Sunday, 28 November 2010

"Of All The Bars..."

Hi all. Not alot to say today if I'm honest. I had a simple day working the Bar on the Battlefield Line's "Buffet Car". Today was the first day of our Santa Special's and the two return runs were in the capable hands of visiting Pannier Tank No5786. I like working the bar; you can talk to people alot more! However, nothing will beat my beloved steam engines. Evening All...

Sunday, 21 November 2010

LEGO Railway at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition 2010...

Hi all. This weekend was a long one, and one that we'd been anticipating for over a year! This weekend we exhibited at the 2010 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition, held again in Hall 5 of the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. We took along our little-seen 9ft x 4ft LEGO Model Railway layout, which was being displayed as Stand D39. With 2010 being the layouts third appearance at Warley, we were more than ready for it. We booked to display at the 2010 Show back in November 2009, slowly planning our layout format as we went through this year. In the past, we have always displayed a 6ft x 4ft layout BUT, for 2010, we increased the overall size by 1/3; making it a much more impressive display. We added many more figures, vehicles, buildings, tracks, trains etc to fill in all the new space; using almost all of our LEGO if truth be told! However, we made it, and the post you saw around 2 weeks ago depicted us testing it. Since then, a few more bits were added, ready for the BIG SHOW(!) but, all too soon, Friday 19th rolled around and we pulled into the NEC at 5:30pm; under a cover of a darkness, engulfed by a thick band of dense fog. We drove into the Hall and found our stand. After a few minor problems we started to set up; taking around 90 minutes to do so, with a little bit of work left to do on Saturday morning to keep us busy. Below, we see the scene on our Stand on Saturday Evening. Its 6pm and the exhibition has just closed; the layout has been running non-stop since 9am and now enjoys a rest and a blanket...
I didn't take any pictures on Saturday as we were so busy. However, when I say busy; I mean busy! I estimate that at least 20 people (if not more) were viewing the layout at all times. At peak times, people were queuing to see our humble model railway, standing three rows back from the crowd barriers just to try and get a look in! I honestly could not believe the popularity that such a basic set up attracted. I was quite moved by the amount of people that came up and talked to me, shook my hand, took pictures, said Thank You; it was very moving! One gentleman even reported that he had spotted this very blog and he was visiting the show from Wisconsin, USA! Thank you for coming to see me, Sir; thanks alot for the chat. Many visitors asked where they could obtain LEGO trains, especially with Christmas coming up. (I hate to think how many Christmas list's we enlarged over the weekend!). Saturday though, as I say, was manic. My voice hurt very much by the end; I did that much talking! It was very, very busy; I estimate around 12,000 people on Saturday alone. In fact, I've been to every Warley show since 2004 and I don't think I've ever seen it this busy; ever (even when I've exhibited!). Anyway, Saturday went without hitch and was a very good day indeed. It was nice to see a few Shackerstone colleagues, as well as Steve Bell from the EVLR; who's engine I drove last weekend! Below, early on Sunday morning, Hall 5 prepares for the crowds...
Our colourful 9ft x 4ft layout gets operations underway, ready for the Advanced Ticket Holders to be admitted at 9:30am...
The layout ran very much without hitch on Sunday; no problems at all. It was a much quieter day compared to the HUGE crowds on Saturday BUT it was still very busy indeed. Now, for those who don't know, Warley is held annually and attracts exhibitors, traders and visitors from all over the world. It is one of, if not the best, Model Railway Show and includes every gauge from 'T' right up to 'Gauge 1' (45mm). As well as exhibitors, there are countless sales stands, demonstrators, societies and stewards. It's a very well organised show and is a joy to visit; let alone exhibit at! Throughout the show; two layouts particularly caught my eye. One, seen below, was Hadley Road; an O Gauge layout owned by the Exhibition Manager (Mr Paul Jones) and on its very last outing this weekend. The layout depicted a GWR station scene with lovely Western engines, all fitted with very realistic DCC sound, busying themselves with either shunting or passenger trains. I enjoyed a good 20 minutes watching the movements up and down the tracks. One particularly interesting feature was the bank, topping out at steeper than 1 in 40! Not bad at all, beautiful detail and a lovely display; shame it's not coming again (mind you, it has done over 50 exhibitions in its lifetime!)...
A quick shot of Hadley Road; shame my camera isn't better suited to the NEC's Hallogen lighting!...
Hadley Road was very popular throughout the show; well done Paul, it's a lovely layout indeed! Now, the next layout that caught my eye was very evocative. This was an O Gauge (I think!) display depicting the famous Barmouth Bridge on the Cambrian Coast line. The layout seemed simple yet very effective and popular, really drawing the crowds over the weekend; I myself had a very good look at it. Below, we see the huge bridge section and the beautiful backdrop...
"Yes", all those bridge supports are made of wood! They look fantastic and have obviously taken many hours to construct. Its a great layout. Speaking to one of the operators, I asked about the use of the loco's on the line. The Cambrian, particularly Barmouth Bridge, was very restricted on loco weight. The Manor Class was just about the biggest engine used on the line, not forgetting the BR Standard's of course. Engine's that were common included tank engines, and the infamous Edwardian Dukedog 4-4-0s. The operator told me that they use the Dukedog, Small Prairie, Pannier, Abadere Freight (an inside cylindered 2-6-0 of which none were preserved) and other light engines; there are some BR engines too I believe. Below, we see the Iron section of the bridge, skirted by water and sand...
Below, a little Pannier takes an early morning run out across the bridge...
The Barmouth layout was very nice indeed; I loved it; well done to all who built it! Now, alot of you will remember that Warley usually has a centrepiece locomotive. In recent years, these have been 2ft Narrow Gauge examples yet, for 2010, Standard Gauge returned in a Yankee form. "Yes", a 'Yankee Tankee' 0-6-0 was this year's choice, visiting from the Bluebell Railway in Sussex. The loco was placed on a small plinth of two rails and stood quietly in the Hall throughout the show...
The USA Tank's, as the class were known, were built by the Vulcan Iron Works in Pennsylvania. 14 locomotives were built, though many more were ordered. They were shipped to Britain in 1943 and stored awaiting the invasion of Mainland Europe. However, some were later shipped to Europe. The ones that remained on home soil found work with the Southern Railway. Their short wheelbases allowed them to work easily around the cramped Southampton Docks rail network. Their huge cylinders also gave them considerable power, handing them the ability to pull freight trains and even full length passenger trains. They were almost the perfect shunter! However, they had to be fitted with Steam Heating, Vac Brakes, extra Lamp Irons, new Drain Cocks and even Slide Cab windows. Finally, they needed new regulators as they originally carried USA-style Pull-Out versions. Once modified, they were ready for use in 1947. However, though they were great, they were not built to last. This meant that their Steel Fireboxes were problemed by fatigue and many of the class needed new fireboxes in the early 1950s. However, even so, four of the fourteen have been preserved. This is No30064. Unfortunately, though preserved, she hasn't been under full cover for a good few years now. Therefore, she is a little tired looking and is in desperate need of an overhaul and cosmetic attention. The bunker in particular has terrible rust spots and corrosion...
As well as this, the paint is faded, the windows cracked, the valve gear caked in dirt and the vac-bags torn and a little leaky-looking. This aside, she looks a fantastic engine; very tall for its short wheelbase. I wouldn't mind a go on one of these; they look beastly! I hope that the Bluebell will maybe take pity one day and give her overhaul; she must be worth it; she looks very powerful. Below, we see the layout in full swing...
It had been a fantastic show but 5pm on Sunday evening soon rolled around and the 2010 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition was over. We had a great show and the popularity we encountered was fabulous. Thank you very much to everyone who made it a great show for us; particularly the organisers. I, of course, must also thank my many helpers; you were great! Thank you all. It was also nice to see CMES and Shackerstone colleagues again today; thanks for visiting. Maybe we'll be back at Warley in 2012? I am currently looking out for shows to do with the LEGO railway; one in particular is a possibility at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in March 2011. Thanks for reading folks...I need some rest! Good Evening...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Post No100...Part II...Footplating At Evesham Vale Light Railway...

Hi all. This is Part B of Post No100 of 2010. After taking in the GWSR, I decided to move on to the 15" Gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway at Evesham Country Park. I arrived there at about 1:20pm to find the services in the capable hands of Exmoor-product "St Egwin"; an 0-4-0STT built in 2003. "Egwin" was built to order for owner Steve Bell. I purchased my ticket and then joined the 1:30pm train. Riding in the coaches, we steamed through the Apple Orchards and around the Baloon Loop to Evesham Vale Station. I was then invited onto the footplate for a ride back to Twyford; the base of the EVLR; with Driver/Owner Steve. What a nice guy! Steve drove us out of the Vale and back up the steep bank towards the terminus. "Egwin" rode very well, mind you, she is a new-build! On arrival back at Twyford I was invited to take a full return trip, again on the engine. I didn't refuse of course! After my full trip, and a good chat with Steve, I left the engine and did some linesiding with my still-image and video cameras. Below, "St Egwin" gives a whistle after the 'Right Away' from the Vale...
After my linesiding outing, in which I got a few shots, I returned to Twyford Station where, yet again, I was invited onto the engine! Great! In the end, I stayed on the engine for the rest of the day, chatting away with Driver Steve. I even got a few drives around the yard at Twyford(!); "St Egwin" is a very responsive machine. You could drive her like you drive a standard gauge engine; proffesionally. Holding the regulator, you can feel the power as "Egwin" moves effortlessly along. The video below shows a mixture of lineside and footplate footage; the effect is 'different' to say the least! As Blogger distorts my videos a bit, double-click to view larger!...
Earlier in the day, Steve stands on his engine as she is turned at Twyford...
Down the line, taken from the Fireman's side, the views across the Vale of Evesham stretch out in front of "St Egwin"...
Now at Evesham Vale, we look down on the boiler of "Egwin" from above. The boiler isn't very long but is quite a large diameter, carrying lots of water and steam space. On top of the dome we can see the whistle and safety valves...
Below, we see the Firebox open and the two shiney gauge glasses...
Steve fires "Egwin"...
In all, I had a very good afternoon on the footplate at the EVLR; especially the bit of driving I did! Thank you very much to EVLR owners Jim & Helen as well as "Egwin"s owner Steve Bell. Thank you all very much. I have been invited back to the EVLR to do a Cleaning Turn later in the year; that'll be nice, to put something back. I hope you've enjoyed the two-part Post No100 of 2010. I hope this keeps the blog going for a while! Next weekend? We're exhibiting the LEGO model railway at the 2010 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition. Why not come and see us there on Stand D39! Evening All...

Post No100...The Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Steam Railway...

Hi all. "Yes"!, post No100 of 2010 is here already! In light of this, I'm glad I've got a 'good post' for you today! In fact, its two posts rolled into one; Part A & Part B, this being the first. So, here we go; Today, with nothing to do but sit at home, I decided to take the car out for a run into the Cotswolds, down to the quaint Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway; around 50 miles to the South. Chugging down the A46 and then onto the A44, the run to Toddington; the base of the GWSR, took around 70 minutes; not too bad. Driving into Toddington, I passed the striking Stanton Viaduct on the left; what a sight. This viaduct is part of the GWSR's extension to Broadway and is even being used occasionally on passenger trains! Unfortunately, just my luck, this wasn't so today! Anyhow, arriving at Toddington, I spotted No7903 "Foremarke Hall", one of Hawksworth's Modified's, standing on the front of the train steam-heating. After parking up, I went onto the platform to inspect. I have visited the GWSR about 4 times now in all, the most recent visit being all the way back in 2004; that was another reason to come here today! The line runs between Toddington and Cheltenham Racecourse via Winchcombe and Gotherington; a distance of about 10 miles. However, recently, a landslip has befallen the line, cutting off 2 miles of track and the terminus station at Cheltenham. Therefore, all trains now run top & tailed as far as Gotherington, where there is no run-round facility. Well, there is, but thats part of the affected section! Anyhow, back to me, I bought my ticket and boarded the train behind No7903. I had hoped that the Turkish 8F, based at Toddington, would be out today and, just then, there was a woosh of steam from the sheds...!
The above shot is captured in 'Zoom' mode from the train. It shows the 8F being Blown-Down...look at all the steam! Though she wasn't on the services, the 'Turkish 8' was on Dining Train Duty; giving her a reason to be in steam. (At least I get to see her; but more on her later). The train pulled out of Toddington on time at 10:30am, and ran via Winchcombe to Gotherington, with a Class 37 ticking over on the rear. The run is very scenic, taking in views across the Cotswolds and even a lovely tunnel on the Gotherington-side of Winchcombe. At Gotherington, there is a small platform with a waiting room. The old station, on the other side of the train, is now a private residence, seen below...
As it was Rememberance Sunday, we paused at Gotherington for a 2-minute silence. (Even 7903 managed to stay almost silent!). After the Silence we returned to Toddington, hauled by the Class 37. I, having no interest in diesels really, decided to sit this run out in the Buffet Car, enjoying a hot bacon buttie; lovely! Back at Toddington, I left the train and ran round back into the Car Park to inspect the 'Turkish 8F'; she is beautiful...
No8274 was built in 1940 as WD 348. She was built for use on the Western Front but when France fell, the WD found itself with too many 8F's! All of the loco's had been ordered but not shipped out. Therefore, a solution was found. No8274, after working for a few months on British soil for the LMS, was shipped, with 19 sister engines, to Turkey and became State Railway's No45160. There, she worked until the 1980s. She was repatriated in 1989 and, after a stay at Swanage, moved to Toddington. She returned to steam again in May 2010. She really is a beautiful machine. The 8F's were popular out in Turkey I believe, hence their working until the 1980's as opposed to Britain's 1968. One difference I noticed in 8274 was that she is Right-Hand drive; British 8's were Left-Hand Drive. Lovely machine though; glad I've seen her in steam. Soon, 7903 dissapeared on the next service and, once she had cleared Winchcombe, 8274 left as well. The 8F had gone to fetch her Dining Coaches. Below, from the footbridge, we see the view over Platform 1 & 2 at Toddington...
After a look in the Gift Shop and the purchasing of yet another Mug(!), I awaited the next arrival of 7903, hauled again by the Class 37. Steam-Heating was in evidence on this very chilly day. Below, we see a sight that was regular on BR's Winter Days; steaming coaches!...
On the end of the train stood No7903 and, from Platform 2, I finally managed to get a sort of 'clean' picture of her. Why though, was she stood on the end of the train? She could have easily been put on the other end and run chimney first back to Toddy, with the 37 on the other end. Oh well, who knows! Anyway, here she is...
Another nice machine. She was built in 1949 and is a Hawksworth Modified Hall. She has a 6ft wheel diameter, a 225psi boiler, a 27.07ft grate area and a Hawksworth-style flat-sided tender. After withdrawal from service, "Foremarke Hall" went to Barry, leaving there again in 1981. She was finally returned to steam in 2003 and is permanantly resident at GWSR. As with many Western's, 7903 carries Stephenson's valve gear. As you can see, it's basic on the outside...
Under the boiler, inside the frames, we can see the Drivers-Side eccentrics and the Expansion Link on the left...
Over in the Car Park, the 7ft (Broad) gauge NRM Replica of GWR 4-2-2 "Iron Duke" was standing out in the cold. The engine was brought to Toddington in the Spring for the 'GWR 175' Gala and has yet to go back! I think she's going back to Didcot but they're having trouble getting her into the site I believe. Everything into Didcot has to go in by rail as the site is landlocked by Network Rail tracks. Iron Duke cannot of course go in on her own as she's far too wide. Therefore, she's going to be partially dismantled and then taken in on wagons I believe. "Iron Duke" was built in 1985, using the parts from two Hunslet Austerity's. The Iron Duke's of the GWR were built for express passenger work on the Broad Gauge rails but, allas, none survive today...
Over the way, I spotted the site of the 2ft gauge North Gloucestershire Railway. I have ridden on this line before but unfortunately it wasn't running today; mind you, it was freezing! The line runs from the Car Park at Toddington, down through their base at California Crossing and then on to Didbrook Loop before returning to Toddington. Trains are usually steam hauled. Below, the small narrow gauge station at Toddington...
The sign for the NGR...
Soon, I decided to head off. I'd had my ride on the train and seen 7903 and the 'Turkish 8' to boot. I'll definately come back again when the line to Cheltenham reopens, and especially when the line to Broadway opens for the first time; whenever that may be! The GWSR is very quaint and I like it, there is something about it. I'd advise a visit, its not a bad day out! I did of course take some video footage, showing some operations around Toddington and of course some on-train footage down the line...(double click the video to see it larger; Blogger distorts it a bit!)

After filming the last shot of the above video; the '8' on the Elegant Excursions Diner; I jumped back into the Saxo and headed off back up the A44. I must admit, the Elegant Excurions train looked beautiful; very posh. Maybe one to consider for the future? Looks like a great meal and wonderful surroundings. Now folks, it's 1pm and I'm off back to the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway; thats Part B! Look out for it soon! Thanks for reading folks, I hope you've enjoyed this one. Good Evening...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The LEGO Railway: Final Preparations For Warley 2010...

Hi everyone. This weekend was taken to prepare our 'O' Gauge LEGO Model Railway Layout for it's final showing; at the 2010 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition which will take place in 2 weeks time at the NEC. The exhibition will take place on Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st in Hall 5, with us exhibiting on Stand D39. We are showing our LEGO Railway in a 9ft x 4ft format, running trains and displaying everything from mini figures to cars, lorries, buildings and even a mobile crane and a hover-craft! For the 2010 show, the layout has been packed full of every piece of LEGO that we could lay our hands on. We're hoping for a very good show and trust that some, if not all of you will come along and see us! Granted, we are an exhibit for the younger visitors but surely anyone, of any age, can appreciate LEGO! I've just included the pictures as a bit of a "taster" from during our testing...
A quick look into our Town Centre scene (but you don't want to see it all yet do you?!)...
All of our tests proved sucessful and we trust that the show will be another good one for us; we always enjoy both visiting and exhibiting at Warley. Thanks for reading folks. Maybe see you there?! Evening All...

Friday, 5 November 2010

Fireworks Night In The Garden...

Hi guys. Just a short one tonight. The Garden Railway held its annual 'Bonfire, Fireworks and Steam' Evening tonight, offering all of the afore mentioned as well as Mulled Wine, Candles, Illuminations, Railway Lanterns and of course Hot Food! Trains on the Garden Railway ran throughout the evening, mainly hauled by Black 5 No45156 "Ayrshire Yeomanry", with four coaches behind. The '5' sported a specially adapted LED headlamp, fashioned from one found by a work colleague in a helium baloon of all things! The bonfire also burnt brightly throughout the evening with a Fireworks Display starting at 7pm. My brother also ran my Wilesco D405 live steam tractor for the guests; the only real steam I suppose! Though the rain fell, it was another good evening. However, I got soaked through, doing many jobs here and there; in the rain! So, I've now got the flu and a throat infection; fantastic. Unfortunately folks, no pictures due to the rain; sorry about that! Keep reading. Goodnight...