There are some jobs that take as long as they take: The sort of job which, depending on what you find may all go quickly and be done in half a day, or if there are lots of adjustments to do, can take several days. One such job is weighing a locomotive.
You might think that this involves just finding out how much she weighs overall, but it’s more complicated than that. We already know roughly how much the Brit weighs – it’s in all the Observer books and practically any other loco-spotter’s list of facts and figures (its 143 tons in working order, since you ask). But the important detail is how much of that weight is loaded down onto the rail by each wheel. To do this we use a set of strain gauges which measure the weight on each axle one by one, and you don’t just measure everything once; every change you make to the spring settings will affect more than just the one axle, so you could end up weighing every axle more than once. As with everything railway, the gauges aren’t lightweight and small, they are big heavy bits of kit which take quite a lot of hauling around to get into position, and adjusting springs isn’t a walk in the park either. So unless the weights are spot on first time, the job can take quite a long time.
The weighing equipment and strain gauge are just visible under the front wheelset. (It was already starting to go dark by the time I had a chance to take photos).
Gary Foster has been helping Dave Wright with the weighing over the weekend, I spoke to Gary yesterday, the conversation went a bit like this:
Me: “I guess it’s one of those jobs which could take half a day, or a four days, or anything in between”
Gary: “Well, it took us all day yesterday and we’ve only just started”
Me: “Well, that settles it, if it’s already taken a full day it’s not going to be a half-day job then!”
That conversation took place first thing in the morning, and they were still hard at work at 4.30pm when I left.
Because weighing the engine can be a long job we can’t guarantee that the engine will be ready in time to take up her rostered job on the first of March – she might have been, but we took the decision to declare ourselves unavailable in time for the operator to find another locomotive to take the train. We don’t like cancelling jobs, but we’d rather be open and up front about the delay in getting the engine ready than keep everyone hoping and expecting her to be ready and then have to cancel at the last minute, leaving the operator stuck with no motive power and the passengers disappointed on the day when the train doesn’t run, or is diesel hauled.
Meanwhile, behind the Brit, the Arthur has been having some TLC from Gerry, John, Hugh and various others who have been cleaning the engine down ready for a spot of re-varnishing to freshen up the paintwork while the engineering side carry out a few bits of planned winter maintenance.
Gerry didn't want a photo published, so his hand offered to stand in for him!
The Five wasn’t in traffic, but was on public display (well, she was in the siding leaving space in the shed for the Brit and the Arthur to be worked on!).
Meanwhile, at the back of the shed, Lee and Luke Calladine were busy with 14055, assisted by various of the shed cleaners from time to time, especially when they brought vacuum cylinders up the shed for attention – very few people can resist the lure of seeing what’s inside one of those mysterious lumps of metal which normally lurk un-noticed under vehicles and whose inner workings are a bit of a dark art. For those who were even more interested in the inner workings of the vacuum brake system, but wanted theory not practice, our very own Geoff Morris was giving a lecture to the Loughborough MIC members about the mysteries of the GWR Vacuum Brake System yesterday morning. Although you can fire a locomotive without knowing how it works, the best enginemen are always the ones who are interested in the way they work and how to get the best out of them.