At 2357 we pass Northern Class 158s and 144s at the neck of the sidings. A ‘91’ is waiting to enter the depot, and the reception roads are full. As the ‘91’ begins to move it arcs well, the frost forming on the overhead line equipment.
The ‘91’ is not even around the bend towards the depot (less than 150 yards) when an EMT HST arrives slowly beside us. The reception roads work with permissive working. This is booked to be the last arrival.
At 0003 Crow shows us the first set that is ready to go as we re-enter the depot. This set needs an S exam. Crow draws up to the main shed, which has its door shut. She climbs out, opens the door, and then clambers back into her cab. She takes the HST forward, and uses all her skill to stop the train in the correct place.
This takes precision, as the exact spot is incredibly small. It is like this for maintenance purposes, and shuffling an HST into the correct spot would be very tricky if she gets it wrong. But she doesn’t! Interestingly, despite 43059 leading the set, she has shut it down before it enters the shed. On the rear, 43048 pushes it in.
Inside the shed is an EC set. 43310 is having traction motor repairs. The set it’s coupled to has not yet been prepped, but the ‘43’ maintenance is to be completed first. The TM contactor is being replaced.
The work is being done by Operational Shift Electrician Gareth Waddington.
“It’s a planned change. It can be isolated and is not a line speed issue, but you wouldn’t want to send it out isolated.”
He has 90 minutes to do the job, and the space he has to work in is cramped: “It’s an on/off switch relay that sends current to the traction motor. The cubicle is where the traction motor is and 2,000 amps come through it. There are four and I can isolate half of them, but you get low power.”
As for the tight space, he says: “You get used to it, you have to keep fit!”
Back outside again, and the winter chill is in the air. The Class 08s lurking in the yard are covered in frost, as are the walkways.
Peter Stalsis is Reception Road Chargehand. He’s working outside. “Technically I look after the reception roads. You get used to the weather.”
He started work at 2100 and will finish at 0525. “I always do nights. It varies from one week to the next. We do four shifts. I was a tailor but it was going downhill. My mate was here, he said apply, and it worked. It’s a job, and it’s more or less - if you keep your nose clean - a job for life.
“The biggest change I have seen is the depot protection. It makes you feel safer.”
Back inside the main shed, Senior Team Member Simon Moss is working on Trailer Restaurant First Buffet (TRFB) 40700. It’s having a brake pad changed.
He explains: “Pads are changed every seven days. A B exam is carried out every seven days. The work we are doing is like an MOT, but it isn’t just the brake pads we are doing tonight, we check everything.
“It’s all visual. There may be something that has been raised by the guard that needs checking. It’s just general stuff.”
Team members Trevor Hurdiss and Peter McKeown are also working on the set. Says Hurdiss: “We will give the set a check. This one is OK tonight. It depends on what is needed. The power car on this was a fuel point exam, so that’s oil and water. We usually check for oil leaks, too.”
McKeown chips in: “Our HSTs don’t go as far as the East Coast sets so they have different brake pads. Theirs are on mileage, so they need more.”
Paul Corrie is Quality Inspector who tonight is also Acting Service Delivery Manager. He tells RAIL: “It’s hectic. We have just had an East Coast set for a traction motor contactor. It was the No.2 contactor, and they are hard to get to. Each traction motor is bespoke - unique. You need to drill in to get them. They are drilled out and then filled in. Once you take it off you need a new block, as it won’t align. Each vehicle is different.”
He sees a plus point, however. “It’s better to do it at 2330 than 0530. You just want it out safely. You have one hour 20 minutes or one hour 30 minutes to get the work done, so you have to accommodate. It’s juggling. It’s like anything else - all you need is a small fly in the ointment. There’s not much room to manoeuvre. You want more time.”
Corrie points outside: “You know that when it is cold and frosty there will be calls to go out there. There is also the risk of pantograph head changes. We don’t have one tonight, though. That takes 40 minutes to come round.”
He has been on the railway for 41 years, 38 of them at Neville Hill. “I’m a time served apprentice. I started on the Class 45s at Holbeck. I worked on DMUs, and then was a fitter and electrician on HSTs. I moved over to that in 1984. I worked my way through to now, where I am QI and Cover Shift Manager.”
He is reluctant to reveal he is also depot employee of the year, before Roberts forces it out of him.
“That was embarrassing. I got £250 of High Street vouchers. My wife got that! I got a plaque and a star award - it projects when you put light on it.”
And that sums up Neville Hill… unassuming, yet worthy of an award. Hard-working, yet not craving attention. The depot has a secure future - and the new staff who will be employed, much like the new trains replacing the HSTs, will have a lot to to live up to.
- This feature was published in RAIL 767 on February 4 2015