Monday, 28 June 2010

Far Too Hot For This Hobby Today!...

Hi everyone. Well, as you will all know, today, like yesterday, was HOT! In fact, it was far too hot today for my liking but I still soldiered on and ran the Garden Railway for the day, as well as creating a short 8-minute or so film. The day begin by 'opening up' and cleaning the track as normal. With the sun already high in the sky, even the slighest amount of effort seemed hugely difficult to provide! I just feel so drained when trying to work this weather and, seeing as my railway takes around 60-90 minutes of preparation to get it up to "filming standards", it was a particularly laborious process! Once prepared I got out the camera and made a few on-the-spot decisions as to where shots would be taken from and the scenario. Today, I opted to portray a simple daily steam service (for the summer season) on the Garden Railway. Two locomotives were in action; Hornby 4-6-0 No6862 "Derwent Grange" and my Bachmann Pannier Tank, No5775. Down on the turntable, a handful of my other locomotives were on display (this always delights the family; it's their favourite feature!). Below, the Class 08 has picked up Austerity No68075, and has just been turned... The video is simple in filming terms, seeing No6862 collect the day's stock before running to the terminus at Chilvers. No5775 then takes over for the return trip. Many different, including some new, locations were chosen for the video and I am very happy with the result; if a little short. However, I always seem to get a better reception from simple, 1-part video's than the great, long 2 or 3-part ones! For this video I also chose to do something that I haven't done for a very long time; I added steam sounds! Fair enough my 'dubbing' isn't fantastic, if I do say so myself, but I believe that the desired effect has been achieved and that the trains are given a certain element of 'comic realism' with the sounds! I must admit though, 'dubbing' takes forever; especially when you're trying to compete with speed levels and stopping/starting. "Where did you get the sounds?" I hear you ask. "Well"...the sounds were taken from video clips that I have on file of real loco's. In the video, what you hopefully 'believe' are the sounds of 5775 and 6862, are actually the sounds of none GWR loco's! All of the sounds are taken from my video's of the 2010 Great Central Railway "Winter Steam Gala" (named "Lostock and A Few Smoking Barrels"; see seperate posts). The sounds include 8F No48305, Standard 2 No78019, Jinty No47406, Stanier Mogul No42968, Black 5 No45231 and No70013 "Oliver Cromwell"! So, "No", they aren't GWR loco's but the sounds "sort of" fit! I hope you enjoy the video, simply click "PLAY" to video below...

Outside the filming I was also enjoying a good day's running session and trains finally ended operation at around 6pm. After packing up and locking everything away, I headed for home. Though it was still very hot, a nice breeze sprung up as the sun began to set, resulting in "Yes"; a very pleasant walk home. Thanks for reading everyone. "Next trip(s) out?"; "Well"...on Saturday I'm off to the RPMR (owned by CMES) at Ryton and then on Sunday I'm due to crew B1 No1306 "Mayflower" at Shackerstone! Look out for those posts as they happen! Have a pleasant evening...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot At Shackerstone...

Hi all. Well, this weekend was supposed to be one of those very boring "weekend off the railway" ones! However, out of the blue, due to the extremely nice weather, the family decided to go along to Bosworth Water Park for the afternoon. Therefore, I was asked the question; "Shall we drop you off at Shack on the way?". Answer?; "Alright mum, I'll go, you've twisted my arm!". Arriving at Shack at 1:30pm, the main train was out on the line, hauled by the Class 25. I signed on and headed off down to the shed where Aveiling & Porter "The Blue Circle" was found in the yard. The little 2-2-0, having returned from her starring role at the Nuneaton Carnival two weeks prior (see seperate post), had undergone some minor repairs and was due to be lit for a steam test at around 2:30pm. Inside the shed was the huge bulk of LNER B1 No1306 "Mayflower", already freshly polished and shining, awaiting her weekend out at the railway's "Rails and Ales" event next week; I'm crewing her next Sunday! Behind the beautiful No1306 was Mountain Ash's finest; the slowly progressing Peckett; "Sir Gomer". With a little more cladding added, the loco looks well but is still awaiting a new asphan, a washout and refitting of the tank and cab as well as some general piping up. Then, STEAMING!! We've done a vast amount of work on "Sir G" over the past 18 months and it will be fantastic to see her in steam once again...soon! As it was simply, "too hot" to work, we decided to just "relax" away the afternoon; occasionally getting up and showing people around the shed, and even the North End, in our usual "tour guide" fashion! I left for home at around 5pm after a nice few hours out of the house. See you next week 1306! Thanks for reading folks, Good Evening...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Driving Sunday Afternoon Steam At RPMR...

Hi all. I had been quite looking forward to today for a few weeks so it was nice to see a good weather forecast on the horizon for a change! Today I was rostered as a crew member, simply a Driver in today's case in fact, at my 5" gauge concern; the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway, operated by Coventry Model Engineering Society. As usual, today was a simple Sunday afternoon service, operating for the public between 1pm and 4pm. I arrived on site at 11:45am and was the first to get into the railway's enclosure. I then took a walk around the 2000ft long track, checking for any drop-joints, loose bolts or damaged sections. Luckily, there was nothing serious to report but it's always worth checking so that, when you come around the track with your first passenger train, you don't come into contact with something that you didn't expect to! (I've had that happen to me before and it isn't very pleasant!). After I had walked the track, the Member in Charge for the day, Brian, arrived and we set about getting the Class 37 electric out, as well as the days rolling stock; the usual 3 cars + Brake truck. Brian then headed off to get some more things ready whilst I shunted the loco to the right end of the stock; using the 'Bendy-Beam'; before having a 'Test Lap'. Everything seeming in order, I stopped the loco near the Carriage Shed's to collect Leslie and Brian. We then took a run up the line to the Steam Preparation Area. As usual when I'm on, I had requested the use of the steam loco; "John H Owen". (Can't beat it!). The fourth member, fellow Driver Emma, soon arrived and we lit up the Sweet Pea...
At 12:35pm (25 minutes early), the railway opened and took it's first passengers of the day, behind the Class 37 electric. In the meantime, I was left to continue preparing "John H Owen". Above, you will see a view through the firehole door onto the shallow and short grate; a coal fire is burning well in the box. After the first trip there was a quiet spell and so, with no passengers at the present, we decided to put the Sweet Pea onto the stock instead. However, there was a problem: somebody had removed the drawbar pin: meaning we couldn't pull anything! Therefore, everyone went off in search of a new pin; except myself as I had to stay with the loco and make sure the water level didn't drop and the fire didn't die. 15 minutes or so later, the team returned triumphant and the new pin was fitted. The Class 37 was then backed around to the Steaming Bay and replaced at the head of the stock with "John H Owen". With the electric out of the way, I climbed aboard the Driving Truck behind the Sweet Pea and put her into Reverse-Gear. Opening the regulator slowly, there was a slight movement before the loco stopped. I then shut-off to relieve the pressure in the cylinders. When using a loco with Automatic Drain Cock's, such as this one, you have to of course be mindful of trapped water, thereby not going 'too-mad' on the first few piston-strokes. Dropping the loco into Forward Gear, trapped water poured from the drain cocks and onto the tracksides. Once the majority of the water had gone, "John H Owen" began to roll forward freely, thereby allowing me to open the regulator and set off for the station...
Above, the loco is spotted on the steaming bay, blowing off as the full 80psi working pressure is reached. Once in the station I took water before some paying-passengers arrived for the loco's first trip. Steam does seem to draw more 'punters' than electric, especially if you blow your whistle enough! After setting off slowly to allow the loco to "settle in" for the afternoon, we had a good first run and I continued to do another 4 or 5 trips before handing the loco over to fellow Driver, Emma, so that she could do a few herself. I must admit, I do genuinely enjoy driving the Sweet Pea on a Sunday afternoon, much more than on social events when she often has little or no load's behind the drawbar. (She just goes so much better with 3 cars full of passengers!). When you have a load on, you can also have a "bit of a play" coming up the daunting 1 in 70 Ryton Bank on the return run. For example, giving the loco a little more regulator: the bark is fantastic and you can hear in her "voice" that the locomotive is more than capable of doing the job. Slippage on the bank is in fact, almost unheard of! Below, you can see a view of the engine's cab. The gauge glasses, pressure gauge, regulator, reverser and damper door can be seen clearly. The manifold sports the blower (left) and the whistle valve (right) whilst the two red stalks on either side of the firebox operate the two crosshead-water pumps. Finally, the loco handbrake (simply used when parking), can be seen on the right...
"John H Owen" has always steamed and run very, very well and I have absolutely no complaints about the engine. Though on heavier runs, such as 3-cars full of adults + the Guard, the loco is working pretty hard, she is not being 'over-worked' as it were. She is very capable of the job she is doing. I would even go so far as to say that I "love" driving this engine on Sunday afternoons and I am very grateful to CMES for giving me the pleasure of doing so for the last few years! Thank you everyone! Anyhow, after Emma had done a good few trips she handed me back the loco and I enjoyed the last few runs. The heavier trains were once again a joy, especially when attacking the bank, though the lighter trains were a "nice break" when you wanted to use less coal! All in all, the loco was in steam from 12:35pm until 4:20pm and was still steaming fantastically, even so far as keeping 70psi all the way up the bank on her last passenger run. Must be the competant pairing of myself and Driver Emma! (No big-headed-ness intended!). After the final trip, Trainee Driver Leslie had a go on the regulator as we made our way back around to the Prep/Disposal Bay. No499 was then disposed and put to bed, followed closely by the Class 37 and the stock. It had been a very enjoyable afternoon and I will be returning to CMES in a few weeks for a working afternoon; the date of which is yet to be confirmed. Thank you very much to Brian and Leslie as well as fellow driver Emma for a fantastic afternoon driving the public on the RPMR. Though standard gauge is a big part of my "railway life", I will never tire of taking a "downsized opinion" and driving a Sweet Pea on a sunny Sunday afternoon! Thanks for reading everyone. Good Evening...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Linesiding On The Garden Railway...

Hi everyone. Many of you will know of my 00 gauge Garden Railway, the "Sutherland Steam Railway", which we built back in 2005. For a full history of the line click HERE. One of the railway's objectives in recent years has to been to provide Garden Railway video's for enthusiastic viewers on the video sharing site Youtube; allowing us to fly the flag for 00 gauge outdoor's! With our last video(s) having aired in February, I decided that it was now time to add one or two more. Therefore, combining a day off from Exam Revision with running the railway, I decided to do some filming as well. In total, I managed to compile about 16 minutes of footage, split into two sections for uploading and transmission on Youtube. The filming simply documents an average running session on the garden railway with both passenger and freight trains in action with various locomotives taking starring roles. Many new locations, found from a "00 gauge point of view", were used during this filming and this has already been commented on by regular viewers on Youtube! Below, you can see Part One of the filming. Simply click "Play" to view (for best quality, select '480P' if applicable)...

Though Part One is uses film of operations only, Part Two contains a special 'Behind the Scenes' section in the latter half! This special inclusion was done by myself, with rather amateur narration I must admit(!), to give our regular viewers on Youtube something different to see. The section talks about the operation of the railway from the Main Shed; known as the Storage Depot. (Apologies for the lack of enthusiasm in my voice; it was a long day!). Part Two can be seen below...

I very much hope you enjoy my two video's as so many people on Youtube already have done; thank you to them for their kind comments also! (Filming was done using my JVC Everio MG-630 Camcorder which I had last Christmas). Trains ran from 11:30am until 6:30pm but filming did not commence until 2:30pm-ish as the railway has to look "right" before this can begin! I was in fact very lucky with the weather and the sun, though it hid behind the odd cloud in the blue sky now and again, remained almost constant throughout the day. The railway performed very well too; no current drops, derailments or collisions; for a change! For those of you who are 'new readers' and have not seen the railway before, I hope you enjoy finding out about it through my blog. Below, Taffe Tank No6600 departs the Main Shed and crosses the South Bridge in the anti-clockwise direction, hauling a heavy freight of 19 wagons and a Brake Van...
Thank you very much for reading folks. Though the Garden Railway tends to take a sort of "back seat" to the larger railway-related items in my life, ranging from 5" gauge right up to the 'Eastern Lady' (B1 "Mayflower"), I do very much enjoy operating it and my family take a particularly strong interest; especially on sunny afternoons like this! I must extend a vote of thanks to my readers once again for their continued support; this blog not only acts as a point of interest but also as a method of memory for myself! (I would forget all the things I do otherwise!). I would of thought that more Garden Railway post's will appear through the summer as I have 3-months off before my new job at Rolls Royce comes up in September; fingers crossed! Thanks for reading folks; I hope you enjoy the videos; comments on posts are always welcome too! Evening All...

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Shackerstone Railway at Nuneaton Carnival!...

Hi all. Every year, Nuneaton Carnival performs a colourful procession through the bustling streets of Nuneaton, wowing crowds and collecting vast sum's of money for charitable purposes. Operating an average route of around 2.5 miles, at least 13 colourfully decorated full size floats, accompanied by various "walkers", traders, guides etc make their way around the town on an anti-clockwise basis. This year, for the first time, members (including myself!) of the Shackerstone Railway Society took along a full-size float to publicise the Battlefield Line Railway; which we operate. The float, provided by a local locomotive haulier, was made a real eye-catcher by the presence of the railway's smallest steam locomotive; 0-2-2 Aveiling & Porter Single-Expansion Rail-Loco No9449 "The Blue Circle", taking on her usual guise as the Thomas Character; "Fergus". Addorning banners, flags, leaflets and bunting, "Fergus" took up his place in the middle of the float. In front of 'him' was the rather unusual blow-up "Shackie-Saurus" (seen above); respesenting the well known Shackerstone Family Festival, held on the first weekend in September! (see website for details!). Today, after arriving at the compound (where the Float + No9449 had been kept all week, following it's appearence at Hinckley Carnival the week before) at around 10am, I began cleaning "Fergus" with owner; Mic. The fire was lit and No9449 began to warm up. The Float is seen around 4/5 of the way around the circuit in the bright sunshine...
However, there was one problem; the loco's tubes were blocked. This problem had come about after having used a different coal the week before and, without removing the loco from the Float, there was no solution. In the end, "Fergus" managed only 7psi or there abouts throughout the day though, surpisingly, he did manage to keep himself 'ticking-over' through the procession! That must be a testament to the freeness of his valve gear! Anyhow, I was allocated to the jobs of collecting money (in a bucket provided) and giving out Thomas stickers. The crowds were huge. In fact, I couldn't believe how many people there were! It was great! Though lengthy, the procession was very enjoyable and we collected a lot of money and gave out countless leaflets, stickers and flyers; this in itself making it worthwhile going, whatever the weather! We also had the Fat Controller and Thomas music playing over the PA! Below, "Fergus" is seen on the stationary Float during one of the 10-minute breaks that were provided...
Next outing to Shackerstone? Well, I'm rostered to crew B1 No1306 "Mayflower" on July 4th and, due to exam's and family commitments, I won't be there before that day unfortunately so I'll see what occurs then! Thank you for reading folks. Good Evening...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Bala Holiday Day Four: Third Firing Turn, A Bala Overview And Hometime!...

Hi all. Well the final day of my long 4-day holiday weekend to the Bala Lake Railway in Wales has arrived. This is the final post of the four regarding the weekend. I rose at 7:15am this morning so that I could begin packing, ready to leave the site for home at about 7pm this evening. After a bit of packing I moved into the kitchen and had my breakfast with the usual BBC Breakfast show on in the background. At 8:10am I headed off down to the shed where I found Chris already working on one of the other loco's. As I entered the shed, Eddie appeared behind me. We then set too, as with the two previous days, on preparing the locomotive. "Holy War" was readied and, though today was a little cooler, we were very much enjoying ourselves. A huge difference today was that we wore our driver's jackets all day without problem! To see me and Eddie in action, and "Holy War" of course(!), click HERE for a visitor's video, taken today. Below, we see me firing the loco through the door's at the back; much easier when stationary!...
Below, a little vain but there we go, just to prove I was there!...
During our 4 trips today, though the sun was a little more reluctant to come out than during the previous days, we suffered no problems and kept to time relatively well. "Holy War" is spotted below at Bala...
Now, to the other Bala locomotive's. You may remember that I mentioned an 'Alice Class'. Well, this a true 'Alice' class with no cab, named "Alice" too as it happens! "Alice", No780, is a cabless Quarry Hunslet and has been based at the Bala Line on and off for a good few years. Owned by a member, "Alice" is just coming out of a full 10-year type overhaul that has included a new set of tubes and a new smokebox to name but a few jobs. The loco currently has no tank or chimney but it is hoped to have her finished and painted in as near to Dinorwic colour's as possible in the very near future...the end of the month hopefully! I'm told that, on summer days, this engine is by far the best. Before preservation she worked in Dinorwic on the highest level. Therefore, when preservation came about, the rusting hulk of "Alice" was left high up in the quarries. This meant that getting her back was a daunting prospect. The valve gear and wheels were however taken by the then owner of "Holy War" and the wheels are now under the blue Hunslet! The rest of "Alice", including boiler, were then taken by the West Lancashire Light Railway lads as they needed a boiler for their Hunslet; "Irish Mail". Therefore, she now carries "Alice"s 'real' boiler. However, eventually, "Alice"s new owner came across her and began doing up her chassis at home. When this was done he needed a boiler. The Leighton Buzzard Railway then contacted him and offered to pay for 1/2 of the boiler if he had the engine on the LBR for 5 years...this was agreed. Therefore, "Alice" received a new boiler, thats why she has normal screw-in safety valves rather than Ramsbottom's as per design. After many years at the LBR the loco returned to Bala, where she remains to this day...
The other Quarry Hunslet currently under restoration is "George B". "George B", No680, has never steamed in preservation and is also owned by a member. She is usually kept under a plastic sheet but she is coming along very nicely, bottom-end wise. The work done is all new and 2nd to none; it really is. No680 will hopefully be in steam in a few years time as slow but considerable progress continues...
The other running Hunslet, alongside "Holy War", is "Maid Marian". She is also an 'Alice' class with a cab, being very similar to "Holy War". Built in 1903, "Marian" is owned by a support crew of the same name. She takes turns with "Holy War", operating many services on the line throughout the season. The red livery is very attractive and suits her well. It's also nice that the two running Hunslet's are different colours to add a bit of variety. "Maid Marian" is seen in the shed below, resting for a few weeks...
However, like "Alice", "Maid Marian" has her own tale to tell...she isn't "Maid Marian"! "What do you mean" I hear you say. Well, "Maid Marian" is actually "King of the Scarlets". "Marian" was never an 'Alice' class, in fact, she had a dome! "King of the Scarlets" was built before "Maid Marian" and, in fact, the real "Maid Marian" had a dome! The "King" is now in the USA, so I believe so theres absolutely no chance of swapping the names back now. The names were swapped in the 1930s, never to return to reality. Nobody seems to know why they were changed but they were, as were the works-plates. Unusual huh? The "impersonator"s nameplate is spotted below...what a nice 'Alice' class!...
You may well also ask, "Where do the names come from?". Well, Dinorwic engine's were named after either Racehorses or Family members of the management; the first being the situation with "Maid Marian" and "Holy War", the latter being apparent with "Alice". You may also see links between the two running Hunslet's within the Robin Hood tales. The third non-running engine in the shed at the base is "Triassic", something a little closer to home; a Peckett 0-6-0 Saddle Tank; a baby "Gomer"?!...
"Triassic" was built in 1911 (21 years before "Sir Gomer"), and worked at Kay's Cement Works. The loco is privately owned and, though only a few years into a 10-year ticket, failed her last yearly boiler examination due to 'not enough threads on the cab's inspection ports'. This problem is particularly apparent on Peckett's I'm afraid; shame really as she looks a beastly engine. She was also the first industrial locomotive to be bought for preservation, purchased in 1957. In fact, I was told that this loco will easily out-pull any of the 'Alice Class' Hunslet's...afterall, she is an 0-6-0...Maybe she'll run again one day?; I hope so! To see some film of "Triassic" in action a few years ago, click HERE...
After our successful four final trips, after after covering around 120 miles on "Holy War" over the 3 days, we made it back onto shed safely before disposing. The railway has a "day off" (not a common occurance!) and so "Holy War" (coupled to "Bob Davis) was locked up safely in the shed, naturally alongside sisters "Maid Marian", "Alice" and "George B" as well as the 'lost wanderer', "Triassic". It was then time for a final post-disposal cuppa' with the management team whom I thank dearly for allowing me to come along and experience their fantastic railway. During this time I also said my goodbyes to the very kind managers, Roger and Bobbie. I really have had a fantastic time. After the cuppa' it was time for a shower and the final packing (and a quick pasty!) before leaving the station for home at around 7pm with Eddie and Llyn...caravan in tow. For your interest, here's a final image of "Holy War" at the terminus yesterday; notice the two whistles up on the cab, "just for fun"...
The journey back was very quick and painless, aided by some good old fashioned chatting! I final got into my house at about 9:45pm, tired, weary yet very satisified with the weekend! I must thank Eddie and Llyn dearly for putting up with me and allowing me to 'tag along' with them to the Bala Lake Railway. I must also thank Eddie for being my Driver on "Holy War" for the three days we crewed her...thank you Eddie! Special thanks must go to Roger and Bobbie for allowing me to come along and for their kindess and hospitality. Finally, to Rob and Chris who made my stay even more enjoyable; great stuff! Honestly, I had a fantastic time and would love to go along and fire their again. It really is a beautiful line with friendly staff, well-turned out locomotives and breathtaking lakeside scenary; I recommend a visit to anyone! So, why not go along and experience the fantastic Bala Lake Railway; you won't be dissapointed. Click HERE for their website. Also, why not click HERE for a fantastic video by the "RailwayChannel", offering a short documentary on the railway. Thank you very much to everyone who made my weekend so enjoyable, it really was fantastic; Thank You so much! Now, I need some sleep, Good Night all!...

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Bala Holiday Day Three: Firing Again & An Analysis of the Journey...

Hi again everyone! Day Three began at 7:30am once again as I got up and enjoyed my breakfast in the sitting room of the accomodation. Just before 8:30am I headed off down the shed and discovered Eddie already inside, tightening the piston-packing on the drivers-side (this had been blowing-by a bit the day before). Eddie then got the loco out with the diesel ("Bob Davis") and sat her on the outside ashpit, as per the day before. I then went about my duties of tube cleaning, smokebox sweeping, grate emptying and ashpan raking; though Eddie did have to help with the tubes again...it's so strenuous! With my pre-lighting jobs done I could then light up the engine. By 9:30am we already had 10psi 'on the clock' so, when we went for tea at 10am, the loco was 'well on the way'. Today, we were rostered for another four run's up and down the line, on the same timetable as the day before. Eddie can be seen above, Brasso-ing the outside of the loco. Below, you can a compilation of some film clips that Eddie's wife, Llyn, took during preparation. From the Shed Road we backed off into the yard before running through the Station Loop and up to the Coal/Water road...
Once coaled and watered we ran round onto the front of the 11:15am (first) train. Below, the little Hunslet, "Holy War", can be seen in the platform at Llanuwchllyn ready to begin her run, of course adorning her lamp...

Now, the main purpose of this post is to describe the journey as best as possible. SO, here we go. With a blow on the Guard's whistle and a wave of the flag, off we go. With 5 coaches on today, "Holy War" started with a good bark but still began moving very easily. Leaving Llanuwchllyn, trains pass across two sets of points, leaving the loop and passing the yard access. The Carraige Shed is then passed on the left with a rake of stored wagons on the right. Once clear of the Carraige Shed the loco can accelerate the 5-coach load up to a more 'interesting' speed. At this time the pressure (full pressure 110psi) was holding at around 90psi; I liked to leave it at this amount for this part of the run as a long downhill stretch is approaching. As the station begins to get smaller, the trains top the 1/2 mile long '1 in 70' Bank...in this case going downhill. The Driver shuts-off here and the train coasts, speed being kept at a "safe" amount by the brake. In the image below we have just started descending the hill and even now the blue waters of Bala Lake can be seen in the distance...
Once at the foot of the bank the train curves through a wooded area, at lake level, with the regulator now open again to keep momentum. As the line opens up we pass the first small halt on the line; Pentrepiod. Here there is a small platform and a foot crossing on a footpath. One family did join here today, but, only one!...
Passing Pentrepiod on the right-hand corner we reach "Flag". This small halt, about 6 minutes ride from Llanuwchllyn is used as the "Santa's Grotto" when Christmas Trains are running as it is simply "too cold" to continue any further with the freezing lake nearby! For the rest of the year, "Flag" is not used as far as I know. Just past the station is a little cottage where the resident is often out to wave to passengers!...
After "Flag" the line remains wooded again before one of the best views on the line open's up at Lakeside...now isn't that beautiful?...
The main intermediate halt on the railway is Llangower, situated just before the line's 1/2 way point. Llangower includes a good size platform with a passing loop just a few yards past. The lakeside area here is very nice and, on a sunny day like today, it must have been like being on the seaside...
Llangower platform can be seen below with the passing loop in the distance...
After the short stop at Llangower the train restarts and climbs upgrade through the passing loop and up around a sweeping right-hand curve. The top of the climb is heralded by a rather nice over-bridge. It must be remembered that the line was once standard gauge and therefore the structures are huge!...
More woods then appear and the line looks fantastic. Wildlife is very apparent with sheep, squirrals and many birds appearing at the lineside. The local Llanuwchllyn to Bala country road across the hills also meets the railway line now and again, as seem below. The line is clearly sandwiched beautifully between the lake and the road. This is probably the best view from the footplate I've ever seen!...
Another over-bridge then appears as the train curves into another wooded cutting. The ever-changing scenary is very apparent...
The final view of the lake on the line is on the approach to Bala. Here there were many small boats anchored just yards from the shore and it was like over-looking a seaside Harbour in some respects! This little iron bridge heralds a long whistle from the engine..."to tell the residents of Bala that we're coming"!...
Throughout the weekend, this particular section, not far from Bala, was often seen sporting onlookers. This is again the country road from Llanuwchllyn. Many cars and pushbikes pulled over during the weekend to wave, take pictures or even just have a quick look...one such vehicle (the Red Yaris) is seen at the location as we pass...
From the above location the line curves away from the lake on a long right-hand curve. Another standard gauge scale over-bridge is passed under on the line. However, before long, with another long whistle, the train approaches Bala Station which includes a run round loop, bay loop, long platform, waiting shelter and a footbridge. Below, passengers can be seen awaiting the train...
At Bala, it's best to have the fire a little low but ready to be 'brought up' again when necessary. This saves blowing off in the platform...though I managed to prevent "Holy War" from blowing-off all weekend thank goodness! The little blue Hunslet is seen below at Bala...
Having just moved over into the loop, the Driver stops to oil up and check the engine over after the 4.75-mile run. The Fireman can then check his fire. I, having checked the fire, had the chance to get this "trademark" photo of "Holy War" in the loop, next to the railway's dual-language station sign!...
Having oiled up, the driver returns to the footplate and moves the engine forward to the end of the loop. The Fireman then unlocks the ground frame and changes the entrance point, allowing the loco to move back into position at the other end of the train. The frame is unlocked via a key on the Single Line Token, carried on the loco. I can be seen below, operating the frame (thanks for taking this one Eddie)...
Having backed down and coupled up again, the Guard makes the decision when to go. I had to make up the fire as firing on the run (when the engine is working hard at least) can create leaking tubes as too much cold air on the tubeplate is not good. These engine's have no brickarch in their 2ft x 1ft firebox's afterall. Steaming out of Bala we retrace our steps, running both roadside, lakeside and through wooded cuttings and across green pastures. Check out this for a view through the Fireman's window!...
The run back seems to be more uphill though I must admit! (Don't know why, it just does!). The Hunslet's cope very well with it all though, 5 coaches is not a huge weight for them. However, perhaps the most daunting (yet enjoyable!) part of the way back is taking the 1/2 mile '1 in 70' in the uphill direction! In fact, on the way back, Pentrepiod is often known as the "Last Chance Saloon"(!) as, if you haven't got enough coal on by then, you may not get up the hill! Once passed the station, black smoke pours from the chimney as the newly-added coal ignites and the heat builds up. In fact, I was having to calm "Holy War" down a little on the injectors but I could see that driver Eddie was enjoying himself immensely on the regulator for these "attacks" on the hill! Even though on each of the 12 assents we did there we no problems, the view below did look quite daunting on the 1st return run of the weekend! (click to enlarge to get the full impression!)...
The bark from the chimney on this climb is fantastic though. The fire is wripped about a bit but thats a given really on a climb like this. It does help though as when the Driver shuts-off the fire is then small and has a few holes therefore the loco doesn't blow off in the platform when you want her to be quiet. (This is good as there is a 35-minute layover between trips at Llanuwchllyn). Below, "Holy War" is seen below with her 5-coach train after yet another successful trip with the "Dream Team" crew...bit big-headed really but oh well!...
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and that it has given you a good insight into the fantastic journey available behind the lovely Quarry Hunslet's on the Bala Lake Railway. Myself and Eddie also had another good day, no problems to report (thank goodness!). We enjoyed our lunch (that was ordered when Bobbie appeared at the loco at 9:30am sharp on shed again this morning!) and got mugged for most of it by the station dog, "Punch" (he's got his persuasion skills down to a tee!). By 5:30pm we had disposed again and were enjoying a cuppa' in the cafe with the other staff. Tomorrow, we're off home but we still have another four trips to do in the day with "Holy War" beforehand! There will be a post again tomorrow and this will also include a bit of info on other loco's the railway. Finally, I make no apologies for the length of this post! Hope you enjoyed it folks. Evening All...

Friday, 4 June 2010

Bala Holiday Day Two: Examining and Firing A "Quarry Hunslet"...

Hello everyone. Well, day two dawned and, at 7:30am sharp I turned on the TV in the accomodation to check out the latest on GMTV (a "must" on weekdays!). After enjoying my breakfast and getting myself ready I headed off down to the engine shed ready for the 8:30am start. Eddie arrived just after me, with a key to the padlock for starters! Once inside, "Holy War" (our charge for the weekend), was sandwiched between the diesel shunter "Bob Davis" and the railway's other cabbed Hunslet, "Maid Marian" (more on her in Sunday's post). Manager Roger soon arrived and started up "Bob Davis" and dragged "Holy War" out into the bright morning sunshine. Once uncoupled, Roger took the diesel off towards the carraige shed (further down the yard) before bringing out the 4-coach rake for the day's four service trains. Eddie meanwhile was talking me through the jobs I had to do as fireman (that were different to the usual practise anyway). First thing, sweep the tubes with the long brush...a suprisingly strenuous task on a warm day would you belive?! (Especially with a brand new, unworn tube brush head!). Myself and Eddie had to use the brush together to get the desired effect on the 30 boiler tubes! Once this was done I had to clean out the fire from the day before. In this case, there wasn't much at all. However, instead of using the rake, on 2ft gauge you can, using a glove/rag, pull out 2 firebars and push all the ash across the grate and down the created hole! Within about 20 seconds you have cleared the whole grate of the 2ft x 1ft firebox! Fantastic...
Once the grate is cleared you put back the two firebars before opening the Damper and cleaning out the Ashpan with a rake provided. Then, after checking that there is enough water in the boiler (1/3 of a glass or more) then you can light up. Bala Lake Railway uses a rag with bits of sawn/chopped parrafin wood thrown on top. Dry wood is then added before a few shovelful's of coal as well. Smoke bellows out everywhere but, once the door is shut alot less comes out...though you still get enough to make your eyes water! Above you will see "Holy War"s cab. The two sizeable gauge glasses can be clearly seen as well as the red regulator handle. The firehole door can be seen in the bottom-centre of the firebox; the handle to the left being for the damper. Up on the manifold, the two black valves are the steam feed's for the injectors. The little screw-handle next to the Ramsbottom safety valves is the pressure-gauge 'shut-off' and the red handle to the left of that operates the Blower. The two red handles on the back of the firebox are the clack 'shut-off's for the injectors. Out of sight are the two injector water valves, the handle for the shrill whistle, the chain for the deep whistle and the pole reverser & drain cock operating valve. The whistle 'shut-off' is also out of sight. All in all, this is a simple, robust cab that, when containing two people maximum, is easy to fire for mile after mile (wouldn't want three in there!). "Holy War", being a Quarry Hunslet of the 'Alice Class', is out-side framed, allowing the power to administered by the connecting rods to the crank axle which the wheels are then on, inside the frames, as seen below...
Interestingly, "Holy War" also has two whistles, "Just for fun" as one member described! One is a Stanier style Hooter whilst the other is a shrill, high-pitched one. (Very nice they are too!). Lubrication? Well, "Holy War" carries a Mechanical Lubricator, operated from the main connecting rod, on the Fireman's side. However, these, as far as I know, are not original fittings as Quarry Hunslets carried Hydrostatic Lubricators. "Holy War" and "Maid Marian" both carry their original Hydrostatic's on the drivers-side as built, though they are no longer connected and are simply for show (nice bit of Brass you see!). Below, you can see "Holy War"s mechanical lubricator which oils her cylinders...
Back to us on the engine. After lighting at 9am it was time to clean. Eddie said the Driver's oil up and clean the outside whilst the Fireman looks after the fire and cleans the internal Cab Brasses. Therefore, I set too and cleaned the cab using Brasso and rags. After an hour the engine had 25psi 'on the clock', a roaring fire and a clean cab as well as shining outside paintwork and brass! In all, all that was left was to get more steam up which of course takes time if you value your boiler! 10am at Llanuwchllyn means "Tea Time" and so, off we went for a cuppa'; Great Stuff! After tea we returned to the engine which now had 45-50psi 'on the clock'. Therefore, we put the tools away, got ourselves cleaned up and changed into our smart overalls. When ready, with the 'Board' (signal) already given to go through the station and up onto the Coal/Water road, we set off with just over 60psi of the total 110psi (blowing off pressure). After coaling and watering we ran round the stock before buffering up and 'shackelling up'. The air pipe is also connected for emergency "air braking", though all regulator braking is done on the Hunslet's handbrake. At 11:15am, with a good fire and 1/2 a glass of water we departed with the first train on time. I was a little nervous I must admit but all went well, thanks to the advice from Eddie whilst I settled into the engine a bit and experienced the journey to Bala via Llangower for the first time ever! (More on the journey in tomorrow's post). The weather however was beautiful and we made Bala in good time. Below, we see the fire when examined at Bala whilst running round for the return run...
After four successful trips on our first day we felt that we had done well. We hadn't ran out of steam or water and we had not become too late or too early...everything seemed to have worked. (Not even in the taxing 1/2 mile '1 in 70' bank from the lakeside back up to Llanuwchllyn couldn't defeat us! The engine was a fantastic steamer with two good injectors to boot. In tomorrow's post, I will describe the line in a little more detail, offering pictures for your interest. I'm trying to keep different area's seperate between the three main posts of the weekend so that none of them become "TOO long"; this one, as you will have read, was all about "Holy War". After putting the loco away it was time for another cuppa' before retiring for a shower. The railway also provides two "cobs" per member at lunchtime and, even better, the loco crew do not have to queue...they have their own serving hatch! Fantastic! Finally, "Holy War" was built in 1902 to the 'Alice' design, and supplied in brand new condition to the infamous Dinorwic Slate Quarrie's. Some engines at Dinorwic worked at heights up to 1860ft above sea level! Famously, "Holy War" was the last steam loco in any British slate quarry, ending 120 years of quarry steam when she left service in November 1967. After many moves she was brought to Bala Lake by a previous owner and was purchased by the railway in 1989. All in all, a very nice day on a very nice engine! More on the railway tomorrow, for now, it's off to Bala for another 'pub meal'!...

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Bala Holiday Day One: Arrival at Llanuwchllyn...

Hi all! Well, today, after much looking forward to this it was finally time for my 4-day working holiday weekend to the 2ft gauge Bala Lake Railway in Wales. I had been invited by fellow Shackerstone and CMES member, Eddie, to go along with him and his wife for the weekend as a fireman on the 4.75 mile line. Therefore, at 1pm this afternoon, after much packing and preparation, I met up with Eddie and his wife, Lynn. After loading the car we then departed for the 3 hour or so drive to Llanuwchllyn; the base of the line. After a non-stop run across scenic hills and through lowland valleys, towing Eddie's caravan, we made it to Llanuwchllyn in good time. On arrival, having never been to the railway before, I didn't know what to expect...I was not dissapointed! Driving through the railway's gate we were greeted by the very nice site of 0-4-0 'Alice Class' Quarry Hunslet "Holy War", driven by one of the railway's managers. The little engine shone in the sun as we passed. Once we had pulled up, we walked up onto the platform where "Holy War" had then ran round and pulled back onto the front of the 4-coach rake of coaches. I then met the railways manager, Roger Hine, and his wife Bobby, who I must admit were very kind to even allow me to come! Soon, the 0-4-0 departed with the last train (4pm) to Bala of the day. In the meantime, we enjoyed a cup of tea and a slice of cake each (thanks Eddie!). When the loco arrived back at 5pm, myself and Eddie watched her being disposed before retiring for another cuppa'...First impressions, I must admit, are very, VERY good and it looks like it's going to be a great weekend; especially as myself and Eddie have been rostered to crew "Holy War" single-handed for the next 3 days! "Yes" it's going to be lots of work but I'm sure I will enjoy it! I must however make it clear that Bala Lake Railway do not just push people onto the footplate, I do have a certain degree of experience in various gauges, sizes and types of steam loco from Mamod's right up to "Mayflower"! (Just thought I'd mention it!). After the cuppa' I checked out my accomodation; provided by the railway within the converted attic of the station at Llanuwchllyn. Later on, we popped down to Bala for a meal and a pint in the local...not a bad drop either(!)...before returning to the site later on. Not too much of an early start in the morning though...up at 7:30am ready to start at 8:30am (a far cry from the 5pm starts at Shack!). Good Evening All...