Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Quiet Day at Shackerstone...

Hi everyone. Today I was at Shackerstone enjoying a quiet day around the site. The GWR 2-8-0 No3803 was in steam and pulling the four rostered trains of the day. In the engine shed, the green Class 08 diesel locomotive had come inside over the pit for some maintenance checks. At the back of the shed, "Sir Gomer" stood cold. The engine has been out of service since the beginning of July, having been replaced by 3803. The lack of use for the poor old gal' has meant that time has been allowed to paint her. The very tired green livery on the tank was rubbed down and paint stripped across the cab, smokebox, cladding and cylinders. The wheels are yet to be done, but they are in very good condition and so may be painted over. Myself & Dennis had a few hours working on the ex-Mountain Ash Peckett today. I stood atop some ladders, sanding down the filler on her saddle tank. With the old paint having been rubbed down, we use filler to fill in the bigger knocks and bruises. The filler is then sanded in line with the form of the metalwork in order to bring it 'flush'. The filler is then primed before painting, as is the rest of the tank. Below, a fairly poor shot of "Sir Gomer" shows the 1932-built engine in an almost WD Grey livery! The filler patches can be seen on the tank, half way through being sanded down...
"WD Peckett"
After about 2 hours I had finished the filler-sanding on the drivers side of the tank. The firemans side was already done and so myself & Reas headed off on other duties around the site. The weather was too damp today to paint but, with hopeful improvements in the weather on the way, the Peckett should be in black within weeks. Cheers guys, Sam...

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The GEC Night Run 2013...

Hi guys. Today was yet another outing to the fantastic 'Night Run' at the GEC Miniature Railway, Binley. My friends there had been kind enough to invite me back yet again and I was happy to go along - as I always am. The plan for the evening was the standard: trains running from 3pm until 8pm on both tracks using as many locomotives as possible. When I arrived to help set-up at 1pm, the 7.25" track was already becoming occupied. 0-4-0 Sweet-Romulus ('William' boiler on 'Romulus' chassis) "Luna" was already on the steaming bays and this was duly followed by Eddie's well turned-out Wren Tank 0-4-0, now known as "Willy". With the two blue engines on the bays and the 5" fleet starting to appear over the way, James & his trusty Romulus arrived. Myself & James then unloaded the chunky piece of kit before she too headed to the steaming bays. There, all three engines began to raise steam. James did most of the preparation work whilst I set to with an oily rag and a lot of Brasso! I do enjoy cleaning the brass work on locomotives: its quite pleasing. Sure enough, 10 minutes before time, "James" and "Willy" were sat sparkling on the 'off shed' spur. "James" simmered away at full pressure quite happily, waiting for the passengers to arrive...
The two engines...
A portrait of "Willy the Wren"...
0-4-0 Kerr Stuart Wren Tank Engine "Willy"
Up on the bays "Luna" was having a steam test prior to coming into service. Sure enough she passed with flying colours and was soon in service. This is a very powerful and chunky locomotive with a large amount of adhesive weight, making the train loads hauled at GEC no effort at all!...
At 3pm the passengers  began to pour in and the locomotives got to work. "James" (with driving shared by myself & James) and "Luna" both took it in turns hauling a 2-car set. "Willy" had his own single coach which was hauled around the track by him & him alone. By 4pm the operations were in full swing and the platform was packed. Luckily the steamers were putting in faultless performances and were trying their best in an effort to keep the queues moving!...
James on "James" Bringing In The 3pm Train (Photo = K.Eyre)
Throughout the afternoon/evening myself & James shared the driving of his cracking locomotive. These Romulus' always impress me. They have ample reserves of power and are a simple design. "James" is very operator friendly and a casual oiling up now and again will keep her going without problem. The Daw Mill coal that was being burnt today; though very smoky; produced good steaming results as long as you kept the fire clean. "James" was, as usual, a pleasure to drive and it was great fun to be out on 7.25" rails again. The cleaning efforts were certainly noticeable and "James" looked fantastic...
A Shining "James"
The queues on the 7.25" platform did not subside until literally 10 minutes before the 8pm finish time. The steamers put in a fabulous overall performance and "Willy" did very well until leaving the track at 5pm as home was calling. The Y7 battery tram engine "Toby" joined us for an hour or so to ease the load on the steamers once the Wren had gone back on shed. The Y7 was later retired with low battery power as the increasingly oily rails pulling out of the triangle were just producing too much wheel-slip for her to achieve adhesion. "Luna" & "James" faultlessly flew the 7.25" flag as they chugged on into the night and hauled countless more passengers. I think I drove my last trip at about 7:40pm and I must admit, it was very dark indeed, particularly once you were out on the single line section. All you could really do was leave "James" to it and use the beat of the engine to judge the speed and 'feel' the brake. A gauge glass lamp was of course provided for safety reasons. There is something about driving at night though...its good fun! At about 8pm, as the rain began to fall, the engines retired to the shed after a long and extremely busy evening. The event had been a total success by all accounts and I must praise the GEC Miniature Railway and their fantastic staff for all of their efforts. The train numbers tonight were nothing short of astonishing for a little railway and I think 'credit where credit is due'. I must thank James and all of the other GEC guys for a cracking evening, not to mention the 'Tea Room Ladies' for, "you've guessed it", the TEA! Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Picking up "Achilles"...

Hi everyone. Today I went to the Midlands Show yet again; arriving there just before midday. After much more chatting and tea drinking, I helped to pack away the portable 5" gauge track. It was then time (in the oh so convenient pouring rain!) to take "Achilles" back across the car park to the Saxo on a trolley, with the help of Eddie. Once packed up we headed off for home after another successful and enjoyable Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition. "Achilles" will appear in steam again at least once before Christmas, hopefully twice but we'll see. Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 19 October 2013

More Driving at the Fosseway Show...

Hello guys. Today at 10am I arrived at the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition. From 1:30 this afternoon I will again be driving "Polly V" on CMES' portable track. I have done the Saturday afternoon driving shift every year for some time now as it allows me to take a good look around the show in the morning. Since I've been organising MTEW for the Battlefield Line, the hobby of the miniature traction engine has become of increasing interest to me. At this years MMEE the traction engine line-up was greatly reduced, though there were still some beautiful engines on display, and in steam. One display that I was particularly pleased to see (at last) was Harry Williams' 2" Kitson ploughing engine and her working plough. The beautiful engine pulls the plough back and forth with her working winding drum and the plough is steered through a radio-controlled system, also driven by Harry as the plough moves along the ground. His display demonstrates steam ploughing during the late 1800's and it was a pleasure to see it in action...
Below, Harry chats with the audience about the design of the Kitson engine and how they were produced on behalf of Fowler's before their own hugely popular Plougher's came to be...
Inside the show halls amongst countless stands of beautiful engines, my own locomotive was still safely in place. "Achilles" stood shining on the CMES stand which was, as a whole, a brilliant display this year...
"Aren't You Pleased I Haven't Rolled Off The Stand?"
Back out in the field I captured a shot of Dave's work-horse of a 4" Foster, known as "McGrew". This engine attended MTEW and will do so again in April 2014 all being well...
Ian's 4" Case provided a 'first viewing' for me. I've never really examined the Case up close and so took the opportunity today. These engines are very chunky and in 4" they are a very sizeable and powerful engine. Everything about them looks robust and this example is no exception. I am hoping that we will see her at Market Bosworth in 2014...
"Well In That Case..."
Another MTEW attendee at the show was Phil's lovely 4.5" Foden "Heather", known to many due to Phil's two Bassett hounds riding around rallies aboard it!...
A beautiful 6" Ruston Proctor...
At 1:30, after lots of looking around, my shift began. This afternoon I was joined by Steve and we shared the driving for the rest of the day. We had a good laugh during the afternoon and gave many, many rides with the golden Polly. For short intervals we came out of service to allow the fantastic 5" gauge Gas Turbine Engine "GT3" to provide a working display for the visitors, with amazing results in terms of audience numbers! Once "GT3" had retired "Polly V" would return. The engine continued to run and steam well all day though the increasingly oily rail conditions towards the end of the day were turning her into a bit of a 'Golden Slipper'...
"Polly V" After A Successful Day
At about 4:45pm myself & Steve disposed of the engine after another successful running day. She was then packed into her storage box and returned to the Polly Models stand for the night. I must thank Steve for an enjoyable afternoon. My voice aches a little now. They ought to rename the show the Midlands Chatting to Everyone Exhibition as I didn't seem to be able to walk 5 yards without bumping into someone I knew from somewhere in the country! Mind you, it is nice in a way...I must have spent half the day nattering! Best Regards, Sam...

Friday, 18 October 2013

Pulling with Polly...

Hi guys. Today after work at midday I headed straight over to the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition for my afternoon crew turn on CMES' portable track, which visits the show each year. As usual the provided locomotive was Polly Model Engineering's demonstrator: the brass-liveried Polly V 2-6-0. The engine had been in steam all morning and when I arrived at 1:30 to start my shift the loco was blowing off happily. During the afternoon myself & Emma crewed the track and gave a few rides whilst also having a bit of a jolly up and down. The "V" was steaming and pulling well and, with a brand new boiler, seemed a completely different engine all over again, despite us having had this engine on the track every year for a good while now. Life on the portable track is relatively easy. "Polly V" only has to pull, at maximum, the weight of 3 adults up the track to the end before dropping back. As long as the fire was kept bright and the feed-water for the injectors cool, the loco was no trouble at all. Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Achilles Report No42: Off to the Show...

Hi guys. This afternoon after leaving work I was driving up the Fosseway bound for the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition near Leamington. The 2014 show will open tomorrow and will run until Sunday. As they do every year, CMES has a stand there and "Achilles" is one of the few 'complete' locomotives to be displayed on that stand. The locomotive has been cleaned from front to back, top to bottom. The bottom end has been paraffin-washed, the black paint has been done in an oily mixture and the tanks have been polished. The brass had a light (2 hour!) buff up to get it ready for display at the show. Though the engine's cosmetic condition is now showing its age (over 20 years old) I do try my best to keep her as clean as possible. The brass dome atop the barrel has become a bit of a talking point for the engine and the several jokes about the overwhelming amount of elbow grease required to achieve it do float around! In truth, the dome is professionally polished now and again to keep it in that 'blinding' condition. My attempt to keep her brass shining is a kind of feeble attempt to avert viewers eyes from her dented boiler cladding which I hope to replace this winter. Standing between two fabulous models (Emma's Caribou and Eric's General), I hope that "Achilles" will help to fly the CMES flag on the stand for the weekend. Its a pleasure to have an engine to put in to MMEE. Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Another Elegant Excursion...

Hi guys. Around this time last year, on a very wet autumn Sunday, myself & Maisie had a lovely time on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway's "Elegant Excursions" Dining Train. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that I booked us on for pretty much the same day again this October. Returning for the same experience seemed a great idea, though I hadn't planned on rebooking the hideous autumn rain that we received during last years visit! We arrived at the GWSR's intermediate station at Winchcombe around Midday, ready for immediate boarding as the rain fell and the wind blew. The cosy, lamp-lit atmosphere of the Dining Train was very welcome and Train Manager Robin was a friendly face to greet us as we clambered wearily aboard whilst, naturally, apologising for the weather!

The locomotive at the head of the train was GWSR stalwart No7903 "Foremarke Hall". This well-used 4-6-0 was built under BR in 1949 as part of Hawksworth's 'Modified Hall' class. The original Hall's appeared as early as 1924 under 4900 Class specifications, and the Modified's were basically their later sisters. Much debate rages over which is better though, on paper at least, it should really be the modified variant. One feature that I am aware of in particular on the modified engines is a greater level of superheating to name but one. Having been rescued from Barry Scrapyard in 1981, 7903 eventually returned to service following a painstaking restoration in 2003 at the Swindon & Cricklade railway. However I am fairly certain, just from memory, that she has spent the majority of the last 10 years hard at work on the GWSR. Following a lot of mileage over the last decade, the Hall is currently fast approaching the end of her boiler ticket, which I believe expires this winter. For an engine 10 years into her ticket, she certainly looks and sounds well. Good luck to her on a speedy overhaul...
Once aboard the "Elegant Excursions" train we were escorted through the well-heated and beautifully turned out coaches to our table-for-two. We then settled in for our Sunday lunch...
As we enjoyed our tasty Sunday lunch, "Foremarke Hall" hauled the coaches through the countryside throwing white steam over her shoulder. Up through Winchcombe tunnel we went and on to Cheltenham Racecourse. There, as our main meal began to arrive, 7903 ran round the train. Steaming tender-first through the Cotswold scenery, 7903 ambled gently through Winchcombe and on towards Toddington. I had not travelled over this section over the GWSR for a couple of years as a severe landslip at Chicken Curve has seen the line closed for some time. Happily, the section has now reopened and the GWSR base of Toddington is served by steam trains once again. Passing through the damp platforms of Toddington station, 7903 paused briefly before accelerating away onto the recently opened Laverton section. In a few years time the GWSR hopes to make it to Broadway, where the station is already pretty much available to welcome a train. Laverton is the current extent of railway operations and a run-round loop has been constructed there. The short journey from Toddington to Laverton involves passing over the impressive Stanton viaduct which is always nice to see: I'd certainly never been over this section before. At Laverton 7903 ran round again before returning us gracefully to Winchcombe. By now we had enjoyed a well prepared 4-course meal and we were stuffed. Mind you, it was so tasty that I reckon I could have eaten it twice! Back at Winchcombe, a very wet "Foremarke Hall" simmered away to herself whilst the Diner's staggered down from the coaches...
7903 Rests at Winchcombe
A view from the footbridge...
The smartly turned out, and recently repainted I believe, "Elegant Excursions" coaches...
The Lamp-lit Coaches of "Elegant Excursions"
Well, that's another Fine Dining Experience done! "Elegant Excursions" is probably my favourite and most recommended of the many dining trains we have travelled on over the years. If you ever get the chance to book a slot on one of Robin's fantastic trains then I would severely advise that you go for it. They offer a great atmosphere, lovely food and best of all, its great valve for money. The only thing that tops it is dining on the main line but, that's not about the food is it! Best Regards, Sam...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Cleaning 3803 at Shackerstone...

Hi guys. Tonight myself & Jason spent another few hours in Shackerstone Loco Shed cleaning the Great Western 2-8-0 No3803. Believe it or not it is fairly quiet at the railway during the week and, whilst chatting away over a hot cuppa', you can get a fair bit of work done. Jason spent the evening polishing the GWR green livery of 3803's tender whilst I went whacko with the Brasso in the cab and cleaned every piece of copper pipework or brass that I could find! The engine is looking sharp now and long may she do so. Thanks guys - Sam...

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A Pleasant Day with 3803...

Evening all. This year, certainly for myself, the turns at Shackerstone seemed to have come in thick & fast. Therefore, following a nice easy day out on 3803 last Sunday, I was back on the engine today! Today myself & Eddie were the booked crew, with Jamie as trainee fireman and passed fireman David was also on board doing a bit of driver training. Myself & Dave met up at Shackerstone gates at the grand morning time of 5:45am before continuing along the horribly dark driveway towards the station. You can really tell winter is beginning to set in now when you arrive at the railway in these conditions! Once at the shed myself & David got to work. The engine's warming fire was still alight...just. Having checked around the inside of the firebox I added coal to the still glowing embers at the back of the grate. Almost immediately the coal started to burn and so I added a little more before shutting the doors and opening the dampers. With 1/2 a glass of water in the boiler the engine was soon simmering away again and already had 20psi on the clock. Meanwhile, David was busying himself with the oil cans before Eddie & Jamie arrived. As the hours passed 3803 was prepared and our eager 'Foot Ex' participant arrived at 7:30am. By 9am we were on Platform 2 road, watered and with 200psi on the clock. 3803 was ready to roll...
Having completed yet another successful 'Footplate Experience' course we quickly got 3803 around and onto the 11:15 public train. The train was already due to leave and so we were away as quickly as possible. I had fired the 'Foot Ex' and so continued in this role on the first trip, with Eddie on the handle. After a very good trip and a brisk run round we finally got our belated breakfast. Eddie did the honours on Pockets' shovel...
The second train of the day departed on time with Dave & Jamie in charge. Before we left on our journey I managed to grab this shot of the 38' at the head of the 4-coach train. In the autumn sunlight I think it looks quite nice...
My Favourite Pic
The second trip of the day operated just as successfully as the first. With more than the average amount of crew on the engine it was an easy day and the never-ending joy of coupling up and uncoupling is greatly reduced. The trains also seemed fairly busy today, with a coach party enjoying a round trip on the Battlefield Line, which certainly seemed to fill the platforms!...

The third trip saw me driving with Eddie having a fire. Driving 3803 is still very enjoyable and the engine goes very well indeed. Pulling carefully into Shenton was given an 'under pressure' feeling as the platform was packed ready for the now slightly late 2:20pm departure: the coach party had returned! After a very enjoyable trip back; catching up some time on the way; 3803 was watered when we arrived back at Shackerstone. The 4th train went out the same way as the 2nd and on the last trip Eddie was back on the handle with Dave firing...
David Gets 3803 Ready For The Off
Driver Eddie on 3803...
After we had arrived at Shenton on the last train I uncoupled before grabbing a final shot of 3803 in the last of the days sunshine...
Following a very successful run back with expert Fireman David on the shovel, 3803 was brought to the shed with a very small fire and went to bed a very happy engine after a successful day. Here she is just before she went into the shed...
The Day is Done
I must thank Eddie, Jamie and David for a cracking day on 3803 and for their company. Though we had ended up slightly late we had carried many happy passengers and 3803 had done us proud yet again. Thank you for reading folks. Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Achilles Report No41 and Post 100 of 2013!...

Hi everyone. Today my 5" locomotive "Achilles" was off to RPMR again. It was the monthly Members Running Day at the track and there were plenty of other engines in action. Part of the blue tank engine's reason for attending today was the impending expiry of her 14-monthly steam test certificate. As the certificate was within weeks of expiry I decided to get in early and have the engine done so that it would be sorted. A Steam Test for an engine like this is fairly worry free as long as the engine is performing well. An owner will often notice the tell-tale signs of faults that could potentially void a steam test so that they can be rectified. Firstly, whilst cold, the pressure gauge is checked, as is the all important 'red line'. For those that don't know what a 'red line' denotes, it is there to show you when the safety valves should lift and shows the maximum working pressure for the engine. In the case of "Achilles" full pressure is 90psi. With the gauge checked the engine is looked over whilst cold with water in the boiler. Anything obvious like leaking tubes or firebox weeps will show up during this. The home-made copper boiler on "Achilles" has always been a good one, and Ken has often told me so! It certainly has had no problems at all ("touch wood"!) since I've had the engine.
 
With the boiler checked the fire can be lit and the engine is brought around into steam as normal. Once the engine is in steam then the safety valves are required to lift (both of them) at 90psi. Furthermore, they have to maintain the maximum boiler pressure to within a small percentage with the blower valve fully open. With a strong, full fire in the box the blower is opened right up and both valves will lift. Once lifting violently, the valves should, as I say, maintain near working pressure, perhaps crossing the red line only slightly. As usual "Achilles" powerful blower was kept up with by the safety valves and the then stationary boiler had passed so far. You then need to demonstrate that you have at least two means of putting water into the boiler. "Achilles" currently carries an axle-pump and a hand-pump, with the latter being tested on the steaming bay where it easily calms the safety valves down and carefully fills the boiler: showing that it works! The water pump is tested on the track and so, as we would of anyway, myself & "Achilles" went for a run...
After a very pleasant afternoons running with both pumps working well and the boiler steaming brilliantly, "Achilles" had passed another steam test. It was also nice to see someone else driving the engine again today: Eric took the engine for a couple of laps whilst I sorted some stuff out. Apart from the springing: which will be rectified this winter: the locomotive is performing very well indeed and I can't really knock it. Sauntering around the track following the other engines, the loco will steam easily and if you don't keep the water pump on it will be blowing off before long. The coal we are using at the minute, although from the same supplier, seems a lot better for the engine as it steams a treat on it. However, as always, some of the other owners have reported problems with this coal. Different engines, ay! Below, "Achilles" waits in a traffic jam on the bank later in the afternoon...
Test Passed - Job Done
Well, that's another steam test passed and the engine is now certified for another 14 months of running. I don't know how many more runs we'll get in in 2013: hopefully at least one: but at least she's ready when she's needed. Right then, now to a little more of a blog issue. We are now on Post No100 of 2013. Last year it appeared in November, and the year before that it appeared in late October. So, yet again, I've beaten myself! We are now just under 4 weeks ahead of Post 100 of 2011. My god this year has been busy: I need to slow down! Thanks for reading folks. Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

An Evening at Shackerstone...

Hi guys. This evening myself, Eddie & Jason made the journey to Shackerstone to do a couple of hours of cleaning on 3803. The big Great Western engine; particularly when you have a Foot-Ex to do; is arguably far too large to complete all of its required cleaning within a couple of hours and so we thought we'd have a bit of a crack at it tonight. Then, when we come in for our turn on Sunday, we can finish the job properly. It is an engine crew's responsibility to make sure that the locomotive is fit and ready for the day, and this always includes the cleaning! After a few hours scrubbing the locomotive's substantial framing we decided to call it a night. Roll on the weekend! Best Regards, Sam...