Monday, 31 May 2010

Driving A Romulus On Bank Holiday Monday...

Hi again all! Well, after a day at Shackerstone yesterday (crewing "The Blue Circle") I decided to downsize a little again today. Therefore, I went along to the GEC Miniature Railway in Coventry for one of their normal 7.25" gauge Public-Running days. (I had been invited to come along to this a few weeks before). Operating on the first Saturday & Sunday of each month from May until October, the GEC tends to run their 7.25" track on Bank Holiday Monday's as well; today was in fact one such example of this! With trains due to run between 2:30pm and 5pm, I opted to arrive at just before 1pm so that I could help with various bits & bobs. On my arrival, two loco's (a Y7 Tram and a Sweet William) were already on site and these were soon followed by two more (a Petrol Hydraulic named "Sammy" and a Warship Class). The 5th engine to arrive, "James" the Romulus (which I drove a few weeks before), was the engine I was to drive today; acting as a 'relief' driver for owner, James! After unloading the 0-4-0 (+ sizeable tender), we pushed her up onto Steaming Bay No2 where preparations began. After filling, oiling, lighting and cleaning, the bright-red locomotive began to "come round" and after about 45 minutes she (or is it he?!) was in steam. Below, you can see a view of the Romulus' cab with a 'close-up' of the controls...
On the Backhead can be seen the two sizeable gauge glasses (including shut-off's, blow-down's and protectors!), with the large regulator handle in the centre. I must admit, this regulator, like the one on my friend Dave's 14xx, is very nice to use as you don't feel like you're going to "snap it off" when you shut-off suddenly...as you do on some other engines I have driven in the past! To the right of the firebox can be seen the pole-reverser, beneath which can be seen the linkage for the manual drain cocks. In the bottom right of the image you can see the 'lug' for operation of the handpump. To the left of the firebox you can see the handbrake clearly. Just above that you can see the vacuum brake valve, set to the "exhaust" position in this case. At the back of the shot, on the inside of the 'cab-front' can be seen two gauges: the one on the left is the vacuum gauge whilst the one on the right is the pressure gauge. Both gauges are quite sizeable and easy to make out even when covered by a cloud of steam! Finally, atop the firebox we can see the main manifold. The two valves facing the camera are the steam feed's for the two injectors; the left hand one works on a higher pressure, the other on a lower pressure (water valves for both are on the tender). The large valve on top of the manifold is the central shut-off and the valve on the left (behind regulator) is for the blower. Last but not least is the vacuum steam valve which is the 'tiny one'(!) just next to the central shut-off...the whistle chain can then be seen in the background. All in all, this cab is spacious, well-maintained and easy to work from. A personal favourite of mine is the whistle in this case...it's so loud! Below, we see "James" on Steaming Bay No2 with the little, blue Sweet William ("Luna"), on Steaming Bay No1...
After steaming up, we brought "James" off shed and then stopped her on the "calling-on road" next to the Water Tower. Here we waited until "Sammy" brought the first train of the day back in. Owner James then drove the first trip for the loco, myself then taking over for the 2nd and 3rd. The loco is a driver's dream: the injectors always pick up, she steams well and she is more than capable of doing what is required of her. Best of all...the whistle is so loud! (Did I mention that before?!). After my 2nd trip I handed the loco back to her owner who then proceeded to do a few more trips himself before handing me back the regulator once again! (Kid in a sweet shop me!). Throughout the day myself and owner James basically shared-out the driving and the loco performed very well. Passenger numbers seemed good too, making some well-earned money for the GEC Miniature Railway. As well as "James", "Sammy" was in action and, for some of the day, "Luna" and the Y7 double-headed together. Best part of the day?; the 'Tea Room Ladies' were up to their fantastic tricks of bringing us as many cups of tea as humanly possible! As I always do, I think it's once again well worth crediting the 'Tea Room Ladies' for their support to the railway and it's loco crews...even if some of them are only "occasional visiting drivers" like myself! Thank you again ladies: bringing the tea right to "James"s footplate was a nice touch!!
Above, we can see the very nice Class-'Y7' battery electric (nicknamed "Toby"!) at rest in one of the rolling stock roads. Meanwhile, below, we can see the fantastic model of Warship Class diesel hydraulic "Formidable" which was seen operating briefly later in the day. This huge model celebrates a class of diesels which were at the forefront of dieselisation on BR's Western Region all those years ago. It is then a shame that only two full-size examples survive today: "Greyhound" and "Onslaught"...
By 5:20pm, passenger traffic, for "James" at least, had ended and we were back on Steaming Bay No2. The fire was raked before the ashpan and grate were dropped. Owner James then opened both of the loco's blow-down valves...filling the vicinity with water vapour! Blowing-down over, we pushed a slowly-cooling "James" down to the Loading Ramp, where her day had begun only 4 hours before! (Not a bad day's work!). My mum soon arrived to pick me up and so, after washing my hands, and saying my thanks and goodbyes to James and Gary(!), I headed for home. It had been another very enjoyable day with GEC and I must say that I admire this little railway very much for it's charm and, most of all, for it's friendly hospitality which I think is unbeaten anywhere else. (GEC should be very proud of this!). Thank you very much to everyone at the railway again for having me, particularly owner James for letting me drive his lovely engine again and, once more, to the 'Tea Room Ladies' for, "yes you've guessed it"...all the tea! Evening All...

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Bank Holiday at Shackerstone...

Hello everyone. Today, as it was the Bank Holiday weekend, I was at Shackerstone for another day working for the Steam Department. Earlier in the week I had been asked if I would help with the 2-2-0 Aveiling & Porter No9449 "The Blue Circle" and so, happily; I accepted. Carl picked me up this morning (thanks Carl!) and we arrived at Shack' for 8am before quickly heading down to the loco yard where the immaculate B1 "Mayflower" and the diminutive Aveiling awaited us. After cleaning off the grate from the day before and checking both water gauges, I laid a bed of coal (1 lump thick, as usual) on the bars. This coal-bed was then complimented by a strong pile of wood, topped off by a lit, turpentine-soaked rag. I then threw two or three more rags (unlit) around the box to coax various areas of the wood before placing a 2nd lit-rag under the door; the other having been thrown up towards the front. The little A & P soon came round and, after alot of cleaning by myself, owner Mic, Driver Carl and Trainee Dave, the engine was soon ready. The loco was rostered on Brake Van rides today (including Pockets' 25-ton Southern-van), whilst "Mayflower" was hauling the main 6-coach rake, including visiting LNER Beavertail Observation Saloon from the GCR, Loughborough. (Check out the video above for the Brake Van rides with No9449...Meanwhile, see the video below for a preview of the Beavertail Saloon!...look out for the odd glimpse of me admiring views in that one!)...
(Both video's come courtesy of Mr.C.Simmons, a friend of mine from Shackerstone). Throughout the day, both between trains and during the run-round(s), we offered Brake Van Ride's to the public; No9449 is perfectly suited to this task, indeed! Just before the last trip, with the loco coaled and disposed of, we cleaned ourselves up ready for a run on the last trip of the day with No1306 and the Beavertail Saloon. The Beavertail is visiting the railway, from the GCR, until early September and will be running every weekend until then. The wonderfully-restored Saloon offers panoramic views of the Leicestershire countryside and, this weekend, was offering Cream Tea's to the public (with an additional charge on the normal fare). I, having never rode in the Saloon before, throughly enjoyed myself, as did many of colleagues with me! The comfort and the views were 2nd to none and I very much recommend a ride! For the railways website, click HERE. After our run, we "all changed" and I was soon 'signed off' and on my way home. (Thanks for the lift home Phil!). I will next be at Shackerstone in a few weeks, look out for more news from there as it happens! Thanks for reading folks, Good Evening...

Friday, 28 May 2010

Steam Toy's and Garden Railway's In The Sun...

Hi all. As tomorrow's forecast did not look great, I decided to head down to the Garden Railway site today and have a go at running some trains. Arriving at about midday, I opted to put out all the buildings as well as the electric signal and the electrically-operated Turntable. The railway hasn't been ran in this extensive form since the 'Bonfire Night Special' last November and so it was nice to see it this way once again; though alot of work to get it there! Later in the afternoon, as the sun shone and the breeze blew, I felt like getting my Mamod SW1 (of 1985) out for a run. After steaming up, the Steam Lorry made quite a few runs (with a good size 'tablet fire' in the box!) up and down the driveway, performing very well indeed. After 25 minutes or so the SW1 had "cooled off" and so, rather than steam her straight back up again, I decided to get the Wilesco (D405) out too! The Wilesco is much more modern in design compared to the Lorry, using a conventional double-acting cylinder, clutched-gearing and a large, circular sight-glass. Both engines performed well and, meanwhile, many trains of varying types, origins and sizes were running up and down the 00 gauge metals of the garden line. With cups of tea flowing throughout the day as well as home-made Chips & Scallops, it really was the best place to be! We finally finished our extensive running, steaming and putting-away by 6pm...PHEW(!)...what a run!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

A Hot Summer's Day Post 2: "Fish 'n' Chip Special" at CMES...

Hi all! Well, after chasing "Tornado" along the West Coast Main Line this morning we retired home for some rest. However, this was short-lived as we were soon off out again to attend the much-anticipated "Fish 'n' Chip Special" at the site of my 5" gauge concern; the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway (operated and maintained by CMES). This special event, tied in with a regular late spring 'Steam Up', was organised by the society's very own female driver, Emma, as part of this years '75th Anniversary Celebration's; and what a day it was! What was the weather like? "You couldn't have picked it better!". After a quick drive from home throughout the baking haze, we made it to the Ryton site for about 2pm. Once there, a couple of engine's were already on site, some ready to go, with one in particular awaiting a 'Steam Test'. Later in the day, the 'turnout' of locomotives, members and guests was fantastic and probably conveyed one of the best 'steam up's ever. In this report, I will try and describe as many of the locomotives as possible...so...in no particular order(!)...
Firstly, we see Roy and his fabulous 3.5" gauge 'Molly' Tank; a model of Fowler's fantastic 0-6-0 Class 1F Side Tank design. This model is in 'half cab' form and I can safely say that I've never seen Roy have a single problem with his lovely locomotive. Today, as always, the locomotive flew around the track without delay or mishap and was, as ever, beautifully "turned out" with her LMS Black livery shining in the baking sunlight.

Next, we have one of my favourite models in the club; the 5" gauge 'Precursor'; one of the LNWR spectacular's! The black 4-4-0 clearly echoes memories of an era when locomotive's like these were the king's of the railways, unchallenged by any design. Named "Lady Kathleen", I have driven this engine in the past and she is a joy; the large driving wheels give very good, smooth riding throughout!
Thirdly, we have "Pandora". I personally think this is an engineering masterpiece(!); a 3.5" gauge 0-4-0 battery electric, made as a simplistic yet powerful locomotive. Offering a smart paint job and very good riding for such a short wheelbase, this little engine was an absolute joy to drive...glad I finally saw her running! Must give strong thanks to the owner, Bob, for the oppotunity!
Fourth in this report comes "Trojan". This is Bob's second locomotive and is a Ride-on-Railways 0-4-0 "Trojan" with a Shunter Body. I also had a go at driving this lively little loco again today and it was great fun. Though very much a steam fan, I can see the enjoyment behind these battery electric's, particularly one with as much power as this one!
The fifth engine in this report will remain nameless...well, I suppose she has to...she has no name! This is Paul's powerful 0-4-0 Sweet Pea. Once owned by CMES as the '2nd loco', she was No900; named "Anthony J Large", after a late member. Before sale, the name and numberplates were kept by CMES and so the locomotive remains nameless at present. In recent times the chunky 0-4-0 has received many modifications including a brand new injector and the remachining of many parts. Well done Paul...it sounds very sweet!

Next on the list, as the 6th loco, is Dave's well turned-out 0-6-0 'Simplex' Side Tank. These substantial 0-6-0s are very common in the model engineering world and provide a sturdy, chunky and reliable locomotive, particularly as a "society engine". This is another one of those loco's that I never see have a problem...must be a tribute to the owner!
The 7th loco "out and about" was this unusual battery electric that I in particular had never seen before. I never actually asked what class it was (I'm not really a diesel person!) but if I was to take a guess then I would have said that this was a model of the Class 15's; designed by Clayton in 1957 with 44 in service on BR by 1961. So I understand, all were withdrawn within 10 years and only one survives today. Lovely paint job!

Talking of lovely paint job's...Jim's "Butch" has received a fantastic one since I last saw her! Designed as a powerful 0-6-0 tank engine which could negotiate very tight curves, the "Butch" is a highly successful and common 5" gauge design, much like the "Simplex" in that respect. The proud owner, Jim, happily rode around the track with his lovely maroon engine all day, without problems. I really like this design; I find the proportions of the type particularly interesting.
Locomotive No9 spotted today was Kevin's black LMS Tank; another "Simplex" with a very nice livery! I always think that the substantial size of these engines can be appreciated when you're "up close and personal" with them; they really are huge for 'model's! Kevin happily chugged around the track for most of the afternoon with his powerful charge, whistling enthusiastically at any passing train!
As you can see, there were a good few engines on the track! I didn't manage to get a usable picture of John's beautiful Hawthorn Leslie 0-6-0 "Trisha"...if I had done she would have been on here too! (Sorry John!). With John's engine bringing the total to 10, we can add the club's "Sweet Pea" (which myself and Eric drove) as well as the club's Class 37 electric and the Petrol Hydraulic "Alacrity". Now, whats that? "THIRTEEN locomotives"?! Finally, we can add a 14th locomotive, Eddie's 2-6-0 3.5" Stanier Mogul which came along for a quick 'Steam Test'. (Even my brother got a go during the day)...
After some very good running, my family arrived and took a ride with us behind the 'Sweet Pea' (No499 "John H Owen") before I handed 'her' over to Eric so that he could have a run too. As the evening light drew in, the temperature dropped a little, though it was still terribly humid but the views across the country park were beautiful and the weather, overall(!), could not have been better. Then, "The Main Event"; Fish 'n' Chips! The dinner arrived at 6:30pm and everyone there enjoyed a 'Cod and Chips' each...very tasty it was too...my compliments to the chef! After dinner, the Class 37, "Alacrity", "Trisha" and "John H Owen" were still running but, by 7pm, it was time for me to go so, after my goodbyes, we headed back to the car after a great afternoon. I must now extend a vote of thanks to CMES for such a fantastic afternoon and for again allowing me to use their locomotive, "John H Owen". Special thanks must go to Bob for letting me drive his two wonderful electric loco's. Finally, the unsung hero of the whole event; Emma; who organised the day and the most important part; the Fish 'n' Chips! Thank you very much Emma...we all had a great time! I'll next be at CMES in a few weeks, hopefully driving on the Sunday afternoon public trains. "Next Outing?"...Next Sunday it's off to Shackerstone again when the B1 will be in action for the Bank Holiday Weekend. Thanks for reading folks, and thanks for Paul Strapps for providing the two images with me in! (Thanks Paul!). Good Evening!...

A Hot Summer's Day Post 1: Spotting A1 60163 "Tornado" On The West Coast Main Line...

Hi all! Was it hot today?! "YES"...too hot in fact! Saying that, I'm sure we'd have all moaned if it had rained instead...we can't win! Anyhow, after hearing a few months back that new-build A1 Pacific No60163 "Tornado" was rostered to haul a railtour 'both ways' on the West Coast Main Line, I couldn't resist finding out more. Throughout the weeks, the times had been hard to come by yet, only two days before; there they were! Looking through the rostered times I saw that the train; the "Cathedrals Express", running from Euston to Chester & return; would call at my local WCML station of Nuneaton for a 20-minute or so Water Stop. I did originally consider going to Nuneaton to see the A1, recording the arrival, watering and departure. However, after spotting an article advertising the passing of the A1 through Nuneaton in the local paper, as well as the weather forecast, I figured that the station would be far too busy with both enthusiasts and families for me to get a "good shot". Therefore, I adopted a new plan: we could, hopefully, capture the arrival into Nuneaton of the Pacific then, during her 20-minute booked stop, we could "get ahead of the train" and film her at a 2nd location. After using the very useful "Google Street View" to check out possible locations in the Nuneaton area, I found two; Eastboro Way and Leathermill Lane. On Greenflag.com, the journey, by road, between the two locations was apparently 8 minutes or so, allowing us more than enough time to move between then...traffic allowing...
After setting off from home in the burning sunlight, we made it to Eastboro Way in good time and, after parking the car in the local industrial estate, we made our way up the hill to the footbridge across the line. Not a bad view it had to be said but, the worry was being caught out by a passing Pendalino or two on the Fast Line's! Anyhow, we waited and, sure enough, yet 7-8 minutes early, the A1 slowly came around the bend with her 13-coach load; she looked beautiful. Shot achieved, we made our way quickly back down the bank to the car...the chase was on! Through the St Nicholas estate we went and then out onto the A5 dual carraigeway. We saw the WCML again in the distance, yet no sign of "Tornado"...meaning she hadn't left Nuneaton yet (I was worried she might leave early due to her early arrival). Soon, we found Leathermill Lane yet, at this end, it was a dirt-track and, in terrible condition throughout it has to be said! The car moaned, scraped and groaned as we descended the steep track into a small cluster of houses. At last, we reached tarmac again (thank goodness) but with only minutes to spare. The bridge was just around the corner and, after parking up, we jogged up to the bridge where an anticipating gallery awaited the train...good job for us that she hadn't appeared yet! After setting up the camera's we waited and, within minutes, the wonderful 3-cylinder beat was heard in the distance and the A1 appeared through the haze. Within seconds, she was gone...and off to Chester!...
It had been a pleasant (yet nervy!) 45 minutes or so chasing the "Tornado" but we got what we wanted and, I'm sure we'll catch her again when she returns to the Nuneaton area in July. The A1, completed in 2008, looked beautiful and it was very nice to see her doing what she was built to do. Thank you for reading folks, back home now, and then off to CMES for the "Fish 'n' Chip Steam Up Special"!...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Post No40 of 2010: Pete Waterman, Traction Engine's and 1401 At Echills Wood Railway!...

Hello again all. Today, as with many of my outings, was another one of those kind invitations, once again offered to me by my friend Dave (thanks again!). Dave and his family are regulars at the Echills Wood Railway at Kingsbury and, with today being the Grand Opening of their new 'Far Leys' extension as well as their 2010 Miniature Steam Vehicle Rally, I was invited along to join in the fun. I had been told in the week that Dave would be taking his 7.25" gauge Class 14xx No1401 which I had previously driven at the Severn Valley Railway (click here to see post). With Dave's invitation gratefully accepted, I made it to his house this morning on time at 8:45am. Once in the car, with the loco, we headed for Kingsbury. On arrival, I was given a cup of tea (thank you!) and a visitor badge (No1). We unloaded the loco onto the ramp, which includes a rather fantastic lifting table (very handy), before pushing her and her Brake Van down onto the turntable at the roundhouse. Once on a steaming bay, we left the loco for a while. I then changed into my overalls before we took a walk through the lovely surroundings of the Water Park to see the Traction Engine's, based at Far Leys. Even from the pathways, the track looked huge, totalling about 1.5 miles in length. Finally, we reached Far Leys where an impressive display of agricultural, road and showman's engines awaited. After admiring the collection of engines, most of which were already in steam, we caught a test-train at the station, back to the base at Harvesters. (What a run!)...
Once back at Harvesters, Dave dissapeared off to somewhere for a while and I was left to have a look around. I must admit, there were some very impressive locomotives and rolling stock as well as great facilities for both the operation and maintainence of locomotives. (I got quite jealous looking at some of the kit!). Now to 1401, built from a Modelworks (Winson) kit, the 0-4-2 locomotive has received many modifications from the "Dart" Design, making it, in some respects, a "hybrid" among 7.25" Class 14's! With a spacious cab and an attractive all-over BR Black livery, the diminuitive tank is visually pleasing. Does she run as well as she looks? "Yes" she does! The locomotive includes two injectors (fed from tank in Brake Van), a handpump (fed from loco tanks) and an axle-pump/bypass (fed from loco tanks). She also includes a screw reverser, whistle, vacuum brake gear and ejector, handbrake, drain cocks (operated from cab), a spacious coal bunker and a hydrostatic lubricator. All in all, it is a very "life like" engine and, with a large firebox, steams beautifully; particularly with a good few lumps of coal around the back-end. One of my favourite parts is the regulator which, unlike many scale locomotives, is a "nice size" so that, when you're shutting off sharply, you don't feel like the regulator is going to come off in your hand! This particular regulator is ample size in my opinion. Above and below, you can see 1401 in all her glory as she waits on the steaming bay for the evening run!...
The Grand Opening at Far Leys, with special guest Pete Waterman doing the honours, was to be performed at 2:30pm. Before that, two "VIP Trains" would depart Harvesters (the base), carrying invited guests. The first train was double-headed by two GWR 4-6-0s; a County and a Hall, pulling GWR liveried stock to boot. The second "VIP Train" was hauled by two narrow gauge loco's; "Rough Pup" (a Quarry Hunslet") and "Bluebelle" (a Romulus). The trains carried invited guests and local dignitories up to Far Leys. Behind the trains began a cavalcade of locomotives with 1401 (driven by Dave as it was her first lap of the day), pulling a coach and a handful of assorted scale wagons, being the 2nd loco in the cavalcade which followed the "VIP Trains". Making good time we chugged through the woods and up to Far Leys where Pete Waterman, the EWR Committee, the Dignitories, a line up of Traction Engines and a large crowd of public viewers awaited us. 1401 pulled up behind the "Darjeeling B" Class (the first loco in the cavalcade). Behind us, many loco's were arriving, both steam and diesel. The speeches then began and lasted for around 10 minutes before Far Leys was declared open, the ribbon being cut by Mr Waterman himself to a chorus of cheers, applause, whistles and steam sirens! Following this and a chat with Statfold Barn supremo Graham Lee (who expressed his likes for the 14xx!), we all returned to Harvesters. Dave then handed me the regulator and I continued to do a good few laps around the huge circuit...it was great!
The track had been laid to a very high standard with a good amount of ballast underneath. 1401 drove like a dream; the injectors were perfect, the steaming was perfect and the riding was perfect...everything went well. The scenary of the new 1.5-mile circuit is fantastic too, mixing deep woodland with open fields and, finally, open views across the lake which, on a hot, sunny day like today, was breath-taking. (You can really see why the EWR chose the route which they did). Anyway, back on 1401, after a good few laps it was now 5:30pm and, with a special meal being served at 6pm for members and guests, we decided to give it a rest for a while. Therefore, I reversed 1401 off the relief line (in the yard) and onto the turntable road before placing her back onto her steaming bay. Dave then filled the boiler and refilled the lubricator before we left to get "cleaned up". (This is not saying that we disposed, we were going to run again later on...straight after dinner!). Meanwhile, over in the Harvesters Station car park, the Traction Engines (including 4 full size examples) were steaming away. Below we can see the beautiful Showman's engine alongside a 4" Garratt. In the background can be seen the full size Aveiling Porter Tractor (bit bigger than "Blue Circle"!)...
As I mentioned earlier, we had been chatting to Statfold Barn supremo Graham Lee who, being a kind and enthusiastic gentleman, provided some of his full size engines for the event! The little 3-ton Simplicity Roller "Emily", which I roaded from Shackerstone to Statfold back in September 2008 (see post here), was present as well as the huge, strikingly beautiful Marshall, "Mary". Below, the Marshall shines in the sun before the crew take her off to the pub for some "liquid refreshment"...
Over with "Emily", my friend Phil (Statfold employee and Shackerstone driver/fireman) was preparing her for the short road-run down to the 'local'. He remarked on how much he liked the little steam roller, which was once owned by Parry's of London. The Simplicity, though small, provided one very useful feature to the owners; a very tight turning-circle. This feature is arguably what kept these little rollers in service for so long. (See?! Size doesn't matter!). After banking up the fire I watched Phil chug off with "Emily". He had actually invited me to steer the engine down the pub but I had to stay behind for the meal ("Oh well, maybe next time!"). Below, little "Emily" is waiting in the Council Enclosure in the country park before departure for the Pub!...
After a nice meal we returned to 1401 who still had a small yet glowing fire and a good water level. With pressure raised again and the Hall, Garratt and one of the Romulus' still in steam too, we set off onto the circuit. The first run however was something different; just the massive 2-8-2 + 2-8-2 Garratt loco hauling every piece of rolling stock that could be found. The train was hugely long (I should have took a picture really) and included at least 70 passengers at the last count! There were even some wagons on the end just to make sure that there was ALOT of weight behind the huge 16-driving wheeled loco! As I watched from the steaming bay, the Garratt, with much steam, grinding, slipping and chugging, got the train underway. However, one EWR member was sitting on the front water tank to provide more adhesive weight all the way around the circuit. It was a MAD undertaking but the Garratt did it none the less. I on the other hand was following on 1401 in case of emergency banking assitance. (PS-Thats a joke, if the Garratt got stuck then there was no hope!). After the huge run the Garratt was disposed, as well as the Romulus, whilst 1401 and the Hall soldiered on through the evening. After several very fast runs we gave up at 9:30pm before a quick disposal and locking away of 1401 for the night (she'll be out again tomorrow probably).
After this, I thanked everyone I could, especially Dave and Kevin (dave's dad) for their time, their invitation and the use of their lovely Class 14xx. It had been another great day and I must admit that the EWR is now a fantastic line, both for riding and driving. For their website, click here. The highlight of the day must have been enjoying a nice pint with Pete Waterman though...really nice guy! Thanks for reading folks. Evening All, I need some rest!...

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Joan's Fun Day at GEC; Driving A Romulus...

Hi all. This is perhaps one of my "vainer" posts featuring, for a change(!), photo's of me doing what I say I do! (Proof at last!). Today I had been invited to the dual-gauge GEC Miniature Railway, just off Allard Way in Coventry, to help out with their "Special Needs Day"; known as 'Joan's Fun Day'. The event has been running for over 10 years, annually offering local children with special needs the chance to get up close and personal with trains. For the event, both the 5" and 7.25" tracks were in operation as well as the 00 Gauge Model Railway and the Tea Room, showing the GEC Miniature Railway at its best. I began my morning, after a cheeky McDonalds breakfast(!), by arriving at the GEC track-site at about 7:40am. At this time only the "early birds", including my friend Gary, had arrived but preparations were already underway, including the removal of leaves from the two small stations. I helped get the 5" gauge passenger cars out before helping to unload the first loco of the day; an 0-4-0 "Sweet William". The little engine, including a small tender, was pushed down to the steaming bay but, as she has yet to be fitted with vacuum brakes, was not steamed until later in the day. Next to arrive was regular GEC driver, James, along with his 0-4-0 Romulus, also called "James"! I helped James get the Romulus off the trailer before we pushed "him" up to Steaming Bay No2...
After oiling, lighting and steaming up, "James" was ready and squeaky clean at 9:30am, ready to take to the second set of coaches; the first set being hauled by Diesel Hydraulic "Sammy". With many happy passengers aboard, "James" made many trips, running round shrewly everytime, whilst "Sammy" did the same with 'his' set, driven by owner, Malcolm. The 5" gauge raised track was also in operation, being run, in particular, by two steam locomotives; an 0-6-0 "Speedy" and an 0-6-0 Penrhyn engine, "Sgt Murphy". Both tracks were very busy throughout the morning with many minibuses and even a 52-seater Coach(!) arriving and departing with many happy children! Apart from a few hitches, the day went very well; with over 120 children being given rides throughout the day. The "Tea Room Ladies", as usual, kept us fed and watered throughout the day with many, MANY cups of tea being delivered to the stations and even the footplates of the loco's! We must take our hats off and appreciate the "Tea Room Ladies" as, afterall, we enjoy what we do and it's their labours that help us enjoy ourselves even more...well done again Ladies; the Tea was very much appreciated! By 2:30pm, all of the children had headed off back to school (ready for "home time") but, as it was still very warm and pleasant, we decided to have a "Play" with the 7.25". I was, I must admit, very happy when "James" owner (James!) told me I could have a "play" with his engine if I wanted. Guess what?: "Yes Please!". I had a good few laps driving the engine on 'his' 2-coach train before we disposed (see pics above + below). Below, we're chugging into the Car Park Loop on the way back up the bank towards the "Feather" signal at the top...
Perhaps the ear-to-ear grin shows just how much I was enjoying myself?! I was in fact looking back to check that the coaches were OK as they crossed the Facing Points and into the loop. As you can see, we're getting closer to the top of the bank where I "shut-off" to coast down into the station...
A bit of info on "James" now. 'He' is an 0-4-0 Romulus, painted in all over red livery. Built by the late Ray Tyldesley, the loco began running in 1991, though in primer and brass livery. The tender was also designed by the builder, being rather large in stature and comfortable for the driver, offering 6-wheeled riding. The locomotive includes two injectors (fed from the large capacity tender) and a handpump (situated in the cab) to provide water feeds. Coal is kept in the tender, underneath the comfortable drivers seat. The Romulus also includes Hackworth valve gear, a mechanical lubricator, drain cocks (operated from cab) and a large firebox. Atop the boiler barrel stands the dome, which includes the safety valves and a piercing whistle! (I really love that whistle!). All in all the locomotive rode well, steamed well and the injectors were a dream, especially if you let the water run-through for a second or two before applying the steam. Below, looking rather confused, I put on the driver's-side injector as awe await the road into the 7.25" platform as the "Sweet William" was in the way. The quaint BR-style headlamp can be seen on the front of the smokebox...
GEC's track in particular is very nice to drive, especially with a loco that has the size and power of "James". When you needed power to get up the bank, "James" had the steam to do it but you could also stop 'him' from blowing off when steam wasn't needed, using the injectors as "coolant" as it were(!). Here, I begin to slow "James" down on the vacuum brakes as we come off the "Speedway" section (my name for it, not their's!) and into the first arm of the turning-triangle...
Once to the end of the triangle, the river is directly behind the buffer-stop's so it is necessary, if you value the track you run on, to STOP! (Wouldn't fancy carrying on!). Once at the buffers, the standard 2-car train is clear of the trailing point which then becomes the facing point as the loco propels the stock through the second arm of the triangle. Below, I drive in reverse around the second arm of the triangle; the Rugby/Football posts can be seen in the background...
Once onto the 3rd arm of the triangle, the second trailing point becomes the facing point and so the road is now set for a return to station, obeying all signals of course. Coming out of the triangle and back onto the main line is normally the best section for 'cleaning the fire' as it were. The engines accelerate here, digging into the climb as the bank stretches out ahead; upgrade. When I'd done a good few laps, occasionally passing the now in steam "Sweet William", we took "James" back down through the yard and onto Steaming Bay No2 before disposing of 'him'. After thanking James for his hospitality and for letting me have a go, we loaded the Romulus back onto 'his' trailer before James took his loco back home. While I'm about it, I must also thank all of the GEC members once again for having me, inviting me and for making another visit to this lovely little railway so enjoyable. Special thanks to the "Tea Room Ladies" for their continued support to the loco crews and train staff (well done!) and to my friend Gary for providing all of the fantastic (yet slightly vain on my part!) images that are featured in this post; and for the lift home afterwards! It really was a great day resulting in a good run for "James" and plenty of happy youngsters who returned to school after a good day out...well done GEC! I'm planning to be at GEC again on Bank Holiday Monday (May 31st) when it's their 7.25" track Public Running Day. Trains begin at 2:30pm so, if you're free, why not come along and enjoy a train ride?! Maybe see you there?! Thanks for reading folks. Evening...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Harrogate Day Out: A Private Railway...

Hello again everyone. Well, after leaving the Harrogate Show in a procession totalling over 8 cars(!) we made our way across the Yorkshire countryside to a local man's private 7.25" gauge railway. Leaving the car we were greeted with the sight of an overhead bridge, carrying 7.25" single track. This wonderful bridge, standing at least 8ft off the ground was soon crossed by the owner, aboard his lovely Highland Railway 4-6-0 'Jones Goods' loco No17929. After walking up to the "railway level", the full extent of the 'garden railway' was apparent. Running in a dog-bone shape around the garden, the line began near the house and continued on a varying VERY steep gradients before rounding a Tennis Court at the opposite end. The track then curved VERY sharply up-hill before running back towards its own little station, with passing loop, situated near the sheds. In all, I would estimate the track length at over 1000ft. We were then show around the shed and into a very well secured outhouse where we saw the owners entire collection. 5" gauge loco's including Class A3, A4, 'Sweet Pea', Streamlined Duchess, GWR 45XX, Hall and many more. Meanwhile, 7.25" stock included a 'Speedy' or two, Black 5, Dean Goods and more, topped off by a beautiful, glass-box housed King Class No6000 "King George V". There were even 3.5" examples including a lovely 'Rob Roy'. Every loco was absolutely immaculate, most of which, including the Duchess, A3 Pacific, A4 Pacific and the beauitful MASSIVE King Class had seemingly NEVER been run!

Whilst everyone else was looking in awe at the huge collection, I had to go back outside into the wind and have a look at the 'Jones Goods', to stop myself becoming too envious(!) of the fantastic collection, which also included numberplates, lamps and more! Once outside I saw the owner who, to my surprise, said "Do you fancy taking this for a while whilst I have a chat with the others?"..."YES PLEASE", I replied! He showed me the controls on the lovely 'Jones Goods' before I took her for a spin around the garden. I must admit, it was the most challenging line I have ever driven on, in any gauge, simply because of the gradients...they were so steep...up and down! But it did make it very interesting! The track was very well laid and the surroundings were just beautiful. The injector on the 'Jones' was a joy and the bark from the chimney on the steep hill at the foot of the Tennis Court was fantastic to hear! After a few laps of the lovely line, with the injector almost constantly running due to the hard work and steep downward grades (taking the water down to the front), I handed the 'Jones' back to her caring owner. After a chat we all thanked the owner before returning home. (I only took one picture at his house, of the 'Jones', to protect his privacy, security and location). It was however a fantastic, upcoming new garden railway and, when finished, with its new turntable, will be better than ever! Thank you very much for letting us have a look Mr Owner, and for letting me have a drive of your lovely Scottish engine!

Once we had left we had the long journey back home ahead of us, not to mention getting lost in Derby for 45 minutes whilst trying to find the Wetherspoons that we were due to meet up at for a meal! The rest of them were already on their mains when we arrived! Oh well! Thanks must go to my friend Dave and his family, many EWR members and of course the owner of the Private Railway for such a fantastic day! Next outing? I'm helping at the GEC Miniature Railway on Wednesday...Look out for a post on that as and when! Thanks for reading folks, Goodnight...

Harrogate Day Out: The Harrogate Model Show...

Hi everyone. Well; what a long day it has been; there was high mileage thats for sure! Today I was invited by my friend Dave and his family to go along to the National Model Engineering Exhibition, held in Harrogate, Yorkshire. I jumped at the chance as I had never been to the show before; on account of what a long drive it is! (And it is; it really is!). I arrived at Dave's house at 7:50am and, after a quick chat we made our way in Dave's Brother's car for the long drive to Yorkshire. "Everyone in?" and off we went. We took the standard route; along the M6 to Junction 2, along the M69 before joining the M1 for the duration of the journey, past Sheffield and beyond. We arrived at the Harrogate Show just after 11am and, after parking the car, made our way to the entrance to buy our tickets. Once inside we walked directly into the Trade Hall, firstly visiting the well-known locomotive seller, "Station Road Steam", at their stand. I must admit you could easily write your Christmas list on Station Road's stand alone! (There was a very nice 5" model of the unique Black 5, "George Stephenson", priced at just over £14000 that really caught my eye...Dear Santa!). We then moved into the Exhibition Hall where various club's & societies, specialising in many different modes of transport, were exhibiting. There were countless fabulously-built models on show and, below, I'll give you a low-down on my Top 5(!)...
Firstly, my favourite of the entire show; a beautiful 7.25" gauge of the Ffestiniog Railway 0-4-0STT "Blanche". The locomotive, coupled to a very sizeable tender with lots of leg-room and extra padding, was beautifully finished and looked mechanically fantastic! If I had to chose one locomotive, just one, to take home that day, it would have been this one! This lovely 0-4-0 was displayed on the '7.25" Society' stand and was by far my favourite, just need to persuade the owner to let me have it(!). Well done Sir or Madam, you have a wonderful locomotive. NEXT, in at No2 we have a locomotive that I had never seen in the flesh before this show, a 5" Gauge 0-6-0 'Metre Maid'. These substantial 0-6-0s were built to the Sweet Pea design but with an extra axle to theoretically give better adhesion and extra power; the Hackworth valve-gear again being used for easy maintainence. However, the cab's are smaller and the firebox looks particularly oversized within it. Never the less, it is a fabulous design and very visually-pleasing. This owner is clearly a good builder and keeps his locomotive in superb condition...
The Hackworth-Valve Gear is seen below. If you look at the running-block on the centre-axle you can see vast resemblence's between the Sweet Pea. The extra-axle is simply connecting by a single, extra connecting rod. The mechanical lubricator can also been seen, just above the right-leader. As you can see, the finish is perfect and I have no doubt that this engine would run like 'a well-oiled sewing machine'...
So, a fabulous 'Metre-Maid'. There were two in the show, that I saw, but this one had to be the favourite...it was great! Coming in an admirable 3rd place is this lovely 5" Gauge Eastern 0-8-0 freight engine. Resembling a T2-class, this 0-8-0 looked massively powerful and like it would suit any club as a society-haulage loco for passenger trains. Its very unusual indeed to see freight locomotives in these gauges so, in reality, it was a joy to see this one...
Coming in at 4th is this fantastically detailed 0-4-0 'Darjeeling B Class', modelled on the little locomotives which continue to work on the DHR in India to this day. Finished in Darjeeling Railway Blue and wearing the name "Conrad", this little 3.5" loco was a joy to see... Detailed much? Check out the cab controls. The Gauge Glass protectors were a particularly nice touch, let alone the tiny, tiny bottle of Brasso on the warming plate! How cool is that?!...
All in all, the 'Darjeeling B' was a fabulous little model, obviously detailed by a very skilled engineer. Finally, in 5th place, a 7.25" Diesel locomotive. "A Diesel?!" you say? "Yes...A Diesel!". I know its very unlike me to put pictures or descriptions of diesel loco's on here but this one was just a sight for sore eyes...just look at the size of it! For a 7.25" loco this thing was just massive and I have no doubt that any railway could use this engine for any work, no matter what the load. Driven on all 6 axles, this thing must be monstrously powerful, let alone all the creature comforts that is has to offer; such as an all over cab, padded seat, headlights and windows! How can you moan with comfort like this, and on 7.25" too! The only thing I would have changed is the leg-room. Looking inside it looked as if someone of my height (6ft 1") would find it a little uncomfortable sitting in it all day long but at the same time, being able to sit in something this size on a gauge as small as 7.25" can't be bad! Well done to whoever built this, its fantastic...
Unfortunately there seemed to be some thieves about. The owner of this Sweet Pea was speechless when he returned to his stand to find his boiler gone! "They'll nick anything these days!"...
(PS-The above is only a joke!). This Sweet Pea was by no means a victim and was very well built all over. Once the boiler is in I'm sure that this lovely 0-4-0 will be in steam and running in no time! All in all, I found the Harrogate Show to be a fantastic one, offering exhibits including planes, trains and automobiles of all different shapes, types, sizes and scales. Outside, there were at least 8 live steam traction engines/steam lorries, busily making their way around the site, much to the delight of visitors. I must admit, it was nice to see something in steam, though I haven't included any pics on this blog, simply to save space! After leaving the show, at about 3pm, we were off to a local man's house where a fantastic 7.25" Garden Railway and Museum was to be found (see next post). Thanks for reading everyone. Evening All...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Thomas At Shackerstone Day 5: The Last Day: Return to "Henry"!...

Hi again all. Well, its 7am, and I'm up again with Carl and Craig to crew "Fergus", the Traction Rail-Loco. After 3-overnight stays on site, I'm very tired and ready for home but there is just one more day of the mammoth Spring "Thomas Event"; today! Arriving at the shed, we found "Fergus" but also found that "Henry" had no cleaner. This meant that Driver Neil Boden and Fireman 'Pockets' were cleaning the huge 4-6-0 alone. Therefore, I offered my services as "Fergus" is much easier to clean than the massive B1. Neil was very grateful of the help and set me to work at once on the bottom-end, along with Pockets. Meanwhile, Driver Jan Ford and Trainee Fireman Dave were preparing "Thomas" up on the Outside Pit. By 9:20am, "Fergus" had departed with Carl and Craig and I headed off to change into my smart overalls, shirt and tie for one last time. However, just as I was leaving, Neil & Pockets asked me if I would like to go out for the day on the 'Eastern Lady' instead. I was torn between the two loco's but, on asking Carl's permission, he said that I would be of good help to the "Mayflower" crew and so I set off for the B1! (A change of engine's just like that!). Once "Thomas" had departed on the 10am train, 1306 was ready. We soon set off through No11 (Ground Frame) and rolled into Platform 1 where the loco was "screwed down". I must admit, my voice was terrible today. The bad smoke from Saturday morning had affected my throat and my voice was just about gone when we came off shed...I was squeaking all over the place!...
Our first run was at 11:20am and this was completed on time, with Pockets firing. It was nice and sunny until we got to Shenton, where it was raining! It certainly was unsettled! However, through the driving rain shower, we returned to Shackerstone, arriving on time. Once ran round, our next run was at 12:50pm. This time, I was on the shovel. Pockets guided me through the firing and we made Shenton with steam to spare and a 3/4 of a glass in the boiler. Once ran round again, we were told to go slow back to Shackerstone due to it being so busy that an extra coach (the FK) was being dug out of the South Yard to accomodate all of the standing-room-only passengers! It was hectic! Therefore, with me on the shovel again we returned to Shack' at a steady pace. Held at the Outer Home Signal (No2), we soon noticed some confusion when we saw the Spare Coach, "Thomas" and "Daisy" all blocking the main line! However, it was soon moved and we chugged down into Platform 2 before uncoupling. There was now a 1 hour 45-minute overlay so that the Class 25, "Boco", could take a train out, allowing "Henry" to take part in a few select races. We lost however due to the wet rails! The Jinty ("Thomas"), with its small wheels, certainly got the better of us today! Oh well, we won on all of the other days! For our 3rd and final run, Neil was asked to 'make up time' as trains were running 20 minutes late. So, he did so, in some style. "Mayflower" sounded beautifully, accelerated harshly away from the 5mph and 10mph slacks. Below, she is seen tearing away from the 5mph slack at Hedley's (soon to be tamped and put back to 25mph)...
The above shot certainly shows the good visibility that is afforded from the B1. Once at Shenton we ran round unbelievably quickly and before I knew it we were barking back up Shenton Bank going back to Shackerstone with the train! It certainly was a fast run. Back at Shackerstone we were, unusually, held at the Signalbox. When we asked why, the reply came; "COWS". "Cows?", we said. "COWS", came the reply again. Apparently, a herd of 8 cows had escaped from a field at the back of the North End Sidings where all of the diesels are kept. Anyway, having escaped, they had made their way through the lines of stored diesels before approaching the Foot Crossing at the end of the platforms; at which point they were spotted...though there was alot of eye-rubbing beforehand! Just as they were about to make their way onto Platform 2(!) the cows were stopped by 'Mr Conductor' and Chris before being shewed back down to their field and blocked in. With the line now clear again, "Mayflower" was given the Dolly to proceed into the platform and uncouple. It certainly was a strange experience! (No pics though, sorry!). After this, "Thomas" was coupled up to the days final train, the 4:40pm, before departing some 27 minutes late! (Waiting for families for the 'Tea on Thomas' service I bet!). "Mayflower" was then put back into the shed and disposed of, followed by "Fergus".
I thanked Neil and Pockets very much for yet another good day before we retired to the Bar Coach, "Jessie", for another free drink each, courtesy of Sam, the Event Organiser; to thank us for our success. The railway had been unbelievably busy again today; you couldn't move for people. We just couldn't cope, despite the weather. It was fantastic to see! After a drink, I returned home, thanks to a lift from Danny, very tired, worn and dirty. However, after a shower, my bed awaited; thank goodness! Below are some selective pictures of today...
1) The Fat Controller gives me a pose with "Thomas"...
2) The Class 25 ('The Rat') makes an appearance as "Boco"...
3) The 2-car DMU (face at other end for "Daisy") departs Shackerstone over the crossover outside the Signalbox. "Thomas", driven by Jan, is on the rear...
4) Driver Jan, as the final powered stock, collects the token for the run to Hedley's Crossing and back...
5) "Mayflower"s owner is spotted on the footplate of his beautiful locomotive... Thank you all very much for reading the 6 posts which describe this HUGE "Thomas Event" at the Battlefield Line Railway. Also thanks to all who visited on any of the 5 days and all those who helped crew the engines, staff the event and put everything away on Tuesday & Wednesday! We've all worked so hard to achieve the success of this 5-day extravaganza, especially the "65th Anniversary Party" on May 1st. Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening All, I've had enough now, I'm going to bed!The above video shows a footplate ride on our 3rd (final) run of the day with the B1. Turn up your speakers and have a good listen, "Mayflower" was WORKING HARD!! Next outing is next Saturday when I'm off to Harrogate with my good 7.25" gauge-operating friends, the Brown Family. Thank You...