Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cleaning Out "Sir Gomer"...

Hi guys. A short afternoon at Shackerstone today, helping Dave & Pockets get "Sir Gomer" ready to have her warming fire put in. The Peckett will of course be in service tomorrow, as its Sunday. I cleaned out the firebox before Dave lit a fire. Outside the shed, 73 114 was on service...
This was my last day at Shackerstone until about July 20th as we are away on holiday from next Saturday...mind you, I have been here most weekends this year! Cheers guys, Sam...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

"Nunney Castle" Roars Out of Nuneaton...

Hello everyone. Tonight we had a little ride out to see GWR 4-6-0 No5029 "Nunney Castle" coming along the Nuneaton to Leicester line. I chose an old favourite main line location of mine: the over-bridge at Horsten Grange. From the road bridge on the road towards Hinckley, you can climb over a fence and then walk across a public footpath to reach a second bridge. This bridge is part of a farm access and offers much better views of Leicester trains as they accelerate upgrade out of Nuneaton. "Nunney Castle" was hauling a 'loaded trial' test train, organised by Vintage Trains Ltd of Tyseley. The train left Tyseley at around 6pm and took a cruise around the East Midlands via Nuneaton, Leicester, Burton and Coleshill Parkway before returning to base. We certainly heard 5029 before we saw her, with her four cylinders working hard as she accelerated her short train. The engine was immaculate and all credit goes to the support crew of 5029, and of course Tyseley Loco Works. It was a nice experience indeed to see a thoroughbred Great Western Castle Class 4-6-0 passing us by sounding fantastic. Cheers guys, Sam...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Cracking Day with "Sir Gomer"...

Hello guys. Today we had a three man crew on "Sir Gomer": myself, Eddie & David. The three of us haven't been on together since myself & Dave passed our firing exams and so it was nice to be back with a crew that was quite a regular thing a couple of years ago. Naturally the loco in service today was "Sir Gomer": Shackerstone's stalwart 0-6-0 Peckett. Myself & Dave met at the gates at 6:45am, and proceeded up the drive to the station and onward to the loco shed. The Peckett stood warm inside as the wind and rain pelted the shed walls. The forecast was varied but the morning weather certainly didn't offer much hope of a hot summers day. I checked over & lit the Peckett whilst Dave made other preparations. The loco began singing almost instantly, though we opted to keep the fire in the traditional 'heap' (required with this Welsh coal to get it burning before spreading it across the grate) for a little longer than normal. This process not only got the coal fire burning strongly, but also stopped the engine from coming around too quickly. It has been discovered that the Welsh coal is a bugger to keep calm once you have a good bed down, and so keeping the heat lower first thing in the morning is paramount in preventing indoor blowing-off! Eddie arrived at about 8am and he & Dave oiled the loco up whilst I continued to watch the fire. At about 10:15am we went down for coal before taking "Sir Gomer" across the cross-over to the signalbox. The loco was then backed down onto the train...
"Sir Gomer" Poses
With three of us on the footplate the day is a lot easier as the duties are shared. One thing that we don't share though is the cooking...Eddie does that! Eddie cooked us the usual tasty breakfast cobs on the shovel (in the traditional manner) prior to our first departure at 11:15. Eddie drove the first train, whilst I fired, and we had a good run to Shenton before running round. As usual the Welsh coal was proving hard to match heat-wise, and the loco blew-off most of the time...
"Once More Into The Breach Dear Friends" - About to Leave A Wet Shenton
The return run from Shenton at 11:50 saw the loco perform equally well, blowing off most of the way back. You can tell when you've got "Gomer" right as she'll make steam against the regulator when its open, and against the injector when its shut. You can't really expect anymore for an industrial with cylinders of this size on a 10-mile round trip. She does go very well. For the next two trips David drove whilst I fired. Again, "Sir Gomer" steamed very well apart from the last mile or so of the 3rd trip (the 1:45) where she began to get a little choked up. The high heat and large ash created by the Welsh coal has the tendency to cause thin but hazardous patches of clinker, which Eddie was quick to rake through before he fired the 15:00 with me driving...
Driver Dave & Eddie Wait For The 'Right Away' at MB
One thing I do really enjoy about days on the footplate is that often I get to drive a trip or two now - it certainly breaks up the day. Owing to the 'fore' & 'aft' motion created by the waddling industrial engines, I always try to drive the engine as carefully as possible. If you accelerate quickly, though she can cope, she'll bang the train a bit due to the unbalanced nature of her design (nobody bothered if the Mountain Ash coal wagons got a shaking!). My trip driving was very pleasant and I enjoyed it very much. On the final run Eddie drove whilst David fired and I enjoyed a cuppa' whilst surveying the scenery on this damp afternoon...
With the loco uncoupled at Shenton before running around the 4:50pm departure, I decided to grab a quick pic whilst the sun cautiously came out a bit...
Pretty Peckett
After a good run back from Shenton with the 4:50, the loco took the train into Platform 1 at Shackerstone before running around via the signalbox and returning to the dock-road ground frame (No11). From here its just a short chuff up the hill into the engine shed...
"Sir Gomer" Awaits The Road to the Shed
"Sir Gomer"s fire was raked through thoroughly before she was put into the shed with the pressure gradually coming down. The boiler was then filled in the usual manner and the loco was left simmering with about 70psi on the clock and a dead but still very warm fire. As can be expected, it is not advisable to cool engines off too much or allow them to cool too quickly and so you always leave 'something' on the bars. All in all a very enjoyable day on the footplate of the Peckett saddle tank at the Battlefield Line. Thanks to Eddie & David for great company during the day. Also thanks to C.Simmons for sending in the pic of us in front of "SG". Best regards, Sam...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

In Love With "Josephine"...

Hello everyone. Today was another of those very nice occasions when I get invited somewhere to do what I love doing. I had kindly been invited to fire at the Statfold Barn Railway: the fantastic multi-gauge facility near Tamworth. The SBR has been mentioned a few times on this blog and if you read back you can see some posts about it. The last time I fired/drove here was in March on the lovely Quarry Hunslet "Sybil Mary" - arguably the coldest day I've ever spent on a footplate! Today the weather was much better and the event was a private function organised for a party of guests. Two of the SBR's large collection of narrow gauge steam locomotives had been rostered for the days work. These were ex-Penrhyn Avonside 0-4-0 "Marchlyn" and the much larger 0-4-2 Hunslet "Josephine", which myself & Jason were to crew. Built in 1936 and originally 3ft gauge, the green locomotive was re-gauged to 2ft in preservation and came to Statfold from the now defunct Durley Light Railway in late summer last year. The event was due to start at 4pm and run into the evening, therefore meaning that we were required on site to light up at just after midday. Here, "Josephine" is being pushed up the steep incline towards the engine shed by 2ft 6" gauge diesel "Badger"...
Once on the shed, "Josephine" was checked over by myself whilst Jason prepped "Marchlyn". I lit "Josephine" up using a few paraffin-soaked rags and a small mound of dry wood. Coal was then added around the edges and of course on top. Being Daw Mill coal, the engine soon had a roaring fire and thick smoke erupted from her chimney. Though the colliery has very recently closed, it had a reputation for good coal and it is certainly easier to get lit than the Welsh stuff...
"Fire in the Hole"
The observant amongst you may well be able to notice some strange things about the 0-4-2s appearance. She was originally a Hunslet saddle tank, just like Statfold's other big 0-4-2 "Trangkil No4". However, the owner at Durley found the driving position difficult and I believe it was adapted to become a side tank, with the original saddle tank becoming part of Durley's water tower. The footplate was also lowered, as can be seen at the rear of the loco in the photograph below, about 6" or so. The cab was also changed and given oval window openings which allow for better visibility for drivers of various heights. The boiler I believe is of Kerr Stuart design and the valve gear is also from a similar stable. Though the appearance is unusual, I really think that this engine has something about it. It looks strong and well built, whilst also showing clearly that it should be a saddle tank. As the engine is nearing the end of its current 10-year ticket, I believe that the plan is for her to re-emerge from the magnificent Statfold Works as her former self, with a saddle tank...
Whilst "Josephine" & "Marchlyn" steamed up, myself & Jason were oiling the pair. "Josephine" has the usual Stephensons valve gear, whilst "Marchlyn" employs the popular and easy to maintain Walschaerts variant. I find it fairly therapeutic oiling up a locomotive, particularly on a well kept shed road and on a sunny afternoon such as today. On a narrow gauge engine like this you can do everything from the outside and no pit is required, just a bit of bending under the tanks here and there! All the time, the loco is getting hotter and making steam. Ian ("Marchlyn"s fireman) had arrived and soon both locomotives were ready, having been watered from the attractive column. The carriage shed is down the line from Statfold and so both locomotives duly departed from the engine shed for the short journey to Oak Tree. "Josephine" rolled along happily, with her big wheels making her feel like she could go very quickly, and the pony truck made her ride very well too. The added addition of a brilliant steam brake was also a great advantage...
"Josephine" Simmers Near The Carriage Shed
The cab on "Josephine" is also very large, with everything required in easy reach. The regulator is very free and the locomotive is sensitive and performs well...
The locomotive, as stated, carries Stephensons valve gear and is easy to oil up on the outside. This variant of the valve gear employs only one slide bar with the crosshead surrounding it and the gudgeon pin hanging below. The power from the connecting rod and coupling rod is then transferred to the axles via cranks...
Inside the frames are the leaf springs and, as per, each cylinder has two eccentrics (fore & reverse) which key onto the rear driving axle...
Anyway, back to us...at the carriage shed we used the small but very impressive "Marchlyn" to shunt the coach rake together...
Ex-Penrhyn Avonside 0-4-0 "Marchlyn"
With "Marchlyn" having pulled the train out, "Josephine" backed up onto the rake before hauling it forward to clear the yard point. The Avonside then continued to shunt the wagons back in to clear the running line. The big 0-4-2 was sitting at the head of the train in the warm afternoon sunshine, with the fire burning well and 145psi on the clock (full pressure 160psi)...
"Josephine" And Her Train of Beautiful Coaches
From Oak Tree we set off with me driving "Josephine". In first notch on the reverser she pulled away with little regulator and the drain cocks hissing. With the drain cocks shut she quickly got the weight moving and her beats were very loud. Three large coaches and "Marchlyn" proved very little resistance for "Josephine", even when going uphill. She steamed very well, and leaning from the drivers side as she walked along the track chuffing well was a very pleasant experience indeed. In fact, its probably my favourite experience of footplate work. Having arrived at Statfold station with the train we then hand-coaled the two steamers as start time neared. The plan for the evening was to top & tail all trains with the two loco's, out of the station & down the line, around the balloon loop and back. "Marchlyn" required assistance from "Josephine" on the steeper hills, but the 0-4-2 required no such help!!...
At the balloon loop, the fireman on the rear loco jumps down to change the points for the train once it has come back around. Below, "Marchlyn" and "Josephine" push-pull around the loop with the Avonside leading...this is a BIG chuff...
Throughout the evening we gave various rides to around 180-odd guests and the two locomotives performed very well. From a firemans point of view, "Josephine" steamed brilliantly with a fairly thin fire, as long as you kept the holes filled. The injectors were very responsive and, particularly the firemans side one, filled the boiler fairly quickly. We had a lovely time...
Here, my favourite 'quick pic' of the evening..."Josephine" simmers in the balloon loop with "Marchlyn" leading...
"Photo of the Day"
Later in the evening, for the last two trips, we got to swap locomotives after many runs on the wonderful "Josephine". Driving "Marchlyn" was a cracking experience. For a small 0-4-0 it seems very powerful and yet unbelievably sure-footed too. From how it looked when it first arrived at the SBR, "Marchlyn" has come on leaps and bounds and has been a fabulous restoration job. I'm sure that "Josephine" will return in much the same condition after her 10-year overhaul...
One Last Look at "Josephine"
Having returned the coaches back to the shed after being well-fed by the kind guests and giving them a few more late evening rides, "Josephine" & "Marchlyn" headed off for disposal. It had been an absolutely fantastic day and I must thank Jason for his company (and for being my driver) as well as the kind owners of the SBR for allowing me to come and do what I love doing on their fabulous railway. Thank you all - it was brilliant. I am now a really big fan of "Josephine" - what a cracking machine, even after nearly 10 years of hard work! Thanks for reading guys - sorry for the length of this post! Cheers, Sam...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Achilles Report No35: Pulling More Than A Little!...

Hi guys. Today it was the turn of my loco "Achilles" to have another outing: it has been out quite regularly so far this year! I was rostered for one of my three-a-year crew days at Ryton Pools Miniature Railway and, as Emma (a fellow steam die-hard) was in charge we had decided to have a steam up all of our own on the 1pm - 4pm public running. "Achilles" was present, and Emma steamed the clubs Sweet Pea "John Owen". The third and final loco was Dave's 0-6-0 Polly IV tender engine which was making her public running debut I believe. Arriving at about 11am, the loco's were unloaded and prepped on their steaming bays, slowly but surely. Two train rakes had been made up especially for this unusual occasion. At about 12:20, "Achilles" & "John Owen" stood blowing off at the head of their double-headed 4-car train. Unfortunately, on the initial test lap (as always seems to happen during these events) "Achilles" failed. She had blown a gasket somewhere and had also lost an important coupling rod nut. I retired the loco with much annoyance to the steaming bays where the Polly IV, known as "IVY", was gradually raising steam.

"John Owen" coped admirably on its own, driven by Emma, before being joined at the head of its train by "Ivy". The pair then continued to double-head for the remaining 2.5 hours or so of the running...
Sunday Steam at RPMR (D.Strapps)
Whilst all this was going on I was doing my best to repair "Achilles". I hate being beaten in these trying situations and when I noticed that she had failed even before the official 1pm start time so I had bags of time left to fix her, I decided not to give in. I stripped the R/H running boards off and the cylinder cover as well as the drain cocks and reverser lifting link and discovered that the loud whistle of escaping steam was coming from the steam chest cover. I quickly removed all of the bolts and discovered that about 1/5 of the gasket had ruptured and blown out. Rattling around through the bottom of my toolbox like a thing possessed, I found that I had all of the tools to form a new gasket and so set to doing so asap. A gel gasket was laid down and allowed to dry for a few minutes before replacing the thoroughly cleaned top and tightening it down in stages; slowly and squarely. The engine still had water in and was very hot and so a small wood fire brought it back into steam quickly. A mid-gear regulator test confirmed that the gasket was still slightly leaking and so I tightened the nuts up a little more, completely sealing the steam chest. Thank goodness! With one problem gone I found that Geoff had luckily discovered my missing coupling rod nut which was duly loctited back on to within an inch of its life! The loco was then resteamed a 3rd time and returned to the track with high hopes. We were determined not to be beaten!

The 2nd train consisted of 3 cars which I was a little apprehensive about as we steamed around to the station, though I was very keen to uphold the "all steam" plan and not let the battery electrics come out to play. The first trip consisted of a load of 6 adults & 4 children, including myself & the Guard, which I thought would stop us dead on the bank. To my surprise, it didn't(!), and "Achilles" went up there at normal pace with good pressure and notched up to boot. I was very impressed. In fact, here we are returning on that same train to Ryton Halt, with myself still in complete disbelief!...
"Achilles" On Her Heaviest Ever Train at RPMR (D.Strapps)
The three engines continued to perform well for the rest of the afternoon and "Achilles" certainly received some pleasing comments from both club members and the public alike. I was very surprised at the loads she pulled, and how well she did so. At 4pm however I was glad to leave the track as "Achilles" had begun to choke up after 2 hours of heavy running and of course all that messing around first thing...
I must say what a fantastic but also tiring day this was! I was glad to get the loco fixed on site but, phew, what a stress. I was however very happy with her in the end and was pleased that her presence, and that of the other two steamers, was so well received by the public. Thanks guys, Sam...

Saturday, 15 June 2013

"Sir Gomer"s Summer Saturday Service...

Hi guys. Today at 6:30am I arrived at Shackerstone with Pockets, ready to light up the days engine: Peckett 0-6-0ST "Sir Gomer". The ex-Mountain Ash saddle tank is currently the only operational 'line-going' steam loco on the railway and has therefore been used as the mainstay of the services so far this season. She is of course the Shackerstone Railway Society's own engine and therefore is an economical and effective steed for these steady steam services. With 4 coaches and a good few happy passengers behind her, she will causally waddle through the Leicestershire countryside, steaming well and working fine. Having checked her over this morning, I lit the engine up in the shed ready for the day, which would see a 1940s theme echoing around the railway. With a strong fire of Welsh steam coal burning in her firebox, the green 0-6-0 came around slowly but effectively...
Being Oiled Over The Pit
After oiling up and prepping by Andy, myself & trainee fireman Richard, "Sir Gomer" was moved out into the morning weather, which was now warm sun. The locomotive was then cleaned both top & bottom, with the brass dome, whistle and makers plates being cleaned with 'Peek'. When we were finished the loco looked a treat and sat happily outside the shed awaiting the first steam service at 10:30am...
"Sir Gomer" Squeaky Clean
Today's services were a little different to the norm. The normal timetable (Green) was changed to a special, intensive variant with 2 trains operating. One train was made up of the Bubblecar (DMU), whilst "Sir Gomer" and her 4 coaches made up the 2nd train. We would have 5 service trains today, as normal, though they were a little more spaced out, at 90-minute intervals rather than 75 minutes. In between our steam services the Bubblecar would run to Market Bosworth only: to connect with the 1940s event: returning in time to provide a guaranteed connection to the next steam service from Shackerstone. The extra time at Shackerstone allowed us to enjoy a cuppa' in the sunshine whilst "Sir Gomer" sat feathering away happily to herself...
"Sir Gomer" & Train at Shackerstone
I fired the first run, with Richard firing the following three, and I then fired the last one too. In between this I also drove two of the trips which was very enjoyable indeed. "Sir Gomer" is a pleasant machine to drive once she is underway, though she does have a tendency to waddle a bit, like a raft on the Atlantic. Mind you, she is powerful and free steaming and, for a lumbering industrial designed to do 5mph, does the job very well indeed on not a lot of coal. We returned the loco safely to the engine shed after another successful day and I am sure that tomorrow's crew will find her to be as useful and enjoyable as we did. A very nice day. I must thank Richard & Andy for their company and of course the Peckett for a great day. Cheers guys, Sam...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

A Quiet Day on "Jessie"...

Hi guys. A short post from today. Today I worked "Jessie": the Battlefield Line's popular Buffet Car: on behalf of the railways catering team. We worked all five trains and trade was steady, with services hauled by the railways Peckett "Sir Gomer". Thanks for reading guys, Sam...

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Achilles Report No34: Fish, Chips & A Steam Loco...


Hi guys. Tonight we attended yet another "Fish n Chip Steam Up" at Ryton Pools Miniature Railway. The club (CMES) runs this successful event annually and tonight saw yet another cracking do taking place. Though there were not as many locomotives running on the 2000-ft long track as I would normally have expected, there were still a fair few. The battery electric engines certainly seemed to be flourishing and a good few of them were out & about on the RPMR metals. We of course took "Achilles" along following its successful outing to do some public hauling at the GEC track last Saturday. The loco was polished & shining and wore two newly painted LMS-style engine lamps as well as its recently purchased bucket. The bucket is a bit narrow gauge for this engine really but then again it is a freelance design so you can have what you want on it I guess! The loco was steamed at just after 4pm and performed very well until about 6pm. It ticked along happily, blowing-off most of the time with no problems to report...
Worst Engine Driver Face Ever! (Photo - P.Strapps)
One of the other engines running was "Princess Marina": a 3.5" gauge Stanier Mogul. It seemed to be having a few problems and so, when we discovered it struggling for steam at the bottom of the lengthy bank, we buffered and shoved her up the hill! "Achilles" seemed to find it no trouble and accelerated up the bank happily with 4 adults and the 2-6-0 to push & pull. The video of us topping the bank with "Marina" is seen below...

The same thing happened on the next trip, with "Marina" being pushed up the hill by "Achilles" once again. However, the little red loco then shortly began to run fine which I couldn't understand! Ahh well, all's well that ends well. "Achilles" continued running well until its water pump got blocked up in one of the delivery pipes. I think it had been filled from a watering can which was full of muck. Its not really a difficult fix, just inconvenient. The loco will be running again, subject to repair, next Sunday at RPMR for the public running. All in all, another cracking evening with some great Fish 'n' Chips!! Cheers guys, Sam...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Passing of a Streak...

Hi guys. Tonight we spotted the A4 Pacific No60009 "Union of South Africa" on the West Coast Main Line. The green 4-6-2 was returning at speed from Chester, hauling a lengthy train of Mk II coaches, tailed by a Class 33 diesel. At Marston Jabbett; just south of Nuneaton; we saw the A4 come flying past. The green streak ticked along happily with the long train, slipping away into the distance with only a murmur. Cheers guys, Sam...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Shackerstone By Night...

Hi guys. Tonight after work I was at Shackerstone, helping with the on-going work on the Peckett "Sir Gomer". The loco failed last Sunday and has thus been pulled from service to allow the appropriate repairs to be carried out so that it may return to work this weekend. Work included the trial fitment of new boiler plugs as well as firebar alterations and also the refitting of the latter: carried out by myself and Eddie. I was covered in muck from head to foot after all of the angle-grinding and crawling around in "Gomer"s box that I did but, all in a good cause! A late night but well worth the ride over. All being well the Peckett will steam again on Saturday. Who ever said that voluntary railways only function on a Sunday?!...

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A Day On A D-D-D-Diesel!!!...

Hi guys. Sometimes during a heritage railway career you may well have the dreaded experience of being out on a diesel locomotive for the day and not one of the beloved steamers: today was one of those days! Unfortunately, due to a mechanical failure, "Sir Gomer" was out of service for our turn today and so, with no spare steamer, services were quickly put in the hands of the heritage diesel fleet. 1958-built Class 31 A-1-A 31 101 was duly pressed into action with Adrian driving and second-manned by myself & Dave. I'm not a diesel person, in any way, but the Class 31 is a nice one to be out on if you have to be. The days service comprised the normal five return journeys, all hauled by 31 101. As a class, the 31 is one of the smaller diesel electrics, with only 1470bhp at the engine, as opposed to over 2500bhp on the Class 47. A Duchess Pacific steam loco is rated at approximately 3300hp at full bore which gives you some idea of the challenges faced with diesels as opposed to steam. The advantages with the diesel however are of course lower prep times, less maintenance, better crew comfort and of course the ability to sit on full power all day long without some poor bloke shovelling his back off mile after mile. Though they never had the charm of the steamers, the diesels brought with them a new age that 'had to come some day'. I was lucky enough to drive 31 101 on two trips today which, though very different to a steamer, was quite enjoyable dare I say it!...
With a diesel electric the diesel engine powers generators which create electricity for the motors. Therefore, when you open the power handle a notch, the ammeter immediately throws up amps. The amps on the gauge are how you measure how much power the motors are getting as you start away. In first notch the 31 only provides a few hundred amps where I believe the 47 chucks in over a thousand! As the amps climb the engine note will change as it revs more to build a larger quantity of electricity at once. Once up to 25mph, the 31 will cruise quite happily in first or 2nd notch and that's all you have to do to keep it doing 25mph on 5 coaches. It ticks along quite happily through the countryside with barely a murmur once its got the momentum up. Stopping it is on standard vacuum with the train behind, and air only when running light. Another unusual feature is that you of course have to change ends on a diesel like this, switching off the console before you go and operating the change end switch. Doing this on every run round is time consuming and a little tiresome! I tell you what though its a different life on a diesel...you sit there with your cuppa' in your leather seat riding through the countryside in a clean cab at 25mph with good control over the loco and not a care in the world. It doesn't beat a steamer though!! Below, I'm driving 31 101 out of Market Bosworth with my eye on the amps...Dave looks like he's just realised he's in a diesel cab and looks startled at the thought...
"Two New Recruits To The Dark Side" (Photo - A.Lock)
The day went off without hitch and 31 101 performed well, using about 60 gallons of diesel for the day. Earlier on Dave had managed to catch a pic of some railway enthusiastic sheep grazing on the embankment at Shackerstone having escaped from their field...
"Baa - Where Is Gomer? - Baa" (Photo - D.Hanks)
Below, Adrian takes 31 101 out of Shackerstone with myself in the Second-mans seat...
31 101 - Built 1958 (Photo - D.Hanks)
All in all a different day which turned out alright in the end. Though I won't be swapping my shovel for a comfy seat, the diesels do have something different to offer and are certainly railway heritage in their own right. Kind thanks to David, Adrian and 31 101 for good company during the day. Best regards. Sam...

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Achilles Report No33: Pulling Alot Of Passengers at GEC...

Hi people. I can't believe that it is the first day of June...but here we are! Today I had planned to take "Achilles" for its first visit to the GEC since returning to work. This would be her 4th time out since the new bearings and crossheads were fitted, though I was hopeful that it would do OK. This afternoon was the GEC's 5" gauge June public running day and trains would run 2:30pm - 5pm. Four loco's adorned the steaming bays, though two were adequate for the work required as long as they kept going. "Achilles" was steamed, as was the bright yellow Peckett 0-6-0, which very much resembles "Sir Gomer". 0-6-0 'NER' and Speedy "Cyril" were left to bask in the sun as the two engines made their way onto the track with drain cocks open. Each loco hauled a 2-car rake and, after a test circuit, we started taking passengers at 50p per fare.

Throughout the afternoon the two locomotives ran well and neither seemed to have another bother. "Achilles" would romp along quite happily, sounding much better than she did last time she was on this steep track. Two problems stuck out to me...nothing serious, but worth looking at. A) The springing on the loco is not right and requires tightening where it has aged and, B) the deflector for the chimney rests on too sharp an angle and hinders steaming unless working very hard. Though "Achilles" was steaming well, it struggled to creep along with little regulator with the deflector in as the draft up the chimney was impaired. I'll have to make a new deflector for it but that's no real worry. Apart from these two minor things, the engine performed very well and I'm very pleased with it. We seemed to pull some pretty considerable weights up that bank without stalling or struggling for steam and you can't really ask for anymore than that. It must also be remembered that "Achilles" is not really a big engine. Though she has a Simplex-style chassis and outline, the boiler is smaller and so she is literally an 0-6-0 Ajax. At 5pm we had retired from the track with the loco still feathering at the valves before the fire was dropped...
"Achilles" Basks In The Sun with "Cyril" Behind
Having disposed and blown down, I reversed the Saxo up and put "Achilles" in the back ready for home. A job well done I think and I must thank GEC for having us again. There were many kind comments about how well both locomotives had performed during the day which is always nice. The loco will be out next Saturday at CMES for the annual 'Fish n Chip Steam Up' and will double-head the public service up there too on June 16th (subject to fitness to run - "you never know!"). Cheers guys, Sam...