Saturday, 14 January 2017

Statfold Barn: Polish & Buff...

Hi all. Today was the annual Statfold Barn 'Cleaning Day'; a chance for the volunteers to head over to this wonderful narrow gauge set-up and clean off some of the dirt we created in 2016. A cleaning day is a small price to pay for the amount of enjoyment we get from crewing on the SBR's popular Enthusiast Days. I arrived at just after 9am, devouring my now traditional McDonalds breakfast on arrival - I should buy some shares in that place! The many faces of Statfold were pulling in one after the other, with people coming from all over the UK. One really nice feature of volunteering at the SBR is that there are people from across the preservation spectrum, providing a varied wealth of knowledge and experience. I immediately teamed up with my old mate JB who was on form with the 'character building insults' from the word go! With a hot cuppa' in one hand and a rag in the other, we set to cleaning my favourite engine in the SBR fleet - "Isibutu". I don't know what it is about this lovely Bagnall 4-4-0, but there is just something about her. JB was busy with the brass polish, buffing up the nameplates...
JB's threat of "you blog me and I'll blog you" fell on deaf ears - he doesn't have a blog! All around us, the other SBR steeds were being cleaned to within an inch of their lives. There must have been well over 20 volunteers busily working away. Even the out of ticket engines were getting a polish...and the diesels too! The SBR's award winning fleet looks fabulous when cleaned up, with its well-travelled selection of engines standing proudly around the turntable. At lunchtime we had another cuppa' and some snap before returning to the roundhouse to begin cleaning the 2ft 6" Mallet. We'd cleaned "Isibutu" thoroughly and she looked a treat, sitting between two diesel types...
Its hard to take photographs in the roundhouse with my limited skills - other people seem to manage just fine! Over the way were "Jack Lane", O & K No614, Port Class "Sybil Mary" and the wonderful Avonside "Marchlyn"...
The Fiji pair had been cleaned very well and looked beautiful. Nos 11 & 19 worked together abroad and are now reunited at Statfold; one of many pairings here. No11 is now named "Fiji" and is a popular SBR engine...
The cleaning day wrapped up at about 4pm and I was soon heading for home along the A444. The SBR fleet is now shining and they will now be awaiting their dry exams and steam tests in February time. The first SBR Enthusiasts Day of 2017 is on March 25th and our second miniature steam rally - this year dubbed the "Giant Miniature Weekend" - follows in May. Tickets for all SBR events can be booked here. Many thanks indeed for reading folks. I can't wait for the next open day at Statfold! Cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Tyseley: The Winter Break...

Hi all. Today I was volunteering over at Tyseley for one of their regular Saturday working parties. I arrived at just after 10am and immediately met up with everyone's favourite sleeper-in "Eddie the Late" who was on a jolly from his selfish man's residence in Norfolk for a date with the Duke. Ed is a supporter of 71000 "Duke of Gloucester" and quite a few followers of the unique 8P Caprotti were down to see progress on her today. Like most steam sheds at this time of the year, the many steeds of Tyseley were standing around silent and cold. The chilled hulks of dormant engines always gather condensation as they sit awaiting their chance through the Winter rest period. Quite a few other groups were down today, including a gang from "Kinlet Hall" and "King Edward I". The works was actually a hive of activity today, though the pannier duo of 9600 & L94 stood idle. It will be nice to see them out & about again in 2017...
Our small gang were busy with the ever progressing overhaul of Tyseley's flagship engine: the double-chimney Castle Class 4-6-0 No7029 "Clun Castle". She is now looking very much like an engine again, though there is still a long way to go. Even though she looks pretty much complete, the untrained eye would be surprised to see just how much work remains. I suppose the phrase "it'll be done when its done" is all you can say. However, the progress is very much there and it will be fantastic to see this historic Castle move under her own steam once again. Who needs to say it with two chimneys when you can say it with four?! It'll be a great and loud occasion...
What is interesting whilst studying the Castle, and indeed other GWR four-cylinder types, is the Walschaerts valve gear set-up between the frames. They use a divided drive with the two inside pistons driving the leading axle and the outside pistons driving the main crank axle. An axle-mounted eccentric is used instead of a return crank and the expansion links swing from a common cross-shaft, being driven from the bottom by the appropriate eccentric. Rocking levers then transfer the valve positioning motion from the inside to the outside valves. There is a good demo video here. Its an interesting set-up and one that obviously works very well. After a very enjoyable (if chilly) day at Tyseley, I headed for home at just after 4pm. For those interested, the Vintage Trains website is here with a variety of tours on offer for 2017. Cheers all, Sam...

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Nene Valley Railway - A Soaking Standard...

Hi everyone. A Happy New Year to you all and I hope that you had an enjoyable Christmas eating and drinking until you could no longer speak - I know I did! I was at a loose end during this hideously wet New Years Day and so decided to jump in the motor and head off in search of steam. Most of the local lines would be running but I fancied trying something different. Around 50 miles east of us lies the Nene Valley Railway, a 7.5-mile long standard gauge set-up which I've never managed to get to in the past. Having checked their website to ensure that a steamer would be rostered, I set off into the damp gloom of this horrid day. It took me just over an hour to reach the NVR's saturated base at Wansford and, having parked up, I scurried into the ticket office to escape the downpours. I had hoped that I would drive out of the persistent rain on the way over but as my ever decreasing run of luck would have it I think it was actually worse at Wansford! Anyway, ticket purchased, I walked out onto the wet platform and up onto the footbridge. Photography wasn't going to be easy today but I did manage to get the odd snap. The Wansford footbridge offered a good view across the loco yard towards the running sheds, with a few NVR residents in sight...
The next departure would be the 11:45am off Wansford and this service duly rolled into the platform behind recently restored BR Standard 2 No78018...
"78018 Pulls In From Peterborough With A Mk.1 Set"
The Standard 2 drifted casually through the platform and came to a halt at the top end. Drenched passengers began to board the steam heated Mk1's whilst a handful of us mad enthusiast types attempted to get a picture of the loco. 78018 is usually based at the Great Central Railway at Loughborough and returned to service in October last year after a painstaking overhaul. She last ran under her own steam in 1966 and so I have to take my sopping wet hat off to her owners - the Darlington Railway Preservation Society - and the GCR for such a nice job. She looked a treat in the rain today...
I boarded the train behind 78018 and immediately assumed my usual position when travelling on preserved metals: the window! We left Wansford a few minutes down and steamed out past the sheds and through the tunnel. Wansford Tunnel is 616 yards long, making it the fourth longest tunnel on any heritage railway in the UK. Blasting out the other end of the tunnel the engine shut-off steam to coast towards the small station at Yarwell Junction. The Mogul was duly uncoupled by a drenched cleaner who was no doubt enjoying his first day swinging about amongst the steam heat and vacuum hoses. Yarwell is roughly a mile from Wansford and is the NVR's westerly terminus...
Uncoupled from her train, 78018 hissed steadily forward before the cleaner set the road for running round. The Mogul then ran backwards, with her safety valves feathering. I believe that the Standard 2's are an ideal size for most preserved railway work...
The Mogul disappeared into the distance before heading back towards us on the correct road. The loop at Yarwell Junction is pretty lengthy in order to stable a good sized train. Today however there were only four coaches in the rake and so the engine was well within the platform limits. Soon enough she was coupled back onto the set...
"78018 Readies For Departure From Yarwell Junction"
The NVR started its preservation life with a wealth of international locomotives and coaching stock. International stock often sits outside the typical British loading gauge and so the platform distance from the train at the Nene Valley is greater than you would see on most heritage lines. The Mk1's have been fitted with wider step-boards to compensate for this extra distance between train and platform...
Departing Yarwell in a cloud of smoke & steam, 78018 roared away back towards Wansford. The coaches rocked & rolled along behind her as she stomped into the tunnel. As we rolled into Wansford to pick-up more passengers, I was sitting down with a nice hot cuppa' from the Buffet Car and thinking what a pleasant (if damp!) experience this was turning out to be. Even rainy days with steam can be enjoyable...
Wansford station originally opened in 1845 and was part of the Northampton and Peterborough Railway. This was absorbed into the LNWR prior to the grouping of the 'Big Four', after which the station became LMS territory. The old station building at Wansford isn't currently in use but it provides an attractive piece of railway architecture. The NVR is fairly flat and so the 2-6-0 had hardly any work to do during the run to Peterborough. The Driver was certainly giving her some stick mind - he certainly liked to get away from the stations quickly! Soon enough we arrived at a very wet Peterborough Nene Valley station, nestling in the shadow of the East Coast Main Line...
The Nene Valley built the Peterborough station during their extension project in 1986 and the locomotive once again runs round here before returning to Wansford...
The poor old cleaner once again had to get oily hands whilst uncoupling 78018 before she hissed backwards to take water at the column. The engine then ran round...
With the westerly points set, 78018 backed down onto the waiting stock...
I managed a low quality, rushed shot into the cab of the Standard 2...
Now for some history on 78018. She was built in 1953 at Darlington as one of BR's 65-strong class of Standard 2 Mogul's. Derived from Ivatt's class 2 types which had appeared in 1946, the 2's were small but punchy performers. Carrying a 200psi boiler feeding 16.5" cylinders with pistons connected to 5ft wheels, the class offered 18,515 lb's of tractive effort but a maximum axle loading of less than 14 tons. Their low axle weight gave them wide route availability and they were popular engines. Four have survived into preservation. 78018 is known to me as "the lost engine of Shackerstone" as she did spend her early preservation life there, minus tender. The rusting hulk languished at Shack for a few years before her current owners bought her in 1981. The restoration has taken many years but it is lovely to see 78018 back in action. The engine achieved a little fame in the harsh February of 1955 when she got stuck in a snow drift at Bleath Gill. A film was made about the rescue of the engine and the remaining wagons of her stricken train and you can see it here. The engine was luckily rescued and returned to work, being withdrawn in 1966. She is currently on loan to the Nene Valley Railway and has helped out over the Santa season. She will soon be returning to her Loughborough base...
Chatting to the crew aboard the Standard 2 they seemed happy with their plucky little engine. The Fireman remarked how well she steamed but that he had been suffering with an injector playing up. The Driver said it was a strong little engine but sometimes lacked the adhesive weight - a fact that surprised me with such a light train but I suppose the weather was pretty rough. She certainly didn't sound like she was doing much slipping on the run! Soon enough we were ready for departure...
"The Wet Road Ahead"
The soaking wet flat-lands around the NVR were desolate today...
78018 was in good voice as she strode towards Wansford...
It was a pleasure to listen to the Riddles 2-6-0 as she marched away from Peterborough - she sounds a treat. You can see the advancements made with the BR Standard range. The injectors are both on the fireman's side, there are grease points instead of wick-feeds or oil pots, the driving controls are under the drivers hand and most items have been designed with ease of maintenance in mind. They turned out to be very workable, useful engines; just as Riddles had intended them. We soon arrived back at Wansford after a pleasant run with the former Bleath Gill Mogul...
It was now time for the lunch break, according to the NVR's Blue Timetable, and so I left 78018 simmering in the platform to see what other machines lay dormant in the yard. Across the way was another BR Standard, this time a larger Class 5 4-6-0. Built in 1954, No73050 "City of Peterborough" was withdrawn from service in 2014 following expiry of her boiler ticket. She now awaits a 10-year overhaul but funding is apparently in the pot to begin this when a space in the shed comes up...
"BR Standard Class 5 No 73050"
The no doubt favourite NVR resident (for the younger visitors anyway) lay cold and damp at the bottom of the yard. The Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 "Thomas" returned to service last year after a 10-year overhaul. Built in 1947, the NVR's "Thomas" was officially named by Rev.W.Awdry and so lays claim to being the only 'real' Thomas replica if you like. The Hudswell now enjoys regular use at Thomas events, operating shuttles between Wansford and Yarwell. I believe she enjoys an annual adventure to Peterborough but this is only for special occasions. It was nice to see "Thomas"...
"Thomas The Tank Engine" - HC 0-6-0 No 1800 of 1947
The NVR has quite a few sheds dotted around its Wansford base but the main restoration shed includes a variety of machinery and has the luxury of a viewing gallery. Inside the shed stood the recently re-steamed Bulleid Battle of Britain Class pacific "92 Squadron". 34081 was built in 1948 and isn't far away from being relaunched into traffic at Nene Valley. She has moved under her own steam but I believe she is currently receiving final fitting out prior to loaded runs. She will probably be out and about on passenger trains by the summer. I must say, from the gallery at least, the job looks a lovely one and the livery is most impressive on the 'spam can' casing...
I was glad to have seen "92 Squadron" and it would be nice to return one day and have a ride behind her. Over the way there was a visiting Austerity 0-6-0 named "Swiftsure" which has also been a mainstay of NVR steam services in recent months, running alongside 78018. At around 2pm I jumped back into the car and prepared for my hour-long journey home. I was soaking wet but it had been a very pleasant little visit to the Nene Valley. I would like to go again one day, but not in torrential rain! The website for the railway is here. My thanks all for reading and once again...Happy New Year. Cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Dropping The Fire - The BIG Review of 2016...

"Sragi Sugar Steam Duo" - Pic by G.Cryer (April)
Hi everyone. As 2016 draws to a close I've sat down to write the review of the year. There have been fires, whistles and mishaps aplenty but all in all it has been a good one. Including this one the blog has managed 91 posts during the year; a figure lower than usual but one that I believe has resulted from the lower frequency of 5" gauge and garden railway posts. It has been a very busy year and so I will just sum up a few of the highlights and of course round off another year at my volunteering locations. To start with, we must go to Tyseley Locomotive Works. A further twelve months volunteering at the former 84E shed has been a real eye-opener. I've learnt a lot and enjoyed it immensely. The engines of Tyseley are always immaculate and a visit to the works on whatever basis is always interesting. You can walk down the shed rotating in awe at the various pieces of engineering excellence just arms length away. I've now joined the Support Crew at Tyseley and in 2016 went to Carnforth to the base of West Coast Railways for my PTS course. In 2017 I hope to do more main line trips with Tyseley's main line operating arm Vintage Trains, helping with 4965 & 5043 to name but two...
"4965 'Rood Ashton Hall' Gets Ready For The Shakespeare Express" (July)
Regular readers will know that the Tyseley railtour posts tend to take a more 'story-like' view of proceedings. A day out with main line steam is always an adventure and taking a beautiful engine like 5043 along the "Welsh Marches" was great. The noise of this four cylinder, double-chimney marvel was immense...
"5043 In The Jewellery Quarter" - Pic by G.Nuttall (August)
Tyseley held open weekends in both June and September. At the June weekend I had a go on both of their resident pannier tanks, spending the Sunday on 9600. During the September do the works welcomed the worlds most famous locomotive - 60103 "Flying Scotsman". I spent the three days of the event on the footplate of 9600 and had a great time. This is a wonderful pannier tank...
"Footplate of 9600" (September)
It was lovely to see the visiting A3 Pacific fresh from overhaul...
"The W7 Peckett Sizes Up To The A3 Pacific" (September)
I look forward immensely to volunteering with Tyseley in 2017. Its always an enlightening experience and until I started attending I didn't realise how much I didn't know about steam engines. Its a great place. Moving on from one great place to another, 2016 saw us once again attending the wonderful Statfold Barn Railway. We did all three of their enthusiasts days as well as attending a training day for the new signalling. The April open day was spent aboard the elderly Krauss 0-4-2 "Sragi No1", a surprising engine with bags of power hidden away. Former Shack companion 'Eddie the Late' was on with me for all three open days this year, much to his bewilderment...
"Crewing Sragi No1 with Edwise" (April)
Two weeks after our pleasant day with the Krauss 74 miniature traction engines and steam lorries descended on Statfold Barn for the railways first 'Miniature Steam Rally'. This came about due to my ever growing list of contacts that I retained from my three events at Market Bosworth. The event went off very well and will be returning as the "Giant Miniature Weekend" over May 6th/7th. This time we hope to welcome over 90 examples of engines in 1.5" - 6" scales as well as many related displays. Its an event that steam enthusiasts of all ages can come along and enjoy as well as being Statfold's only family steam event. The line-up this year looked most impressive...
"Miniature Engines Parade At Statfold" - Pic by M.Ranieri (April)
Following the miniature steam weekend there were two further enthusiasts days - June and September. For the June event myself & Ed were rostered aboard my favourite SBR loco; the 1945-built Tongaat Sugar Bagnall "Isibutu". "Isibutu" is a large 4-4-0 side tank and is a pleasure to drive and fire. We had a great day on the High Level railway and I was actually sad to leave the engine at the end of the day...
"Driving The Bagnall" - Pic by M.Waldron (June)
Eddie: worn out from a week crewing on the Bure Valley: elected to do the firing at the June open day, allowing me sole control of "Isibutu". I must admit I had no complaints over this! I wouldn't complain if every day on any engine was on "Isibutu"...
"Eddie Bangs In Another Round" (June)
I'm already looking forward to the three Statfold events of 2017 and of course the additional "Giant Miniature Weekend" which is already well in the planning stages, more so than that I would say actually. Also in 2016 I did 5 turns at the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. This railway always offers a pleasant day on the footplate and I've driven all three of the EVLR residents this season...
"No312 'St Egwin' Simmers At Twyford" (March)
Later in the year I had a very wet day aboard the wonderful 0-6-2 "Dougal"...
"The Rain Falls For 'Dougal' At Twyford" (October)
As I say the EVLR is always a pleasant and stress-free experience and I'm grateful to Adrian & Sandra for their continued hospitality. Moving on to things I didn't expect. I certainly didn't expect to be driving and firing the NRM's T9 4-4-0 at The Battlefield Line this year. Regular readers will know that I did finish there in September last year but have now returned to help with the odd turn here and there. During December I had two very pleasant turns aboard this Southern veteran, with JB & David respectively...
"The T9 Slows For The Hedley's Slack" - Pic by A.Weaver (December)
I suppose we should now move onto the almost forgotten small engines and CMES. I've only attended Ryton Pools a mere couple of times in 2016, mainly due to time and other railway related commitments. Both the Maisie and "Achilles" have only been out once or twice each this year, with the former going to the Midlands show in October. Since then neither have turned a wheel but I do hope to have them out during 2017. I never seem to have a lot of time spare but as I read back through my own blog I tend to see why! I did take "Achilles" to Ryton for the July steam day...
"The Ryton Double-Header" - Pic by D.Strapps (June)
As I say I hope to take the engines out a few times in 2017. As I write "Achilles" is out of ticket, has been since about a week after the above picture was taken! My laziness is unforgivable and I should sort the engine out. She's fine and ready to go, just needs testing. The Maisie is in ticket and is also just waiting for a chance. We'll see. Finally, as there is nothing to say about either the LEGO set-up or the 00 gauge garden railway, we'll move on to Days Out. I've managed quite a few little outings in between everything else this year including the following (pictures and captions only). 

The Churnet Valley Railway Steam Gala back in February...
A sunny ride behind Pannier Tank No6412 on the picturesque South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh back in May...
A pleasant day meandering through the countryside aboard Phil's immaculate Aveling & Porter F-Type steam roller "Louise" (June)...
A Spring visit to the 2ft gauge Amerton Railway where I was kindly invited aboard their Bagnall saddle tank "Isabel" for a couple of footplate trips...
In July myself and JB were asked to crew Statfold's vertical-boilered 0-4-0 "Howard" at the Welland Steam Rally. We duly accepted and had a great day...
In August myself and Maisie had a nice weekend away in Yorkshire and visited the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at Grosmont. This was a great line and we also had a very pleasant evening out on the "Grosmont Pullman" dining train...
September saw me taking a short visit to the Chasewater Railway where I was kindly invited aboard the visiting Andrew Barclay "Rosyth" for a footplate trip...
The final highlight was our annual November visit to the Severn Valley Railway for our trip on their fabulous dining train. Another very pleasant outing...
As well as the above highlights there were visits to the Northampton & Lamport Railway, the National Railway Museum, Apedale and a few others. Its been another great but busy year and I must thank everyone involved. I must also thank the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in these posts throughout the year as well as of course thanking YOU, the reader, who keeps on trawling through this mindless dribble I keep writing year in, year out! Thank you. Well, with the review pretty much complete, all that remains for me to say is that I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that 2017 brings you everything you want. May your coal bunkers be full, your steam plentiful and your steeds in tip top condition. All the best everyone, many thanks, Sam...