Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Achilles Report No20: Not Again!...

Hello everyone. Tonight, on this freezing cold and damp evening, I took "Achilles" to CMES to help with the Haloween run which would take place from 6:30pm - 8:30pm. The plan was to double-head the loco with the Sweet Pea "John Owen" and haul 4 cars. However, after our first run "Achilles" had to be failed with a loose gudgeon pin nut. I was so annoyed that something so trivial had stopped me but, apart from tightening it and watching it undo itself again, there was nothing I could do. I thought I could Lock-tite it but obviously a thread covered in oil and in wet weather will not allow the stuff to set. I had no choice really. "Alacrity" replaced "Achilles" and so the diesel/steam hauled train continued through the night. I've never seen so many people queuing for the railway at Ryton before...there were so many! I took my loco back home, after calling her all the names under the sun. It will be a very easy fix in a dry workshop, as opposed to the pouring rain at RPMR. Thanks guys. Better luck next time? Sam.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dreary Day with a Dreary Engine...

Hi guys. Again, with the chance to get out of the house at hand, I took it and spent a day on the footplate at Shackerstone. The day began at 5am in pouring autumn rain. I picked Pockets up on the way and we drove down the soaking wet Fen Lanes to Shack. At the shed we found our charge for the day: the Prairie Tank 5521. This engine was one of our gala guests but has not yet been 'claimed back' shall we say. Apparently her owners at the Flour Mill have no room for her at the minute and so she has lingered at the back of the shed at Shackerstone. Alot of our guys weren't that impressed with her performances, though myself, Aid and Dave had a good day with her at the Steam Gala (see here). We had arrived early so as to be ready in good time for a Foot-Ex, which normally begins by leaving shed at 9am. Andy got the fire going whilst I began oiling up. We also had cleaning help from James. The Prairie began warming through quietly whilst I clambered around in the pit, attempting to reach the countless oiling points underneath, up and inside the loco (she is throughbred GWR!).

We left shed on time on the Foot-Ex and it wasn't too bad. However, with the coming of the first public trip the trouble began. The engine uses water like nobodies business: 3/4 of a tank for a 10 mile round trip (without blowing off I might add!). Also, the valves need work as she has a very ONE-TWO-THREE-FOUR beat to her. Well, the last beat is more of a cough really. Three years on the Polish main line has probably done that. Another thing, the steam heat. We turned it on and it makes all the right noises, before the cab and loco become engulfed with steam from a leak below the floor. We had to turn the steam heat off just to see the Guard's right away signal. Furthermore, the engine has a Pannier blast pipe meaning she sucks and drafts like mad on the move, but the blower is no longer fed through a ring...its fed through the ejector housing. Therefore, you get alot of noise for not alot of blower and that uses alot of steam and water for a blower system, most of which actually seems to heat the petticoat and come back down again. The drafting system isn't aided by a self cleaning smokebox screen which, to me, doesn't seem at home on a Small Prairie.

Throughout the day the engine steamed terribly. Due to the blower arrangement it won't make steam with the regulator shut very well. You can sit for quite a long time with the blower on and all you seem to do is use water. On the run she drafts well and will come round quickly with a good fire, though its very coal hungry with that sharp draft from the smaller diameter blastpipe. It also, again, uses the water due to the valves. We never ran too short of steam or water, keeping a good pace all day. However, it just wasn't... comfortable, shall we say. Andy gave me a break after the 2nd trip (as I'd already fired 1.5 trips for the Foot-ex) giving me two trips on the regulator. I returned to the shovel for the last trip which was of course in the dead of night. The Prairie steamed better on the outward run but wouldn't rise above 160psi on the way back no matter what we did. She was rife with clinker all day, having to be raked every 1/2 trip to steam at all. I must admit, I was glad to get the engine safely to bed. I remembered why I liked it at the gala...I had an hour to prep it before every 1/2 trip! I'm sure that it can be a good engine but, I'm also sure that it needs a fair old amount of work. The blower system in particular is dissapointing, and in my mind it probably would have been better with the old blastpipe staying in. Mind you, maybe we've been spoilt by 5786 and 5542...they were beauties. Oh well, we still had a laugh and, wierdly, it is "nice" to be on an engine that is a challenge. Cheers guys. Sam.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

GEC Night Run 2012...

Hi guys. In light of very recent family goings on I was in two minds as to whether to go along to the GEC Night Run today but, having moped around all day yesterday, I thought it would do me good to get some fresh air. The run was planned from 3pm until 8pm as usual, providing free rides on both the 5" and 7.25" tracks as well as the sale of hot food from 4:30pm, coupled with a bonfire and illuminations after dark. Reading back through previous posts about this run (every October) you will find that it is normally one of my calendar highlights and I always enjoy it. I arrived at 1:30pm today and immediately helped unload the Romulus "James" and Eddie's Maxitrak "Archie". The Bland family's "Luna" and "Toby" were already unloaded, as was "Tom" the 'Tich'. The 5" guys were busying themselves getting their engines ready too. The plan was to have both "James" and "Luna" sharing services, each with a 2-car set behind the drawbar. With the addition of little "Archie" (coupled to "Toby" who provided the vac brakes) we could create a 3rd line-going engine and thus lighten the load on the other two. For the first two hours of the day the plan worked, before "Archie" retired as Eddie had to get home.
"Archie" leads "Toby" Out of the Station
For the rest of the evening the busy trains were hauled by "James" and "Luna". The turn around times were very short, with the locos running straight round and back onto the set again before departing. "Tom" would have been in action on a 1-car set but he failed with a cracked water gauge glass. Myself and owner James shared the driving on his lovely red locomotive, which steamed and pulled brilliantly as usual.
"James" Ready To Go
As night fell the trains seemed to get busier and busier, on this cold but dry evening. We just couldn't seem to get the queue down, even with "James" and "Luna" getting a bit of a rush on. Accelerating well out of the slacks would get us some time back but in the black of night you can't see anything on the line ahead and so it makes sense to keep the engine from going too fast. Nevertheless the passengers seemed to enjoy themselves and the hot dogs and jacket potatoes were absolutely brilliant. After dark I lit the bonfire and it soon got going into a roaring, warm display for everyone to enjoy. Its amazing what one parrafin rag and a pile of wood can do!
Queue at 7pm
The Tea Room Ladies were again brilliant and tea on the footplate was a regular feature of the evening. The food, as I said, was also fantastic...well worth coming for. Despite everything I had a very enjoyable evening and the GEC can certainly chalk this one up as another success. Cheers guys. Sam.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Sad News

This afternoon I lost someone very dear to me: my beloved grandfather who passed away at age 72 after a slow illness. He was a big part of my life and helped with my hobby alot. Not only did he give me countless lifts to Shackerstone, Ryton and god knows where else but he also provided a home for "Achilles", started off my LEGO railway collection and built with me the 00 gauge Garden Railway which has been a feature of these posts in the past. Oh, and the yellow car, that was bought with a much appreciated loan from him. I never believed that anything could make me feel as sad as these past two weeks (post written a fortnight later) and I admit I feel totally devoid of any kind of happiness or enjoyment. I have however had alot of words of sympathy from alot of people and have tried to keep going rather than moping around the house. I wouldn't wish this situation on anybody. Rest in Peace Grandad, and thank you so much. x

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Friendly Faces Experience...

Hi there guys. This morning at 6am, whilst the world slept, I was pulling up at a cold and dark Shackerstone Station, ready to light 3803. The big Western was sat in her normal position in the shed, toasty warm after a good day out the day before. I clambered onto the footplate and opened the water gauge glass: 3/4s...spot on. The pressure read a depressing 10psi but thats alot better than nothing, believe it or not. Then came the bit you dread...the firebox. What will you see? Will it still be lit? Will it be clinkered up beyond all rational belief? Moment of truth...BANG and they're open. You dare not look. This morning I was blessed with what I thought was 'not too bad'. "A light poke through with the irons" I thought, "and we'll be away". The back was fine, so was the middle, but the front: 10ft away: was solid. Though there wasn't much ash there, there was clinker and so with an unhappy sigh it was curtains to the clean day and off into the hot firebox. As soon as you're in, thats it, you're sweating. It hits you like one big unexpected rain shower. Get the job done quick and get out; thats all you can do. With the grate clear I laid the usual 1-lump thick bed of coal and then lit up with dry pallet wood and a mound of parrafin-soaked rags.

As soon as she was lit the big Western began to 'sing' away to herself, and the pressure needle looked to rise the slightest tad. I then turned my attention to the Hydrostatic lubricator which would be better off filled prior to more pressure being made. They do have 'off' positions but they're never fully steam tight...never. Up at the front of the shed, Jason had lit the Peckett "Sir Gomer" and, behind us, the guys were preparing to light the Aveling "Blue Circle". It was so-called "Friendly Faces" weekend on the railway, requiring all three steamers to be out for the crowds. However, the weather, and the events lack of appeal to the die hard 'Thomas' fans seemed to kill it off and passenger numbers were unfortunately low. With 3803 making pressure nicely it was time to do the ashpan. On this engine its a hopper type, employing two opening doors at the foot of the pan: "easy, ay?"..."Yeah right!". For some reason this pan has never operated correctly and so is a bit of a pig to get open. I ended up in the pit, ankle-deep in water and hot ash whilst Jason yanked on the opening bar at con-rod level. Using a fairly hefty steel bar I managed to "persuade" the doors to open whilst Jason continued to apply pressure from outside. Eventually, the mass of hot ash dropped and we locked up the stricken pan.
Having also been used yesterday the Peckett was very hot and, given her small size, was ready in good time. At 9:30am she was off and went across onto Platform 2 road to begin steam heating our 5-coach train. Though it wasn't freezing this morning it was very damp and so the coaches needed a good hour to get warm.
"SG" On Steam Heating Duties

At 10:30am, having got the engine ready with Driver Eddie, we swapped places with "Sir Gomer" and began heating the train ourselves. For some reason, the water valve on the back of 3803 (for the steam heat) begins to leak at anything over 20psi on our gauge. We'll have to have a look at that! Anyway, we got changed and then Eddie began making the breakfast over our simmering, thin fire. The loco hissed away happily with over 200psi on the clock and a full boiler.
The day was rostered for five trips, hauled by 3803. However, as the lads had made the effort to steam "Sir Gomer" it was decided that 'he' would haul the last train, wearing his equally ridiculous face. The engines did look friendly, kind of, but I just can't take a face seriously...can you?! Anyway, myself and Eddie had a very enjoyable day on the 38', who steamed and pulled very well. Eddie had to be the booked Driver for "Sir Gomer" on his outing and so I was left to get the 38' to bed whilst he enjoyed a ride on an engine with real, industrial grunt...the little Peckett. I've always had alot of time for "Sir Gomer" as at one time it was all we had. Even though its a simple industrial it has alot of power in it and can haul 5 or 6 coaches easily though, on a full timetable, you may only want four behind it to save her straining...it isn't built for speed! No matter how small, the engine still looked good barking out of Shack with the rake this evening, even if Eddie did get in the way of my photo ;) ...
Shackerstone Railway Society's Flagship: "Sir Gomer" (1859 of 1932)
The 38' was soon put to bed and I then left for home, just as "Sir Gomer" pulled back in after a successful run, having made good time too. Thanks Eddie, and thanks guys for reading. Cheers. Sam.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Fosseway Show Day II...

 
Morning guys. Well, it was - now its evening and I'm writing this post watching repeats of Countdown on the box - isn't life meaningful! Anyway, all day today was spent at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre, up on the Fosseway, at the annual Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition. I was again rostered to drive an afternoon shift on the 5" gauge Portable Track; on behalf of CMES. However: free pass at the ready: I arrived at the exhibition just before opening, allowing me over 3 hours time to look around the show and enjoy the various displays and bargains on offer. Indeed, "Achilles" has added a brand new steam-raising blower and set of tube brushes to her kit box! If I'd have had the appropriate funds it would have had a 6" Allchin sat next to it in the workshop as well but I just didn't have my traction engine cap with me and so a purchase would have been pointless. (Thats my excuse and I'm sticking to it). The morning shift on the portable track was being covered, not by the Golden Slipper, but by a lovely blue 0-4-0, from Polly's 'Caroline the Koppel' range. The little blue steamer hammered up and down happily with the 1 truck on its morning stint, closely watched from the other side of the mud flats by the public.
The Koppel Doing Its Bit
Inside the two exhibition halls there was so much to see from all gauges and scales. The smallest 16mm locomotives right up to 10.25" gauge examples were represented. The traction engines were great in number too, from the Mamod SR1's right up the big-boys-toys; the 6 inchers (oo-er). There was an awful lot to see. One model that caught my eye was the 5" gauge model of our Shackerstone-based Peckett "Sir Gomer". We all looked at it on Ebay, sat there looking all unique and pretty. Unfortunately in my case a slightly larger blue engine is priority and so this one slipped away. I did wonder where it ended up until it turned up a little closer to home, at the GEC, owned by a Shackerstone member would you believe!...
Brilliant 5" Model of "Sir Gomer"
After having various conversations and meeting a few faces from the past, my shift on the track drew nearer. The 1:30pm start time moved to a slightly earlier 1pm as the Golden Slipper (Polly V) needed steaming up prior to her hauling the trains on the track this afternoon. The blue O & K had done her bit and was getting ready to retire for a rest.
Smoking Up The Tent!
You will appreciate that the term "Golden Slipper" is only stuck on the 'Polly V' as a joke. I'm sure that on a good quality track, rather than this box bar, the engine would be very economical. Indeed, it steams like a witch on very little coal with reliable injectors. Surely as a kit it provides the very best in simplicity and ease of use. The 2-6-0, in my mind, would probably benefit from a lead bufferbeam and a week's worth of Brasso but thats by the by. I can't grumble, apart from its slippery nature it went very well and did just what it set out to do...back & forth, back & forth. For your information, "Polly V" is readily available from Polly Models for a, shall we say, 'realistic' price. A lady did approach me asking what you would get for £500? I replied, "half the boiler!".
The 10.25" beast that I drove briefly last night was again in action, giving rides alongside us with her two Thompson-style suburban coaches. I still can't believe that its the same engine I saw on Station Road Steam: its a sensational job.
"Starlight" Pushing Well On Her Demo Line
The engine continued to perform well, right up until the end of running at about 4:30pm, whilst I shared the driving with Emma again.
I left the muddy fields of Fosseway at just gone 5pm, after a very enjoyable day. Thanks very much to Emma and CMES for a good day, and thanks for reading folks. Well, thats MMEE over for another year! Cheers. Sam.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Fosseway Show Day 1: Driving...

Hi everyone. Today I left work and headed straight over to the 2012 Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition, held at the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre on the Fosseway. The show opened on Wednesday, and will run til' Sunday. My society: CMES: had again provided their portable track to offer free train rides to show visitors during the event. The locomotive provided was again "Polly V"; a 2-6-0 of the Polly V type made by Polly model engineering. The brass-liveried demonstrator loco steamed well again, romping up and down the track on light loads. The bad mud (the car park was terrible) and the cooler weather made for less visitors on the show field, most of which choosing to enjoy a cuppa' inside the heated buildings. It wasn't just us that were losing passengers either. The 10.25" gauge line that ran alongside the 5" was also suffering. The locomotive though was beautiful; a 2-6-2 named "Starlight", employing large cylinders and an LNER style tender.
"Starlight"
The engine was purchased two years ago from Station Road Steam. For a moment I didn't even recognise it, having seen it on the site myself back then. I just happened to look at the wheels and then remembered. When I quizzed the owner...my guess was correct. I could not believe my eyes. In a mammoth 5 month restoration the engine has had pretty much everything repaired or replaced. Here is her original sale link. The owner even let me have a drive towards the end of the day. The 2-6-2 moved away smoothly, very responsive on the regulator and good on the brake: no less than I'd expect from a 10.25" engine with such a big boiler. Later on I left for home after a chilly but enjoyable afternoon. Thanks guys. Sam.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Another Turn with a 38'...

Hi everyone. I had another turn as Fireman on 3803 today at the Battlefield Line. However, as I'm on it quite alot and the loco features regularly on this blog, I won't labour the post again by including a lengthy account of the entire day as one may find that the details would almost match other posts from past experiences. In short, I arrived at Shackerstone this morning at 6am, in pitch darkness. Having unlocked the gates and driven in I continued up to the station before unloading my car and ambling down to the loco shed. Inside the shed, right next to the door, was the simmering charge for the day: 3803. Having checked the water level and the firebox I had to physically go into the firebox in order to clear some debry from the front end. With the blockage cleared I clambered back out the box and laid a bed of coal 1-lump thick. Andy then lit a wood fire on top using pallet wood and rags. The inferno quickly took hold and 3803 began 'singing' (boiling) straight away.
A Good Fire In The Box, With The Wood Taking Hold
The booked crew for today was myself, Driver Andy and Trainee Jason. It was a good day all told with a warm sun, a tasty breakfast cooked on the shovel and shared duties of both driving and firing. Apart from a few knocks and bangs the 38' went very well and proved herself to be reliable and free steaming, as she always does. Mind you, the coal we had on board the tender was a little poor. Though it burnt almost white hot it had a tendancy to dissapear quickly and (worse still) clinker the grate. Mind you, we did use the last of that batch of coal today so we'll have a new batch next time we're on which will hopefully be better.
We hauled five trains today, with me firing three of them and driving one of them. It was a very good day indeed, well worth doing. The big green 38' did us proud again.
Cheers Guys - Sam

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Few Hours at Shackerstone...

Hi guys. After work today I spent a few hours at Shackerstone. I performed a FTR examination on the GWR 2-8-0 No3803, ready for service this weekend. I also spent a bit of time in her firebox, clearing out all of the muck from last Sundays running. With all well the 38' was lit up ready for tomorrow. The warming fire would then be left to crackle away overnight, slowly heating the boiler up so as to prevent potentially harmful, hurried expansion. Other work going on included the boxing up of "Sir Gomer" following washout, prior to a steam test tomorrow. Thanks guys. Sam.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Tranquil Day with "James" at GEC...

Hi guys. Today I paid a visit to my friends at the GEC Miniature Railway once again, having ran there with "Achilles" yesterday afternoon. It was the final 7.25" gauge public running day of the 2013 season and three steam locomotives were rostered for service: "James", "Luna" and (on a visit) Eddie's 0-4-2 "Archie" (formerly "Roy"). I was there to lend a hand with my mate James' Romulus 0-4-0, also named "James". Reading back through this blog you will find that I have had many turns on "James" and throughly enjoyed all of them. Therefore, I never turn down the chance of a go on this engine. "James" arrived on site in his trailer at around 1pm and we duly unloaded him, prior to unloading "Archie". The red 0-4-0s were soon on the bays and preparations were made to steam them. "Luna" was already in steam, having been used for a birthday party in the morning. "James" was filled with water and then lit up on the electric blower before warming through slowly. With such a large boiler the Romulus normally takes around 20-30 minutes to steam up.

A Good Fire in "James"
"Archie" was steaming up alongside "James", with owner Eddie doing the honours. The little Maxitrak 0-4-2 has recently put in some successful performances and so I invited Eddie up to the GEC to try his loco out again. The loco was soon in steam and simmered happily away on the bay, whilst his larger brother "James" continued on the electric blower. "Archie" was acquired brand new from Maxitrak and has had a little "new engine syndrome" with a few bits coming loose and going out of time - but, thats normal isn't it. With a new engine; once you've ironed out the creases; you can get no-end of successful, reliable running.
Eddie then went off to do some route-learning on an ECS special hauled by a visiting Class 20 electric, leaving me to look after "Archie". The Class 20 failed at the terminus triangle and so "Luna" was quickly deploid to collect the stricken train. (Oh the drama that unfolds!). When Eddie eventually returned on the train I had brought "Archie" down onto the turntable with the regulator just cracked and the steam chest drains open to clear the condensate. The 0-4-2 and his driving truck then took water before steaming into the up-yard for stabling. With "Archie" being on test he would not be hauling any passenger trains so would have to slip in between the three service trains, whenever a path was available. The GEC 7.25" gauge track is capable of having 6 trains on the track at any one time, in safety. Public running began at 2:30pm, with "Luna" taking the first trip. "James" (driven by me) then took the next 2 trips whilst human James rode on the coaches with his children.

A Happy Eddie with His Locomotive "Archie"
Whilst I was returning on my second round trip with a free-steaming "James", I was halted at a red signal at the car park loop. In the distance "Archie" appeared and steamed past with Eddie at the controls. The little 0-4-2 seemed to be going well as I got "James" underway again with his fully-loaded 2-car train.
As usual, "James" was a pleasure to drive. He is free steaming and smooth on the regulator, with the injectors picking up everytime. After my 2nd trip, James took over on his engine for 2 trips before we started alternating each trip. The trains seemed very busy for a normal running day but, hey, thats money in the pockets of the GEC, ay?! The red 0-4-0 was very clean, with brasswork shining and his yellow No5 on the tender looking nice and bright.
James Blasting The Whistle As "James" Backs Off Shed
The GEC Tea Room Ladies were on fine form as usual and served us cups of tea to our footplates on a regular basis - thanks ladies! A mate of mine from the GEC said I only go for the tea - "Well, that and the train driving!". Seriously, the GEC is a brilliant place with a friendly atmosphere - well worth a visit. Later in the afternoon Eddie offered me a go on "Archie" so, having received a path from the signalman, off I went. The little 0-4-2 went like a dream, blowing off most of the way with the firehole door cracked slightly open. Returning to the station I pulled up at the car park loop again, at the same red signal. "James" and James then appeared at the top of the the hill with a down passenger train, whistling loudly as it passed me by. Myself and Archie then steamed away back towards the station before reversing back into the yard for stabling.
Passing "James" with "Archie"
After a few more trips on "James" it was time for the running to end and so we continued back into the yard with the Romulus, parking up alongside "Archie" on the bays. The two red engines were then blown-down whilst "Luna" took out an ECS run in order to collect the signals in.
"Steamy Engines"
All in all it had been a fantastic day. Thank you very much to James and everyone else at the GEC for having me again, and to Eddie for letting me drive the lovely "Archie" (formerly "Roy"). I'll next be at the GEC on October 27th for the annual (and brilliant) Night Run.
Cheers Guys - Sam

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Achilles Report No19: Pulling Public at GEC...

Hi guys. Well, after an unfortunate outing to RPMR in the morning for our ill-fated Efficiency Contest performance, I loaded "Achilles" back into the car and hit the road. The GEC miniature railway is only a few miles across town and we were on site there at around 1:15pm. The GEC was holding its final 5" gauge public running day of the season and three locomotives, including mine, graced the steaming bays. Having not blown the boiler down on "Achilles" she was still very warm and so steam up time was very much reduced. The loco was in steam within 10 minutes and she sat on the bay feathering at the safety valves whilst I had a cuppa': courtesy of the famous GEC Tea Room Ladies. The first engine onto the track was the Prairie Tank, followed by "Achilles". My blue 0-6-0 and the 45XX were both coupled up to 2-car rakes and we set off ready for public running to begin at 2:30pm. The chunky NER 0-6-0 was also steaming up ready for use, with the 08 as back-up.

"Achilles" took a casual test lap with an empty train to clear any condensate from the superheater before returning to the station for the first train load of passengers. The blue 0-6-0 was blowing off as we started away and she walked up the steep bank roaring her head off. The only way I could get the old engine to keep the pressure up throughout the run was to bank the fire right up before left the station. Two laps of the steep GEC track then cleared the fire right out, with chimney waste being forced to the side by the deflector fitted to the copper cap. Returning on the 2nd of the two laps of our first passenger run, we were halted at a red signal. Up ahead we could see the tail of the 45's train, engulfed in steam and whistling loudly, but stationary. The whistle valve had jammed open and all pressure had been lost. The 45 unfortunately had to retire; duly replaced by the NER tank. For the rest of the day the NER, "Achilles" and the 08 soldiered on and hauled many passengers on a busy service. Apart from alot of knocking and banging below running-board level "Achilles" ran, steamed and pulled well and I'm very pleased with her at the minute - for an old engine!

We retired from the track at 5pm and blew down. The loco had been worked hard and everything was red hot, not to mention the smokebox being very full with ash. The Saxo was then loaded up before we left at around 5:30pm for home. "Achilles" will be running for the final time before overhaul at CMES/RPMR on Wednesday October 31st for the Halloween night run. Thank you for reading folks - Goodnight. Sam.

Achilles Report No18: A Quick Sprint Around Ryton...

Hi guys. Today I left home at 9:45am with my loco "Achilles" in the boot of the Saxo. Our first destination was Ryton Pools, and the 2000ft-long raised track owned by Coventry Model Engineering: the locos home track. It was the Efficiency Competition; a social do with a little bit of gambling thrown in. There were 8 locomotives in the contest, drawn from a hat into their running orders, with "Achilles" going on second. My 0-6-0T was one of the oldest engines to take part and, as she hasn't been rebushed yet during her 28-year life, I didn't have the highest of hopes. The idea of the contest is to travel as far as you can, hauling the biggest load you can, using the least coal you can in a 20-minute slot. As expected, "Achilles" came last. Due to the age of the locomotive she needs a little bit more coal and a little bit more hard driving to get the best results. The reverser for example isn't much use unless in full-forward gear. However, this winter I'm planning to completely rebush the engine and overhaul all other necessary parts. In short, she should be a brand new engine.
Fire In The Hole
The first engine onto the track was "John Owen"; the Sweet Pea owned by CMES. The train was made up of a Dynamometer Car: which the driver rode on: and then a wagon loaded with the load asked for. The load was made up of very heavy slabs. We took 2 slabs on the wagon and that proved more than heavy enough! "Achilles" was in steam at 10:30am but didn't make it onto the track until after 11am, all the time having simmered on the bay, alongside Colin's 4-4-0 and Jim's 'Butch'.
The weather was very nice and it was pleasant to be on the track. I am a little dissapointed that "Achilles" came last but it wasn't much less than I expected for such an old engine. Lets hope that in 2013 she can compete again and do a little better!
After our 20-minute slot we retired to the bays and dropped the fire. I did however, unusually, not blow the boiler down. My plan was to get the loco back into the car by 1pm and continue down the road to the GEC, where the loco would hopefully take part in their final 5" gauge public running day of 2012. Although she didn't do well at Ryton, she was on the least possible coal rashions. With alot of coal in the firebox she can still do a good job when she wants to. The engine eventually left at just gone 1pm and, after a trip to McDonalds, was off to the GEC. Cheers guys - Sam...