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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Point of No Return

Click any image to enlarge     

Today we removed the rotten solebar or side member of the chassis.   This was a point-of-no-return.   It left the wheels unsupported on that side - picture 1.

When the heavy solebar crashed to the ground it broke in two - second picture.

This graphically illustrated the need to replace the entire solebar.

After a day's jolly hard work by me and Ged - assisted at one stage by John from the trolley staff - we had the new solebar in place and the chassis safe and sound again.

Thanks to Ged's amazing joinery skills everything has fitted to perfection.

Thinking of how the wagon was such a short time ago this is astonishing progress.
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Monday, 29 July 2013

53 Girl Guides

Today I had a day off  from matters truck.   I donned my On-Train-Guide vest and accompanied a group of 53 Girl Guides from Settle to Appleby.   None of the other On-Train-Guides had been brave enough to put their names down for the trip.   Now I have to say that the Girl Guides were not teenagers.   They were fully fledged women, most wearing girl guide uniforms.   Boss Girl Guides I guess, staying under canvas in Langcliffe.   If  Hitler had known about the Girl Guides he would not have even thought about it.

I survived.  My commentary was appreciated - I even got a round of applause.   The conductor appeared in our carriage, took one look and declared  "I'm sure they've got tickets; I'm not going in there"!

Saturday, 27 July 2013


click to enlarge
Meet the finished headstocks - the new buffer beams for the old wagon.   In the top picture we see the inside of the southern headstock, showing the number of  holes, openings and mortices that have had to be cut into its 4 inches of depth.   Ged Pinder has done this amazing wood work to the millimeter accuracy.   Tenons on the other chassis components will fit into the square mortices.

Below we see the other headstock, newly painted in black acrylic primer.   It does seem a shame to paint over the sapele wood but it has to be done.   We have actually fitted this headstock to the wagon and the fit is perfect.

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Pinning Down the Brakes

  A welcome visitor this morning was ex Carlisle steam engine driver Ian Graham (see posting for 29th June).   Ian had made us a wooden brake lever.   Here he is demonstrating its use.

This could be a very hazardous operation.   The only braking effort for an entire freight train was that of the locomotive and the guards van.   On an 'unfitted' freight (one without continuous brakes) the brakes on the individual wagons had to be set by hand - perhaps with the train moving.   On a hilly line like the Settle-Carlisle this was vital if run-aways were to be prevented, the consequences of which could be disastrous - as recent events in Canada have shown.

The hand-held brake lever was placed between the wagon's own brake lever and the wagon springs 'or owt you could lever against' and the fitted lever forced down as far as it would go.   A small metal pin, attached to a chain, was rammed in to the tightest of a series of holes in the vertical brake lever guide irons.

Heavy, dangerous and skillful work.   Ian reports that train crews had their own brake levers but in emergencies shunting poles or anything that came to hand would be used.

Ian's beautifully made brake lever shall have pride of place here at the water tower.   He had travelled from Carlisle to present it to us.
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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Mullein and Toadflax

FoSCL campaigner, photographer and botanist called by this afternoon.   It is hard to tell if Pete Shaw is getting excited as he sports a seriously large beard, behind which his emotions hide.   However, reading the other signs I can tell he is getting quite excited about our garden - not by the plants we have planted there but by the spectacular wild flowers that have appeared and that we have encouraged.   This is one, a fine specimen of which is growing by the back wall:
Mullein - click to enlarge
Mullein, Verbascum Thapsus, alias  Aaron's rod, lady's foxglove, cow's lungwort, clown's lungwort, bullock's lungwort, donkey's ears, torches, mullein dock, velvet plant, velvet dock, Our Lady's flannel, Adam's flannel, old man's flannel, woollen, rag paper, candlewick plant, wild ice leaf, Jupiter's staff, Jacob's staff, Peter's staff, shepherd's staff, shepherd's clubs, beggar's stalk, beggar's blanket, golden rod, clot, cuddy's lungs, duffle, feltwort, fluffweed, hare's beard, hag's taper, great mullein.
It is not rare but it is a medicinal herb, as is the plant below:

This beautiful tall plant is growing all over the knoll and is giving height to the new planting.   We have purple and pink varieties of it.

Neither of these plants were evident around the tower when we bought the place and set about taming the grounds.   We did however excavate massively into the bounder clay and removed about 600 tons of soil, clay and rocks from the site.

Pete tells me that this sort of thing can happen when ancient sites are disturbed.   Seeds that have been dormant, sometimes for centuries can germinate.   Curious that both these are medicinal herbs.   We must do a more detailed survey of what we have here.   We are deliberately leaving some areas wild - to help the bees etc, or that's my story.

The building of railways meant soil disturbance in a big way resulting in seeds being either buried at depths that made germination impossible or the exposing of ancient layers.  Look at many a railway embankment for spectacular floral displays.  Seeds up to 2,000 years old have germinated.   Our ground, disturbed as recently as 1876 when the tower was built and 2011 when our JCBs moved in, seems to be throwing up some welcome surprises.   We shall watch observe diligently.

Addendum 27 th July.   Brenda Moss, FoSCL stalwart commented to Pat about this entry.:   "Not content with the water tower you've now got flipping medieval flowers in the garden".

Tuesday, 23 July 2013


The English summer is defined as two hot days and a thunder storm.   Well, this year it is more like two hot weeks and a thunder storm.   Today was the thunder storm.

Have a look at the video in
which shows lightning striking Manchester Piccadilly Station.   Sound on - headphones ideally.   Wait for the bang.   I do not think anybody was hurt but it caused train chaos because of the disruption of signalling equipment.   Signal equipment was disrupted over the Settle-Carlisle line too, with most trains seriously delayed today.

The thunder did not deter us from putting up our metal flag poles and flags to celebrate the Royal birth.   We take comfort, perhaps unjustified, from the earthing effect of three massive cast iron water pipes.   If we get hit the whole of Settle will jump.

A Visit from the Mad English People from Germany

We had a most welcome visit today from Kerry Hones and Chris Watson who are restoring not one but THREE towers, in Germany.   Their towers are also alongside a working railway line and date from 1876 too.   They too are full of railway, water and telegraphic bits and pieces but theirs has the added character of bullet holes in the tower fabric and actual bullets in the garden!
Locally, they are known as the mad English people.   We have been aware of their project for some time, indeed it gets a mention early on in this Blog, and it has been a delight to meet them at last and to share experiences.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Keep Calm and Pedal On

  Meet Lisa Murfin, Ann Green and Chris Murfin - members of the support team for a charity cycle ride from Land's End to John O'Groats in support of Family Life.   See their Blog at
They are from Gerrards Cross and are friends of our daughter Lorna and family so I was delighted to show them the tower during a very brief diversion via Settle.

I just love the T shirts.
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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Some Very Brave Joinery

Click image to enlarge
Our massive pieces of timber are being tamed by Ged Pinder, seen here cutting mortices and tenons into the ends of the new solebar.   Before long the main structural timbers will be in place and our wagon should be good as, if not better than, new.
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Testing the Accoustics - in Style!

Last evening we went to a concert at Settle's Victoria Hall.   It was a sell-out plus a long waiting list.   Why?

It was the Kings College Cambridge choral scholars on tour - nowadays called The Kings Men.   They had just toured the USA and Settle was their first venue of a tour of northern England.   Who should turn up on our doorstep this morning but the Kings Men!   After a tour of the tower the temptation to test the accoustics of the main room was just too much.   Here they are - or 5/7ths of them at any rate - raising the roof with a memorable rendition of Blue Moon.

They had fallen in love with Settle and hoped to be back next year, with I'm a Train I'm a Chooka Train high on their agenda.   They left us to go to Ribblehead where I imagine the lunch-timers at The Station Inn were in for an impromptu treat.
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Friday, 19 July 2013

Quite Summat Innit?

They say that eavesdroppers rarely hear good of themselves.   Working on the tower and its bits makes it difficult not to overhear the passing comments.   Today's star overhearing was (man to wife) "Quite summat innit?"   Hang on in there Michael Gove.

The knoll, overlooking Station Road is really coming on as a garden, and as a local talking point.   Just look at these Sweet Williams plants, responding splendidly to the sunshine and drought.   There are the result of an out-of-date packet of seeds thrown at the bare embankment last year.   The variety is 'mixed' so nothing special I guess.   But what a blaze of colour.

click to enlarge
Today we took delivery of the replacement hardwood for the rotten chassis components.   The picture below wins no prizes for composition but comparison with the stones of the tower wall gives an idea of the massiveness of these hardwood (sapele) pieces.   Thanks to Wonder of Wood for supplying and machining this splendid timber.   Their van was riding jolly low on its springs with this load.

There was another small coincidence in the water tower story as the Wonder of Wood van was driven by joiner Alec Faraday.   Faraday?   There are numbers of Faradays around the Dales - descendants of the family of Michael Farady of electricity renown.   He would be delighted to know how his discoveries had changed the world and our small telegraphic outpost was doing fine - still thanks to the Faradays.
Below is the replacement solebar alongside the truck.   It is heavy!

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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Hotting Up

Today started delightfully with visitors from Driffield who had seen the TV programme and decided they must see Settle and ride on the S&C.   This is just the sort of result we were wanting.  Coincidentally, I was trimming the front hedge and therefore available for conversation as it were.   A local lady, who I had not knowingly met before came across the road and said "Thank you so much for what you have both done for Settle".   Now, isn't that nice?   She told me she had seen both of the TV programmes and had witnessed the restoration work daily during her dog perambulations.

Besides those heart warming encounters this has been, for Settle, a VERY hot day.   Our rooftop weather station recorded 29.5C at 1732 hours.   Besides recording the actual in-the-shade temperature(29.5) the software does a calculation that combines temperature with relative humidity and comes up with an 'apparent temperature' - what it actually feels like.   This was an incredible 38.9C.   102F if you prefer.

Phew, what a scorcher.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Stoke on Trent is a lovely place

Yesterday, taking time off from the truck, I did my usual Tuesday stint as volunteer On-Train-Guide on the 0950 from Settle / 1155 from Carlisle.   There was a coach party on the northbound train with reserved seats.   I gave them a commentary as it the norm on the S&C - possibly the only main line trains in the UK where you can get such a service.   We, the volunteers, aim to cover six trains a day.   Most people appreciate our efforts, which usually end with a round of applause, as was the case yesterday.

I always take the trouble to find out where the coach party is from and yesterday's was from Staffordshire - and a very appreciative group they were too.   I try to personalise my commentary to the group by referring to their part of the world.  One of my standard 'funnies' is to select a large town or city in the visitors' area and to say "For those people from Luton /  Birmingham /  Newcastle etc. those fluffy round things in the fields out there are called sheep".   This invariably results in howls of laughter but I go on to describe the awful events of 2001 when Upper Ribblesdale was badly affected by foot and mouth disease, resulting in the wholesale slaughter of the sheep, now re-populated.

As I was helping yesterday's group of mainly elderly people off the train one lady, fire in her eyes, collared me.   "What's wrung with Stawk-on-Trint?" she demanded to know.   She had not appreciated the joke.  I apologised if I had given offence and said that I had actually been on holiday to Stoke -on-Trent, on a canal boat.   She did not seem appeased.

See Trip Advisor and Knowhere for reviews of Stoke-on-Trent
If you have a very strong stomach see:

You can't win them all.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Solebars, Settle and Sweat

Settle is a lovely place to be.   Big enough to have most facilities yet small enough to know most people, if only by sight.   As I was taking the dog for a walk this morning we met the postman.   "Morning Mark, nothing for you today".   That's nice, in several respects.   Later, when working on the troublesome truck the man from the pet shop passed by.   "If in doubt, give it a clout", was his advice.  Good advice too as it turned out.   After much clouting and cutting the left hand solebar has been completely cleared of its attachments and is ready for replacement.   The plan is to jack the chassis straight, clamp the new solebar to the old one and to drill holes using the existing solebar as the template.   Easily said.

Compare the cleared solebar above with the other solebar, below,whose attachments do not need to be removed (I hope).

Each solebar's fittings are held in place by 40 massive nuts and bolts, most of which have had to be cut off.   In addition to those 80 bolts there are six tie bars which run the length and width of the wagon:

Settle Coal have made these for us to replace the corroded originals.   These, plus the mortice and tenon timber joints, are the keys to the eventual rigidity of the wagon.
It has been cooler today, enabling progress to be made all day without seeking respite in the shade.
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Sunday, 14 July 2013

Tremendous Help - From a Planner

Click to enlarge
This morning I was struggling - trying to remove the final buffer at the north west corner of the wagon.  This buffer did not have a coil spring but it did have a Moulton shock absorber (see yesterday's posting).   It was heavy and there was no telling how much energy was pent up in the Moulton.  The whole thing was held in place by a large iron key that would have to be removed with much force.   There was no knowing if the whole thing would then explode and fly everywhere.   Whilst pondering this dilemma I was joined by visitor Mark Balderson and his son Harvey, from Cumbria.   Mark turned out to be a very handy chap with experience of such things.   Before long he was on top of the chassis wielding a large sledge hammer.   Between us we did what needed to be done and the buffer mechanism just fell apart in carefully judged safety.

The picture shows the buffer and its long shaft lying on the ground with part of the concertina-like Moulton mechanism nearby.

As Mark and Harvey were leaving with my thanks ringing in their ears I asked what was Mark's trade or calling that gave him such skills.   He blushed slightly and confessed.   "Actually I'm a planner".   Once again, God moves in mysterious ways.

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Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Date on a Wagon Wheel

Click image to enlarge
Working on the wagon this morning I spotted what looked to be markings on one of the wheel rims.   A quick burst with the needle gun revealed
Baker and Bessemer Ltd were wagon wheel and axle makers of Kilnhurst, Rotherham.   The works closed in 1963 making 1,000 workers redundant.   Their massive drop hammer 'Tiny Tim' now forms a gateway arch to the Beamish Industrial Museum:
Some hammer.
Presumably 1934 is the date that wheel was forged but it is not necessarily the date of the wagon as wheels would be changed from time to time.   It will be interesting to see any wording cast into the other three wheels in due course.
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Friday, 12 July 2013

A Restored Example of Our Wagon

Just to give ourselves encouragement:

Stanton NRM - Wagon Overview

The Wagon Chassis Stripped of Rotten Timbers

      This shows that just over half of the chassis timbers have had to be removed prior to replacement.   This view on the left shows that almost all of the left half of the chassis will need replacing.

What is left rests on a platform between the axles, propped on wooden blocks.

The final two pieces to be removed were joined securely together and were a definite two-man lift.  Prayer was answered in the form of father and son New Zealanders Nath and Shan Pritchard.   Son Shan had the countenance and physique of a Rugby player and between us we heaved away the last piece.

In the centre of the chassis is the draw bar gear (left).   Metal plates separated by rubber discs act as shock absorbers.   Digging away on-line I discovered these were Moulton devices and at first I wondered if they were relatively modern.   Not so it seems.   The system was invented by Stephen Moulton (1794-1880) who collaborated with one Mr Goodyear in the process of vulcanising rubber - setting up a factory at Bradford-on-Avon in 1848.

The Moulton system is used on rail vehicles to this day.   It was famously used on the Morris Mini suspension too - and on the Moulton bicycle, invented by Stephen Moulton's great-grandson, the late Dr Alex Moulton.

The final picture shows the now bare end of the chassis, awaiting its new bits.

Friday, 5 July 2013

On the Telly Again - Maybe

Settle station's Tim Parker, who is a fount of all knowledge about railway timetables, declares that we are on telly again on Sunday - More4 9pm.   "It's in the Radio Times" he says.   Must be true then.

However, we know from previous repeats that TV listings can give false readings.   So Channel More4, Sunday 9pm - maybe.

The Rotten End of the Chassis

The southern headstock has now been removed, exposing the dire state of this half of the chassis.   The two central longitudinal members have fallen way.   The three iron rods in the middle of the wagon are (centre) the drawbar, which takes the entire load of the train between the draw hooks and the two longitudinal tie bars.   These serve to tighten the chassis and will be replaced with new ones.

Below, is the fundamental problem with the chassis - one of the two main cross members is totally rotten at both ends.   Temporary repairs at some time have prevented catastrophic failure of the chassis.   We shall remove those and renew the failed cross member.

Despite the rot, someof the tenon joints are in good shape (below) though the corresponding mortices have rotted.

Another morice and tenon joint about to separate:

One end of the rotten cross member:

And the other:

Today's other job is to remove the brake mechanisms on both sides of the wagon - to restore the mechanisms on the bench and to make for easier access to the chassis.
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Tuesday, 2 July 2013


We have had a number of visitors today.   One kind lady made us both feel good by telling us that we both looked twenty years younger than we did on TV.   We shall remember that when we next see a repeat!

Later, two men arrived and, tongue in cheek, I asked if either of them knew anything about wagons.   To my amazement, one replied that he started work as an apprentice at the Carr Hill wagon works in Doncaster.   He gave our wagon a thorough look over.   His overall assessment was that the wagon was 'knackered'!

Even so he admired what he saw and commented that the wheels were of particular interest and of an early type.

With acknowledgement to:
this is a picture of the Carr Hill wagon repair works in 1925.   The image is not as clear as would be the case today but the scale of the works can be appreciated.   Note the strings of dots - looking a bit like zip fasteners.   They will have been goods wagons awaiting repair.   Repaired ones would not hang around the works for long - they would be out and about earning their keep.

A Tippler Wagon in Action

The internet is not exactly awash with images of end tippler wagons in action but I did come across this splendid picture of a tippler loading coal into a barge.   There are indications that this may have been at Wigan on the Leeds and Liverpool canal - the famous 'Wigan Pier'
The picture is dated 1890.   The wagon is very similar to ours but has square shaped wooden buffers.   The end door and other features appear identical.

End tippling was a pretty cumbersome process involving one wagon at a time being shunted along a siding to the tippling apparatus and back again before the next could be offloaded.   Much more common were the side tipplers whereby an entire train load of wagons could be tipped sideways one wagon at a time without being separated from their train.   

The end tippler had the advantage that the wagon did not need to tilt very much for the load to slide out.   Side tippler machinery required a much steeper tip - in fact a near inversion of the wagon:

In this instance the wagon contents of coal drops into a pit, thence to a conveyor belt to the top of the coaling tower in the background to be dropped into the tenders of steam locomotives.   In some cases entire loaded wagons were hoisted to the top of the coaling tower to be tipped:

Monday, 1 July 2013

Cutting One's Nuts Off

 The wagon has loads and loads of very rusty nuts and bolts that have to be undone,which poses quite a challenge.  Many of the bolts are corroded almost right through, which makes things easy as they simply break when the nut is turned and the whole lot just collapses in a dust of rust.   Other components are far less easy but not impossible.

The picture illustrates how it is done.   The pen top gives an idea of the size of the nut.  A carefully directed cut with a thin cutting disc goes through the nut like a hot knife through butter.   The nut gets hot in the cutting process and expands, so freeing itself from the threads of the bolt.   Sometimes the nut can be removed by hand leaving the bolt or stud in good enough condition to accept a new nut when the re-building stage is reached.

Please forgive the double entendre caption which will probably result in unsavoury and unwanted spam when GCHQ get hold of it.
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