Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sunny Sunday Driving At Ryton Pool...

Hello everyone. Todays outing was a simple yet very enjoyable one. It was my third and final rostered turn of the year at Ryton Pool Miniature Railway. As it was a Bank Holiday a double-crew was rostered so that two trains could be operated together. The Class 37 electric (a Compass House product) was used on a three car rake, as was my steed for the afternoon: 0-4-0 Sweet Pea "John Owen". I steamed the Pea using the usual parrafin-wood and electric blower, before switching to the steam blower when required. The little green engine soon came round whilst I oiled her up for her public service. The service was due to run from 1pm until 4pm as usual but the electric was in action from 12:30, carrying some early passengers. "JHO" meanwhile was still warming up on shed at this point.
A Smokey Start With "John Owen"
With the loco in steam myself and Steve lifted her onto the track. I then 'walked' the loco down to the carriage shed where we collected three passenger cars and coupled them up. The Pea then took us as an ECS move to Ryton Halt where the first passengers boarded. For the rest of the afternoon we worked an intensive service, alongside the Class 37 and her train. As the hours passed we carried 188 people: not bad for two little trains!
"John Owen" Waiting Behind The 37s Train
I drove the steamer on every one of her runs, and she was brilliant. She steamed well, pulled well and presented no problems. The passengers; particularly the adults; seemed to prefer the steamer, finding her perhaps a little more 'interesting' than the simple electric. The locomotive ran well right up until she was disposed and put away; the last train being hauled by the electric at just gone 4pm. All in all a very enjoyable afternoon. You can't beat driving this engine with a full load on a sunny afternoon :) . Cheers guys. Sam...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Achilles Report No17: Rugby MES Visit...

Hi all. This morning, as the rain threatened to fall, "Achilles" was being prepared for a trip out to Rugby Model Engineering Society's track at Onley Lane. The newly-ticketed engine had been throughly cleaned the night before when she suffered an unfortunate failure...
"Oh Dear"
I was cleaning the engine when I noticed that the return crank was movable. When I grabbed a 5BA spanner with which to tighten the clasp onto the crank again the bolt inside it sheered. Luckily it had sheered at the nutted end rather than inside the clasp so it was simple enough to remove it. However I did not have a spare so rushed over to Kens to collect one; luckily he had plenty! I then rushed home and fitted the 5BA before tightening, which was successful. The clasp was tight on the crank and the valve position was correctly set. The loco was now again ready for loading. We left home at 10am, arriving at Onley Lane around 35 minutes later. It was sunny there: thank goodness: as it had not been at home. "Achilles" was duly unloaded, filled with water and lit; using a combination of firelighters, parrafin and charcoal. Coal was duly added and the loco came round relatively quickly. At 30psi we switched to the steam blower and the blue 0-6-0 brought herself round as she pleased.
With the full working pressure of 90psi achieved the safety valves lifted on shed. This was a simple test (as is done everytime I run the loco) before slowly pulling forward with the regulator cracked. I then shut the regulator to allow the automatic drain cocks to release any water that has collected in the cylinders and superheater. As usual the loco released alot of water before starting away. The engine pulled down off shed and was traversed across the gap onto the main track, which at Rugby is 1100ft long. A Rugby MES driving truck was coupled up and the engine started away. At 900ft shorter than Ryton Pools the Rugby track is hardly a challenge for "Achilles" but it was certainly scenic, running around a wooded area before opening up with views over the countryside. Following alongside is the much longer 7.25" gauge ground level track, upon which Pete (who's Shay loco I drove last weekend) was driving his Class 08 shunter. "Achilles" steamed well, keeping 60-80psi all day and running sweetly.
"Achilles" at the Station
"Achilles" was joined on the track by Dave's 'Simplex', Derek's LNWR 'Jumbo' and other Dave's Polly III. Later in the day Pete's 0-4-0 electric shunter also joined in the fun. As the hours passed we continued circulating, enjoying the warm bursts of sun and cooler breezes. "Achilles" continued to run well, jogging around lap after lap.
Following The 7.25" Track
 I was glad to finally attend a Rugby outing as we have been on holiday every year since the club (CMES) has been going. I was also pleased that "Achilles" had run so well and not let me down, showing what she can do even after 25 years or so of continuous operation.
As the day wore on we decided to see just how far we could go on "Achilles"; without getting bored that is. In the end, as the last loco on the track, we had completed 40 laps, which is equivalent to 8 miles! I hate to think how much that is in scale miles!
Basking In The Sun With Valves Lifting
After a good few hours running (and 8 miles) we retired from the track and blew "Achilles" down. We could have kept going and going, but 8 miles seemed enough for one day! "Achilles" was drained before being cleaned and loaded back into the Saxo.
All in all a very enjoyable day. Thank you for reading folks - we certainly had a good day today. "Achilles" is next planned to run on Saturday October 6th at RPMR, unless anything else crops up in the meantime! Cheers guys. Sam...

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Achilles Report No16: Annual Steam Test...

Hi all. Tonight at 7pm we rolled up at the site of the Coventry Model Engineering Society at Ryton Pools, where my locomotive "Achilles" was due an annual steam test. The ticket had expired the week before and so, with an approaching visit to Rugby MES on the cards, the loco needed looking at. Derek kindly offered to do the test at my request and whipped the pressure gauge off straight away for calibration. Having returned with the gauge, Derek told me to steam the loco up. The boiler was checked for leaks and the safety valves checked for correct blowing off pressure. The valves are also required to hold the pressure at within 10% of full working pressure with the blower fully open. This test was sucessful and therefore the two water feeds were the final test. The handpump was fine but to test the axle-pump I had to take the loco on two laps of the track. Sure enough, the axle-pump was more than adequate and "Achilles" retired from the track with a brand new steam certificate - "phew"! She was then blown-down and put back into the car for transport home. Cheers Derek, and cheers guys! Sam...

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Private Garden Railway: The Shay...

Hi everyone. Now and again you have one of those days where nothing could have really gone much better. Today was one of those days. Last week a friend of mine invited me to a Vintage Car gathering at his house, which was sheduled for today. The private house includes a pond large enough to accomodate a steam launch and a 7.25" gauge railway which is a mile in length. It is no amateurs garden railway! The line began a few years ago and has slowly grown since. It originally skirted the edge of the lake using an out-and-back single line, before being improved to circle the lake entirely. The extension was then added down to what is now the steaming bay area, which includes sheds, a turntable, raised and ground level steaming bays and a water tower. The extended route then continues around the back field before passing over itself via a cross-over. The track then climbs steeply back up to the lakeside, rejoining the lake circuit via a trailing point. The train then circles around 1/4 of the lake on track it has already travelled, before taking a facing point to the right and continuing back around the lake to the station area. So, basically, you travel half of the lake twice during every circuit, so that you can get to the extension, around it, off it and back to the station again. That makes the journey around 12 minutes and over a mile! Today I arrived on site at around 11:30am and was immediately given the resident 7.25" Shay locomotive to steam....
As there were many vehicles and guests expected, all three of the railways engines were in action: the Shay, the Station Road Steam 'Stafford' 0-4-0 and the Class 08 diesel. Two privately owned loco's (a blue electric and 0-4-2 steamer "Wendy") were also in action, providing a varied and intensive service on the route.
'Wendy' (nearest) and Pete with the 'Stafford'
The engine was in steam at just after Midday and out on the line with myself on the pull-out regulator. Behind her she hauled a bogie driving truck and three bogie log wagons. A fully loaded train would allow for 8 adults to ride as well as myself, though the empty train is heavy anyway(!), particularly on the gradient back up to the lake. The owner had insisted that the 3-cylinder Shay not be driven faster than a 'moderate walking pace' as the prototype standard gauge version was only designed to run at 10mph! Therefore the eccentrics would be tearing around at faster speeds, risking potential lubrication issues. Even with a fully loaded train the loco would chug along happily at just over walking pace in the last notch before mid gear and with the regulator barely open. She was a pleasure to drive. She steamed beautifully, allowing you to put water in adequately using the axlepump whilst also making steam with the firehole door cracked open. You never had to worry about her getting you back...she would regardless.
Skirting The Lake On The Station Approach
The first run was empty stock until the station but from then until gone 5:30pm the loco was pulling full trains all afternoon. We stopped once for around 15 minutes in the station loop for a break and that was it. For the rest of the afternoon we steamed around the fields, blowing the US style whistle. The Shay was a beauty...perfect in every way. As long as you made sure to keep her oiled every 4-5 journeys then she was fine, and sounded like a well-oiled sewing machine. The weather also helped, with the sun shining all day.
The day saw countless vintage cars from various makers and from various era's standing on the lineside, whilst the steam launch "Roundtuit" offered steam-powered, tranquil rides on the lake as the trains passed by. It was brilliant. At around 5:45pm the train had become quiet enough for me to call it a day with the Shay. I'd been driving for ages and though I'd enjoyed it I was worn out! The loco sidled happily down the line, away from the lake and to the yard. We chugged up onto the turntable before dropping the air brakes on the train and uncoupling the loco.
The Shay Ready To Go Into The Yard
With very little fire remaining and a full boiler, the Shay was left to cool down at her own accord. 'Stafford', 'Wendy' and the two electrics had all long since retired for the day.
The engine on the Shay is rather interesting, employing three verticle cylinders with Stephenson valve gear, driven to the wheels via a rotating shaft and gears. Simple but effective. I was very surprised at how smooth it was in motion, particularly as all the power is driven from one side. However, it also rides brilliantly as it is a bogie locomotive.
3-Cylinders On The Right Hand Side
 Following the disposal of the Shay, I got yet another drive on the railway, on another loco to boot. A few months ago Eddie bought a Maxitrak Opal; their 0-4-2 7.25" steamer. "Archie" formerly "Roy" was in action early this evening, enjoying a run on this lengthy garden railway. I drove the little red engine on two laps of the route and she was brilliant. I think Eddie was pleased with her/him. She did go very well.
"Archie" formerly "Roy"
All in all a brilliant day. Thanks very much to the railways owners for letting me drive the Shay all day, and to Eddie for letting me drive his new loco. Cheers folks. Sam...

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Another Day on 3803...

Hi there. Today I was back on GWR 2-8-0 No3803 once again. Driving today was Jan, with Jason as trainee. I arrived at 6am and; after going into the hot firebox to check the fusibles and the stays; I lit the loco up. Jan and Jason duly arrived and we began cleaning and oiling the engine. Just the normal five trains today, made up of four Mk1 coaches. An easy day really for 3803, and for us. Myself and Jason shared the firing whilst Jan drove. All in all a very uneventful but enjoyable day with the heavy freight. Again, another plug for the STEAM GALA on September 15th/16th...join us! Cheers all. Sam...

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Bala Gala - 40th Anniversary - Day 2...

Hi everyone. Following a good night at the Eagles last night we awoke this morning to an all too familiar sound...heavy rain falling. The rain was beating down on the caravan as we enjoyed our morning cuppa' and got our overalls ready for the day. Up at the shed I could hear "Trigger" the diesel already in operation and moving things about. As we were at the front of the shed last night, "Holy War" was pushed up the far siding alongside the shed mouth. I wouldn't normally mind this position but it was chucking it down with rain! Mind you, it could have been worse: we could have been on "Alice" in it! As we all stood in the shed looking out on the soaking fleet of loco's, we decided that doing the jobs sooner rather than later was a better plan...I don't think I've ever swept tubes or cleaned a grate so quick! The blue locomotive was soon lit up using both parrafin-soaked and dry wood with rags on top. The raging fire was then covered with a layer of coal to get it going. "Holy War" (having still had a full fire in at 5pm last night) started singing straight away as the rain continued to batter the cab roof...
The days events followed exactly the same format as the day before so I won't labour it by filling this post with every description. However, there were more photographers out with their cameras, which was nice to see. We did try to help them where we could. For example, if we knew that "Marian" and "Holy War" would end up shunted on top of one another then would attempt to get them side by side for pictures. One shot I particularly liked was the carraige shed idea we had. "Marian" had to set back into the carriage shed to pick up the slates and the plan was to push the Yellow Truck out behind "Holy War" by hand. However, we realised that putting "Holy War" in the shed too, on the opposite road, would provide quite a nice shot. The carriage shed could have been a quarry locomotive shed...who knows?...
"Holy War" & "Maid Marian" In The Shed
Later in the afternoon the same 4-engine line-up took place as the day before. However, this time we had managed to get "Marian" onto the loading road so that all 4 engines could be lined up properly. The shots achieved were brilliant. The four ladies looked great.
Our final trip of the weekend (the 4pm with "Holy War") went well and the day ended on a pleasing note with a photograph of all of the volunteers involved. It was a pleasure to work with these guys over the weekend. The photo is the copyright of Bala Lake Railway...
The 40th Anniversary Gala Volunteers (C = Bala Lake Railway)
For your interest, some gala film I took can be found on this link. All in all a brilliant weekend on the Bala Lake Railway. Thanks very much to all of the volunteers for making us so welcome, and of course to the managers (Roger & Bobby) for having us. It was brilliant to be involved in such a historic event...40 years of narrow gauge steam on the shores of Bala Lake. I will remember it fondly. Also thanks to Eddie for putting up with me for a whole weekend in a caravan...he deserves a medal, or just my respect. Thanks guys. Sam...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Bala Gala - 40th Anniversary - Day 1...

Hi everyone. This morning we awoke to find an overcast sky but with promise on the horizon. Today was the first day of the Bala Lake's 40th Anniversary Steam Gala weekend, when everything steamable would be running. Naturally, the three steamable Hunslets: "Holy War", "Maid Marian" and "Alice" were all to be in steam. The engine crew roster for each engine was decided by a random draw. Interestingly however, all three engines ended up with exactly the same crew on both days! Myself & Eddie were given "Holy War", the blue Hunslet of 1902, which was the last steam loco to work in a British slate quarry: ending her working life at Dinorwic in November 1967. Meanwhile, Chris & Russ were out on "Marian", with Bruce & Andrew on "Alice". The timetable featured the four normal departures, mixed with extra action at the base at Llanuwchllyn. The 'Yellow Truck': built for Queen Victoria's visit to Dinorwic: was offering rides behind any of three loco's along the ex-standard gauge platform whilst a rake of demonstration slate wagons was being shunted in the loop. At 8:30 sharp we arrived at the shed to find it alive with activity. We then joined our loco and soon all three were lit up...
Good Morning Engines - "Alice" (left) with "Holy War" & "Marian"
It was a great atmosphere on shed. It was great to meet some of the other volunteers, many of whom I've never seen before. The first departure was as normal at 11:15, hauled by "Maid Marian". By then we were out in the yard with "Holy War", coupled up to the Yellow Truck. "Alice" meanwhile had already backed down onto the slate train.
Following the departure of "Marian" we were ready to take "Holy War" out into the platform to provide rides with the truck. "Alice" was also ready to follow on, across the pointwork and into the loop for shunting. The photographers were out in force (cameras in hand) capturing the action as it unfolded. With line clear and steam up, "Holy War" chugged, with drain cocks blowing, out into the platform.
"Holy War" & Truck - "Alice" With Slates
"Alice" soon followed and the Hunslet pairing stood in the platform side-by-side.
"Holy War" & "Alice" - Both of 1902 Vintage
On the platform at Llanuwchllyn was a stand for the 'Maid Marian Fund'. This band of volunteers saved the red 0-4-0 and have since longed to keep her operational. A fund stall such as this would help raise much needed monies to pay for "Marian"s new boiler which she has already acquired...
Having given a few rides with the Yellow Truck, "Holy War" proceeded up to the headshunt for watering and coaling. This done, we proceeded back down through the loop under control of the dollies. The Yellow Truck was then shunted into the so called 'polytunnel siding' for stabling whilst we awaited the return of "Maid Marian". The red 0-4-0 steamed in with the 5-coach rake, handing us the token and a shovel as we hadn't got one! "Holy War" was rostered on the 12:50 passenger departure and so was duly run round and coupled up. We then departed on time, leaving "Alice" on the slates and "Marian" with the truck. The sun was now shining, allowing us to enjoy the views from the cabbed Quarry Hunslet.
Driver Idryss Jones On "Holy War"
Arrival at Bala was on time. We ran into the loop as usual before raking the fire, adding more coal and then oiling up. The loco was (as usual) positioned in front of the sign for the trademark photographs to be taken.
Aware that lateness now could cost the rest of the timetable, we romped out of Bala and under the bridge, hauling a heavy, well-loaded 5-coach train.
Our arrival back at Llanuwchllyn involved passing the token to "Alice"s crew before uncoupling, watering, coaling and ashing out. Eddie oiled up the loco before we moved her back down into the yard for a line-up and photographs. The three running Hunslets were positioned alongside the recently repatriated "Winifred", who was cleaned up and outside. The photographers flocked to see them, enjoying the sight of the four Bala Lake Ladies together...
"Marian" (back), "Winifred", "Holy War" & "Alice"
"Winifred" had been shined up using Brasso & oil, with her original paintwork looking brilliant. I can't wait until she's restored and steaming!...
 
After the line-up we were back on the Yellow Truck with "Marian" on the slates. "Alice" was out on the 2:25pm train. As she pulled through the yard to a chorus of admiring whistles the sun came out and the photographers seemed to be enjoying their experience. A few people again took up the opportunity to ride in the truck behind "Holy War", whilst "Marian" provided the authentic experience with her ever-growing rake of slate wagons. Upon hearing the bark of "Alice" assaulting the bank on her return run, both "Marian" and "Holy War" were moved to their respective positions out of the way. Following coaling and watering we reversed the blue 0-4-0 down into the Polytunnel siding again. With "Alice" & train safely in the platform we ran "Holy War" round for the last passenger departure at 4pm. Before we left there was time for a well earned cuppa' and a slice of cake...
"Holy War" & The 4pm Train
We left the base with the last trip on time, with "Holy War" barking away happily. Even this train was relatively well loaded! Upon our return both "Alice" and "Marian" were disposed and in bed, whilst the Yellow Truck was back in its shed and the slates in their siding. Everything in the timetable seemed to have gone according to plan. Having raked most of "Holy War"s fire out I walked back along the train to the Guards van, calling Eddie back from there. The loco then pushed the 5-coach rake back into the sidings and into the carriage shed. With the set screwed down on the handbrake I left the Guards coach and proceeded back up to the now uncoupled "Holy War". We then steamed into the yard for disposal. Within 10 minutes "Holy War" was filled, cleaned out and in bed, whilst we walked up to enjoy another cuppa' with the rest of the team. Tonight we're off to the Eagles after a successful day, for a group meal with others from the Bala Lake..."Pint Please Barman...(on Ed's tab)"...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Return to "Alice"...

Hello everyone. After arriving at the headquarters of the Bala Lake Railway last night, we were rostered on the footplate today. Last night we were told that our engine for today would be the cabless 0-4-0 "Alice". The red saddle tank was sitting at the front of the shed when we arrived at 8:30am to steam her up. Eddie dragged "Alice" out into the morning sun using "Trigger" the diesel. I then set about my fireman's duties. The grate and tubes were already clean and therefore I could light her up straight away. Using parrafin wood and rags I soon had a good fire going, with coal being slowly added on top. 
Eddie After A Slip In The Yard
 As she was cold, "Alice" took a little longer than normal to steam up but was still ready in more than due time for the first departure at 11:15. We steamed out of the station towards Bala with 5 coaches on the shackle and under blue skies, with "Alice" steaming beautifully. The 0-4-0ST ran just as well as she did last time we had her and it was a pleasure to work with her.
"Alice" chugged along the side of the lake, rocking and rolling. The water looked as still as glass on this fine day. I don't think I've ever seen the lake so calm. The only noise upon the breeze was that of little "Alice" and her equal yet quiet exhaust beats.
Todays passenger loadings were strong, with most trains being very full: good stuff. The loco continued her good performances throughout the day, with little clinker or steaming problems. You could also leave her reliable injectors running for quite a substantial amount of time whilst not damaging the steam pressure too much. "Alice" seemed to be loving her day out in the sun, just as we were. The views from the cabless footplate are brilliant: you can see absolutely everything. The only problem on days like today is the sun. Indeed, we were wearing suncream!
Overall it was a fantastic day: the loco steamed well, the sun shone and the passengers seemed to enjoy themselves.
By the last trip the heat was getting to me, so much so that I felt like throwing myself in the lake! It looked so cool!
The final trip allowed us a bit of a romp up the bank but "Alice" did need holding back somewhat: she just wanted to race!
The film below was taken by me today. Apologies for the shakes...

Today was brilliant. I look forward to tomorrow. For now its off to the local: the Eagles: for a pint and a bite to eat. Cheers all. Sam...

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway...

Hi everyone. Having left work on a half-day this morning, I picked up Eddie before departing towards Bala. On the way we decided to call in for a round trip on the 2ft 6" gauge Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. We arrived at Llanfair around 30 minutes before our departure so took the opportunity to grab a cuppa'. Jeff Cogan and Ken Bull were already there. They both work at the Echills Wood Railway and are also the official photographers for Statfold Barn...its funny how you seem to know everyone! In the yard at Llanfair was 0-6-2 Kerr Stuart "Joan", in light steam. Last time I came here she was nearly finished in the workshops, following overhaul. Today she was out in the sunshine, shining away. With a loud whistle we were graced with the arrival of 'Resita'. This 0-8-0 tank engine was also in bits last time I was here. Today she was on one of her first test runs following a heavy overhaul and arrived in 'failed' condition having ran a few hot bearings. She was duly retired from service with the reserve loco ("Joan") being brought round quickly and placed on the front of the train.
'Resita' - The 0-8-0T
I wasn't conplaining when 'Resita' failed as I had only really come to see "Joan". I saw "Countess" and "Earl" when I last came, as "Joan" wasn't ready, but today she certainly was. What an attractive engine.
 
The fireman who was making up "Joan"s fire kindly invited us up onto the footplate for a look around. It was a remarkably large cab with everything you would expect inside. I was surprised to see vacuum brakes fitted...I thought they would be air. The fireman talked of how "Joan" was a reliable and powerful locomotive, if you 'had her right'.
 
We left Llanfair, behind "Joan", on time and passed the Beyer "Countess" (the other loco in service) half way down the line. We travelled on an open balcony; one of the joys of the W & LLR coaches. From there you could see everything clearly on this beautiful sunny day.
GWR "Countess" - Sister Beyer to "The Earl"
Last time I visited the W & LLR it was raining and so this time it was very pleasant to see it in its true glory. The countryside around the winding route is fantastic.
After descending Golfa Bank and pulling into the terminus at Welshpool station, "Joan" was uncoupled and took water at the tower. It turns out myself and the driver had met before, on a works trip out...small world!
Having ran round "Joan" recoupled before hauling us easily back up Golfa and on towards Llanfair across the countryside.
Through The Square Window
After what seemed an easy run, "Joan" pulled back into Llanfair in the late afternoon sun. What a lovely journey.
We alighted from the coaches before enjoying another cuppa'. From here it was another hours journey across the mountains to Bala and the Bala Lake Railway. Below is the film I took at the W & LLR...
 
It had been a very pleasant visit but, now, its across the mountains we go. Up hill and down dale we drove passing...yes you've guessed it...thousands of sheep! We arrived at the Bala Lake Railway headquarters and found our accomodation: one of the caravans on the station yard - very nice. However when I turned around to Eddie to talk to him and he wasn't there, I had to go in search of him. I discovered him in a grassy patch behind the van, attempting to chop a tree branch off with what can only be described as the poorest of butter knives! He then commented, "its not cutting very well"...oh dear, must have been sun exposure, Ed...
With that, its off to the pub! Cheers guys. Sam...