Monday, 28 March 2016

GCR: Quorn's Easter Vintage Gathering...

Hi all. Today on this very cold Easter Monday I headed over to the Great Central Railway in order to pay a visit to their Vintage Festival, held at Quorn Station. A few of the road steamer blokes I know take their engines over there for this event and so a social visit looked like a good shout. However, when I got up this morning I did debate whether to go or not as a storm had battered the county with rain overnight and it wasn't showing any sign of clearing up. I did set off regardless in the motor, along the M69 and onto the M1 to reach the A46. It wasn't a bad run over, just a bit windy in places. Arrival at Quorn was, as expected, in the rain and it was difficult to choose a place to park in the field where I wouldn't find my German steed sunk to the wheel arches when I returned. After slogging down the field to reach the road and thus the stairway to the island platform, I purchased my entry ticket and walked over to the goods yard. The yard was certainly holding its water and, though it was gone 10am, many engines lay very much dormant under their sheets. A breakfast was called for and luckily the friendly staff at the Butler Henderson cafĂ© could oblige...
One of my readers said the other day that this blog has turned into a bit of a food-fest...quite right! Having enjoyed the very pleasant breakfast and a hot cuppa', I trudged back across the yard to Phil's engine and living van. The stove was lit inside and the atmosphere was pretty tempting for a chat and a warm as the rain lashed down on the roof. Black Five 45305 shortly broke the sound of the rain as she clanked in from Loughborough...
"Through The Living Van Window"
I did venture outside to catch this atmospheric shot of the 5MT about to depart southward for Rothley and Leicester North...
Quite a mixture of road steamers had showed up at Quorn for this weekends gathering and were joined by a variety of other exhibits including classic cars, stationary engines, a steam carousel and some traders. Steam rollers dominated, and some of the gang are spotted here waiting to be brought back into life after a chilly night out in the elements...
The road steamers all seemed to be having their tubes swept before lighting up, as seen here with the Wallis Expansion engine "Pedler", of 1914...
The rain was off and on throughout the morning, though the sun did break through on the odd occasion. Nevertheless, visitors were not put off and the trains in particular seemed pretty busy. I wandered up onto the platform again to see 8F No48624 roll in with Martyn on the handle. This shining eight freight is a nicely kept machine...
A view of the yard from the Quorn platform...
Slowly but surely, engines were coming to life. The largest road steamer on display was the absolutely immaculate Fowler Showman's engine "Renown", built in 1920. The engine was tragically damaged in a fire at her home workshop and had to be restored all over again, featuring on Fred Dibnah's "Made in Britain" at the time. She is beautiful...
As well as the road steamers, the railway engines of the GCR fluttered in and out at regular intervals. The NRM's King Arthur Class 4-6-0 No777 "Sir Lamiel" was doing the rounds...
A steam roller trio, including Teddy Boston's old steam roller "Thistledown"...
"On A Roll"
One steam lorry was in attendance: the Van Houten's Foden...
Another view of "Pedler", who will be joining us at Statfold next month...
Clayton & Shuttleworth "Enterprise" and a rare Armstrong Whitworth roller...
Aveling & Porter "Rosetta" was sporting her recently fitted chime whistle...
The Ransome's traction engine "Jubilee" leads a line-up...
I stayed at the rally until around mid-afternoon before deciding to call it a day. The road steam line-up was most impressive and I found the Quorn Easter Gathering, despite the weather, to be a very relaxed, social and enjoyable event. There were some very nice engines to see of both the road and rail variety. I must thank Phil and the lads for their company today and for the hospitality - oh the beauty of a living van stove! The motor enjoyed a mud bath as it made a few attempts to drag itself out of the field but luckily we made it to the road without having to call for assistance! Cheers all, Sam...

Sunday, 27 March 2016

A Walk Round Kingsbury...

Hi all. During today's blustery Easter Sunday we had decided to head out and have a walk around Kingsbury Water Park. Home of the 7.25" gauge Echills Wood Railway, we were almost bound to see some steam - and we did. We walked along the chilly waters edge in warm sunshine but a biting breeze. Having walked through the wilderness to Far Leys we came past the EWR's top station. The line is double track along here and, having watched an electric Peak depart, a steam whistle was heard. Along the line, rocking from side to side in narrow gauge fashion, came a Tinkerbell 0-4-2. This engine was "Douval"...
We've come across "Douval" many times in the past at both the EWR and Rugby MES' Onley Lane track as he or she has journeyed many miles pulling countless passengers. Driven by her owner, the chunky tank engine chugged past with an articulated rake...
Passing the double mouths of Wren's tunnel, we wandered down towards the wooded area where the footpath crosses the triangle of little tracks. A flying B1 stormed past at such a rate that a snap of it resulted in a BR Black liveried blur and the sun had just picked its moment to go in as "Douval" passed us again. I must have counted at least 6 locomotives out and about - with a 50/50 diesel-steam mix. The EWR is a very nice set-up and, though we didn't ride today, you can read about former exploits here both riding - click here - and driving - click here. Many thanks all, and Happy Easter. Cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Tyseley: A Rainy Day...

Hi everyone. Another day volunteering over in Birmingham at Tyseley Loco Works today. The rain was beating down hard on the shed roof during this bleak Easter Saturday whilst a handful of hardy volunteers worked away inside. It was a steady and humorous day, with progress kept on the move by the provision of plenty of hot cups of tea. Cheers all - Sam...

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Tyseley: The Castle Breathes Again...

Hello all. Today was a very pleasant, if breezy, outing to Tyseley. After an early start away from home, a kind journey along the A45 resulted in a 6:45am arrival at the works. Followers of main line steam with know of the current situation within the industry and thus there are a lot fewer railtours actually operating, not just locally but nationwide, than were originally planned. With that said I won't go any further into the subject but despite this the patiently waiting Castle Class No5043 was out and about today in the Tyseley yard. 1936-built "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" would today be featuring in a program of exclusive Footplate Experience courses on the site of the former 84E. Most of the Tyseley team attending today were on site by 7:00am and it wasn't long before the rudely awakened Class 08 sprung into action to drag the Castle out into the chilly morning air...
The Great Western Castle Class is an arguably magical machine. The naysayers can come out with all the technical jargon their minds harbour but the Castle is a lean, muscular looking engine that achieved great success. The first example of this four-cylinder 4-6-0 appeared in 1923, with their numbers eventually totalling 171. Built as "Barbury Castle", the "Earl" was renamed in 1937 after a director of the Great Western Railway. She remained in service until 1963 before finding herself in the famous Welsh scrapyard at Barry. Ten years later she was saved, in part, by the Tyseley team as a source of spares for her younger sister 7029 "Clun Castle". It looked as though, back then, that the "Earl" would only survive as parts within 7029. However, a reprieve came in 1997 when the decision was made to fully restore 5043 to main line running condition. After a painstaking and very expensive overhaul, the Castle moved under her own power for the first time in preservation in 2008. Since then she has gone on to become a reliable, powerful and record breaking performer and its all thanks to the skills and efforts of the lads who restored her at Tyseley. This morning, the "Earl" looked a picture outside the shed as she was oiled up... 
Having helped oil up the express passenger engine and quenched her thirst with 3000 gallons of water, the locomotive moved carefully out onto the demo line. Clearing the steam circuit of an engine with a 4-row superheater like this one takes time and 5043 took a few steady runs up and down the yard to warm herself through a bit. The engine is spotted on her first 'Foot Ex' trip up the yard, taking things easy at first...
I've included a few images below for your interest. Here, 5043 steams past the slumbering Class 08 that dragged her from her resting place first thing this morning...
The 'Foot Ex' course involved hands on experience on the footplate, with instruction on both driving and firing. Alastair and Dean: both main line firemen: were in charge. Below, the "Earl" pauses at the extremity of the yard ready to reverse back down. At this point the participant was no doubt wrestling with the screw reverser!..
It was a great pleasure to see the "Earl" out and about again. A no doubt jealous 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall" was watching in envy from the gloom of the loco shed as the Castle chugged easily backwards and forwards...
The beautiful Castle Class 4-6-0 sets out on another run...
The participants were certainly enjoying themselves as smiles beamed down from the footplate each time 5043 passed by. The engine is seen here on the barrow crossing ready to set off again for the top of the yard...

This was a very rare chance indeed to enjoy a Footplate Experience aboard a Castle Class 4-6-0, not to mention a double-chimney supersonic, high-speed, top spec, upgraded version! At present the "Earl" is the only operating GWR Castle and is one of only two double chimney engines in preservation: the other is of course Tyseley's pioneer No7029 "Clun Castle". Imagine the day when two double-chimney Castle's size one another up in the yard...I can't wait! The "Earl" was busy for most of the morning whilst myself and a few of the other volunteers busied ourselves with little jobs in and around the loco shed. The Castle was banked up and filled up ready for her lunch break, during which she sat care-free in the platform with the safety valves lightly feathering...
"5043 - A Castle At Rest"
During the afternoon there were various works tours and more footplate outings going on as the "Earl" made sure all of Birmingham knew she was out and about. Her voice was echoing everywhere on this stiff Winter breeze. The event concluded at around 5pm and then a few of us were lucky enough to try out the regulator of the Castle for ourselves: what a machine. It was my first experience driving a 4-cylinder engine and I tell you what, you've got some power there! The Castle was a great thrill to drive and I am still buzzing from the experience. What a day. I left Tyseley at around 6pm for the journey home. Cheers all, Sam...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

"St Egwin": Driving at Evesham...

Evening all. Today was another pleasant little outing, driving at the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. After two days up at Statfold, I was raring to go again this morning as I left home at just after 7am. The run to Evesham is a fairly easy one: through Coventry and down the A46. There was; as readers have no doubt come to expect; the traditional McDonalds stop on route: a must when on the footplate. I arrived at the EVLR's base of Twyford Station at around ten past eight, leaving enough time to enjoy my breakfast whilst admiring the morning sunshine as it rose slowly above the Vale...
The railway's owners: Adrian & Sandra: soon arrived and we all signed in before opening the shed to reveal the engine for the day. Exmoor 0-4-0 No312 "St Egwin" would be my steed for the day and she was soon outside and awaiting preparation...
Being single man operation, you're very much left to it at Evesham. The first job: as per practise: is to check the water level in the boiler - 3/4 of a glass. Then its time to look both in and around the firebox and in the smokebox for any signs of leakage. If everything is OK then its time to break up the remaining ashes from the previous fire and clean the grate. On Evesham engines, the ashpan is then emptied and the footplate swept before lighting the fire. The paraffin-soaked rags were soon roaring away on the shovel before being thrown onto the grate ready for wood to be added...
The wood for todays lighting up was partly soaked in paraffin too and thus it went up like nobody's business. By now, No312 had the compressed air line attached to her smokebox, thus providing a gentle draft to draw the gases from the embryo fire through the tubes and aid their lift skywards via the chimney. Once the fire is crackling away nicely and has taken hold, the coal can be added. The coal aboard "Egwin"s tender was the open cast Welsh stuff from Ffos-y-Fran which we used to use at Shack but when drawing hard we found it had the tendency to melt fire-bars. Here though, it seems to do OK as the draw through the grate is for shorter periods and isn't half so intense. Coal added, with a plume of smoke rising from her chimney, "St Egwin" was soon singing away to herself...
Once the engine is lit and happy, the next job is to set to with the cleaning: Peek for the brasses, Pledge for the paintwork. It was a very pleasant morning on shed today: the birds were singing, the sun was shining and a very enjoyable day was in prospect - it was all just very poetic! Sandra kindly brought me out a welcome cuppa' whilst "Egwin" raised steam and by 10am the 0-4-0 was almost ready for the off...
The final job before leaving shed is to do the oiling and greasing. Exmoor engines were designed with ease of maintenance in mind and thus most of the bearings are roller bearings with grease nipples. There are a few trimmings and oil ways on "Egwin" but not enough to take up a vast amount of time. With a pip on the whistle and a hiss of steam, the 0-4-0 moved gently off her shed road with the sun continuing to shine. Having blown down as normal at the shunt limit, the engine was reversed gently back into Platform 1 road ready to couple up to the waiting 3-coach train...
"First Train Of The Day"
The first train would leave at 10:30am as normal, with only a few passengers aboard. "Egwin" steamed easily out of Twyford with a light, bright fire and it wasn't long before the regulator was shut for the descent towards Evesham Vale. The first two trips were most pleasant and No312 was in good form...
"Egwin Waits With The 11:30 Train at Evesham Vale"
Climbing Twyford Bank with the returning 11:30 train, we see a view of the road ahead and a clear blue sky above...
Loadings were very good today, with the train having to be strengthened to the 4-coach variant just before lunchtime. One departure from Twyford even left slightly early as every seat was full - that certainly made "St Egwin" bark a bit on the stiff climb of Fishers Bank! Though a day on Evesham Vale metals is fairly easy and stress-free, you do seem to be kept on the go! It doesn't seem like two minutes since the previous trip and you're off again with another outing. The day goes by very quickly and "Egwin" is seen below ready to haul the 2:30pm departure from Twyford...
One great pleasantry about the EVLR is the daily provision of tea and cake on the footplate. You arrive back at your gleaming loco having just checked the doors to find this on the engine - most civilised...
Later in the day, with the weather still on our side, "Egwin" climbs towards the top of Twyford Bank with the 3:30pm train, bound for Evesham Vale...
During the short layover at Evesham Vale, a lot of passengers tend to come up and see the engine. The fire is always a great talking point...
"Egwin" was still in good form as she awaited the return of the penultimate train...
The last train of the day on the low season timetable is the 4pm. "Egwin" was watered just before this train, to save doing it when we returned. The tender does hold a surprising amount of water, though I kept it topped up by filling it every three trips...
A quick footplate view of "St Egwin" ready for the final climb home of the day...
Steaming homeward throwing white steam over her shoulder with the final train of the day, "St Egwin" watched as the sun gradually settled lower in the sky. Having been uncoupled and turned after her last run, the engine was returned carefully to the shed. The creaking point-work groaned beneath her as the chunky 0-4-0 backed cautiously onto her shed road with the fire dying slowly. It was then time for disposal and a good clean before I drove No312 the final few feet back into her shed for the night. It had been another most enjoyable outing at Evesham and a pleasure once again to be at the regulator of "St Egwin". Thanks for reading all: Cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Statfold Barn Training Day...

"Out with the Corpet" (Pic - Mark of SBR)
Evening all. Today was the previously mentioned Statfold Barn training day. The training was held in order for members of the loco crew and train staff to come along and see the new track layout at both Statfold Jnc station and the balloon loop. The signalling has also been changed and so familiarisation was necessary for all involved with the working of trains. I arrived at just before 8am to find yesterdays three engines still in the same place on the shed frontage but with fresh fires lit. I immediately set to work oiling up the elderly Corpet 0-6-0 before a briefing took place about an hour later. The team was then walked through the signalling system with an explanation taking place surrounding possible movements. With the walk through complete, we returned to the station area where a short train was marshalled to move everyone to the balloon loop. I joined Will aboard the Corpet which would be tail engine on the way down. We first had to shunt one of the coaches out of the sidings and drag it upgrade into Platform 2 road. "Max" and No19 then coupled on to the new head of the train, providing a consist with three more loco's than coaches!

All set to go, No19 and "Max" took us gently through the new track work and out into the fields. The Corpet sizzled away to herself on the rear of the train, maintaining her needle around the red line with an almost full boiler. Another walk through took place at the balloon loop before the French pannier tank got us underway on the return run. The two red engines just sat there as dead weight as the green 0-6-0 pounded away up the bank. Despite its age, the Corpet is a frightfully strong machine and will do anything asked of it. During our stop at Oak Tree, lunch was taken and many members of the group took the opportunity to look around the roundhouse and to view any progress on Winter restoration tasks. Lunch over and train reloaded, we steamed out of Oak Tree bound for Statfold. The Corpet was in good voice as she romped up the line and into the station limits. The three engines were later used to move the coach back to the roundhouse in another over-powered effort. I was on the Corpet's regulator for this move and enjoyed my little drive. Back at Statfold again, the three engines were disposed of and screwed down in the running shed...
It had been a short but interesting day at Statfold Barn and it will be cool once the new system is put into operation during this season. If you want to visit the SBR to see the new system and of course the new HC "Alpha" that will be released in April, click here to get tickets from the website. For an adults-only enthusiasts day the next one is April 9th but for the first ever family day out in SBR history, you want the exhibit-packed Miniature Steam Rally over April 23rd/24th. Many thanks for reading folks, Sam...

Friday, 11 March 2016

Statfold Barn Steams Again...

Hi there guys. Having left work on the 11am Friday finish, I was on route to Statfold Barn on a fairly stress-free run up the M42. The purpose of the visit was to give Phil a hand with getting the loco's ready to take part in tomorrows training day. The SBR has made pretty serious changes to both the track layout and signalling diagram at the main station and thus a couple of staff training days are in order. With work still ongoing up the top, my destination was the half-way station of Oak Tree Halt. I arrived at just before Midday and found Phil, Mick and Paul in the roundhouse. The elderly Corpet 0-6-0 had just been pulled out and I was immediately set to work lighting the engine up. With a horrifically small pile of wood and some pretty dry rags, I had to think on my feet and create a smouldering pile of coal on the grate. It was basically a warming fire style heap which I had everything crossed for in the hope that it would actually produce some heat! Thankfully it did the job and the 1884-built pannier tank was soon singing away to herself, having been in steam yesterday for her annual exam...
Lautoka No19 (our steed last September) soon joined the Corpet, with 0-6-0 O & K "Max" - formerly Sragi No14 - completing the trio. All three loco's will be taking part in tomorrows training day. For the rest of the afternoon our small group busied itself with steaming the locomotives up and oiling them thoroughly. There wasn't a great deal of activity but it was very nice to see steam again!...
Not long before 5pm, the three engines steamed triumphantly out of Oak Tree bound for Statfold Junction, forming up a kind of miniature cavalcade! Paul led the trio on "Max" whilst I followed at the regulator of No19. Phil completed the line-up with the Corpet and the three steamed cautiously through the new track work. Having successfully meandered our way through the yard and up onto the shed, the three engines were disposed for the night. We'll be back again tomorrow for some training on the new signalling! Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 6 March 2016

16mm Live Steam In The Garden...

Hi all. 16mm is perhaps one of the most popular scales for a garden railway. Modelled on narrow gauge practise at a gauge of 32mm, the scale offers a wide range of locomotives and rolling stock from battery operated to live steam. Today I had kindly been invited along to a steam up at a friends garden railway in the Midlands. I arrived a little before 10am and immediately found myself in awe of this quaint back-yard set up. This garden railway makes its way down either side of the garden, looping around at either end. There is a steeply graded S-bend on the up line, peaking at around 1 in 37, which certainly makes the little engines work. At the foot of the bank, before the forest area, there is a large marshalling yard and preparation area. One of the engines in steam today - "Merus Potentia" - is seen being prepared in the yard (note the traditional tea-pot for the water tanks)...
The trains leave the preparation area and steam around a climbing bend to the left. There is then a 'passing area' (which has three roads) before the line goes back into single track formation for the steepest section of the climb. The summit is heralded by a very clever tunnel which has been fashioned from a cut-away in a large bush. Leaving the tunnel, the engines reach the top of the bank and drop downgrade whilst curving left before passing through the very quaint station area. The gradient then drops more suddenly back towards the preparation yard, thus completing a full circuit. Throughout this mornings antics in the cold wintry gloom, trains were simply whizzing round and round. The station area is seen below: I love the buildings...
The first engine out, whilst the little blue 0-4-2 was raising steam, was a Vale of Rheidol inspired tank. This engine has a pot boiler and thus is externally fired by burners positioned underneath the barrel. The burners are fed by Meths and here is the engine making short work of the steepest section of the climb, hauling passenger stock...
"16mm Live Steam In The Garden"
An engine on display (it would run later on) was 2-8-2 "Don Carlos". Built by the railway's owner and finished in an attractive lined green livery, "Don Carlos" is coal fired, well detailed and even includes a working Klien-Lindner front axle. The original engine was built by Manning Wardle in 1916 and worked in Paraguay. I was very impressed with this beautiful model but it was then pulled to pieces (metaphorically) by its builder. I fear this is a worrying lack of self-confidence as "Don Carlos" was a very impressive little engine that required by far much more skill and knowledge to make than I harbour...
A later view at the steaming area, showing "Merus Potentia" and the Rheidol engine...
Another addition later in the morning was Steve Bell's very impressive Ffestiniog Railway Double-Fairlie. A pot boilered engine once again, this one really wowed me...
The coal-fired 0-4-2 emerges from the tunnel, nearing the top of the climb...
A side-view of the recently painted "Merus Potentia". Note the fire-glow in the ashpan from the roaring coal fire on the grate...
The Double Fairlie is seen in some brief sunshine, hauling a typical Ffestiniog Railway train which includes the traditional Bug-Boxes. She is just arriving back at the preparation area having descended from the country station...
The coal-fired engines are steamed up in a similar manner to that of a 5" gauge example lets say. The fire-grate is first covered with soaked charcoal before an electric blower is used to assist the draw of the embryo fire. With the fire roaring away, (very small) coal is added with a (very small) shovel, as per usual practise. Apart from their small stature, they are the real thing. Here, "Merus Potentia" is stoked up ready for a few more laps hauling a hopper train...
The Rheidol loco was also out and about later on...
In quite a rare move, I took a short video clip. Here is the blue engine storming up the steepest part of the line with the safety valve feathering. I was very surprised at the bark of such a small engine...
Finally, here is a capture of the engine climbing up through the passing loops on her way towards the tunnel. We didn't get much sun, but we did get some...
"A Final Attack On The Bank"
I must admit, I was quite taken with this garden railway. 16mm live steam has everything but the stature. They look right, smell right and sound right - they are lovely things. I must thank my mate for his invitation and for the company of the other operators who had brought engines along to steam. We were also kindly kept warm with good supplies of piping hot tea which is always a must when steaming on a very chilly morning like this. I had to leave at 12:30 to get home as, being Mothers Day, the domestic authorities would not have been pleased with my lateness. However, my visit had been great and the railway is most impressive. In case you haven't guessed - its JB's place. All the best guys, Sam...