Friday, 31 December 2010

Thank You Everyone...

Hi everyone. Well thats it, or, as the Looney Tunes said..."Thats All Folks!". It's been a great year indeed and I would just like to thank every single person who has read this blog in 2010. Special thanks indeed to my regular readers too; your continued support is always appreciated. We've done alot this year, from firing at Shackerstone to turns at Coventry MES, Evesham Vale, GEC, Echills Wood and Bala Lake Railway. We've even visited Toddington, Great Central, the NRM, Lakeside Miniature, Fosseway and various other smaller places. We've even exhibited again successfully at the Warley National Show. As well as that, we've travelled to see "Rocket" in London, spotted "Tornado", "Princess Elizabeth" and "Bittern" on the Main Line and even visited the Harrogate Show. On top of that we've ran our Steam Toys and had various Garden Railway sessions. We've done an awful lot this year. Miss any of that?! Why not read it on this blog...its all there! Thank you all again, so much. I hope that I can continue writing this blog for as long as possible and also hope that you will all continue to read and support it. Why not leave me a comment? I love to hear from readers. Simply click "Comments" under the post and then write what you wish...you don't even need an account! Why not try it? I'd love to hear from you. Thanks again folks. Finally, I would just like to wish everyone a Healthy and Enjoyable 2011...Goodnight for the last time in 2010..."Thats All Folks"...

Lighting A Pannier...

Hi all. Today, the last day of the year, I was, "yes you've guessed", at Shackerstone! A huge team of us assembled at the Steam Shed to prepare Pannier Tank No5786 for her last three days operating at the railway (Jan 1st-3rd 2011). Arriving at 10:30am, I climbed up onto the footplate only to find; a broken gauge glass. Therefore, we replaced it with a spare. By now, 5786 had been dragged outside by the Class 73 diesel loco. Gauge glass replaced, I laid a bed of coal down on the grate, followed by dry wood and then lit the fire using parrafin rags. Doors shut, we let it burn. I then set about cleaning out the well-filled ash/inspection pit inside the Works. Later on, I helped clean the loco, including the cab. I also put Steam Oil on the Smokebox and Chimney to 'shine it up' a little bit ready for the loco's last appearances with us. I'll be very sad to see her go; she is a lovely machine indeed, much to the same popularity as 5542 was. Mind you, everyone had a soft spot for the Prairie! Well, after a good turn out and lots of work done, 5786 was back in the shed by 4pm and tucked up in 'bed' for the night. With that, its home time! Thanks for reading folks, Goodnight...

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Snow Problem at All...

Hi all. I hope everyone had a great Christmas; lots of food, drink and rest I trust! Now, this really was one out of the blue as it were. Many of my regular readers will know that I am a pretty regular visitor to the local 15" gauge steam railway; the Evesham Vale Light Railway. Located around 40 miles from me, the EVLR offers a 1.25-mile journey through a scenic orchard with views stretching far above the Vale of Evesham. The railway is very friendly and is operated by its two owners and many willing volunteers. Each time I go up, I often receive a footplate ride and a good chat with the crew. Therefore, today, I decided to pop up to do a cleaning turn; to 'put something back' as it were - mainly to thank the EVLR for their kindness and hospitality during my many visits. So, with that, we'll begin. I was due to arrive at the railway for around 8:30am and therefore set off from home around 7:10am, leaving time for morning traffic etc. After a nice run to Evesham, through the freezing fog and damp, I pulled up in the old faithful Saxo at Twyford Station, within the Evesham Country Park. In the morning light, the fog hung low across the Car Park and their wasn't much to see in the distance. Just then, the owners (Jim and Helen) arrived, as did the day's driver; Nick. After saying 'Hello' I was guided into the Mess Room and then through into the locomotive shed; a place I've often set foot in as a visitor. The days loco, ex-Longleat No3 "Dougal", was sitting at the end of the shed, alongside the likes of the legendary ex-Fairbourne Atlantic "Count Louis". Shed doors open, myself and Nick pushed "Dougal" outside...
As she's on Roller Bearings, the loco pushed quite well. Once outside, we set to work. The EVLR are very 'up' on cleaning, as you should be. Therefore, out came the Brasso and the Pledge (yes, Pledge!). With 1/2 a glass of water in the boiler and a clean grate, "Dougal" was ready to light. Nick fetched out some parrafin-soaked rags and some kindling wood, leaving me to build up the fire. Nick then lit a rag and threw it into the box, starting the burning process. An air-line was then connected to the loco, providing a draft to keep the fire burning. "Dougal", once an 0-6-2T, is now a much modified 0-6-0TT, carrying a large, sit-in tender and a much larger boiler. These modifications have improved "Dougal"s capabilities massively, giving her more power, weight, water capacity, coal capacity and steaming ability. She is, as Nick described, the pride of the fleet due to her reliability, robustness and ease of use. Anyway, back to us. Whilst we cleaned, "Dougal" was warming through beautifully in the damp, chilly morning air. Soon enough, we had steam and, with the tea already flowing, I began oiling round. "Dougal" carries Baker Valve Gear which I don't really have much experience of. But, nevertheless, we got through and the loco was soon oiled, with a drop on the mechanical lubricator rachet for luck. With a lovely, simmering fire and a hot boiler; we prepared "Dougal" for coming off shed. Nick dropped her into forward, blew the whistle and released the brake. With a tug on the regulator, off we went. "Dougal" rolled freely out of the yard with the steam-operated drain cocks open all the way. Across the points we went and out onto the Main past the Stop Board. There, "Dougal" was blown-down by 1/4 of a glass, making it 1/2 a glass again. This gets rid of any scale and impurities in the boiler, as is per usual practise. Once blown-down, "Dougal" was reversed back onto her 3-coach train, ready for the first run of the day (the 10:30am). Below, a look at the Manifold, showing the gauges, drain cocks (red), injector steam feeds (wooden handles) etc...
Soon enough, with a blow on the whistle and a handful of passengers, we set off. "Dougal", as I remember from my last footplate trip on her, rides very well and steams freely. Through the fog and the orchards we steamed before dropping down the steep hill towards the Baloon Loop. No views across the Vale of Evesham this morning; the fog was very thick indeed, completely blanketing the horizon. Once at the far end of the Baloon Loop, we climbed the steep hill towards the tunnel, with "Dougal" chuffing well. I was surprised at just how little the injectors were used; little and often; the water level remained very healthy indeed. Down through the tunnel we went and then up and around into Evesham Vale Station for the booked stop. Here, the children were asked how many Christmas Presents they had counted in the trees during the run. Sweets were then handed out as prizes. (Customer service, ay?!...a very nice touch I thought). With the passengers back on board, we reboarded the loco. With a blast on the whistle, off we went again, up the steep climb back to Twyford with "Dougal" gripping surprisingly well on wet rails. Soon, we were back. We moved "Dougal" onto the turntable and were pushed round. We than ran round ready for the 11am train. Then came the question..."Are you going to drive this one?"...
Now, I've driven many engines in the past, from 3.5" gauge through 7.25" gauge, right up to full size locomotives. I've also driven full size and miniature traction engines and steam rollers. But, even now, new gauges bring new challenges. I happily took over "Dougal"s regulator but had no idea how challenging the line was. As a passenger, you don't realise the work involved in driving the train. Even when on the engine, an experienced driver, like Nick, can make everything seem oh so easy. However, all isn't what it seems! Even so, I took over, closely watched at all times by Nick. Afterall, he could take-over at any moment if necessary. Anyway, with a blast on the Guard's whistle, we set off. With the regulator cracked and the drains open, "Dougal" pulled away effortlessly. Once away, I notched up and shut the taps. The regulator is then shut as the trains coasts downhill out of the yard. The Guard then gives a Green Flag to show that the coaches have safely cleared the yard. After acknowledging the Guard, I opened up for the climb up over the Level Crossing to the Top of the Bank. Soon after, we descend, regulator shut and hand firmly on the brake. I was very surprised at how much you had to brake. The train could really get away from you here. After a 5mph slack over a facing point, the train coasts down into the Baloon Loop. A slight braking is then needed for a sharp corner before opening up again for the steepest climb. "Dougal" chuffed a bit more here but still found the climb very easy. The regulator is opened more here to keep the speed up. We then shut off at the tunnel and descend, hand on the brake, through and out the other side. The regulator is then opened again to climb up into Evesham Vale for the booked stop...
After the stop, drains open, we open the regulator slightly with the brake still on. This prevents any rolling back when the brakes are released. Brakes off, "Dougal" starts. More regulator is needed as the loco starts on the steep climb back to Twyford. The rails were slippy, and on a tight curve, uphill. Therefore, care was needed. Leaving the station confines, I took it slowly before opening up a little more. Chugging well, "Dougal" hit a very wet rail and slipped violently. I shut off immediately but opened up again straight away with no time to spare. Stopping here on these rails wouldn't be a good move! After acknowledging the Guard again, I opened up a little more and notched up. "Dougal" charged up the hill with ease and it wasn't long before I was shutting off to coast down, back across the Level Crossing. The regulator is then needed one more time to carefully steam back across the facing points into the station yard and then chug neatly up into the platform. What a run, and an experience. Another gauge done! I then replenished "Dougal"s boiler with the injector(s) before driving her onto the turntable. We then ran round again for the 11:30am trip, which Nick drove. Throughout the day, I reckon I drove half of the trips, always under supervision of course; I was afterall a training driver. However, it really was fantastic; a completelty different experience again. I was thrilled for the oppotunity. Earlier on, in the morning light, the freezing fog engulfs Twyford...
After the 3:30pm run, we disposed lovely "Dougal", leaving 0-4-0 Diesel "Cromwell" to do the last run; this just saves time on these dark evenings! Once on shed, we raked the fire, dropped the ash and then cleaned the loco, as well as filling her up. I then drove her back inside the shed, rounding the day off nicely. All that was left to do was put away the tools and shunt the stock away for the night. These tasks were soon complete and the railway was closed for the night. We then enjoyed a quick cuppa' before heading for home. Now to say thank you. I am so grateful to the EVLR owners (Jim & Helen) for letting me have a go on their wonderful loco and their railway; it really was a fantastic experience. You're kindness is always memorable and appreciated. Also thanks to Driver Nick, your guidance was very much appreciated. Also thanks to anyone else who was on that day; I had a great time indeed. Thank you so much. I left the EVLR feeling completely elated; another one done. Thanks for reading folks...Goodnight...

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas, Everyone...

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a MERRY CHRISTMAS 2010!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Garden Railway Running at Christmas...

Hello everyone. Well, here we are again, the final pre-Christmas railway post. This year the honour goes to my 00 gauge Garden Railway; the Sutherland Steam Railway. After an unsuccessful attempt to make a proper video last Saturday due to the snow, I tried again today. Therefore, you can see the video below(!)...

As always, if the video looks too small then double-click to see it larger. The first thing I had to do today was of course to clean the track. Now, the route was buried under around 2 inches of snow so the first thing was to brush the track. I then used an old coach and pushed it along the track to clear the flangeways (the inside of the rails where the wheels run). In past years, the railway has operated with snow between the rails but with the flangeways clear. However, this year, due to extra frost, it refused to run! Therefore, drastic action was taken; the track was sprayed with de-icer; especially on the points; and then scrubbed with emry-paper before being rubbed over with a towel. This created shiney rails with no snow between. In this form, though it took longer to prepare, the railway ran without trouble. A select pool of locomotives can be seen in the video, hauling a multitude of trains including four different freight train rakes to say the least! I hope you enjoy the video; it took more time and determination to make than I care to describe! For those who are interested, more SSR video's will air in 2011, starting with a Winter Gala theme around Jan/Feb time. Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening and Merry Christmas...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Stewarding the Santa's at Shackerstone...

Hi all. Now, from time to time, I will occasionally be dragged away from the Steam Department at Shackerstone to do something a little more "commercial" as it were. Today was one of those days! This week, rather than serving on the Bar as I did a few weeks back, I was stewarding one of the BR Mk1 coaches. This involves welcoming guests, seating them, serving everyone drinks, serving everyone mince pies and the children biscuits, answering questions, continuously tidying the coach, helping with other on-train tasks, saying goodbye to the guests and helping them off the train, cleaning out the coach AND readying it for the next people! (This is not to mention everything else that crops up in between!). Roughly, I had 64 people to look after over 4 departures lasting around 90 minutes each. The day's locomotive was the beautiful B1 No1306 "Mayflower". It was a very frosty day indeed and I arrived at Shackerstone on a crisp driveway at 9am. After the days work, I eventually left Shack at 7pm sharp; what a long day! During the day, on the Midday train, fellow CMES member Peter was in our coach for a trip with his family. Peter kindly sent in the three photographs seen in this post. Thank you! Below, I rush back through the coach to the Steward's end...
Below, myself and my 'Manager' I suppose, also Sam, give out Mince Pies on the Buffet Car (see what I mean, in between everything else!!)...
Thanks very much for reading folks. I was due to travel up to Evesham for a day on the 15" gauge railway on Tuesday but, by the looks of it, we're snowed off! Look out for a final pre-Christmas post coming this week. Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Where We Have Been...

Hi all. A very short post but one I that believe is of interest. I was just thinking of all the Places of Railway Interest Which We Have Visited So Far:
*Battlefield Line Railway

*Evesham Vale Light Railway
*Great Central Railway
*Great Central Railway (Nottingham)
*Severn Valley Railway

*London Underground
*Northampton and Lamport Railway
*Irchester Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
*Rhyl Miniature Railway
*Great Orme Tramway
*Golden Valley Light Railway
*Northampton Ironstone Railway Trust
*Blackpool Tramway
*Llangollen Railway
*Railworld - Peterborough
*National Railway Museum
*Telford Steam Railway
*Tyseley Loco Works
*Statfold Barn Railway
*Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway

*North Gloucestershire Railway
*Telford Steam Railway
*Midland Railway Centre
*North Bay Railway
*Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway
*Romney, Hythe Dymchurch Railway
*Nene Valley Railway
*Cadeby Light Railway

*Snowdon Mountain Railway
*Llanberis Lake Railway
*Chasewater Railway
*Peak Rail
*Crich Tramway Village
*Coventry Railway Centre
*Churnet Valley Railway
*Foxfield Railway
*Bodmin and Wenford Railway
*West Somerset Railway
*Lynton and Barnstaple Railway
*Leighton Buzzard Railway
*Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway
*South Devon Railway
*Bala Lake Railway
*Lakeside Miniature Railway

*Didcot Railway Centre
*Volks Electric Railway
*The Railway Age - Crewe
*LNWR Loco Works

And thats only of gauges 15" upwards! It also doesn't include the railtours we've been on either, such as to York with "Nunney Castle", Lincoln with "Rood Ashton Hall" and even Didcot with "Flying Scotsman"! (Please note - Many of the above are from my 'pre-blog' days! Sorry!)

This list is ever-growing and I hope to continue to add to it as much as possible! One of the next on the agenda is the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, set of the 1970s film "The Railway Children". Maybe we'll get there...one day! Thanks all. Goodnight...

Steam Toy's In The Snow...

Hi all. Today I was off out to the Garden Railway. More snow overnight had created yet more frost and ice as well as extremely cold conditions. However, with the snow now falling in only a small flurry, I decided to try and get the Garden Railway running for a few film shots. The first thing I did was to sweep the track and defrost the outdoor points using a heater and some de-icer. With a bit of a clean, the trains were soon running. 56xx No6600 made a few good first runs with the 20-wagon freight train and even the Black 5 took a turn on her LMS Coaches. By now I was ready to film but the snow began to get heavier and heavier once again. Therefore, after capturing 3 short clips of No5775 on her GWR stock, I gave up...and so did the railway! However, though the 00 gauge had to cease operations, I did not; I went inside and brought out my two Steam Toys: the Wilesco D405 and the Mamod SW1. Both engines were soon in steam and I filmed them in the snow. The steam effects were very visible in the cold weather and therefore have picked up well on the film. The video is included above; and, as usual, double-click to enlarge! I hope you enjoy my little post from today; it was bitterly cold! Unfortunately however, the Steam Lorry is now out of action due to a stripped thread on its front axle. Hopefully I'll get a new one asap! Thanks for reading folks; Good Evening...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Quiet Afternoon at CMES...

Hi all. After seeing "Tornado" this morning, I fancied a quiet afternoon at CMES with the miniature railway guys. Arriving there at 1pm, my first job was to fit the final six channels to the new steaming bays. These will allow the new tracks to be mounted on top when ready. Myself, Emma and a small team then began fitting extra-secure locks to the windows of the clubhouse. This will of course increase security and reduce the chances of a break-in. After a quiet afternoon, I left CMES at around 4:10pm for home. The darkness was already falling as I turned out of RPCP and off down towards the A46. I will next be up at CMES on New Years Day for the Public Running and on January 8th for the Steam Up. Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening...

A Yuletide Tornado...

Hi everyone. Today folks, in the chilly breeze, we headed out in the Saxo to see the A1 Pacific "Tornado" on the West Coast Main Line. The A1 was hauling the "Cathedrals Express" between Euston and Chester, returning later in the day. The pacific was sheduled to take water at Nuneaton between 10:33am and 10:53am. Therefore, I had two choices; catch her before, or catch her after. In this area, particularly on the Down Slow, there aren't many good locations where you don't risk getting bowled by the odd Penadlino or passing 'Shed' (Class 66). However, one location that isn't too bad is Marston Jabbett. When the light is right, you get a good view of all passing rail traffic from the road. At this location, the Down Slow is the furthest line away. However, I was willing, for once at least, to give it a try. Having parked up, I placed the Tri-Pod and video camera up on the roof of the Saxo, checking the light and the pan. Many passing Pendalino's did however give the worry of getting bowled at any moment! Though the light was a little overpowering in the southerly direction, the glint did look beautiful on the side of the A1. Soon enough, a little early even, the A1 approached on 12 coaches. Past she coasted on the Down Slow, approaching Nuneaton for her water stop. Apart from a few other photters in the shot, the video here doesn't look too bad. I may one day use this location again. Below, "Tornado" has just crossed the road bridge and heads off into the distance...
After seeing the A1 once, I had a think and decided, at the last minute, to chase her and try to catch her again. A little earliness and a 20-minute stop would give me a limited amount of time to takeover and get in front. But, either way, worth a try! The next location past Nuneaton Station is around the Leathermill Lane area. I videoed 60163 here back in May on the same train so I didn't see the point in trying there again. After that, more shots are available on the Up Slow, not the Down. The next good location is Atherstone. So, I tried there! Down at Atherstone, we set up on the platform but the glint of the sun was terrible. But, we tried anyway. "Tornado", fresh from her water stop, roared through throwing black smoke over her shoulder. Below, "Tornado" has just come out of the glint and speeds through Platform 1, bound for Chester...
The shot at Atherstone wasn't bad either. Wether it was worth the petrol or not, I can't decide! From the human eye it was! But at the last moment, a glinty shot was all I could manage. The video below is what we managed to get...

As usual, Blogger seems to distort my videos. Therefore, double-click to see it larger. Anyway, well worth seeing "Tornado" again; what a beautiful machine. Thanks for reading folks - Good Day. I'm off to CMES this afternoon...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Freezing & Steamy at Shackerstone...

Hi all. Today, again in freezing conditions, I made my way over to Shackerstone. The plan was to do a day in the shed; obviously with as many stoves as possible lit for warmth! On my arrival at 10:15am, the day's engine (1306 "Mayflower") had just left with the first train of the day (the 10am). With a quiet, frosty station in front of me as I walked from the car, I headed off into the cafe for a bacon baguette and a cuppa'. After my lovely breakfast, I signed in and then headed off down to the shed. Inside, it was even colder. Trails of ice lined the walls and you could easily see your breath in the air. Dear me, even writing this makes me feel cold! The running area of the shed was rather quiet, with no engines to see. Pannier No5786 was resting in the storage area, along with "Lamport No3", "Blue Circle", "Sir Gomer" and the Bubblecar. The Pannier will be out next weekend, and "Mayflower" again the weekend after that. 5786 will then see us up to Christmas with a special steaming on Christmas Eve. Today's jobs included the cleaning of 5786's smokebox and firebox. However, though we got the smokebox done to a high standard, as well as the tubeplate and steam pipes, the firebox proved far too hot to bare. The Pannier had been on a warming fire the day before when 1306 had experienced frost problems, but it turned out that she wasn't needed in the end. Having been brought to almost full heat, 5786's firebox was by no means a hospitable place. I opened the door, felt the heat, and shut them again; I wasn't going in there; and if I had I probably wouldn't have come back out! Below, the clean smokebox and tubeplate of 5786...
The rest of the day included a tidy up of the shed, a complete clean out of the pit (done by myself), movement of pallets, the making of a new stove, the lighting of the current stoves, cleaning out "Blue Circle", cleaning 5786, wripping up new rags, breaking up wood, moving loco parts, drinking tea, defrosting the water tower etc. A good day all told. We even had a visit from some of the owners of 5542, who were also custodians of 5786 (no pressure!). They were of course impressed with the condition that their engine was being kept in; cold or not! 5786 had had her injectors wrapped up, as well as her hydrostatic lubricator; no harm in protecting them from the bad frost. Below, myself at the door, stands in the clean shed...
Later on, a quick trainee photo on a still warm 5786. From the left, Danny, myself and Joe. The cold winter light creeps in on the right...
Meanwhile, 1306 was in and out throughout the day. She worked all four 'Santa' departures with distinction and ease. I must admit, its always nice to pop out from the shed to see her leave! Us trainees, Grahem E and the two Mic's had a good time in the shed today, and got alot of work done. It was certainly worth going. Thanks alot to Mr M.Jones for providing all four of the images featured in this post. I left the railway at 5:30pm, through the freezing fog and back to Bedworth..."Come on Saxo"! Thanks everyone; Evening All...