Sunday, 27 July 2014

Firing and Driving on 3803...

Hi everyone. Today was a sunny day, and a return to the Great Western 2-8-0 No3803. The big old heavy goods engine is still at Shackerstone where it is put to good use hauling all of the lines steam workings. The day began at 6am, driving over to Shackerstone in the BMW through the Fen Lanes. It always makes a difference when its a sunny morning: the sky is blue, the air is crisp and the journey so much more pleasant. It's the winter mornings in the pitch darkness that you don't want! I arrived at 6:30am, along with trainee fireman Jamie, and we were soon in the engine shed checking the 38' over. The engine was still red hot from yesterdays antics, with 40psi remaining on the clock. Having checked the engine over and finding almost a full glass of water and dry joints, we ashed the loco out. With this task done I decided that it would be a good idea, particularly on a nice day like today, to drag the engine outside. Thus, the trusty Class 02 was given a good taste of the 'cold start' button and she soon roared into life. With air pressure made up on the 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic, the little shunter was brought into the shed and buffered up to 3803. With exhausts clagging, the shunter dragged the bulk of 3803 outside. As is always the case, a gentle brake application is necessary as the gradient and the weight of the 38' can sometimes far outweigh the stopping capability of a light footed 0-4-0! With the engine's stopped and secured outside, 3803s grate was cleaned and a new wood fire lit by myself. The wood was then blacked out with coal (as is my method) and the engine left to simmer away to herself whilst we cleaned her, and Eddie (recently arrived after his usual Driver's lie-in!) oiled up. By 10:30am, we were sat calmly in the platform with 160psi on the clock and the breakfast on...
"Come On Eddie, COOK!"
Gourmet Chef Eddie had the sausage, bacon and eggs going lovely whilst we awaited the return of the Class 33 diesel. The 33' had gone down the line on the first passenger at 10am, as we were running a split 8-train timetable today for the Rail Ale Festival, half steam and half diesel. The smell of the breakfast was intoxicating...
"Mmm"
The breakfast break also allowed for a few snaps to be taken of the cleaned up 3803. Here she is standing in Platform 1 in a somewhat unusual shot as the stock is normally stood there blocking this view!...
Our first train was at 11am, easily hauled by 3803. Jamie fired with Eddie (naturally) on the handle. The run was certainly a success and it wasn't long before we were all sat in a row on the Platform 1 bench at Shackerstone. The midday was of course diesel hauled by the 33' and we returned to work on the 1pm. I drove this one with Eddie riding on the firemans seat and Jamie on the shovel. It was another good run and 3803 was certainly in fine form. This engine is a constant free steamer, strong puller and slick accelerator: she's quite a tool, its just a shame we haven't got about 50 miles of line and about 15 coaches behind the tender! I had a go on the shovel on the 3pm with Eddie on the handle and Jamie riding. Fireman or no fireman, you should always fire at least one trip with a trainee or not. The fireman must always keep 'his hand in' otherwise one may risk slipping back! For the 5pm (a late train for us really) I was on the handle again with Eddie firing there and Jamie firing back. Eddie prepares the 'Shap Ascent Fire' here at Shackerstone...
See what we have to put up with on the footplate? Look at my crew! Mind you, by the looks of their faces I think they are probably in the middle of mocking me for telling some kind of ridiculously annoying (or sad!) joke or something. A good day in good company...
Here I've managed to snap 3803 at the head of the 5pm just prior to departure...
"GWR 2884 Class Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No3803, Built Swindon 1939"
The 5pm trip went just as well as the other four but I think by the time we arrived back we were all starting to feel it a bit! Today seemed a much longer day than normal even though we had had more rest than normal...most odd! Anyway, another cracking day on the 38' and long may they continue. Cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Road Steam at Rail Ale...

Hi everyone. Today I spent a quiet afternoon at Market Bosworth watching the attractions of the Battlefield Line's "Rail Ale" event 2014. With 55 real ales on offer, 10 full size road engines, fairground organ, a few miniatures and vintage vehicles, entertainment in the Goods Shed and "Blue Circle" in steam, what wasn't to like? I hung around for most of the afternoon, returning home at about 6pm. It was a very hot day and the crew of 3803 certainly looked like they were feeling it each time they came by! I just thought I'd include a few pictures of the event to give you an idea. Its a great weekend and well worth a visit, biased as I may be. 4" Garrett "Betty" (an MTEW regular) leaves Market Bosworth Station on route to the pub...
Fowler "Elsa" is seen here alongside four smartly turned out rollers...
Phil's Aveling & Porter 10-ton Roller "Louise" prepares for the Road Run to Cadeby...
Statfold's Foden Timber Tractor follows "Louise"...
A restful sight here with Aveling Roller "Thistledown", formerly a Teddy Boston engine and probably, in this stead, the inspiration for George the Steam Roller in Thomas...
Arthur Henton's Fowler agricultural "Victoria" prepares to follow the ensemble into Bosworth...
Here, 3803 makes a spirited departure with the 5pm Shackerstone to Shenton service as I stand hi-viz clad at the lineside...
One of the rollers returns from the road run, nearing the station...
Up in Market Bosworth village, Fowler Showman's Engine "Repulse" takes a break...
Arthur Henton's Aveling Roller simmers in the centre...
"Louise" prepares for the return voyage. Note the spark arrestor...
Here, Statfold's timber tractor waits at the roadside for the return run. This Foden can certainly march along with reports of 25mph being common place...
Thanks very much for viewing this post folks and I'm sure you can see that, despite my poor photo content, the Rail Ale is a fantastic weekend for all to enjoy. Roll on the 2015 event. Best Regards, Sam...

Friday, 25 July 2014

Wonderful Welland...

Hi guys. We have here another nice post about a sunny day out. Regular readers will know that in my pre-MTEW organising days, I didn't really visit many steam rallies. I am a railway man through and through but, I must admit, in recent times, owing mainly to seeing and searching for so many engines on behalf of my April event, I have started to appreciate the traction engine a lot more. This was evident last year with our visits to Cromford and the world famous Great Dorset Steam Fair. Today, following on from recommendations from many people I've met through the traction engine circuit, I decided to visit the well known Welland Steam Rally near Malvern. Welland attracts exhibits from far & wide and this year saw a particularly strong line up due to the shows 50th anniversary. Welland is about 60 miles from home and so I set off at about 8am, arriving at the show in warm sunshine at about 9:30am. Having queued in and bought a ticket, I ambled through the gate and into the first field. A sight that greeted me straight away was 0-6-0 Haydock Foundry tank "Bellerophon" from the Foxfield Railway. Welland has a standard gauge demonstration line and "Bellerophon", coupled to a Toad Brakevan, would be giving rides throughout the weekend: great stuff. All around the 0-6-0 stood engines steaming up ready for the day...
Having enjoyed a breakfast bap from one of the many food stands, I decided to take a stroll through the miniature engine section. 28 varying miniatures were on display, none of which I might add had been to my do at Market Bosworth. However, one of them that I had already actually been in talks over via email was a beautiful 6" McLaren, modelled as "Boadicea". This engine will hopefully be joining us in April for the 2015 event and was a wonderful thing to look at...
Walking around the show there were various examples of traction engines, steam rollers, steam lorries, portables, cars, tractors and motorcycles. There was a huge variation of things to see, most of which were in action even on this, the first day of the 3-day event. The Garrett single below was, so I was told, on a visit from Ireland in 'just outshopped' condition. Wearing a shining red livery it did look the bee's knee's...
Here we see Mr Gregory with his latest acquisition; a lovely Fowler Agricultural named "Blackjack"...
Over in the working field there was a 2ft gauge railway as well as ploughing engines and a road making display carried out by an Aveling roller. Fowler ploughing engine "The Chief" of 1874 vintage, stands awaiting action...
"Blackjack" is seen here lining up alongside a Fowler roller and a very nice Burrell...
I was particularly impressed with the Hovis steam lorry which was a nicely painted Sentinel under-type wagon...
"The Hovis Sentinel Lorry with an Aveling Roller Going Mad Behind"
Down in the vintage fairground, as per tradition, there were a good few examples of the popular Showmans engines. Big names included "Ex Mayor" and "Carry On" to name but a few. Here are just five of the engines lining up in the fair...
The wonderful blue livery of "Ex Mayor" makes her stand out in the fairground. Built in 1925, "Ex Mayor" is a Scenic Showmans. The term Scenic denotes the use of two dynamo's on the engine. One dynamo 'excites' the other and helped to start the heavy new Scenic rides that were coming into action at the time of "Ex Mayor"s build. The Scenic Showmans are probably regarded as the final and best development of the Showmans Engine and they are almost certainly the most powerful in terms of generating...
"Burrell Scenic Showmans Road Locomotive "Ex Mayor"
Leaving the fairground behind I decided to walk back over the scorching rally field to have a closer look at "Bellerophon". As I got nearer the mutterings from the enthusiasts got more and more numerous. A railway in their midst was certainly not to certain peoples interest I would gather. The Haydock 0-6-0 was referred to as, "the train". "The old train is going well, ay" was a popular line! Now, I must say, what a beautifully elegant engine this is. Built in 1874 and one of the oldest standard gauge steam loco's in regular use, "Bell" (as she is affectionately known by her crews) employs interesting outside Stephenson's link valve gear and has a Well Tank. She is a very nicely proportioned engine and I really like her...
As I got nearer to the temporary 'Pallet Platform' I realised that I recognised certain faces that were part of the 'railway crew'. Sure enough some of the Foxfield lads included some of the Pontypool guys who I met when I went with "Sir Gomer" to Wales back in 2011. They were only too pleased to enthuse about both "Gomer" and "Bell"...
I then found myself offered a footplate ride on "Bell" which I snapped up. I was pleased even to see the engine let alone ride on her footplate. Great stuff!...
"Getting Away from the Bottom"
The loco rolled easily down the fairly graded demo line before coming to a stop at the bottom on the handbrake. The driver then gave her a bit to get her going but she didn't need much with just a Toad behind. The loco is used to pulling heavy trains up the 1 in 19 of Foxfield bank and so a Toad up a field is hardly anything to write home about. The large boiler on "Bellerophon" is complimented by a large firebox and I was told that steaming is never an issue with her. What a lovely old engine...
"A Last Look at Bellerophon"
Having thanked the Foxfield guys for my footplate ride with "Bellerophon" I headed back over to the working field where 0-8-0 side tank No15 of 2ft gauge descent was working on the road making railway. No15 was shunting wagons loaded with heavy stone up and down for the public's entertainment. This large tank engine was visiting from the North Gloucestershire Railway at Toddington...
Having chatted to a few more people that I knew about the place, I headed down towards the arena in anticipation of the "Miniature Steam Parade". Some of the miniatures were already gathering ready for the off...
By about 2:30pm the heat was getting to me and I decided to head off for home. My final view was of the miniatures gathered together in the arena...
"The Miniature Ensemble"
All in all guys a great show and I was very pleased that I visited Welland. Maybe one day I will visit again, who knows. I was certainly impressed with the various displays on offer as there was lots to see. It always seems hard to write a post about a steam rally as you just can't include words and pictures documenting everything as there's just too much. I hope though that in this post I've managed to capture Welland in a good light and show it off to be a great event. Cheers guys, Sam...

Sunday, 20 July 2014

CMES July Steam Day...

Hi guys. Despite "Achilles" still being cosmetically indisposed, I was still heading along to the CMES July Steam Day at Ryton Pools today. There were four smartly turned out locomotives in steam on the 5" gauge line and a good time was had by all. Passenger numbers were fair and the weather was fine. First to be mentioned is Mike's Midland 7F 2-8-0 No9673. Mike spent over 25 years building 9673 and it shows as she runs like a sewing machine...
After a couple of laps with his engine, Mike kindly allowed me to drive the 7F for a couple of trips. Here is a cab view traversing the track on an ECS run...
The 7F was just a breeze, especially with a bit of a load on. The footplate extension controls made her easy to drive for a large 5" tender engine and the free-steaming boiler and large firebox gave trouble-free running. She really was a pleasure to drive and a beautiful loco...
Second in steam was Brian's stalwart LBSC 'Pansy', showing off the model engineering world's favourite take on the Great Western's popular 5700 Class 0-6-0 Pannier Tank. I must admit in full size I have quite a high regard for these engines. They are sure-footed (when the tanks are full!), powerful (7 or 8 coaches no problem) and are fairly nice to work on for a Great Western engine. This 5" example is No5717 "Victoria". The engine worked well today and put in some great performances...
"A Portrait of Victoria"
Third in steam was another Western: Dave's 4-6-0 Manor Class. This is another sizeable engine in 5" gauge and was certainly pulling some heavy loads today...
Last but by no means least was engine number four: 0-4-0 Sweet Pea "Donald". This relatively new engine, finished in a shining blue livery, was driven by owner Stuart and was running well on her first ever public outing. I always feel that Sweet Pea perhaps gets a bad press in the model engineering world but I've never known one that didn't steam well or pull well if handled correctly. They make for an attractive and chunky engine in 5" gauge and "Donald" was certainly finding the work no problem throughout the afternoon...
"0-4-0 Sweet Pea with Tender, "Donald"
Stuart kindly let me take the engine for a lap around the track on a passenger train and, due to my affection for the Sweet Pea type having learnt on them, I snapped up the chance. The first live steam engine I ever drove was a Sweet Pea, all the way back in 2004. Perhaps if I hadn't have done that then I wouldn't be driving things like 3803 now ay, 10 years on. Who knows?. Anyway, "Donald" steamed well for me and was a pleasing engine to drive, being the first Pea I've driven that had the optional tender for extra and cooler water capacity for use with an injector. Another very pleasant experience and another very nice loco...
Later in the day Dave even let me take the Manor for three or four laps. Though fairly quick to pick her feet up if you let her, the Manor was responsive, free steaming and pleasant to drive. Even with some very heavy loads you had no doubt that she was going to steam beautifully and march along without a problem. The builder of this engine certainly knew what they were doing and she is a real pleasure. Its amazing the difference big wheels make with a 5" gauge engine as doing track-speed with the Manor seemed to be slow for her with her big legs just gradually edging around. Thanks Dave, another great experience...
"The Manor at Ryton Halt"
All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon and it was a great pleasure to drive three of the engines that were running, two of which I hadn't driven before. Sometimes, when you haven't got your own engine with you, it gives you the opportunity to get the chance to drive other peoples loco's now and again which is always a pleasure. Thank you to Mike, Stuart and Dave for the experiences: great stuff. Cheers guys, Sam...

Friday, 18 July 2014

Achilles Report No60: The Saga Continues...

Hi all. Well, lets continue with the saga! After a day at Market Bosworth on Sunday, Monday saw me returning to the evening shift at work for a week, leaving the midday/afternoon segments of the days for working on "Achilles". Therefore, Monday was spent heavily rubbing down the removed smokebox and attempting to get a good surface finish back onto it. Once stripped and cleaned, the smokebox was given two good coats of the HT paint that it had before, a kind of grey colour to contrast the blue and black. The several coatings of oil that it will get in the future will soon sort out the finish and turn it darker...
Eddie had kindly repaired the superheater whilst we were on holiday. The process had involved replacing the main steam pipe and steam header, and silver soldering it to the superheater elements and the wet header too. Eddie had admittedly made a great job of the lot and I am very grateful for his help. A new steam gasket was made for the wet header on the Monday and the superheater refitted carefully. Now that this is back in place, the smokebox can soon go back on...
The cleaned and repaired superheater in place...
On Tuesday, having refitted the blower pipe, the smokebox was refitted carefully. With the smokebox bolted on, the bolt heads were carefully sprayed in order to keep them in line with the colour of the smokebox. The snifting valve was also cleaned and serviced and had a new ball fitted for the first time in almost 30 years! The ensemble is here...
"Tuesday - Smokebox and Boiler Reunited"
On Wednesday the boiler was reclad and the boiler bands put back on. I must admit I was nowhere near happy with the finish. Unfortunately, due to all this on-going work with the engine, the repaint of the cladding was very much rushed in order to try and make the engine ready for Sunday's run. However, dare I say it, its only the top of the cladding that matters in a desperate situation such as this!...
The boiler was placed back into the frames later on Wednesday afternoon and the steam pipe did fit very well...
"Well Done, Ed!"
On Thursday the loco was looking near complete and the blast pipe was refitted with new gaskets between its base feeds and the cylinder exhaust ports. The smokebox was then sealed with gasket gel to fill the remaining holes where piping comes through. Obviously if the smokebox leaks then the vacuum that you are trying to induce is lost, thus hindering the steaming of the engine...
"Thursday - Getting There"
So, the moment of truth came on the Friday when "Achilles" (cabless but pulling!) went to the Onley Lane track at Rugby MES. Myself and Eddie were both running loco's but Ed brought a 7.25" gauge loco so we each had a track to ourselves in effect. Once steaming up, "Achilles" would not move. "Damn!". The steam pipe was leaking heavily. However, upon inspection, an extra good tightening when hot sorted this so that we only had a hiss left rather than a roar. This hiss is coming from somewhere else. I inspected the whole interior of the smokebox and could not find a precise place where it was coming from. However, when under pressure with the regulator wide, rather than standing still, "Achilles" was now determined to move and pulled hard against me so that I could hardly hold her back. I think the rings are blowing past slightly on the pistons, but only when you have almost full regulator with the engine pinned to the spot by all of your weight! So, I decided to try and go for a run. Well, she steamed well, pulled well, sounded well and the water pump worked fine. However, as is sods law, the rushed job with the cladding was more than evident when the paint rippled and a boiler band slipped back causing damage. I was annoyed about this, don't get me wrong, but I was still so glad that the loco worked now, and well. She managed to drag me up the bank with the handbrake on the truck hard on whilst blowing off at both valves...that's a fair test!

A decision could have been made at this point to fit the cab and just run the engine rather than worrying about the cladding damage but, after all this, there is no way that the engine is going out scruffy! So, within 25 minutes of arriving home, the boiler lay back on the floor...I'm getting quicker!...
"Friday - Boiler Removals Whilst You Wait"
So, the cladding now just has to be repainted and the boiler dropped back in. To be honest, the boiler comes out in 25 minutes and goes back in in about 45 minutes so I'm sure she'll be fine next time out. She steamed very well today and everything worked except the cosmetics so here's hoping we've sorted the fault. The rings passing at full regulator with the engine pretty much locked up will not worry you on the track with her as the steam will probably overcome most train weights or produce a slip instead as its not often you work an engine that hard at full blowing off pressure. Fingers crossed she'll be done soon and this nightmare will be over! Cheers guys, Sam...