Sunday, 27 May 2012

An Outing To Battlefield Line Models Weekend 2012

Hi everyone. Well, what a busy weekend it has been. This weekend we were at Market Bosworth on the Battlefield Line, exhibiting for their 2012 Models Weekend. There were a variety of exhibits on display including a Tri-Ang layout, a 3-Rail layout, a Gauge 1 Live Steam layout, miniature Traction Engines and 5" gauge models to name but a few. We took along our O Gauge LEGO Railway (in its 9ft x 4ft form) as well as our two Mamods. On the Saturday, I also took along "Achilles" to sit next to the layout. I thought our display was more than appropriate, with a selection of trains making their way around throughout the weekend. We were situated in the recently opened Portakabin, whilst other displays were in the Goods Shed.
The LEGO Railway In Action
On the Saturday, the electro-diesel Class 73 handled services on the nearby running line, whilst on the Sunday the graceful 3803 pulled the trains. Passenger numbers seemed very low during the weekend, though nobody could work out why. The weather was perfect, there were many exhibits and with the large Great Western out on the Sunday as well I just don't see what else could have been done to encourage more trade. However, saying that, most were probably at the beach or in a pub garden somewhere!
On the Saturday, "Achilles" received quite alot of interest; sat perched quietly on a table at the end of the layout. Its a pity that she couldn't be steamed but not only is there no track at MB currently, but the loco is also still having blower problems
Overall I think it was a good event. We certainly enjoyed it and, if nothing else, it certainly gave our many LEGO trains a chance to stretch their legs after 3 months or so spent in their boxes
3803 In Service On Sunday
Thanks for reading folks. Sam...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Fab Day With 3803...

Hi everyone. Another fab day on the beautiful 3803 today. Myself, Dave and Eddie enjoyed 5-trips on her footplate; operating the Green Timetable at Shackerstone. We shared the firing, with me doing 1.5 trips, Dave 2.5 and Eddie a trip too. The 2884 class was in fine form once again and performed faultlessly. I seem to have been on this loco so many times so far this year and she has only played up the once. Lets hope this good track record holds up!
Our Usual Breakfast On The Shovel
All in all, another fantastic day on 3803. I'll be sad to see her go when she eventually goes home: whenever that may be. For now, she is performing regularly at Shackerstone so why not come and ride behind her?! Thanks folks. Sam...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Achilles Report No13: Joans Fun Day 2012...

Hi all. Today I was at the GEC Miniature Railway for their annual 'Joans Fun Day'. This is an event which allows school children to take a ride on both the 5" and 7.25" gauge tracks behind a variety of locomotives, throughout the day. The morning period saw me driving James' 0-4-0 Romulus ("James") whilst the afternoon period saw my "Achilles" in action and on the track.
The shining blue locomotive was still encountering blower problems as the holes constantly get blocked with oil and muck. This problem will soon be rectified as I plan to remove all three blower nozzles and redrill them to drawing size. Using a process of trial and error I should be able to create a much better blower system.
With the loco having failed again I was a little dissapointed but it was still an enjoyable day out. Thanks to all involved. Good evening. Sam...

Sunday, 13 May 2012

"Sir Gomer" On Holiday: The Chinnor Railway...

Hi guys. This morning at just before 7am I was on the A46, on route to the M40. My destination: the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway in Oxfordshire. This 3.5-mile long preserved line is standard gauge and runs between the idyllic village of Chinnor, across fields and open plains to a run-round loop on the outskirts of Princes Risborough, around 1/2 a mile from the town itself. Earlier this year, the C & PRR was due to hire the South Devon's Prairie Tank No5526. However, when the Prairie suffered an unfortunate cylinder failure, the Oxfordshire line was left with no substitute at late notice. Luckily, "Sir Gomer" was at home and free of duties at Shackerstone and so was quickly signed for and despatched by road to Chinnor. The Peckett was of course my reason for visiting the railway today: I'd never been before. I arrived at just after 8:15am and was instantly met by a member of the railway's staff. He took me down to the loco area where I met Mike & Dave: "SG"s crew for the day. No1859 was simmering on shed with the fire having just been lit. Though filthy, she looked in fine fettle as she warmed up. The C & PRR has no loco shed, or pit, and therefore the loco was being steamed in a siding. The first train was diesel hauled by an 08 shunter, at 10am. The first steam service was the 11:10 which "Sir Gomer" hauled easily to Risborough; with me on the footplate
"Sir Gomer" at Risborough
 Most of the outward run is downhill, apart from the sharp climb out of Chinnor station. At Risborough, the 0-6-0ST ran into the headshunt. Beyond the buffer stops there is 6ft of track missing (that Network Rail can replace when they want) and then the line continues to Risborough and the main line. The C & PRR hope one day to continue to Risborough to meet with more possible passengers!
Driver Mike was on the handle today and seemed to handle "Sir Gomer" very well
 
The engine was soon on the front of the train and Dave was making up the fire. He said that the climb back would be a challenge, particularly for a slow moving industrial. Thoughts of Pontypool raced through my mind. The Peckett feathered at the valves hauling 3 coaches and 'Mardy Monster' up the 1 in 24, loving it all the way. So, I thought, it wouldn't be an issue. However, the C & PRR has a few slacks, with one of them being at the foot of the lengthy 1 in 68 bank. All that slogging mixed with a small-ish boiler (compared to the cylinders) seemed to take it out of the powerful Peckett and she steamed quite poorly: very out of character! But, nevertheless, we soldiered on
With the fire made up, the 4-coach train was dragged out of Risborough and around the tight bend, over a level crossing and then on towards Chinnor
 
Beautiful countryside surrounds the C & PRR. Of course, it is best viewed from the footplate!
Lovely Countryside
 After an unusual first run, we returned to the prep area as the railway's 3rd train of the day is diesel-hauled to allow for coaling, watering and crew lunches. The 3rd trip done, we returned to the train and I was allowed to have a go at firing. Mind you, it was very hard going and I struggled as the real crew did. However, when Dave returned to the shovel for the 3rd run it was a completely different story and she seemed to run much much better. I suppose it helps if you know the line very well too! After a 3rd run on the footplate I decided to call it a day. The 70-mile drive home was playing on my mind and I felt that if I rode on the last trip (the 4:30) then I wouldn't get home until at least 7:30, rather than 6pm if I left at this point. So, after checking the engine one more time and thanking the crew, I headed home. The C & PRR had been very friendly to me and I had enjoyed my visit very much. It is a very pretty, rural and enthusiastic little railway.
"Sir Gomer" In A Typical GWR Setting
Throughout my visit to the loco, I was filming the odd few bits & bobs. The footage I shot can be seen below:
 All in all, a very enjoyable day. I've noted a few jobs that need doing on "Sir Gomer" when she comes home and so I look forward to having her back at Shackerstone. If you live in the Oxfordshire area and want a ride behind "Sir Gomer", she is remaining at Chinnor until June at present. See the railways website for more details. Well, thats it from me for today folks. Cheers. Sam.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Wet But Warm on 3803...

Hello everyone. Today I was at Shackerstone at 6am to fire the Great Western Heavy Freight No3803. The loco had been in steam the day before and so was still very hot when I got to her. In fact, she still had 20psi on the clock. However, something wasn't right. Something was hissing. When the leak was discovered I had no choice but to fail it. After a discussion with my driver we decided that we could repair the problem and relight the engine ready for the 2nd trip of the day at 12:30pm. However, before the repair could take place, we would need to lose that 20psi. So, with all hands to everything that needs steam to operate...we let it loose...
Steam Heat "ON"...
 
Sure enough the 20psi was lost within 15 minutes and we then made the repair. With this being successful, the loco was lit up outside the shed ready for the remainder of the day. The Class 73 took the first train at 11:15 whilst 3803 brewed up quietly on shed. When the electro diesel returned at 12:10 we quickly ran round onto the back of the train for our first run of the day: the 12:30
The rain was off and on, and it wasn't very cold so we decided to leave off the weather sheet. To be fair, it wasn't too bad. The loco performed very well indeed and myself & Driver Adrian had a very enjoyable day. You always seem to have a good day on 3803 though! Cheers guys. Sam.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Return to "James" at GEC...

 
Hi guys. This afternoon I had been invited up to the GEC Miniature Railway in Binley to help with my friend James' locomotive: "James". The 0-4-0 Romulus was to undergo a Steam Test before taking part in the first of this years 7.25" gauge Public Running days. Also on site was 0-4-0 Sweet William "Luna" and the Big-Tich "Tom". Having helped unload "James" we pushed 'him' up onto No1 Bay before preparing him. The boiler inspectors were on hand to oversee proceedings and the loco was soon ready. The water gauge glass blow-down was passing badly and so we dropped the fire to repack it. Once repacked the blow-down was fine and the loco passed her steam test with flying colours.
 With the steam test passed, all that remained was to clean the loco before heading off shed
"Luna" & Train
 "Luna" was already in steam, having been used for a Birthday Party in the morning. She simmered away quietly whilst "James" got ready. The Public Running began at 2:30pm but, due to her repairs, the red Romulus was not ready until 3:30pm. Nevertheless, once ready we steamed out onto the track with owner James driving her first run. We then alternated on each of the Romulus' 7 trips of the day. As usual, she was in fine form and steamed beautifully. My only regret was that the running was soon over. Ahh well, a fab day anyway! I must thank James again for letting me loose on his engine as I always have a great time. The friendly members of the GEC (and the endless supplies of tea!) only add to this experience. After the running we chugged back up towards the bays and blew "James" down...
Steamy "James"
"Luna" soon followed, with "Tom" having finished his run earlier on. Soon enough we were loading "James" back onto his trailer, ready for home. Again, I must say that I had a fantastic afternoon. I will next be at the GEC on May 16th (a Wednesday) for Joans Fun Day. I did that a couple of years ago on "James" and it was fab but this time I will hopefully be bringing "Achilles" to lighten the load on some of the other locomotives. Look out for a post on that as it happens. Cheers guys. Sam...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Stapleford Miniature Railway...

The fabulous Stapleford Miniature Railway is a 10.25" gauge gem that runs for 2 miles through wonderful scenary. Tracing its routes back to 1958 when it was built as a 2000ft long track by the Second Lord Gretton, the line has been growing ever since. Lord Gretton wanted to attract more visitors (particularly families) to Stapleford House and its grounds so, after seeing an advertisement for some track, some coaches and two Curwen Atlantic Class steam loco's being sold as a job-lot, he purchased them. The first line connected the House to one of the car parks and initial passenger numbers were good. The line was extended to Lord Gretton's lake and this section opened in May 1959. Once running to the lake began, Lord Gretton had another brilliant idea: Why not have two miniature Cruise Liners operating on the lake giving rides? "Southern Cross" & "Northern Star" were the names of the two liners and they combined a steam train ride with an idyllic lake cruise. To give an idea of their size, each liner was 45ft long! The line continued to develop and grow in popularity, even having a Lion Reserve at one point. The second Lord Gretton died in 1982 and the house was later sold. The third Lord Gretton (his son) kept the railway in safe, private storage and also kept ownership of the estate through which it ran. Sadly, in 1989, the third Lord Gretton died and it seemed that the SMR would be lost forever. Fortunately, a well meaning band of volunteers formed a group known as 'The Friends of the Stapleford Miniature Railway' and vowed to restore it to running order.

Lady Gretton (wife of Lord Gretton) became Chairman of the new FSMR group in 1992. After much restoration and many changes, the railway held its first public open day in 13 years in the summer of 1995. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength, though the Liners and the Lions have long gone. The SMR holds public open days twice a year and a Model Engineering Society private running day too. Today, CMES and many other societies had been invited to SMR to enjoy a day out on the railway. Entry to the non-public event was free and even the tea was free: fantastic! We arrived at 10:30am and the beautiful Saint Class "Hampton Court" was ready with her train...
Saint Class "Hampton Court" - Built 1939
The preserved SMR had three loco's in steam today. We jumped aboard the Saint Class for a ride on this chilly yet occasionally sunny morning. The trains leave the station under a Gantry, passing an operational yet still scale Signalbox on the right...
The trains descend a 1 in 68 away from the station and through a lengthy model of Box Tunnel. Eventually, Lakeside is reached and there is a fork in the track. Here, the trains head into the balloon loop, crossing the river before curving 90 degrees to the right...
The train runs at scale speed, alongside the river and adjacent to a Golf Course. Passing views of rolling fields, the Saint then curved right and chuffed lightly through a deep wood. This section was particularly beautiful and very idyllic. We even spotted a Hare on his rounds. Another climb then brought the 4-6-0 back around onto the lakeside, with views of the once Stately Home through the trees...
Soon enough, the train is right on the lakeside. On a hot summers day this would be fabulous...
Shame About The Liners
After reaching Lakeside Jnc again, the train is facing the opposite way and begins to climb the 1 in 68 back towards Central Station. The Saint chugged hard up into the tunnel (modelled on Primrose Hill from this way)...
Through the tunnel and up towards the right-hand curve the Saint chugged. She sounded in fine form as she blasted away. She was also immaculate. The SMR coaches are articulated and have wooden bench seats. They are pretty comfortable and provide a smooth ride...
The Saint brought us easily back up into Central Station and rested at the end of Platform 1. She was built in 1939 and is of course modelled on the GWR Saint Class 4-6-0. She is 1/5 scale and was purchased by John Gretton in 1981. The locomotive looked lovely and I really wouldn't mind owning her! She looked great...
The impressive building at Central Station was built between 2005 & 2009 and includes a small Tea Room area and even an Open Fire (which was very welcome today!)...
The second loco running today was one of the original SMR Curwen Atlantics: now named "John H Gretton". She was built in 1948 and during her commercial days at Stapleford the loco was fitted with rotary valve gear to improve performance and reliability. The Atlantic is apparently a reliable and powerful locomotive and is very popular with SMR crews. She certainly seemed in fine form today...
"John H Gretton" - Curwen Atlantic
The purpose built loco shed at Central Station was still occupied at Midday, by the massive 4-8-4 Niagra Class locomotive, which was steaming up. She really is a brute...
Inside the locomotive works were the remaining SMR engines. The LMS Jubilee was in bits and the oil-burning EAR loco (that I have seen before at MMEE) was being oiled up. There was also a blue Warship class Diesel loco...
In The Shed - The Blue Warship & The EAR Oil-Burner
The Niagra began construction in 1974 and is part-owned by Lady Gretton. She was built by John Wilks with help from FSMR members and began hauling SMR trains in 1997. She has been a regular performer ever since. She really was massive!...
The SMR doesn't just run big locomotives. This much smaller 4-4-0 was on one of the bays near the huge Niagra. I bet its more of a challenge to drive that around than any of the bigger brutes as there must be so much in reserve with the Niagra!...
The Niagra on shed...
The HUGE Niagra
We left at just before 1pm as it was hailing and raining heavily. The Niagra had just gone off to start her first trains too. It had been a fantastic morning and I was so impressed with the SMR. We had indulged in a 2nd ride behind the Saint, though this time she had to stop for a blow-up near Lakeside on the return (don't know what happened there). The loco fleet here is brilliant and the track is well maintained. I would encourage anyone who hasn't been before to go and visit: it really is well worth a look. They are open in June and in August this year so why not pop in and support them? For more information on the SMR, its history and its running days CLICK HERE. With that folks, I will end this post. Thanks for reading. Sam...