Saturday, 31 December 2016

Dropping The Fire - The BIG Review of 2016...

"Sragi Sugar Steam Duo" - Pic by G.Cryer (April)
Hi everyone. As 2016 draws to a close I've sat down to write the review of the year. There have been fires, whistles and mishaps aplenty but all in all it has been a good one. Including this one the blog has managed 91 posts during the year; a figure lower than usual but one that I believe has resulted from the lower frequency of 5" gauge and garden railway posts. It has been a very busy year and so I will just sum up a few of the highlights and of course round off another year at my volunteering locations. To start with, we must go to Tyseley Locomotive Works. A further twelve months volunteering at the former 84E shed has been a real eye-opener. I've learnt a lot and enjoyed it immensely. The engines of Tyseley are always immaculate and a visit to the works on whatever basis is always interesting. You can walk down the shed rotating in awe at the various pieces of engineering excellence just arms length away. I've now joined the Support Crew at Tyseley and in 2016 went to Carnforth to the base of West Coast Railways for my PTS course. In 2017 I hope to do more main line trips with Tyseley's main line operating arm Vintage Trains, helping with 4965 & 5043 to name but two...
"4965 'Rood Ashton Hall' Gets Ready For The Shakespeare Express" (July)
Regular readers will know that the Tyseley railtour posts tend to take a more 'story-like' view of proceedings. A day out with main line steam is always an adventure and taking a beautiful engine like 5043 along the "Welsh Marches" was great. The noise of this four cylinder, double-chimney marvel was immense...
"5043 In The Jewellery Quarter" - Pic by G.Nuttall (August)
Tyseley held open weekends in both June and September. At the June weekend I had a go on both of their resident pannier tanks, spending the Sunday on 9600. During the September do the works welcomed the worlds most famous locomotive - 60103 "Flying Scotsman". I spent the three days of the event on the footplate of 9600 and had a great time. This is a wonderful pannier tank...
"Footplate of 9600" (September)
It was lovely to see the visiting A3 Pacific fresh from overhaul...
"The W7 Peckett Sizes Up To The A3 Pacific" (September)
I look forward immensely to volunteering with Tyseley in 2017. Its always an enlightening experience and until I started attending I didn't realise how much I didn't know about steam engines. Its a great place. Moving on from one great place to another, 2016 saw us once again attending the wonderful Statfold Barn Railway. We did all three of their enthusiasts days as well as attending a training day for the new signalling. The April open day was spent aboard the elderly Krauss 0-4-2 "Sragi No1", a surprising engine with bags of power hidden away. Former Shack companion 'Eddie the Late' was on with me for all three open days this year, much to his bewilderment...
"Crewing Sragi No1 with Edwise" (April)
Two weeks after our pleasant day with the Krauss 74 miniature traction engines and steam lorries descended on Statfold Barn for the railways first 'Miniature Steam Rally'. This came about due to my ever growing list of contacts that I retained from my three events at Market Bosworth. The event went off very well and will be returning as the "Giant Miniature Weekend" over May 6th/7th. This time we hope to welcome over 90 examples of engines in 1.5" - 6" scales as well as many related displays. Its an event that steam enthusiasts of all ages can come along and enjoy as well as being Statfold's only family steam event. The line-up this year looked most impressive...
"Miniature Engines Parade At Statfold" - Pic by M.Ranieri (April)
Following the miniature steam weekend there were two further enthusiasts days - June and September. For the June event myself & Ed were rostered aboard my favourite SBR loco; the 1945-built Tongaat Sugar Bagnall "Isibutu". "Isibutu" is a large 4-4-0 side tank and is a pleasure to drive and fire. We had a great day on the High Level railway and I was actually sad to leave the engine at the end of the day...
"Driving The Bagnall" - Pic by M.Waldron (June)
Eddie: worn out from a week crewing on the Bure Valley: elected to do the firing at the June open day, allowing me sole control of "Isibutu". I must admit I had no complaints over this! I wouldn't complain if every day on any engine was on "Isibutu"...
"Eddie Bangs In Another Round" (June)
I'm already looking forward to the three Statfold events of 2017 and of course the additional "Giant Miniature Weekend" which is already well in the planning stages, more so than that I would say actually. Also in 2016 I did 5 turns at the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. This railway always offers a pleasant day on the footplate and I've driven all three of the EVLR residents this season...
"No312 'St Egwin' Simmers At Twyford" (March)
Later in the year I had a very wet day aboard the wonderful 0-6-2 "Dougal"...
"The Rain Falls For 'Dougal' At Twyford" (October)
As I say the EVLR is always a pleasant and stress-free experience and I'm grateful to Adrian & Sandra for their continued hospitality. Moving on to things I didn't expect. I certainly didn't expect to be driving and firing the NRM's T9 4-4-0 at The Battlefield Line this year. Regular readers will know that I did finish there in September last year but have now returned to help with the odd turn here and there. During December I had two very pleasant turns aboard this Southern veteran, with JB & David respectively...
"The T9 Slows For The Hedley's Slack" - Pic by A.Weaver (December)
I suppose we should now move onto the almost forgotten small engines and CMES. I've only attended Ryton Pools a mere couple of times in 2016, mainly due to time and other railway related commitments. Both the Maisie and "Achilles" have only been out once or twice each this year, with the former going to the Midlands show in October. Since then neither have turned a wheel but I do hope to have them out during 2017. I never seem to have a lot of time spare but as I read back through my own blog I tend to see why! I did take "Achilles" to Ryton for the July steam day...
"The Ryton Double-Header" - Pic by D.Strapps (June)
As I say I hope to take the engines out a few times in 2017. As I write "Achilles" is out of ticket, has been since about a week after the above picture was taken! My laziness is unforgivable and I should sort the engine out. She's fine and ready to go, just needs testing. The Maisie is in ticket and is also just waiting for a chance. We'll see. Finally, as there is nothing to say about either the LEGO set-up or the 00 gauge garden railway, we'll move on to Days Out. I've managed quite a few little outings in between everything else this year including the following (pictures and captions only). 

The Churnet Valley Railway Steam Gala back in February...
A sunny ride behind Pannier Tank No6412 on the picturesque South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh back in May...
A pleasant day meandering through the countryside aboard Phil's immaculate Aveling & Porter F-Type steam roller "Louise" (June)...
A Spring visit to the 2ft gauge Amerton Railway where I was kindly invited aboard their Bagnall saddle tank "Isabel" for a couple of footplate trips...
In July myself and JB were asked to crew Statfold's vertical-boilered 0-4-0 "Howard" at the Welland Steam Rally. We duly accepted and had a great day...
In August myself and Maisie had a nice weekend away in Yorkshire and visited the North Yorkshire Moors Railway at Grosmont. This was a great line and we also had a very pleasant evening out on the "Grosmont Pullman" dining train...
September saw me taking a short visit to the Chasewater Railway where I was kindly invited aboard the visiting Andrew Barclay "Rosyth" for a footplate trip...
The final highlight was our annual November visit to the Severn Valley Railway for our trip on their fabulous dining train. Another very pleasant outing...
As well as the above highlights there were visits to the Northampton & Lamport Railway, the National Railway Museum, Apedale and a few others. Its been another great but busy year and I must thank everyone involved. I must also thank the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in these posts throughout the year as well as of course thanking YOU, the reader, who keeps on trawling through this mindless dribble I keep writing year in, year out! Thank you. Well, with the review pretty much complete, all that remains for me to say is that I wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope that 2017 brings you everything you want. May your coal bunkers be full, your steam plentiful and your steeds in tip top condition. All the best everyone, many thanks, Sam...

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Frosty Greyhound Day - Shackerstone's Mince Pie Specials...

"T9 Departing Market Bosworth" (Pic - A.Weaver)
Hi all. Today I was rostered aboard the NRM's T9 4-4-0 once again, this time with former footplate companion David. It was a very pleasant day all told and in this word-heavy post you'll come to learn about most of the goings on. I awoke from my short slumber this morning at around 5am, dragging myself down the stairs with the knowledge of a thick frost outside. Once in the car there was the now traditional McDonalds stop before continuing through the wintry landscape towards Shackerstone. The temperature was in the minus' this morning and as I crept down the Fen Lane's there was an eerie layer of fog drifting lethargically across the tops of the frozen hedgerows. Through the fog came the sight of the Gibbet post, erected in 1801. That year, local man John Massey was convicted of murdering his wife and was hung before his body was displayed for 18 years at the site. To this day the name of the road keeps this story alive. Arriving at the foggy gates of Shackerstone Station, I waited in the car for a while due to the extremely cold weather outside. David soon arrived and we headed up the dark driveway in convoy. After unloading the cars, signing in and stumbling blurry-eyed down to the shed, the telling warmth emanating from our elderly steed was a welcome relief. 

Up in the cab, the T9 was showing 2/3 of a glass of water, 20psi on the clock and a clean grate; save for the last embers of last night's warming fire glowing around the back corners. After throwing a good covering of coal across the firebars and having carried out all of the necessary checks, satisfying myself that the boiler was safe to light, I broke up some pallet wood before lighting the fire. The warmth at the chimney immediately provided a good draw and the paraffin-soaked rags were soon blazing away...
After throwing the lit rags into the firebox at the back of the grate, more wood was added to provide a 'camp fire' effect. The old phrase "you've got to have something to bite on" is always a factor here. The wood is often stacked at angles, allowing the all important air flow to circulate around it and for the flames to take hold. Once you have a good heat coming from your wood fire, you can add the coal and then allow the engine to get on with it. During preparation, unless something has gone wrong, there is often time to bring the fire up slowly, spreading it at regular intervals until a full fire is achieved. The slower you can bring the engine round the better it is for her, though time is also at the back of the mind. Whilst I tended to the fire, David was busying himself around the old engine with his oil cans. The T9 carries the typical Stephenson's valve gear with pretty much everything on the inside. With the fire crackling away, the engine started to sing...
It was very cold this morning (the car had read -5 on the way up) and with this in mind I decided to light the rarest of fires - the water tower brazier. I've only seen this lit a handful of times but with the thick frost in mind I decided to light it up to save any issues later on. Jason soon arrived and we began a big shunting operation with the 04 class diesel shunter providing the motive power. I worked the signalbox whilst Jason scurried about the yard on the diesel, shifting frozen coaches and wagons. Even with the signalbox stove lit the windows were still frosted shut! The shunting was complete at just before 10am and so I returned to David and the T9. Luckily the signalbox is close enough to the shed to make regular checks. Whilst David stowed his oil cans, I backed the T9 out of the shed. Condensation from the drain cocks filled the air as the ageing 4-4-0 backed gracefully outside. Moving a 'cold' engine for the first time is often done on their terms. The regulator is opened carefully, until you feel the steam flowing through. Initially you may not see any sign of it or feel the engine move. This slow motion allows steam to gently fill the steam circuit, helping any condensed water on its way. She will soon start hissing away until the pressure being mounted forces out the majority of the water. She may need pushing a little more but being as gentle as possible to get her on the move often gets results. There is no sense in hurrying these initial moves. Once secured, we gave her a clean...
The 1899-built LSWR 4-4-0 looked a picture on this frosty Winter morning...
With the ground frame (No11) open and permission from the Signalman, I took the engine down through Platform 1 for coaling at the North End. Jason kindly did the honours with the JCB, once he had managed to persuade it to start. The machinery in the North End was happily hibernating and only the T9 looked ready for action...
"The Greyhound Simmers In The North End"
By the time coaling was complete we had 3/4 of a glass of water, 160psi on the clock and a light, bright fire. The sun was even starting to shine as the clouds cleared to reveal a beautiful blue sky. I then took the T9 over onto the water column, which was now a little warmer having had the fire lit under it. With the large water-cart tender now full, I backed the engine down onto the waiting 4-coach train. A liberal helping of steam heat was definitely required as the windows of the coaches were frosted up on the inside! With the engine safely on the train and heating, the first vacuum test of the day was performed. Using the ejector, the brakes are pulled up to the usual working value of 21 inches and the Guard will use the dropper in the van to prove continuity. We then awaited the "Right Away" with our now slightly late 11am departure...
"At The Drivers Window" (Pic - M.Tattam)
David asked if I would like to take the first trip - I was quite happy to. With the green flag and a whistle received, the T9 pulled gingerly forward. Caution is required with this old gal' to get her on the move. Four coaches is hardly an issue for her, but 6ft 7" wheels attached to 19" cylinders certainly gives you some power - and quickly! Once through the slack up to Barton Bridge, I gave the T9 a bit more as the wet at the chimney (common on a cold engine) began to clear. You can hear the change in the exhaust; it will sound less duff (for want of a better word) as the engine warms up. Heading out towards Congerstone I pulled the steam reverser up and pushed the regulator across. This old engine is a beautiful thing. The power is there, the noise is there, the steam is (a lot of the time!) there - its lovely. David had the old 4-4-0 singing to him as we strode out towards Hedley's. Driving the thing is brilliant - a joy. As I looked out forwards from the Drivers side I could feel the thing walking away and as I looked across the fields she threw her white exhaust into the crisp Winter sky. After a short pause at Market Bosworth, we carried on...
"Leaving Bosworth With The First Train" (Pic - A.Weaver)
Dropping down towards the site of Richard III's 1485 defeat by Henry Tudor, the T9 was simmering nicely. Having run round the train and coupled back on, we had a pleasant run northward. The T9 was doing exactly what we wanted. It was nice also to see the Collyer clan out and about photographing at Hedley's as we scurried steadily through the slack. We were late coming into Shack and so it was pretty much time for the 12:30 departure once we'd managed to get the engine round again...
David was on the handle for the 12:30 run and took us easily out of Shackerstone. I meanwhile was busy with the fire. I find that the T9 responds well to a strong back-end but doesn't tend to eat that away anywhere near as much as the front. The forward section of the grate, particularly near the front tubeplate, certainly likes its coal and as long as you keep that covered you've got steam to spare all day long. Naturally the Midland metals of the Battlefield Line can hardly be classed as steep and four coaches on this 19" Southern veteran could hardly be classed as heavy but steam is steam! After a nice run, it wasn't long before we were dropping down towards Shenton Lane bridge...
David is seen here applying the vacuum brake as we approach a speed restriction at Ambion Lane bridge. This Dreadnought ejector is beautiful to work - one of the best ejectors that steam engines carried in my opinion...
As we pulled into a sunlit Shenton we were photographed once again...
"30120 Arrives at Shenton" (Pic - M.Tattam)
Its amazing just how many people have come out for the T9. Her usual residence in Cornwall has made a lot of local folk pay her a visit during her foray to the Midlands. Once uncoupled, we ran the T9 round and back onto the rear of the train...
"Awaiting Departure With The 13:05 Ex-Shenton"
The returning second trip was very pleasant. We steamed through the wintry countryside, enjoying the sight and sound of our steed beneath our feet. Strolling through the Leicestershire fields on this Drummond beauty is very nice. The engine steamed well during our return to Shackerstone, where we arrived with a little time to spare before our 2pm departure southward. I finally managed to grab a cuppa' this trip (I was getting withdrawals!) before returning to the footplate to make up the fire. Soon enough we were sailing through the leafless trees towards Carlton once more...
Driver's often shut-off steam just after Airport Bridge and David is seen here adjusting the steam reverser having closed the regulator. Being a large slide valve engine, the drift position (for coasting) is full gear (75% cut-off if you will). When the steam supply is removed from the chest, the valves will often fall away from the faces slightly. Running in the full gear position with steam off lengthens the life of the valves and they won't rattle around so much - its good practise. Piston valve engines often drift at between 25% and 40% cut-off, depending on the machine and a lot of the time the owners instructions. The steam reverser on 30120 is lovely to use...
We soon arrived once again at a frosty Shenton Station. Passengers were creeping cautiously across the slippery boarded crossing, often clinging to each other for support. Its always humorous to see people so wrapped up on these cold days - myself & David were baking whilst caring for the needs of the Greyhound...
"A T9 At Shenton" (Pic - A.Williamson)
The third run round at Shenton seemed fairly quick and busy and so I didn't get chance to make the fire up until a few moments before departure. Normally I like to have the bed burning well by then, saving any unnecessary smoke gliding skyward from the chimney. However, as we pulled tender first out of the platform and up the bank I noticed a photographer over the way. I remember remarking to David that "he'll get a good shot with that exhaust"...I was right of course...
"A Thick Exhaust" (Pic - G.Nuttall)
I quite like that shot, captured as I look back at the exhaust bellowing from the chimney. The engine eased up the bank with the pressure needle around the 150psi mark as the old T9 got to grips with the fresh coal. However, nearing Bosworth we were back up on the red line and ready for the final section back to Shack...
Steaming through Hedley's the shadow of the Greyhound was captured...
David then whistled up for the second crossing where the farm track meets us...
There is currently a 10mph speed restriction here as some recently renewed track is being allowed to settle prior to tamping. The T9 would then accelerate away...
During the final layover at Shackerstone we were finally back ahead of time and the T9 enjoyed a quick break at the north end of Platform 1...
"The NRM's 1899-Built LSWR T9 4-4-0 No30120" (Pic - A.Williamson)
The last trip of the day prepared for departure in the last of the days sunlight. We could not have asked for a better day in terms of weather. The sun was shining, the air was crisp and the sky was blue - a far cry from the rain of the other week! As the light faded it was time to light the paraffin wicks in the lamps. Midland lamps aren't really at home on a Southern engine but they seem to fit the engines appearance quite well...
I was driving for the final train, whilst David did the firing. We left Shackerstone with the drains roaring away, expelling the condensate from the steam chests. I had been asked by a chap at Shackerstone to try to create some kind of exhaust on the downgrade section into Shenton. I did wonder how to do this as the T9 would simply race away on the downhill stretch but in the end, by rolling in slowly, a quick application of the large ejector provided the necessary steam trail. The resulting image is below. I think its a great shot. David can just be seen in the gap between engine and tender...
"Glow Of A Greyhound" (Pic - G.Nuttall)
After a final run round at Shenton we coupled the engine back onto the stock. I threw a few rounds in the box for David whilst the Guard made his final checks...
"The Fire Glows As The T9 Prepares For Departure"
Leaving Shenton on the last train of the day the T9 made her voice known as she chuffed into the evening dew. I've always believed the Battlefield Line to be a pretty route, particularly on the Shenton Bank and Hedley's sections. In the fading light of this winters day, the farm cottages and green fields were decorated with a glistening covering of frost, brought into colour by the last rays of sun. It was a very nice last trip. Arriving back at Shackerstone we swiftly uncoupled the engine before I drove her back up into the shed. Pulling up nicely over the pit, the engine was screwed down and scotched. The disposal procedure then began - deaden the fire, fill the boiler, isolate everything etc. With that another day on the footplate was complete and what a pleasant experience. I must thank David for a very nice day and thank you all for reading once again. Finally I must thank the various photographers who have sent in images for use in this post - thank you. The T9 is a beautiful thing, a masterpiece of Drummond engineering. Naturally it does have its quirks and it has done a fair amount of work but all in all its a sumptuous piece of equipment and a joy to drive and fire. Lovely. All the best, Sam...

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Mamod SR1A - A Steam Toy Isn't Just For Christmas...

Hi all. This Autumn, as the darker nights drew in, I surprisingly found myself working on a Mamod SR1A - the company's first and arguably most recognisable mobile steam toy. My Auntie had asked me to source one for my Uncle as a Christmas present and so, after scouring the net for one, the little roller arrived some time late in September. The first task was to test steam it to see if it actually worked. Mamod engines are numerous and, being toys, a lot of them have had hard lives. This one wasn't too bad. Its paint was chipped, rust was forming and steam was leaking from most places it could leak from but that's normal for an engine of these years. A spirit-fired SR1A like this is pre-1976 as during that year the company introduced solid fuel burners. This one has no sight glass either as they didn't come along until 1978 and so it has the simple 'boiler plug' arrangement. The only 'unfortunate' damage was a broken rivet beneath the smokebox, causing the boiler and smokebox to look out of square. The broken rivet was actually the main support rivet, probably broken during a drop or some severe playing! Happily, the engine steamed up well and ticked over in high-speed Mamod fashion. I'm glad it worked - that was one hurdle overcome...
"Before The Roller's Little Makeover"
To make the engine look presentable as a gift, I felt it necessary to heavily degrease it and polish it. The boiler barrel was also scored and marked in places where the paintwork had been damaged and so a repaint of the engine bracket and boiler was on the cards too. To take a Mamod apart is fairly easy - they are fastened with either soft solder or pop rivets, depending on which part of it you're looking at. To remove the rivets, you can either drill them out or, if your paintwork is tired, just bash them off with a screwdriver. Pop rivets are brittle once in position, hence the broken one under the smokebox, so I can't see any harm coming to the engine by doing this. Once the head of the rivet has snapped off, the rest of the body will just push through and the engine will come apart. The boiler for the SR1A was painted into as near to the original Mamod green as we could mix, whilst the smokebox was removed and the firebox masked up. As soon as the painting was done I reattached the smokebox to protect the fragile copper exhaust pipes which are supported by the engine's chimney...
The firebox cowling on Mamods is usually a polished metal surface but after 40 years being fired it had discoloured heavily. Likewise the copper pipes for both the steam feed and the exhaust ports had tarnished badly. All of the bright-work took time to polish up but it did look really good in comparison to when it arrived. A liberal application of Peek shined up the brass and the cowling, making the engine look a lot newer...
With the boiler and firebox all polished up, the wheels were refitted following degreasing, as were the front rolls. The oscillating cylinder and crank were then refitted and the whistle refitted and sealed. The resulting engine looked much smarter when I test steamed it during the cold month of November...
Once the engine had been test steamed and had successfully rolled around the workshop for a while, it was cleaned down and allowed to cool. Fresh paint doesn't like being polished when hot - it will come off, believe me! The engine was then shined up ready for the box and as a final touch I added two very nice little brass boiler bands. I'm very pleased with the resulting attractive little engine. I do have parts lying around to make one up for my own little collection so watch this space. I quite fancy one sitting on the shelf with the other two toy steamers I have...
"Final Result - A Nice Christmas Gift"
So there you go folks - a pretty random post for this blog I'll admit but it was something that I did during the latter months of the year. I quite enjoyed doing this one to be honest - its a sweet little machine; very twee. The engine was then boxed up for Christmas and has since been presented to her new owner, who is very pleased with her. Its been around the kitchen a few times being put through its paces so it was a relief that it still worked! The final image in this post is of my own Mamod - an SW1 Steam Wagon. I did steam it a few months ago and it dragged itself breathlessly round the dining room a couple of times. The SW1 carries the same running gear and boiler as the elder SR1A but unfortunately carries a lot more weight and so isn't as agile as the little steam roller. I love this model though...
Thanks for reading and I hope this little insight into the ever popular world of toy steam has been interesting. You can get your own Mamod from the internet for not too much money, particularly if its a second hand example. They're simple, fun and quirky and it isn't too hard to turn one around into a nice looking model again. Its mainly cleaning, painting and polishing - Mamod has already done the groundwork and produced a hard wearing, long lasting engine. (PS - I'm 25 today - I'm old!). Cheers all, Sam...