Monday, 29 August 2011

Bank Holiday with 3803...

Hello everyone. Today I was once again rostered out on GWR 2-8-0 No3803 at Shackerstone. The Great Western 'Class 8' was taking her usual role as the stalwart steam performer on the train services, calling at Market Bosworth and Shenton. I arrived at the railway at around 6:15am, at the same time as the Driver, Dave. The other Driver, Eddie, would arrive soon after. Once on site, we continued to the loco shed where we discovered the heavy freight locomotive inside and pouring out water from the tender. The hose had been left in overnight and it had overflowed; woo! With the hose turned off, we brushed most of the water out of the shed before clambering up onto the footplate of the 38'. I first checked the water level, which read 1/2 a glass. I then removed the deflector plate from inside the very hot firebox, though the fire had of course gone out. After checking the stays, tubes, flu's, side sheets and of course the fusible plugs, I raked the grate. I then used the 'Rocking Grate' section to remove the remaining ash from the fire-grate before laying a bed of coal down. I then added a mound of wood and a few parrafin-soaked rags. Next, I lit up. I continued to slowly add Coal to the fire; keeping as much a level bed as possible; throughout the morning. 3803 was later shunted outside by the 02, allowing 1306 "Mayflower" to be brought to the front of the shed ready for a light-up herself. 3803 meanwhile was placed on the Platform 1 road...
Throughout the morning we cleaned and prepped the 38', with the 2-8-0 leaving her resting position at 10:20am, before moving over onto the train. Once hooked up and with a quiet yet strong fire crackling in the box, we filled the boiler and awaited the first departure at 11:15am. We also took the opportunity to get changed at this point. After returning to the engine, Dave decided we should cook some of the breakfast he had brought with him, with Eddie taking centre stage as the chef...
Bacon on the shovel, by far the best way to cook it...
The two cobs each that Dave provided were very nice indeed; thank you, Dave! Meanwhile, up at the shed, "Mayflower" had shown herself as she steamed up ready for an examination following a boiler washout. I managed to get this quick shot from the tender of 3803 before we had to leave...
On the footplate, my very good crew; Eddie and Dave; prepare for departure to Shenton, in pensive mood...
In the box, the front was getting a little thin, so I coaled it somewhat. This engine doesn't like a thick front though, if anything it steams terribly with a thick front! However, you still need to keep it covered, as holes can let in cold air and reduce the level of efficient combustion...
Also up the shed, a pleasant sight; Peckett "Sir Gomer" out in the light, yet a little saddened by her recent boiler test failure. The Peckett was steamed on Wednesday and proved very tight in the boiler man's eyes. The injectors worked fine and the loco was proven to have a clean bill of health boiler-wise. However, unfortunately, new legislation says that loco's must move under the boiler inspector's supervision before they can be given a ticket. Sure enough, when the 1932-built 0-6-0ST tried to move, it proved somewhat difficult, as the regulator had seized shut! Damn! Mind you, it has been out of service for 3 years, no doubt all of the oil will have left the system by now. However, some slight freeing off will solve the issue, coupled with more and more use when the loco returns to service in the coming weeks. But, for now, she is at rest. Below, the little green Peckett rests in the spur at the side of the loco shed, still without her brass dome cover...
Back on 3803, the back-end has been coaled ready to depart for Shenton. The doors have been left open in order to give some 'secondary' or 'top' air to the fire, to improve combustion and to thin the smoke...
The first run was successful, with me firing and Dave on the regulator. For the 2nd trip, Driver Eddie took over. Below, we await departure from Shack with the 12:30, with 215psi on the clock and a roaring fire...
We were joined on the 2nd run by Reg; a fellow member of CMES, like myself and Eddie; who was once a Fireman on this line when it was still owned by BR. Reg remembers firing the route in the 50s, when freight traffic was still in regular action. He joined us for a round trip on a type of loco completely alien to him and Shackerstone; a Western! Below, we make a volcanic departure from Shackerstone's Platform 2...
2nd trip done, I was given a rest on the third, as Eddie fancied a go at firing, with Dave back on the handle. Very pleasant indeed! 3803 is a fantastic loco to be on; I just love it. After the 3rd run, I was back on the shovel and we departed Shack on time at 3pm. Down the line, the roving steam shed photographer; Dave; was out and about to capture some frivolity on the footplate (C = D.Hanks)...
The non-zoomed shot see's 3803 curving around towards Hedley's Crossing in the Shenton direction. Just look how open the tender is (C = D.Hanks)...
On the return run, 3803 approaches Hedley's Crossing with me looking out to check all is clear (C = D.Hanks)...
Dave even made it to Shenton where myself and Driver's Eddie and Dave are captured on the footplate of 3803 just prior to departure homeward (C = D.Hanks)...
Back at Hedley's, the beautiful 38' is captured on the 10mph slack, before opening up to climb the bank towards Congerstone and, eventually, Shackerstone (C = D.Hanks)...

After the 4th trip, we enjoyed a very pleasant final jaunt through the Leicestershire countryside, with a spirited performance from 3803 on the way back. When we got back, the fire was very thin, and the water and steam level's strong; just the way it should be! With "Mayflower" having already retreated to the back of the shed, we took 3803 straight in and disposed of her. By 5:40pm, we had signed off. Well, what a fantastic day again, in the company of a great crew and a great locomotive. I loved it. Thanks to Dave and Eddie for being my drivers, as well as to Mr Hanks for providing more photo's for both my and your interest. Finally, thanks for reading folks, good evening...

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ryton In Steam, But No "Achilles"...

Hi all. A quiet afternoon today, driving 0-4-0 Sweet Pea "John H Owen" at Ryton Pool. The railway was operating its usual 1pm - 4pm slot, though two trains were expected to operate due to the bank holiday. However, probably due to the weather forecast, the passenger numbers did not call for two trains, so we simply ran one passenger set, mostly hauled by the Sweet Pea. My engine, "Achilles", was due to attend to haul the 2nd rake but unfortunately failed during the week with fractured pipework underneath. So, she's out of service for a few weeks while we get a new T-piece made! The Sweet Pea ran for around 2 hours; driven by myself for the first hour and Emma for the second. Though it was steaming and pulling brilliantly, a sudden heavy downpour made rail conditions on the 1 in 70 very poor, so the green saddle tank began stalling, and was eventually failed by default, at around 3:30pm. So, with regret, the last few trips were hauled by the Class 37; boo! With 37 hauling the train, myself and Emma disposed of the Pea, before tidying up. At 4:10pm, the railway closed for the day and we packed away before heading home. Though it was short, it was a pleasant afternoon. I always enjoy driving that Sweet Pea on a passenger train; especially a very heavy one; its such a joy! I hope to be at RPMR again soon; though that was my last crew day of 2011; with my own loco, once its fixed. Keep reading folks! Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Signalling at Shackerstone...

Hi all. Well, today was a weird one. I ended up Signalling in the box at Shackerstone. So, due to this odd turn of events, I decided to write a little post about the Signalbox which, I suppose, is generally overlooked for chat about locomotives and firing. With the first train at 11:15am, I headed up into the box half an hour beforehand in order to switch the points and allow the rostered loco (3803) to cross-over and couple up to the front of the train. Inside the old Midland Box, there is a lever frame containing 16 levers. There is also bell-communication equipment, last used when this box was linked up to the one at Market Bosworth. Above the bell boxes, there is a small diagram of the station layout, as well as where the signals are located and their numbers on the lever frame...
The 16-lever frame can be spotted below: White levers are disconnected, Red levers are Signals, Blue levers are Facing-Point Locks and the one Black lever is for the Cross-over outside the box. In an example of Signalling, if you wanted to send a train arriving from the single line section across the cross-over and into Platform 1 you would have to: Pull out No4 (FPL), Pull out No13 (Cross-over), Replace No4, Pull Out No12 (Dolly for Platform 2)...
As you can see, the Signalbox only controls one set of Points (the Cross-over). However, there is also a lock for the Ground-Frame to the shed; the FPL No11. The other points on the railway, such as those in the North End and the South Yard, are all controlled by ground levers. However, there is a Trap-Point, preventing potential run-away's from the South Yard escaping onto the main line. If you pull out No13 then the Trap-Point is released to cause derailment to any run-away rolling stock or loco. Up in the box, you must prepare the road for the train to depart. This involves checking the line is clear by attaining the Single Line Token. You then have to plug the Token into an electrical circuit box which is in turn connected to the Advanced Starter (No15). When the circuit is made complete, a light is illuminated and the user can then press the Plunger which releases the No15 lever. Pulling out No15 will set the Starter to the 'Off' position. With No15 at Clear, the departing signal for Platform 2 can be set (No16). The train will then; following a 'Right Away' from the Guard; depart the station and pass the box at 5mph or less. The Signalman will then stand on the steps at the foot of the box to pass the Token to the footplate crew before checking all doors on the train are shut. Inside the box...
Below, GWR No3803 departs Shackerstone on the 1:45pm service to Shenton. The loco is approaching the box ready to receive the Token (by D.Hanks)...
Below, Dave J has taken over from me as the 3rd run departs. The loco has received the token and is proceeding into the 10mph section on the approach to No15. After the bridge in the distance, the speed is 25mph and the train is alone in the single line section. At present, there is no further signalling as all signals at Market Bosworth have been set to the 'Off' position as the box is closed (by D.Hanks)...
After signalling the two trips (under supervision of the Operating Manager) I left Shackerstone for home, to take apart my 5" engine "Achilles", ready for repair. In all, a very sombre but interesting morning at Shackerstone. I will be back there next Monday for the Bank Holiday running, firing aboard 3803 (back to the office!). Thanks for reading folks, and thanks to Dave for sending in three of the photo's used in this post. Best regards, Sam...

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Another Private Open Day...

Heya everyone. Today I attended the Open Day of a friend of mine; Pete; at his private 7.25" gauge Garden Railway and Lake. I will not include the location of the railway, or any private details, so as to protect the security of the site but, I will tell you a little about it. The line runs in a 'Figure of Eight' shape around the wooded site, circling the sizeable lake before descending into the back field, passing the prep area and turntable on the right. There is a then what I call a 'fast section' on a straight route, before curving left to retrace its steps towards the middle of the 'Eight'. The train then passes over a 'Crossing' before climbing heavily back up to the lakeside. As well as the 8-shape, there another loop which only circles the lake. The latter loop also includes a station area with passing/run-round loop. There were many trains running today; two of which were Pete's own. I stayed for around three and a half hours, during which time Pete asked me to steam up his newest loco; an 0-4-0 Saddle Tank in striking Blue. The loco is a 7.25" Station-Road-Steam 'Stafford' Class, freshly delivered and still being run-in. What a machine...
I steamed the Marine-boilered locomotive on the turntable, whilst other trains enjoyed many laps of the varied 3/4 mile track. Pete's LMS-liveried Class 08 electric is seen resting at the Headshunt of the new station before heading out onto the line again...
Back with 'Stafford', I had managed to raise steam. Then with Drain Cocks open, I released the handbrake and carefully opened the regultor. You could hear the steam whistling down into the cylinders and then, ever so gently, the loco started to move. Its very rare that you get the chance to drive a 'brand new' locomotive but, always savour the experience! 'Stafford' was so quiet, so smooth and steamed fantastically. What an engine, and cheap at 10k! I believe Station-Road-Steam are still selling them; see their website for details. The loco includes Vacuum Brakes, Manifold Regulator and two very good Injectors for water feed. There is no tender but Pete has provided a mineral-wagon type driving truck for his example. With steam to spare, I departed the bays and headed off around the circuit. 'Stafford' performed fantastically; I want one!...
As well as Pete's stock, there were visiting engines. In fact, four examples had turned up from the GEC Miniature Railway. These were Tich "Tom", Sweet-Romulus "Luna" and Y7 Tram "Toby", as well as the Warship electric. Below, "Tom" raises steam on the steaming bay, closely watched by owner, Barry...
To compliment the railway engines, Dave Hall had brought along his lovely 4" Burrell Traction Engine, which I drove last year at the MMEE. The engine is spotted in steam outside her trailer, before enjoying a run around the grounds...
That Burrell is a lovely example, built from a Modelworks kit. From experience, I would say that this 4" engine is probably one of the best designs ever to come out of Modelworks. Out on the lake, "Roundtuit" (the Steam Launch) was building up pressure ready to give some rides. The Launch takes a few circuits around the lake on each of its scenic (and free!) trips...
On the top level of the railway, "Luna" steams past the BBQ Area with one of Pete's log wagons...
A busy seen at the BBQ area as Luna's train (far right), Ken's blue electric and Malcolm's Warship all queue behind the 'Stafford' locomotive...
The GEC engines and their drivers seemed to be enjoying themselves each time I passed one of them on 'Stafford'. Meanwhile, I was having a whale of a time. 'Stafford' was fantastic; I'm not surprised that so many have been sold. The only shame was that the GEC's Romulus "James" could not attend as I believe owner James was busy. I know for a fact that "James" would have been a fantastic addition to the running fleet! Below, 'Roundtuit' gives a few lucky passengers another trip on the lake from the Jetty...
I left the railway at around 2:30pm for home; I was busy elsewhere you see, else I would have stayed much longer! All in all though, a fantastic visit, a fantastic railway and of course a fantastic few laps with 'Stafford'. Thanks very much to Pete and everyone who attended too. Good day all...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Wet But Wonderful: Welshpool...

Evening all. After a very wet morning drive across the Welsh hills from Bala, I arrived at the headquarters of the 2ft 6" gauge Welshpool & Llanfair Light railway at around 9:30am. The first train was not due to depart until 10am, so I bought my ticket and headed along the damp platform towards the Signalbox and the Engine Sheds. I must admit, first impressions were very good. The station was tidy, the stock neatly shunted and the sight of the locomotives being prepared on shed was quite impressive. Opened in 1903, the WLLR was built to connect bustling Welshpool with Llanfair Caereinion. The railway was built as an aid to economic development in this rural area of Wales. However, it never made a profit and the 8.5-mile long route was closed in the 1950s. But, all was not lost. The route was saved by a hard-working band of enthusiasts. The two original steam locomotives, "Countess" & "The Earl"; like the railway; survived into preservation and were both in steam today. The route is now fully restored, though trains no longer run into the town centre of Welshpool, as they once did; they now terminate just on the edge of the centre. As I admired the engine sheds, I was given permission to cross the track and go to the prep area; very friendly people! "The Earl" was outside, with sister "Countess" still in the dry of the cosy running shed...As I chatted to the crew, it became obvious just how big "The Earl" and "Countess" both are. For 2ft 6" gauge, I found them strikingly large. The 1903-built 0-6-0 sisters were constructed by Beyer Peacock, and provided ample service back in the day; and they still do now! Both loco's have very large cylinders and outside frames. The Beyer pair were very 'Western', with "Countess" in fact wearing GWR Green. Other Western features include Swindon-style numberplates, safety valve bonnets and copper-cap chimneys. At Llanfair, the station is fully signalled and the signalbox can be seen below...
"The Earl", No822, is ready to leave shed and cross-over onto the stock in the platform at Llanfair. The loco will haul the 10am departure...
With "The Earl" off shed, I was pointed in the direction of the Engineering Shed. Inside this sizeable workshop, the floor stands lower than the track, providing an Inspection Pit-style working layout. In the workshop, safe from the pouring rain, stood 1927-built Kerr Stuart 0-6-2T "Joan", freshly-restored and awaiting a return to service as soon as possible. The engine has been under restoration at Llanfair for 5 years or so, with repairs including an expensive new boiler. Funds for the repairs have been provided by the railway and its supporters, who managed to get their hands on £135, 000 to aid the return of "Joan"...
Alongside "Joan" stood a sizeable 0-8-0T, known as "Resita". She is under repair but; from what I heard around the site; she isn't a very popular machine. She was brought in from Romania to provide the WLLR with another steam locomotive for heavier services. However, reviews are mixed. The two engines stand together in the useful works at Llanfair...
Looking along the platform at Llanfair, the two sets of coaching stock stand ready. All but the replica GWR coaches are of non-British decent, with Hungarian examples being particularly popular here...
By now, "The Earl" was coupled up and awaiting departure. As I stood alongside the engine, I was invited up onto the footplate by the crew. It is a sizeable footplate. However, a bit of an oddity is the Reverser, which is on the Fireman's side! Below, the fire in the box burns brightly, the lower boiler tubes being visible due to the lack of a brick-arch...
From the Hungarian coaches; which all have a Veranda at each end; passengers can get some very detailed views of the locomotives. Below, "Earl" buffers up...
Back in the cab, "The Earl" is seen sporting a GWR-style Gauge Glass protector and a combined Steam and Vacuum brake device. Another footplate done!...
At 10am, the train chugged out of Llanfair, engulfed in steam from the drain cocks of "The Earl". The run was very scenic, steaming through unspoilt Welsh countryside past farms, tiny hamlets and countless wooded sanctuaries. The track winds its way up and down steep gradients and around tight curves and across many ungated level crossings; crossing of the latter being aided by the Trainee on the loco jumping down and stopping any traffic using a Red Flag! When I say the gradients were steep; they really were! Its rare to hear engines working this hard, and very rare to ride on a railway that goes up and down so much. The builders of this line obviously had little cash with which to change earthworks, so they just left it as it was, laying the track to suit the contours of the countryside. Below, the track rushes through the wet landscape with the unusual WLLR style of coupling visible between the coaches...
An unspoilt Welsh landscape, as "The Earl" rushes towards Welshpool...
At Welshpool, passengers have around 25-minutes for a leg-stretch after the 50-minute journey from Llanfair. Of course, you can break the journey here if the train permits. Below, No822 runs round at Welshpool, and is just about to head into the sidings to collect an extra coach from the storage shed...
There is also a small Display Shed here, housing two or three locomotives. Though a small display, it is very interesting. With the extra coach attached, "The Earl" runs around again at Welshpool...
For the return run, I stood on the Veranda of the leading coach. You really do get a Driver's eye-view!...
From Welshpool, "The Earl" attacked Golfa Bank (see later video) with much roaring, hissing and wheezing around the tight curves. At the top of the climb, the train halted to make up the water level before another steep hill, this time downgrade. "The Earl" worked at full regulator for much of the climb up Golfa with her strengthened train, giving the Fireman some work to do! As I said earlier, the line is very, very varied. It must be one of the most challenging lines for a Fireman in this country; minus the NYMR of course! Half way down the line, we passed sister Beyer "Countess"...
Back at Llanfair, "The Earl" rests after her taxing run. All the way back, I had been chatting to Trav and Dan; a loco crew on the railway. They managed to answer all of my questions with ease, giving me some interesting facts to think about. Cheers lads...
A final shot of "The Earl"...
After a look in the Gift Shop, I jumped back into the Saxo and headed for home, via Shrewsbury and the M6. Thats another railway done. The WLLR is very impressive. It has character, charm, history and organisation under its belt. You never know, they may even get back into Welshpool town one day! I wish them well, I really do. It was a very friendly place. Below, you will see a 4-minute or so video taken from my still-image camera. It documents "The Earl"s attack on Golfa Bank earlier today. Have a look and have a listen; she sounds fab...

Thanks very much for reading folks...thats another one done...