Monday, 30 May 2011

A Quiet Turn with the Beautiful B1...

Hi everyone. Today, at 6:10am, fresh from an early breakfast at McDonalds, I pulled up at the gates of Shackerstone. Just then, Neil pulled up behind. I unlocked the gates and we drove in tandem up the lengthy driveway towards the station. After parking we made our way to the loco works through the damp morning air. Inside lay our three steamable engines; "Sir Gomer", 3803 and the beautiful B1 "Mayflower". The B1 was still red hot from her two outings over the weekend; so hot in fact that she had enough steam on to move herself outside! As the heay rain fell outside, I broke up a pallet with Fireman Mark whilst Driver Neil cleared out the firebox. With the wood broken up, the fire was lit. The loco moved forward, under her own steam, so that her chimney cleared the shed roof but the rest of her remained in the dry. Myself, Neil and Mark then cleaned the engine with the help of Jamie. The B1 came around to quickly however that, by 9am, we were in Platform 1 simmering in the pouring rain; with the first train not until 11:15am! The engine looked a treat though. Having already been cleaned, the rain didn't affect her shine too much. At 10am, having got changed, I sit in the Fireman's Seat on 1306, blissfully aware of the 200psi simmering away inside the boiler...
A look in the firebox at 10am shows a good fire blazing away on the sloping grate. The Eastern style Flap Door is also clearly visible...
"Perfection at Shackerstone": 1306 simmers away. What a beautiful machine. You would never tell that her paintwork is nearly 10 years old!...
The locomotive performed beautifully all day and enjoyed 5 relatively well-loaded trips on the 4-coach rake. It was, once again, a pleasure to be on her footplate. We had a pretty simple day, romping through the lovely Leicestershire countryside, with 1306 throwing thick white steam over her shoulder and up into the damp air. Later on, the B1 pulls into Market Bosworth with the last returning train to Shackerstone of the day. And "Yes"; its still raining!...
Back at Shackerstone, the Shed Cat spent her day dozing under the cosy cover of the Station Veranda on Platform 1. She looked nice and warm bundled up on top of a fabric Suitcase. She was there at 9am, and she was still there when we pulled in on the last train of the day!...
Below, we can see another of my brief footplate videos. Mark is Driving with Neil on the shovel. The B1 pulls away from Shenton, up the embankment towards Far Coton. She strides along easily with the 4-coach rake, shining on through the rain...

After 5 successful trips, the very damp B1 returned to the shed for a well earned warm & dry rest. We disposed of the lovely 4-6-0 before heading for home at around 5:45pm. A very nice day again with beautiful "Mayflower". Thanks very much to Neil, Mark and Jamie. Her next planned steaming is at the end of June for "Thomas" I believe when she may again change indentity to a certain Green Engine of a different name. Look out for 1306 at Shackerstone. If you haven't already seen her, you are missing out. She is probably the best kept engine in preservation; she is beautiful. The amount of time and effort that goes into keeping her in such fantastic condition is unbelievable. Her boiler ticket is up this year and her last steaming at Shackerstone is pencilled in for September. Therefore, please, if you haven't seen her already; please do. You are missing out! :). Thanks for reading folks. Good evening...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Models Weekend 2011 at the Battlefield Line...

Hi all. This weekend (May 28th-30th), the Battlefield Line Railway at Shackerstone held its "Models Weekend". The event, held mainly at the midway station of Market Bosworth, was the first of its kind for around 5 years, having been an annual event up until 2006. In fact, we used to exhibit the LEGO railway there back in the day - before I was a Shackerstone working member! Returning in 2011, the event featured model railways, a model engineering display, display stands, a collection of steam toys and even a 3" Ruston Proctor traction engine. The locomotive rostered was the beautiful LNER B1 No1306 "Mayflower". 1306 provided a 5-train service on all three days of the event and was very popular with visitors. Despite the changable weather, the event received a good amount of visitors and favourable reviews. I, not being on duty today, decided to go along and check out the event. I arrived at Market Bosworth; in the Saxo; at around 11am and immediately took a good look around the show. I must admit, for a first year returning, it wasn't too bad at all. I film alot of the exhibits, and of course the beautiful B1. Its lovely to get some film of 1306 as I never seem to get a chance! Below, the B1 roars away from Market Bosworth with Driver George Saville on the regulator. The 4-6-0 is in fine form indeed...
The same shot is recreated below in the first video clip. The 2nd video clip see's 1306 roar out of Market Bosworth on a later train. In the later clip, George's wife (Marie) is on the regulator...

The second video you will see (below) is of the two biggest Model Railway layouts at the show. The first is an O Gauge Hornby 3-Rail collection. There were countless buildings, coaches and locomotives on this layout. It was a very interesting display with many things moving all of the time. It was very popular indeed with the visitors. The stock varies from over 50 years old to products of this year. Look out for the digitally-operated Duchess Pacific including smoke, station announcements, Stanier hooter and chuff sounds. Lovely layout indeed. The second layout featured is the Gauge 1 (45mm) live steam, named "Midsomer Norton". This huge track, including well-modelled scenary, saw many different locomotives running throughout the weekend. Perhaps the most interesting was the perfect model of 2-2-0 "Blue Circle" which unfortuantely doesn't feature in my film. But, I assure you, it was fantastic. This layout really was popular and drew your eyes very easily. I couldn't get over one thing though...the sight of many live steam 45mm gauge £3000 cheques flying around at great speed...

The final video (below) features alot of the other exhibits including a display of coal fired live steam; regular readers will notice the Darjeeling B and the Darjeeling Garratt that I filmed running at LSMR 2011 (see previous post). Other exhibits include a 2.5" gauge coal fired loco, the 3" Ruston Proctor, a Model Woodyard and of course a fantastic display of Mamods and Model Engineering projects...

Below, the Gauge 1 display during a quiet period. The Market Bosworth Goods Shed did a fantastic job in its first event since being acquired by the railway. It is a huge, brick-built structure with lighting, good security and even an upstairs. This building has huge potential and I'm sure next years model show will be even bigger and even better (the LEGO will be going for a start)...
Below, the 3" Ruston Proctor in steam. I love the livery and it runs like a well-oiled sewing machine. This lovely little engine; owned by Pockets; was in steam giving running demonstrations on both Saturday and Sunday. However, on Monday, due to the almost constant rain, I think she stayed dry inside the Goods Shed on display!...
Below, the lovely model engineering display by North West Leicester club. This included a fabulous 3.5" Doris (Black 5), a 5" Polly and a fabulous 94xx Pannier Tank. The display was both interesting and popular...
All in all, a lovely display of models with alot of potential for next year. Well done to Carl and Pockets (Andy) for arranging it; very good show lads. After a good look around the show and alot of filming, I headed for home at around 4:30pm. Tomorrow?: I'm back at Shackerstone for a turn with the B1 "Mayflower". Thank you all. I hope you enjoyed this post. Look forward to seeing you all at the 2012 Models Weekend at Shackerstone where we shall be in attendance with our LEGO railway! Evening all...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

"Achilles" Steams Again...

Hi everybody. As you all know, I am a member of Coventry Model Engineering Society, and there are many different locomotives, both society-owned and privately owned. Regular readers will remember my brief mentions of the 5" gauge Reeves "Achilles" locomotive. "Achilles" is a substantial tank loco; the 0-6-0 version of the "Ajax" in fact; and is readily available from Reeves. Mr K Hall owns this particular example, having built it himself. The engine was completed in 1990 and has since ran countless times. However, since early 2009, the engine has been plagued with various problems emulating from her double-acting Water Pump. Further more, new boiler legislation has meant that all spindles (i.e. blower valves) have to be made captive, no matter how unlikely the event of unscrewing them completely! With these modifications taking place, "Achilles" has been out of service until this week when she was finally completed. The loco was filled with water a few days ago and we test steamed her today. This was a non-public, private test undertaken at base. If successful, the loco would be prepared for a journey to CMES for official tests; both hydraulic and steam. Luckily, all problems were resolved and the loco performed faultlessly. We lifted her bufferbeams onto blocks, allowing the wheels to be freely suspended. This would allow the loco to run, both forwards and backwards, and to display working of the water pump. The system worked well and "Achilles" seemed in fine form, having not steam for 2 years!...
For the test, the loco had the cab sides, cab front, coal bunker, cab floor and cab roof removed. This allows quick and easy changes to be carried out inside the cab. For example, operation of the hand pump. With the loco ready, and 1/3 of a glass of water in the boiler, I lit the fire. This was done using the usually fuel-soaked wood and coal. Within 15 minutes, the loco had 70psi (out of a full 90psi), and we got going. With a little persuasion using the pole reverser and a whiff of steam (in order to warm the cylinders and open the automatic drains), "Achilles" started away. Alot of water was blasted from the four drain cocks but, with 30 seconds or so, all was cleared. The loco was then operated at line speed. The valve gear sounded in good shape and the beat was crisp. The axlepump worked perfectly; easily filling the boiler to above the top nut in only a few revolutions of the wheels. Below, "Achilles" chugs away happily with water pump operating perfectly and regulator just cracked...

Within 15 minutes of raising steam, the loco had successfully passed the tests which myself and Ken had in mind. Fantastic! So, with that, we disposed of the engine. Mind you, she already had a full glass! Thansk to Ken for a nice little morning out with "Achilles" - now for the official tests! Good day all...

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Wonderful Day II At Bala; A Pictorial Record...

Hi everyone. Well, after a lovely meal and a few pints at the "Eagles" last night, we awoke this morning ready for another day on the footplate of "Maid Marian". Arriving at the shed at 8:20am, the skies were threatening and the wind was howling loudly. It was an awful morning. I did the tubes under the cover of the shed, and the smokebox too. However, the loco had to be ashed out outside, and the fire lit in the pouring rain...lucky we had a small cab. And then, just like that, out came the hot morning sun. Then, it rained again, and then was sunny again. It went like that pretty much all day! The weather really couldn't make its mind up. Oh well, were nice and warm (if damp!) on "Marian". In the morning, with my cuppa', I indulged in some chocolate trains...still a big kid ay?!...
Myself and Eddie cleaned the cab brass whilst the heavy rain fell, and then cleaned the outside when sun showed itself briefly. It was quite different when we took out the first run though...the sun shone all the way. It really was beautiful...and very hot too! You would never have believed it. "Maid Marian" was built in 1903 as Hunslet No822. She worked, along with her sisters, in the Dinorwic slate quarries and was purchased by the Maid Marian Fund in 1965, for preservation. She is now based at Bala Lake and runs regularly, operating in turn with sister "Holy War" (who we took out last year)...
The loco shed at the base is quite simple, yet adequate. There are machines and many tools...more than enough to carry out substantial overhauls on these 2ft gauge engines. Those who have read my posts from last year's Bala visit will remember that cabless 0-4-0 "Alice" was almost finished, after a long overhaul. In fact, she steamed last summer and ran for a few months. However, a few months ago she failed a boiler exam as one of the inspection plugs didn't have enough material to be rethreaded. Therefore, she was stopped and the boiler removed. Poor "Alice". She now sits, boiler off, in the shed. The boiler is soon off to the SVR at Bridgnorth for heavy repairs. The loco will return to service asap. Shame really, she is a lovely machine...
Meanwhile, sister engine "Holy War" is enjoying a repaint of her saddle tank. The railway manager, Roger, has a good hand for loco painting and so has undertaken the job...
A quick view of the loco works. At the back you can see the green Peckett "Triassic". She is a basic machine; basically a baby "Sir Gomer"; but is powerful, so I hear. However, she now needs alot of work doing, including heavy boiler work. So, I fear, she may not return to work at Bala. On the right, under some sheets, you can see "George B"; the fourth and final Hunslet at Bala. "George B" is making slow progres is a heavy overhaul from scrapyard condition. She has never ran in preservation. Mind you, it is a 1st class job...absolutely no slop in the bushes or the slide bars; fabulous work by the Bala team...

Meanwhile, myself and Eddie had great day out on the footplate of "Maid Marian" again. Four trips, taking 1 hour each, gives a leisurely day, with 35 minutes break between runs. However, that 35 minutes also includes ashing out the loco, raking the fire and taking on coal & water. So, you normally end up with 15-20 minutes to have your free cobs and cuppa'. Below, I have included quite a few pictures and videos of the railway today. I hope you enjoy them and that they also give you an idea of our lovely little weekend in Wales. Oh, and, did I tell you we have adopted Welsh names? Fireman Shadwell takes a break on the footplate of "Maid Marian" as she descends towards Llangower with a Bala train...
"Maid Marian" waits at Bala with the 11:50am departure for the base. With less people expected today, we took 4 coaches instead of 5...
Below, we see a video taken from the footplate of "Maid Marian" on the run between Bala and Llangower. Driver Idrys takes the train along the snaking tracks on the edge of the lake...

Down at Llangower, a Bala-train awaits departure behind a cab-first "Marian". The sun was out but the wind was VERY strong. It almost took our hats!...
"Have you ever seen such a beautiful view from a cab window?"...the train comes out of Bala towards the little iron bridge, bound for Llangower...
Running down the line towards Bala, the views of the lake really open up. They do look their best under the sun though! It really is lovely...
Midday at Llangower. The wind is howling yet the sun is shining. The view from "Marian" is almost like that of a seaside!...
Driver Idrys (Eddie) in enthusiastic mode as "Marian" makes her way towards Bala on an afternoon turn...
Action shot on "Marian" as we steam homeward. The mechanical lubricator (a preservation fitment, as these engines had hydrostatic lubricators) can be seen on the running board...
Below, "Marian" chugs along the meandering tracks towards Llangower. It is nice to get the odd footplate film now and again is it not?!...

Up at base, the little red engine is admired by a party of Brownies. We were just about to take the engine off the train and coal up/water up ready for the last run of the weekend...
Below, Driver Idrys stands on "Maid Marian" at Bala as I take the trademark photograph, in front of the railway's very own sign!...
In sunlight, "Marian" waits to depart Llangower upgrade, with driver Idrys in the cab. I have just put on some more coal ready for the departure...
On any return trip on the BLR, the most taxing part is the last 1/2 mile back to base. This is a lengthy 1 in 70 incline and really makes the engine work pretty hard. Just before the start of the climb, "Pentrepiod"; a request halt; comes into view. This is known as "Last Chance Saloon". If you haven't got your coal on by here...it won't give you heat when you go up the bank! From "Last Chance" onwards, you're on your own. "Marian" seemed to attack the bottom of the hill, but then slowed to her 'own speed' as we neared the top...everytime! However, there is never any doubt that she will get up there. Below, "Marian" attacks the 1 in 70 on the very last run of the weekend, back to base. Sorry about the wind-noise, but hear "Marian" roar...

Following the filming of the above, we arrived back on time. We then shunted the stock away, uncoupled the loco, raked her fire, took her into the shed and filled her with water. She also wore a chimney cap. We then disposed of her properly and then headed for a cuppa', followed by a shower. What a lovely weekend it has been. Thanks to Eddie (Idrys) and everyone on the Bala Lake Railway. It really is a fantastic little line and I would encourage anybody to go along and try it for themselves; its just great. Myself and Idrys will be crewing there again on August 13th and 15th, with me (Shadwell) crewing with another driver on the 14th too. Look out for posts on that as they happen! By 6:50pm tonight, we were on our way home and, after a good run, we were home by 9:10pm. Thank you all for reading. Comment if you wish. Goodnight!...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Everyone's Off To Bala...

Hey everyone. Last night, at around 7pm, myself and Eddie set off under the light of the setting sun for the Bala Lake Railway in deepest North Wales. Regular readers will know that we had a fantastic weekend up at the BLR last June and therefore booked this one so we could have another go. Well, so I could have another go I should say(!); Eddie is a regular Bala Lake driver. Finally, after a quick journey over the beautiful mountains, we arrived at the BLR base at Llanuwchllyn just before 9:30pm, ready for a night in the railway's own accomodation, set in the station attic. Next morning, we arose to a blustery welsh morning and made our way down to the sheds for the 8:30am start. The Bala Lake Railway runs for 4.75 miles between Llanuwchllyn and Bala on the old GWR Ruabon - Barmouth line. However, the old standard gauge formation has since been reduced to 2ft gauge and is now operated by a small company, supported by a society. The loco fleet is made up of 5 steam engines and 3 diesels; with 3 of the steamers usually in regular operation, though at present only two are running. Trains run every weekend in the season, and daily through the summer. Its a lovely ride, through some of the best scenary I have ever seen from a loco cab...why not go along and see for yourself?! Our charge for the weekend was to be 0-4-0 Hunslet "Maid Marian", one of four Quarry Hunslets based at the BLR. In the morning, the Fireman first has to clean the tubes and smokebox, then the grate and then the ashpan. You can then light the engine up; providing you have enough water of course...
Once the loco is lit up, the Fireman has to clean the cab brasses and the Driver can oil up as well as cleaning the outside of the engine. Meanwhile, the fire has to be tended to, and the wood stocks replenished before the loco leaves shed. "Maid Marian" blows off at 110psi, and so 90-100psi is probably the best working pressure when out on the line. If you go less than 90psi, she seems to struggle a little bit; not much, but a little. My family were due down today, to see the delights of the Bala Lake Railway. They arrived at around 10:30am and were soon off up into the cafe to sample the famous sponge cakes (they are great!). We on the other hand had already had tea as the crews get a cuppa' at 10am, after you've ordered your FREE lunch of course (nothing like hospitality is there!). By 11am, we were off shed and at the water tower, taking both water and coal, as well as ashing out. At 11:15am, with the family on board, we steamed away on the first train of the day. The family took the following photo's. View over the lovely Bala Lake; the largest natural lake in Wales...Fireman Sam Brandist looks out from the cab of "Maid Marian" as the train leaves the foot of the 1 in 70 bank, bound for Bala...
Firing this line is pretty easy but you need to keep on top of it. The loco's only carry a 1ft x 2ft firebox and so you need to keep the fire well made and let as little cold air into the firebox as possible. This is due to the lack of brick-arch etc. There are three stations and two halts, both of the latter being stopped at "on request" only. For alot of its length, the line runs roadside and, more importantly, lakeside. The lakeside areas are the best...the very best. I love the railway for its scenary, its tidy layout and its friendly atmosphere, not to mention the quaint 2ft gauge locomotives. On a return run, I look out from the loco and back into the 1st coach (an Open) where the family were sitting. This is a good vantage point from which to describe the route between firing...
Up at the base, I prepare the fire before departure for Bala. Normally, the Fireman will fire from the footplate and you have pretty ample space to see any holes that may form. However, when you want to rake the fire out properly, and see potential clinker, you need to stand before the engine and open the rear doors. You can then see the fire properly and rake the bars, and even use the clinker-tongs if required. Below, I feed the fire after giving it a good rake out to check for clinker...
After their ride on the railway, the family took a walk up the Aaron moutains behind the station. As they climbed the lower hills, they managed to capture the shot below. Bala Lake can be seen in the distance, as can the mountains on the other side. In the centre-left of the image can be seen the main station and the train waiting to depart. I could see them from here, as could the 150-people sitting in the waiting 2:25pm departure for Bala! Honestly, they saw me waving from the loco and they all waved shouting "Hi Mum"...wow!...
At Bala, the train arrives on the downgrade with myself and Eddie at the helm...
video
This really was a fantastic day out. The family really enjoyed themselves and we will be seeing them again tonight at the local "Eagles" pub for a nice meal after a hard day on the footplate. Well, I say hard, but we are on holiday!! I think the best trip of the day was the 2:25pm, as we had a literally FULL train. Two coach parties had arrived on 'Great Little Trains of Wales' excursions and were taking a return trip. These passengers filled three of the coaches, leaving the other two to be filled by the normal passengers, many more of which joined at Bala. So, with a full 5-coach train, we really felt the weight! However, "Maid Marian" still flew up the bank with ease but, she did sound VERY loud! Even so, she steamed beautifully and was a joy to fire. What a day. By 5:30pm, we had the loco disposed and put to bed before leaving for a cuppa', followed by a shower and a night out at the "Eagles". Evening all; more pics and videos of Bala coming tomorrow!...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

"James" and "Trojan" Take Rugby!...

Hello everybody. Well, it's Post No42, and another 'first'; a driving turn at Rugby MES' "Rainsbrook Valley Railway". My friend James, who's Romulus I drive sometimes at the GEC, invited me along today as he was taking his engine for her bi-annual Rugby visit. The Rainsbrook Valley Railway has a raised 3.5"/5" line and also a ground-level 7.25" gauge line; the latter being the one which we would use today. The two tracks are based on a scenic site set just off Onley Lane on the outskirts of Rugby. The supporting society; Rugby Model Engineering; looks after the entire site and has a wide variety of members and visiting locomotives. Trains run for the public every 3rd Sunday in the month, from April - October (2pm - 5pm). Rides on both tracks are priced at a very reasonable £1 each; particularly for the 7.25" which is a lovely 7-minute or so ride. Today, we pulled up at Rugby in the Defender at around Midday, with "James" the Romulus in tow...
Many engines were already being readied for steaming up. The RVR has good facilities for locomotives. The steaming bays are equipped with pits for the operatives to stand in; bringing the loco up to a good working height. As well as this, the bays have water and electricity. There is also ample space to ash-out/blow-down. The loading ramp is equipped with a hydraulic 'Lifting Table'. I must admit, these things are fantastic! The trailer is reversed up to the ramp, the table rises, the loco goes on, the table descends and the loco is pushed up to the turntable..."Easy!". Below, "James" is half way onto Rugby territory, on 'his' way to the bays...
Up on the bays, the locomotives were already being prepared; some having arrived alot earlier. One engine that I know well is the Brown family's 0-4-0 Freelance tendered Saddle Tank No10 "Trojan". Based at the Brown's own private 7.25" railway, "Trojan" used to be a regular GEC engine; and I have driven her a few times up there (see previous posts). The loco is now a regular at Echills Wood and I hope to take at least one trip up there with her this year. Below, the loco stands on her bay awaiting steaming; on the left you can see another Kingsbury regular...the 0-4-2 Tinkerbell "Douval"...
A view of the bays can be seen below. Closest, "James" is receiving boiler treatment and water through the filler mounted in the dome. Next, "Trojan"; proudly displaying 'EMR' on the tender. The third engine is "Douval". She is a ride-in locomotive and is pretty big for 7.25". This explains why Tinkerbell's are often known as 'track bashers'...look at the size of it! Next, another engine I have seen before; "Romburg". Regular readers will know that I took at a ride behind this lovely 0-6-0 Romulus variation at a friends private line last September (see post). Fifth and final steamer today was "Colsyn"; a little, blue, small-boiler Romulus. Impressive bays ay?! Mind you, a roof like the one at Kingsbury wouldn't go a miss!...
Below, "James" fills with water as her owner checks out lunch...
By 2pm, "James" was in steam and on the track, along with the other 4 steamers. Each loco was given two green RVR coaches; minus "Douval" which had three very small brown ones. First trip, I was driven around on the train by "James" so that I could 'route learn' as it were. I'd never driven here before but had been a passenger back in 2006 I believe. It was a lovely line then, and it still is. Following the first trip, James drove again on the 2nd with me packing away some of the preparation tools. Just then, the loco returned with a problem...
The mechanical lubricator cap, which is meant to be flat, jumped off the lubricator and into the valve gear. Unusually, rather than knock off and into the ballast, the cap became jammed and ended up stopping the loco dead. The cap became tangled between the crosshead and the end of the slidebar at the cab-end of the piston stroke. With the cab removed, the loco struggled back to the station where steam was low. I took the cap away and straightened it a little before returning. "James" then struggled in after another low-pressure trip. We removed the loco from the track and checked her over. The fire was good, the smokebox was clean, the ashpan was clean and the injectors worked fine. The loco was also pulling well. However, on the run, she wouldn't keep pressure or make it back. Upon further examination we found that a leaf spring had become disconnected from its compensator bar. This would mean that the loco could potentially lose proper valve timing and steaming would be impared. Therefore, we reconnected the spring, made up a good fire and tried again. The railway was by now very busy so we had to get "James" back on asap. Soon however, she was roaring along again. Below, "James" barks through the cutting on the steepest part of the line...
She seemed to steam better, holding pressure easier. However, she still wasn't up to her usual standard. Very unusual! Meanwhile, I ended up driving "Trojan" on quite a few laps. She is a lovely machine. Injectors are a dream, steaming is a dream, the bark is very crisp and the strength is considerable. She really is a proper driver's machine. She took one look at the severe incline on the return run and just chugged up like it wasn't even there! Below, "Douval" crosses the entrance to the steaming area with another train...
At the busy station, Kevin prepares his engine ("Trojan") for departure whilst the huge Tinkerbell takes water. When I say busy, I mean busy! The railway took 1034 passengers(!) today in only 3 hours!...
The journey? Well, the line leaves the busy station before crossing two crossings; a foot crossing and a road crossing. Both crossings are manned for safety reasons but it is still a good idea to whistle. The train then crosses a bridge before turning 90-degrees and a crossing another. The line then climbs past the 5" station before crossing another foot-crossing; also manned and lit. The track then heads through a wooded section, upgrade past the carriage sheds. The 5" line then comes into view and 3-tracks immerge; the 5", the down-line and the up-line. We are currently on the down-line if you follow me! The tracks then seperate again as the line heads heavily downgrade. A signal can be seen at the bottom of the bank and this will tell us if a train is in the approaching 'blind bend'. If the signal is clear, the train curves to the left 90-degrees. Below, the image shows two bridges. From my current location in the description, the train will be approaching from the top-right corner, and will pass under this bridge. This over-bridge is the 2nd of the two bridges described at the beginning!...
Once under the first bridge, the train curves 240-degrees heavily upgrade, also passing under the 2nd over-bridge which in turn is the first bridge on the line. Still following me?! Out of the curve, the train continues to climb in a straight line, with views over the Rugby countryside. At the top of the bank, the train is now on the up-line of course, and reaches the 3-track formation again, now on the left rather than in the centre. Soon, the line splits off again and climbs neatly towards the station signal. The train is then allocated a platform and given a signal when required. There are two platforms; arrival and departure; in two bays (1 & 2). Its a great set-up and a lovely run. And, they hope to extend! My goodness it will be long; but not as long as Kingsbury! I must admit though, it is a lovely drive; really nice and lovely sights to see. "Trojan" performed very well and I loved driving her again; thanks Kevin! "James" meanwhile was having great fun, hauling her own trains again. Soon however, with 1034 passengers carried, closing time arrived and the loco's went back on shed. "James" was then discovered to have lost a compensator bar; thereby sending the springing "out" again. No wonder she wasn't at her best! Oh well, these things happen. However, a very good day out. Sorry about the phone pics but I didn't think I'd have time to take my proper camera. Thanks all for reading and thanks to James, Kevin and Rugby MES for a great day out. "Another one done!". Evening all...

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Garden Railway; Spring In Steam...


Hi all. Just a short one from today, but still worthy of inclusion in my mind! Today I spent a good few hours (11am - 5pm) on my 00 gauge garden railway; known as the Sutherland Steam Railway. It was a blustery spring day and, with the track cleaned and ready to go, the trains began! Many different loco's were spotted out on the line today; perhaps most impressive was the visiting A4 Pacific No60022 "Mallard" in striking BR Blue livery. I have filmed an 8-minute or so clip for this post and it is included above. I hope you enjoy it and comments are always welcome. The Garden Railway has always been very popular on Youtube for example. Thanks all; good evening.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Sweet-est Pea...

Hello all. Welcome to another post; No40 of 2011 in fact; wow this year is going by fast! Well, after a restful day yesterday, it was nice to be back on the railways again this afternoon. Today, I was rostered for my first of three crew turns (in 2011) on the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway, operated by Coventry Model Engineering Society. The 2000ft-long raised 3.5"/5" gauge line operates every Sunday from Easter until the end of September, giving rides at £1 per passenger, using either steam or diesel haulage; all weather permitting of course. I became a member at CMES back in Spring 2004, at the ripe old age of 12. I was immediately passed out as a Guard up there and was up on many Sunday afternoons, as well as during the Steam Up's when I often drove engines; learning alot as I did so. Eventually, the moment I turned 16, I was passed out as a Driver, taking my first trains on the Easter Sunday of 2008. Since then, I've fallen in love with the practise of driving the 5" gauge steamers on heavy Sunday afternoon trains. Thats where my phrase; "I don't do diesels"; has come from! The regular steam engine; though I've driven others on Sundays in the past; is the society's own 0-4-0 Sweet Pea class No499 "John H Owen". This engine, built by various club members and finished in 1999, has become a powerful, reliable work-horse and can often be seen working trains. Indeed, today, she did all of them!...
Sweet Pea is the name given to this 5" gauge locomotive class. They are an 0-4-0 as a rule but can also be edited to become 0-4-2's and some even have tenders. Indeed, a tender is in the pipeline for No499 as we speak. The loco itself is designed as a 'Contractors Locomotive'. I myself see stark resemblences between the Sweet Pea and the 2ft gauge Bagnall Saddle Tanks which were often used in the slate quarries. Being such a successful 5" gauge engine, the Sweet Pea has become very popular and countless examples exist the world over, in one form or another. They employ a maintainence friendly Marine Boiler, connected to large Cylinders which then connect to their wheels via durable Hackworth Valve Gear. No499 herself employs a Handpump and two Crosshead Pumps for watering purposes, connected of course to the sizeable side tank. Even now, I sometimes don't realise just how big a Pea boiler is...it takes alot of water to fill it from empty! Employing a Pole Reverser, No499 pulls well and works economically. Indeed, I think she is the easiest engine to drive/fire I have ever known. Even better; the harder you work her, the better she steams. She is a dream. The only problem she has, as you would expect for a chunky 4-wheeler, is that she likes to 'rock & roll' on the track a little but, of course, careful handling will improve this no end. Today, I arrived at Ryton at 11:45am, and carried out a walking Line Inspection before the rest of the team arrived. My younger brother, as well as two extra members were also present. Steam was chosen as the motive power almost immediately, so myself and my brother soon set to cleaning and raising steam. By 12:40pm, she was blowing off. Below, 499 awaits passengers in the sunshine...
Taking our first passengers at just gone 12:45pm, I drove the loco until 2:45pm. I realise that 2 hours without a break; a proper one at least; is a long time but with No499 you really don't notice it. She steams freely, pulls well and is more than capable of doing the tasks we put to her. 3 full passenger cars really didn't tax her as much as you would expect. On average, the most she hauled today was 9 adults, including myself and the Guard...not bad going for a little engine, ay?! Meanwhile, the powerful Class 37 electric; which is usually the club stalwart; did no work all day...steam for the win! I must admit, I have achieved my ambition...steam worked all day and all trains..."Yes"! I do think the passengers notice us more, and enjoy the ride more, when we run steamed hauled trains. The smell, the sound and of course the sight of the engine is a huge cut above that of an electric loco; but thats just my opinion. Travelling steam hauled is by far the best way to see this part of the Ryton Pool Country Park anyway! My brother was out with the camera today, taking a few snaps. Below, I've included the pictures in route order. Below, the train has not long left the station, with a regular load. We have traversed the 'S' bend and are now crossing the Ryton Bridge. I will soon be shutting off to coast down across the Bendy-Beam and towards the Carriage Shed...Below, I'm still coasting. This section, as the loco is shut-off with the blower cracked, is normally a good place to check the fire and thicken it if necessary. The pump(s) can also be turned on here to replenish the boiler water if required. Just around this corner, I usually whistle as the train travels through the trees, before opening up again to climb the steep 1 in 70 bank, particularly the lower section as it rests on a 180 degree bend!...
Once around the 180 degree curve, the loco will usually accelerate as the effort required to climb the same gradient on straight track is slightly less. Interestingly though, the track is actually getting steeper, from 1 in 100 at the bottom to 1 in 70 nearer the top! At the top of the bank, the loco needs to be shut-off immediately to avoid a slip. The train can then coast downgrade over the bridge, again giving the driver a chance to check the fire and to add more water to the boiler again...
Next, the train runs along a relatively straight section before rounding a large 225 degree right-hand bend back up into the station again. The trip will generally take around 5-6 minutes. Below, I have shut-off and am now coasting the final stretch into the station. The blower will now be just cracked and the water pump(s) running...
In the 'Arrivals' platform at Ryton Halt, the passengers can leave the train whilst the driver checks pressure, water level and the fire. If all is well, the train can continue through into the Departure platform and to the Water Tower...
After an hour's break, I was handed back the regulator to work the final few trips, between 3:45pm and 4:15pm. I think I did about 4 trips on my later stint. Even then, No499 steamed fantastically with no problems to report at all. She really is a fantastic machine. Below, see a couple of video clips of us in action. First, "John H Owen" attacks the daunting 1 in 70 incline as the sun continues to shine...

Secondly, the train chugs up into the station on the very last leg of the journey...
video
After the last trip, we all helped clear up; me in particular putting the loco to bed, with the help of Paul. This involves whipping out the firebox and cleaning out any clinker, as well as the fire itself and any ash too. The inner firebox, tubeplate, tubes and smokebox also need cleaning out. The loco will then be Blown-Down. This process involves the opening of a tap underneath the boiler. This tap will release any steam and water from the boiler, hopefully removing any scale as it does so. With all of the steam and water gone, the tap can be shut. The resulting vacuum should then suck any water from the Saddle Tank through into the boiler again to fill it slightly, ready for the next operator. (Thats the plan anyway!). Now, all thats left is to clean the engine and put the various tools away, as well as the passenger cars. After a successful day with pleasant weather and a lovely engine; I left Ryton at 4:50pm. Thank you all for reading - I hope you enjoyed Post No40...Sam.