Saturday, 31 March 2012

"Sir Gomer" On Loaded Test...

Hi everybody. Today, as expected, steam locomotive "Sir Gomer" received a loaded test run at Shackerstone to check for any disturbances in her recently refitted eccentrics. The 0-6-0ST has had two days of chugging around the platform but required a loaded run before we were satisfied. Myself and Carl were on site from 6:30am and Andy arrived not long after. The three of us prepared the locomotive with myself doing the oiling and some cleaning. Having had a good warming fire yesterday, the Peckett was soon in steam and we left the shed early. As normal, todays services on the railway were to operate to the 'Green Timetable', meaning 5 round trips from Shackerstone, departing every 75 minutes from 11:15am. The train was made up of 4 coaches and we were coupled up and ready by 11am. This gave me some time to take a few pics. "Sir Gomer" stands in Platform 2: shining and ready to go...
Powerful Peckett...
For the first trip Andy drove and Carl fired, with me enjoying the ride. "Got The Board"...
We left Shackerstone on time at 11:15 for Shenton. The loco steamed away easily with her 4-coach train. The video below was shot by Mr.C.Simmons and shows the Peckett leaving Shack and then returning after the first run...

Out on the line for the first time since late November, the Peckett steamed and pulled well. Driver Andy Guest was cautious with the regulator, attempting to keep the eccentrics in their place by not going too rough. The loco made it to Shenton in good time and we ran round quickly. The fire settled down whilst we coupled up again...
"Sir Gomer" at Shenton with the 11:50 run to Shackerstone: Change here for the Battlefield...
The green Peckett gets ready to go. The large regulator handle can be seen in the cab...
The loco returned the 11:50 to Shackerstone in good time, and with a healthy bark leaving the chimney. However, after an inspection, it was discovered that the shims were moving under the sheaths. We did however realise that they may have now settled where they were so did the 2nd round trip. The shims were still there when we got back with the loco having put in another impressive performance, with Carl driving and me firing. The 1:45pm train left on time but at Shenton we realised that the shims were on their way out. After another inspection we decided that the loco would be fit to return cautiously to Shackerstone with the train but would then be failed so as to prevent any damage in case the shims came out. Below, "Sir Gomer" slips back down into Shackerstone with me driving (pic by D.Hanks)...
After uncoupling we failed "Sir Gomer" and the Class 73 was duly started. Carl & Andy took the Peckett off to the shed but I had another job to do. The Driver of the 73 needed a Secondman, and guess who got the call?! Below, off we go with the 3pm (pic by D.Hanks).
The 73 hauled the last 2 trips whilst the Shed Team checked "Sir Gomer". They decided that the eccentrics could be refitted again in a different manner and this would definately secure successful running in the future. The loco will be fixed during the next 2-3 days. Tomorrow I'm back at Shackerstone on 3803. At 5:30pm, I left Shackerstone for home, still dressed in my steam overalls. It is pleasant being on a diesel but is so boring! ;) . Evening all. Sam...

Monday, 26 March 2012

First Garden Run in 2012...

Hi everyone. This afternoon I had the chance to have a quick run with my 00 gauge Garden Railway: known as the Sutherland Steam Railway. The garden railway began in April 2005, and the first section opened that June. The line was extended in August 2006 and has been edited a few times since. A turntable was added, as was a passing loop and the line has even been re-routed at one time or another. Today was the first time that the line has operated in 2012. I simply haven't had the time to run it yet. I do however hope to have various chances to operate the 00 gauge line as the year goes on. There was a single train in operation today: a lengthy freight hauled by Small Prairie No4560. The locomotive is spotted on the 2006-extension route, approaching Sutherland from the West...
Below, the locomotive climbs Ashford Bank and slips past the camera...
video
4560 is a Bachmann Product, modelled on the 45xx Class GWR Small Prairie Tank. The engine did various laps of the track with her freight before retiring to the storage shed for the night. As I say, I hope to run the railway a few more times this year. Thanks for reading folks. Sam...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

"Sir Gomer" & 3803 At Sunny Shackerstone...

Hi guys. Today was another day on the Battlefield Line at Shackerstone, working on behalf of the Steam Department. I arrived at 8:30am and after unloading the car I made my way up to the loco works where I found 3803 in steam and smoking out the shed. The loco soon moved outside and headed down to the Car Park for coaling by JCB. There, the loco was cleaned in the warm morning sunshine. Having been ready early, the loco was on the train around 45 minutes before the stated departure and so the crew took the opportunity to make Breakfast on the Shovel. She was sparkling as she departed on the 11:15 and for the 12:30 I managed to sneak outside the shed and grab the shot below of her leaving tender-first...
The main reason for me turning up today (apart from doing a few odd jobs) was to continue with my pain in the backside of a College Project for work. It will be a moving workbench with a built-in cupboard once I've finished with it but it looks rather odd at present...
"Sir Gomer" was also in steam today, as Station Pilot, giving her recently repaired eccentrics a chance to settle in prior to a full-line test due to take place next Saturday. The chunky Peckett, sporting an A4 Chime Whistle, left the shed at around 1pm for the afternoon...
Peckett Profile...

The tests seemed satisfactory and the Peckett continued to unleash a very pleasant bark as she chugged happily around the site in the sun. I rode around with her for a bit, putting a few lumps of coal on here & there and generally getting very warm! The loco stayed out right up until 5:30pm when she followed 3803 back into the works. The engine is now at the front of the shed ready for next Saturday when she will hopefully be pulling passenger trains...
As mentioned above, 3803 returned after another successful day and at the time of writing is currently tucked up in the shed with "Sir G" and "Blue Circle". I will be at Shackerstone throughout next weekend: Saturday I shall be tidying up and probably doing some more on the College Project, and then on Sunday I'm firing 3803. Look out for more posts as they happen. Cheers guys. Thanks for reading...Sam...

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Track Work & More At CMES...

Hey guys. Today I was at CMES for one of their "Full Day Working" parties. I arrived at 9:45am and met up with a few of the guys that were already there. Work today concentrated on slabbing more of the Steaming Bay area, tidying up the Station ready for public running (to begin on April 1st) and also lowering some track that had naturally risen in an awkward position. I spent the morning helping Eddie, Dave & Gary attempt to lower two of the concrete pillars on the Carriage Shed section. For some reason, one of them had naturally risen, whilst the other had sank. The first task was to dig away the ground around the base and then jack up the track, thus taking the pillar & supporting slab up with it. This created one hell of a ski-jump!...
The first pillar had earth pulled out from underneath and could then be lowered back down, whilst the second pillar had to be raised slightly by placing more earth beneath it. Movement was measured using a tape rule and lasers (supported on tri-pods). The first pillar in particular looked much better than it had done originally, once it had been lowered back down. The weather was very warm and so water was a high priority, as was food. Luckily, the "All Day Working" parties see the club provide Bacon Butties for all, with Eric as Head Chef..."Yum"...
After lunch, work resumed. The slabbing of the steaming bay area saw two full rows of slabs being laid, which I thought was great progress indeed. The levelling of the track section was also continuing well. I opted to take a bucket, some water, some polish, a brush & a rag up to the Station and polish up some of the signs and also brush down the white fencing. The park seemed very busy indeed...just our luck really when we aren't running! After tidying up the station a bit I eventually left at 3:30pm as I had a few jobs to do at home this afternoon too. I must admit though it had been a very productive day for CMES. I will next be up at Ryton in two weeks time for the Members Running on April 7th, with "Achilles" in tow. The 0-6-0T will also be in steam for public running on April 22nd, when it is planned to double-head her with the club's 'Sweet Pea' "John Owen"...just for fun! It will look very odd but it will be unusual to say the least. Look out for posts on those days as they happen. Thanks for reading all...Sam...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A Sunny & Steamy Day: Firing 3803...

Hello everyone. This morning at 7am; after a brisk visit to McDonalds; I unlocked the railway gates at Shackerstone and drove inside. As I roared up the drive in the Saxo towards the station, I remember thinking "I hope this rain gives in": remembering my very wet turn on 3803 two weeks back. Anyway, after unloading my car I staggered (bags in hand) along Platform 2. The place is always silent at this time in the morning, until you get to where the water column is. At that point the birds you have just rudely awoken begin calling out, as if an intruder has just walked blindly into their midst. Either that or they think that I've got the Station Cat with me! Entering the works through the little blue door, "Sir Gomer" was directly in front of me, still on the pit. The 38' was at the front of the shed: warm and raring to go. She had 10psi on the clock, having been steam tested yesterday so I knew that it wouldn't take long to get her into steam. After checking around the box and backhead, I began raking through the remaining embers before tipping the dead fire out through the rocking grate. I then began the process of lighting the engine, with the usual bed of coal plus wood, plus oily rags. Soon enough, the Western was lit and sat 'singing' near the main door. Driver Adrian & his brother Austin; who would be joining us for the day; duly arrived and we set to oiling & cleaning the locomotive.

By 11am; when we left shed; the loco had been cleaned throughly. We had done the barrel and cab in polish, with the bottom end done in parrafin-oil mix, the smokebox coated in steam oil and the running boards in white spirit. Steam department regular Dave Hanks had shined up all of the brass the day before which complemented the engine very nicely. We departed 5 minutes down on our first run to Shenton, with 4 coaches in tow. By now, the sun was shining and it was very pleasant indeed. Below, 3803 pulls into Shackerstone with the "Cambrian Coast Express" (obviously severely diverted!!)...

I can be seen leaning out from the cab as the 38' pulls in...
Whilst we were out on our jollies hauling the five service trains, Carl & Pockets were busy in the yard steam-testing "Sir Gomer". The ex-Mountain Ash Peckett is on trial following some winter repairs and will receive another steam test next week before being declared (hopefully) 'fit to run'. This will no doubt see her out & about at other railways on hire, earning us some cash in industrial style...
Back to us on 3803, our first 3 trips went very well. The loco steamed and operated brilliantly, handling the 4-coach train as if it were a light engine move! Passenger numbers also seemed favourable for a Saturday. We were mindful to operate 3803 today instead of the usual diesel due to the movement of the Steam Gala, which would have been this weekend. The Steam Gala will now take place in September with four engines (three of which will have tenders!) in steam. After the 3rd trip, we steamed into Shackerstone, uncoupled and began running round. We halted in Platform 2 for a very quick break. Fireman Sam Brandist and Trainee Austin Lock discuss Stephenson Valve Gear on 3803...
On the 4th trip, I was handed the regulator as I am now of course training to drive as well as being a passed out fireman. To me, its just like driving any size/scale of locomotive, just bigger! On the 5th trip, myself & Austin shared the firing and we are seen departing Shackerstone on time...
After our successful 5th trip we arrived back just about on time and then disposed. It had been a fantastic day and I must thank Adrian & Austin for a very enjoyable time. 3803 had performed faultlessly. Also thanks to Dave for sending in all 5 of the pics used in this post. Cheers guys. Sam...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Poorly 3803...

Hi everyone. Just a short one from today. I spent the day at Shackerstone, doing a bit of welding on my college project and also helping with shunting. 3803 was rostered for todays services but during the 1st trip of the day she was failed with a leaking steam joint in the cab. The Class 73 substituted for the rest of the day. 3803 will hopefully be repaired for next weekend when she is rostered for both days. I will be firing her on Saturday, all being well. Thanks guys. Sam...

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Passed as a Fireman...Job Done...

Hi guys. Well, we're here, at last. Today, after 4 years in training, I was passed by the Footplate Inspector at Shackerstone, as a Fireman. Suffice to say it has been a pretty long road. I started at the Battlefield Line as a Cleaner in early 2007, at age 15. I wasn't of course old enough to travel on the footplate then, so I just cleaned engines then, when they went out, I worked in the shed. On Easter Sunday 2008 I got my first turn, on the Peckett "Sir Gomer". I must admit, it was very odd to be out on the engine after 12 months waiting: the line seemed much longer back then too! Throughout 2008 I began gaining route knowledge and of course experience on other engines besides "Sir Gomer". I had Coventry No1, Pannier 9466, the Hawthorn 0-4-0, Hunslet "Jessie" and even the B1 "Mayflower" that first year. Below, a 16-year old Sam is spotted on the footplate of "Sir Gomer" during some Station Pilot duties. God I thought I was everybody back then and I couldn't fire a starting pistol! (Photo courtesy of R.Eborall)...
2009 was also loaded with loco turns, including another go on "Jessie" and many outings on the B1 "Mayflower". It was a pleasure to work on a tendered engine as I never thought I would, especially one so grand and beautiful...
In 2010 I think my firing finally made me feel 'pretty confident'. I had Prairie 5542 and Pannier 5786 a few times this year, and of course "Blue Circle", "Mayflower" and a Blue Jinty (as Thomas). (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
2011 allowed me to get to grips with two different tender engines (visitor 3803 and good old "Mayflower"). They were however both very different. 3803 is typical Western, whereas 1306 was a main-line express 4-6-0, and she had a flap-door! In 2011 I had my first firing exam, on 3803 in December. (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
On January 2nd 2012, I had another Firing Exam, on the lovely 38xx (Photo courtesy of J.Ford)...
Finally, today, the experience acquired over the last 4 years came together and allowed me to pass my final exam, under the watchful eye of assessor John Brittain. Its a great feeling and I'm so glad that I'm done. I'm now allowed out as Fireman on the footplate of any Shackerstone engine with any driver. I'm sure that I will continue learning through, forever more. You never really stop learning do you?! (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
I just briefly want to say thanks to John, for passing me, and to all of the drivers & firemen who I've been on with over the years. Now that I'm passed I can at least look back and say it was all very much worth it. I've made many mistakes but I've learnt from them. I believe they call that experience in some circles! I am very pleased with this achievement...I just can't believe its been 4 years already! (Photo courtesy of D.Hanks)...
Anyway, today, I arrived at Shackerstone at 6:30am, as did John. We proceeded to the loco works and found 3803 inside, simmering away with 40psi on the clock and, to my eye-rubbing amazement, wood CUT(!) and STACKED NEATLY(!) on the footplate! After taking in the initial shock of seeing the wood, I checked the boiler water level (spotted at 3/4 of a glass) and the firegrate, stays, fusibles and brick arch. All looked well and after raking the remaining embers of the warming fire out I made preparations to light the engine. I laid a bed of coal (1 lump thick) across the entire grate and then lit a well-soaked parrafin rag on the end of a plank of wood. Holding the rag in the box with the wood rested on the firehole ring allows the rag to 'take' properly before I thrust it in to about 1/3 of the way down the box (the top of the slope normally). I then stack many planks of wood on top, in opposite crossing shapes to allow the wood to breathe. Me being me, I generally throw 1 or 2 more parrafin rags in to ensure that alot of the wood gets going at once. Then I shut the doors. With the wood having taken hold you can throw a few more shovelfull's of coal on top and this should give a good fire soon enough. Once the back half of the fire is burning away then you can often use the long iron to push some of the burning embers towards the front of the box, getting that half going in the process. It all works out in the end!

With the fire burning well, myself and John set to oiling and then cleaning the engine, with the help of Dave, Mic and Jamie. Mic also put on the weather sheet for us as it was raining well and was showing no signs of stopping! The loco was ready at 10:45am so we chugged out of the yard and across to Platform 2 where we took water. The first of the four trains was at 11:15am and we left on time. I kept a level, covering fire and 3803 responded by holding 200-220psi throughout the journey. At Hedleys I would check the box, probably adding 4-5 shovelfull's, and then the same at Market Bosworth Station & Far Coton (Three Bridges). So we're probably averaging about 5 shovelfull's a mile at this point. I would also add water at all of these locations, shutting off the injector at Shenton after the latter, allowing the loco to maintain about 3/4 of a glass and 190psi. She would then remake steam whilst we ran round, allowing us to leave Shenton with 220psi and a pretty full boiler. Keeping the fire level on the return run, I fired just before John shut-off between the 2nd & 3rd bridges at Far Coton, allowing the new coal to get going at Deer Park slack, where I would have the injector running. I then fired at Market Bosworth and on the approach to Hedleys. We went over Hedley's with 3/4 of a glass and 210psi, allowing 3803 to bark around the corner and then drop down to Shackerstone with doors cracked, dampers shut and injector running, pulling in with 200psi and 2/3 of a glass down the bank. All of our trips were pretty much like that, except the last one in where I pulled her down to 180psi with less fire, ready to go in the shed for disposal.

The loco was very free-steaming, as normal, and kept us to time well. We also managed to stay pretty dry under the weather sheet, except when I had to go out to couple/uncouple! After disposing I left Shackerstone at 5:15pm. It had been a very worthwhile and enjoyable day on the GW 2-8-0 and I can now honestly say that I am a Fireman at last. Thanks for reading folks. Sam...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Achilles Report No10: Sunny & Steamy at RPMR...

Hello everyone. Today we were off to CMES again, my 5" gauge club. It was another Members Running Day and, though the morning had seen persistant heavy rain, the afternoon's weather was very favourable indeed. The sun shone all afternoon and I even felt quite warm if I tried to keep out of the wind! As it was a members day I did of course take my 5" loco "Achilles" along with me. Last time I ran her 4 weeks ago (see post) it was very, very cold and, though she was running well, I just couldn't stand it so came off after only a few laps. Today however the weather was much more pleasant and by 1:30pm we were unloaded and on a steaming bay preparing the engine in the sun. I checked and cleaned her yesterday so all that needed to be done was the filling of the boiler, the oiling and of course lighting the fire. By 2pm, the loco was in steam and ready. She hissed off our bay and onto the traverser before we pushed the loco across to the 'run up rail'. The engine then sidled down to the Carriage sheds where we picked up a riding truck & a passenger car. After loading, we prepared to move backwards up the track to the main-line. This section is quite steep indeed on the way back up and, as the loco still had alot of water in the system, I took her up gradually. We stopped at the top to regain a bit of steam before continuing track. The loco is later seen at Ryton Halt after taking water at the column...
The loco went very well today but things were a little unusual. Some laps she would steam brilliantly but seemed a little sluggish on the pulling side, but then other laps she would steam not so well but would take off like a greyhound! Mind you, thats steam engines; always different. A few members of my family came up today too, and had rides behind the loco. She seems to go much better with a load on. Four of us behind her made her blow-off climbing the bank but with just me I had to fight to make her steam. Very odd! However, overall, it had been another good performance from the locomotive. For her age she is still going quite well. Naturally, she has alot of knocks and bangs but this should definately be expected after all the mileage she has put in. As I've said before, after this season she is being taken out of service for rebushing which, I hope, will improve the running quality quite a bit. Before that however, we've got many more runs planned this year for the loco, all of which will no doubt be documented on this blog. We next plan to run her on the next CMES Members day (April 7th). Below, my brother brings the loco, with brass dome shining, up the bank under blue skies...
Passing the camera, "Achilles" is very nearly at the top of the climb...
After around 2 & 1/2 hours of running, we disposed of the locomotive and headed home. It been another very enjoyable afternoon at CMES and another good day for "Achilles". I've got a few jobs to do on her before her next run but nothing too complicated. One of the drain cocks has stuck open so that needs cleaning out, and the lubricator is over-oiling so that needs addressing too. Thanks for reading folks. Sam...