First of all, congratulations to all of you who have stuck with the story so far. To recap, I had a complete but yet incomplete large grey-and-black riding truck.
While half of me felt pleased (Doobies again?), the sensible other half was thinking “You haven‟t even sat in it yet”. What could be done? Nothing, it appeared, but sit out the virus lock-down.
Then I had a couple of strokes of luck.
Gazing out of the back bedroom window onto the garden. checking on the chickens, I suddenly thought “There might be enough room out there to get a length of track in”. Out came the measuring tapes and, yes, there was a possible 11- 12 meters of useable length. That‟s not a lot, but it was better than nowt. There was a suitable lip where the patio wall was, at a nice height to unload the engine and riding truck. Could it be that salvation was at hand ?
I knew I had a quantity of 30x30x5mm angle iron, but how much? It turned out it was only 3m worth. Ahh – so close. Then the luck changed. Firstly I‟m not a gardener. I can admire greatly the efforts of people like Jim Scott and our other green fingered members and fully appreciate what a difference their horticultural work can make to the appearance and attractiveness of a location, but, there‟s just no interest on my part. I will cut grass happily and over the years we‟ve lived here have slowly grassed as much garden space as possible. Consequently there was no harm that could be done, and so no objections to be heard, to flower beds or borders or that sort of thing if I could get my hands on some more metal.
Then the next door neighbour went back to work. So ?
Well, he‟s a builder and it transpired that the building trade had started up again. I wondered if that trade‟s back, perhaps my friend with the steel stock-holding business had re-opened as well – and they had !!
A phone call or two later and the next day I was on my way to collect nine 2m lengths of 30x30x5mm angle iron, complying with all the social distancing rules in the process I might add. I had enough 40x3mm flat plate to make suitable sleepers and fishplates so the task began. After four days of measuring, cutting, drilling (312 holes), grinding, welding (320 welds), grinding and bolting I had a 10m length, which added to the unloading ramp I already had, gave me over 11m to play with/play on.
I laid it all out on the day before VE day, so come that day and. with a little more support and packing, it looked all set.
As it turned out it took a lot more packing and support than it first looked. A casual glance and it looked fine but then when you walk up and down a few times and there were quite a lot of places where I could foresee the engine getting a bit of a tilt on ! I think I used every bit of spare wood, bricks and pieces of metal before I thought “that‟ll do”.
So the engine was wheeled out unloaded onto the track followed by the BFG truck. Well, at least I now knew it rolled alright and the handbrake worked.
I‟d drawn a bit of attention from the neighbours by this time and so fired up and with steam to spare I set off. I didn‟t get very far. A combination of narrow wet rail, quite a slope and a BFG riding truck and we only managed about three engine lengths before slipping to a standstill.
In the immortal words of Unlucky Alf – “Aww bggr”. Another three attempts with the same result and a re-think was required.
The wet rail wasn‟t being helped by the vacuum ejector being on to see if the vacuum brakes on the truck functioned for real. They had, so the ejector went off.
A frantic rubbing with a rag helped, then I left it for 15 minutes to let the sun do some work. Rolling back on to the unloading ramp as far as I dared meant I now had a flatter starting point and so using “launch control” for the first time on a
steam loco, (I had to – without the vacuum to hold the loco if I released the handbrake before opening the regulator it started to roll off the loading ramp), so it was regulator open handbrake off and we blasted up the track – success !!
I am pleased to say after an hour of to-ing and fro-ing I perfected a driving technique that reduced the amount of slipping to a minimum, though I don‟t think it could have been done without some. I can also say it‟s quite scary sitting on a BFG riding truck about 30ins off the ground, rolling backwards, with only another couple of feet of track to play with (there‟s the cavalier approach to units of measurement again).
However, I can now say the BFG riding truck came through with flying colours. There remains only one more test – to see if the tank and connections are water tight. I wasn‟t prepared to test that on the grounds that the truck was pointing uphill and as my failsafe solution to any water ingress, aside from drain holes drilled in the floor surrounding the tank, had been to leave a 3mm gap under all the internal body panels so that if the worst came to the worst I could pick the back end up and all the water could run out the front, but I think I‟ll wait till I‟m on more even terrain than the Throckley Chicken Shed Railway !!
I‟d like to point out no members of the public or committee, 2mm HSS drills or chickens were harmed during the operating of this railway.
I write this a week after that first run and for anyone contemplating doing the same I do have to report there is a tell-tale stripe up the grass were the drain cocks discharged. On AT they are piped from the cylinders to a central point between the frames. It‟s not bad, and its growing out, but anybody valuing their lawn may think otherwise !