Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Private Do: Traction Engines and Seven & A Quarter...

Hi all. This morning involved another invitation; this time to a steam up at a private site near Twycross. The site is home to a pleasant 7.25" gauge railway as well as providing a stable for about half a dozen full size road engines. Once a year the owners hold a private steam up and visitors with both road engines and 7.25" gauge railway engines are encouraged to come along and join in the fun. I arrived at just before 11am and was immediately put to work 'driving a rag' as Phil put it! With the brasses shined up on 1925-built F-Type roller "Louise", the rest of the day was at our leisure. By midday, most of the engines that were heading out onto the railway were in steam and raring to go. There were about half a dozen steamers in action on the railway alone...
The railway comprises a sort of figure of eight. Trains leave the station on the lower circuit before steaming around and under the high level section via a pretty tunnel. The trains then approach the station again before being switched onto the high level line and climb considerably sharply until they reach the summit and cross over an impressive trestle bridge. The lower section is now below you and you pass over the tunnel roof before descending sharply to the left. The train then reaches the tunnel again and the end of your round trip sees you arrive back at the station again. To continue going around and around if you want, choosing either section, you simply select the route via a common point lever. The home based Rio Grande K36 is spotted below with scale rolling stock...
One visiting engine on the 7.25" was Pete's 0-4-0 Stafford saddle tank from the Fairfield railway, near Pailton. Pete was certainly having a good run and whilst he had his lunch he encouraged me to take the engine for a few laps. Well, suffice to say that didn't take much persuading! The Stafford was running very well; steaming easily and putting in a good turn of speed. To keep ahead of the two large Shay examples that were in action you certainly had to get a motor on! The engine is seen here just before taking water at the station...
Having enjoyed a few good laps aboard the Stafford I returned the engine to Pete who then enjoyed a few more round trips. Cheers Pete for the go! Later on, James is seen driving his Rio Grande 2-8-0 C19 Class on the second part of his round trip...
The railway is very pleasant to both watch and drive and the action seemed pretty much none stop throughout the day. Over in the adjacent field, the traction engines were at play...
The home based collection of about half a dozen engines was today supplemented by seven visiting engines which all came together to provide a great show of power and evolution. The largest engine in the home collection is "Ajax", a 1919-built Fowler A9 Compound Road Locomotive. Its quite a thing...
During the afternoon I managed to drive two of the traction engines: Allchin 1261 and 1915-built Fowler A8 "Victoria". The single cylinder engines are always unusual to drive. The reverser is placed in forward gear before giving a sniff of regulator. If she doesn't go, you can ease off, pull the reverser back and as soon as the crank begins to move in the opposite direction you assume forward again, give it some regulator and she should go. Starting can be quite a bumpy process, followed by the loud rumbling of gears and shafts. Once under way though they are pleasant things to drive though steering is an art-form! Here, JB is seen riding in the bunker of Phil's F-Type "Louise"...
Soon enough, with thanks to Phil, I found myself at the helm of "Louise". "Louise" is a compound roller and therefore starting is a little easier than with a heavy single. JB soon assumed the steersman's position and we set off. "Louise" trundled happily around the field, with myself and JB bickering all the way round as per. "Left a bit John"..."Don't panic, don't panic!": great fun! Soon enough we had returned the roller to her parking position...
All in all it had been a very good day. I'd driven a Stafford, a steam roller and two traction engines: all very pleasant. I must thank the owners of the site for the invite and thank Phil and the lads for letting me play on their engines. Something different is always nice! Once again thank you for reading folks. There will now be a break until our next outing which is Statfold on September 12th as we're off for a well earned holiday in Spain. I'm not going to move for a week! Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 29 August 2015

A Bala Gala: "Jack Lane" on Tour...

Hi everyone. Today was another grand day out; this time a jaunt to our old holiday railway at Bala Lake. The railway were holding their special 4-day 'Winifred Steam Gala' over this Bank Holiday weekend and four locomotives were rostered to work an impressive timetable. Unfortunately during last week, due to an over-running boiler repair on "Holy War", a gap had been created in the motive power line up. The railway quickly called up Statfold Barn who duly prepared 2005-built Quarry Hunslet "Jack Lane" for an immediate departure. I was contacted not long afterwards to ask if we would go along as sort of 'Engine Rep's for one of the days, just to check on the green 0-4-0. As myself and 'Eddie the Late' had already been planning a potential day out to Bala to see the gala, the push from the SBR was all we needed to persuade us. At 5:45am this morning I collected Ed and we sailed back down the A46 and into the nearest McDonalds for breakfast!...
Stomachs refreshed with a hearty McMuffin and a trio of hash browns, we started to attack the 120-mile journey to the BLR's base at Llanuwchllyn. It wasn't a bad run down there, just a little odd at times. For example, we came around one bend and the headlights of the BMW were met with the sight of a Peacock strolling leisurely across the tarmac. Eddie duly proclaimed "mind that peacock". As I did so, I couldn't help thinking how little that phrase has probably been used by other motorists! At around 8:45am we made it to the engine shed at Llanuwchllyn, where "Jack Lane" was discovered in the company of elderly sisters "Winifred", "Maid Marian" and "Alice"...
Having introduced ourselves to "Jack Lane"s crew for the day, it was time to change into our non-smarts and have a look around. Enjoying the cosy atmosphere of the engine shed on this damp Welsh morning was "George B". Built in 1898 and purchased from Dinorwic in 1965, the engine has been under restoration for some time. However, the end is now finally in sight and rumour has it she may appear sometime next year...
The visiting engine was our main focus today, though the event from the outset was spot on. The first train was at 9am and was diesel hauled for the enthusiasts. "Alice" duly headed off too, with the demonstration slate train. I then decided to have a quick check over of "Jack Lane". This job basically involves doing a small FTR. The motion is checked as well as the axleboxes and other such components. One of the main searches I tend to do is to look for split-pins and make sure they are there. Thankfully, "Jack Lane" had a clean bill of health and we were fully confident that the Bala Lake team would look after her anyway: they've been looking after Quarry Hunslets for over 40 years! The only things we had to talk about were the small but important differences between this young engine and the older Quarry's. The design may be basically the same but there are some differences. "Jack Lane"s first train was due to depart at 10:40am and, when the time came, she was there...
With "Jack Lane" out on the line along with "Winifred", sisters "Alice" and "Maid Marian" were doing some demonstrations of their own at the base...
It was all going very well up to now but, allas, something did go wrong. "Winifred" had failed with a seriously leaking injector clack that wouldn't seat and the crew had had to drop the fire. The diesel shunter "Trigger" was duly pressed into service and rescued the transatlantic traveller from Llangower before hauling her back to base...
To catch back as much time as possible, "Alice" departed with the passenger train as quickly as possible. "Jack Lane" had been stuck at Llangower for a good while awaiting a path and her crew were I think relieved to get her back for water once "Alice" had passed...
Before "Jack Lane" did her next turn on the 13:50 trip, 'Eddie the Late' suggested a 'Cake Challenge'. Bala Lake Railway is well known for its good cake...
We walked outside with our cake and managed to perch on an A-Frame bench. At that point I felt something brush my leg under the table and immediately gave Ed an uneasy glance. Ed must have felt the same thing but thought it was me as I received the same uneasy glance back! This went on for a few moments with both of us silently accusing the other of odd behaviour before this little chap appeared from underneath the table...
Having eaten our cake under the watchful gaze of our new friend "Billy", I walked up the platform to see "Jack Lane" who was awaiting the signal to run round when required...
Driver Ben had kindly allowed me to ride out with them on the 13:50 trip with "Jack Lane". Due to the timetable change which followed "Winifred"s failure, the 6-coach train ended up being double headed with "Maid Marian". Driver Russell aboard "Marian" kindly allowed me to ride down with them to Bala as three travelling backwards on an open cab Quarry is a fall-off waiting to happen! After a good run to Bala, the pair are seen being uncoupled ready for the run round...
"Jack Lane" and "Marian" are seen below heading up the 2:25pm departure for the top station. As well as a coupling, 102 years separated them!...
For the return run I was aboard "Jack Lane". Driver Ben and Fireman Dave were certainly enjoying themselves. Ben gave the 10-year old 0-4-0 great reviews and she was steaming well as we trundled along the shores of the beautiful Bala Lake...
At Llangower a few passengers joined us ready for an upgrade departure by the two Hunslets. The view from the footplate here has always been lovely...
The run back to the base from Llangower was brilliant. "Jack Lane" was in great voice and when the two ladies attacked the bank it was in fine style. Later in the day, "Alice" is spotted with a traditional Quarry train, including Gunpowder wagon...
By the time 3:30pm rolled around most things were back on track following the earlier failing. With "Winifred"s clack seated, the hot water in her tank had syphoned through into the boiler and thus refilled it for her with nice hot water, saving any damage. Therefore, with all the right checks in place, she had been relit and was ready for action in time for her remaining two trips of the day. Her first outing would be with shed mate "Alice" on a double header and I must say well done to the team for getting her back out so quickly...
"Maid Marian" arrives with another well loaded 6-coach train...
With "Maid Marian" clear of the section, "Jack Lane" (with 'Eddie the Late' on board) returned with the slate train. "Winifred" and "Alice" would then depart for Bala...
"Jack Lane"s duties were then finished for the day after three successful runs. The engine had been popular with her crew and two days had been completed with two more to go. The welcome and hospitality that myself & Ed had received once again at the BLR had been very pleasant indeed and very much appreciated. Its a lovely place with lovely hard working staff: its a pleasure to know them. Just while I'm still writing perhaps we should briefly talk about the non train items on show. One was Ivo Peter's Bentley. Ivo Peters was a well known railway photographer during the final years of the steam era and his trusty Bentley was spotted in over 14,000 images. It would always be there; whether under a bridge, at the lineside or in the background. Ivo drove the car over 250,000 miles recording the last working steam engines on the British network. The midnight blue vehicle is now owned by Mr Birley, owner of "Winifred" and "Alice"...

During the afternoon we were also treated to an unexpected pass by Vulcan Bomber XH558. It looked beautiful as it sailed easily above the base station. XH558 is the very last Vulcan permitted to fly and, sadly, this is her last year in the skies. The aircraft has been slowly surviving season by season with enormous grants of funding from benefactors and the general public but we are assured that 2015 is her last ever flying season. It was wonderful to see her; what a beautiful thing...
So, that's it folks, another fantastic day out. Just after 6pm myself & 'Eddie the Late' rejoined the BMW for the ride home. At this point I wasn't entirely up for the 120-mile drive home but, allas, we drove down so we must drive back! It was a fantastic day and well worth the driving if truth be told. We are both very thankful to the SBR for sending us with "Jack Lane" and to the BLR for being so welcoming and friendly towards us once again. We love it there. To see a video of just some of the action on Saturday, including our double headed assault on the bank, click here. Well done to the entire BLR team for putting on such a great show and lets hope that the screaming whistles of Quarry Hunslets continue to echo across the waters of Bala Lake for many, many years to come...
Good Evening All

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Steamers of the Road at Moira...

Good day all. Today involved something different: a kind invitation from my friend Phil to come along and help with his steam roller at the 2015 Ashby & Willesley Vintage Festival. The gathering brought together road steamers, classic cars, stationary engines, trade stalls and the traditional beer tent, to name but a few attractions. I arrived at the event at around 9am in glorious sunshine and, having changed, met up with Phil and received my entry pass. Inside, various engines of the road steam variety were coming to life...
Phil's 1925-built Aveling & Porter F-Type steam roller "Louise" was stood alongside Andy's "Rosetta": a development of the R10 model from the same manufacturer. Phil duly set me to cleaning the various brasses on his very well kept engine and, as the sun shone, it was just all very pleasant to be involved with...
There were a nice selection of engines around. I think I counted around 12 examples varying through Aveling, Fowler, Allchin and Foden. One that always catches my eye is Arthur Henton's 1903-built Allchin General Purpose engine No1261. Its a very pretty machine in a lovely maroon livery...
The rally life is slightly different to a life on the railways. The main stress is getting the engine to the event rather than the actual steaming session once there. Engines just steam up at their leisure generally, before possibly trundling about the place at slow speed to take water now and again. Meanwhile the visiting public cautiously meanders between the exhibits, taking photographs and nattering with the owners and operating crews. It was all very leisurely this morning. "Louise" steamed up gently whilst we cleaned her brasses and shining green paintwork. The next job for the team was to collect coal for the engines. At rallies, coal is generally provided and this one was no exception. However, the coal provided here was absolutely huge as lumps go and had to be broken up with a chisel and a fairly hefty hammer in some cases. Here are Andy & Phil during the bagging process...
Not far from the Aveling rollers was Fowler General Purpose engine "Elsa"...
A quick view of just some of the engines attending the event...
With "Louise" now in steam and shining for all to see, I decided to take a walk around the site. The event is held at Moira Furnace which is a very pleasant place to see, particularly on a nice day like today. Over the way, a 5" gauge 'Speedy' tank was shuttling back & forth on Burton MES' portable track with steam to spare...
There were also a handful of miniature traction engines in action. Ian Bunn's immaculate 4" Garrett "Betty" is spotted here taking water before another jaunt around the site...
The day continued much the same throughout the day. The sun generally shone, the public were happy to chat and ask questions about the engines, and we all had a really nice time. Its a very nice event indeed and well worth a visit. One interesting factor was just how many Shackerstone regulars (well, of our old crew) were in attendance and it was lovely to be reunited with them all again. Here, "Rosetta" and "Louise" line up...
One thing that you can have at a rally which you can't have on a railway is a beer and, with this in mind, we duly enjoyed a cool pint. Nothing better sometimes than sitting there, beer in hand watching the engine tick over quietly...
All too soon it was time to head for home after a very enjoyable day. I must thank Phil for his invitation and for making sure I had a good time. Its a very different life with the steamers of the road. Its relaxed, its social, its pleasant but, allas, I'm afraid I may be a man of the railway. It was another quiet but grand day out. Next weekend?: well, we'll see! Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Small Locomotives Update...

Hi all. Just to keep the little engines in the picture, here is an update as to where everything stands as of now. Firstly, my beloved blue tank engine "Achilles". The engine performed well at CMES' June steam day on the public running and, following that, I decided to remove her from service for some much needed water pump attention. The engine has sported her original pumps since new in the mid 1980s and, with many miles under their belt, they were more than worn out. In order to make life easier and to prevent damage to the water tank paintwork, the engine was stripped of her boiler again. This was the scene on June 23rd; only two days after the engine had been running at Ryton Pools...
As can be seen, a 'light maintenance' task can sometimes give the impression of the start of a full overhaul! The original water pumps were removed from the engine during that week. Following closer inspection it was decided to first attempt to sleeve the internals with bronze bushes which would, in effect, take up the slack. The rams are made of a much stronger material than the pumps themselves and thus have lasted rather well considering. Using a hefty milling machine, we managed to bore one of the old pumps square and sleeve it successfully. Unfortunately its sister pump was not so lucky and the cutter broke through the wall whilst trying to bring it back parallel on the bore. The wear was just too great to bore out of that one: the material had lost all strength. With the prospect of having to make a new pump, common sense said to make two. New castings were duly ordered from Reeves and during the first week of July they were being machined into pumps...
The castings come with the basic shape already clear to see but with much machining still to do. Once you have a centralised stub machined to work from, the castings can be held in the lathe central on a 3-jaw and machined accordingly. Here they are almost complete, with one pump still keeping its guide stub at this point...
Here are the completed pumps with rams fitted, awaiting new brass gland nuts...
The pumps did take a bit of extra fettling here and there and progress was slowed up by the various bits & bobs going on elsewhere in my life during these weeks. My main slow up was my job change which took a considerable amount of time to organise and get used to. Tonight saw a long overdue visit to the workshop to continue with the tank engine. The die we had used to achieve the 9/16" UNF thread was not entirely precise and so I had got hold of a brand new die and ran it down the thread on both pumps. The resistance encountered with the die showed just how much material the old counterpart had left on! One of the pumps is spotted below whilst its sister is receiving attention in the vice...
A trial fit has been made of the pumps (with access aided via the removal of the RH water tank) and, as I write, the pumps are now at the workshop of 'Eddie the Late' in order to have a slight edge turned off them. The thread doesn't go quite far enough to the edge of the circumference of the barrel and so they don't screw into the frame stretcher quite as far as they should. Ed is kindly turning a little off for me. Once they're back, the tank's bottom end can be put back together before the boiler cladding receives attention prior to rebuild. Meanwhile, on the Eastern side of things with "Maisie"...
The Great Northern Atlantic has, this time, required no maintenance work or repairs. She has had her tubes swept, grate & ashpan emptied and has had her paintwork polished and brass shined up but other than that she hasn't changed. She did very, very well during her last outing and is now running well. The engine was planned to go out tonight to the CMES 'Third Wednesday' steam up but, allas, rain stopped play and there was no way that the just polished Apple Green livery was heading out into a rain storm!...
So folks, that's it for now. I am not entirely sure when either of the engines will run again but I'm sure we'll have a few more outings before the end of the year. "Achilles" should be ready again in the next few weeks/months: no promises! There is always something to do: not enough hours in the day. Best Regards, Sam...