Sunday, 29 September 2013

A Quiet Day on 3803...

Hi guys. Well, today was a pretty easy one on the Great Western 2-8-0 No3803 at Shackerstone. Though I was the rostered Fireman, trainee fireman Steve was on his firing exam and therefore I was simply to be there as 'insurance'. Despite me being relatively redundant, instances like this still require the booked Fireman to be there throughout the day; just in case. Therefore, I wasn't spared the 5:45am arrival time! This is how the railway gates look at 5:45am at this time of year...
Having opened the gates and met up with Steve before continuing down the spooky drive, it wasn't long before we were unloading the cars. I tell you what, every time we come we seem to bring even more stuff! Its a wonder there is anything left in the house! Boots, prep overalls, good overalls, food, torch, jackets, water-proofs...you name it. I feel like I move house each time! Anyway, chatting away, myself & Steve staggered up through the darkness of Platforms 1 & 2 before arriving at the engine shed. Inside, 3803 was blissfully simmering away to herself with no steam on the clock but 3/4 of a glass of water. The engine had not been used the day before and a warming fire had been lit. By the sounds of her bubbling away, she was probably on 'latent steam' at this point. Sure enough, as soon as Steve had got the fire lit the engine began singing away quite happily. We had a 'Footplate Experience' course to do this morning prior to the days trains, hence our early arrival. Whilst Steve got on with the fire I decided to crack on with the seemingly never-ending task of oiling up. This is one job that I do however find quite rewarding. Driver John arrived at about 7am and by then 3803 was well on her way. The 'Foot Ex' participant arrived and we were soon out on the line.

Foot Ex's include us doing a light engine run to Market Bosworth & back before doing a full-line run with the 4-coach passenger train. Following a successful Foot Ex it was time to make 3803's fire up prior to the first public train...
Below, Driver John Brittain (our Footplate Inspector) stands on 3803...
On the first run the 38' was already going well as she had had chance to 'warm up' on the Foot Ex. I sat happily in the Fireman's seat whilst Steve got on with the job with ease. Below, we're steaming out of Shackerstone and accelerating up to the line-speed of 25mph...
As the day continued the sun began to appear and it was actually very pleasant during the afternoon. 3803 performed very well and, naturally, the 4-coach train felt like she was pulling nothing at all...
3803 at Shenton In The Sun
Having returned to Shackerstone after the first public trip, 3803's spare shovel was put to good use as Steve prepared our late breakfast...
The next departure at 12:30pm saw John allowing me to take the regulator. As usual, 3803 was a joy to drive. Setting off in first notch you can ease the engine away before bringing it back to 3rd notch to accelerate the train once clear of the station approach. The engine can then be brought back with minimal regulator really and will chug along at 25mph very easily. I think the braking is probably what I enjoy the most on 3803: it seems to stop better than most engines (must be all those wheels)! Below, the 38' stands at the head of the 1:45pm train...
The following two trips saw John driving and Steve firing once again before I was allowed to fire the last run. As usual, 3803 was a joy to fire as well. The boiler steams very well indeed on a pretty much paper-thin fire; as long as you keep the holes filled. I managed to run her right down to a very minimal fire on the last trip and so disposing of the engine was greatly eased. The engine was put safely to bed and left to rest for the night after a successful day...
3803 In Bed
Steve thankfully passed his firing exam after a long day on the engine so well done to him. Myself & John had also had a good day but I think we were both glad to finish after 65 miles out with the engine! Cheers guys, Sam...

Saturday, 28 September 2013

RPMR Birthday Party...

Hi guys. Just a short one from today. As I already had to nip to RPMR to pick up some stuff, I decided to go over a little earlier and help with a Birthday Party that was running. The two stalwart diesel-outline engines were in operation on two three-car trains. I did a little bit of guarding and also some driving on the Petrol Hydraulic "Alacrity". The party was a success and, following that, I headed off for home. Best regards, Sam...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Achilles Report No40: RPMR Steam Day...

Hi everyone. Today was one of the increasingly popular 'Steam Days' at RPMR. The Public Running requires all members to be on duty three times a year and, when myself & Emma are on, we often try to run steam. Today the stalwart team of "Achilles" and "Diane" the club Sweet Pea were aided by a third engine: Mike's mighty 5" gauge Midland 7F 2-8-0. The three steamer operation allowed three trains: slightly shorter than usual: to be operated and over 200 passengers were carried over the 3-hour running period. A few pictures...
A Smokey Steam Up by "Diane"

"Achilles" Waiting For Her Fire To Be Lit

Driver Eddie on "Achilles"

Steaming Very Well

Eddie with "Achilles" on Another Run, Nearing 4pm
The last RPMR Sunday running for the public is next Sunday: September 29th. After 4pm next Sunday the railway will be closed to the public until Easter 2014, excluding the special Halloween and New Years Day runs. Thanks for reading guys...

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Achilles Report No39: New Steam Chest Gasket...

Hi guys. Today "Achilles" was again receiving some minor maintenance. Anyone who owns or is ever involved with any kind of steam locomotive will know that they rarely run perfectly time after time and that there is always something to be done. Last time I ran the loco at RPMR the other week I noticed that the R/H Steam Chest cover was leaking steam and oil a little. This gasket has proved annoying in the past and has been sealed twice this year alone, with this being the third time. I had been using a gasket gel: commonly used on car engines: but steam, as it does with most things, seems to find its way through after a time. This time therefore, I have opted for the old fashioned method and have used gasket paper. The engine is due to run at RPMR tomorrow and, as its public running, the engine will find itself working quite hard and the steam would have destroyed the already leaking old gasket gel if not rectified. Eddie kindly allowed me to bring the engine over to his workshop to have this little job done. "Achilles" is kept at home normally and there is space to do these jobs though, as Eddie's workshop is so much tidier and more 'user friendly', the engine often finds itself there it seems! The first job to do is to remove the running board and steam chest cover before cleaning up all of the surfaces as much as possible...
The Uncovered R/H Slide Valve
Having cleaned the surfaces a template is taken for the new gasket using the steam chest cover as a trace for holes and size. The centre section of the gasket can then be cut away using a fine, sharp knife. Using a bit of steam oil to help the job along, the paper is pushed down onto the studs which should come neatly through the holes. Eddie seems to be a master craftsman at this job!...
With the gasket down and sitting square, the steam chest cover can then be refitted carefully. Tapping down each of the four corners to make the cover square is then followed by fitting the four corner nuts first. The other nuts & washers can then be fitted and the whole ensemble tightened down slowly...
Me Tightening Up Nuts
With the cover back on we had a well-deserved cuppa'. The engine is now theoretically fit for service though I did leave the running board off so as to allow for a test tomorrow before the running commences. The admission of steam into the chest at 90psi (full pressure) should show up a leak if there is one. You should also wait until the cylinder is truly hot before attempting to get another slight 'nip' onto each nut if possible, trying where possible not to strip any threads! If the test proves successful then I can simply put the running board back on and start pulling trains. Lets hope all is well! Cheers guys, and thanks must again go to Eddie for allowing "Achilles" to visit the Eddie Steam Locomotive Repair Centre! Regards, Sam....

Sunday, 15 September 2013

LEGO Railway at Hinckley...

Hi guys. Today we took the LEGO Model Railway along to the Hinckley Model Train Show. Held at the Ashby Sports & Social Club on the outskirts of the town, the event takes place annually and saw about 8 layouts of varying scales and sizes taking part in 2013. There were also a few traders there for good measure. The LEGO Trains performed well throughout the day on their 12ft x 4ft layout and, as usual, the display proved popular with the visitors. As exhibitors we were kept fed & watered through the day and the Tea was certainly flowing. Following the show the railway was packed into its various boxes ready for the next event: the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC, in November...
Cheers Guys - Sam

Saturday, 14 September 2013

A Brilliant Day at Statfold...

Hi all. Today my day started at 4:30am, so that I would be ready to leave the house at 5am. The Saxo was rudely awoken from its slumber and we headed off for the delights of the Statfold Barn Railway, via McDonalds of course! I arrived at Statfold at just before 6am and continued into the dark car park. In the empty running shed I found Phil (SBR Staff) and he instructed me to light our engine asap so that she would be ready for the day. Using a pile of dry wood and a paraffin-soaked rag, I lit the fire promptly and little red "Statfold" was soon crackling away...
With the embryo fire lit I continued to add a few more bits of wood before allowing it to properly 'take hold'. Once we had a strong wood fire with some high heat there, it was time to add the very smoky coal. Smoky coal generally has a high Carbon content and this makes it ideal for lighting up. I tend to find that smokeless fuels are harder to get lit...but that's just me. Driver John arrived at just after 7am and discovered me oiling up the locomotive. All around us the rest of the Statfold fleet was coming to life on this damp morning...the atmosphere on shed is brilliant...
A Busy Shed Frontage!
I am not going to bore you all with the histories of each locomotive that was in action but I can give you a list of what/who they were! In no particular order:
  • 0-4-0 Port Quarry "Sybil Mary" of 1906
  • 0-4-0 New Built Quarry Hunslet "Statfold" of 2005
  • 0-4-0 O & K "Pakis Baru No1" of 1900
  • 0-4-4-0 O & K Mallet "Pakis Baru No5" of 1905
  • 0-6-0 Hudswell Clarke "GP39" of 1930
  • 4-4-0 Bagnall Side Tank "Isibutu" (known as "Isibeauty"!) of 1945
  • 0-4-4-0 SF Djatibarang No9, Jung Mallet of 1930
  • 0-6-0 Corpet Side Tank "Minas de Aller 2" of 1884
  • 0-4-2 Large Hunslet "Josephine" of 1936
  • 0-4-2 Large Hunslet "Trangkil No4" of 1971 ("Yes"...that late!)
  • 0-4-2 Krauss "Sragi No1" of 1899
  • 0-6-0 O & K "Sragi No14 - Max" of 1923
  • 0-4-0 Avonside "Marchlyn" of 1933
  • 0-4-2 Fowler Side Tank "Saccharine" of 1914
  • 0-4-0 Hudswell Clarke No19 - Saddle Tank of 1908
As well as the fantastic roster above, as I say, there must have been at least 10 full size steam rollers/traction engines in the field next to the railway. On the garden railway there were also two 2ft gauge diesel locomotives in action, making an active roster of 17 narrow gauge engines in total: 15 of which were steam! If I was a member of the public visiting this event it is anything but quiet...its awe inspiring. Anyway, back to us. With steam raising nicely and the locomotive oiled up, myself & John set to cleaning our powerful little steed. The Quarry Hunslets are an attractive engine and, being only 8 years old and very well looked after, "Statfold" shines up well. With the engine clean we headed off for our complimentary breakfast bap and a hot cuppa' which we enjoyed whilst watching the engine raise steam (spot on!). Just before 9am we got the call to leave shed and proceeded down into the freight siding to collect our first train: a mixed. The two Hunslets then moved onto the main before being stopped at the 'Stop Board' so that we could head off to the running shed for the Safety Briefing...
"Engines Ready"
Following the Safety Briefing we returned to "Statfold" who was simmering away with 140psi on the clock and 1/2 a glass of water. With the Guard on board it was time to depart on the first move of the day: a positioning run. "Statfold" and "Sybil Mary": both running backwards: led a Mixed Train tailed by "Pakis Baru No1" & "Marchlyn". With a loud blast on "Statfold"s whistle, away we went. The little red engine and her elder sister got the train underway easily and puffed out of Statfold past the Home Signal on the tight curve. The two engines rattled along nicely, through Oak Tree Halt, and then down the bank towards the Balloon Loop. The 'Big Engine Railway' now extends past Oak Tree, almost to the Balloon Loop, creating double-track running. Its practically a narrow gauge GCR! Having arrived at the loop the two Hunslets were uncoupled and all four locomotives screwed-down. We then had to wait until the next train arrived into the other 'leg' of the loop, hauled by "Max" and No19. As soon as the Maroon pair were in the loop, the two black engines disappeared with the Mixed train on the now free Single Line Token for the Loop - Oak Tree section. By now we had been here about 30 minutes!...
A Sunny Shot of "Statfold"
With "Marchlyn" and No1 clear, "Sybil Mary" & "Statfold" moved over and coupled up to the maroon pair's train. This is the system we worked to throughout the day, involving trains changing engines at both Statfold and the Balloon Loop. The 'Big Engine Railway' was worked by "Isibutu", the big Fowler and the blue Mallet No9 alternately, with a 3-coach top & tailed train. The next train soon arrived, hauled by Mallet No5 and so we were duly given the Right Away to head off back to Statfold, this time with a heavier passenger train. Having returned to Statfold the locomotives are blocked in and have to be uncoupled and shunt released by the next departing service from that platform. With the road behind us clear we could then back down to the Signalbox before climbing upgrade onto the shed for a break of about 20 minutes or so. I feel a coffee coming on!...
A Beautiful Shot by Geoff (www.geoffspages.co.uk)
I think we performed 4 runs with the two Hunslets during the day and once all of the engines got on the move it was really intensive. There must have been over 1000 members of the public in attendance too. I heard that pre-booked tickets for this event had been a record for all Statfold Open Days since the railway began...a great achievement! Below, we are waiting in the Balloon Loop again after our 2nd run. The difference between "Sybil" & "Statfold" is clear, with the former being a member of the Port Class, and the latter an Alice Class...
Below is a video taken from Youtube. It gives a good idea of the intensity and enjoyment of the Open Day. The first two shots (rather aptly) show "Sybil Mary" & "Statfold" chugging along. In the first shot, John is driving on the fairly flat section of line away from the Balloon Loop. In the 2nd shot I am driving and have to give "Statfold" a fair bit of steam to help "Sybil Mary" up the steep bank when the Driver doesn't give her quite enough steam...

The trip I drove was our 4th run and by now we were starting to tire. "Statfold" was running beautifully and seemed a very powerful little tool. The Hunslets returned to the shed just before 4pm and then those of us on the shed were told to keep the engines quiet and their fires low so that they could go to bed quickly after the 5pm Cavalcade. Another coffee then beckoned! At 5pm I drove "Statfold" down off the shed and around into the main field for the Cavalcade. Following the huge line up we gave a massive chorus of whistles to the admiring crowd. Unfortunately Mallet No9 and Sragi No1 had both failed and so could not take part, but the other 13 engines were there...and in fine form too. Following the cavalcade I drove the engine back up and onto the shed ready for disposal, seen below approaching the Garden Railway crossing...
Me Driving "Statfold" onto the Shed (D.Hone)
Once on the shed I raked "Statfold"s fire thoroughly and then filled up her boiler before driving her into the running shed where she anchored up nicely behind "Sybil Mary". If I remember rightly all of the engines except Mallet No9 and the Corpet were put to bed inside the running shed...13 engines in one shed isn't bad! All in all it had been an absolutely cracking day and I must heartily thank the owners of the Statfold Barn Railway (and Phil) for inviting us again - we had a lovely time. I must also thank John for his company and ready wit throughout the day! I know I say it every time we do anything but, I do consider myself very lucky to do these things at the different places I do it at. I really am, some would say, 'living the dream' when I'm driving these engines (as sad as it sounds). I love it, I really do, and I thank everyone who supports me and allows me to keep doing so. Thanks very much for reading guys. Cheers, Sam....

Friday, 13 September 2013

Back at Statfold...

Hi guys. This afternoon after work I jumped into the Saxo and headed off up the M6 & M42 bound for the fabulous Statfold Barn Railway. The brilliant SBR has been mentioned on this blog a few times and for more information about it I would advise reading back a little. The SBR holds three open days a year and tomorrow would be the last one for 2013. Once again I had very kindly been invited to fire one of the beautifully kept narrow gauge locomotives that live here on this private railway. I arrived at Statfold at about 1pm today and was immediately greeted in the car park by the immaculate 0-4-4-0TT Mallet locomotive No9, wearing her striking blue livery. The engine was being test steamed ready for her day on the 'Big Engine Railway' tomorrow. Having locked up the car I walked through to the main locomotive running shed where there were engines.... everywhere! I think we are due to be steaming about 15 locomotives tomorrow, plus at least 10 visiting full size traction engines/steam rollers will be in steam on the field too. It is shaping up to be a great day and I am very much looking forward to it. Today, as normal, I would be helping out with the preparations and my first task was to fill all of the locomotive fireboxes with wood ready for lighting up. I then lit up the large Peckett "Harrogate" for her traditional warming fire (she is a big engine). As the engines emerged from the running shed an old favourite appeared...0-4-0 Quarry Hunslet "Sybil Mary", which I fired & drove at the March Open Day (see post)...
Our (myself & John) steed for tomorrow was to be one of the two new-build sisters, both built at Statfold. Named after her birthplace, "Statfold" was the first of the new pair to be built, in 2005. The little red engine has since travelled far and wide as a mascot for Statfold, as has her cab-less sister "Jack Lane" (of 2006) which we had a cracking day on at the SBR last June (see here). I'm sure the engine will do well tomorrow, where she will be double-heading with much older sister "Sybil Mary" throughout the day. I like the full-length tank handrail and short stubby chimney that "Statfold" has...it looks more at home on a cabbed locomotive...
Later in the day myself & Steve lit up "Sybil Mary" after I had lit "Statfold". The Quarry pair will be hauling the first train tomorrow and so, though they are the smallest engines, they needed to be warmed through to safeguard against bringing them around too quickly in the morning (all this is done out of respect for the engine). I left Statfold at about 6pm and am looking forward to tomorrow immensely. Cheers guys, Sam...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

3803 & The Red Arrows...

Hi everyone. Today involved another firing turn on the huge Great Western 2-8-0 No3803. It was Shackerstone Festival weekend and therefore the engine had been out on the annual 'Shack-Fest-Special' the night before. As she would still be fairly hot from the night before, having been out until around 9pm, I felt that I would come in a little later, arriving about 6:40am. Trainee Jamie had arrived just before me and we set to preparing the engine for the day. Jamie cleared the grate before I checked the firebox and lit the fire. The engine crackled away quietly to herself whilst we enjoyed a cuppa' with recently arrived Driver Eddie. It was then time to begin the cleaning regime, which is much easier with three people! Eddie had time to oil the locomotive up whilst myself & Jamie took to the bottom end with parrafin & oil mix. The wheels, rods, frames, sandboxes, footsteps, vacuum pipes and skirts were all cleaned and looked great afterwards. The smokebox was also cleaned and the brasses were also shined up. A chilly start was rewarded by warm sunshine as 3803 drew out of the dull engine shed at around 9:30am. Due to the Shackerstone Festival aerial displays which took place today, the steam train timetable was moved around a little, with our first train taking place at 10:30am. 3803 was ready and at the head of the 6-coach train in good time. Below, the fire is roaring away in the box as 3803 creates vacuum prior to departure with the 10:30...

As I usually like to, I fired today's first trip. The locomotive steamed very well indeed and it was nice to hear her working a little more with 6-coaches on, especially when climbing away from the 5mph slack at Shenton Lane on the return run. She is a very, very powerful engine and even 6 coaches seems little hindrance for her. Interestingly, an ex-Severn Valley Driver was admiring the 38' at Shenton and took pleasure in telling us that he had driven similar engine (No2857 of the 28xx Class 2-8-0) on a 14-coach train along the SVR and, in his words..."it didn't struggle, but it sounded fantastic!"...I can well believe that! Having returned to Shackerstone's Platform 1 for operational reasons, I photographed the engine ready to leave with the 11:45...I think you can see Ed larking about in the Drivers window...
The next run saw Jamie firing with me overseeing. The loco once again performed very well. Jamie is an experienced trainee and doesn't really need telling at all, which makes my job much easier! Our return to Shackerstone at 12:40pm heralded the arrival of a fairly long break in the timetable. Our next departure wasn't until 13:45 as we were awaiting a display from the famous RAF Red Arrows (part of Shack Fest). Therefore, 3803 was kept quiet and simmered happily outside the Ticket Office on Platform 1 on display. Meanwhile, we enjoyed a cuppa' whilst Eddie got the belated breakfast going!...
Bang on time, the Red Arrows roared into view and performed a fantastic 25-minute display over both the showground and of course the adjacent Shackerstone Station. The three of us sat atop probably the best viewpoint of them all...3803's tender(!)...eating tasty Bacon & Egg cobs over a cuppa' in the sun...this is the life...
Following the Red Arrows there was another display (slightly more sedate) from the majestic Spitfire, which was also very pleasant to see. 3803 was then moved over onto the stock for the 13:45 departure for Shenton, which I drove (much to my enjoyment). Eddie fired this trip whilst Jamie looked on. The 15:15 saw me firing again with Eddie driving, whilst I was again allowed to drive on the last trip with Jamie doing very well on the shovel. It was a fantastic day and I think we all enjoyed it very much...though it did seem longer as our first departure and our last departure were earlier & later respectively. Talking of earlier, I managed to catch this unusual shot of 3803 sat near the section signal at Shackerstone at about 10am. She is a BIG engine...
I must thank Eddie and Jamie for an enjoyable day, and Pockets for rostering us on yet again. I will next be on 3803 on September 29th and October 6th respectively. Next weekend?...Statfold calls!! Thanks guys, Sam...

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Achilles Report No38: Back at Ryton...

Hi everyone. Today, a freshly polished "Achilles" made a return to RPMR metals for one of the monthly Members Steam-Up days. As this particular steam up was a 'late afternoon' one, "Achilles" arrived at about 3:30pm and was in steam within an hour. Throughout the afternoon myself and Ben pottered around the track with the engine, giving rides to a few invited guests as well. The engine was definitely running well, though her steaming capability today left a fair bit to be desired...
Ben Trying To Look Like He Knows What He's Doing!
Though the engine wasn't steaming brilliantly, she did keep going, and ran for about 2 hours in the end before we disposed...
On one of the final laps prior to disposal...
Upon disposal it was found that the fire was completely clinkered across the entire grate, with some parts being about 1/2" thick - no wonder she wasn't steaming properly! I can only put it down to poorly soaked wooden sticks used for today's lighting up. Due to having a time-strapped week I didn't put the wood in to soak until last night...a sometimes fatal error! Ahh well, at least I know why she wasn't going as well as last week...
Blowing Down
With the engine disposed she was loaded back into the Saxo and we headed off for home. The engine will now be cleaned and polished ready for her public appearance at RPMR on September 22nd, where she will *hopefully* be hauling some more fare paying passengers. She does however have a leaking steam chest gasket (again!) and so this will be rectified prior to the 22nd too. Thanks for reading guys. Cheers, Sam...