Saturday, 28 November 2015

NEC Show: Wandering Around Warley...

Hi all. A short one from today. This was our annual little outing to the NEC for the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition. We go every year and we've exhibited there four times with the LEGO railway over the years. Once again it was a great show with countless stands and some wonderful layouts. One thing I always think when walking around is "how does anyone afford this hobby?" and its always interesting to see one of those engines which makes you think "I can find you a ride on one for half that price!". But, nevertheless, the hobby is thriving at the minute, with more locomotives and gauges available than ever before. I'd love to have the time to knock up a model railway of some description but, allas, so many railways so little time! The veteran LNWR Coal Tank of 1888 had made the short journey to the NEC from Tyseley, where I worked alongside her the other week with 7752. The lovely old engine was being photographed from all angles by countless bobble-hatted model railway enthusiasts, and quite right too. We had a good walk round, saw some lovely layouts and had a pint in the Wetherspoons before heading for home. I'm sure we'll be back again next year. All the best all, Sam...

Sunday, 22 November 2015

The 'Severn Valley Limited' Dining Train...

Good day everyone. Today we were fine dining again, this time on the Severn Valley Railway at Kidderminster. I've always had alot of time for this railway; its just beautiful. When we arrived the sight that greeted us at Kidderminster was quite something: not one, not two but three Great Western Manor types all together in the station area. At the head of our steam hauled dining train ready for our Sunday Lunch was 1939-built 4-6-0 No7812 "Erlestoke Manor". Alongside was her recently overhauled sister No7802 "Bradley Manor" and standing not far away was 7820 "Dinmore Manor". Our Manor was decked out with a compliment of 'Dannys Bull'; an affectionate name given to the white paint used to mark up the buffers and smokebox hinges ready for an appearance on the 'Cambrian Coast Express' back in the day. If she'd been wearing the Cambrian headboard she'd have been perfect! We walked down the pathway to the delightful passenger area of the station, under the glass roof. The station had been well decorated in preparation for the popular Santa Special's which begin next weekend...
Having checked in at the Diner Reception, we were shown to our table on board the Great Western coach. The table was set for lunch and we settled down, grateful for the steam heater alongside our shoes. Maisie was looking forward to the meal, and no doubt my explanations as to why the Manors were designed for life on the old metals of the Cambrian Coast...
With a blast on her whistle and right on time, 7812 got the 'Severn Valley Limited' underway on the 16-mile run to Bridgnorth. The Starter was served on route to Bewdley where we passed 2857 (a brief glimpse of which I saw last night as we roared through Kidderminster with 4965, returning from Oxford). The train made its steady way along the picturesque setting of the Severn Valley, rattling and rolling. The main course was soon served and, well, it was just lovely (I could have eaten it twice!)...
After our lovely main course, we settled back into our seats watching the scenary gradually pass by the window. 7812 was in good voice, climbing out of Highley with ease whilst echoing her Great Western bark across the valley. The idea behind the Manors was to create a powerful, compact 4-6-0 for routes which didn't allow big engines like the Halls, Castles and Kings to travel over them. 30 examples were built, with a total of 9 finding a home in preservation. Pulling gradually into Bridgnorth, we spotted a whisp of steam drifting over from the shed area, even though 7812's sister (7802) had just departed for Kidderminster. The drifting steam was escaping slowly from Hawksworth Pannier No1501, built in 1949 as an unusual varient of the Pannier Tank. The engine found a home after BR withdrawal in 1961 at Keresley Colliery, working trains for the NCB not far from where I live. This 'extra life' allowed 1501 to survive until 1970 when she was purchased by the Severn Valley Railway. She's a lovely old thing...
We walked over the footbridge to watch 7812 head onto the shed and noticed that Bridgnorth yard was alive with engines, from the 'Flying Pig' to the famous "Royal Scot": what a fleet...
I tell you what, the wind was biting today. The sanctuary of our steam heated Great Western coach was very welcome as we boarded ready for Dessert and Coffee on the return run. 1501 would be in charge for the Bridgnorth departure, showing her might on the 6-coach train. The run back was very pleasant, as was the dessert. I will always highly recommend the 'Severn Valley Limited'. Once back at Kidderminster, we wandered (clutching our full stomachs in shame) back along the pathway to the car park, spotting 7802 waiting to leave with the final outward departure of the day. 1501 was spotted in a rushed shot alongside 7802, taken from the car as we were just pulling out...
The last thing to do was to drive home, back along the M42 and the M6 in failing light. It had been a very pleasant day and a lovely meal on the SVR. Its a beautiful railway in a lovely setting with impressive locomotives and wonderfully kept rolling stock: its just great. Many thanks for reading guys - I appreciate it. All the best, Sam...

Saturday, 21 November 2015

"Rood Ashton Hall" Goes To Oxford: Post No100...

"Homeward Bound" (Pic - S.Hassell)
Good evening everyone. Welcome to Post No100 of 2015 and a write-up about "Rood Ashton Hall"s outing to Oxford today. My day began like most; before dawn. In fact, when I arose this morning at around 5am, I looked out of the window and to my horror it was snowing! I know its November now but come on! Having dragged myself out the door and into the car ready for the icy run to Tyseley, there was time for the traditional McDonalds stop on route. I arrived at the site of the former 84E shed at just before 6:30am with, I might add, not a trace of snow on the ground. It was cold though, very cold. Having meandered through the site, I met up with Alastair and we wandered into the sanctuary of the engine shed. At the mouth of the shed, amongst several big names of preservation, stood 4965. The Hall was acting as some old fashioned central heating as the shed was toasty near the simmering engine. At that point I was asked to open the roller door and a hundred mile an hour gale came hurtling in around my knees: hideous. With a pip of the whistle, 4965 moved gracefully outside, leaving the shed in a cloud of steam. Other members of the Support Crew team gradually arrived and set to cleaning, oiling and kitting out "Rood Ashton". As the first of the days light made an appearance, 4965 stood shining outside the shed...
The operating arm of Tyseley is Vintage Trains, who sell tickets on board the excursion trains to fund projects within the collection, such as the overhaul of "Clun Castle". The trips take the engines to a variety of destinations across the country and today 4965 was off to Oxford. The 'normal' route to Oxford from Birmingham would probably be down Hatton Bank but, as thats not very long as such, todays route would take us via Snow Hill before running through Kidderminster down the old 'Worse and Worse' (the Wolverhampton - Worcester) and on to Oxford through the Cotswolds. With a load of 7 coaches plus the GUV (service vehicle) the Hall was to be in good voice, showing her might on Network Rail metals. At just after 8am, the engine is seen on the train steam heating prior to an 0930 departure...
Today was to be an 'insight' for me, to see what the Support Crew gets up to during an average day out with Tyseley. The main task of the support crew is to look after the welfare of the engine. This involves moving coal, helping with watering, oiling, cleaning and making sure she's well for the trip ahead. Naturally, with main line steam, nothing can be left to chance as the slightest delay caused to a normal service train can have serious consequences. All main line steamers these days have to be on top of their game and it is part of the Support Crew's job to ensure this. Today I could help on board the support coach and during station stops though naturally I couldn't alight from the coach at lineside (you need a PTS for that). Anyway, back to the run. 4965 left Tyseley on time, making a good show of the strong climb out of the works. She ran easily through the frosty morning air, picking up more passengers at Snow Hill before slinking through the Birmingham suburbs and out towards Kidderminster, whistling past the SVR at quite a rate. There was a water stop at Worcester, where the water in the tender was gladly replenished.

From Worcester, 4965 seemed to just cruise along and made Oxford on time after a pleasant run through the glory of the Cotswold countryside. With the passengers having alighted for a day in Oxford, the ECS was moved into a nearby loop for stabling. 4965 herself duly departed for Didcot for turning on the main line triangle there, returning to us some time later. The departure from Oxford was just after 5pm and, due to the time of year, took place in complete darkness. The engine was in good voice leaving Oxford, accelerating with ease, throwing white steam over her shoulder. Whistling past Kidderminster once again we spotted the Heavy Freight No2857 waiting to depart on an evening Diner. Next, during an operational stop at Stourbridge Junction, the Support Crew were deployed to throw bags of coal up onto 4965's tender in readiness for the climb up Old Hill. The engine was by no means out of coal but good fresh lumps rather than slack are vital to keeping a 'clean' fire bed whilst climbing hard. We were captured in our work on the platform...
"Crew at Work" (Pic - S.Hassell)
Having got away from Stourbridge and back into her stride, 4965 took on Old Hill bank in fine style. The photograph below goes some way to showing the extent of her efforts...
"Climbing Old Hill Bank" (Pic - A.Edkins)
Having had a good climb of Old Hill despite a speed restriction near the top, the engine seemed to fly back to Snow Hill, arriving right on time. The Saturday evening revellers were nothing short of in awe of the engine and, beer bottles in hand, couldn't seem to believe what they were seeing at eight o'clock on a Saturday night! The engine was photographed at Snow Hill to within an inch of her life before departing sedately, following the path of a service train. Having slinked through Moor Street and out into the industrial backwaters of the city, the locomotive arrived triumphantly home at Tyseley Loco Works. Carrying the "Tillys Birthday Express" headboard, 4965 was about to blow off steam...
Our arrival back at Tyseley was right on time and no sooner had we pulled in than the Class 08 was rudely awakened from her slumbers in order to shunt release "Rood Ashton". Once released, 4965 ran backwards up the yard before sidling down to the turntable. Once turned, the Great Western engine slithered happily back to the shed for disposal after a job well done. It had been a very pleasant day out, taking in the sights and sounds of a steam locomotive doing exactly what she was designed to do. I'm not at Tyseley next weekend but I am hoping to join them on the run to Lincoln on December 5th, running via Nuneaton and Leicester for the Lindum Christmas Fayre. Thanks very much for reading folks and I must thank the guys who have kindly sent in images to be used in this post as there is simply no way to photograph an engine whilst you're tearing along behind one! As a final note on 4965, click here to see a video from YouTube of her rambling through the Cotswolds, or click here to see her climbing Old Hill Bank.

Finally, a quick mention about Post No100 of 2015. The post No100 of 2014 actually appeared on the same weekend last year and so, well, though I haven't beaten myself this year I've actually kept pace! My many thanks go out to the readers who continue to read the dribble that I scrawl on these pages: thank you. Best Regards All, Sam...

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Engines at Rest at Statfold Barn...

Hi all. Today was the occasion of the first annual 'Cleaning Day' at the lovely Statfold Barn Railway. The idea behind this was to bring together the countless volunteers that operate the railway on its open days, and put their efforts to good use cleaning the ever growing fleet of locomotives. The all day event would take place in the sanctuary of the Oak Tree Roundhouse, where most of the collection is now housed. Despite the awful weather outside: a mixture of wind and pouring rain: the engines were kept cosy and dry inside their shed. I arrived at just before 10am, with many cars already parked up in Oak Tree yard. Inside the shed, the ex-Shackerstone contingent were already at work cleaning the big Peckett. Well known late arrival 'Eddie the Late' had been surprisingly punctual today and was busy working away on the Peckett's vacuum piping...
All around the shed, the various members of the fleet were being cleaned up. They were being treated like royalty and were being polished from top to bottom. Having completed the cleaning of "Harrogate", we wandered over to start on the 2ft 6" O & K 0-4-0 No614. From atop the cab roof of 614, we can see the Peckett in the company of "Isibutu" and Hunslet's last steam loco built for export; "Trangkil No4"...
As is traditional with SBR events, lunch was laid on and the terrible trio were eating together. I'm not sure whether or not Ed has anything in his hand but he looks like he's enjoying it. JB on the other hand was stuffing down several Mince Pies, in an attempt to get into the festive spirit!...
After lunch, with the rain still beating hard on the roof, we continued cleaning No614 before moving on again to the ex-Bala Peckett "Triassic". The little Peckett isn't currently steamable but deserved a clean up nonetheless. Elsewhere in the shed, the Fiji pair had been buffed up beautifully and looked a real picture as they await their next outings...
All in all this was a very pleasant little day out. I left the SBR at around 4pm, still in pouring rain. The SBR fleet now look pristine again and I look forward to being out on one of them again in April (hopefully!). Many thanks to the lads today for their company and comedic actions. All the best, Sam...

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Tyseley Shed Day...

Good day all. Well, its Saturday so todays route must have taken me to Tyseley. Today was another volunteering day at the former 84E shed, hidden in the industrial heartland of Birmingham. On my way, there was just enough time to visit a new haunt: the Tyseley Corner Cafe. They do a cracking breakfast cob and, naturally, it was only fair to partake before a day swinging about underneath Great Western engines!...
Stomach replenished and ready for the days work ahead, only a short journey remained before reaching the home of Tyseley Locomotive Works. Once again, maintenance was continuing on the stalwart Castle Class No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe". This 1936-built example has won several heritage railway awards and is regarded as one of preservations most notable performers. It is certainly a pleasure to work with her. Elsewhere in the shed languished immaculate Hall Class 4-6-0 No4965 "Rood Ashton Hall", built at Swindon in 1929...
The Hall is off to Oxford on November 21st, taking the route via Worcester from her Birmingham home. This engine has been a notable performer in recent years and is resplendant in Great Western colours: she's a beautiful loco. Having helped all day with 5043, it was soon time for home and the A45 beckoned for my run back out of the Birmingham suburbs. Another very enjoyable and worthwhile day. All the best guys, Sam...