Good morning, Followers of the VEP.
Apologies for the period of radio silence. As you’re all well aware by now, Real Life is a cruel mistress which conspires to keep us railway herberts away from 3417 and dealing with annoyingly grown up things. However, Adulting has once again been put on hold to allow us to continue gainful tinkering with the worlds only working 4VEP. And on that note, I had you over to Chris Buckland, SETG CM&EE, to inform you all of progress and bring all that’s newest in news, gossip and abuse aimed at myself.
“It’s been a while since the Minions have been at Strawberry Hill; things like holidays, drinking, eating and the like have got in the way (and the Big Railway, as usual) but the Old Girl won’t get roadworthy without Spanner Monkeys and some Non-Spanner monkeys throwing well… Errrrr… Spanners at her.
As usual Section 4 Sub Section 6 amendment (a) of depot operating instructions carried out.
Potter had already arrived when I got in, as there were some friends from the Bluebell Railway arriving early. They are filming a documentary about the end of Steam on the Southern Region and wanted to include the VEP. And why wouldn’t they? After all, it was the VEP and her sisters who replaced the steamers.
Potter (again) wanted to be Tom Cruise – which he ain’t. I generously pointed this out, so he opted for the Dame Edna Everage look instead. He pulled it off rather well, in fact some may say to well; it was, after all, the weekend after all and odd things happen at the weekend!
(Editors Note: Sod off, Buckland. Only one of us owns a latex High Visibility Orange cat suit with strategic holes cut in it, and it isn’t me…)
So, while Potter but his best blue dress on, I gave the Bluebell film crew an induction and risk assessment briefing. All this paperwork… It’s the boring side of railway preservation but it’s got to be done. Once that had been dealt with I left them in the clutches of Potter while Darren and I got on with some proper work. The first priority was fitting the new air pipes to let the Old Girl to breathe again. We progressed down the train with an LB&SCR spanner (yes; it’s an original and it’s the only one that fits the pipe nuts) and a large scaffold pole in hand. They are no easy fit; a few grunts were needed to get the couplings in line, I can tell you. An hour or so later and all the train line and main res pipes were refitted and coupling seals greased. Time for testing and check for leaks.
A brief pause while we checked on the Bluebell boys to make sure they were alright; Potter had them in a compartment talking VEP stuff, or possibly just generally talking. They hadn’t gnawed their own arms off at that point so they were OK for at least another hour. Best to leave them to it.
Back to work.
Compressor MCBs reset and that familiar compressor “thunka-thunka-thunka from below the motor coach started. Darren put a key on and the handbrake buzzer sounded (“That’s not right”, we thought. We’ll come to that) and charged the brake pipe. Time to check for leaks! First Driving Trailer was great – not a hiss in sight. Trailer coach – Ah-ha! There’s a leak. We found to be the seal on the back of the coupling on the main res pipe leaking; a bit of fettling later and the leak is like Monty Python (This hiss is an ex hiss.)
The rest of the unit was checked and everything else was in order. The next thing to do was a full brake test to check the Body to bogie air pipes which we had fitted a few weeks ago.
Darren placed the brake handle into Full Service (50 psi in the brake cylinders) and down the train we went checking each pipe. Everything good apart from one pipe on the motor coach.
Now this is where the Senior Spanner Monkey became a proper numpty. “Ahh”, thought Buckland, “That just needs a little nip up to stop the air leaking.” Yes, just a little nip later and I had twisted the copper pipe. “Bugger.”
A few expletives later (I won’t repeat them as there are young eyes reading) and I was looking at a very bent bit of pipe. I’m supposed to be fixing this bloody train, not breaking it. But you can’t make a cake without breaking a few eggs so that’s become a job to put on the list.
Another job is the London-end AWS which has joined it’s Country-end brother by going on strike. So now both cabs have non working AWS; another thing to add to the list of things to do. Oh joy!
Meanwhile, back to fixing things – namely the offending handbrake buzzer.
First a little background to how things should work. When the handbrake is applied at either end there is a microswitch on the mechanism which closes. If someone tries to take power with the handbrake applied, No. 1 wire (a control equipment trainline wire) is connected to 20 wire, the Loudaphone call wire, so the buzzer sounds. So the driver knows that a handbrake is applied and won’t try to move the train.
The fault on the VEP was that the Loudaphone buzzer would sound when either driving desk was opened up and and it didn’t matter if the handbrake was on or off. Myself and Darren carried out fault finding by dropping control jumpers to work out which coach was generating the fault. We soon narrowed it down to the motor coach being the offending vehicle. After lots of pouring over drawings and some more fault finding we found that the fault disappeared when the 10-Point was cut out; the 10-Point, as old Southern hands will know, being the isolation switch for the traction equipment.
Reinstated the 10-Point and tripped the Loudaphone MCB; fault still there. Runback MCB manually tripped fault disappeared again. Cue more drawing-gazing and multimeter-using and it was found that finger contact L1/3 on the line breaker was permanently closed when it should be open. First off I thought it was a broken contact but it was deeper than that. The operating cam in the PZ block (This is the contact block on the front of the linebreaker) had a broken cam so the contact stayed shut when the linebreaker was de energized. Not having the correct block in stock we had to strip and rebuild the block using second hand ones to make the contact operate correctly.
For you geeks out there (not Potter; the only electrical stuff he knows is clicking the switch on the kettle) this fault allowed 9 Wire (the equipment runback wire) to feed 1 Wire when the equipment is in off as L1/2 contact is closed so sounding the Loudaphone buzzer when a key is put on. There! You have all passed your 4VEP Schematic Drawing Course. Your certificates will be sent out in the post very soon.
(Editors Note: I hope you lot understood that, because I haven’t a clue. If you’re still reading; well done!)
Back to the Bluebell Lads who had, with due diligence, survived 3 hours with Potter. I’m impressed; that’s about two hours and fifty-five minutes longer than I can! Those boys have some serious stamina. They seemed to be pleased with the film they had got and were escorted back to the station by Potter. (For ‘escorted’ read ‘Ran to the station muttering “Never Again” and “Does the man breathe through his ears?”‘)
There we go. Another fun day in VEP Land another report to follow very shortly.