of the fasteners. Nothing moved of course, despite the 3/4 drive socket with length of pole attached to the T-bar. So the oxy-propane was rigged and a lot of heat applied and gradually over the length of the morning, the regulator casting was freed and removed, though not until one stud whist refusing to give up it's rusted on nut, stripped it's thread. That of course left the damaged stud sitting resolutely in the casting refusing all efforts to remove it. When I left Ian mid-afternoon, he had cut the top of the stud off and was drilling down into it, after trying and failing with the usual method of welding a nut to the stud to apply more heat and more effort with the socket set... Sounds daft really taking all day to remove four nuts, bolts and studs, but that is the way of things working on these fine old engines.. Though I think if it took me all day to remove four bolts on any of my various classic cars, I'd give up and sit and watch the box with a beer in my hand! No drinking here at Ropley of course; (other than tea) strictly (and rightly) verboten...

Up the other end of the yard, a gang of guys were digging out and replacing some timbers from between the rails that had been broken by a heavy vehicle on them two or three weeks ago. That job, in fact, was on last weeks "to-do" list but no-one knew where we were supposed to conjure up suitable replacement timber from, so that one fell at the first hurdle. Some had appeared this week though, and Paul was seen taking measurements and making a drawing; obviously management material that chap as he studied his drawing whilst the other guys worked their picks and shovels...

And so ended another fun-filled day at Ropley on a day which was NEARLY warm enough for yet another "last pic-nic of the year;" extraordinary when we consider it's the middle of November; Don't knock it though, we'll be wishing for Spring soon enough...

That's it from me then.

Your Ropley Scribe.


ps. The observant among you or those still awake will notice I've spared you the cake rota; we still have one, and it's my turn next week! The rest of you, put it in your diaries as soon as you volunteer to spare yourselves the shame of having forgotten your turn... We've all done it!!

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