Sunday, 30 November 2014

Return to the Footplate...

Hi there everyone. Here we are again, as quick as a flash, its the Santa Trains! This morning I was rostered as Fireman aboard GWR 3803 at Shackerstone. Naturally, this meant a fairly horrific out the door time of about 5:30am, to make the railway for 6am. I always find getting in early is the best way to ensure that you get out on time, as the chances of something being wrong with the engine if you come in late seems to (sods law) always double. Arriving at around 6am, I started by grabbing all of my kit from the car: everything but the kitchen sink. It was then time for the 'terror walk'. This walk, undertaken mostly in darkness, takes you up to the loco shed but due to the overwhelming weight of all of your kit you just sort of moan & groan your way there, dragging and heaving, huffing and puffing. Falling into the engine shed and switching on the lights, the bulk of 3803 stood in front of me...
Having checked the engine for water and condition, the next important job is to feed the cat...
As can be seen, the process of feeding the cat is soon followed by the appropriate measure of being stared out by the cat until you feed the cat again...
The cat has featured on the blog a few times. It has more names than the Ian Allen book but the most popular of its several alias' seems to be Morris. Morris is perhaps an unusual name for a female cat but nevertheless it has been dubbed so. We think its well over 15 years old but nobody seems to know, she just turned up one day about 5 years ago and has been a railway resident ever since. Leaving the cat by the stove, it was up onto the footplate to start messing about with the fire-irons. Driver Brian and Trainee Richard soon arrived before I made my way into the hot firebox to clear the grate and check the condition of everything. Grate cleared and firebox & tubes dry, the engine was lit up. Our first train was at 10am which I fired, with Richard firing for the remaining Midday and 2pm departures. Here the shining 38' is spotted waiting for the Midday train...
All in all this was an easy day on the footplate but a busy day on the train with some great passenger loadings for the first Santa weekend. The loco steamed well, pulled well and looked well and I'm sure the three of us had a pleasant day. I'm next on the 38' next Sunday so, all being well, that'll be good too. All the best guys, Sam...

Friday, 28 November 2014

Polish & Buff...

Hi there guys. Another short post from today, with Shackerstone being the destination once more. Today it was cleaning day and so, after work, I headed over to the railway where I met David & James. Together we set to cleaning and polishing GWR 3803: Autoglym for the green, Brasso for the brass and a liberally applied paraffin & oil mix for the bottom end. After around 2 hours of cleaning the engine was looking brilliant and is now surely ready for tomorrows first Santa Trains of 2014. I am crewing the engine on Sunday, filling in for another fireman, so a report will appear about that day I'm sure. Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Shunting at Shack, Post 100...

Hi there everyone. A short and sweet day today at Shackerstone, doing some shunting with the Class 02 and Class 04 diesels in order to reorder the loco shed. Following the shunt we moved on down to the Rising Sun pub for a pint before home. I must admit, the pub is much warmer than the engine shed! Meanwhile, out on Battlefield Line metals, David had been let loose with the Bubblecar. He is now, allas, slowly converting to the dark side of heated cabs, comfy seats and push button starts. The Bubble is seen here departing Shackerstone for Shenton with former steam nut David at the helm!...
So, a short and sweet post but a Post 100 nonetheless. I don't know whether to be disappointed or not but this year is the first that I haven't beaten myself, with No100 of 2013 arriving in early October. Mind you, last year was a particularly mad year and this year has been mad enough as it is! I have been trying to consolidate certain posts which have little to say and this has probably reduced the number somewhat. Ahh well, there is still plenty to come in 2014 and you can read it all here! Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 22 November 2014

A4 In The Night...

Good evening everyone. Tonight we took a trip out, only down to Nuneaton, to see A4 Pacific No4464 "Bittern". The garter blue pacific was hauling a Cathedrals Express to London Euston, and had worked the northbound leg this morning. Its been a good day for steam on the main in our area as the Duchess was working a Euston excursion both ways on the Coventry line too, though we were at Warley this morning so didn't see her pass. 4464 arrived bang on time in Nuneaton's Platform 5 and was immediately struck by the melee of enthusiasts and the general public. One person even climbed up onto the cladding and walked the running boards on the A4, much to the annoyance of many people there. I inadvertently captured the start of this odd act in the picture below, where the 4-6-2 is pictured being photographed for all she's worth...
Once the loco was cleared of unsightly running board riders, the engine pulled away into the night with a clear whistle of her traditional chime. The 3-cylinder Gresley beat echoed into the night as the A4 quickly disappeared, hauling a lengthy well filled train. The boiler ticket on the respected A4 is soon to end and I believe she will be pulled apart for overhaul in January. Good luck to her, and we wish her a speedy return to use. All the best, Sam...

A Warley Wander...

Hi all. Today we took a wander around the annual Warley National Model Railway Exhibition, held traditionally in Hall 5 at the NEC. It was a really good show this year, and we spent over three hours meandering around the avenues and alleyways through the gaggle of model railway enthusiasts. A really good show with some great layouts to see in all gauges and scales, some great stuff: very impressed. All the best, Sam...

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Its Beginning To Look Alot Like Christmas...

Hi there everyone. Today I spent a few hours at a chilly Shackerstone, working in the shed with Jason. Jase was working away on the Class 73 electro diesel whilst I put the Brasso to good use on GWR 3803. With the stove lit and roaring away, the shed was at least semi-workable, with the aptly named Mess Area being fairly cosy. The cab brasses were polished up on the 1939-built 2-8-0, along with the brass bonnet atop the barrel, and of course the two whistles. Talking of whistles, the 38 is still brandishing what can only be described as an item of whistle extravagance!...
"Whistle While You Work"
Yes, allas, for several Great Western fans out there who are now crying into their Swindon handkerchiefs, the 38' still has the Brit' whistle on. Ahh well, it does sound good and it certainly clears the herds of elephants. Jokes aside the big chime does give the public some variety, and makes you feel like Casey Jones when you're on the regulator! But, yes, I must admit, the two normal GWR's do make more sense. Ahh well, it looks nice polished up! The loco is still waiting for springs but these will be fitted very shortly and the engine can then haul our 'Santa Special's with pride, although the odd enthusiast may well be disappointed when "Oliver Cromwell" doesn't show up pulling the train! All the best guys, Sam...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Rosetta & A Memorial...

Hi all. Today, whilst on my way to Shackerstone I popped into the village to see a steam roller. "Rosetta", Aveling & Porter 9024 of 1919, has recently changed ownership and now lives not far from the railway. My mate Phil, who has his own A & P roller ("Louise"), said I should pop in and meet the new owner as the engine and crew are interested in coming to MB MTEW 2015. After a natter and a good look around "Rosetta", I think we can safely say she will be joining us in April, along with "Louise" and another big un' from another nearby stable. Looking forward to it! From the pub, I drove around to the railway for a special afternoon.

Recently, the Shackerstone Railway Society President: Mr John C Jacques MBE: sadly passed away. John was a railway man through and through and knew just about everything there was to know. He founded the wonderful Shackerstone Museum and had volunteered within it since the early preservation days of the railway. He was a very committed man and was always happy to chat about his various relics from the railways of old. He even wrote a book: "Railway Tales": about his experiences as a BR Signalman and track man. I remember John from my early days at Shack in late 2006 and slightly later, seeing him around there in his museum until ill health stopped him coming in the last few years. Everyone on the railway was very sad to hear of John's passing and I'm sad to say that a lot of knowledge and commitment to the railway has been lost there. However, we must remember John's efforts and look to the fantastic museum that we see today. Today on the railway there was a special train, operated in memory of John and the railway staff did themselves proud today. I attended and, like many others, had a drink in John's memory. RIP John, you will be sadly missed and I think the railway will be forever thankful for your efforts...

Friday, 7 November 2014

Shackerstone Society AGM...

Hi all. Tonight was the night of the Shackerstone Railway Society AGM and, over a pint, we got down to the whys and wherefores of operating a railway with every stone turned over. A pleasant evening nattering and chuntering about all things railway. Cheers guys, Sam...

Atlantic Report No3: Only The Mad...

Hi there everyone. Today, after work at Midday, we had planned a steam up at Ryton Pools. Last week the Atlantic had had its first run and, during the week, I had made some adjustments to the springing gear in an attempt to stop the slipping. Lighter springing is apparently the key for the best traction, particularly when you have more unpowered axles than powered ones. 'Eddie the Late' was planning to run but unfortunately a spell of 'scared of the rain-itus' took over. He did however manage to come up to the track with me. I must admit, to set the scene, the outlook was not good: it was cold, wet and windy. However, I had hoped that the spate of 'intermittent showers' would give over for a few hours. "Err, no!". As soon as the 'Maisie' touched the rails, the rain was in for the day! It was absolutely horrible but, dogged by a sheer determination to get around the track without slipping, I carried on and the very wet 4-4-2 was put into steam. You'd have to be madder than Mad Mac McMad of the Madmans Madness Association to do this today...
With a strong fire in the box and a good head of steam, we attempted a run around the track. The climb of the bank was poor, she wouldn't get up there. The track was sodden though, with rain still pouring heavily. If it hadn't have been a test run then we definitely wouldn't have been running! Anyway, topping the bank, the engine ran freely back around and to the steaming bays again. Steam back at 80psi, we attacked the bank again...a bit better but still not good. I think it should race up there, 1 in 70 or not. The third run, with shoes soaking through and cap dripping with rain, I gave up half way up the bank. Reversing to the foot of the bank again near the old station, I got off and watched the engine gently chug around with the truck, walking alongside. The tender was going tight, and the engine would find it hard, but wouldn't slip without me on of course. The lack of draw then killed the steam so the blower was used to raise more with the aid of a deeper fire. I then noticed the problem...the tender! The typical C1 tender includes low guard-irons but, with the truck connected, the tender drops slightly with the weight and the draw-bar drag, thus pushing the guard-irons hard against the top of the rails. So, basically, in a way, the loco may as well be trying to drag a row of bricks up the bank along the railhead. To attempt a change, I moved the link from inside the clasp to above it, thus raising the level of the weight ever so slightly. The result was great, with the guard irons missing, the loco was much more sure-footed. Without me resting on the tender and the truck link readjusted, the tender ran so freely and the engine attacked the bank...
"Atlantic In Flight" (E.Jones)
This time we stopped for a quick photo stop at a very wet Ryton Halt...
GNR C1 Atlantic 4-4-2 (LBSC Maisie) No4436 stands at Ryton Halt with safety valve blowing...
Here is a short video of No4436 leaving Ryton Halt and continuing down to the carriage shed in order to meet up with 'Eddie the Late' again. The loco is running very well and steaming perfectly, though the weather is still atrocious and couldn't be further from the appropriate operating weather for a 3.5" gauge engine... 

After the video and with steam at 80psi again, I attempted one more lap whilst Eddie set the road to come off. The engine had a full fire and the boiler water level was fine and so, with pretty much all the regulator, we attacked the bank at about 50% cut-off. The engine romped up there despite the soaking rails and we had to slow down at the top for the bend to drop some speed off. The engine is definitely getting there and handles very well. The tender will need to be adjusted in order to ascertain why it touches the rails and probably have the guard irons raised and the coupling dropped too. This should give a very free running engine and, on a dry day, I don't see why two adults should be a probably up the bank, possibly even three at a push. Well, despite the rain and a no doubt oncoming cold thanks to todays weather, at least we got the engine running properly or, more to the point, found out why it wasn't. All the best guys, Sam...

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Blue Circle: Boilers And Tubes...

Hi all. Today was a quiet and chilly day at Shackerstone Loco Shed. I spent a few hours on this bracing afternoon helping Mick with his engine: "Blue Circle". The 2-2-0 Aveling & Porter Single, built in 1926, is now going through what would be a 10-year overhaul for a 'normal' railway loco. However, with "BC", things are easier to do. The boiler doesn't have to come out of the frames unlike a railway engine variant, as the boiler is pretty much the frame, with the cylinder block and water tanks being bolted to it. The engine therefore only has to be stripped as far as the boiler, with the tubes then having to be removed for the internal barrel inspection and retube. Today, myself and Mick were removing some tubes. The tubes had already been cut in the middle, with this process being made easier by the typical traction engine asset of a large 'manhole' door in the side of the barrel. The forward halves of the tubes had already also been removed via the smokebox. I think Mick said there were 37 tubes in his boiler, which actually originates from Aveling road loco types. The tubes are expanded into the tubeplates at both front & rear, and beaded to prevent burning away the ends. The tubes were removed today by forcing them through from the firebox into the barrel and then they were brought out via the manhole door. The best way we found was to grind away the beading gently, then use a bar in the end of the tube to gently (with good force!) wiggle it free. You have to be careful as you don't want to damage the tube plate but, with plenty of up & down motion projected by myself through the inspection door, the job went slowly ahead. Here we see a tube end being ground; the square shape is the firebox which you don't normally see as this is taken inside the barrel...
Here are some tube ends following removal. These are the rear ends of the tubes. The clean ends are where they were expanded into the tubeplate. The damaged ends are where they were cut in half...
Six half tubes following removal...
I tell you what, boiler work on standard gauge is hard work. I know we're only talking 37 tubes here but they are still tough. Its such a shame as well as the tubes we removed were not in very bad condition at all considering how long they've been in service for. The loco is very well looked after and treated correctly, therefore the boiler has lasted well. Unfortunately though, the internal barrel inspection does call for all tubes out and, naturally, they can't go back in once they're out...new ones are needed! Ahh well, such is life. I left today feeling like we'd done some good work and it was good to have Mick as company with his Aveling. All the best guys, Sam...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Atlantic Report No2: First Is Always Worst...

Hi all. This morning, in bright sunshine, it was the day of reckoning for 'Maisie', my new 3.5" gauge LBSC Atlantic. The loco had a pleasant little stay at the Midlands show the other week and now, having been checked yesterday, was ready for todays first attempt at a run. The engine had only been steamed previously twice: both for steam tests, one before and one after the repaint. Myself and Eddie arrived at the CMES site at just after 11am, with Ron already there. The running wasn't due to start until 1pm-ish but we felt that we should get in early in case 4436 threw half of her bits around the place, as new engines sometimes can! Once unloaded, 4436 was put onto one of the steaming bays. The first shock was to remember to pick a bay which has a 3.5" gauge rail! That could have been the first initial disaster, ay?! Once on her bay, the loco was coupled up to her tender. The drawbar was attached as well as the two flexible plastic hoses and the hand-pump nut. The loco was then oiled up whilst basking in the sun...
I then filled the boiler with water (to 3/4 of a glass) prior to lighting the first fire for the loco at CMES. We had expected a celebrity appearance and a speech followed by a ceremonial fire lighting at this point but instead it was just me and 'Eddie the Late'. Eddie considered saying a few words but memoirs of 'Three Course Challenges' were not really appropriate at this stage. A good level fire of paraffin wood was first laid before coal was added...
The locomotive steamed up quickly and easily and was soon about to blow off at the full pressure of 80psi. The weather was still sunny and bright, with a light breeze keeping the heat down. This is where my luck ended. Upon removing the electric blower and opening the steam blower valve...nothing. The pipe was blocked and so the cursing began. The Atlantic was then called more names than exist in many peoples vocabulary. The fine fickle finger of fate which plagues "Achilles" with problems had struck yet again! With time at hand and a determination to have a run, I dropped the fire and checked in the front end. Burning my fingers to a crisp I managed to unscrew the boiler pipe to find it so blocked it was unbelievable. I headed down to the club workshop where I sawed off the end of the pipe and then drilled a hole in the resulting face. The hole was a bit big really but for a test it would be OK. The next challenge came instantly...how the hell does this go back in?

It doesn't seem to matter how easily something comes off, getting it back on is always a problem! After much more cursing and foaming at the mouth the idea struck me. I just couldn't hold the pipe and the nut without both hands which definitely would not fit in the smokebox together and so, having removed the now redundant ejector pipe, I set to with the lock-tite. I lock-tited the nut ever so slightly to the back face of the nipple in order to allow the pipe to be briefly used as a spanner if you like to just start the nut on the thread. Once started, a spanner could be used as the worst was now done. Good job! The relief was immediate but short-lived. I couldn't tighten the pipe right up as the blower pipe would move, then once repositioned the nut had backed off. Oh well, again, for a test, it would be fine. So, the Second Firing took place. Tried the blower...bang on! Steamed up and headed to the track. Nope...something was wrong. The blower must have been in the wrong place as it sounded great but gave very little draw. Back to the steaming bay...fire dropped. The blower pipe was then repositioned to allow for the short Eastern chimney. (The Atlantic's were so tall that a taller chimney would have probably struck the infrastructure). So, the Third Firing then took place where, at last, the Atlantic made it onto the track. We managed one successful lap with the boiler steaming freely and the blower working OK.

Unfortunately, the fickle finger of fate had not left for home yet and so the loco dropped both of her plastic tender pipes, thus causing the effective axle pump to give in. The handpump (which is very good) was then called upon before it fell to bits quite handily inside the tender tank. At this point I think it was fair to say that more steam was probably coming from me than the loco, with the water bubbling away in the bottom-nut thanks to the failure of both pumps. Luckily the fire was as dead as my enthusiasm. However, not to be outdone, the pipes were edited then reaffixed and the tender tank stripped open and the handpump rebuilt. Water level back at 1/2 a glass, the Fourth Firing began. With full pressure almost immediately regained, off we went onto the track. There at last, we managed a few laps...
3pm = "Finally, Success with Maisie" (G.Wooding)
Now, what you read above, despite my anger, are fairly trivial matters when it comes to the day to day running of a steam engine. So much more, in theory, could have gone wrong. I mean, my luck would have normally called for an enraged stampeding African Elephant trampling me half to death and mercilessly crushing the loco to a green pulp somewhere on the initial lap so I guess a hand pump in pieces was a fairly good thing in comparison. I think I did about 4 laps or so with 4436 on the fourth firing, though it was 4 hours after we should have completed them! I retired after the four through sheer relief and annoyance really. So, OK, all things considered: the boiler steams beautifully, the water pumps work fine and are more than capable of doing their jobs, the beats are crisp and the loco runs fast. The only major issue (if you'd call it major) is that it does slip a fair bit, even with myself behind it. Now, I know that I've been a bit of a regular at McDonalds of late but it should pull me quite easily so I think some springing attention and advice may be necessary. We hope to run the engine again very soon to give it another, less enraged test. I would also like to take some more shots and film of it before its lovely lining gets too messed up with the oil and coal smuts. Thanks for reading guys, comments welcome. All the best, Sam...