Saturday, 31 July 2010

"An Auto and A Scot" At Echills Wood Railway...

Hello everybody. I hope all of my reader's are well and enjoying their summer's as I am. Today was another invitation from my friend Dave and it was again to the 7.25" gauge Echills Wood Railway at Kingsbury Water Park. I must admit, even since I last came to drive here back in May (see seperate post) the railway has changed so much. Even around the yard area, huge changes have been made including the building of new storage roads for one! Anyway, after arriving at Dave's house at around 8:30am in heavy rain, I jumped quickly into the Range Rover before we set off for Kingsbury. We were taking along Dave's 14xx 0-4-2 No1401 as well as two LMS Coaches, a Box Van and a GWR Toad Brake Van (1401's Driving Truck). Once at Kingsbury we joined the queue to unload. Already on the Hydraulic Loading Ramp was a huge 4-8-8-4 American 'Big Boy', adorning two huge tenders which, in full size terms, would hold around 25,000 gallons each!! Once the mammoth 'Big Boy' was unloaded, we got 1401 out of the Range Rover and also got her stock off the trailer. The smart looking 14xx was then pushed around to the turntable at the Roundhouse before being turned. We then pushed her back onto one of the steaming bays, alongside a beautiful model of A1 Pacific "Great Northern". Dave soon had 1401's boiler filled up (through the Blowdown fitting) whilst I prepared the tools. I then set about oiling the engine up; not the easiest task, particularly with such confined inside Stephenson's Valve Gear (I wouldn't want to oil up a full-size one!). Once oiled it was time to light up (it was a bit smokey mind')...
Lighting up took the usual course of starting with Parrafin soaked wood before moving on to coal. Today was the first day of the EWR's annual Standard Gauge Weekend during which, for one weekend only, all Narrow Gauge engine's were banned and scale engine's took over. There were some really impressive bits of kit in attendence. I particularly liked the model of the double-chimney 9F "Evening Star" which carried a price tag of around £70, 000. ("I'll have two please, sir!"). Meanwhile, whilst I got 1401 ready, an impressive line-up was forming on the new storage roads opposite. Below, you can see a Midland 2P 4-4-0, a Thompson B1 4-6-0, a K4 2-6-0 and two beautiful Royal Scot Class 4-6-0s...
Soon, 1401 was ready and we trundled off shed before coupling up to the two very nice LMS Coaches. The Brake Van (1401's Driving Truck) and the Box Van were then sandwiched between the loco and the coaches. Both Van's contain Water Tanks to feed the twin Injectors and, whilst running together, provided massive water capacity which was more than ample for the 1.5-mile or so round trip to Far Leys and back behind 1401. Once coupled, off we set for Far Leys. With Drain Taps hissing and wheels spinning, we edged out of the siding from the Roundhouse which is set on a 1 in 40 upgrade; no easy task with a 4-coupled engine on oily rails! Even so, 1401 chugged out of the siding before Dave jumped on the front coach. I was then given permission to "open up" and head out onto the 1.5-mile long Main Line. 1401 steamed very well, as usual, and the injectors were very responsive. The track was, again, very nice to drive and gave a smooth ride on well-laid fishplates. On top of this, the very well laid ballast made the track very stable with very few "titled" areas. Soon, we approached Far Leys and we sped through non-stop (obeying all speed limits!). Soon, after a quick dash down the 7mph stretch towards the Road Crossing, we arrived back at Harvesters (into Platform 3) and Dave jumped off for a chat with some of his acquiantances. Just then, Danny and Carl turned up from Shack and I gave them a ride round; both of them were actually surprised at the huge length of the EWR; it is very long indeed! I then carried on running for a few laps before handing over to Dave for a while so I could get some lunch. I then returned to the engine for another two or three laps later on before coming off at 3:45pm. We then disposed 1401 and positioned her for photographs on the new storage roads...
I'd had a very good day driving once again and the EWR people again seemed very friendly. In total, approximately 17 locomotive's ran on the railway TOGETHER during the day. I suppose the length of the line does help on day's like these as, of course, if the track was shorter then you would need to limit the amount of loco's somewhat. However, so I heard, the EWR is hosting the 7.25" Gauge AGM this September and, on the weekend, 160 engines per day(!) are rostered to run! Wow! Anyway, during the day 1401 had run very well indeed and neither myself or Dave reported any problems. I had even had the chance to drive the loco with a "load on" when some visitors boarded the LMS Coaches. 1401 worked even better with the load but the biggest problem was adhesion on the oily rails. This problem was being caused by the massive 'Big Boy' which was going around the track in front of me. The huge 4-8-8-4 was experiencing problems and had her Drain Taps open all the time, spilling oil, grime and water everywhere. Therefore, when I came along behind, poor old 1401 could hardly grip the rails; no surprise really! Below, we see a quick view of the outside storage roads at Tea Time showing a B1, K4, Royal Scot, Steam Crane, 1401 and various rolling stock...
Speaking of a Royal Scot, I actually got to drive one later in the day; "YES"! This wonderful Bassett-Lowke 4-6-0 was built by Apprentices of the GEC back in the 1950s (or there-abouts) and was once used at the Brookside Railway. However, the Royal Scot was soon "laid up" as the poor quality of the Brookside track was playing havoc with her. 6100 was then kept as a display model before being bought by her current owner in a dilapidated state. After acquiring a brand new boiler and being given a chassis overhaul, the loco returned to service on her owners 7.25" gauge oval of track, located in his back garden. Happily, he was invited to the EWR today and brought his beautiful LMS engine with him. After a chat with him regarding his beautiful loco, I enjoyed a ride to Far Leys and back behind her before being offered a drive; "YES"! The "Royal Scot" embodied everything normal including screw reverser, regulator, two injectors, two gauge glasses, axle pump, whistle, manual drain cocks and a large firebox. The one different thing was the lack of Vacuum Brakes; 'stopping ability' being provided by the Handbrake on the tender which, admittedly, with the Driver's weight on top, seemed to work pretty well. Sitting atop the tender, I was able to reach everything in the sizeable cab and got comfortable ready for the 1.5-mile trip to Far Leys. The owner told me the "quirks" of his engine before allowing me to set off while he had a break before disposal. 6100 ran and steamed beautifully, riding the track like a true main line engine with no jurking or lurching from side to side! (I'm too used to narrow gauge stuff!). Along the straights in particular, 6100 was a dream and I must express great thanks to the owner for giving me the oppotunity to drive her; she really was something. Below, "Royal Scot" is seen in the yard after running; beautiful...
The next picture is one for a friend of mine; Mr John Drury; a prolific local Model Engineer who builds engine's like ordinary people build Lego. The engine below, "Loch Lomond", was built by John and embodies many of his inspired features, such as his Regulator-handle style. Below, "Loch Lomond" stands in the yard at Kingsbury. Now owned by somebody else, "Loch Lomond" runs regularly on EWR metals. "Don't worry John, she's still alive and well!"...
As it was now Tea Time I could have a proper look at some of the engines; such as "Loch Lomond" and the 'Big Boy'. Though the American 4-8-8-4 wasn't running very well today, the huge size of this mammoth locomotive must be appreciated, even in 7.25" gauge! Below, the huge engine, featuring SIXTEEN driving wheels, stands on one of the bays in the Roundhouse (only one her tenders was connected at this point as two just wouldn't fitted in the Roundhouse!)...
The engine, named "Franklin D Roosevelt", was really a massive thing. You have to appreciate an engine that carries 24 wheels as well as two tenders that have 14 wheels each as well as being fitted with FIVE safety valves!! The shovel used to the fire the engine was itself over 12 inches long; it had a huge grate. The weight of the thing must be huge, even though it was only transported on a pretty standard trailer. Rather worryingly, she was only held on her trailer by 'bungee rope' (so, if he accelerates too quickly, you may have a 'Big Boy' coming your way before it retracts back onto its trailer!). The thing was absolutely huge folks, I can't describe how big it was; see for yourselves...
After dinner, I resteamed 1401 for some evening running. The engine steamed up very quickly and I was soon steaming back up the 1 in 40 gradient out of the yard with steam hissing from the Drain Taps. After running up to North Gate (where the Main Line begins), I reversed back down 'Wrong Line' before hitching up to the front of a 7-coach train, hauled by a GWR 68xx Grange Class 4-6-0. We would now be double-heading for some high speed evening running! With Dave on the regulator for the first lap and myself on the Box Van, we set off. I must admit, I've never had a Grange chimney up my back before and it's not that comfortable! The first run was quick and very enjoyable. For the 2nd lap, I was handed the regulator on 1401 and told to "go for it". (What a silly thing to say that was!). Once through North Gate I gave 1401 some stick as we climbed through the Woods. The Grange was trying to keep up behind but kept falling into a slip for some reason. 1401 was working very hard and the fire was being wripped apart by the force of the bark. (Almost full regulator and fully notched forward is a bit of a trial for a loco of any size!!). As I looked back, I could see the Driver of the Grange chuckling away; she had been 'shut-off' for a good portion of the run; 1401 had hauled the Grange and 7 coaches! Soon, we arrived back at Harvesters and decided to do a 3rd and final run. This time, with no horses spared, we really went for it! 1401 roared up the line and, as we marched through the tunnel, sparks flew from the chimney. In fact, one huge lump flew from the chimney, hit the tunnel roof and came down right in this lad's eye at the back of the train! Ouch; "sorry"! Through Far Leys we went and straight back down the 7mph stretch into Harvesters. My two runs were fantastic and thank you to both Dave and James (the Grange owner) for giving me the chance; it was like Main Line running in miniature! After this, we uncoupled both loco's and ran backwards down the 1 in 40 to the Roundhouse where we disposed both engines. Then, after cleaning up and saying my Thank You's and Goodbyes, we set off for home. (Thanks for the lift home Dave & Kevin; much appreciated!). It was another great day at EWR and I can highly recommend their railway to you; its great. Thanks alot to Dave & Kevin for another great day out with 1401. Thanks for reading folks. Evening All...

Monday, 26 July 2010

"All Rise For The Duke of Gloucester"...

Hi all. Today, after a good night's sleep last night following the RPMR's Mega Night-Run over the weekend, I headed out to catch an appointment with the Duke of Gloucester. "No", not THE Duke of Gloucester but none other than the unique BR 4-6-2 8P Pacific No71000 herself. The Caprotti Valve-geared Pacific was standing in for failed new-build "Tornado" on a railtour from London Victoria to Gloucester and back. The 8P had joined the train at Gloucester and had climbed the Lickey Incline before skirting Birmingham and heading for Leicester via Nuneaton and Hinckley. I, via push-bike, caught up with the "Duke" at Horsten Grange on the climb away from Nuneaton on the Leicester line. Hauling 13 coaches plus a rather ugly Class 66 ('Shed'), the "Duke" looked and sounded well. Constructed at Crewe in 1954, "Duke of Gloucester" was the prototype of a brand new Class 8 Pacific designed by Riddles. The loco was mainly built to "fill the gap" in the Midland fleet as Princess Royal Pacific No46202 "Princess Anne" had been completely destroyed in the horrific crash at Harrow in 1952. The "Duke" carried Caprotti valve gear, much more efficient than both Stephensons or Walschaerts, and had 3 cylinders. She was heralded by designers as the "New Breed" of Steam locomotive design. However, she never lived up to expectation and was ridiculed by crew's as being a 'poor steamer' and a 'fuel hungry beast'. Therefore, her working life lasted only 8 years and she was then sent for scrap in Barry. Below, see my video footage of today's run of the "Duke"; listen out for the different beat style due to the Caprotti valve gear...

For BR, the "Duke" was, due to upcoming Dieselisation, "not worth bothering with". Therefore, no further examples were ever built, making the "Duke" unique. On arrival at Barry, one set of valve gear (+ cylinder) was removed for preservation at the Science Museum. The other outside cylinder was then removed to rebalance the engine in readiness for scrapping. However, luckily, the loco was preserved in 1974 and was restored at the GCR at Loughborough. During restoration, TWO design faults were found. One was the fact that the chimney was far too small compared to other loco's of this size (resulting in bad draughting) and the other was that the Damper doors were too small, therefore resulting in poor oxygen supply and combustion! Would you ever believe it?! The restoration group also added a Kylchap exhaust system, as employed on loco's such as "Tornado". The loco, when released into service was "completely reborn" and was totally different from the failure that she had been with BR. Ironically, the "Duke" is now more powerful than the Type 4 (Class 40) diesels that replaced her! Fantastic! Happily, the "Duke" of course lives on today and can be seen regularly, wether on preserved railways or out on the main line, as I saw her today! The loco was running on time and looked beautiful. It was a pleasure to see her. Thanks for reading folks, time for a cuppa' now I think. Good Evening...

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Driving Through The Dead of Night At RPMR...

Hello everyone! Well, this was really something. Something mad, something unusual and definately something to remember for a very long time! My 5" gauge concern, the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway, has often toyed with the idea of a Night Run at it's Country Park site. In the earlier years of the society, a Night Run was held at the society's previous home at Stoneleigh Abbey and was a great success. However, the society has seemed pretty apprehensive towards doing another one in recent years. Therefore, as the club celebrates its 75th Birthday in 2010, what better excuse could there be?! After a suggestion at this years AGM, the event was born and took place this weekend (July 24th/25th). The event was named; "24 Hour Track Occupation". To put it simply, the railway would run from 12 Midday on Saturday right through until 12 Midday on Sunday with at least 1 locomotive operating on the track at any one time. Slots of "30 minutes" at a time were offered over the 24-hour Period and members could then sign their names in their desired slots, daytime or night. I, being very enthusiastic for this event, decided to pick 12 Midnight on Saturday until 3am Sunday Morning, driving the society's stalwart 0-4-0 Sweet Pea No499 "John H Owen". Meanwhile, various members with their various steeds picked through the other slots and eventually there was a very mixed roster running throughout the entire period. I, having tried to sleep a little on the Saturday daytime, arrived at the RPMR at about 6:30pm on the Saturday night. After finding my steed for the night (see above pic) on the Steaming Bays, I set about fitting my full size BR Tail Lamp to a wagon which would then be coupled to the rear of my train. Later, as a bit of fun, "JHO" was lit up using a Tealight candle, but to little avail!...
As the night drew in, many locomotives continued to run on the track. These ranged from battery electrics to petrol hydaulics and of course the steam engines. The event was not just for members either, we were raising money too! A special wagon, fitted with a Milometre, was running around the track behind various trains for the entire 24-hour Period. The wagon carried 5 Teddy Bears and, for £1 a guess, the public could guess how far the Bear's would travel during the 24 hours, taking into account speeds, track length and of course "stoppage time" for water, coal etc. At the end of the 24 hours, the mileage would be noted and then the 5 closest guesses would WIN one of the Teddy Bears AND a voucher entitling them to FREE rides on the miniature railway until the end of September 2011! Not bad ay'?! I, during the running, did a good few laps hauling the Bears; they did keep quiet I must admit, not a very chatty lot but who would be after 24 hours continuous riding, especially with no cushions! Anyway, back to me. As the evening drew on, I oiled the loco up whilst there was still some light left. However, the Commitee was quick to provide Flood Lighting for the Steaming Bays (safety first!). On top of this, Heating (a Brazier) was provided and of course the Tea & Coffee in the Clubhouse. Many loco's were even still on the track by 11pm when I began to prepare 'my' loco for the night. In fact, the most popular time seemed to be from 10pm until 1am as there were just so many people about! At 11:05pm, I decided it was time to light up the loco. Below, myself and "JHO" get ready for the night ahead...
Now that darkness had fallen the track, naturally, was completely black. Out on the line, the loco's were carrying tail-lamps and the electric loco's were also carrying headlights! "Ooo Er!". On her steaming bay, "JHO" was warming up nicely and was ready by 11:25pm! Not bad really! (Certainly makes a real difference from the 4 or 5 hours that Standard Gauge normally takes to warm up!). At 11:30pm, half an hour early, I was given permission to take my train of 2 cars plus the "Lamp Wagon" out onto the track. The loco hissed and wheezed as she reversed off the "Run Up Rail" and onto the main line. Once safely on the track, protected by the red signal behind, I put "JHO" into Forward Gear and we set off into the night. The loco performed beautifully and the little 'Push-Light' which I had installed under the Cab Roof was very effective. The darkness was however very imposing and the wind blew the steam across the field nearby. By now, "JHO" was the only steam locomotive on the track, followed by 3 or 4 battery electrics. Below, I can be watering up at a very dark Ryton Halt at 11:40pm...that must be a first for the station!...
By 1pm I was in need of a bit of a break as 90 minutes of continuous 'pitch black driving' had taken its toll. (I was still getting used to the not sleeping!). Therefore, my colleague Dave, a very experienced Driver and one that has taught me alot during my time at CMES, took over until just before 2am. In the meantime, I took the time to get a Coffee and, fantastically, fellow Driver Paul had brought along his Gas Cooker and ended up cooking us all a Bacon Sandwich each at 2am!! Well done Paul; This was one of the highlights! Below, Emma waits in anticipation as Paul works his magic on the Bacon during the small hours of Sunday morning...
I then, sandwich in hand, re-took over "JHO"s regulator and set off again into the night, with the Tail-Lamp burning brightly on the back. Dave had now gone off to have a break before steaming his own engine; 3.5" gauge 2-6-2 Southern Mongoliper "Betty". In the meantime, the Teddy's were going round behind 0-4-0 Shunter "Benella". Out on the line, myself and "John Owen" were enjoying ourselves immensely. The small number of trains, due to the fact that there were only six members present by now, allowed for good non-stop running. In fact, I managed something that I'd never done before; three continuous laps with "JHO" without watering up. After the 3rd continuous lap I decided that it was time to stop and, on inspection within the water tank, found that there was still more than enough water for another lap at least! However, I did of course fill-up whilst we had stopped! On a normal passenger hauling day, it is sometimes necessary to fill-up after each lap, due to the amount of water consumed when hauling heavier trains. However, on this occasion, with only myself and a few empty trucks behind the drawbar, "JHO" was very economical on both water and coal, leaving lots of room for longer running times! By 3am, I was again beginning to tire but enjoyment kept me going. Below, we were trying out the potential of an overnight "RPMR Sleeper Train" and "Yes" the train was moving and the regulator on the loco was set "just so". (Please bare in mind also that I have driven this engine many, many times over a good few years and so am more than aware of what is safe and what is not ^_^ )...
Even though I was due to "come off" at 3am, the track was empty enough to allow me to keep running. In the end, I ran until 4:30am! By then, dawn had just broken and I decided that it was time to grab a Coffee and, even more so, to give "JHO" a rest; she had done very well throughout the night and had been no trouble at all. After filling her up at the water tower one last time, I gave Emma a lift back from "Ryton Halt" to the steaming bays as 'first light' beckoned. With the Bendy Beam now set, "JHO" hissed quietly off the track with her train in tow. Once on the Traverser, I uncoupled the loco from the cars before pushing her across to the Steaming Bay which we had began on 5 hours before (No3). Myself and Paul then proceeded to "blow down" the loco and clean her off in case someone wanted to use her during the rest of the day. I then headed off for a Coffee. Soon, Emma took her loco back out onto the track with my rake of coaches (+ Tail Lamp) and proceeded to run alongside Peter's "Benella". Soon after, Dave came back off the track on his loco "Betty" before coming down for a Coffee as well. By now the light was improving more and more every minute and the Pool's were under the cover of darkness no more. At 6am, Pannier Tank "Victoria" steamed out onto the track and gave 2 hours of great performance whilst myself (on the Petrol loco) and Emma (on her loco) tried to keep up with her! (No chance!). The most welcome surprise came around 7:30am when the "Night Shift Team" were all given a Cooked Breakfast; Great Stuff! Thanks Eric! Soon after, Dave was back with his engine, "Betty", for another stint on the track, beginning at 8:30am...
In the end, "Betty" ended up running right up until gone 12:30pm in the afternoon, seeing out the 24-stint in style. Thanks to owner Dave, I was allowed to drive the engine for a good period of time during the day. Surprisingly, I didn't feel tired at all; must have been some kind of "second wind"! The lovely "Betty" is a 3.5" gauge model of the 2-6-2 Southern Monogoliper class. Along the same lines of the Gresley V2, the Monogoliper was designed by the Southern Railway but never actually made it into production. Shame really, it's a great machine; simple, robust, powerful and fast! "Betty" in particular is a lovely model and runs very well. She is, indeed, a pleasure to drive. Thank you very much to owner Dave for the privilege, and the lift home; much appreciated! At 1:30pm, with "Betty" safely back in the car and everything packed away, including my Tail Lamp (which was also heading for home), myself and Dave left the site. I must admit, by now, having been up for about 27 hours, I was really starting to feel it! Thank you very much to CMES for organising such a fantastic event and, to all the members who turned up and did their share of the running, whether on a club loco or with their own. I must have done about 7 hours or more driving in total, on one thing or another, plus a few odd jobs here and there. It was, honestly, really great. Thank you everybody. After about 4-hours kip this afternoon I feel a bit better but still need lots of sleep tonight! For your interest, the Bear's covered just over 131KM over the night; I hate to think how many we did collectively, must have been well over 400KM easy! Finally, thank you to Peter for all but two of the photographs; much appreciated. Good Evening...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Play Day at GEC Miniature Railway...

Howdo everybody. Today, after another invite from my friends at the GEC Miniature Railway, I went along to their wooded site at Allard Way for their "Play Day". On arrival I saw that the recently-acquired Sweet William locomotive was already on site, as was Petrol loco "Sammy", the battery "Warship" and the battery Y7 Tram; "Toby". Over on the 5" steaming bays, one loco; a Midland Compound 4P 4-4-0; was raising steam. After a chat with some of the members and a cuppa' (freshly served as usual by the Tea Room Ladies!), I noticed a new arrival. Over in the car park, snuggly tucked away in the back of a little Corsa was a beautiful 7.25" 'Paddington'. 'Paddington' is effectively the 7.25" version of "Speedy"; a model of the infamous and very powerful GWR 15XX outside-cylindered Pannier Tank's. The model, numbered 1501 (the number of the only surviving full-size example), was soon unloaded and stabled on No2 Road at the prep area (see pics above and below). This beautiful model was lovingly built by her current owner and was fantastically detailed throughout. Below, you will see the cab. Note the Combined Steam & Vacuum Brake lever, as per standard gauge practise, located on the backhead as well as the highly detailed water gauge glass (including protector!)...
After her owner had had a ride around the track to familiarise himself, the 'Paddington' was readied for running. Once 30 minutes or so had passed, she was ready. I must admit, the size of this loco was considerable, even compared to the Sweet William. This bulky model is said to weigh around 300lbs! (Bit much for a Corsa I would have thought but it fit just right!). 1501 was soon "off shed" and had a lap or two before coming off for lunch, much to my surprise. Meanwhile, the Sweet William, which had been purchased by a member a few months prior, was steaming up on No1 Road. The blue 0-4-0, accompanied by a small tender, has now been affectionately named "LUNA", after the owner's grandchildren (some form of anagram I believe). Anyhow, "Luna" was soon in steam and did a couple of laps with Stuart on the handle, hauling one of the normal coach rakes. "Luna" is spotted on No1 Road below...
Later in the afternoon, whilst my friend Dave was driving Tony's 4-4-0 Compound on the 5", I was offered a go on "Luna". Echoing much evidence of her 5" gauge sister ("Sweet Pea"), "Luna" is of a simplistic design, carrying a Marine boiler as standard. However, when I accepted the chance to have a drive, I didn't realise just how different she would be. The main thing to remember is that, though the grate is shallow for the size of the loco (as with "Sweet Pea"), the firebox is very long and wide (unlike "Sweet Pea"!). Therefore, "Luna", though she steamed very well, required quite alot of coal to cover the grate; Stuart reckoned around 8 shovel-fulls or so. Anyway, with 2 loaded coaches behind, we set off. The engine barked well and was happy to be "notched up" whilst also not wasting too much water from the boiler. However, not being used to the engine or the smaller tender, I did encounter a few problems of my own doing! Heading off down the hill, I gave "Luna" a bit of regulator to keep the train moving at line speed. However, as I had not anticipated the overall length of the firebox, I had accidentally allowed a sizeable hole to form at the front-centre area of the box. Therefore, steam pressure was compromised and the full pressure of 100psi dropped to around 70-odd. By now, we had reached the Triangle at the end of the line and so time was left to put coal on the fire and add a little water using one of "Luna"s very reliable and very high capacity injectors!...
On the return run, once the train had been started and the loco "notched up", there were no problems. I was surprised how well "Luna" rode the track and, in fact, how well her small tender rode the track! Afterall, as yet, I have only driven a few 7.25" loco's so am still getting used to the feel of them as it were. Though the concept is relatively the same as 5" gauge, and indeed full-size, each engine is completely different and you have to learn as you go. In the end, we arrived back with 80-odd psi and the injector 'on' so no problems as it were. I thanked Stuart for my drive round the 7.25" on colourful "Luna" before returning to Dave on the 5". After a couple of laps around the raised track behind the Compound it was time to pack-up. Dave disposed of the 4-4-0 whilst I cleaned off the dust, oil and general grime picked up during her day's run. Earlier in the day, I also had a very enjoyable 8 laps or so on the 7.25" battery Y7 Tram which I had never driven before. "Toby", as the loco is known, was very responsive, simple and pleasant to drive; thank you to Ian and Gary for the privelage. At just gone 6pm, after helping Dave load the Compound back into Tony's trailer, I left for home; thanks for the lift, Gary! Much appreciated! I must extend a vote of thanks to the members of GEC for yet another invite and yet another enjoyable day out. I must also, as always, thank the "Tea Room Ladies" for, "yes, you've guessed it"; all the tea! Thank you for reading folks, Good Evening all...

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Two Very Royal Appointments...

Hi everyone. Well, what a day, a few hours of waiting for a steam train with nothing in between! Today, the "Midlander" railtour, organised by Tyseley-based 'Vintage Trains Limited', was due to run between Birmingham and London Euston with LMS Princess Royal Class 4-6-2 No6201 "Princess Elizabeth" at the head. The outward run would see the Princess departing from Birmingham New Street, forming the first steam-hauled express to leave the station since Steam Day's! She would then head down through Coventry and then onto the West Coast Main Line at Rugby before continuing to Euston. At Euston, there would be another first; "Lizzie" was the first Princess Royal Class Pacific to come into the station "to the bufferstops" since the Days of Steam! Two very triumphant firsts for preservation! The return run would take a simpler route, speeding along the WCML through Rugby before arriving at Nuneaton. From Nuneaton, "Lizzie" took the Leicester to Birmingham line back to Tyseley; where the train terminated. With "Lizzie" passing both of my two nearby mainline stations in one day, I couldn't resist going out to see her! Catching an early train to Coventry, I checked out the possible filming angles before finding a good position at the south end of Platform 1. Sure enough, as the crowds watched in awe, the Princess roared around the corner, across the junction and through Platform 2 with Black Smoke bellowing from her chimney. I managed to get the shot below whilst trying to film as well...
Within 30 seconds the huge pacific had been and gone, leaving Coventry in a cloud of black smoke. Many people argued the reason why so much smoke was coming from the chimney, many in fact coming to the conclusion that it was because the 'Blower' was apparently switched off. I'd just like to say, sorry gents, the lack of Blower would not cause the smoke. You would realise from the sound of 6201 that actually she was working well and the draught up the chimney would be more than enough to push the smoke up; let alone a blast of steam from the Ejector. Also, in many of the pictures/videos taken of 6201 today, wether nearby or in the London area, there is often alot of smoke. It is therefore easy to come to the conclusion that the coal was a very "smokey" type; a far cry from the "smokeless" stuff that is often used on some railways today. Whatever the reason, we all know that it looked fantastic and we also know that many would have found reason to complain if you got no exhaust at all in your images! Anyway, back to me, returning via the Local train to Bedworth; a Class 153 Railcar as usual; I headed home. "Lizzie" would spend over 3 hours in the Capital and so wouldn't be returning anytime soon. For the evening shots, I chose Nuneaton where the regal Princess is seen arriving below...
On arrival at Nuneaton, about 30 minutes before "Lizzie" arrived, I tried to find another suitable location. By now, with the time reaching 7:30pm, the sun was low in the sky and the risk of "glare" was increasing by the minute. After checking with the station staff, my calculation that "Lizzie" would arrive through Platform 2 was deemed to be correct. However, nothing ever goes according to plan! The Princess was booked for a 1-minute stop at Nuneaton; though nobody, even the station staff, could work out what the point of this was! As time passed, crowds began to gather on either end of Platform 2, simply in the hope of seeing No6201, let alone filming or photographing her. Meanwhile, myself and a few other photters had set-up on the short Platform No1, reducing the risk of glare as we had our backs to the sun. This, on the video camera's LCD-screen looked to be a very pleasing location. (In fact, I had used this location a few months before whilst filiming double-tendered A4 Pacific No60019 "Bittern"; see seperate post). However, at the last moment, the announcement came; "The Steam Train Will Arrive at Platform 1 To Take Water In 10 Minutes Time". With that, we all quickly shifted across to Platform 2, deep in thought as to why 6201 would be taking water again. Afterall, she carries around 5000-gallons of water and she had only had a Water Stop about an hour prior. Everyone suspected a severe problem. However, when "Lizzie" arrived, she gleamed brightly as her safety valves feathered and, with that, all was well...
The reason for the untimetabled water stop was that, during her booked stop an hour or so before, the water pressure had not been sufficient to fill "Lizzie" in the allocated timeslot. Therefore, rather than dare to hold up anything on the WCML, it was decided to get the loco to Nuneaton where, once in Platform 1, the train was safely off the busy London to Glasgow line. In the end, "Lizzie" left around 30 minutes late but, with a full tender. I must admit, though a bit of a hold up for those on board, the Water Stop was a bit of a God-send to us! Afterall, we had only planned to see the 4-6-2 for a minute or so, therefore, the chance to see her simmering at the head of her express in the glorious evening sunlight was fantastic and greatly appreciated! The public, not just enthusiasts but families too, turned out in force to see one of Stanier's masterpieces back on her home ground. Soon, filled up and with a green signal ahead, "Princess Elizabeth" cautiously departed Nuneaton for Tyseley. The crowds of people on the train waved to us all on the platform and, I must say, so many people waved back! Theres something about a steam train that brings out the best in people; particularly when they get to see it for free! In fact, the Guard of a Pendalino passing on the Fast Line to Glasgow was hanging from the window just to catch a quick snap of the beautiful Princess. Unbelievable! Below, click "Play" to view my video footage of the day...
Soon, with her voice echoing on the horizon, "Lizzie" was out of sight and off back to Birmingham. In fact, rumour has it that the Princess will be heading Vintage Trains' two "Shakespeare Express" runs tomorrow between Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon. (Don't quote me though!). So, if you're free, why not go over and take a ride behind her! I can very much recommend the "Shakespeare" and at only £20 per Adult for a return ticket its well worth it (value like this is usually unheard of on main line steam trains! Click HERE for details). I must extend a vote of thanks to Tyseley (and VTL) for running this trip; I vastly enjoyed spotting it! I hope you have enjoyed reading my post and seeing No6201 in action; she truly is a Stanier Masterpiece. Thank you for reading folks. Good Evening...

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Tragic Tale Of Concorde: Yesterday's Masterpiece; Today's Loss...

Hello everyone. Now, I make no bones about the fact that this is a "railway blog" BUT this is something different; something that I believe to be of relevant significance. Today, I watched Channel 4's very interesting, moving and inspiring documentary entitled; "The Last Flight of Concorde". The documentary not only talked of the aircraft's last flight, but also of it's design, its expense, its pro's and con's and, finally, the disasters leading to 'her' downfall. Taking everything into account, my mind now see's no clear reason why a masterpiece such as Concorde could not be made profitable in the 21st century. If you would care to click "PLAY" on the above video, see a nice little tribute to the Supersonic Aircraft that "should have still been". Concorde was the creation of a British-French amalgimation of designs and two prototypes were built in 1965. Concorde was to be "the plane of the future" and would have the ability to travel safely at speeds up to and including Mach II; twice the speed of sound. The first test run took place on 2/3/1969 and the first Supersonic test took place on the following October 1st. On 4/9/1971, Concorde 001 took off from Britain on a worldwide sales tour. (Afterall, Concorde was a sales pitch, not a toy!!). Concorde 002 also followed suit and both toured seperate parts of the world. However, reviews were mixed; some saw the aircraft as revolutionary, stylish and beautiful whilst others saw it as environmentally damaging, costly and too modern for its own good. Click "PLAY" below to see a normal Concorde take off procedure; note the 'After-Burners' at the rear of the 4 engines as the exhausted fuel is ignited, creating much more thrust...
With a top take-off speed of up to 250mph, Concorde carried 4 engines made by, "guess who?"; Rolls Royce and Snecma. They were known as the 'Olympus 593's. They were an 'After-Burning' (reheated) Turbojet engine. Operating at Mach II whilst fitted to Concorde, the 593 was the most efficient jet engine ever made. The engines had a speciliast Air Intake as, at Mach II, the Air would enter the engine far too quickly and damage it. Therefore, the Air had to be slowed right down before being allowed to cool the "red hot" engines. In all, sixty-seven Olympus 593 engines were made. In fact, before Concorde was retired, the 593's were famous in aviation as the only Reheated Turbojet engines to be powering a commerical aircraft! The engines were not the only part of the aircraft to get "really hot"; the well-designed Fuselage, when travelling at Mach II, could reach temperatures of 120 degree's!! Therefore, special 'coolers' had to be installed in the window's to ensure that passengers did not burn their fingers!! Concorde could cruise at heights of up to 60, 000ft whilst her Cabin Pressurisation remained at around 6000ft. 'Her' smaller windows would then allow for 'less air loss per second' in the event of a breach. Concorde is characterised by her "Drop Nose" that, when in the 'UP' position, allowed the plane to be further streamlined and reduced drag. However, in the 'DOWN' position, crew visability was much improved, especially during taxi-ing and taking off. Concorde could carry up to 100 passengers, much less than an ordinary passenger plan (i.e. a Boeing 757) but the Supersonic counterpart travelled much, much faster. In fact, the journey time from London to New York was cut to a little under 3.5 hours!! Concorde was a businessman's dream and was a far cry from the cramped cabins of more conventional aircraft. Though the fares were higher, the journey times were shorter and the comfort level was worth the price (so I'm told!). Concorde mainly operated, successfully at least, between New York and Britain, though flights could also be chartered, wether privately or by other airlines as only British Airways and Air France (both in the 'amalgimation'), owned Concorde's. Though, even today, many Pilot's, passengers and designers consider Concorde a very, very safe aircraft, the type has not escaped tragedy. On 25th July 2000, Concorde suffered a horrific and major crash. Witness below, a shocking insight into the last moments of Air France Flight 4590...
The Aircraft involved was leaving Charles De Gaulle International Airport in France. On attempting to take off, the Concorde ran over a piece of metal debry dropped by the previous taking-off plane. The metal, measuring 3cm x 43cm, ruptured a tyre on the landing gear, prompting a large lump of rubber to eject upwards and strike the bottom of a fuel tank. Though there was no puncture in the tank, the shockwave created by the strike sent the fuel up into the top of the top of the tank before bringing it back down. The pressure caused a weakspot in the tank to fail and fuel poured from the Concorde's underside. This, when igniting with the engine thrust, caused the huge flame seen in the above video. No2 Engine then failed and the plane came down less than 90 seconds after take off. It was a huge tragedy with all 100 passengers and 9 crew members killed; and another 4 members of the public killed on the ground. The Concorde was destroyed by the crash and the news shook the world. What had been the safest plane in the sky had now become the most dangerous. All Concorde's were then grounded pending investigation whilst the world grieved for those involved in Flight 4590; may they rest in peace. Following this disastrous event, many of Concorde's regular passengers began to turn away from the aircraft's flights. This led many to believe that it was the beginning of the end of the 'Supersonic Dream'. However, Concorde's continued to fly and one attended the Queen's Jubilee in 2002, performing a fly past with the Red Arrows...
However, though Concorde's public appeal was still huge, her profits were down and BA and Air France finally announced the retirement of the fleet on 10th April 2003. Lower profits, the Tragedy of Flight 4590, and the slump in air travel following the 9/11 Attacks were all part of the reasoning for Concorde's retirement. Richard Branson offered to buy the fleet with a final offer of "£5 million" yet, no sale was reached. Branson had plans to continue operating Concorde's as part of Virgin Air but, as we have seen, it was not to be. On November 26th 2003, the last retirement flight took place and Concorde took up her place in the history books. Click HERE for a BBC report on one of the last emotional flights. Public support for the last flights was amazing and countless onlookers turned out to see the last of these Supersonic marvels touch-down for the final time. Interesting fact; When at Mach II, the heat of Concorde's Fuselage made it expand by up to 8 inches or so, therefore, before the retirement, some Pilot's wedged their caps in these gaps so that, when the aircraft cooled, they were sealed forever; a nice touch I thought! However, the planes are by no means scrapped; out of 20 Concorde's that were produced, 18 survive in museums worldwide. In fact, one, just one, is undergoing restoration for re-certification, resulting in displays at Air Shows and Exhibitions. One goal is to have the craft ready to fly for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Now, wouldn't that be a sight to see?! I support the restoration of Concorde no end and believe that the fact that these Supersonic masterpieces have been retired is a travesty. As many have been known to exclaim; "They should be flying today!". I hope that you have all enjoyed my little tale regarding Concorde; the world's only commercial Supersonic Jet Plane. I hope one day that we will see one fly again. Thank you for reading folks, any comments are most welcome and I would love to hear your opinions. Also thanks to all the video owners for use of their films. Good evening...

Sunday, 11 July 2010

"Showing Around Shack"...

Hello everyone. Another short one today; must make a nice change from the 'heavy-reading' of some of the other posts! Today I was picked up by fellow CMES Driver, Emma, at 1pm for a ride over to see the "Big Stuff" at Shackerstone. Of course I am an active member of the Steam Department down here but the purpose of today was simply to show Emma around; "behind the scenes" as it were. On arrival we made our way up to the station where I sorted Emma out with the customary 'Platform Ticket' (for insurance purposes). After 'Signing On', off we went down to the Loco Shed where Mic was the solitary worker today. In the doorway stood the diminutive Aveiling & Porter 2-2-0; "The Blue Circle", behind which was the huge 'Eastern Lady'; LNER B1 No1306 "Mayflower". I must admit, even I still find it hard not to stand in awe of "Mayflower" each time I see her! Whilst in the shed we also took a look at the other vehicles stored inside; such as the Southern Railway 'Luggage Van', the unusual 'Riding Van', the Bubblecar, old "Lamport No3" (pictured above) and of course our 'Pride of the Fleet'; Peckett "Sir Gomer" (now reunited with her cab once again). From here we headed out into the South Yard where we took a quick glimpse at the delapidated chassis' of RSH "Richard III" and Hudswell Clarke "Waleswood". We then had a quick look up the South Cutting where the 2-car DMU stands. From here, it was off down to the North End where the Diesel's dwell; via the 'Steam Loco Burial Ground' at the front of the sheds, and the station. On show in the North End were the usual suspects; such as the three Class 56's currently on site. However, down the very back are my two favourites; one being Shackerstone's own 'Little Lost Engine' (Peckett "Dunlop No7") and the other being the extremely rare MR Triple-Axle Brake Van. "Dunlop No7" is in a shocking state, having been left out in the open for years. The boiler is present but is badly corroded and the inner firebox has been cut from the inside! The tubes are also missing, as are the inspection ports; probably long-lost by now! "Poor old engine!". She was a 'runner' back in the 1970s but her firebox was condemned. I fear she may rot here for ever more; though I still visit her from time to time on one "tour" or another!! From the 'Lost Loco' we headed back up the yard to the Station where he enjoyed a cuppa' before returning home. Thanks for the lifts Emma and I hope you enjoyed the tour! Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening...

Friday, 9 July 2010

Running Session In The Garden...

Hi all. A short and sweet post today. Had a good running session in the garden this afternoon, featuring locomotives such as the Black 5, Small Prairie, Taffe Tank and the Bullied Pacific to name but a few. At least three different sets of coaching stock were in operation; including the recently added-to illuminated Pullman Dining Rake. There were also two Freight train sets in operation and this all contributed to a good days running. (It certainly passes the time!). I must admit, although I am enjoying this summer weather (makes a nice change from the wet summers of past years!), I would welcome a nice, cool Thunderstorm!! Can't beat sitting in the house with a hot cuppa' whilst watching a total washout occur outside!! But, if the forecasts are correct, it looks like we're in for more of this 'muggy' heat; "Tut". Anyhow, the Garden Railway was packed away by 5pm and I returned home after spending a few hours "polishing the metals". As a final note, I would just like to say Happy Birthday to my Great Grandma who is 103 years old today! Thank you folks. Evening all...

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The "Falcon" Has Landed On The Garden Railway...

Hello everyone. Today, after purchase yesterday, my brand new Met Cam-style Pullman Car, named "Falcon", arrived on the Garden Railway. Purchased with some vouchers I recieved for the "Antics" Model Shop in Coventry, "Falcon" is a Bachmann model of the Pullman Car's which were built by Metro Cammell in the 1960s. The 'Met Cam' cars were constructed as a more modern alternative to the 1930s cars, such as those used on the Venice Simplon Orient Express today. I've never bought a Bachmann Pullman before and I'm very pleased with this one. (I shall be buying more as funds permit!). The Hornby alternatives, of which I have three; two Diner's and the Devon Belle Saloon; are 'good' but heavier and have the 1930s-style longer-wheelbased bogies. The Bachmann versions are very much lighter, cheaper and have shorter-wheelbased bogies; though they are still very highly detailed and include interior lighting as standard. (RRP is around £29+, compared to Hornby's £40+). "Falcon" is modelled on a First Class Kitchen Car; a type which we actually travelled in whilst Dining on the "Shakespeare Express" this time last year! (see seperate post). It is therefore a testament to the success of Met Cam's cars that many Mainline tour operations, such as Vintage Trains Limited, still use them today. Though "Falcon" looked at home with the two 1930s-style Hornby Pullman's that we have, as well as the Devon Belle, the plan is to expand the Pullman Fleet using Met Cam's. A 2nd Bachmann Pullman is to be purchased very soon. In total, I hope to have four or five Met Cam Pullmans + the Devon Belle making up the Pullman Rake. The two Hornby models will then be used for special occasions. Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

"Rails, Ales And An Eastern Lady"...

Hello everyone. Well, this morning, I arrived in a rather weary state at Shackerstone at a "nice" and early 6am. I was to be crewing the beautiful "Eastern Lady of Leicestershire"; none-other than the immaculate LNER B1 No1306 "Mayflower" herself. Entering the South Yard, I found the day's booked Fireman, Adrian, breaking up pallets for the fire lighting whilst Driver Neil was busy laying the "coal bed" across the grate. After assisting with the breaking of the pallets I helped carry the wood up onto 1306's footplate ready for lighting. It then wasn't long before Adrian hauled the beautiful B1 out of the shed using the "jelly baby coloured" Class 02 diesel, "Diane". 1306 was then lit up and began to "come to life". Myself and Adrian soon set about cleaning the engine, with help from Carl, whilst Driver Neil began oiling round. After an hour or so, one-side of 1306 was cleaned and polished, leaving the rather daunting prospect of "starting all over again" on the Fireman's Side! (But we did so, with some help from Steve!). Meanwhile, out on the South Pit, the diminutive 2-2-0 Aveiling & Porter No9449 "The Blue Circle" was being readied for the day's work herself. This weekend was the railway's first "Rail Ale Weekend" and 5 trains were sheduled; all of which were to be hauled by us, using "Mayflower". With the first train at 10:45am there was no time to lose and 1306 was made ready asap. We then had to shunt "Diane" out of the way and drop the 4-6-0 down onto the waiting 6-coach rake. In fact, this was unsual in the respect that the stock was in Platform 1, following a BBQ train the night before!...
Departing Platform 1 (very unusual!) on time, "Mayflower" eased across the Crossing outside the Signalbox before beginning to pull away a little harder up the bank out of Shackerstone. Once the last coach (the Beavertail) was clear of the Crossing, 1306 really dug into the climb and we barked away with 1306's voice echoing everywhere. However, "tragedy" soon struck as I got a piece of ash/coal in my eye; unusually from the B1's chimney. Under normal circumstances, the footplate is unusually immune from chimney dust as it tends to be forced down the train by either the wind or the bark of the loco. Also, any coal in the eye is usually gone or washed away very soon. This however was not a "typical" moment. My eye didn't only water, it became bloodshot and a little swollen. The pain was unbarable but, with no sign of the "spec" of coal, I had no choice but to soldier on. Driver Neil drove the first two trains, handing Fireman Adrian the regulator for the 3rd and 4th trips. Throughout the day, my eye did not improve; in fact, it got worse. It became very enflamed and, due to the coal stuck somewhere out of my reach, each 'blink' resulted in a sharp, painful scratch; almost like being 'cut with glass' I would go so as to say. It was really awful and I for one am used to coal in the eyes! I also washed it with both water and specialist eyewash but to avail and the pain got worse and worse. Even so, when offered the Shovel for the last trip, I, even though now classed as an "invalide", did not turn it down!...
Throughout the trip, on Damper Notch No1 with the Blower 'just cracked', 1306 steamed beautifully, holding well over 200psi. There was also plenty of room in the boiler to fill with water when needed to "cool" the loco down or even just to keep a safe water level (1/3 of a glass +). Arrival at Shenton soon came and 1306 calmed down nicely. I had one last check on my eye whilst "Mayflower" ran round but again to no avail. (No sign of any coal or grit). So, in severe pain and with a 'streaming' eye, I fired the last trip home. On these 'final journeys', it's always necessary to ensure not to add too much coal. Afterall, the loco will be disposed soon after arrival at Shackerstone. However, steam and water are also very necessary too! It's like an obscure balancing act! I was actually quite surprised how easily 1306 steamed on such a small fire, even when simply "filling in the holes". She was a dream and I think I fired better with the injury than before, arriving back at Shack with just under 200psi on the clock and the injector running. (We were already trying to kill off pressure ready for heading off back into the shed!). After uncoupling the stock we ran straight into the loco works and disposed 1306. I again tried eye-wash on my injury as over 6 hours of "putting up with it" was really taking its toll. I was ready to go to hospital! Then, I found a torch and got Steve to take a last look whilst I held up the eyelid. Sure enough, there, on top of my eyesocket, well up behind the eyelid, a small piece of coal was glimpsed, in direct line with the scratches on my bloodshot eye. Using an obscure piece of paper, the coal was recovered and I've never known relief like it! The swelling went down, the pain and the streaming stopped and the eye was soothed instantly. It was like being born again! What an ordeal over such a small lump of coal! Anyhow, though very much marred, it was a very nice day on the "Eastern Lady". Thank you very much to Neil, Adrian and Steve for another good day on 1306. Thanks for reading folks! I need to go and rest my eye now(!), Good Evening...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Running Day at RPMR...

Hi all. Today, with a good weather forecast set out, I was optimistic as I arrived at my 5" gauge concern's site at Ryton Pools Country Park. As well as my boilersuit and a few soft drinks, I had brought along some 5" gauge 'Sweet Pea' loco "castings" which I had for sale. The castings having been 'off-loaded', I headed off up to the track with my full-size BR Tail Lamp in hand. (The Tail Lamp was to be trial-fitted in preparation for its appearance at the RPMR's '24-Hour Track Occupation' over the weekend of July 24th/25th). Once up at the 2000ft-long track I realised that it was in fact "No Work Day" (a Member's Running Session); not that I'm one to complain! In fact it was a very good turn out seeing no less than 8 locomotives making it onto the track for a run, with another two appearing on the bays yet not running! It's great to see huge progress taking place everytime I head up to CMES. The Steaming Bay's and Traverser section now look very good and are now waiting in anticipation of the upcoming Invitation Day on August 14th. Out of all the loco's that were on site, it was nice to see a 'Matching Pair' if you like. Two examples of LBSC's much-loved 'Pansy' Design stood side-by-side on the far bays. The 'Pansy' is modelled on the GWR's famous and plucky 57XX 0-6-0 Pannier Tank and makes for a powerful and substantial 5" gauge loco; though there has only been one in operation (No5717 "Victoria") at CMES until today!! The 2nd 'Pansy' has just been purchased and will be turned out in London Transport Red in due course! Below, I'm caught driving Dave's lovely 3.5" gauge 2-6-2 'Betty' Class loco No1198...
No1198 is a lovely 3.5" gauge model of a Southern Railway locomotive that was in fact designed but never actually made it into production! Holding a 2-6-2 'Prairie'-type wheel arrangement, the loco bares a stark resemblence to Gresley's famous V2 Class, headed by No60800 "Green Arrow". I must admit, as there are very few 3.5" gauge loco's in the club compared the more numorous 5" gauge examples, it's very rare that I drive one. However, Dave was kind enough to let me have a go on one of the few 3.5" gauge loco's that I've driven before; his 2-6-2 No1198. With big wheels and large cylinders, the loco is a dream to drive and tears around the track at scale speeds of around 60mph + with ease. (More of a 'galloping' engine I would say!). Using a small shovel and nicely-sized coal, the loco is easy to fire and has a substantial firehole ring. The sizeable firebox is more than enough to keep steam up in the substantial boiler and the loco is never short of steam! The fact that she is a main line example rather than a Narrow Gauge type; such as the Sweet Pea I normally drive at RPMR; means that she rides very smoothly and offers little worry of bouncing around on any rough joints or tight curves. I had about 5 or 6 laps driving this engine today and it was very, very enjoyable. I really like this loco and, for a tender engine, the fact that she can be easily lifted by one person from loading bay to car is a great advantage indeed! Below, the beautiful GWR Green Pannier, "Victoria", approaches the bridge from 'Ryton Halt'...
Later in the day I also got to have an inspiring two laps on Colin's fabulous 4-4-0 5" gauge LNWR Precursor. This loco has always been a favourite of mine as she steams beautifully, rides perfectly and is simply built for sustained speed. The full size examples, designed by the mighty LNWR, really were the "racehorses" of their day and, with their huge wheels and sizeable cylinders, offered great performance. Heavier trains were not a problem either, once enough grip had been gained to get the load moving of course! No2003 "Lady Kathleen" is a beautiful example and one that is relatively rare in miniature terms; I for one have only ever seen this one! As I drove around, the loco, as usual, gave a fantastic performance and offered some very spirited running. This certainly is an engine that just "strides". Even at the track speed of 6mph, the loco's rods are hardly moving whereas, on a Sweet Pea, they are tearing around! Thank you very much for the drive, Colin; you have a beautiful loco! It wasn't just the steamers either, three electrics were spotted 'out and about'. The two which made it onto the track are spotted below; the society's Class 37 heads the double-act, whilst Pete's 0-4-0 "Benella" follows...
I had also driven the club's Class 37 earlier in the day; basically just to "get me around the track"! This huge Co-Co always performs well and is a stirling engine for the society to own; though I would always choose steam over her...sorry! Also in the day, with the help of Emma, I managed to find a successful way to connect my BR Tail Lamp to one of the wagons, allowing it to operate during the early hours of the morning as part of the 'Night Run' in a few weeks. (I will be driving the Sweet Pea from midnight until 3am and so require some form of rear lighting; I feel that the huge Tail Lamp may just be adaquate for this!!). I had had a very nice, sociable afternoon at the RPMR and will be returning for the 'Night Run' in 3 weeks and then a Crewing-turn on August 1st. After a good old chat in the Clubhouse I left for home at around 5:50pm; thanks for the lift home Dave, much appreciated (as well as the drive of your loco!). Tomorrow? I'm due to crew B1 No1306 "Mayflower" at Shackerstone so, a "nice" (wrong terminology in my book!) start at 5am. Thank you for reading folks and thank you very much to the much appreciated CMES member, Peter, for sending in the four photo's which you see in this post. Evening All...