Saturday, 31 January 2015

GCR: The Freeze To Death Gala...

Hi everyone. Today saw the annual jaunt to the Great Central Railway for their Winter Gala which was, undoubtedly, colder than ever. I arrived at the Edwardian gas-lit station of Rothley at around 9am, just before the first train. Upon my arrival a large snow storm had set in. The signalman was probably the only person in the warm...
The first departure of the day was the 9am Loughborough - Leicester service, leaving Rothley at around 9:18am. This service was double-headed by the two visiting engines: BR (W) Pannier No1501 and No7820 "Dinmore Manor". Through the snow they came...
The pair approach having shut-off for Rothley Station...
The two BR black liveried loco's looked great as they hissed in under the road bridge. 1501 was built in 1949 whilst the slightly older Manor dates from November 1950...
I boarded the sparsely steam heated stock behind the pair, though 1501 was duly detached in order to work another move. 7820 continued the working up through Rothley Brook and on to Leicester North. She sounded in good voice as she got the weight moving and hauled the train up the gradient away from the station. At Leicester North the adoring gaggle of enthusiasts poured from the coaches and trotted over to the usual vantage point of the bay platform...
7820 worked on the BR Western region and was retired at only 15 years old in 1965. She then became one of the many engines sent to Woodham's scrapyard in Barry. In 1979 the funds had been gathered by the Gwilli Railway to save the locomotive and she was duly purchased. Unfortunately the new owners simply could not restore the engine due to a lack of funds and undercover storage, resulting in a resale in 1983. The locomotive was then restored at Tyseley with the West Somerset Railway providing financial support in return for the locomotive operating there once complete. She made her WSR debut in 1995, working there regularly from then on. With the loco's ticket having run out in 2004, she was overhauled at Tyseley with the work being completed in April 2014. The locomotive is now based at the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway and was on her first visit to the GCR. Here she is seen running round...
At this point my camera died so I opted to catch the train back to Loughborough in order to purchase some more batteries. The Manor gave a good run back passing many other locomotives on route. New batteries purchased, the first snap at Loughborough was of 1501. 1501 is based on the Severn Valley Railway and is the sole survivor of a class of only 10 outside cylindered pannier tanks that made up the 15XX class. When her BR life ended she worked at Coventry Colliery before being saved for preservation. I like this engine. It seems to have great advantages over the 57XX and is hugely powerful for its size...
Having snapped the wonderful 1501, I had to have a cup of tea. So frozen were my hands that I dropped half of my stuff all over the floor in the tea room: my fingers were numb! I don't understand how certain visitors much older than me were walking around as if it was a summers day: it was bloody freezing! Tea in hand, I wandered down to the locomotive shed where 1926-built Fowler 3F No47406 (a Jinty) was simmering away ready to perform a freight shunt...
Unusually, the locomotive shed was open for viewing. The GCR has had a spate of thefts over the years so the shed is now only open when railway members are available to staff it. Its a shame that it has come to this as certain ridiculous individuals spoil it for everyone else. Oh well, at least it was open today. The chassis of 1948-built Modified Hall "Witherslack Hall" is coming along...
One gem in the GCR fleet, though no longer operational unfortunately, is GCR 8K/LNER 04 Class 2-8-0 No63601; one of three NRM engines based on the GCR. The engine's 10-year ticket ran out not long ago but its nice to see her stored inside rather than outside like the operational engines. She's a lovely thing: lets hope she runs again one day...
Whilst meandering my way around the shed there were rumblings and whistles outside. The 3F had been shunting and the freight wagons she had moved were to become a train for 78019. Part of the BR Standard range, 2-6-0 Standard 2 Mogul No78019 was built in 1954...
Having made my way back onto the crowded platform of rivet counters, I enjoyed another cup of tea whilst awaiting a departure. The station was a hive of activity with engines coming in and out at regular intervals, as well as the trusty DMU. It was soon time for a defrost so I boarded the Midday departure behind another NRM engine: 4-6-0 N15 Class No777 "Sir Lamiel". This engine is quite a beast and, in the hands of regular driver Tom Tighe, put in a cracking performance on the run up to Quorn. The noise was fantastic and the pull on the drawbar from her acceleration is amazing considering the size of her wheels. I got a quick snap of her at Quorn before she roared away...
At Quorn it was, would you believe, even colder! The temperature was just above freezing I reckon, but the cross-wind and the chill in the air made things almost unbearable. After yet another cup of tea I watched the charming Ivatt Class 2 Mogul No46521 arrive from Loughborough...
In a positioning move came the huge bulk of the GCR's third NRM engine: BR Britannia Pacific No70013 "Oliver Cromwell". The locomotive was on her way to Swithland to collect waiting freight wagons...
The Pannier soon turned up again...
A capture of the Pannier showing her attractive BR Mixed Traffic livery...
Whilst waiting for the Pannier to pull away, a rather irate gentleman brandishing a camera was attempting to start a row with one of the crossing staff. The man was fretting that he would miss the train on the opposite platform, hauled by the 9F, and threatened to become "very annoyed" with the crossing keeper if he missed it. The moral here is, if you are aware of a 300-ton obstruction about to block the route to your waiting train, always ensure that you are the opposite side of it before the obstruction arrives. I don't care for people abusing volunteer staff. Anyway, 1501 looked nice...
1501 got away sharply, as did the 9F. Following the 9F to Loughborough was the N15 again. Lovely "Lamiel" is captured awaiting departure before almost blowing the bridge down...
By now it was gone 1pm and the cold had really set in. I could hardly take it anymore and I'd drank enough tea to sink a battleship. Across the way in Quorn's Platform 1 stood the DMU about to depart for Rothley. It looked so warm on there that the windows were steaming up and there were, did my eyes deceive me(?), seats free! I boarded the DMU and immediately settled into my seat. I think this has to be the first time I've ever not had to struggle to find a seat at a Winter Gala. Departing Quorn I was thankful for the brilliant under seat heating, a far cry from standing room only behind steam. The DMU is captured here in a 1950s scene, about to depart Rothley for Loughborough...
All in all, with eight locomotives in steam and an overly intensive timetable, the 2015 GCR Winter Gala was well worth a look, despite the cold. One thing I will say though is that it won't be to everyone's taste. Almost every train is standing room only and the Adult fare has now risen to £25 a ticket with no short journey tickets or single round trip tickets available. That's fine for the enthusiast but a bit dear on the families I feel. I only tend to do one round trip and then just dawdle around each station looking at various bits & bobs so £25 for a single round trip is a bit much, but that's just me. I do however appreciate how much this cracking event must cost to put on so its all in the view of steam preservation. Thanks for reading folks. As I write the fire is stoked up and the kettle is boiling and I'm still bloody cold! Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 25 January 2015

38' Day...

Hi everyone. Another Shackerstone working party today, this time working with GWR 3803. The locomotive is just starting her winter maintenance program and is also having some other bits done. More on that as we progress. Best Regards, Sam...

Miniature Traction Engine Weekend 2015 Plug...

"Saturday Line Up" (M.Ranieri)
Hi everyone. So, here we are, the annual plug for Miniature Traction Engine Weekend! The event will take place over April 25th/26th at Market Bosworth Station on the Battlefield Line. Join us for a steam filled weekend with around 50 miniature traction engines and steam lorries in steam. Engines range through 1.5" - 6" scales and from manufacturers such as Fowler, Burrell, Foster, Savage and many others. The engines will be steaming around freely on the old Goods Yard at Market Bosworth and the event will be open from 10am until 5pm both days. I have been particularly lucky this year with the amount of exhibitors that have asked for a space and thus the huge number of 50 engines arose! 2015 will be the events third year and in this short time it has grown to be one of the largest gatherings of miniature steam in the area and even has a bigger attendance than some large rallies. I am so pleased that the event has been so well received and long may it continue. I have just included a few shots on this post of last years event to give you an idea of what goes on. Its a great atmosphere down at Market Bosworth...
"Four Inch" (M.Ranieri)
As well as the miniatures, we also have a notable full size invasion over the weekend. The big engines are brought along in order to show a comparison between full size and miniature, as well as showing off the history of road steam in their own way. Having been offered a few big engines for this years event, I've managed to cap it at three. The three big engines include a wonderfully kept pair of Aveling & Porter Steam Roller's and a beautiful elderly Allchin General Purpose Traction Engine of 1903 vintage. Last year the big traction engines were represented by Statfold's immaculate "Mary Marshall"...
"Mary Marshall" (M.Ranieri)
As well as the miniatures we have a 5" gauge miniature railway, awning displays, a traditional organ and a miniature working area including wood sawing and flour milling. Also in the working area we will have one or two petrol stationary engines in action. In the historic Goods Shed we will have displays of toy steam, model engineering, 16mm live steam and of course the trusty refreshment stand. Here, a wonderful pair of Burrell single cranks return to Bosworth having been up into the village... 
"Perfect Pair" (M.Ranieri)
One of the awning displays present includes Mr Seaton's wonderful Meccano Engines: well worth a look and a chat...
Steaming up in the damp on Saturday morning...
"Gathering" (M.Ranieri)
To get the most from your experience why not join us at 2pm where you can see as many of the engines together at once and whistling loudly against our full size railway engine. Talking of the railway engine, in 2015 it is likely to be the huge GWR 2-8-0 No3803. Fares are FROZEN at the norm for the weekend so why not travel to the event by steam and see the event for FREE?! There is no better day to visit the Battlefield Line than on a normal fare event day! For more information see our website www.battlefieldline.co.uk or pick up one of our leaflets. I hope to see some of you there for what promises to be a great weekend. All the very best, Sam...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Diesels In The Shed...

Hi all. A short post from Shackerstone today. I was there from 11am until 3:30pm working with Richard and team on the Class 02 diesel shunter. The 02 is having a full service at present and is having some repainting done. A pleasant and simple day. All the best, Sam...

Friday, 16 January 2015

Garden Railway Running...

Hi everyone. A quiet afternoon today doing a few little jobs in the garden including wiring and a bit of track work. With the tasks complete I decided to have a bit of a run with some of the engines from the collection. My Hornby "Derwent Grange" is seen pulling out of the shed with the Great Western stock, crossing over the access path. Below, on one of its very rare outings, my Autotank (1436) drops down towards the house with its Autocoach...
The trains were running up and down in all sorts of weather, from sun to sleet. The new track has bedded in well now and the trains are running smoothly. There is still a lot more wiring to do but I'm just doing little bits at a time. Here, the Austerity tank drops down the bank with one of the freight train rakes...
Here, Great Western 0-6-2 No6600 pulls a rake of LMS coaches around onto the formation for the 2006 extension...
The locomotives ran around the garden for an hour or two in various different combinations until I decided to pack up. When the weather gets a little warmer I can start running some of the older stock and begin finishing up the wiring. Maybe we'll even see some buildings and scenery back out in the garden again! All the best guys, Sam...

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Diesel Domain at Shackerstone...

Hi everyone. Having carried out a site visit to Market Bosworth this morning on behalf of my MTEW event, I headed up to Shackerstone for around 11:30am. I only had a couple of hours to hand as we had a family do in the afternoon. Even so I was soon put to work on the Class 02 diesel hydraulic, which is currently in the shed for a tidy up and service. I was drilling out the rusty bolts which carry its lamp holders. Having exhausted half a box of drills the job was done, and I began angle grinding in the cab, cleaning the panels. Meanwhile, "Sir Gomer" stands cold and quiet in the single road area...
I left the railway at just before 3pm after a quiet but enjoyable day. I'll be back there next Sunday for more shed jobs. All the best, Sam...

Friday, 9 January 2015

Garden Railway: A Late Revival...

Hi everyone. This week I've been on afternoons again and with little to do in the workshop have found myself finally reviving the garden railway. Started in 2005, the 00 gauge tracks have been snaking their way around the garden for almost 10 years; celebrating its 10th Anniversary this coming June. The railway was the brainchild of myself and my late grandfather in late 2004, when the prospect of building an indoor layout on which to run my 00 gauge collection proved almost impossible: we just didn't have the room. After checking out several options we built an oval of track which we began operating trains over in 2005. Using a simple wood base as the trackbed, we drilled and plugged our way along the main garden wall. The track would thus leave the shed via a portal, cross an alley whilst curving right, climb along the wall above the flowerbed then turn right again over another bridge back into the shed. This basic set-up did allow for the collection of locomotives to run, though it soon got fairly boring. One of the main loco's at the time was LNER B12 No8578, seen here heading through the station at Sutherland (above the flowerbeds) in June 2005 when the line first began operations. Ps - the quality is poor!...

In 2006 the railway was further extended which, unlike during the first stage, would require some major earthworks. Slabs had to be dug up and removed, walls had to be built in Cotswold stone (to match the other garden wall) and more track bases and track had to be put down. Over the course of a few weeks we had built a brand new route to my own design and it did work in fairness. However, in the early days of the extension it wasn't that refined shall we say: all this came later. Later additions included a turntable spur, run round loop and shed roads; arriving in around 2007. Since then the line has operated on regular occasions and has been featured on both this blog and on Youtube. In recent years however it has fell into a little disrepair as lack of maintenance has caused damage to both wiring and trackwork. However, this week, with the materials to hand, all that was about to change. This was the scene on Monday just after I'd ripped all of the wires out...
On Thursday I began track renewals. The section crossing the flowerbed on the curve near the old Sutherland North Jnc is seen here with brand new track..
Starting at the turntable spur which now includes a brand new express point, the track has been 80% renewed all the way up to the shed. The 2006 extension's main straight is seen here fully renewed...
Below is the site of track renewal at the location of which the above video was shot in 2005. The track here was well worn, having been languishing here for nearly 10 years. Over the last decade we have been spot renewing track panels during maintenance but this section has always been left out as it was always a popular section and ran well. However, with new track to hand this week, I decided it deserved replacing...
The curve and straight is seen below with all brand new track fitted. The straight is seen heading up the bank along the wall through another brand new point and then curving around the North Jnc curve (also all new)...
Today I continued replacing track. The 180 degree curve near the house was replaced with brand new track and the two brand new express points for the run round loop at Chilvers were also swapped. The track was then cleaned heavily to remove probably two years or so of associated garden grime. Now it was time to start wiring up. As the weather was beginning to turn and I was running out of light, I decided that I would just rig up 2 or 3 feed points so that I could run a train to test the new track. Wires fitted, the first train along the old Sutherland Steam Railway metals rattled up the bank behind my Bachmann GWR 0-6-2 No6600. The loco was pulling my stalwart set of four LNER Teak-style coaches...
"The First Train in 2 Years" - GWR 6600
The trains ran: though not smoothly as the wiring isn't 100% yet: for an hour or so, with one of my Pannier's and Prairie 4560 making their way outside too. The new track is settling nicely and the run is fairly smooth. Naturally there are still a few modifications to make and several improvements but that's all as & when. At least the railway is now operational again and hopefully in June we can celebrate 10 years. I can't believe it was 10 years ago that it all began as one of those 'spare time' affairs. Long may it continue. All the best, Sam...

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Return to Shackerstone...

Hi all. This morning I got up and didn't look out of the window before I left the house at 10:30am. I wish I had of done as I probably would have stayed in! Brrr! It was freezing this morning as I made my way over to Shackerstone in the BMW; an excursion which swiftly turned into a scene from Bambi on Ice once the rear wheel drive of the car was mixed with the layer of frost along the Fen Lanes. However, taking it easy, we made it to Shackerstone for 11am. Down in the loco shed it was, as usual, even colder. The car had registered -3 degrees on the trip over and it certainly wasn't going to get any warmer. Upon arrival I found the rest of todays mad party huddled round the stove clenching hot cups of tea...and I didn't blame them! We are now in the closed season where the Battlefield Line goes into hibernation for the winter. However, contrary to popular belief the trains do not simply go back into their boxes until the spring; there is still plenty to do! Today was the usual 'breaking us in' day where we are met with the realisation that we are in for a cold, hard working winter. The engines were huddled together inside the shed, cold but dry.

The first item on the agenda was to shunt some things around. The two Graham's had asked for the box van they've been restoring to be fished out of the cutting siding and shunted in for finishing off, so we naturally obliged. Jason manned the grunting Class 47 whilst the little 02 ticked over on the main. We then shunted the various items from the DMU siding (as it is known) and fished out the van. I then took the 02 over the cross-over and picked off the van from the 47's consist. The 02 then scurried back over the cross-over with the van whilst the 47 propelled the stock back up the cutting for stabling. While the 02 waited, the 47 then dropped back to No11 point in order to gain access to the shed road. It was then time to move the cold bulks of "Sir Gomer" and 3803...
Grunting and moaning, 3803 and "Sir Gomer" were removed from their frost free sanctuary and dragged out into the freezing fog. As they were dragged past the 02, you could imagine that they were under protest! Even Thomas the Tank would be uttering verbal abuse in this weather...
With the steamers clear, No11 was reset and we dropped back with the 02 and the van. Richard then pulled No11 again to allow us into the shed so, after a toot on the horn, away we went. The little diesel hydraulic trundled up into the shed easily, towing the box van behind her. With the box van over and clear of the pit we stopped, braked the van and split off. The 02 was then moved clear and stopped, secured and shut-down. The no doubt judgmental gazes of "Dunlop No7" and "Richard III" are seen here not anticipating diesels in their domain...
So, what else is happening? Dunlop No7: Richard & Brian (owners of No7) have kindly allowed me to do a little update on the progress with their engine. The engine is Peckett & Sons No2130, built at their famous works in Bristol in 1949. Its a 14" type Class W7 0-4-0 and has been based at Shackerstone since 1974. I guess by the name you will know its origins: Fort Dunlop in Birmingham: though her early years were spent with a sister W7 at the Irlam Soap Works, East Lancs. The engine has seen use in preservation but not for long, as firebox problems put an early end to its last 10-year ticket during the 1980s. Since then she has languished in the North End sidings but was unearthed, as seen on this blog, in July 2012, click here for a pic of her then! Anyway, since then the locomotive has changed significantly and I wouldn't be surprised if it steamed within the next few months. The chassis has been overhauled, painted and lined, as has the tank...
The Peckett boiler has been to Loughborough to have a brand new inner firebox fitted. It has since returned to Shackerstone and has been fitted with a brand new smokebox. The boiler is currently sat on a trolley in the loco shed with the holes having been drilled and tapped ready to take just over 300 stays!...
A view inside the brand new inner firebox...
Inside the firebox we can see the holes for the tubes ready to eventually go in...
The progress on Dunlop No7 is quite encouraging as if she steams by July then she'll have been restored from dilapidated condition within three years. When you consider that almost all of the work has been carried out by the two owners and that they've been restoring a Class 04, Class 08, a Steam Crane and a Southern Region Brake Van over the same period its quite amazing really. I look forward to seeing No7 in steam: I like Pecketts. Moving on from No7 we have GWR 3803. The 38' is now out of work until the new season, having run reliably during 2014. The 2-8-0 has been drained and we have quite a few tasks to undertake over the winter but only maintenance bits & bobs. She is seen here relaxing in the shed after coming back in...
In front of 3803 is "Sir Gomer". Our pride & joy I guess as Peckett followers, the OX1 is now also out of service until at least March as there are no trains to pull or passengers to see. No1859 is currently being checked over and sort of FTR'd in order to ascertain what work we have to undertake on her this winter. Now that her axleboxes have been sorted and she's been painted into blue, an assessment is being made to see what needs doing next. Meanwhile her whistle valve has been serviced & repaired and is now looking very smart...
After a good few hours shunting, chatting and drinking tea it was time for home at around 3:30pm. The cold was really biting by then and the only place you could keep warm was by the fire...
All in all a quiet first day back at Shackerstone but one that has a view of more to do. Hopefully the weather will turn just slightly milder by next weekend as working in the shed in the minus' is quite a challenge sometimes. Well guys, that's all for Week 1. All the best, Sam...