Saturday, 31 October 2015

Saturday at Tyseley...

Hi all. Today was a very worthwhile and pleasant day spent at Tyseley, in the company of Alastair and Will. The day began with the departure of Aveling & Porter 'F Type' roller "Louise", returning home to Statfold following last weekends Open Days. The engine could be heard whistling loudly through the Birmingham suburbs, slowly clanking off into the distance. At Tyseley, maintenance work was taking place on and around Castle Class 4-6-0 No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe", built at Swindon in March 1936. With no official trips booked for the Castle until the York outing in December, the engine is enjoying her regular rounds of loving attention. The locomotives housed at the former 84E shed are all cared for to the highest standards, in keeping with those expected of engines which operate on Network Rail metals. Todays duties for myself included helping with the work on 5043, as well as getting the chance to operate the 'Gronk' 0-6-0 Shunter 13029. I hadn't driven an 08 style type for some years and it was good to get used to their ways again. All the best, Sam...

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Tyseley Open Day: Out with a Pannier...

Evening all. Today was an early one, beginning as always with the traditional McDonalds breakfast: a must before a day on the footplate. On this gloomy Autumn morning my destination was Tyseley Loco Works, in the heart of industrial Birmingham. The Tyseley of today was built upon what was part of the old 84E shed. 1968 saw the finale of BR steam but also saw the continued presence of engines at Tyseley, with "Clun Castle" and Jubilee "Kolhapur" by then based in the leased Coaling Stage, securing the future of steam locomotives on the site of the former 84E. Today was the first day of the works' Autumn open weekend and six locomotives were rostered for service. I arrived at the site at around 6am, blurry eyed but ready to go. Having dragged Phil from his living van and meandered through the loco shed, we found L94 patiently waiting on the shed frontage. A small warming fire had been burning overnight and the Pannier was sitting pretty under the yard lights with 40psi on the clock: lovely...
Having checked the engine over to make sure all was well, more coal was added to the orange blaze in order to continue the production of steam. All around, other engines were coming to life. Soon enough, the elegant 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" hissed out of her home shed into the damp morning air ready for cleaning. She made for an impressive sight I can tell you! Throughout the morning myself & Driver Phil prepared 7752 (L94) for action; oiling and cleaning as the hours went by. By 10am, the engine was down on the coaling stage with a nice fire burning away in the box...
After coaling, L94 is seen rubbing shoulders with another maroon engine: LMS 5XP No5593 "Kolhapur", which became part of the Tyseley Collection in 1968...
The weather this morning was quite hideous: wet, windy and cold. However, once I'd completed the most dreaded of tasks: ashing out: it was nice to return to the sanctuary of 7752's cosy footplate. This Pannier is very original, having passed from LT hands into preservation without so much as a sniff of the scrapyard. A lot of the original fittings remain in place and the cab is very pleasant to be in...
Washed and changed, our job for the first half of the day was to haul the 2-coach passenger shuttle up and down the demo line. On the rear of the train would be the veteran LNWR Coal Tank No1054; a wonderful 0-6-2 dating from 1888. A cab spectacle view from L94 is seen below, ready to perform the first run along the demo line...
It was a very easy and pleasant morning, trundling back and forth with the passenger train. Due to the adverse weather, loadings were strong as many tried to escape the rain. The engine is seen here ready to depart with another trip...
"Ready to Depart" (Pic - Michael Brace)
During a brief break, Phil kindly collected a bacon cob and a hot cuppa' for us both; a welcome treat I can tell you on a day like this!...
A footplate view through the rain whilst chugging along the demo line...
And later on steaming past the front of the engine shed...
"7752 Chugging Along" (Pic - D.Chandler)
After dinner, L94 and 1054 were shunted off the demo line and stabled in the middle road whilst a cavalcade featuring 4965, 9600 and the Princess took place. I felt sorry for the lads out on the engines as the rain really came down during their brief stint on the demo line!...
For the afternoon, L94 would be relieved from passenger duties by slightly younger sister No9600. The engine is seen here ready to shunt back towards the turntable...
Now for another sent-in shot. This was captured during our turn on the turntable in the rain, ready for stabling. Its definitely me, but it doesn't look like me: I've put some timber on!...
"Crewing L94" (Pic - Graham Jones)
Once stabled around the turntable I had the chance to take a quick snap or two. A real LMS pairing is seen below as Princess class No6201 "Princess Elizabeth" sizes up to slightly smaller Jubilee No5593...
A fabulous line up of City, Hall, King, Castle and Duke!...
Pannier No9600 makes some great steam effects on the passenger...
Veteran Coal Tank No1054 on the rear of the passenger train...
Having sat around the turntable drinking tea and people watching, it was soon time to take L94 to bed for disposal. She'll be out tomorrow of course, along with the other five steamers in action (hopefully in better weather!). The old girl is spotted outside the shed after a very good day in service...
It was a very enjoyable day indeed, firing and driving a lovely Pannier like 7752. I must thank Tyseley for the opportunity and Phil for his company. I've always been fond of these Panniers and, despite the short demo line, it must be remembered that these engines are merely passing the day here. Most of the locomotives based here, including 7752, are registered for and see active use on the main line where they can earn their keep doing what they were designed to do. A quiet life on preserved railway metals is not for them, they get to do a real job keeping steam alive on the very network on which they began their careers. Its amazing to think that steam can still earn a living on a twenty-first century rail network but Tyseley is proof of that. To see a very nice video of the wet & windy Saturday, click here. All the best guys, Sam...

Friday, 23 October 2015

Preparations at Tyseley...

Hi all. Today was a pleasure. Having left work at 11am as normal, I drove along the A45 under dark skies threatening rain. My destination?: Tyseley. Tyseley Loco Works now holds two open weekends annually: one in June, one in October. This weekend promised a roster of six locomotives in steam as well as a fabulous coming together of Great Western thoroughbreds for the photographers. Upon my arrival at Tyseley I was immediately put to work helping with the shunting for the following days exploits. As the afternoon wore on, my duty changed into preparing Great Western Pannier Tank No7752. Built in 1930 by North British, 7752 worked on the GWR and BR until being sold in 1959 to London Transport. Whilst working in the big smoke, she acquired the number L94 and a red livery, which she still carries today. By mid afternoon it was time to light the fire as L94 was joined outside the shed by Peckett No1 and No4965 "Rood Ashton Hall". With all of the usual checks made, I lit up a few oil soaked rags and got a blaze going in the firebox...
With the rags spread neatly across the grate and burning well, a selection of rather expired wood planks were placed on top. Crackling and smoking, L94 was slowly coming to life. For the rest of the day myself and Phil were busy cleaning and oiling up the Pannier. I've always had an affection for these engines; they were real workhorses of their day and, at Class 4, could put out a very respectful power output. When I left at around 5:30pm, L94 was warming through nicely with the top brasses buffed up and shining. I look forward to tomorrows no doubt enjoyable antics! All the best guys, Sam...

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Statfold Barn 'Miniature Steam Rally'...

Well, well, well...this is NEW! We are now heading up a brand new Miniature Steam Rally at the beautiful and award winning Statfold Barn Railway. The event will take place over April 23rd/24th 2016 and will include well over 50 miniature traction engines, lorries and rollers in 2" - 6" scales. Couple that with a dozen stand displays, 5" gauge miniature railway, an intensive steam service on the SBR, miniature working area, three full size traction engines and more bits & pieces to boot, I think we're onto a winner here! Naturally, as with all SBR events, the Miniature Steam Rally will require invitations to be ordered in advance due to the amount of guests allowed on site. However, we guarantee a warm welcome and alot of steam engines during this brand new rally weekend! Thanks for your time everyone, maybe we'll see you at Statfold Barn in April. All the best, Sam...

Monday, 19 October 2015

The Great Shackerstone Goodbye...

"Smoke & Steam with 5521 - Sep 2012" (N Bates)
Evening all. It is with deflated optimism and a sinking heart that I write this; no doubt my final post about the Battlefield Line: The Great Shackerstone Goodbye. Careful wording is key here but, in short, my feelings towards the current situation that the railway is facing and those who are in place to change its future have led me to follow my morals rather than my heart on this one and regrettably hang up my driving jacket. After 8 years loyal service and three successful events, one would have thought that my contribution would have been recognised: allas...no. It is therefore with an almost biting grief that I write this post and talk about my eight years on Battlefield Line rails. I began my time at Shackerstone following an invite from a friend in the freezing January of 2007. There I met 'Pockets' who immediately became my tutor, both on site and off with his wealth of steam locomotive knowledge. Having acquainted myself with the then thriving team attentions turned to the work at hand. At age 15 I was restricted to what I could do. There were rules back then: I wasn't allowed in the cab, I wasn't allowed on the running plate and I was definitely not allowed on a moving engine. All this I gladly accepted. It was widely known that when one turned 16 they could take their rules exam and become passed for firing training. I did my rules in the December and immediately had a turn out with "Sir Gomer" the following Easter. I tell you what, I bloody loved it!

Following that experience, my life was to be almost joined as one with Shackerstone for the next few years. Mum will no doubt always remember fondly the joy of rising at 5am to take me to Shackerstone to break up soaking wet pallets under cover of darkness with great warmth in her heart. In August 2008, my training was now well under way and turns were coming about as and when. Traction back then was an immaculately kept "Sir Gomer", a far cry from the hideous blue livery she carries today...
From 2008 things only got better. I began learning my trade as a fireman: the do's, the don'ts, the definitely not's! In my younger recollections of Shackerstone I was kindly smiled upon by the late Gerald Boden who allowed me to go out with his beautiful B1 4-6-0 "Mayflower": my first proper experience with a main line express engine. In 2010 I found myself aboard 5786; a Great Western 5700 Class Pannier Tank. I've always been fond of Pannier's and have great memories of 5786: it was a lovely tool...
"5786 Out On The Line - Oct 2010" (D Hanks)
In 2011, the huge bulk of 1939-built 2-8-0 No3803 arrived and regular firing of a tender engine became an attractive prospect...
"Firing 3803 - April 2011" (D Hanks)
Back then we were still doing the popular Thomas events too and, in April 2012, I am spotted aboard 3F Class No47298 a month after passing as a Fireman...
"Out with a Jinty - April 2012" (M Heseltine)
In September 2012 I lived my ambition of firing a Black Five 4-6-0: a thoroughbred Stanier 5MT in the form of Mid Hants based No45379. That occasion was enjoyed with good friend and regular Statfold driver John Britt (JB to his friends)...
"Can't Beat A Black Five - Sep 2012" (D Hanks)
In 2013 a real vintage lady arrived: Beattie Well Tank No30585. I had a cracking day aboard that engine with fellow engineman and good friend Eddie...
"In Love With A Beattie - Mar 2013" (D Hanks)
The day after the Beattie, I was driving my beloved Peckett 0-6-0 "Sir Gomer" in the station limits for the second day of the 2013 Steam Gala. Throughout my time at Shackerstone, through thick and thin, I've loved being involved with "Sir Gomer" and have fought her corner in more than one steam loco based argument! Perfect for the job she'll never be but will always be a free steaming and powerful ignorant industrial; just as Peckett's intended! I will miss her, having been Engine Rep with her at all four of her outings to other preserved railways. Poor old gal'; maybe one day I'll win the Lotto...
"My Beloved Sir Gomer - Mar 2013" (Debbie)
In 2014 there was the opportunity to fire and drive SECR 'P' Class No323 "Bluebell" a couple of times. That was fab...
"Bluebell Near The Battlefield - April 2014" (R Eborall)
Naturally, in the background of all these outings (which are only a few of the countless I actually did!) there was training going on. I learnt and learnt, on and off site. My head was in books on lunchbreak at work and during evenings at home, learning the skills required to become a competent engineman. I was passed as a Driver in December 2014 having worked my way up the ranks for 6.5 years on the footplate, spending most weekends aboard an engine of some description on Battlefield Line metals. I did my bit and I earnt my stripes, just as the process has always been since the footplate men of old. I am spotted aboard Large Prairie No4141 during a driving turn in March this year...
"4141 Driving Day - March 2015" (D Hanks)
Another Prairie that impressed me greatly was No5542, billed by all as the Planets Favourite Prairie. Its a lovely thing, beautifully cared for and a pleasure to be on...
"Firing 5542 - April 2014" (P Biggs)
One thing I must touch upon are the many friends I've made over my years with Shackerstone. There was Pockets and the lads and of course David (Gay Dave to his friends). This isn't to mention of course the countless others like DJ, Carl, JB, Phil, MJ, Jase, Dan Dan - the list goes on and on. One must not forget the bringer of breakfast, glad tidings and general lateness 'Eddie the Late'. Had I not met Eddie I would perhaps be thinner if nothing else, as a good few years of relentless 'Three Course Challenges' has done nothing but murder my formerly fast metabolism! Jokes aside, a great mate and a bit of lateness never hurt anybody I guess. Our final day as a three man comedy crew came in May this year; an event planned by all three of us in case one or two of us made an unavoidable ever imminent departure...
I knew at the time of driving "Cumbria" that my time with the railway was coming to an end and I said to MJ during the last day that I was determined to enjoy my last outing. Its been an enjoyable, exciting, often dissapointing eight years and I've learnt so much with countless drivers and firemen for fellow crew. I've worked my way up through the ranks of cleaner, passed cleaner, fireman and finally to Driver; something that was always my final frontier and a great ambition of mine fulfilled. It fills me with sadness to know that my firing and driving days at Shackerstone are now over, particularly as certain individuals have created a railway that I no longer recognise as the line I once loved. Its a shame but it seems to be a common trait sometimes with big railways.

Working with engines here over the years has been such an eye opener. We saw the changing seasons, the morning and the evening glow. We saw the glow of the fire through the frost bitten night sky on evening trains in the dark of winter, we saw snow on the roofs of village cottages as we steamed by with Mince Pie specials. We saw a railway and nature entwined and drove and fired steam locomotives through some of Leicestershire's prettiest countryside. It was a pleasure and, if it weren't for my morals, I'd still be doing it now.

So thats it folks: eight years, three events, countless engines, countless fires lit, countless whistles blown and now the curtain falls at last on my swansong of steam at Shackerstone. To all my friends who remain in service there I dip my head and remove my cap in respect for you and thank you for your pleasant and often comedic company in the past years. To those who have trespassed against the principles of why we give up our time, well, I think the end to that sentence would give some an undeserved sense of achievement so, allas, I leave it open. Thank you all for reading this no doubt depressing post and I remind you that every Shackerstone outing, footplate day, work day and doom day is recorded and available to view on this blog. Thank you all; cheers and goodnight...

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Liverpool: Within The "Lion"s Den...

Hi there everyone. This weekend myself & Maise were on a short break in the cultural hub of Liverpool. Whilst on a visit to the Museum of Liverpool, an unexpected surprise was the sight of the famous "Lion". Built in 1838 as Liverpool & Manchester Railway No57, "Lion" was capable of hauling trains of up to 200 tons and remained in service until around 1858. In 1859 it became a stationary boiler for the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board, a role it retained until becoming surplus to requirements in 1928. Thankfully, interest in "Lion" had grown by this point and she was saved from the scrapyard forever. She took part: in steam I might add: in the 1938 London & Birmingham Railway Centenary. Most famously perhaps, she starred in the 1953 Ealing Comedy "The Titfield Thunderbolt", playing the role of the heritage steam engine brought out of the local museum to help save a country branch line from closure. "Lion" moved to Liverpool in 2007 to the then new museum and now sits centre stage. From the first floor, we look down across the elderly "Lion"...
This is one of those engines that you can't help feeling respect for. She's nearly 180 years old and represents a real turning point in the development of the steam locomotive. With 5ft diameter driving wheels and a boiler pressed to a novel 50psi, her inside cylindered design showed her to be quite a modern engine for her time...
"She's As Good As Ever She Was" (The Titfield Thunderbolt)
It was a great pleasure to see "Lion" today, particularly as the sight was so unexpected during our visit to the museum. I was still under the impression that "Lion" was housed in Manchester! Thankfully, the engine is now properly cared for and stands adorned with information boards documenting her history and pedigree. Behind her are projector screens which show her in action both in preservation and during her 1953 film role. Shes a beautiful old engine and I'm glad I've seen her at last. Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Atlantic Report No11: Midlands Show 2015...

Hi all. Just a brief one from this afternoon. Under dark skies threatening rain, we batted along the Fosseway headed for the setup evening of the 2015 Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition. My 3.5" gauge LBSC Maisie Atlantic: modelled on Ivatt's popular C1 type: had been invited to take part in the show once again, atop the colourful stand put on by Coventry MES. The engine had been cleaned and polished within an inch of her life but looked the business as she was displayed alongside Ed's 2P type Midland 4-4-0. The engine will now be on display until Sunday and I'm sure she'll spend many happy hours people watching as no doubt hundreds and hundreds of anorak clad show goers pass her by. Cheers everyone, all the best, Sam...

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A New Adventure: Tyseley...

Hi all. Today began a new adventure that I am going to try out for a while and see how it goes: Tyseley. Tyseley Locomotive Works is today home to not only the fabulous Tyseley Collection but also a thriving contract business that repairs, maintains and restores heritage steam and diesel locomotives. I was invited along by Alistair today to take part in one of the regular Saturday working parties. Naturally, Tyseley isn't open to the general public unless its one of their twice annual open weekends and so a look behind closed doors offered a privilege in itself. As expected, well, what more could you want. The shed houses a prolific group of locomotives large & small. Standing in the presence of a Castle, a Hall and a Stanier Princess, all of which were within reach of each other was quite something. Today I helped around the shed with preparation and maintenance work on the Great Western Castle Class No5043; a Swindon built thoroughbred of 1936 vintage and it really felt great to be 'putting something back'. Its a great place and it was a pleasure to help out. I'll next be back there in two weeks time, helping with the Steam Gala Weekend. A new adventure?: I hope so! All the best, Sam...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Evesham: A "Monty" Fine Day...

Hi everyone. Today the sun rose above a chilly morning mist before creating a pretty setting for my drive down to Evesham. It was an easy drive: no traffic, no obstructions, no hassle. I was rostered to drive steam today on the 15" gauge metals and was very much looking forward to it. The autumn weather is now beginning to set in and the temperature gauge on the BMW duly recognised this. The first stop; as with all footplate experiences; was McDonalds. On a fresh morning that will soon be followed by an outing with steam, the McDonalds breakfast has to be the undisputed food of the Gods...
Stomach replenished, I continued the last couple of miles to the EVLR's base at Twyford. Having met up with Adrian & Sandra, thoughts turned to signing in and finding out the latest news. My locomotive for the day was "Monty": the Exmoor-built 0-4-2 that used to be "Markeaton Lady". The shining red side tank was soon outside, basking in the morning sun whilst preparations began on her footplate. Having cleaned the grate, checked the tubes, the plugs and the water level, the loco was ready to light up...
At Evesham, the locomotive is lit with a mixture of paraffin rags and dry wood. Though "Monty" was still warm from yesterdays antics, the fire still requires a little 'draw air'. This is provided by the trusty air compressor in the engine shed and, with the airline attached, the 0-4-2 began to crackle away to herself happily. As well as drawing the fire, the airline also keeps the smoke out of the cab and away from the cream interior paintwork. With the fire lit, its time to get your Brasso and your Pledge out and get the engine cleaned. Steaming up here is quite a pleasant affair: everything is under your hand, the tools are all in reach and the area around you isn't an oil soaked ash bed. The friendly dog walkers bid you "good day" as they saunter by and the quietly brewing engine is always a talking point. Adrian really did do a splendid job on "Monty": she looks the bees knees...
With the engine cleaned and steaming up nicely, it was time to oil up. Oiling up is a quick affair as most of the engine is on either trimming pots or grease points. The axleboxes for example only need doing every six months: what a difference to life aboard a Great Western 2884! By 10am, "Monty" was sitting pretty with a light, bright fire and 100psi on the clock. With a shrill blast on her shining whistle, the engine hissed easily away from the shed frontage and out onto the single line. Here, we blow down 1/2 a glass to clear the scale and muck from the boiler. "Monty" is later seen at the head of the waiting 10:30 departure in rather clement weather...
Today's 'office' is spotted just before the off, with Trevor the Guard waiting 'right time'...
Washed and changed into full railway uniform, I was ready when the right away came. "Monty" hauled the 3-coach train easily out of Twyford Station, with just a few early passengers on board. The fire was now taking hold as the 'cold hearted' engine began to warm through. I've said it so many times over the years on this blog but its still true: engines only warm through properly after their first or second run, hence why some first trips of the day are the most troublesome. Once on our way back from Evesham Vale up the bank, "Monty" was steaming as normal and required minimal effort to keep her on form...
A drivers eye view ahead from "Monty" with the returning Midday trip...
It was all so nice today. The weather was kind, the passengers were happy, the engine was immaculate; a typical day really at Evesham. I'm sure on some railways its quite a struggle to get through a day on an engine, but not here: its just lovely. The tank engine went about her days business with ease and it was most enjoyable to be at her regulator. What is further enjoyable about Evesham is the treatment towards volunteers by the owners. As usual, on the mid afternoon train, a piping hot cuppa' and a slice of cake appeared on the footplate: a most civilised way to travel...
"Monty" is seen ready to leave Twyford on an afternoon turn...
The driving position aboard "Monty" has been improved greatly since my last visit by the addition of a padded seat: the relief is almost breath taking! A few of the afternoon trains were strengthened to four coaches and these were full to bursting on one particular run. The new play fort down at Evesham Vale is proving very popular and I'd say that 90% of passengers now break their journey there for 30 minutes or so before returning to Twyford on the next train. The EVLR has now come of age and is proving its worth as a transport system! "Monty"s fire is seen prior to an afternoon departure...
Later in the day, the engine is seen watering on the column as the sun continues to shine...
A final look aboard the footplate of "Monty" as she prepares to depart upgrade from Evesham Vale with the second to last train of the day...
As we entered the last hours of the Autumn Sunday sun, the temperature gradually dropped, allowing the exhaust from "Monty" to be seen. The little red engine threw white steam over her shoulder on the final returning trip, barking away happily with a 3-coach set on the ascent of Twyford Bank. This final trip saw the fire heavily run down, with just a light covering kept over the bars. We rolled into Twyford triumphantly having completed a most enjoyable 13 trips on EVLR metals. Uncoupled and turned one last time, "Monty" chugged happily off to the shed for disposal and a good clean. Once disposed and settling nicely, I gripped the regulator one last time and used the last of the days steam to drive the engine gently backwards into the gloom of her home. It had been a most enjoyable day and I must thank Adrian & Sandra once again for their kind welcome and hospitality. Its always a lovely day at the Evesham Vale Light Railway. Not had a ride yet?: please go and pay them a visit! Best Regards, Sam...