Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Achilles Report No24: From Right to Left...

Hi everyone. "Achilles" post No24 is from today, when I did a little more work on the engine. The loco is being taken back to the crank pins on both sides of the valve gear, allowing me to replace the bronze bushes which have now worn to their own size, rather than the drawing size. Today I made a start on removing the LHS valve gear, now that the RHS is completely gone. I removed everything except the main rods (connecting rod, coupling rods and crosshead) as a previous engagement with the gudgeon pin and some Lock-tite had stopped me in my tracks...if you'll pardon the pun! The steam chest cover was however removed, allowing me to check the condition of this valve too. I also took the "posh dome" off for storage, prior to it heading somewhere for repolishing pretty soon. I'll be cracking on with the rest of the LHS once I receive my recently ordered mini blow-lamp ("That Lock-tite won't know what hit it!"). The long term plan is to have "Achilles" on steam test during late March/early April, allowing it to hit the track again in late April or early May. I would like to have her in steam earlier but, providing it doesn't knock when it returns to steam, I'm quite happy to take the time with it. Thanks for reading guys. Regards, Sam.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Cross-Headed...

Hi everyone. A short post from today. I spent all day at Shackerstone, at work with the lads in the steam loco shed. One of todays tasks was to check the condition of the brass inside "Sir Gomer"s RHS crosshead, which takes the power from the crosshead to the connecting rod and, finally, the wheels. The gudgeon pin sits inside the crosshead, and goes through a brass deep inside. The brass is held into the connecting rod little end by means of a shimmed, steel block with a threaded bolt straight through it to hold it in place. Removal of the brass requires the gudgeon pin nut to be removed, before the pin is hammered back through the crosshead and brass. With the pin out, you can gently bar the crosshead up along the slidebars (piston stroke permitting) and remove the little end from it. The brass was found to be worn but, with some extra shim, it would not be as free as it was previously once refitted. Other little jobs on "Sir Gomer" have included moving the worksplates to their original position, cleaning out the regulator housing and of course resetting the slide valves inside the steam chests. Thanks guys. Sam.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

An Audience With The King...A Royal Occassion...

Hi guys. This morning, in the snow, I drove to Quorn & Woodhouse station, on the Great Central Railway. It was the railways annual Winter Steam Gala, which had begun yesterday and would run until tomorrow. I only attend one gala per year religiously...this one. I've been coming to this gala annually for a few years now and it never fails to deliver. This years star locomotive was none other than the regal King: No6023 "King Edward II". The King's were the biggest GWR Class of 4-6-0 and were extremely powerful, employing four cylinders to create 40,000 pounds of tractive effort. With 250psi boilers they were good steamers but the firebox was very long and thin. "KE2" was built in 1930 at Swindon and was withdrawn in 1962, later ending up in Barry Scrapyard, alongside also preserved sister No6024 "King Edward I". The loco went through a very labour intensive overhaul following removal from Barry and was dubbed a huge restoration achievement. Released in April 2011, the blue King suffered terrible boiler problems following running-in on the Mid Norfolk Railway. The remainder of the rectification work was recently completed at the GCR's Loughborough sheds, and the regal King had her steam test this Thursday...just in time for the gala. At around 10:40am, we were treated to an audience with the King as she departed Quorn for Leicester North. What a beautiful machine and a wonderful preservation achievement...
As well as the beautiful Blue King, there were SEVEN other locomotives in steam. One of them, regrettably, was the GWR 2-8-0 No3803: freshly removed from Shackerstone. The loco was planned to stay at Shackerstone until just after our March steam gala. However, when the GCR asked, Shackerstone obliged and 3803 was duly shipped off. The big 2-8-0 will not be returning to the railway following this gala. Instead, she'll be going straight back home to the Buckfastleigh based South Devon Railway. We've had a great 2 years working with 3803; firing and driving something big for a change. However, all good things must come to an end and we must look to the future. I did catch one last brief ride behind her: from Quorn to Loughborough aboard the local train...
In addition to the King and 3803, the other six locomotives in steam included:
* 2-6-0 Standard 2 No78019
* 2-6-0 Ivatt 2MT No46521
* 2-8-0 LMS 8F No48624
* 4-6-0 SR N15 No777 "Sir Lamiel"
* 0-6-0 Class 3F Jinty No47406
* 0-6-2 N2 Class Tank No1744
The locomotives were all pretty clean and sounded brilliant. The King in particular was amazing to ride behind. I caught her from Loughborough to Rothley and, though you felt tremendous acceleration, she hardly made a murmour once linked up. The bark when getting away was amazing mind! I would really love to see that enigne on the main line. Once at Rothley I made my way to the favourite location for photography: the embankment. From here you can watch all of the trains that arrive and depart. With snow on the ground you could certainly get some brilliant photographs. Below, 78019 barks away with the Windcutters...
With 78019 having departed, 3803 was released from Rothley Brook yard and ran wrong-line to Swithland. It was so weird seeing her somewhere else as she has been based at Shackerstone for two years...
The N2 arrives with a train for Leicester North...
The red 8F clanks in light engine...
The big blue King departs for Quorn...with a beautiful bark...
The traditional Booking Office at Rothley Station...
I departed Rothley aboard another Local Train, hauled by the red 8F. I did not travel to Leicester North today as all of the real action was on the double track section of the line. The loco was looped at the recently opened Swithland sidings, allowing the 'Express' trains to pass - as per typical main line standard. The N2 came tearing past with an express as we sat aboard the 4-coach local...
Below, 48624 makes beautiful music from her chimney as we accelerate from Swithland towards Quorn...

After steaming back to Quorn I left the train and watched a few trains pop through the platform. Below, the King prepares to depart Platform 2 with a Loughborough train. At one point it didn't look like her chimney would clear the bridge!...
The relatively recent Quorn turntable was in use once again during this gala. LMS 8F No48624 stands grandly on the turntable below. The gasps of fright from the crowd as the locomotive banged its way onto the turntable were quite memorable. The GCR rep with the microphone kept on reassuring everyone that this was "completely normal"!...
As the sun began to dissapear the day grew colder and I spotted 3803 one more time, showing off her Great Western bark to the Leicestershire air - just a few miles away from Shackerstone!!
With the 38' having departed there was a brilliant, spark-ejecting TPO run through Quorn behind 78019. The TPO was my last spot and so I jumped back into the Saxo after another brilliant GCR Winter Gala visit. I'll be back again next year I'm sure. Cheers guys. Sam.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Achilles Report No23: Taking Her To Bits...

Hi guys. Well, as reported in the last Achilles post, the time has come to take her to bits for a bit of a bottom-end overhaul, amongst other jobs. This afternoon I grabbed my toolbox and a cuppa' before setting to work on the loco, taking off the right-hand side valve gear. A constant problem with the loco has been the worn crossheads, which bang up and down against the slide-bars when she's running along. Both of the crossheads are due for replacement during this period, as well as all of the bronze coupling rod, big end and little end bushes. Unfortunately, to get to the bushes, you need to remove the valve gear and then remove the connecting and coupling rods. On "Achilles", the first thing I removed was the return crank arrangement, and then the rest of the valve gear. Unfortunately, due to a sheered crosshead pin, the only way to remove the crosshead, and of course the gudgeon pin, was to undo the cylinder end and remove the entire piston assembly too. It took about 2 hours to get the loco to the dismantled state which saw the valve gear completely off. Below, I've taken off the RHS running plate to reveal the top of the cylinder and of course allow access to the di-block hanger and valve spindle...
The main thing with a job like this is to make sure that you have all of your tools to hand. Luckily I've ammassed quite a selection of allen keys, spanners, socket sets and screwdrivers over the years which does help, along with the traditional engineman's spanner (a big hammer). A good mug full of tea is also imperative when doing work like this to your engine. Below, the top slide-bar has been removed and the gudgeon pin nut is off...
In the image below I have also removed the top of the steam chest to check the condition of the valve. The rest of the gear which operates the valve has been removed...
In an image that startled even myself when I took it, the cylinder end and the piston have been removed, allowing the crosshead, connecting rod and lower slide-bar to go too...
The removal of the connecting rod then allows access to the front crank pin, which holds its bush, and indeed the coupling rod, in place by means of a caphead screw. The coupling rods for the RHS were then removed and laid on the bench. The bearings do not look terrible but none the less there is alot of play so they shall be replaced, taking the size off the current crank pins as our measure, rather than the drawing size (as the crank pins are not new and, though made of much harder material than the bushes, may have also worn). Below, the loco has had the cab removed as well as the bunker...
It certainly is interesting learning about the make-up of the locomotive when you've taken it apart. The bushes for example, for those who are not familiar, are simply bronze inserts which seperate the rod from the crank pins they revolve around. The bronze bush is designed to wear much quicker than the crank pins themselves, as the bushes can be replaced rather easily, once off the engine that is.
The removal of the cab has allowed me to get to the fittings much easier. A leak on the whistle turret has resulted in me taking it off completely and finding a decayed fibre washer. The washer has been removed, as has the gauge glass as that was leaking through its bottom fitting. The latter will require a new brass or fibre washer to be fitted in order to ease and of course seal the leak. The fittings will be replaced when I receive the fibre washers. She may also need a new gauge glass as the old one is looking a little tired.
One thing that I will be attempting to sort out is a slight problem with the loco's valve timing. Something isn't right...she goes pretty well but not as well as she should. Having taken up the valve gear slack I will be attempting to set the timing again. Below we can see the RHS valve inside the chest...
Thank you for reading folks. The next job on "Achilles" is to remove the LHS valve gear and then remove the bushes from the rods so that new ones may be made. Progress will continue to be reported on this blog where possible. Cheers guys - Sam.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

LEGO Railway at the Leamington & Warwick Show...

Hi all. This weekend, as a change, we were booked as exhibitors at the 38th Leamington & Warwick Model Railway Exhibition, held in Stoneleigh Park's Hall No2. Though we had been booked for the show for a good few months, it was still a bit touch & go whether we would make it due to the heavy snow that came on Friday afternoon. Heading down the A46 in the fully loaded Saxo, great care was taken not to travel too fast due to the poor conditions. We managed to get to Stoneleigh OK and slid easily onto the site. The light was already long gone as we pulled up at the loading bay for Hall 2 at about 6:15pm. The 12ft x 4ft layout was then unloaded and, when all of the stuff was at our stand, construction began. The layout had never been exhibited in a size as big as this before and so building it up took a little longer than normal. The three green baseboards were first laid out and pushed together, before the countless pieces of LEGO track were laid on top...
Though some layouts and traders had agreed to come on Saturday morning instead, or indeed cancelled completely, there were still a dozen or so stands setting up on Friday night. We took our time and the LEGO railway gradually left its boxes and started to occupy its new formation. I still had one more of the Car Flat rake of wagons to build and I bet we were definately the only layout still building rolling stock the night before!...
We left Stoneleigh at about 8:30pm, with the layout being covered by its sheeting with only a few more jobs left to complete before it was operational. Saturday morning soon dawned and we were back on the roads, which were much improved than on the night before. The doors opened to the public at 10am and thus the railway was operational by 9:45am as we always leave good time for us to get everything warmed up and to do the final checks. Though the LEGO railway is, in a sense, a large collection of toy trains, we still like to maintain a professional outlook and want everything to run as smoothly as it can. As long as the three trains that are running at any one time are travelling at a 'normal' pace and move smoothly without power losses or dead spots, we are happy. We have a total of 8 LEGO locomotives on the line, 6 of which will have motors fitted at any one time. (The motors are easily switched between engines). Saturday went well, though the visitor numbers were apparently down on previous years due to the snow. Importantly, the LEGO railway gained alot of interest and we were kept entertained for some of the day by Eddie Jones. Sunday was alot busier and we were asked many questions and alot of photographs were taken of the layout by both ourselves and the visitors. I have included a few of the pictures that I took during the day in this post. Below, loco No8: the red diesel shunter: awaits departure from the half-way loop on No1 Track with a passenger...
The Santa Fe Super Chief diesel locomotive was popular as usual, towing the two Metroliner Club Cars and the Santa Fe Observation coach. The loco is spotted below and is, I feel, one of the better models to come out of LEGO's 9V range...
Though the layout is essentially a collection of the 9V range that was discontinued by LEGO in early 2007, we have included a few models which come from the more recent offerings. The station spotted below, on the branch line, is a relatively recent model that I purchased brand new, as are the three car flats that we see behind Loco No1 here...
An ever popular model that LEGO still produces in some shape or form is the Harry Potter "Hogwarts Express". The red locomotive and tender is coupled with the included passenger coach as well as one of our red Caboose's...just to match the livery. The loco is seen rounding the back of the Dustbin Lorry model on No3 Track...
Another new addition for this show was the LEGO level crossing which I picked up on Ebay just before Christmas. The level crossing range has been updated through the years but this one is one of the 9V originals, dated 1991. The Super Chief model passes over the crossing as the crossing keeper looks on, below...
The entire 12ft x 4ft layout...
Finally, I have one last shot from the weekend in terms of a video clip. This quick shot shows Nos1 & 3 tracks in action on Sunday...

Thanks for reading folks. It was a very enjoyable weekend at Stoneleigh and we have been invited back again next year. It was a nice change to be out with the LEGO again. Our next shows:
  • February 16th - G Scale Society Exhibition - Hobs Moat - Solihull
  • September 15th - Hinckley Model Railway Show
  • November 23rd/24th - Warley National Model Railway Exhibition
Thank you. Sam.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Shackerstone...COLD!...

Hi guys. Today was my first visit of 2013 to Shackerstone. It was chilly but workable, so I arrived at about 9am and headed off down to the loco shed, being the first to arrive there. After a good chat with Reas, David arrived. Myself and Dave then set to cleaning out "Sir Gomer" following her three excursions just before new year. Dave cleaned out the smokebox whilst I jumped into the firebox with the battery-lamp and cleared the grate. "Sir Gomer"s firebox is obviously much smaller than 3803's but you can still get in there quite easily, keeping your head down as you go about your work. With the grate clear, I could remove myself from the dark firebox and clamber back out onto the footplate, covered in ash. I was pretty pleased with the result...
"Sir Gomer"s Firebox Nice & Clean
"Sir Gomer" is also undergoing some winter work...pretty much all over her. Her regulator is currently in bits for work as it has been getting very stiff and it is feared that the linkage has been damaged. The steam chest covers are also currently off so as to allow alterations to the valve timing to take place. The loco is currently chuffing OK but it was definately better when it returned to service in September 2011 and so an investigation is underway. Having started up the Class 08 diesel, myself & Jason removed 3803 from the shed (still sparkling from her New Years Day antics) and parked her on the outside pit road. The 38' still looks brilliant in terms of cleanliness, following a hefty clean up for her new years run. For the rest of the day we shunted "Sir Gomer" up & down the shed, recording the movements on the valve at the various positions of the leading crank. This data allows us to work out how much the ports have/should move, and we can then adjust them up accordingly.
The Old Gal' (3803) On The Pit Road
Next week we will be adjusting the valves to suit the data that was recorded today. I left Shackerstone at 4pm after a cold but enjoyable day with the lads in the shed. Cheers - Sam.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Achilles Report No22: Steam Up At The Pools...

Hi guys. Well, with her having slumbered since November, I thought that todays steam up at RPMR would be a good chance to get "Achilles" out for a run. A program of planned winter repairs to the engine has yet to begin and the original plan was to get started around now. However, CMES is also planning its own repairs to the track at the pools and today would be the last opportunity to use the entire track circuit for some weeks. Therefore, it seemed to be the perfect chance to get up there and have one last run (for a while at least) with both the engine & the track. The loco was the first on site and was duly unloaded, with her riding truck, onto one of the steaming bays. Other locomotives soon followed including a Butch, a Simplex and a Polly IV amongst others. "Achilles" steamed up nicely with her relatively new Polly blower and then sat quietly simmering away on the bay with 80psi on the clock, whilst I changed into my overalls. We then steamed onto the track and enjoyed a good few laps with the old girl. Although she clanks and bangs like mad, she still has a good amount of pulling power and, with the right draft going up the chimney, steams well.
Throughout the day we had several different loads behind the drawbar, including four people at one point which, surprisingly, proved no problem for her as she completed two laps of the track. There are a number of niggling problems which are starting to get on my nerves so they will be rectified first. These include a few minor steam leaks and some new O-rings for the water pump. The next problem is the valve gear which requires immediate attention. The crossheads in particular are badly worn and that is what is providing the majority of my clanking noises.
"Achilles" Crests Ryton Bank With Steam to Spare (M.Sweatman)
Following a good couple of hours running we retired from the track in order to dispose, pack up and get home for a warm. Though there was no frost today, it was VERY cold. I think the phrase "thats it old gal" is appropriate here as that will definately be it now for "Achilles" until I can get some of this work done. The cab in particular requires some repairs, along with those pesky crossheads. I would have thought that the next time she'll get a steam up is April-ish when hopefully the new crossheads will have been milled out and fitted. Cheers guys. Sam.

The Garden Railway That Was...

Hi everyone. Welcome to the first post of a brand new year: 2013. This morning whilst we were loading "Achilles" into the car for a run at the RPMR, I thought I'd capture a couple of shots of the garden railway as it sleeps silenty at the egde of the garden. The railway was completed in its first form in 2005, with an extension being added the following year. The tracks have not seen use for a good few months now and so all has been quiet at the garden railway's locomotive depot. The collection of engines has sat untouched and no stock has turned a wheel. Many people comment on 00 gauge as unfit for use in a garden due to its fragility and small scale. However, in almost 8 years we have had very few problems and, arguably, the problems that we have had could have been quickly overcome or even avoided with regular maintainence. The tracks are currently sitting under wilted leaves, with the rails encrusted in dirt and general garden grime. I am sure that things will improve for the railway at some point in 2013 and I do hope that steam locomotives will again reach these sections of the garden, hauling a variety of stock from freight wagons to Pullman cars.
Chilvers Loop - The Terminus of The Railway
Looking closely at the line in this slumbering state, it is almost like a real railway that has been disused for some time. The photograph below for example shows one of the lines gradients, with a photograph held above of a train passing over the same stretch of track hauled by a B12 4-6-0 nearly 7.5 years before...
Thank you for reading the first post of 2013. We are now off to Ryton with "Achilles" for a steam-up. Lets hope 2013 goes off just as well as our previous years. Cheers guys. Sam.