Saturday, 13 May 2017

A Burton Ramble: Panniers On The Main Line...

"9600 & 9466 Crossing The Trent" (Pic - D.Chandler)
In the twenty first century it is arguably a blessing that such a wide variety of steam traction can still be found on the busy tracks of the national network. The smallest steam locomotives still operating on the main line are the Pannier Tanks which operate Tyseley's enthusiast trips and today 9600 & 9466 hauled the "East Midlands Rambler". This gentle stroll through the Leicestershire countryside took the train from Tyseley to Burton via Nuneaton whilst also traversing the freight-only line through Coalville. The two tank engines would be double-heading throughout the day, helping each other up some stiff climbs and reaching their maximum permitted speed of 45mph. I arrived at Tyseley at around 5:30am, devouring my recently collected McDonalds breakfast shortly after parking up. The usual struggle then took place: changing into my overalls, collecting my kit and stumbling down to the engine shed. 9600 was sitting in the shed when I arrived, with steam on the clock from yesterdays moves. The bunker was stacked high with coal in readiness for the days efforts. With the engine outside, I continued with my cleaning tasks from yesterday. By 7am, the engine was simmering over on the adjacent road awaiting the "off" to join 9466 on the train...
Built at Swindon in 1945, Tyseley's 9600 is one of the popular 57xx Pannier Tanks of which 863 were built. They were designated as "shunting and light goods" locomotives but many found themselves on light passenger and suburban work. Sixteen of them survived into preservation. 9466 on the other hand is the final development of the GWR Pannier Tank, designed by Hawksworth and built for BR by RSH in 1951. The 9400s had the same chassis as their elder sisters but were fitted with taper boilers and Belpaire fireboxes. This gave them a larger heating surface although they retained the 200psi working pressure. Eventually 210 examples of the 9400 Class were built and two survive in preservation - 9400 and 9466. 9466 is owned by Dennis Howells and has been a regular performer in preservation for many years. Together the Panniers make an interesting comparison...
Our departure this morning was planned for 7:55am and with the two tank engines simmering happily at the head of the stock, passengers were boarding in readiness for the off. Aboard the Support Coach, Tony & Craig were completing their usual task of making crew breakfasts. The coach had a wealth of helpers on board today as the mix of staff who support the two locomotives converged on its compartments. Right on time, leaving the intoxicating smell of bacon behind us, the Panniers steamed out of Tyseley up the hill. It is almost odd seeing the Panniers on the busy main line: 9600 in particular must have felt like she was escaping from the zoo or something! The engines easily got the train up to speed and we were soon trundling towards Water Orton for a quick water stop. The Pannier trips are certainly more for the enthusiast as the 'little' engines can only manage 30 miles or so on a tank of water and so water stops are regular...
"Panniers At Water Orton" (Pic - D.Chandler)
After our initial stop at Water Orton there was a further passenger pick-up at Coleshill Parkway. From here, the Panniers were ready to steam on to their next water stop in the loop at Whitacre but, for whatever reason, we were signalled onward to Nuneaton and held in Platform 6 running 'bang road'. Nuneaton was another passenger pick-up but as the train had arrived roughly an hour early due to the rearrangement of the water stop, the two Panniers simmered at Nuneaton until right time came at 10:39. I would have thought that the passengers found it much nicer being held at Nuneaton rather than in a loop where they could not alight and view the locomotives. The two Panniers created quite a stir as they simmered away, with the usual looks of disbelief from 'normal' travellers. When right time came, the Guard gave the "Right Away"...
"Pannier Tanks Leaving Nuneaton" (Pic - R.Wasley)
Leaving Nuneaton under the wires, the Panniers steamed around the corner towards the Hinckley straight. Its quite a good pull up here and the two tank engines were quite audible as they attacked the climb, working gradually up to speed. Its amazing how smooth a shunting engine like a Pannier is at 45mph - it just seems to settle down. We whistled through Hinckley at a good pace, with a surprising amount of onlookers waving enthusiastically from all angles. One thing that really did surprise me was how many people came out for the Panniers, more so I'd say than for the Castle. I guess its the thought of something different as you don't see a Pannier on the main line everyday, let alone a pair! Having joined the midland main line, we then steamed onto the usually freight-only Coalville branch for the run towards Bagworth...
"Crossing The River Sour" (Pic - Pete, 'Loose Grip 99' on Flickr)
For a freight-only line, the Coalville branch offers some very nice scenery and I was impressed with the route it takes. The Panniers worked slower over this section and the climb up Bagworth Bank towards Bardon Hill really got hold of them as their 17.5" cylinders pounded away at the rails. I was so impressed with the performance of 9600, having only been on 5786 in a "down the line" setting in the past at Shack. Tyseley's Pannier was a long way from her easy life operating the yard shuttles at the open days as we climbed through the greenery towards Bardon!...
"Climbing The Bank" (Pic - J.Peatfield-Straw)
Our next water stop was at Mantle Lane where both engines enjoyed a drink before the final section through Moira towards Burton-upon-Trent. We were on board the Support Coach by now, supping tea over a chat about all things Tyseley. Upon arrival at Burton the passengers left the train in readiness for their afternoon in the town. The Panniers meanwhile would have to take the ECS a little further down the line in order to propel backwards into the depot at Nemesis Rail, on the site of the former BR wagon works. Mr Busby works at Nemesis and was on hand to shunt release the steamers as we pulled in. The servicing tasks then began. The fires would be cleaned, the motion oiled, the tanks topped up and the bunkers refilled with coal. One job that you don't have to do with the Castle but you do with the Panniers is the smokebox. Sure enough, 9600's smokebox was full to the dart with ash. Andrew got the job of shovelling it out whilst I operated the barrow! Ashing out complete, the Panniers were ready for coaling...
"9600 Rests On Shed at Nemesis Rail"
Servicing the engines in a depot is much calmer than doing so on or at the side of the main line. We can move more freely here, provided you abide by the depot rules of course. For coaling, the engines were reconnected to the ECS and to the GUV, which had also been shunted to the new head of the train. Bunkers refilled, departure time wasn't far away and the Panniers were soon propelling their train back out to the main line for a bunker-first return to Burton station. The passengers were waiting eagerly on the platform, no doubt a meal and a pint heavier by now! Train refilled, the Panniers retraced their steps over the morning route. Water was taken at Mantle Lane and Knighton Junction before the passenger set-down at Nuneaton. Leaving Nuneaton, the engines steamed towards Whitacre for their final water stop...
"Daw Mill" (Pic - D.Chandler)
After our final top up at Whitacre, the engines steamed homeward to Tyseley, arriving on time at 18:53. The passengers would then alight prior to the shunt moves...
Once the several happy passengers had alighted from the stock, the Class 08 diesel locomotive drew up the vacuum ready to shunt release the Panniers. 9600 and 9466 were then uncoupled from each other on 'middle road' before the Hawksworth engine steamed down to the turntable for a quick spin. She would be departing Tyseley early in the week for her summer trip to the Mid Norfolk Railway. 9600 meanwhile chuffed back to the shed where she is captured simmering prior to disposal...
You can't help but be taken in by the achievements of these small tank engines today. On a twenty first century rail network they steamed problem free at 45mph between much faster, far more modern trains and came home victorious. Its a great experience to see them at work and a great pleasure to be involved with Tyseley. I must thank all of the Tyseley team for a fantastic day out once again and of course thank the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in this post. For a cracking video of the days events...click here. Until next time - Cheers, Sam...

Friday, 12 May 2017

Tyseley: Pannier Prep...

Hi all. Today after my Friday half-day finish, I headed over to Tyseley to help with preparations on Pannier Tank 9600. The 1945-built 0-6-0 is scheduled to team up with larger sister 9466 tomorrow on the "East Midlands Rambler" excursion to Burton. Pannier Tanks are the smallest steam locomotives operating on the national network today, although Tyseley's 7752, 7760 and 9600 have all been regular performers in the past, providing a tank engine stronghold for the Birmingham area. It must seem an unusual choice of locomotive but those who have worked on them will realise what versatile and capable machines Pannier Tanks can be. 9600 in particular, although I've only been on her around the yard, is quite a machine and has received massive restoration during her years at 84E. When I arrived at Tyseley she was sparkling inside the shed, having received a good polish of her tanks last weekend...
The Class 08 diesel was duly summoned to drag the Pannier outside ready for lighting up. Paul soon had the Pannier crackling away on this muggy afternoon...
I spent a few hours working with Paul on 9600 today. We cleaned the remaining brass work and polished the bunker and cab sides to match the tanks. The running boards and valances were also cleaned ready for tomorrows outing. 9466 has a notorious reputation for being cleaner than clean, as do the Tyseley fleet, so its nice to keep her shined up! She was looking well as the afternoon drew on...
After a pleasant few hours cleaning the engine, I left Tyseley at around 3:45pm, already looking forward to tomorrows outing. Pannier Tanks on the main line are certainly a rarity and so two of them climbing over the gradients of the Coalville Branch towards Burton should be a sight (and sound) to behold. Many thanks all, Sam...

Sunday, 7 May 2017

"Giant Miniature Weekend" Finale...

"Sunday Line-Up" (Pic - M.Ranieri)
Well, a year in the planning and four days in the execution, "Giant Miniature Weekend" 2017 has officially closed after a brilliant if draining weekend. The final count was 90 miniatures on Saturday and 84 miniatures on Sunday - a supreme effort by our valued exhibitors who provided such a varied, colourful and enthusiastic line-up of engines. Today I arose at 6am once again, in order to help Nick with the clearing away down at the Roundhouse following last nights party with Dr Busker. To say we felt a little tired is an understatement but this is the life of a group of event organisers! The rest of the day was spent darting about all over the place - answering questions, dealing with passengers, helping engines, providing displays and generally running about on countless small tasks. I know I knock it, but I do love it when a plan comes together. The weather today was far more enjoyable than yesterdays dreary conditions and bumper crowds turned out at Statfold to enjoy the show. I am very grateful to Malcolm Ranieri who came along once again on behalf of Old Glory to capture a record of the event. He has sent in all of the images used in this post: thank you Malcolm...
"Bagnall 'Gelert' On Display In The Running Shed" (Pic - M.Ranieri)
The railway was today running to full capacity with all four engines employed on lengthy passenger trains throughout the day...
"CSR No19 & 'Alpha" Double Head" (Pic - M.Ranieri)
The Burton & Ashby Light Railway tram car No14 was also very popular today, no doubt due to the very pleasant weather...
"The Tram Awaits Its Next Departure" (Pic - M.Ranieri)
This years full size division included a whopping 8 engines, to complement our massive selection of miniatures. Thank you to all of the owners of these marvellous machines. Leading the line from the right is Arthur Henton's "Emma"...
"Big Engine Line" (Pic - M.Ranieri)
Chris Arrowsmith's Foster Tractor "Ikanopit" was also present...
Now follows a selection of images of the various miniatures on display. There isn't room on the blog to include all of them so my apologies. There were so many this year and I am so grateful to all of our exhibitors for providing such a show. Most makes & models were represented this time in scales from 1.5" right up to 9". All pics which follow belong to Malcolm Ranieri, as do all others in this post...
"Howard" meets the 6" Burrell "Wandering Star"...
4" Foster "Safaniya" which has attended all five of the shows since 2013...
The Baxter Mac's - "Lady Jennifer" & "Nevermore" - line up against "Emma". "Nevermore" was awarded the John Tomlinson Best In Show Trophy at the 2pm line-up today. Well done to owner & builder Jenny Baxter...
Matt Cain's 4" Garrett meets tram car No14...
As usual I am very grateful to James Brett for bringing his 4" Burrell "Sybil" along to work in our small working area. "Sybil" was cutting wood once again on the 4" rack bench. Also in the working area were displays of vacuum pumping and ploughing...
"Wandering Star" leads a 4" Foster and a 4" Mac down the concrete road. This flat running surface, which runs for around a mile through the fields of Statfold Barn, is very popular with the miniature engine drivers during "GMW"...
The highlight of the day was once again the 2pm Line Up and BIG Whistle. Visitors always seem to enjoy the spectacle of all of the engines together, as do I!...
And a few more...
And a few more...
An overall view of the Sunday line-up prior to the whistle up. As I say I must thank all of our exhibitors for providing such a varied display of steam power from across the UK. It was the best we've ever done. In a soppy way, I always feel a little emotional at the final whistle up of the weekend. A years work by all involved requires a lot of dedication, though I've always been proud of everything we've done. From the 24 engines that I begged to come along to Market Bosworth in 2013, we've grown to 37 in 2014, 54 or so in 2015, 74 for our first rally at Statfold and now to a massive 90 as the peak of this years "GMW". This couldn't have been done without all of our exhibitors. Five years in the making and this is what you get - fantastic work everyone...
Later in the afternoon thoughts started to inevitably turn to putting things away, tidying up and generally running the event down. By 7pm I was on my way home after four pleasant if extremely draining days at Statfold as part of "GMW". It was a great achievement by all involved so thank you to the exhibitors, volunteers, staff and of course the Lee Family and our Committee of Nick, Leanne & Phil for all coming together to provide such a wonderful weekend. We've had nothing but good reviews (thankfully!) and this is a testament to the hard work everyone put in to provide such a great show. For a video of the day click here. In 2018 we will return over May 12th/13th - see you there?...we hope so! Many thanks all. Time for a break now whilst we try to work out what to do next...Until next time, Sam...

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The "Giant Miniature Weekend"...

"Saturday Parade" (Pic - Rick, Homestyal on Flickr)
Hi all. Today I arose at 6am for the first day of the "Giant Miniature Weekend" at Statfold Barn. It was an extremely busy day with 90 miniature engines in action! What a fantastic achievement by all of our exhibitors - I am so pleased. Today was spent as usual at the miniature do - running around, answering questions, lining things up, checking all is well and so on. All four of us - myself, Nick, Leanne & Phil - were busy beyond belief throughout the day. "GMW" is now at such a size that it requires a vast amount of staff and volunteers to execute it and we are grateful to everyone involved for their efforts. The Saturday whistle up, though the weather was dreary, was very impressive and extremely audible shall we say. Well done to all...
"Saturday Whistles" (Pic - Rick, Homestyal on Flickr)
The miniature engines were also out in force in the fields, trying out the concrete road. This running surface is pretty much perfect for them...
"On The Road" (Pic - Rick, Homestyal on Flickr)
Tram Car No14 was also in action, strutting its stuff on the tramway...
"Tram No14" (Pic - Rick, Homestyal on Flickr)
Five of the SBR steam locos were in service as planned - "Fiji" on Driver for a Fiver at Oak Tree and the other four on passenger trains. CSR No19 is captured in the yard between passenger workings, just outside the signalbox...
"HC No19" (Pic - Rick, Homestyal on Flickr)
New for "GMW" 2017 was the Roundhouse being open. This is really shaping up to be a fabulous narrow gauge museum now and is a testament to Statfold...
"The Statfold Barn Roundhouse" (Pic - Rick, Homestyal on Flickr)
As I say it was an extremely busy day for everyone involved but a really good start to "Giant Miniature Weekend". The weather men are promising much better things tomorrow so no doubt our turnout will be even greater...
This evening - after I had a very pleasant trip driving "Howard" on an Exhibitor Special - we had the party at the Roundhouse. Dr Busker performed once again from 8pm til' late and the whole evening was very well received by all. I was glad of the ploughing van bed tonight though I can tell you! For a video of the day, click here...

Friday, 5 May 2017

GMW - The Madness of Set Up...

Hi all. After a good initial set-up day yesterday in which 13 of the engines arrived at Statfold, another 67 (at least) were expected today with the final few to follow tomorrow morning. It was a day of total madness to be honest, with many friends and helpers running around trying to get things into place. As well as the engines coming in there were locomotives to prep on the railway, stands to set up, signs to put up, boiler papers to check - you name it! Thankfully our grand team of helpers came in to make it all possible. Its going to be a big event this year! The two wide-span pictures in this post show the site at 9am this morning, prior to the lions share of the exhibits arriving. The calm before the storm some might say...
After a 6:30am start at Statfold this morning, the final engine on todays list came in at around 10:15pm. During the evening we held the popular Exhibitor Bonfire near the catering area and this was very well received once again. In between the odd sip of a drink and a slice of pizza, we were still running around parking engines up ready for the show. Its all good fun. Another long day but we are now almost ready for "GMW". The stove of the ploughing van was most welcome on this windy evening...

Thursday, 4 May 2017

GMW - They're Arriving...

"The Four-Inch Burrell 'Errol', Owned by Jerry Turner"
Hi everyone. So today was the first day of four which us organisers take part in for the miniature steam rally at Statfold Barn - this year dubbed the "Giant Miniature Weekend". The Thursday gets more popular by the year as people come along to the show early to settle in for the weekend ahead, without the rush of the Friday traffic. In a gloriously sunlit field, we spent the day marshalling 13 of the engines into place. Tomorrow the massive onslaught of the Friday madness begins but that's all part of the fun! Here's to a great weekend. Cheers then, Sam...

Saturday, 29 April 2017

A Castle To The Seaside: The Llandudno Adventure...

"Under The Wires, Returning Home" (Pic - T.Massey)
Hi there everyone. Today involved another Tyseley outing. This time our destination was the Welsh seaside resort of Llandudno, up on the north-west coast. I arrived at the former 84E at around 5:30am, having collected the now traditional McDonalds breakfast on route. Stomach replenished and having changed into my overalls, I wandered down the yard to find 5043 crackling away at the back door. Preparations for movement were taking place on and about the locomotive and so I continued with my cleaning tasks from yesterday. A dust and polish of the running boards resulted in a very clean looking 5043 and at 6am sharp we rolled her over onto the waiting stock. The morning air was filled with damp as the 1936-built 4-6-0 edged carefully forwards, expelling reams of condensate from the steam circuit. Its amazing just how much condensation can collect in a lengthy circuit containing many yards of superheater elements. 5043 dropped down gradually to couple up to the GUV (water carrier) in readiness for our 6:30am departure for Wales. The Castle would be tailed by the Class 47 to aid turning at Chester...
These steam days out on the main line really are adventures in their own right and its always a pleasure to be involved in them. Departing Tyseley on time, the Castle strode easily towards St Andrews junction, no doubt being aided in the climb from the yard by the Class 47. You couldn't help but notice how smooth the Castle was in operation at speed when not having to work overly hard. However, starting at the climb up onto the Sutton Park line, the Castle got the bit between its teeth and from then on was working very hard. After a sprint along the usually freight only Sutton Park line, the Castle was held briefly outside Walsall before sneaking through the station...
"5043 Creeps Through Walsall" (Pic - J.Whitehouse)
Leaving Walsall behind, the Castle joined the route to Wolverhampton. The engine was under the wires from here until Crewe and put in a superb performance. It was amusing to watch several Wolverhampton residents running to the windows in awe to find out what was making such a row before 8am on a Saturday morning...
"Flying Along" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Leaving Wolverhampton, the Castle got back into her stride as she steamed towards Stafford. After Stafford came Searchlight Lane junction. This is part of a new formation designed to ease congestion at the crossing of the Crewe and Manchester main lines. The engine was certainly tearing along. At a good pace, the Castle continued towards an operational stop at Crewe...
"Searchlight Lane Junction" (Pic - J.Whitehouse)
Leaving Crewe, the engine then rushed towards Chester, free of the overhead wires until the return run later in the afternoon. Its hard to shake the thought of instant death (25kv) hanging only inches from the top of the cab! At Chester there was another operational move before the 47' took over the train. By traversing a triangle of running lines the Castle became the tail engine and the diesel took over the haulage tasks. The 47' would haul the train along the North Wales Coast line to Llandudno, with 5043 taking it easy at the rear of the stock. The reason for this operation was that usually the steamer would have to run further in the Holyhead direction in order to be turned and then return later on. Using the diesel allows the steamer to be the right way around in preparation for the return trip straight away. It was quite nice, if breezy, to be out today, waving at the countless individuals at the lineside who were not only surprised to see the 47' but then the valiant steam locomotive hanging off the back! We even enjoyed a whistle salute from a Barnes Atlantic standing proudly on the adjacent 15" gauge line at Rhyl...
"Diesel In Charge" (Pic - C.P.Hobson)
The diesel hauled the train easily to Llandudno Junction before crossing over onto the line to the town station - a further two or three miles from the junction. Our arrival at the seaside town was welcomed by a crowd of camera bearing onlookers. The Castle was photographed to within an inch of her life, whilst we amongst the Support Crew attempted to coal the tender with the various bags stored aboard the GUV. The coaling procedure is always hot & sweaty work as the dust finds its way to literally everywhere! With the coaling job complete, the engine continued to be admired before we departed back towards the junction. The engine would be watered here...
With the tender replenished with both coal and water we had the opportunity to explore the Victorian Festival around Llandudno. The town is pretty much overtaken by stalls, fairground rides, vintage vehicles and folks in period costume during this event. There were some lovely steam road locomotives around...
Standing in the hub of activity, next to its shed-mate steam carousel, was the Fowler Showmans Engine "Renown", built in 1920. This is an absolutely beautiful engine and it was a pleasure to see her generating quietly in front of crowds of excited onlookers. The engine is immaculately kept and is owned by the Howard family...
We had a bag of chips and then an ice cream. It was very pleasant to see the show and stroll on the promenade. I must admit, it really completed a great day out. I shouldn't wonder that our passengers found plenty to see & do...
Returning to the station, 5043 was still simmering away under the control of her main line crew. The engine would work the entire return journey back to Tyseley...
For the return journey I enjoyed the usual activities aboard the Support Coach: supping tea, joking around and generally putting the world to rights! One thing you always notice however is an underlying watchfulness amongst each and every member of the crew. If something is heard that is out of the ordinary, everyone seems to pick up on it all at once. The general welfare of the locomotive at the head of the train (in this case 5043) is never far from the forefront of everyone's mind...
"Through The Support Coach Window"
The return journey took the same route as the outward apart from adding an additional stop at Birmingham New Street. A steam engine emerging from the numbing gloom of the tunnels there always seems to stir up excitement amongst the waiting passengers of 'normal' trains. At 9:17pm we pulled right on time safely back into Tyseley...
The usual process then took place. The passengers alighted, the diesel (in this case the 47' and not the 08') shunt released the engine and then the Castle was turned on the table prior to disposal. Thus, once again, we came to the end of another fantastic day out. Its always an adventure with Tyseley and its a pleasure to be involved, helping on & around marvellous machines like 5043. The sight & sound of a main line express engine working hard with a real train on a real railway is something to behold. It was my dream to experience it and I'm proud to say its done. I must thank Tyseley for another great experience and of course the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in this seaside post. All the best, Sam...