Friday, 30 October 2009

Preparations On The Garden Railway...

Hi all. Every year, on Bonfire Night (November 5th), we host a private get-together on our 00 Gauge Garden Railway. The evening see's both family members & friends populating the garden and the house for a special "Night Run". As well as running trains on the railway, we provide hot food, refreshments, a bonfire and a special fireworks display (typical of Bonfire Night of course!). Therefore, though it will be dark, the railway has to look its best for the visitors! Therefore preparations start well in advance, as with today! Todays task was check, test and provide lighting for the railway's 9-road turntable. As it will be dark and there are no buildings nearby, the turntable will not be lit. Therefore, we have provided a simply "spot-light" which, in darkness, provides a useful, but not too over-powering, beam of light. Also, the actual shape of the "spot-light" is unnoticeable once darkness falls (as tested today! Looks count!). We believe that this simple, everyday (& readily available) form of the lighting will prove both effective & useful during the "Night Run" on Thursday. I have included a few images of the "spot-light" in action to show the provided effect just as night falls. Our 94XX & our Large Prairie stand silent as J94 No68075 sits on the turntable...
Western Panniers (57XX & 94XX) keep a close eye on the J94...
56XX 0-6-2 Tank No6600 rounds the turntable with a 5-coach train, running clockwise around the circuit, passing No6110 which stands on Road No5...
The light shines on No68075...
The effect is more than pleasing to us. As well as this, we will be illuminating our three main stations (Sutherland, Ashford & Chilvers) as sort of a "preview" of the upcoming Christmas illuminations. Our BR Tail-lamp will also be lit as well as the lanterns which we own. This should, hopefully, proving a visually pleasing effect to both us and our guests for the evening. The "Night Run" is always a well-populated and enjoyable evening so lets hope that it goes well in 2009 as it has done in previous years! There is still much preparation work to do however, including tidying, sweeping, wiring and even some lighting! Watch this space for the post, coming straight after the event! Evening All...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Driving 7.25" at GEC Miniature Railway...

Hi all. I've finally got round to putting this one on! Well, first thing to say is that words can't describe the enjoyment of today! When a friend at GEC Miniature Railway asked me to come along and 'have a go' on his engine for the day I was already overjoyed but the day itself was even better than expected! The GEC Miniature Railway (mentioned in a previous post) is based on Allard Way, Binley (Coventry) and includes a raised 3.5"/5" gauge track and a ground-level 7.25" gauge track. The volunteer-operated line runs on the first weekend of the month from May until October and also runs a "Santa Day" in December. However, at the end of October there is a very special day:- The "Night Run". Today was one such day. I arrived at GEC at around 1pm in ever-persistant light rain. Already preparations were underway for the day's event which would take place between 3pm & 9pm. I then met with my friend David who was already preparing his family's 7.25" gauge locomotive, No10 "Trojan", with help from his dad, Kevin. It wasn't long before the other 7.25" gauge steamer of the day, No5 "James" (a Romulus), arrived with his owner. The first thing I noticed was the massive difference in transportation methods on 7.25" rather than 5". These engines are moved on trailers of course, not in car boots!
The engine which I was to drive, "Trojan", is a freelance engine built & owned by the Brown Family. The engine employ's outside frames and hackworth valve gear, coupled to an 0-4-0 wheel-arrangement. The locomotive is, physically, a Saddle Tank but also has a tender fitted. This tender not only provides a place for the driver to sit but also harbours the main water tank. The "other fuel", Coal, is carried in two bunkers which stand on either side of the engine's footplate. Water feed is by two remarkably-reliable steam injectors (fed from tender tank) and an axle-pump (fed from saddle tank). The cab layout, seen below, includes a regulator, blower, 2 x injector steam valves, pole-reverser, vacuum-brake lever, bypass-valve, pressure gauge, vacuum gauge, 2 x water gauge glasses and a handbrake. (The two injector water valves are situated either-side of the drivers feet in the tender). Interestingly, the locomotive's impressive whistle was made by local model-engineer, John Drury (a member of Coventry MES who I know quite well! Small world!). For lubrication, the engine carries a mechanical-lubricator on the left-hand side. The safety valves, set to 80psi, are situated on top of the dome, as can be seen below...
After I arrived, we soon finished preparing the engine for fire-lighting. A cup of tea was then heard calling from afar so we departed the steaming bays for the "Tea Room"! (Great place to hide from the rain!). After enjoying a nice cuppa' we went back to the engine with the rain, as luck would have it, still falling. With 1/2 glass of water in the boiler, David began filling the sizeable firebox with some well-soaked parrafin wood. He then lit a seperate piece of wood before dropping it into the 'box'. The mechanical-blower was then called upon to provide the "artificial draft" for the fire. As the wood fire noisily crackled, David added more as & when it was needed. It wasn't long before the first coal was added but it wasn't the "normal" smokeless stuff...it was "Rocket Fuel"(!)...otherwise known as Traction Engine Coal OR "smokey stuff" to use the technical term! "Trojan" was soon warming up nicely and David then handed the shovel over to me so that I could continue with the firing. With 30psi 'on the clock' David removed the mechanical-blower before I opened the locomotive's own blower a touch. This was just enough to keep the smoke from "blowing back" but not enough to raise steam too quickly.
However, even with the blower "just cracked", the engine was soon at 70psi. The engine was then moved forward very carefully to "warm the cylinders", as well as emptying them of water! The brakes were then tested by starting the engine off and then "dropping the vacuum". With this final test being successful, we moved "Trojan" off shed and down onto the turntable. After turning, the engine was pushed backwards onto the "call-on road" to await her duties. I gave the footplate a brush-down as we awaited orders from the "superiors". I also kept the boiler filled to an appropriate level with the injectors. David then said I could start driving straight away (something I did not refuse!!) so I took up position on the tender. After being called down by Kevin, I backed the engine slowly across the yard and into the platform. The shining locomotive, adorning fairy lights, two pumpkins and a smart headlamp(!), was then coupled to the empty stock. (The stock is braked using vacuum, as is the engine). As a note, the following four photographs were supplied by GEC Committee Member, Gary Bland...Thanks Gary! (I simply had hardly a chance to take photos during the day!). Below, I on "Trojan" before the first run, the "test run"...
The "test run", comprising "Trojan", me, David & Stewart, would allow us, not only to test the signals & their sensors, but also to put out the various warning signs (i.e. "Keep your arms and legs inside at all times"). (On the quiet, it would also give me a chance to get a feel for the locomotive!). Having returned from the enjoyable first run (with nothing broken I might add!), I ran "Trojan" around, turned her, built up her fire and ran straight back onto the stock again. This would be the first passenger run of the day, the time being just gone 3pm-ish. With a whistle from the guard we departed in a cloud of white steam (before I shut the drain cocks that is! No chances taken!). As there was no other train on the track yet, all signals were at "clear" and "Trojan" had a 'free run'. The engine rode the rails beautifully and behaved perfectly. Once back at the station again, "James" was ready to take over. This meant twice as much turn around time. (Just the job!). No such luck! The 2nd coach rake was brought out from the sheds by 0-4-0 Diesel "Sammy" and it was time to go again! Oh well, I never complain about driving an engine! This run, as with the next two as well, had members of my family aboard so, as David put it so brilliantly, there could be "no chance of a slip-up!". (Not if I wanted to keep my head held high!).
After many trips, the light had faded and it was now getting dark. Whilst being watered, "Trojan"s headlamp and tail-lamp (a full size Midland one I might add!) were lit and her fairy lights & pumpkins were also turned on. This provided a very impressive display of colour as well as providing the engine with "navigation lights" (one front & one back). I must admit I was looking forward to driving in the dark as I had never done it before, anywhere. As darkness fell, the shed & yard lights were turned on, making "turn around"s easier. By now, three engine's were on the track, providing the two-train service. (These were "Trojan", "James" & "Sammy"). There was also a 4th locomotive, a 7.25" gauge "Tich" (named "Tom"), also adorning fairy lights, which made various trips down the line with one-passenger car. Hot food was also on sale and, I must admit, a very nice hotdog (or three!) did make its way onto the engine! One thing that I loved about the day was, as with my last visit, someone always brought me a cup of tea! What more can you wish for! The "Tea Room Ladies" did the society very proud once again as, with no word of a lie, as soon as one empty cup left the footplate, another full one duly arrived! Well done ladies, you did a great job!
Once darkness had fallen it became ever-harder to see. However, the members had gone to great lengths in ensuring a very pleasant train journey! The station was decorated with flags and creatively-decorated pumpkins, all lit I may add! As a note, one pumpkin had carved into it the GEC Society logo. (Whoever made that, my hat off to you, it was fantastic!). On leaving the station, the first triangle was decorated with lamps, pumpkins, ghostly-figures and quaint jars which contained tealights! (A nice touch!). The line-up of pumpkins and tealights then continued down the line, through the wooded section, as far as the passing loop. (I must admit they did help a little with seeing where you were going!). But, from a visitors point a view, the effort which the members went to was plain to see. (Well done to you all once again!). Once away from the tealights, the darkness engulfed the line, not that "Trojan"s massive headlamp didn't help! The lamp easily illuminated the track and any facing points whilst the various signals were easily bright enough to be seen from great distances. As a note, in the darkness a torch was carried in "Trojan"s tender so that the two gauge glasses could be illuminated. (A much-needed safety measure). Meanwhile, the 5" gauge line was also running and was equally as busy as the 7.25". A stalwart performer throughout the day was the well-turned out 0-6-0 Side Tank "Sgnt Murphy" (I think thats right?!), seen below...
As the evening drew towards a close, the passenger numbers didn't seem to decrease! The bonfire (lit at about 6pm) was no doubt a draw for most as the temperature began to drop! At around 9pm we were told to begin "running the engines down" as there were only a few more runs to go. "Tom" had already been disposed and "James" was soon off on his last run. Myself & "Trojan" meanwhile were on the last train which was made up of a mixture of passengers & some of the Tea Room Ladies (they no doubt deserved a ride for their efforts!). This train, departing around 9:10pm, was again full (a testament to the popularity of the event no doubt). "Trojan", even though she'd been in steam for over 6 hours, again performed faultlessly throughout the journey and it wasn't long before, following a chorus of whistles through the wooded area(!), we arrived back in the now almost-deserted station. "Trojan" was uncoupled before I ran her back down to steaming bays. She was then disposed & cleaned by David, Kevin & myself. "James", who came on shed just before "Trojan", was soon disposed and was then pushed down into the station to await loading, ready for home. "Trojan" soon followed, pushed by David & myself. Once "James" had been loaded, "Trojan" followed suit. Once she was aboard her trailer, the jobs of the day were done. (It was now gone 10pm of course!).
All in all it had been a fantastic day and, without doubt, one that I will remember for a very long time. The list of people to thank is endless. Firstly, the very kind Brown Family for both putting up with me & allowing me to drive their lovely engine. Also, to Gary Bland for both making me welcome and providing the images. Also to, as always, the Tea Room Ladies who made sure that was no chance that any of us becoming dehydrated! You all did a great job! Finally, to all of the members who made my day such a good one. (You know who you are! There are, literally, too many names to mention!). Thank you all so much, it really was a fantastic day. (We'll no doubt be visiting GEC for their "Santa Day" in December as well...great stuff). Thank you all for reading folks, sorry its been a bit of a long one! Goodnight All!...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Driving A Polly At Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition...

Hi all. Every year, in mid-October, the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre (Fosseway) hosts the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition. My 5" gauge concern, Coventry Model Engineering Society, contributes a display of models to the show and also offers train rides on their 5" gauge Portable Track. The passenger cars for the track are also provided by CMES but the steam locomotive is borrowed from the well-known manufacturer "Polly Models". The use of this locomotive gives both good performance and good advertising for Polly Models. Today, as I am every year, I was rostered to drive the afternoon turn on the Portable Track. I arrived at the centre at around 9:35am and used my pass to go in through the back entrance. The exhibition doesn't open until 10am so it was still very quiet inside! I made my way to the club stand, situated near the cafe area, to drop off my things. The morning crew soon arrived and we set about lifting the engine onto the outdoor portable track. The track is usually around 200ft long and offers an interesting, if relatively short, train ride to visitors, free of charge I might add! We then steamed the engine before I headed off for a look around the fantastic display of models and projects in the exhibition halls. After chatting to various people and admiring many, many items(!) I went back to the track just before my shift began at 1:30pm.
The morning crew reported that the engine was steaming well, if slipping a little on the gradient, and, with this in mind myself, and my fellow driver, Emma, took over for the rest of the day. Since the last time I drove the engine last year, she has undergone many mechanical changes. These have included a new manifold, two new injectors, removal of the axle-pump, a new whistle and a new "weir-pump". We chose not to use the weir-pump (located on the running board) today and relied on the two injectors and the handpump. (The weir-pump is pictured above but is not use).
The new whistle, a Polly product, is pictured above and is a Chime Whistle. I must admit, I do like it alot better than the old one...this one actually makes a noise rather than just blasting steam to no avail!
The locomotive is a "Polly V" and is the company's Demonstration Locomotive. This engine is the 2nd largest in the Polly range and is only dwarfed by the slightly-larger "Polly VI" which includes a 2-axle tender rather than side tanks. This Polly V has been left in brass rather than being painted, as can be seen.
The 90psi locomotive is seen below as the end of her shift (and ours!) approaches...
The "Polly V" cab is seen below but, unlike last year, the engine no longer has the standard Polly backhead! The manifold can be clearly seen with the controls from left to right being:- Left Injector Steam valve, Blanked valve, Weir-pump Steam feed, Right Injector Steam Valve and Whistle valve. The pressure gauge can be clearly seen as can the water sight glass and handbrake column. The regulator can be seen clearly in the centre of the backhead with the Blower Valve being seen just to the right. The small cylinder in the bottom-right hand corner is the oil-resevoir for the weir-pump whilst the two valves on the left-hand side of the cab are the bypass and water valves for the pump. The small lever poking through the cab floor controls the cylinder drain cocks. The substantial firehole door can be seen clearly as well. All in all, a relatively easy to access but somewhat unusual cab layout!...
A close up of the fire with the two bottom rows of tubes being visible. Just below the firehole can be seen the two injector clacks, one either side...At the end of her shift at around 4:30pm, "Polly V" had to be disposed and was removed from the passenger car(s) in preparation for this...
Emma is seen checking the engine's status before dropping the fire-grate. The rag on the front bufferbeam is there in preparation of ashing out the smokebox...
With the fire dropped, Emma began clearing the smokebox whilst I used the right-hand injector to the fill the boiler to the 'top-nut'. This would ensure a good supply of water in the boiler ready for the next days crew. Once this was done, there was only around 5psi on the clock and this would soon reduce to zero. Once Emma had cleared the smokebox I swept the boiler tubes before closing and tightening the door. Emma then replaced the fire-grate before we lifted the engine back onto her trolley and back into her box. After putting away the tools we then got ready for home. All in all it had been a very enjoyable day with many happy passengers being taken for a run up and down the track. The exhibition will continue up to & including this Tuesday (October 20th) with, no doubt, many more budding engineers passing through its doors. Thanks to Emma, Brian & Hilary for a good day at MMEE 2009 with "Polly V". Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Whats Along The Line For The Rest of 2009?...

Hi all! With less than 3 months left of 2009 now I thought I'd give you an insight into what I'll be doing until the end of the year...provisionally of course!:-
*Saturday 17th October:-Driving 5" for CMES at MMEE (Fosseway)
*Saturday 24th October:-Driving 7.25" at GEC, Binley (Courtesy of a good Friend)
*Sunday 25th October:-Shackerstone Loco Works Volunteer Day
*Thursday November 5th:-Bonfire Night On The Garden Railway
*Saturday November 7th:-CMES Steam Up Day
*Saturday November 21st:-Visit to Crewe Loco Works (Courtesy of GEC)
*Sat 5th/Sun 6th December:-Shackerstone Weekend with B1 "Mayflower"
*Thursday 17th December:-Illumination Special On The Garden Railway
*Sat 19th/Sun 20th December:-Shackerstone Weekend with B1 "Mayflower"
*Sunday 27th December:-My 18th Birthday, Severn Valley Dining Visit
The above list is only provisional and doesn't include (of course) any extra dates, whether it be at CMES or Shackerstone. I think they'll have to put more hours in the day...Thanks for reading! More posts coming soon!...

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Weekend With The "Really Useful" Engine...

Hi all. On seeing this post you may be wondering, "Didn't you have Thomas back in June?". The answer?..."Yes we did!". My standard gauge concern, the Battlefield Line Railway, host their "Day Out With Thomas" events twice per year (once in Spring & once in Autumn). This years Autumn event was held this weekend and will also be held next weekend (October 17th/18th). Additionally, the event will run on Monday October 19th, to coincide with the Leicestershire schools "half term" week. My weekend at Shackerstone began on Friday when I arrived at around 7pm (in darkness!...winter is obviously coming!) to stay on site. After planning the following day's activities we retired, quite late, to the Sleeper Coach before "Day One" began:- After a short and slightly uncomfortable(!) sleep I rose at 5:40am before heading down to the engine sheds. Myself, and colleague Chris, let ourselves into the shed and awaiting the days crews for the three rostered steam locomotives. My Driver, Jan, duly arrived and both of us then proceeded to the South Yard where our noble steed for the day, "Thomas", awaited us. The yard was in darkness and therefore we had to use torches to check the firebox and water gauges. Jan then 'cleaned the grate' whilst I got some 'lighting-up wood' together. Jan soon lit the first layer of wood before climbing down to begin oiling the engine.
I continued to add wood, then coal, to the thriving fire and tended to it until the engine was up to pressure. (The recently-lit fire is seen above). Meanwhile, Jan had been inside the frames oiling the inside-cylindered locomotive as well as tending to the two mechanical lubricators which are fastened to the running boards. The "Thomas" for this event was played by Llangollen Railway-based 0-6-0 18" Hunslet Saddle Tank "Jessie". The very powerful engine used to be red but was converted to a Thomas replica when Llangollen's "usual Thomas", a Jinty, required major boiler repairs. The conversion required the removal of the Saddle Tank, which was replaced with two side tanks. The engine was also, naturally, painted blue and given the "Jinty"s face. The engine also carries the "Jinty"s dome cover, due to its own dome no longer being covered by its redundant saddle tank! Following repairs to the Jinty, "Jessie" should return to her original form early next year. "Jessie" used to be a Steelworks engine and is an emmensely powerful machine. This is confirmed with the owner's 'blanking' of the "main valve" to stop his engine being "thrashed". (A good call in my opinion!). However, even 'notched up' in 'pilot valve', the engine easily climbed out of Shackerstone with 6-coaches behind her. (She is a bit of a beast by all accounts!).
At around 9:30am we came off shed before running into Platform 2 and coupling up to the first train, the 10am. After coupling up I proceeded back to the engine shed "mess room" to change into my smart overalls. I then returned to the engine where Jan, herself changed, was checking the vacuum brakes. (Our fireman, Adrian, was getting changed himself at the time). At 10am, we steamed out of Shackerstone for Shenton. Once at Shenton, almost every passenger left the train to admire the engine as "he" ran round. "Thomas" was soon coupled to the other end of the train and we left, once again, 'on time'. After an enjoyable return run we arrived back at Shackerstone where B1 "Mayflower" was waiting to take over the next 4 main train services. Adrian uncoupled Thomas before we ran off the train and proceeded into Platform 1. For the rest of the day we did many things! We competed in engine races, we played games, we starrred in countless "playlets" and, we took "Daisy the Diesel Railcar" to Hedley's crossing and back 3 times. We were very busy ineed! (As usual, one of my trainee-fireman duties did include getting a soaking in the "water game"...I never escape it!). I was allowed to fire the three Daisy runs, returning from Hedley's with around 150-160psi (full pressure=170psi) on the clock and 4/5 of a glass in the boiler. I was very proud to have achieved this as I have ran out of steam once in the past!
Following the playful activities at Shackerstone, our final duty was a full line journey, the 4:40pm (last train) to Shenton and back. This train was also a "Tea on Thomas" run meaning that some passengers would be enjoying supper in the company of the Fat Controller himself! Adrian was driving this trip so Jan added a few shovel-fulls of coal to the fire just before we left Shackerstone. On leaving the station, I was allowed to fire, with Jan's guidance proving more than helpful! We managed to keep around 150-160psi on the clock with at least 1/3 of a glass of water in the boiler at all times. The run was a relatively easy one with coal being added "little & often" to the frighteningly-hot furnace. Once at Shenton, Adrian uncoupled Thomas before running him round. I then coupled 'him' back up to the stock before we departed again. On leaving the station, I added more coal to the raging fire as we climbed the Shenton Bank. Coal was then, once again, added little & often, as & when. This run seemed more challenging as the engine seemed to be working a little harder and used a little more coal but it was still very enjoyable. We soon arrived back at Shackerstone with 160psi on the clock and 1/2 glass of water in the boiler...not bad! Thanks for the oppotunity Jan! After arrival back at Shackerstone the engine was coaled before we disposed her. Finally, feeling very tired and "hard done to"(!), we all signed off. After staying on site again, with a longer "lie in" in the morning, "Day Two" came all too quickly(!):-
After signing on at 7am I proceeded to the shed where B1 "Mayflower" and Hunslet "Jessie" (Thomas) were being prepared. I made myself a 'cuppa' in the mess room before chatting to Thomas' crew: Jan, Dave & Danny (trainee). Carl, the driver of "Fergus" for the day, also joined us. Myself and Carl then proceeded to "Fergus", who was waited patietly in the lower yard, to light his fire and clean him ready for the days work. Our colleague Kev also helped with the cleaning. After cleaning "Fergus", who was making steam nicely, I took the oppotunity to take the images below and the one above. (Sorry for the poor quality but I only had my phone handy!)...
First, "Fergus" gets a nice polish from Kev & Craig...
With his fire burning brightly, it won't be long until "Fergus" is ready (remember he can move with only 10psi on the clock!)...
Known never to show any sign of muck or dust, B1 "Mayflower" makes an impressive sight outside the locomotive works...
"Mayflower" was clearly happy with the kind comments that Dave (right) had been making about her shining LNER livery...
Jan, spotted in the cab, checks all is well whilst "Thomas" looks forward to his morning run to tranquil Shenton...
Fluttering her eye lashes as usual, "Daisy" heads down into the station before a 'shuttle run'...
Once "Fergus" had gone off shed it wasn't long before Pockets arrived. For the rest of the day, myself, Pockets and Kev, aided by Dave & Chris, cleared alot of rubbish from the South Yard, making it a tidier sight for all. We also changed some rotten sleepers which were supported one of the point-lever frames. They were so rotten in fact that they crumbled into two or three segments when removed! With all jobs completed, we signed off at around 5:30pm. After some socialising with fellowing members regarding an enjoyable weekend, I left at around 6:45pm, happily heading home to my own bed! (Not that it wasn't a fantastic weekend!). Thanks must go to Jan & Adrian for a fantastic day on "Thomas" on Saturday. Remember folks, next weekend is your last chance to see "Thomas" at Shackerstone before he returns home to Sodor...until his 2010 visits of course! See the railway's website, http://www.battlefield-line-railway.co.uk/ for further details. Thank you for reading folks and now, thankfully, its time for me to get some sleep! Thanks for reading folks. Good Night all...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Gala Time On The Garden Railway...

Hi all. As we have a Youtube account a 00 gauge model railway, we tend to put two & two together and put video's of the railway on there. These videos can range from "how to make" video's to shots of certain train services. However, one thing we like to do, at least three times a year, is film a full length "steam gala" video. The third and final steam gala video of this year was filmed on the Sunday just gone (October 4th) and included some very intensive running from 12 different model steam locomotives. The total video length is around 20 minutes, cut down into three parts. (All three video's are seen below). It has taken around 8 hours in total to cut, edit and save the film before putting it online(!)...its a mammouth task! Though this was our final steam gala video of the year, it was not our last garden railway video. The next one should (and I mean "should" only!) be filmed and aired in November. We haven't chosen the subject of it yet but we will within the next 3 weeks or so. The final video of the year will be shot and aired in December and will follow the running of "Santa Steam Special" trains on the garden railway! But, for now, we hope you enjoy the video's below!

Part One:- The Gala begins and sets the standard for the rest of the day...

Part Two:- The gala had really got going by this point and, though the day was wearing on, the intensive timetable continued...

Part III:- "The Finale":- The trains begin to wind down a little but the mood is still intensive! Don't miss the fabulous "Finale train" at the end of the video...
For those who have viewed Part III and seen the "Finale Train", it took 6 takes to get right! Or is that breaking the realism of it all? I hope not! Thanks for reading again folks. Hope you enjoyed the post and the video's. Good Evening...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Evoking Memories at Moor Street Station...

Today I visited the bustling city centre of Birmingham with a friend of mine and, as we were within easy walking distance, I took the oppotunity to take a look at Moor Street Station. We had caught the train into Birmingham from Nuneaton, arriving at the dismal and seemingly unloved New Street Station, who's massive selection of tracks snake their way through tunnels to meet the platforms which themselves are below road-level. However, the beautifully modelled Moor Street Station is a completely different affair. This is because the station has, unlike many others, been restored to its 1930s condition. The results are fabulous. The place just echoes memories of the steam era and the Great Western Railway. The renovation has come at a cost however, approximately a £11 million in fact! Reproduction seating, a clock, signage, lamps etc have all been included to enhance the stations 1930s appeal. Currently, the station has 5 platforms, three of which are not connected to the network and are unused. Platforms 1 & 2 are served by Snow Hill, Stratford-upon-Avon, Tyseley etc services, mostly operated by Chiltern Railways. The stations Platform 5 has also become how another GWR antique...2884-Class Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No2885...
This large 2-8-0 was the 2nd member of the 2884-class and was built in 1938. She was allocated to Stourbridge Junction but, like many other engines, ended up at Barry Scrapyard following retirement. The engine went to Tyseley and was cosmetically restored before being sent for display at Moor Street following its 2002 refurbishment program. The locomotive, as seen today, is looking a little more worse for wear than she did on her arrival but is still, externally, looking 'OK'. Bare in mind that there are no cab fittings on the engine and both of the whistles have been removed. However, she still wears her number plates, whether original or not, on the cabsides. We have recently seen a 2884-class engine hard at work as regular visitors to this page will recall. This engine was No3850 who I met on the West Somerset Railway during my recent holiday there. However, it seems unlikely that No2885 will ever be restored to the same condition as No3850, in the near future at least. For now she is flying the flag for GWR steam at one its previous stamping grounds.
Modern day passengers still have to cross the station concourse, which itself is covered by an overall roof, to meet Platforms 1 & 2. The concourse now includes the ticket office, waiting room and a small cafe. The signage is very impressive, recalling GWR days at their best...
The view from the cafe...
After a look at this beautifully restored station, we made our way back to New Street and caught one of those "modern" trains, namely a Class 170 'Turbostar', back to Nuneaton. Its a shame all stations cannot be kept in this condition! Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Further Illuminating The Garden Railway...

Hi all. Our regular readers will remember that we are currently going through a phase of illuminating our 00 Gauge Garden Railway. After serveral problems found in using so-called "Grain of Wheat" bulbs, we are currently fitting standard 12V Festoon bulbs to our buildings. This is done using standard wire, a block of wood and two small, metal brackets. This is to stop any melting of the plastic buildings/walls. These two shots (above & below) show our engine sheds which had to be illuminated a little differently to the others. This is because there was inadequate headroom (for the locomotives) when the wood & metal bracket approach was attempted. Therefore, the two bulbs (one Festoon+one mini-Playcraft) are hanging from the ceiling, soldered to two wires which are fitted to the shed walls.
The playcraft bulb is fitted to the fore-section of the shed whilst the Festoon bulb is fitted into the extension section of the shed. As seen above, the illuminations are both visually and mechanically pleasing. In the shed, on specially laid out display tracks, Mogul No5328, Pannier No5775 and the static 'Pug' are seen "under the lights"! Today, we were testing the power given to the buildings from our transformers, which themselves are made by 'Clipper'. I only used one of the three circuits today as I only had one spare transformer handy. (Circuit No2 was used today. This circuit includes 5 buildings out of the total 15 which will be illuminated). Sutherland Signalbox, as it has been weatherproofed, was put in place of Ashford Signalbox for this test and is seen below. The bulbs would not fit in the "upstairs" compartment and therefore have been placed in the "lever room" and holes have been drilled in the ceiling of this room. The light can then make its way into the upstairs/signal room as well.
With 5 buildings on test, the Grantham area is seen below. A house, the Post Office and the Grocery Shop can be seen working well...
Finally, the 5th building was one of our semi-detached houses with new blinds/curtains fitted to shield the workings inside...
The illumination work will continue before our Grand Unveiling in December 2009. The buildings have yet to be rearranged and some still need to be further weather-proofed until they can withstand snow...if we get any this winter! Before that, we still have more buildings to put bulbs inside and even more wiring to do! We also need to get 2 extra transformers to power the buildings efficiently. So, we're not there yet, but we soon will be...Watch This Space! Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening.