Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The "Clan Line" Farewell...

Hi all. Today, in the heat, a Southern giant was pacing the West Coast Main Line. Bullied Pacific No35028 "Clan Line", a member of the powerful Merchant Navy Class, was hauling her final railtour for the foreseeable future. No35028's ticket was almost up and today would be her last chance to show passengers, crew and bystanders what she could do. Built in 1948 with traditional Bullied refinements and air smoothed casing, the engine, like her sisters, was rebuilt by BR into the more conventional form we see today. In preservation, "Clan Line" is mainly known for hauling the VSOE British Pullman around London and Kent. Today however, for her final run, she was to tread new ground. Leaving London, the engine made her way up the WCML to Rugby before running via Coventry and Bedworth to reach the West Coast again on an unusual detour. The WCML would then take the engine to Crewe where she would continue to Chester. On the return run the engine would detach at Crewe for disposal and, in the near future, full overhaul at Crewe Works. We caught up with the engine at Bedworth and Nuneaton. My brother was filming whilst I attempted to catch a photograph in the hazy conditions...

35028 looked stunning as she strolled through a busy Bedworth station. The engine was then held for 25 minutes at Coton Junction for servicing. This would be the only area where the loco wouldn't be 'under the wires', allowing the support crew to pull coal down from atop the tender in safety. It was this servicing stop that allowed us to get ahead of "Clan Line" in order to capture her restarting through Nuneaton Station...
A capture of Merchant Navy Class No35028 "Clan Line"...
I was happy with the above shot as I didn't think I'd get anything in the dreadful glare of the sun. The engine rolled cautiously through Platform 1 at Nuneaton, against double-yellows. Soon enough, she got the away and accelerated sharply northward... 
These Merchant Navy's are big beasts and seem perfect for the main line. I'd never seen "Clan Line" in the flesh before and so was glad to today, despite it being her last run. As far as I know, until "P & O" is finished at Toddington later this year, there are currently no operational Merchant Navy Pacific's. Happily, out of a class of 30, there are 11 I believe in preservation, undergoing or awaiting restoration one way or another. These are not to be confused with the slightly smaller West Country and Battle of Britain types, designed to work over the routes where the heavy axle loading of the Merchant Navy's prevented them from wandering.  "Clan Line" was certainly on form today and looked lovely; a credit to those who look after her. Click here to see a video from Youtube of her on a high speed section. "Goodbye Clan Line, and Good Luck". Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 27 June 2015

An Afternoon with "Fiji"...

Hello everyone. Today was an outing to the wonderful Statfold Barn Railway: I always look forward to a day out at the SBR! This event was the special 'Family Day', allowing family members and friends of volunteers to come along and see just what this cracking railway has to offer. Two engines were in steam and catering was provided as well as an access all areas look around the Grain Store at Oak Tree. We arrived at just after 11am and immediately joined the train for a run around the field railway and back to Oak Tree. At Oak Tree we alighted and proceeded into the Grain Store. The family were, quite rightly, in awe of all of the stuff now housed at Statfold. The collection is just, well, fabulous...
Having enjoyed some lunch and another train ride, the family departed whilst I remained at the SBR. During the week I had been called up and asked to come in my overalls in case I was required to drive. Sure enough, I was soon on the regulator of "Fiji"...
"Fiji" is Lautoka No11, a Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 tender engine built in 1912. The engine was built for use at the Lautoka Mill in the country of her namesake. When the line was dieselised in the 1950s, most of the steam fleet were scrapped. No11 survived and eventually found her way to a tourist railway where she was ripped apart and a diesel engine installed! Click here to see a pic of her there. Eventually, the horribly modified No11 returned to the UK for restoration at the SBR back to original condition. It made its debut in early 2014 and now looks lovely. Click here for a pic of her during her WHR visit. From a driving perspective she is strong, sure-footed and handles well. The handy steam brake is very useful and the chime whistle is good for a play. I drove "Fiji" for a couple of trips during the afternoon, happily top & tailing with Lautoka sister No19, a smaller HC 0-4-0. I think its lovely that the two engines are now together again; just one of the many pairings at Statfold. All in all, a very pleasant day and I can't wait until my next SBR turn! Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

00 Gauge In The Garden...

Hi everyone. Today, being on afternoons again, I decided to have a run around the garden with the 00 gauge. After a good clean of the little tracks, the pleasant midday sun saw a good few trains operating. A first for the railway was the inaugural run of the newest addition: the NRM model of the Ivatt C1 Large Boiler Atlantic. No251 arrived some weeks ago and had yet to be tried and so, with the four LNER Teak Coaches in tow, off she went. Despite being a very new and highly detailed model, I was very surprised at how the Atlantic performed. It is quite weighty - making it strong - and it has a good turn of speed: another pleasing purchase. Also out and about was the stalwart Bachmann Taffe Tank with a mixed train...
Coming around onto the 2006 extension is my Mainline Railways Collett Goods 0-6-0 with a lengthy freight train mainly consisting of private owner wagons...
Another view of the pretty NRM Atlantic on a later run...
The Collett Goods returns to the shed via the north bridge over the access...
Naturally, as per an impromptu running session, the trains ran without the added good looks of the buildings and scenery (there's just no point putting it all out for an hour or twos operation). The trains had however run very well and it was nice to see them reaching the unseen edges of the garden, ducking between the flowerbeds and trees and crossing the alleyway as they do. Now in its tenth year of operation, what started out as a 'test track' in 2005 has become a very reliable little railway that has allowed my fairly extensive 00 gauge fleet of locomotives to blow the cobwebs away on that odd occasion of me having some spare time! All the best guys, Sam...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Achilles Report No70: CMES June Steam Day 2015...

Hi there everyone. Today saw "Achilles" being present at CMES for their first 'Steam on Sunday' event of 2015. This event sees steam locomotives ruling the roost on the standard Sunday afternoon public running session. Despite the forecast through the week and the appalling rain yesterday, the sun shone today and four locomotives were in attendance to strut their stuff on RPMR metals. These were, in no particular order, Brian's popular LBSC 'Pansy', modelled on the Great Western's 5700 Class Pannier Tank of which I am quite fond...
The second engine was one of the club's Jack Buckler designed Sweet Pea's. This example is the stalwart 0-4-0 No2 "Diane"...
"Diane" is spotted here, raising steam with a good wood fire raging away in the box...
The third locomotive was a much larger type. A 5" model of the popular rebuilt Royal Scot, with taper boiler. This model has the traditional three cylinders...
The fourth and final engine was of course my trusty 0-6-0 tank "Achilles"...
The plan for the afternoons activities would be simple. There would be three train rakes in operation with two of the engines being double-headed. The double heading went to "Achilles" and "Diane". Though not entirely practical or realistic in miniature, double-heading lightens the load on engines and allows smaller engines, like "Achilles", to take part hauling heavier overall trains. Todays double-headed rake consisted of 4 cars which, admittedly, "Diane" could have handled all on her own. With the unlikely pairing joined together, 5717 "Victoria" and the rebuilt Scot took up their place on their own individual sets. By 12:40pm, the double-headed pair were simmering in the station...
The afternoon seemed to go off quite well, with just over 200 passengers being carried in the 3-hour stint. Considering that the engines were in steam well before 12:30, they all seemed to slog on quite well. "Achilles" performed well despite her intrusive spark arrestor hat, with 70psi seeming to be a popular choice whilst working against the axle-pumps. The engine is seen here taking water before another round trip...
On the last but one trip at around 3:50pm, I opted to leave Emma and "Diane" to it, allowing the smaller tank engine to take a breather and be disposed. No problems had been encountered with the loco but I think I'd had enough of trying to keep ahead of No2! "Achilles" is seen here, blowing down on one of the steaming bays...
All in all this was a very pleasant afternoon with four engines in steam on the Ryton Pools Miniature Railway. The locos had all run well and had given lots of passengers some very pleasant trips in the sunshine. The public seemed genuinely pleased to see the engines in action and some couldn't really believe that they were 'real engines'. Hmm, I'm not sure I all together like that term! All the best guys, Sam...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

EVLR: A Day on "Monty"...

Hi everyone. Today was another booked turn at the Evesham Vale Light Railway. I left home at around 7:15am, making my way along the A46 and into Worcestershire. There was of course the traditional McDonalds stop on route; a must for any loco turn. I've lost count of the amount of times I've been given a funny look at the drive-through for sitting there in a neckerchief or BR tie! Breakfast eaten, it took the usual 5 or 10 minutes to reach the EVLR site. Having signed in, myself & Adrian opened up the shed to find the days steed: "Monty". I was on "Monty" last time I was here. For those not in the know, she is a 1996-built Exmoor Steam Railway 0-4-2 that was formerly named "Markeaton Lady". Once out in the morning gloom, the engine was duly lit up and crackled away quietly whilst the cleaning implements began to appear. Slowly but surely, "Monty" was buffed and polished until she shone. At around 10:15am, I took "Monty" slowly off Twyford shed with drain cocks hissing. The boiler was then blown down to the usual 1/4 of a glass before creeping back into the platform to couple up. The first train left on time at 10:30am and steamed around the balloon loop before coming to rest at a quiet Evesham Vale Station...
Even on the first trip, "Monty" was in good form. Adrian has put a lot of time & effort into making the engine good again after 10-years work at Markeaton Park took its toll. The EVLR engines are all fired on Welsh coal which, although we've had trouble with it on our big ones, seems to do well in these. The fire didn't really need touching throughout the trip, as long as the holes were filled. "Monty" steams very well...
Upon returning to Twyford Station, "Monty" was turned before running around the 3-coach train via Platform 2 road as normal. The trips today would take their usual format, with departures from the base at half hourly intervals until 4:30pm. "Monty" is spotted here, feathering outside the mess room whilst I grab some lunch...
The road ahead, ready for an afternoon departure...
"Monty" continued to steam well throughout the day and proved no trouble. Its very relaxed here at the EVLR: you just keep the engine clean, keep her oiled, keep her watered and fill in the holes and she does the job with ease. The engine is most enjoyable to be on and the cab is a particular treat on unsettled days such as today...
Later in the day, "Monty" is spotted taking water at Twyford...
The weather remained mainly dry for most of the day, apart from a good shower just after lunch. Judging by what was forecast we'd been really lucky...
"A Final View of Monty"
However, as per, our luck soon ran out. The 4pm departure was absolutely battered with rain. Myself & Adrian stood under the station roof, looking out at the bleak storm. The passengers sat happily, cosy & dry in the covered coaches, waiting for us to make our move and get soaked. Eventually, having decided that the storm wasn't going to let up, we went for it. Adrian retired to the sanctuary of his Guards van whilst I boarded "Monty". Even with the cab, you had to drive it pretty much standing up! The rain was coming in faster than I could bail it out and the visibility wasn't great either: it was quite a storm. Having reached Evesham Vale with no drama, "Monty" swiftly departed again as, unsurprisingly, no passengers wished to alight in that down-pour! The Exmoor 0-4-2 duly returned to Twyford and, back under the station roof, the passengers alighted to see the loco. Then, as if by magic, the rain stopped and the sun shone: completely typical. The 4:30pm had no passengers so didn't run, much to our relief really as we were pretty soaked at this point. The red 0-4-2 then steamed happily back on shed for disposal after an enjoyable and weather varied day. Another great EVLR experience: such fun. Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Atlantic Report No8: The Lone Maisie...

Evening all. Tonight was yet another CMES 'Third Wednesday' members run. My LBSC Maisie Atlantic was the weapon of choice, though the weather was a little worrying as the green 4-4-2 was being prepared for loading. I'd commented to Eddie during the day that I wouldn't run if it meant being 'billy no mates' again. Sure enough, as I drove through the persistent rain along the A46, I wasn't exactly filled with optimism. Upon arrival at 6pm, the site was desolate and the rain was continuing to fall. The clouds were not showing any signs of movement so I decided just to wait it out and have a natter over a cuppa' once the others arrived. Ron & Ken soon turned up and we sought sanctuary in the clubhouse, listening to the pitter-patter on the roof. Harry and Dad Felix then turned up and, rather bravely, unloaded their 5" gauge electric with a view to going for a run. The rain had eased down to gentle spitting now and so, thinking that I wouldn't be alone, 4436 was duly unloaded and steamed up with haste. It wasn't long before the Atlantic was simmering away on the run up rail as Harry & Felix continued to march past on their steed. Soon enough though, the electric retired and 4436 was running alone once more...
The Atlantic ran very well and proved no trouble, if a little lonesome. As the rain began to start again, 'Eddie the Late' turned up - late as usual. He then took 4436 for a lap with Emma having a go just after. The engine continued to run well and, with the rain determined not to give up, it was soon time for her to be disposed. A pleasant little run but, allas, 'billy no mates' again. Best Regards, Sam...

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

IOM: Five in a Day: Mission Accomplished...

Well, that was it! After a ride in the taxi back to the airport it was time for a well earned beer. We'd done it: five in a day! Myself, John and Arnold enjoyed a nice cool pint whilst Eddie supped back a nice, strong...pot of tea (we know how to party)...
Arnold and John enjoyed my company throughout the day, taking pictures at ridiculously pointless moments (or did they?)...
Soon enough we were back in the skies and heading back to Eddie's vehicle in Liverpool. The day had just been fantastic. As I write this I can't really believe that we did it all in a day; it just happened so fast...
But, we did it and you can read all about it in the mindless dribble I've scrawled on this blog. So, without further ado, we did: the Isle of Man Steam Railway...

The Douglas Horse Trams...
 
The Manx Electric Railway...

The Snaefell Mountain Railway...
And finally, the extremely friendly, Groudle Glen Railway...
All in all, what a fantastic trip: I loved it! I must thank 'Eddie the Late' and his operating arm of Ryton Tours for organising the outing. I must also thank Ed, Arnold and John for their company on this epic outing, as well as Arnold for joining me on the winners podium for our "Three Course Challenge". Finally, we must thank Adrian at EVLR for thinking of us and attempting to get us a GGR visit, and the fabulous guys at Groudle for being so kind and generous. All in all, great stuff: a great trip in great company. Thanks all, best regards, Sam...

The Groudle Glen Railway...

Hello. Now, finally, the last one: No5. This was our visit to the Groudle Glen Railway, the final piece in our pentagon puzzle on the Isle of Man Adventure. To access this one, we alighted at Groudle Glen station on the MER, having rode in the toast-rack behind Tramcar No22 from Laxey. I was aware that getting from there to the railway isn't as easy as some railways but this was something else. What a fantastic place. The wooded footpath takes you along the glen, down the stream and past the lovely viaduct. The walk to the railway is actually quite spectacular, if a little off the beaten track!...
Five or ten minutes slogging through the wilderness was rewarded by the sight of Lhen Coan station, nestling like a treehouse up on the hill...
A final scramble up the steps to the station was rewarded by the sight of "Polar Bear", the railways replica battery electric. Now, you may be wondering how we got in as the GGR does not run on Tuesday's or even open on Tuesday's. Well, our kind contact at EVLR (Adrian), said that he knew the people at Groudle and would ask if we could have a quick visit during our big tour. Thankfully, the GGR kindly agreed but the amount of kindness we were shown during our short visit was over whelming. The sheds were open for us to look around and questions were happily answered, with "Polar Bear" actually being out with one coach ready to take us on a private tour of the 2ft gauge line...
The GGR was built in 1896 to serve the Zoo which was based down the line at Sea Lion Rocks. The run is around 0.9km in total. The Zoo was a popular feature of the area and housed not only Sea Lion's but also Polar Bear's. It even had one brown bear cub which, for a nominal fee, your child could take out on a lead for a walk along the cliffs. Health and safety would have three times a field day these days! The engine which opened the line, and still resident today, was the aptly named Bagnall 2-4-0 "Sea Lion", built in 1896 at the firms Staffordshire works. I've seen this engine on several programs and read about her quite a lot over the years and so it was a pleasure to finally see her at home...
The cab of the diminutive much-loved Bagnall...
As demand for the GGR grew and passenger traffic started to outdo "Sea Lion", a sister engine arrived in 1905 and was named "Polar Bear". This engine was built to a very similar design but slightly larger. The line ran successfully until World War I when it closed until the end of the conflict. The steamers returned, fully overhauled, after the war but by 1921 their place had been taken by battery electric engines. However, the battery engines didn't go down too well and further problems forced a return to steam for the Bagnall sisters. WWII saw the railway close again and the zoo closed for good. A landslide during the war also cut-off the original terminus of the line. The heyday of the line was over following the war, though services did return on an off and on basis. 1962 was the final season. "Polar Bear" was later purchased and found a home at the Amberley Museum in West Sussex. "Sea Lion" languished in Loughborough until 1987 when she was restored and brought home to run on the now preserved Groudle Glen Railway. In 1992, trains finally returned to Sea Lion Rocks, a location that had been inaccessible since before the second World War. Happily, "Sea Lion" and "Polar Bear" have since been reunited at Groudle on three occasions though it is doubted that "Polar Bear" will ever permanently return.
 
Due to "Polar Bear" now having a home in Sussex, the GGR has begun building a replica of the engines to become another sister for "Sea Lion". This engine will be named "Brown Bear" and is the subject of an on going appeal to get her into steam...
The team reckon they have enough there to make an air running chassis so far...
Another engine based on the line is replica Bagnall 0-4-2 "Annie" of 1998...
Having looked around the sheds for a while, we joined the replica of the electric loco "Polar Bear" for a run down the line. Despite its short length there are some stiff gradients in places, though with 1-coach the electric marched along with ease...
At the pretty terminus of Sea Lion Rocks you can view the remains of the zoo...
The now derelict animal pens of yesteryear, where Polar Bears once stood...
The battery electric "Polar Bear" then ran round the short train...
The station offers some wonderful views across the sea...
It was then time, with five railways accomplished in one day, for the inevitable crew photograph from our grand day out on the fantastic Isle of Man. Left to right: myself, John, 'Eddie the Late' and Arnold...
"Team Pic - GGR" (Pic by Eddie the Late)
With the crew photograph taken we climbed back on board the short train behind the electric for the run back to Lhen Coan...
'Eddie the Late' was plotting more 'Three Course Challenges'...
Once back at Lhen Coan it was time to say our thank you's and head off. We had a taxi booked for 5:30pm, and we were right on time so our brisk 45-minute or so visit to the GGR had been completed successfully. I've got to hand it to the guys there, they were great. They answered all of our questions, showed us every item of stock they had and even gave us guide books and a free train ride. The least we could do was give a good donation for "Brown Bear"s fund. Thanks very much Groudle Glen Railway...
Without the guys at Groudle Glen we wouldn't have made our five in a day and so thanks again, we loved it. From Lhen Coan station it was time for another meander back down through the Glen to find the road. The glen is just so impressive, its worth going just to walk down it! Now, back to the skies!...