Sunday, 27 September 2009

Visit To "Rocky Ridge Railroad"...

Today we visited a good friend's G Scale (45mm gauge) Garden Railway which is named "Rocky Ridge Railroad". (The regular readers amongst you will remember the post about the RRR guys visiting our garden railway back in July, and this was our return visit). The railway is based in Rugby (UK) and has been growing in both size & maturity for the last few years. Currently, the railway includes two circuits, both of which are connected to eachother at two seperate locations. Though the both line's each make a circuit of the garden, the railway 'begins' at "Balcombe North Junction" station. The station includes two platforms, a booking hall, a waiting room, a footbridge and three sidings, which also include a small engine shed. The station also allows access to both circuits as there is a cross-over just after the station. The main station building can be seen below:-
Leaving "Balcombe North", the trains round a large curve before passing under a large, double-track bridge. A small intermediate station, "Rocky Ridge", which is only served by the "inner circuit" trains, is then passed on the right. Just after "Rocky Ridge", trains reach the 2nd cross-over location, allowing access to either circuit. Immediately after the cross-over the two line's part company. The "outer" line diverges upgrade to the left whilst the "inner" line diverges to the right. The "outer" lines works its way along the garden boundary on a steep climb before dropping down hill and meeting the "inner" line again. Meanwhile, the "inner" line, though climbing, meanders over gorges and a river bridge before the two line's are reunited. Just aftet the two circuits become parrallel again, the trains reach the far station, known as "Fir Tree Falls". This station is only served by the "outer" line as the "inner" track doesn't meet the platform. However, the "inner" line does include a short storage siding here. The quaint & very tranquil little station is seen below. I'm told it is named due to the massive Fir Tree which stands directly above it, forever dropping its spent foliage on the tracks!:-
The three lines (including the siding) are also crossed by a level crossing at the north end of the station platform here. Leaving the station, the two tracks run parrallel for a short while before parting ways once again. The "outer" line climbs into the far tunnel whilst the "inner" line curves right and crosses another gorge via a small bridge. Emerging from the tunnel, the "outer" line heads downgrade sharply. After a straight section, trains traverse a sizeable shickane before regaining their straight path once again. They then round a left-hand curve into "Balcombe North Tunnel". When they emerge, trains have turned 90 degrees or so and are now only a few feet or so from the main station once again. Meanwhile, the "inner" line maintains a relatively straight path and, after passing over a small pond, trains arrive back at the main station from behind the engine shed, thus ends the journey of both circuits! With its considerable gradients, the line is great fun to drive on, as I found out when I was allowed to drive the resident live steam loco, "Billy". Many trains ran up & down the two circuits during the day with a popular visitor (from Derby) being this Roundhouse 'Fowler' 0-6-0 named "Becky"...
The Rocky Ridge Railroad runs both live steam & electric locomotives from makers such as Roundhouse, LGB, USA Trains and Bachmann as well as much varying rolling stock. However, today, it wasn't just trains that ran! The RRR also owns two live steam vehicles, a Wilesco D365 Steam Roller and a 1985 Mamod 'SW1' Steam Lorry. The two engine's were made three by my Wilesco D405 Traction Engine, visiting from our own railway of course. The three engines, especially mine, ran at regular intervals throughout the day, most notably when all three steamed together, creating much drifting steam and noisy whistling! I very much like the 'SW1'. Though simpler in design to the Wilesco engines they seen very robust and are very, very quick at building steam pressure. A very nice model kept in very good condition. The three live steamers are seen below, taking a break before the big finale. The location of the engine's was in the 'car park' of "Balcombe North Junction" Station...
Aside from locomotives and rolling stock, the RRR includes many interesting & very scenic features. One of my personal favourites are the working LGB Cable Cars which hang high above the rugged terrain close to "Rocky Ridge" station. Another favourite feature of mine is the fantastic river bridge on the "inner circuit". It looks so realistic when the trains cross over, it really does! And, finally, "Fir Tree Falls" station has to be the all time favourite. You can just imagine walking onto a station like that and waiting for a train. It is so realistic up at that end of the garden. Only the singing of the birds seems to break the silence. It is surely the perfect 'terminus' station. On top of this, one thing some people seem to overlook when they visit garden railways are the plants and flowers. The RRR have got their "plant to train ratio"(!) perfect in my opinion. The visiting Bachmann 'Circus Train', seen below, proves this as it returns from "Fir Tree Falls" on the inner line...
As well as the images you've seen so far, I've included the video below to further enhance your views of this fabulous garden railway...

Finally, before I end this post, we must extend a vote of thanks to everybody at Rocky Ridge Railroad. Also, thanks to those who brought along visiting stock to run for our entertainment. It truly was a very enjoyable day on at a fantastic garden railway. Thank you all. And, thank you at home for reading this post. As always, I hope you enjoyed it. More coming soon. Good Evening.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Whats Coming Up...

Its been a while since I did one of these so here's whats coming up in the next few weeks as I know it so far:-
Sun Sep 27th:-45mm Gauge 'Rocky Ridge Railroad' Visit
Sat 10th/Sun 11th Oct:-"Day Out with Thomas" (Shackerstone)
Sat Oct 17th:-Driving 5" for CMES (Midlands Model Engineering Ex)
Mon Oct 19th:-"Day Out with Thomas" (Shackerstone)
Thu Nov 5th:-Bonfire Night On The Garden Railway
Sat Nov 7th:-CMES Steam Up

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Shackerstone Autumn Diesel Gala 2009...

Today I was at my standard gauge concern, the Battlefield Line Railway at Shackerstone. It was the railway's 2009 Autumn Diesel Gala. The star of the fabulous event was Class 56 (040) "Oystermouth" from the Mid-Norfolk Railway at Dereham. "Oystermouth" was joined by newly-restored resident Class 56 (086) to form a "two Grid" line up. The 3rd "Grid" (Class 56) unfortunately could not attend as she was stuck at Barrow Hill with on going work incomplete. The 56's were joined by the two resident Class 31's, the 47, 73, 33 and 25. The Shunter fleet was then represented by the Class 02, 03 & 04 which were in action on "shuttles" around the Shackerstone site using the 2-car DMU as passenger stock. On top of the diesels there were trade stands and many, many happy visitors! The favourite combination of the gala seemed to be the double-headed Grids! (Due to the stock being vacuum braked a "translator" locomotive had to be used to convert the "air" of the 56's to "vacuum". For example, the Class 73). The gala seemed to go off very well indeed and the next Diesel Gala will take place in Spring 2010. (Check out the "Shackerstone Diesels" website for more info).

Down in the steam shed, myself & Andy were working on a "Steam Heat Boiler Van". Meanwhile, Aveiling & Porter "The Blue Circle" and LNER B1 "Mayflower" slumbered silently, no doubt enjoying their well earnt rests. Peckett "Sir Gomer" received some more needle-gunning during the day and is now awaiting the return of her boiler from Llangollen. Thanks for reading folks, Good Evening...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post VIII (Final Post): One Last Look At The WSR...

Today was our final full day on holiday in Somerset and, typically, I couldn't resist one last look at the West Somerset Railway. Firstly, I knew for a fact that 4160, which had hauled the first train of the day all week, had been taken out of service for washout and so would be replaced by 9351. Therefore, the first thing to do was to see 9351! For this train I chose Blue Anchor Station. As mentioned in an earlier post, 9351 used to be a GWR Large Prairie, No5193. However, the WSR converted the engine to a 2-6-0 Mogul by removing the side tanks, rear pony truck and adding a 2500-gallon tender. The Mogul is seen below passing Blue Anchor crossing as she arrives at the station, bound for Bishops Lydeard. The Fireman has just exchanged tokens with the Signalman...
9351 is seen just before departure from Blue Anchor. Can anybody honestly see anything which would suggest that she used to be a tank engine?!...
After spotting 9351 we headed into Minehead for one last look around. Of course, I couldn't pass the station without getting a picture of 4160 (with smokebox door open) going into her boiler washout (see title image). The Large Prairie would undergo washout before being 'put back together' and then steam tested before being released back into service. Leaving Minehead it was off back to base. However, I wasn't sitting still for long as the 3:25pm departure from Blue Anchor Station was looming and I had the 15 minute or so walk to Ker Moor Crossing to endure first! The 3:25pm departure was hauled by the massive GWR 2-8-0 38XX No3850 which, as she had been most of the week, was hauling an 8-coach rake. The engine coasted out of Blue Anchor before accelerating. She then shut off just after the crossing. Thanks for the "clag" driver! The result of my free-hand photography can be seen below...
Following the above shot I walked back to base before enjoying a nice 'cuppa'. The last train of my holiday would be the 5:16pm departure from Blue Anchor, featuring 9351 herself. I made it back to the crossing again, witnessing the final train in the opposite direction (the DMU) before awaiting the ex-Prairie. 9351 waited until her train had fully passed over the station points before barking towards us. The engine chugged past us at a leisurely rate and headed off happily towards Minehead. The result, in the last of the days sunlight, can be seen below...
Well, I thought, "thats it, home tomorrow"! I must admit, as much as I enjoyed the holiday I would be glad to get back home! However, I had had a fantastic time, seeing two railways that I had never visited before: The WSR & the LBR. I had been made very welcome at both railways and had emmensely enjoyed my visits! Both railways seem to have a two very prosporous futures ahead of them and I wish them well. Thanks to all who have followed our "holiday" posts and I hope you will continue to read this blog in the coming months! Evening All...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post VII: Lynton & Barnstaple Reborn...

The orginal Lynton & Barnstaple Railway opened in May 1898 and ran for around 19 miles. It was a narrow gauge railway and at this time ran independantly. But, in 1922, it was taken over by the Southern Railway. Finally, following a life in which it mostly made a loss rather than a profit, the railway closed in September 1935, never to be seen again. However, in 1979 a preservation society was formed and, today, I visited the beautifully restored first phase of the 'new' Lynton & Barnstaple Railway! The base of the "reborn railway" is Woodby Bay Station, around 10 minutes drive from Lynton on the A39, which was purchased in 1995. Since 1995, the station has been restored and a section of the track has been relaid. Since 2006, the line has been operating a 1 mile long section of 2ft gauge track between Woodby Bay & Killington Lane. Another milestone was reached in 2008 when the L & B's first steam loco (since 1935!), "Axe", returned to service. Today, after telephoning ahead, I arrived at Woody Bay and was greeted by the lovely sight of "Axe" herself. (I had phoned to make sure that she would be in steam today and sure enough, she was!). After purchasing my ticket (which allowed travel all day) I began photographing and filming both "Axe" and the site.
"Axe" was built by the Kerr Stuart locomotive company of Stoke-on-Trent to a French Design in 1915. She was one of the "Joffre" class engines which were ordered by the French Government for service on the Western Front during the conflict of World War I. In 1956, "Axe" was discovered lying derelict, alongside 4 sister engines. The 5 locomotives were located around 12 miles from Calais. In 1974, all 5 engines were repatriated to the UK and were subsequently stored. In 1983, the "L & B" society purchased "Axe", then unnamed. However, she wasn't to remain nameless for the long. She was soon Christened "Axe", following the L & B's tradition of naming engine's after three-lettered Devon rivers. Volunteer restoration soon began but, it was completed professionally away from Woody Bay at the Gartell Light Railway. "Axe" finally hauled her first passenger services in March 2009. Since then, she has operated many services on the L & B between Woody Bay and Killington Lane. For a 2ft gauge engine, she is also very powerful with two 8.5" x 11" cylinders and six 1' 11" wheels. These combined give her a tractive effort of around 3862lb's.
After the 12pm round trip, "Axe"s crew had their lunch-break, leaving the 0-6-0 on shed (as seen below). During this time she was also watered and coaled ready for the next trip at 1:15pm. (I was to be aboard this train). At 1:15pm, the train left Woody Bay and began the descent towards Killington Lane. The views, I must admit, were spectacular. You can see breathtaking hills, rolling fields and, in the distance, the unmistakable Bristol Channel. Once at Killington Lane, "Axe" ran round and recoupled to the other end of the train. I was then invited onto the relatively large (for a narrow gauge engine!) footplate. After chatting to the driver I reboarded the train but, for the return, the Guard had told me that I could sit in 1st Class. It is well worth it! The two first class compartments have been restored to an impeccable standard and, so I'm told, resemble the type of compartments which 1920s L & B passengers would have ridden in! After climbing the hill back to Woody Bay, "Axe" ran round again ready for another prompt departure. This gave me a chance to film & photograph the engine a little bit more.
After another chat I was told that, if I wanted, I could ride the return run of the next train on the footplate..."Yes Please!", was the reply. For the outward (& downhill!) run I rode in the coaches and again admired the fantastic views. Once back at Killington Lane I watched "Axe" run round before boarding the footplate again following an invitation from the driver. With the "Right Away" from the Guard "Axe" departed and began climbing the bank (1 in 50 in places) back towards Woody Bay. It was a very pleasant run and, as with some other places, I can say that I've done the line on the footplate! Thanks very much to the crew and "Axe" herself for a great journey!

The image below shows the Firebox Door's open and the firing shovel...
Below can be seen a view of the relatively large footplate of "Axe"... All in all, I immensely enjoyed my visit to this very friendly little railway in Devon. I would very much recommend a visit to anyone, especially when steam is running! The scenary is, I would say, almost unbeatable(!) and the staff are very friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have about the railway and its history. And, with a prosporous future ahead, it looks like the L & B will be getting better & better over the coming years! Also, the potential of the railway seems endless with extensions planned in both directions and many special events in the pipeline. A growing new feature is a 7.25" gauge railway at Woody Bay Station which was being extended on the day of my visit. The video below documents my visit:-


So, if you're ever passing by Woody Bay, why not pop in and visit the 'brand new' Lynton & Barnstaple Railway! I certainly had a fantastic visit and was made very welcome. A great day out in the company of the only Joffre locomotive currently operating in the UK! Thanks for reading. Good Evening...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post VI: WSR Trains, Again!...

Today, after spotting the WSR's first Bishops Lydeard bound train (behind 4160) near Blue Anchor, we headed into Minehead by car. The others then went off into the town whilst I walked down to the station to film & photograph the goings on. (The above image was taken on Sunday and see's 4160 between Dunster & Blue Anchor with Dunster Castle just visible in the background. The Bull's are completely unmoved by the passing Prairie!). Back to today...After spotting some movements at Minehead I met back up with the others before we returned to base. Later on, I spotted the large 2-8-0 No3850 heading to Minehead on another passenger turn.

The above video is the result of the day's filming, I hope you enjoy it! (The intro at the start relates to my Youtube indentity "Steampics"). Tomorrow we're off to a little railway just west of Lynton, look out of the post! Thanks for reading, Good Evening!...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post V: "4160, ex-GWR 41XX Large Prairie Tank"...

This "same day" post will talk about my visit to the footplate of ex-GWR 41XX (5101 class) 2-6-2 Large Prairie Tank No4160. Whilst at Bishops Lydeard, I was invited into the cab for a look and a chat with the very friendly & helpful crew. This isn't the first time I've been on the footplate of a '41', I did enjoy a full round trip of the Great Central Railway in the cab of No4141 (now out of ticket). However, this is the first time I've "analysed" the cab of one properly! Here we go...
The first thing I noticed about the cab was how "imposing" (is that the word?!) the pole reverser is on the drivers side. You certainly must have to squeeze round it when its set to "full reverse". The GWR Number 2 boiler is very large and stands out greatly in the cab. At the top of the boiler is the Manifold, seen below. The two handles atop the manifold are the "Steam Valves" for the two injectors. Also in this image, in the bottom right, can be seen the combined Steam & Vacuum Brake handle.
The 5101 Class was built for fast passenger work and, in total, 209 of them were built. They employed six 5ft 8" driving wheels along with two 3ft 8" pony wheels (one at each end, meaning they were a 2-6-2). The GWR Number 2 boiler made for a 200psi blowing off pressure which, coupled with two 18" x 30" cylinders made a very powerful tank engine indeed. This power gave them a classification of "BR 4MT" or "GWR D". With a weight of just over 78 tons the engine's were also classified under the "GWR Blue Route Allocation" (this was necessary to prevent heavy axle loads on weight-restricted lines). Below can be seen the "Hydrostatic Lubricator" which many GWR engine's carried...
No look on the footplate is complete until you've had a look in the firebox! In the view below the side stays, front stays and the brick arch can be seen. Below the brick arch can be seen the relatively thin fire. The firebox on these engines includes a 20.35 sq ft grate area which is more than enough to heat the good sized boiler!...
The visibility, looking through the fireman's side spectacle glass (below), on these engines is relatively good. The track ahead can be seen very clearly due to the small slope at the smokebox end of the side tanks...
On the fireman's side can be seen the pressure gauge and the steam heating pressure gauge. The engine's only water gauge class can also be seen. To the left of the spectacle glass is the water tank gauge. For your interest, the water capacity of these engines was 2000 gallons. In the bottom left of the image below can be seen the 'feed valve' for the "wash down pipe". A pick-axe for breaking up the coal can also be seen in the image...
A close up of the water tank gauge...
I very much enjoyed my visit to the footplate of 4160, its always nice to have a look! Thanks to the crew for inviting me. 4160 herself will only be in service tomorrow before being removed for a "boiler washout". Following this, she will be back in full WSR service. With her boiler ticket lasting until 2017, the near future looks very bright indeed for 4160. Thanks for reading...

Somerset Holiday IV: WSR Train Ride...

Hi again all! After a couple of days of viewing (& hearing!) WSR trains we decided to take the train ride today. After checking the timetable we made the 5-minute walk to Blue Anchor Station where we bought our tickets before awaiting the first train to Bishops Lydeard (the 10:15am ex-Minehead). The train was soon in sight, hauled by the ex-GWR Large Prairie Tank No4160. Once aboard, the others found seats whilst I found a window to put my head out of (these enthusiasts will never learn!). Leaving Blue Anchor the trains climb Washford Bank, which certainly seemed to make 4160 work a little travelling bunker-first. Once over the bank trains reach Washford, a small village. There is then the very scenic section to Watchet where the line meets the sea once again. From the quaint village of Watchet, with its Marina, trains skirt the sea before passing Doniford Halt (a request stop which serves the local Haven Holiday Park). From here, it is a short run to Williton. On this occasion we were passed by the first Minehead bound service behind 38XX 2-8-0 No3850. Once past Williton the trains come inland again, heading for the very scenic little station at Stogumber. I would of liked to alight here to take in the atmosphere but we hadn't the time unfortunately! 4160 soon stormed out of Stogumber and up towards Crowcombe Heathfield, another passing station. (We didn't pass anything on this occasion).
From the very well-kept station at Crowcombe the train made its "leisurely" way to the end of the line at Bishops Lydeard, around 17 miles from Blue Anchor. It is worth remembering that you can also travel the other way from Blue Anchor, towards Minehead, via Dunster, which is a distance of around 3 miles. However, we wouldn't be doing this section today, we did it on Sunday! (see earlier post). At Bishops Lydeard, the Class 117 DMU was waiting for the token. Once this was received, the 4-car unit (which includes a Buffet facility), departed for Minehead. Meanwhile, 4160 was uncoupled and ran over into the Platform 1 road for watering. The shot above shows the Fireman atop 4160's tanks aiding the filling. In the small Bay Platform I noticed Small Prairie No5553 (owned by Pete Waterman), which I saw on Sunday at Minehead (see earlier post). After admiring 4160 for a little longer we made our way to the Bus Stop in the station car park where we would be catching the Bus Link to Taunton (around 3 miles away). The Bus (number 28 I think) duly arrived and we boarded.
After a walk around the bustling town of Taunton we caught the 3:05pm "number 28" bus back to Bishops Lydeard Station. We would be catching the final train of the day, the 4:15pm to Minehead, calling at Blue Anchor of course! This train was, as luck would have it, hauled by the same engine (but I'm not complaining!) ex-GWR 41XX No4160. We had a look in the well-stocked station shop before the others boarded the train whilst I went to have a look at the engine running round. 4160 was soon on the front of the train (as seen below) and the crew took a well earned break. However, during this break I was invited onto the footplate(!) for a look and a chat (see seperate post). At departure time I was aboard the train (at a window directly behind the engine!) and the Guard gave the "Right Away" to the driver. 4160 cautiously edged out of Bishops Lydeard before accelerating towards Crowcombe and beyond. Once back at Williton, the train was held so that 3850 could pass on the final steam service to Bishops Lydeard of the day.
Below, 3850 arrives at Williton with the 4:05pm ex-Minehead...
Williton Station seems to be the main engineering base of the railway as many boilers and locomotives were seen dotted around the site. In the works, the threateningly massive Bullied 4-6-2 West Country Pacific "Braunton" was just poking her head through the slightly open doors. (This engine does run on selected occasions). One WSR that has been in store for a while now is ex-GWR Small Prairie No4561, seen below, sporting a "rain cover" on the chimney. In front of her are the frames of one of the WSR Manors...
Just before the train departed, a fork-lift truck came out of nowhere carrying a large smokebox! This was positioned in front of one of the boilers before the fort-lift was shut down. Looks like it may well be fitted by now! The boiler, rather large in stature, had the number "6960" chalked on the side. After pondering for a while I remembered...this was the boiler of 6960 "Raveningham Hall", an ex-GWR Hawksworth Modified Hall which used to be based on the SVR. I didn't see the loco itself so I don't know whether the boiler was just there for contract work or whether the loco section is there as well and 6960 is now resident. (Please comment if you know any different!). The large boiler and smokebox can be seen below...
After a good run, 4160 soon arrived back at Blue Anchor. Here we alighted whilst the Prairie crossed over with the Class 117 DMU. The DMU was forming the days last train, the 4:55pm ex Minehead, to Bishops Lydeard. I said goodbye and thank you to the crew on the engine before 4160 stormed out of Blue Anchor and off towards her home at Minehead Sheds. I must say, I thought that, at 20 miles, the WSR run would be so long that it was boring but, I must admit, the scenary was fantastic...very very good! Well worth a trip! I would recommend it to anyone and, to top it off, the staff are very friendly and helpful. Tomorrow we're off to Minehead. Shall we be seeing more WSR trains?...I should think so! Thanks for reading. Good evening...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post III: WSR Linesiding...

Hi again all! Day 3 of the holiday began with me out spotting the first two WSR trains of the day (the 10:15 "Down" & the 10:25 "Up"). These were spotted at & around Blue Anchor Station. We then drove into Tiverton and had a look around the town before returning to Blue Anchor around mid-afternoon. I then had time to spot the final two "down" services and the final two "up" services of the day. These four services were spotted around Blue Anchor once again. The main point of the 'spotting' was to film the trains and the result of the day is included above for your interest. I hope you enjoy the video and the remaining posts of the holiday! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post II: WSR's Minehead Station...

Hi all. Day 2 of the holiday, our first full day, was to revolve around a look at the nearest town, Minehead. After a 3 mile walk along the beautiful coastline, we reached Minehead Seafront. The WSR's Minehead Station is the base of the railway and is located right on the seafront, just a short walk up the road from the well known Butlins camp. After a long walk around the town the prospect of walking the return 3 miles back to Blue Anchor proved too much(!)...so we decided to catch the train back! After purchasing our four Single tickets we made our way onto the 1/4 mile long main platform where the annual "Beer Festival" was taking place. The first thing that caught my eye was the massive GWR 38XX 2-8-0 No3850 simmering alongside out of steam 2-6-0 No9351 (an image of the pair is seen above). 3850 was to be in steam all week as an "eight legged" steam engine is needed each day for the heavier trains. 9351 (left), is unique in preservation as, would you believe, she used to be a tank engine! 9351 used to be 5193, a 2-6-2 Large Prairie Tank. However, the engine was 'converted' to a 2-6-0 "WSR Mogul" and given a 2500 gallon ex-GWR tender. This transformation vastly improved the engine's water capacity but I couldn't seem to get an answer to wether it performed better than the tank engine version or not!
Leaving 3850, which would haul us back to Blue Anchor, I found the above engine, 5553, simmering opposite in the Bay Platform. She was sitting quietly at the head of the day's 4-coach "Quantock Belle" Dining Train. This engine is a 2-6-2 Small Prairie Tank and is owned by the Waterman Heritage Trust (Pete Waterman). After a peak in the cab I noticed that, unusually, the little tank carries Air Brake equipment and TPWS! Maybe it has travelled main line during its preservation life? Who knows! The notice on the cab roof states the engine is registered for "60mph"! I wouldn't fancy that with those small wheels! Still, a very nice little engine! With no time left to further admire the Prairie we quickly boarded our train, behind 3850. With a blast on the whistle, 3850 started the 9-coach train with hardly any bark at all! What a powerful thing! Back at Blue Anchor we alighted and watched 3850 depart for Bishops Lydeard before starting the short walk back to base. Looks like there may be chances for Linesiding tomorrow...we'll see! Thanks for reading!...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Somerset Holiday Post I: "Just Around The Corner"...

When we booked our Somerset Holiday in Blue Anchor (3 miles from Minehead) we knew that the West Somerset Railway's "Blue Anchor Station" was only just down the road. However, it turned out to be closer than we thought...less than 5 minutes walk in fact! (This would prove useful, or is it interesting, for me at least, throughout the holiday!). The West Somerset Railway runs between the seaside town of Minehead and the idyllic village of Bishops Lydeard, passing through 8 intermediate stations in between. At 20 miles long, it is the longest heritage railway in the country. During this, day 1 of the holiday, I spotted both 4160 & 3850 but it won't be until Monday that I get a proper look at the trains!
Trains aside, I was very impressed with Blue Anchor Station itself. My favourite feature has to be the authentic, gated level crossing which is operated from the signal box, with the mechanics under the road. The station has 2 platforms, a booking hall, a small museum, a waiting hut, toilets and of course the signalbox & gated crossing. The stations is also packed with many items of railway interest such as signals and posters. I look forward to seeing alot more of the station throughout the week... Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Shackerstone Festival 2009...

The Shackerstone Festival takes place annually, bringing many interested visitor's to the small farming village of Shackerstone. The show is organised by the Shackerstone Railway Society, the Ashby Canal Association and, last but not least, the villagers of Shackerstone themselves. Following the unfortunate cancellation (due to a total washout!) of last years festival, the chance of any future festival's rested on the fate of this one! Happily the show, through my eyes, seemed to be a complete sucess. Running over two days (September 5th/6th) the festival encorporated classic cars, farming vehicles, traction engines, steam rollers, narrowboats, model steamers, a miniature railway, trade stands, tombola, camel racing (unusual I know!), quad bike jumpshow displays, model aircraft displays, a funfair, train rides on the Battlefield Line and, as the showpiece, a one-off air display from the famous RAF Red Arrow display team. The Red Arrow's were sheduled for today only and began their fabulous display at midday sharp. All train movements around the Shackerstone Railway site were stopped so that the display could take place safely. I must admit, considering the speed they were probably travelling at, the precision of the pilot's was 2nd to none.
Following the well-worth seeing display by the Red Arrows I collected my free ticket (as I'm an SRS volunteer) and headed to the showground. To get there from the station was a relatively short walk down the meandering towpath, passing the countless narrowboats (both working & pleasure craft) which had turned up for the "boat rally" section of the festival. In the showground, as I counted, for my interest, were 4 full size steam vehicles and 5 miniature steam vehicles (not bad!). The favourite among the steam vehicles seemed to be the massive Fowler Showman's Engine "Repulse" which is a regular at local rally's. (I must admit I do have a framed print of this engine on my wall at home, proudly displaying the engine's slogan..."Mighty In War & Peace"). As I arrived in the showground, all of the full size engine's and 2 of the miniature engines were gathered in the 'Showground Arena' as the interested audience admired them. The above image shows "Repulse" leaving the Arena following the show. Next in the Arena were the "Model Helicopter Display Team" which were also well worth a viewing. After a little more walking I found the Burton-On-Trent Model Engineering Society who were giving steam train rides on their portable 5" gauge track for £1 a go. I didn't have a ride but I did have a good look at the three steamers they had with them. They were a 15XX 0-6-0 Speedy, an 0-4-0 'Conway' Saddle Tank and a Simplex 0-6-0 (in steam, pulling trains).
I then checked out the Shackerstone Railway Society stand and a model railway trader's stand before returning, via the towpath again, to the railway. At the railway, a special 5-train timetable was in use for the festival. The first train was hauled by Class 31 'Ped' 101 "Brush Veteran", with the other 4 main trains then being hauled by immaculate B1 No1306 "Mayflower". Also in steam was the interesting and unusual Aveiling & Porter Traction Engine (on rails!) No9449 "The Blue Circle". I spent most of the day helping with little bits and bobs on 9449 (watering, coaling etc). After the last train had left a special shunting movement was needed. The frames of 1859 "Sir Gomer" (still under overhaul) had to be moved by 9449 so that "Mayflower" could enter the shed first. That way, 9449 & "Sir Gomer" would be easily accessible as 1306 isn't out for 4 weeks or so now. This makes working on "Sir G" a little easily whilst also allowing 9449 to go out on its 'local tour' (to Hinckley Carnival!) next Sunday. I made my way to the shed and oiled all of 1859's outside moving parts (slides, crossheads, rods etc) before filling the mechanical lubricator and priming it (turning the handle 50+ times). I then put some steam oil down the steam chest feeds (as is practise) to keep them lubricated too. Before long, "Blue Circle" came into the shed and buffered up to "Sir Gomer".
After coupling the pair together I clambered onto 1859's frames and unscrewed the handbrake. 9449 then took the strain of the loco which is currently weighing only around 12 tons (due to lack of boiler, tank, cab etc!). After moving 1859 to the preparation yard, the road was clear for 1306 to arrive home, and she did so within around 15 minutes. It was then time for me to head home but following 1306 going into the shed, 9449 pushed "Sir Gomer" inside behind her. 9449 was then also inside the shed, safe & sound. All in all the festival seemed to be a sucess with many people turning up at both the showground & Shackerstone station itself. Well done to everyone who had a part in organising and running the show! I will next be at Shackerstone 2 weeks today, following my upcoming Somerset holiday at Blue Anchor, when the much-anticipated 2009 Autumn Diesel Gala will be taking place. The gala has been named "GRIDLOCK" as it will feature three preserved Class 56 diesel locomotives, one being a visitor from the Mid-Norfolk Railway named "Oystermouth". Thanks for reading all, good evening.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Devon Holiday Final Post (VI): Babbacombe Cliff Railway...

Now, from time to time we come across a more "unusual" railway than we're used to, and Babbacombe Cliff Railway is one of them! After leaving the model village (see earlier post) we headed off on the very short walk to the Cliff Railway station. The fernicular railway connects Babbacombe with the small yet attractive Oddicombe Beach, the only other access being via a steeply graded and meandering road/footpath. This being the case, the cliff railway is the best option for travel! The railway first opened on April 1st 1926 but, due to security, closed during the World War II conflict. In 1951 the line reopened and following quite a few servicings and renovations is still operational today! In July 2009, the railway left council ownership and is now owned by a local interest group.
Beginning at the top station, the two parrarel 5ft 8" tracks are each 720ft long. The tracks are travelled by two cable-connected cars which have a capacity of 40 standing passengers each. However, it isn't just gravity which operates the cables, there is driving gear in the top station as well as compensating gear so that correct track positions can be kept by the cars. The cars are connected to the cables at their upper ends and the cables then run between the rails of the tracks, as can be seen below...
The simple construction of the track can also be seen above. Although 'driven' from the driving gear, the estimated speed of the cars is only around 2.5 metres per second. Below can be seen a view from an ascending car of the descending car...
Once you've riden down to the beach on the railway, you pay on leaving or, when going up, you pay at the bottom (unless you have already bought your return ticket of course!). The return fare is very reasonable, about £1.75 each I believe. This £1.75 is well worth as it saves an awful lot of walking! The railway is operated from Easter until September (I believe) from 9:30am til 5pm (I think!). To make sure passengers don't miss the last train, a bell is rung at the bottom station 30 minutes prior to closing! Having enjoyed the lovely beach scenary for a while, we took a return trip on the railway back to 'village level'. We then headed back to our caravan to pack before leaving for home...a 200 mile journey ahead...phew! Thanks for reading, we had a very good holiday! More posts coming soon!

Devon Holiday Post V: Babbacombe Model Village...

Nestling close to the sea in the small village of St Marychurch, Babbacombe Model Village surely has to be one of the UK's premier model villages. Opened in 1963 by Tom Dobbins, the massive village has been slowly growing ever since. Covering 4 acres of land, the village includes well over 400 models with over 300m of model railway track as well! The price of admission is well worth the visit, it really is. The model village seemingly never fails to bring a smile to someone's face with it's countless model figures which are modelled in many differing, humorous and yet equally realistic situations. Once through the entrance, the true expanse of the village is revealed to the visitor...it is massive! As you make your way down the meandering pathways many different model's catch your eye. It's not really possible to describe even a small amount of the village's features but I can at least try!
The village includes many lamplit streets, a lake, a city centre, trucks, cars, a football stadium, a windfarm, three railways, a quarry, a castle, a cricket club, bridges, boats, a beach and much, MUCH more!! As I said, it isn't by any means possible to describe it all!
Below is seen the massive city centre which, when illuminated in the evening, look's absolutely fantastic! The centre includes many big-name shops and a tramway!...
Now for the three railways. The new railway includes a 45mm gauge 'shuttle' line, usually operated by either a 3-car German 'Ice' Train or a 3-car Virgin Voyager look-a-like. The new railway was built to connect with the new Olympic Stadium which is being built to model that which will be used for the upcoming London 2012 Olympics. The train is 'programmed' to shuttle up & down its track all the time with minimal intervals for 'loading passengers'(!) in between! The train, which today was the 'Ice' Train, can be seen below on one of its journeys back from the new Olympic stadium...
The 2nd railway is indoors and is a large 'O' gauge layout named "Babbacombe Junction". With automated train control via colour-light signalling & block sections the locomotive's effectively operate themselves! The line has 2 or 3 circuits which traverse the room, with many trains operating at once, obeying the signals of course! A model of Thomas the Tank Engine was also spotted making it's merry way around the layout with only one wagon in tow! The building in which the model railway is housed also includes bridge plates, name plates, posters and a large 'O' gauge model locomotive shelved on a display track. The large & very interesting layout can be seen below...
Now we go to railway No3, the original garden railway which, by looks of it, is also 45mm, if not it is 'O' gauge! This railway works its double-track way around the lake passing two stations and a signalbox. The line also makes its way under 2 bridges and also through a small shed in which the trains are obviously housed when not in operation. Interestingly, though the railway is double-track, it looks like the main running line is built with different track to the other line. Also, I've only ever seen the "Up" (clockwise) line running, the other looks old & derrilict. The railway's main feature is the grand suspension bridge which carries the 2 tracks above the large pond. In the image below, the Virgin liveried Class 47 diesel can be seen hauling it's four Virgin liveried coaches across the bridge. Note the many fish which are swimming below happily as the train passes by above!...
I've included the following image as a closer view of the seemingly "vintage" Virgin train as it passes alongside the footpath before running through the storage shed...
As well as the fantastic model village itself, the attraction as includes a well-stocked shop, cafe and a 4D Theatre (well worth a look as well!) and, for this year only, a large indoor model Circus exhibit which will be leaving the model village after this season has ended. So why not go along & visit Babbacombe Model Village, its only 2 miles or so from Torquay Harbour and is a fantastic day out for the young & old alike! Thanks for reading folks, final post coming asap! Good day.