Sunday, 27 November 2011

"Sir Gomer" Steams For Santa...

Hi everybody. Well, what a pleasant day it has been. Today was the first operating day of the Battlefield Line's 2011 "Santa Specials". A wee bit early?: One thinks so too. But, nevertheless, we ran and the passengers came. There were two rostered 'Santa' trains leaving Shackerstone at Midday and 2pm. We normally run four but on the first day we sort of 'break ourselves in gently'. I was rostered on the footplate and the traction on the books was due to be GWR 2-8-0 No3803. However, during her recent boiler washout, a problem was discovered with a front-corner mudhole door on the firebox and therefore the loco was failed pending repair. With no chance of a repair prior to todays running, the railways own 0-6-0 Peckett tank "Sir Gomer" was called out of winterisation and into immediate traffic! We steamed her last Sunday (see post) and everything seemed OK so we had no problems with taking her out today. I arrived at 6am and myself, Pockets and Carl all set to cleaning, oiling, firing and generally making ready the loco, with some help from Chris and Dave too. At 10:30am, we came off shed but not before Mr Bassett took a very vane pic of me in front of the ex-Mountain Ash saddle tank! Cheers Chris! At 11:15am, after much shunting as well as taking on some coal, we left Shack on a quick light-engine jaunt to Carlton and back (about 3 miles in total). She seemed fine. So, without further delay, we coupled up to the 6 waiting coaches and began steam heating. At 12 Midday, the Green Flag was waved and away we went. The regulator was opened and, after a little groaning, "Sir Gomer" went striding away for Shenton! No problem at all. We took her steady so that Santa could see the children in plenty of time but we still had a 10-minute wait at Market Bosworth so he could get the last few through...
A festive "Sir Gomer", adorning a Stanier hooter instead of her normal Peckett whistle, waits at Market Bosworth in the glorious November sun whilst we have a coffee...
Below, Driver Andy Guest takes "Sir Gomer" into Market Bosworth through the woods near the private airport. The Outer Home is always set to the 'Off' position as the box here is under restoration...
A view through the cab roof, with the Hooter on the dome and smoke from the chimney...
At Shenton, "Sir Gomer" ran round and I fired her back. What a forgiving and free-steaming loco she is, and with minimal coal too! This was the first time that I've fired the loco down the line (ever!) and it was very nice indeed. The rocking motion of the train; usually created by big unbalanced outside-cylindered industrials; also seemed reduced. This must be down to the changes to the valve timing that we carried out. After her first successful outing to Shenton and back in over 3 years, "Sir Gomer" dropped back down into Platform 1 and picked up the 6 coaches again (Photo by C.Bassett)...
Waiting with the 2pm train. Who said we couldn't do 6?!...
Festive "Sir Gomer" feathering in Platform 1...
Barking out of Shackerstone on the 2pm with me firing. The newly added coal is just beginning to ignite as we get a good draft on the fire...
At Market Bosworth, as there were more passengers on this trip, there was a 30-minute stop. "Sir Gomer" sat simmering away whilst we had a coffee...
"Sir Gomer" - these transfers have lasted well (they've been on since the PBR gala in September!)...
Fire in the hole...
After the 2nd MB stop, we set off again. Following a brisk run round at Shenton we set off back up the bank with the 6 coaches. "Gomer" was performing very well. It hardly knocked the train and was able to be notched right up with minimal regulator on the 6 coaches. I was very surprised. Its a powerful engine indeed and just needs that little bit of extra coaxing to produce the very best results. When given the chance however, it can be a right powerful beast! ;) . She does however have a smaller firebox than most engines that I have fired in the past. Therefore, when I over-fired on the way back to act against a drop in pressure, she didn't like it. The small box doesn't give enough air to large quantities of coal in one space and therefore you have to fire more 'little and often' than 'alot and only now & again' as we are used to with 3803! Nevertheless, a good rake-through saw her making steam again and we got back without problem. Beautiful machine. My roving Shackerstone photographer friend Dave Hanks has sent in this fab shot of "Sir Gomer" climbing out of Shack on the first train...lovely...
After the 2nd trip we went straight on shed and disposed of the engine. She had done very well and surprised many. Lovely machine and very powerful indeed! I'm next on at Shack next Saturday when myself and Mr Britt are rostered on the 'should be repaired' No3803. If not, then it will be diesel because Sir Gomer is off on her Christmas holidays to the Cholsey railway: a 2.5 mile long branch line near Oxford. There, she will be operating on all six of their Santa Special days. I may join her there on Sunday Dec 11th, but we will see. All in all, a fab day and thank you to everyone involved, and the visitors too. Also thanks to Chris and Dave for sending in pics. Evening all...

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Its ALL Going On At Shackerstone!...

Hi everybody. Well, what a busy day it has been. After a phonecall last night I pulled into Shackerstone through dense fog, at around 7:30am this morning. Alot of work was planned for the day ahead and we needed to get cracking as soon as possible! The first job was to shunt the south end of the shed. This involved the 02 Diesel "Diane". After shunting some stock out of the way, we eventually managed to gain access to the south yard through the mangled but still operable point-work. With the obscuring stock shifted, we managed to get into the shed. It took us about an hour to get this far due to all the obstacles we had to move first! Once in the south end of the works, we coupled up to the spares van and little "Blue Circle". With that, out they went! After negotiating more crippled points, we hooked up the remains of under-'overhaul' RSH 0-6-0T "Richard III". With a good heave, the little 02 managed to shove "Richard" and "Blue Circle" into their new home on No2 Road: just in front of "Lamport No3". This job not only gave the RSH's frames covered space but also gave "BC" her own private repair and prep area. Next job was to put back all the obstacles. At 10am, a track gang arrived and set to taking the crossing near the Signalbox apart for some sleeper changes...good job we got done in time!! Inside the shed, the huge bulk of GW 2-8-0 No3803 stands cold. She is a bit under the weather at the mo and therefore will be sitting out of next Sunday's 'Santa Special' - a job for which we have another loco...
The 02's next job was to take the already shifted frames of 0-4-0ST "Waleswood" up into the side road on the northern edge of the shed. "Waleswood" is a Hudswell Clarke steam loco that has stood silent and still in the shed for at least the last 12-15 years, in a dismantled condition! It was sheeted up and pushed outside last year due to lack of space in the shed and now, enough is enough and she's going. Therefore, we had to use the 'Hi-ab' wagon with its hydraulic lifting arm to load the cab, saddle tank, chimney and sandboxes up onto the frames before removal by low-loader. Word on the street is she is off to Statfold for storage...
After a good few hours work, the loco is loaded and ready to leave when required. Shame really, it could be a good engine if someone had the time and money to put into it...
Down at the end of the shed, the sickening blue and yellow paintwork of "Richard III" stands out: awful! Meanwhile, in front, "Blue Circle" is tucked away before a return to steam early next year (the loco has been out of service this year for gear repairs)...
Yet another job that was on today was the checking over of the railway's operational steam loco: "Sir Gomer". She was lit up last night so that she would slowly warm up, allowing a quicker steam up today. The idea was to 'steam test' the engine checking the current condition of the still pretty new boiler repairs and also the steam heat, vacuum and steam brake. Those who read last week's post will notice that the Peckett was winterised but, following the failure of the poorly 3803, she will be taking over the role of 'Santa Engine' for next Sunday. Should be easy...only 2 trips. However, it will be the first time that "Sir Gomer" has chugged to Shenton in over 3 years and, the first time that she has gone to Shenton facing in that direction for over 6 years! I was given the job of lighting the engine and so, after all the necessary checks, I did so. The 02 was then fired up again to drag her outside, as well as to shunt her and 3803 around for next weekend. So, here she is...
No real problems. She just needs a good clean and a bit of attention to the regulator as it was passing a tiny bit. A brick arch will also be fitted very early on in 2012...
Throughout the day, the track-gang had been working hard. I took a few turns on the spade and did alot of fetching and carrying...not to mention tea making! So, all in all, a fab day. After tidying up and getting "Sir Gomer" to bed and disposed again, I left the railway at just gone 5:30pm. A great day indeed. I look forward to next Sunday when I am rostered as 3rd man on "Sir Gomer" for the day. I am then rostered on the 38 (should be repaired by next week) on Dec 3rd, 4th and 17th. Cheers everyone. Sam...

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Panniers in the Night...

Hey folks. Tonight, through the fog and the dark, myself and my girlfriend headed down to Nuneaton railway station in order to try and catch a glimpse of two Western babies on the mainline. At 6:53pm; right on time; double-headed Pannier Tank's Nos7752 (as L94) and 9600 pulled into Platform 6 to set down passengers. In the dark, the two Pannier's smoke up as they prepare to depart for Tyseley...
The two Pannier's; both of the Tyseley Collection; had been on a circular outing taking in some of the Freight lines of the East Midlands, leaving Tyseley and heading out through Nuneaton and on to Leicester. From Leicester they completed a circular route before returning to Leicester again for a water stop/leg stretch. The Western pair then retraced their steps back home again, setting down passengers on route. The train; made up of 9 mixed coaches and a bogie van; was led by L94 with 9600 as train engine. I must admit, they looked great together. 9600 is no stranger to the mainline and having done a good few trips of late, she is known as a good performer. For L94 (7752) however, it has been a while. But, having returned to steam at her Tyseley base this year and having been tested on the Stratford-upon-Avon route last week, she is obviously fit to be a mainline engine once again! Wearing shining London Transport red, the loco; fired by Alistar Meanley; looked stunning tonight. Anyway, after setting down their passengers, the Pannier's were given the clear to go. L94 gave a shrill whistle, followed by 9600. The two then set off up and over the flyover, but not without a little slip from 9600! As they steamed away, the skill of the two drivers (Churchill & Poole?) was obvious. Both seemed completely in sinc with eachother as the 0-6-0s made their way home. I have promised myself, I'm going out on the mainline with a Pannier next year ;) . Below, there is a very dark clip of the two Pannier's pulling away from Platform 6; you can't see them, but you can hear them!...

And, with that, they were gone, but their voices continued to travel on the chill wind...
Thanks for reading folks. It was lovely to see the Pannier's out doing what they were built to do and, as I've said, I'll be after a ticket with them next year ;) Evening all - Sam...

The Warley Way...

Hi guys. Well, another annual visit to the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC. Having taken my layout last year we were not exhibiting this year. So, we simply went along for a look around. Open today from 9am - 6pm, we decided to get in early and check out the layouts before it got "too crowded". So, at 9:10am, we were in! It was another fantastic show with countless layouts, demonstrators, societies, traders and other exhibits. The centre-piece this year was the lovely GNR N2-class 0-6-2T No1744, owned by the Gresley Society. This engine is normally based at the GCR in Loughborough and was on a special visit to Warley, stopping off on her way home from the West Somerset at Minehead. Lovely bit of kit, complete with condensing apparatus for use in the tunnels out of Kings Cross towards Belle Isle...
No layout reports this year really, there were far too many good ones to mention. There was everything to see from T-Gauge right up to Gauge 1 and even 3.5"/5" too. There was also a 2ft gauge Barclay named "Gertrude" which was visiting from the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway at Portmadoc. By 1pm we had seen what we had wanted to see and I don't think we really missed anything. By now the hall was stupidly busy and people were barging into you left, right and centre. Feeding Time...
Only one purchase today: another 00 gauge Met Cam Mk1 Pullman Car (with lights) for my garden railway's Dining train rake. At £19.95 (normally £32) I snapped it up. There is one problem with Warley though...it really makes you want to build something! I do feel like doing a layout, maybe a 6ft x 4ft or something. This layout (on the Hornby stand) was not only simple but also impressive...maybe something like that - but I need some space!...
All in all, a fab visit to Warley 2011. We will be appearing again with our layout in 2013: "Yes, thats how far you get booked in advance!". We will also more likely visit in 2012 to see if there are any more bargains about! ;) . Cheers all. Sam.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Winter at Shackerstone: Chilly Day in the Shed...

Howdo everyone. Just a simple day in the loco works at Shackerstone today. However, there were quite a few hands on deck and we got quite alot done. The main job today was to clean GWR 2-8-0 No3803, as the season has now ended for normal passenger trains. The 2-8-0 has been very useful to the railway this year, putting in months of faultless performances and my hat off to her: she's been good! So, now we've got a really good chance, we have taken it and are really going to town on the 38xx. By the end of the day she was shining and her troublesome Rear Damper door had been repaired too. A fantastic day overall. At the bottom of the shed, two industrial Saddle Tanks sit silent, and side-by-side; "Sir Gomer" (left) and Bagnall "Lamport No3"...
Next weekend?: Well, Warley at the NEC is on Saturday, and Sunday...I'll be back at Shackerstone! I have many days planned at Shack on the run up to Xmas and, as usual, posts on them will appear as they happen. Thanks guys. Sam.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Last Day of the Season, on 3803...

Hello everybody. Today was a lovely day indeed. The weather was much more pleasing than expected and the point of the day was very enjoyable. It was the last day of the season at Shackerstone, and I had been rostered on the Great Western No3803 with Jan and Eddie...
I arrived at the railway at around 6:50am and immediately proceeded down into the engine shed to check on 3803. The fire grate had been well cleared already and there was a full glass of water in the boiler. After doing all the necessary checks I carried out the final cleaning of the grate before rocking it to remove the clinker. I then lay a bed of coal 1-lump thick across the entire grate. Jan and Eddie duly arrived and we all set to breaking up some wood. Soon enough, I had the fire lit and, after some cleaning and alot of oiling, we had 3803 on the train 30 minutes before departure time at 10:45am. We had four trips to do today; 11:15, 12:30, 13:45 and 15:00; so a nice easy day really. Jan and Eddie shared the driving whilst I fired. Under the chilly blue skies, it was a very pleasant experience being out with 3803 again. On the first trip, things were a little hit and miss. The loco hadn't 'warmed up' fully yet and so pressure was a little up and down. On the return run, she'd settled in; as had I. We ambled back to Shack at the normal pace and ran round ready for the 12:30. Jan gave Eddie the regulator for this one and my grandad also joined us on the footplate for this trip. A fantastic photo now, borrowed from Jan's collection of photographs. Eddie is on the brake whilst I fire approaching Market Bosworth with the sun beaming down into the cab (Photo by Jan Ford)...
After a good 2nd run, Eddie and Jan swapped again. This time, Eddie took on the shovel as he likes to 'keep his hand in'. I actually welcomed the break and it was nice to take a trip surveying the line from the engine with 'nothing' (he says!) to worry about. But, for the 4th trip I was back on the shovel again (Photo by Jan Ford)...
Eddie drove us on the 4th trip, with Jan taking a break. We had a good run, with a little bit of hard running away from Hedley's on the return trip to 'clear the fire out' a bit. Arriving back at Shack we had 2/3 of a glass in the boiler and 180psi on the clock with a very thin fire. After uncoupling we proceeded to the shed to dispose. It had been a fantastic day and another lovely experience on 3803. Thanks to Jan & Eddie as well as to Adrian for letting my grandad come on for a ride. Well, thats it now folks; Shackerstone is over for the 2011 season BUT, do not fear, there are still the 'Santa's to do ;) . Thanks all - Goodnight. Sam...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Achilles Report No7: Steaming in November...

Hey guys. Today, in very chilly weather, we pulled into the RPMR site at The Pools at around 12:20pm, in the Saxo as usual. After backing up to the hydraulic platform, we duly unloaded my 5" gauge engine; "Achilles". After choosing a steaming bay, I took the car back down to the car park before returning to get the loco ready. After around 15 minutes, the fire was lit. Time had been taken to pump water into the boiler, to oil up and of course to do a bit of cleaning. The loco today wore a red Poppy on the smokebox door to remember those who have fallen in war service. By 1pm, we were just about ready and we backed onto the track with a 2-car train. As the day passed, we did many laps. The loco performed very well, with no problems with steam or water. The engine's builder; Ken; was also up today and had a little drive to boot. Also on the track were a visiting electric and the club's own Sweet Pea, not to mention Jim's 'Butch' and Dave's 'Simplex'. After around 90 minutes we popped off the track for a quick bite to eat and a hot cuppa' (it was very cold!). Whilst we took a break, "Achilles" had been brimmed with water in the boiler and left to simmer, which she did so; quietly... After our cuppa', I turned the blower back on and stirred the fire a little. The loco roared back into life and we steamed back onto the track. I was sharing the driving today with my brother; Ben. The overall objective was simply to give the engine a last run of the year before winterisation. At the station, Ben fills the tanks on "Achilles" whilst Ken prepares to have a drive...
As I say, "Achilles" ran well for most of the afternoon, before having to be retired a little early with a blower problem. All of a sudden, the blower just stopped working, first slightly and then completely. Looking in the smokebox, I could see that the wire-mesh that acts as a spark arrestor was blocking the blower nozzles somewhat. However, even rectifying this did not seem to help the issue. The only thing I can think is that the nozzles are now blocked with soot and oil residue from the arrestor. You never know, this could have been building up for years. So, when I come to clean the engine out, I will clean the head of the blower and the nozzles, and maybe even take the head off to remove any dirt from inside. It'll be fine; nothing big as far as I can see. It did however kill the fire so we blew down! Mind you, we had been in steam for 2.5 hours at least. The engine had had a good run and I was proud of her again. A nice little afternoon at the RPMR. Well, thats it for today folks, off to a Bonfire tonight at my Dads. Who better to light it than me?? ;) ...