Sunday, 22 May 2016

Evesham Vale Light Railway...

Hi all. Today was another very pleasant day driving steam on behalf of the Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. I arrived at the headquarters of the 15" gauge line at around 8:15am and duly changed into my overalls for the day ahead. Having met up with owners Adrian & Sandra before signing in, I noticed the familiar number '312' written next to todays date. No312 is the big Exmoor 0-4-0 tender engine "St Egwin". Having opened up "Egwin"s shed and released the loco brake, I pushed the snoozing 0-4-0 outside into the warm morning air. Preparations were then made to get the engine ready for service. Having cleaned the grate and emptied the ashpan, it was time to check the firebox (tubeplate, tubes, fusibles, stays etc) and the smokebox (tubes, fittings, plugs, door seal) before lighting an embryo fire. The air line was duly attached to the smokebox in order to aid the drawing of the hot gases through the boiler in order to encourage the creation of steam. Coal was soon added on top of a crackling pile of wood before the fire was left to take hold at its own accord. "Egwin"s owner Steve was on hand this morning and the pair of us duly set about cleaning the engine. EVLR engines are kept to high standards of cleanliness and by 10:00am the 0-4-0 stood gleaming on the shed frontage...
The final job before leaving shed is to do the oiling and greasing. "Egwin" has 6 wick feed pots, with the other oiling points being oil holes. The bearings on the main rods are all roller bearings and are greased daily, as are the axleboxes on both the engine and tender, though they are only done every 6 months: easy! With 130psi on the clock and water being fiercely expelled from her drain cocks, No312 moved cautiously off shed as the moaning point work growled beneath her. Once out at the mouth of the yard, the engine was blown down 1/2 a glass in the usual fashion. It was then time to back down onto the waiting 3-coach train in readiness for the approaching 10:30am departure for Evesham Vale...
The first train of the day is always a steady one; finding the feel of an engine and railway that you haven't driven for a few weeks or even months! "Egwin" steamed easily up and over the showground crossing before descending the bank towards the balloon loop. By now the fire had woken up and a plume of smoke was drifting across the adjacent fields. Having enjoyed a pleasant first trip, it wasn't long before we were off again with the well loaded 11:00am train. "Egwin" is spotted on this trip having a breather at Evesham Vale...
The railway uses Welsh Steam Coal from the open cast mine at Ffos Y Fran and in fireboxes this size, taking into account the daily workload, it seems to burn fine. You get the heat when you want it but not too much smoke. I remember when it was used at Shack it had the tendency to burn firebars when under intense draw for long periods but here at Evesham the reduced primary air and lighter trains obviously lessens the burn...
"Fire In The Hole"
"St Egwin" was in fine form as usual and took little coaxing to do the job. She was quite happy. Her pressure needle gently hugged the red line for most of the day and her reliable injectors proved no trouble. The engine is a pleasure to drive and simply does what you want. Despite the strong gradients on the EVLR, "Egwin" is perfectly capable of the task in hand...
Days on the footplate at the EVLR go surprisingly quickly. There isn't a vast amount of time to do a lot between trips and so I just grab the occasional snap when I can. The intensity of the service certainly makes the time pass: you don't know if you're coming or going! The engine is spotted here waiting to depart Twyford on a later train, with the rake having been strengthened to four coaches...
I've included a shot below of the cab layout on "St Egwin", for interest. The regulator is fairly obvious with the pole reverser on the left, above which is the air brake valve which serves both loco and train, depending on the consist. The three gauges on the spectacle plate include the pressure gauge, a redundant vacuum gauge and the steam chest pressure gauge - the latter being quite a novelty on a little engine! The cab is very workable on No312 and everything is under your hand. Its an altogether pleasant engine to be out with...
Climbing the fairly strong grade of Fishers Bank on an afternoon working...
One of the trips today involved working the 'wrong way' around the balloon loop. This proved fairly interesting as the gradients are of course completely opposite. The climb up and through the tunnel was fairly vocal to say the least! "Egwin" is spotted here waiting to depart Evesham Vale in the opposite direction...
During each run round at Twyford, EVLR engines are turned on the turntable; much to the delight of onlookers. The honours of the Guard's duties went to Matt today and he is spotted here as "St Egwin" is turned in readiness for an afternoon departure...
By the 2pm trip it was time to grab some snap. I went into the Mess Room and made myself a nice hot cuppa' whilst the Exmoor 0-4-0 simmered gently outside...
Stomach replenished, "Egwin" was ready for the 2pm train. Loadings were strong today, with most of the 'peak time' trains running at almost full, if not full, capacity...
By the time the 3pm train rolled around it was time for the traditional EVLR tea and cake: a favourite of mine I must say! A special delivery always appears on the footplate at this time of day. Its surprising how small gestures like this can make such a difference, though I better not let Mum know about this otherwise she'll probably apply for driving herself...
Cake scoffed, it was time to chug gently out of Twyford with the 3pm train. "Egwin" was still in good form, happily chomping at the banks and staying neatly on the boil. There were no stresses today, even with well loaded 4-coach trains. The Exmoor engines are certainly robust and powerful! The engine is spotted at Evesham Vale towards the end of the day...
"A Very Photogenic Engine"
Its a good little chuff out of the station here; upgrade and homeward bound...
Our final train would be the 4pm as the diesel would haul the final train at 4:30pm. I decided to jump off the engine at the turntable just prior to our last trip in order to capture her being turned. This was due to memory telling me that there wasn't such a picture in the records!...
After a very pleasant 4pm trip, with "Egwin" being 'run down' ready for disposal, it wasn't long before No312 found herself back on the shed. The fire was deadened, the boiler filled, the tubes swept and the ashpan emptied. The engine was then given a jolly good clean after a successful day on EVLR metals. Its a very nice machine...
"Duties Done. Disposal On The Shed"
With only embers remaining on the grate and 50psi left on the clock, I carefully drove "St Egwin" back into her shed after a nice day out. The Exmoor 0-4-0 hissed gracefully backwards, expelling the final breaths of steam from her drains. The engine was then secured, checked and left. It had been a great day and it was also a pleasure to be on with Steve as this means that I am now officially an EVLR Driver: test passed, job done...another driving ticket on another railway. Its been a pleasure being involved with EVLR and doing that little bit of driving now & again. The locomotives are well kept, the staff are very friendly and the whole outfit is just stress-free and enjoyable, unlike others we could perhaps mention! I must thank Adrian, Sandra & Steve for giving me the opportunity and, as always, thanks for reading guys. So, I have (its had now I guess!) a Steam Driving Ticket for Shack, I have one for Statfold and I now have one for Evesham. All the best, Sam...

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Tyseley: Saturday Volunteering...

Hi there guys. A usual Saturday spent at Tyseley today. There was a lot going on: the Duke lads were in, the chaps from the Princess were there and of course a small group of us were volunteering on behalf of the Tyseley Collection. It was a very interesting little day spent in the company of the ever coming together 7029 "Clun Castle". For the guys at Tyseley, this has no doubt been a long and painstaking restoration but lets hope that one day soon we can see 7029 operating again. I left the former 84E at around 6pm. All the best, Sam...

Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Amerton Railway...

Hi guys. Well, here is another first visit: this time to the 2ft gauge Amerton Railway in Staffordshire. Having left Apedale, it took around 30 minutes to drive over to Amerton. The line consists of a mile of track around farmland, with track in place for a continuous circuit. Trains depart Amerton station at regular intervals and make their leisurely way around this picturesque little railway. The jewel in Amerton's crown has always been "Isabel"; their beautiful 0-4-0 Bagnall of 1897. I had asked earlier in the week if she would be out today and they said that the likelihood was yes she would. Upon my arrival at just gone 1:30pm, a loud whistle was heard on the breeze and the little engine appeared...
"Isabel" steamed happily into her home station and was soon screwed down awaiting passengers. This is a lovely engine, perfect for a line like this. The engine was pulling her typical 3-coach train plus a Guard's van and stood shining in the afternoon sun...
Almost 110 years old, "Isabel" carries the unusual Baguley Patent valve gear; an odd set-up whereby a third con rod is fitted on the driving crank so as to provide the throw for the expansion link. I'll let you have a look at it...
I got chatting to Driver Malcolm and Fireman Luke and they seemed quite happy to enthuse about their engine. I mentioned that the reason for my visit was almost solely to see the Bagnall and to my surprise I was invited up onto the footplate for a ride around the field. The chunky 0-4-0 was like an open-top sports car on a day like today!...
"On The Footplate of Bagnall 'Isabel' - Built 1897"
I was very impressed with this pretty little run. "Isabel" made her steady way around curves, across brooks and through creaking point work, passing green fields and frightening away playful lambs in the adjacent pens. Soon enough she was back at the station awaiting more passengers. Loadings seemed steady but sure...
Much to my amazement and enjoyment, I was invited out for a second trip and duly accepted the offer. "Isabel" sat happily at 100psi all the way round, with Luke on the regulator and Malcolm enjoying the scenery on the fireman's side. It was all very pleasant aboard the elderly Bagnall...
Now for a bit of "Isabel" history. She was built at the firm's Stafford works in 1897 and sent new to Cliffe Hill Quarry in Leicestershire. Her name is taken from one of the quarry owner's daughters. In her younger years she hauled trains of granite, day in and day out, on the quarry's mainline, before becoming a shunting engine as she got older. Retired in 1946, the 0-4-0 was laid up but a reprieve came when Bagnall's (still in business!) came looking for a display engine. In 1953 she was restored by the apprentices of Bagnall's and found herself on a plinth outside the works. When English Electric took over Bagnall's in 1961, "Isabel" was removed from the works but by the Stafford Railway Circle, who had the engine put on a plinth just opposite Stafford Railway Station. She was removed from there briefly in 1977 for another cosmetic restoration by former apprentices of Bagnall's, now GEC. The engine was then returned to her display spot at the station. By the early 1980s however the metalwork on the engine had deteriorated badly and she was removed in 1983. After several dealings with the council, the engine arrived at Amerton in 1991 and hauled her first passenger services a year later, in 1992. The locomotive has since become a firm favourite at Amerton and, as they so remarked, is "very special to them".

Malcolm duly showed me around the running shed and workshop. Amerton is home to five locomotives: two of which are operational. The other operational engine, besides "Isabel", is "Jennie": a new-build Wren of 2008. This engine was built brand new at Statfold...
In the workshop, the other Wren ("Lorna Doone" of 1922) is under overhaul...
After a tour of the impressive workshop, it was time for Malcolm to get back on the regulator and take "Isabel" around the circuit with the 2:30pm trip...
Away she goes, off around the fields she calls home...
"The 2:30pm Depature Behind 'Isabel' - 1897 Bagnall"
I had a look in the shop before heading over towards the bridge across the brook, just on the station approach. "Isabel" arrived back a little while later...
"The Bagnall On The Brook"
The little green 0-4-0 steamed gently past me as I took in a final view of "Isabel" of Amerton. This railway has a real rustic kind of charm and is completely entwined with the farm it traverses...
What a lovely little railway and a pleasant little visit. I'm glad to have finally seen "Isabel" and of course to have taken two trips on her footplate. I was quite taken with Amerton. You can tell by talking to the guys there that they have real passion for what they do and that they care very much for their beloved Bagnall. Even the signs on the way in state, "Amerton - Home of Isabel"...and rightly so! My thanks must go to Driver Malcolm and Fireman Luke for being so welcoming and for letting me aboard their engine. It was a very nice visit and if you haven't been to Amerton, you should go along for a ride. Their website is here. Many thanks indeed for reading folks: a nice narrow gauge day out. Cheers, Sam...

Apedale: Tracks To The Trenches...

Hi all. Today I was out and about in search of steam. My first destination was Apedale; not too far from Newcastle-under-Lyme. The Moseley Railway Trust is based here and has a surprisingly extensive collection of 2ft gauge locomotives and rolling stock. This weekend saw the popular "Tracks To The Trenches" event on offer and a gala-style service would be in operation alongside countless displays related to the First World War. The event showcased several WW1 exhibits, both static and live action. There were horses and carts, period vehicles, re-enactors galore, trench displays, shooting demonstrations, the narrow gauge railway and several other stalls and show pieces. The 2ft gauge running line is now complimented by a Field Railway, which goes off into grassland via the point work in the yard. This additional track layout shows just how a front line service railway would have operated: lightly laid and ready for anything! I arrived at Apedale after a good run up the M6 by around 10:30am. Several cars were already queuing for a space, with many eager visitors stomping up the drive towards the station. This was of course a first visit for me and I was very much finding my own way. The first engine I saw was a visiting Joffre; one of six steam locomotives in action on the line today...
This chunky little 0-6-0: also named "Joffre": is usually based at the West Lancs Light Railway. I particularly liked the addition of the oversize tea can on the warming tray...
The Joffre class 0-6-0s were designed and built by Kerr Stuart for dispatch overseas for use on French artillery railways. This makes the type an important exhibit at an event like this. The engine had just been uncoupled from a passenger train when I turned up and she duly moved forward ready to run round. The engine sidled steadily backwards, passing another 0-6-0; this time the resident Hudswell Clarke, No1238 of 1916...
Having purchased my event ticket: which included a trip on the railway: I wandered into the event area. Almost immediately, another Joffre crossed my path on its way to the field railway. There were all sorts of movements going on today from light engine workings to wagon pulls and shunting...
Vintage cars were on display, as well as this lovely Foden Steam Wagon...
Visitors could also enjoy a tour of a trench set-up...
Its very hard to convey in words just how much was going on. There were indoor stalls including 16mm, army clothing traders and society stands whilst outside there were horses moving around, shots being fired, re-enactors all over the place etc. It really was a method of atmosphere and was most impressive to see. The little black Hudswell Clarke (No1238) was a nice thing to look at. It was repatriated from Ghana in 2008 where it had led a harsh existence. During a storm in 1952, the engine fell into a river, killing its driver. It was rescued around 40 years later and sat on display for another 10 years or more before being brought home to the UK. The engine was lovingly restored and returned to steam in 2014. It was a real mammoth project: one of those that perhaps some would have said; "no way!"...
Just over the way, a sister to No1238 stood simmering happily in the sun, with Martyn in command. GP39 is of course a Statfold Barn loco and was visiting the event to be paired with its sister. Ed has always referred to these Hudswell's as "malnourished" engines due to their very slender appearance. I think I agree...
Having had a chat with SBR Driver (and driver on most railways to be honest!) Martyn, I wandered back over to the Apedale station to try and catch a ride on the train. Having taken my seat, I thought that the West Lanc's Joffre was going to be doing the work and so prepared to tick another engine off...
Allas, it was not to be and in fact GP39 did the honours on the outward trip, with sister No1238 pulling the return. No matter, its all steam! The running line at Apedale is fairly short, departing the station before dropping downgrade past the engine shed and slowing to negotiate some points into the run round loop at the end station. I'd say its about 1/4 of a mile. No1238 was soon at the head of the train and got the 3-coach rake away smartly...
Pulling back into the station we were treated to the sight of Leighton Buzzard-based Baldwin No778; another WW1 veteran of 1917 vintage I believe. These unusual 4-6-0s are quite pretty and I wouldn't mind a go on one...
The Fireman was just putting some more coal round on No778...
Walking down through the event area brought me to the loco shed where I found the visiting Joffre and resident 0-4-2 Tattoo-class "Stanhope" enjoying their lunch break...
Even more stands and exhibits lay within the loco shed! Having walked back up through the event field and around the front of the station, I wandered down the lineside footpath to snap GP39 returning on a later passenger train...
A short video clip I captured of the well tank in the lunchtime sun...
Another view of "Stanhope", built in 1917 and an Apedale regular...
Apedale also has a colourful abundance of internal combustion locomotives, mostly of the Simplex variety. I believe that the ex-Cadeby Simplex's found a home here and I find it quite pleasing that these small but interesting engines are being cared for on a railway of their own. Just some of the many diesels were basking in the sun...
A final view of the station area, with footings in for the new Museum building...
Well folks, a very pleasant first visit to Apedale. I certainly didn't realise they had so much stuff. The "Tracks To The Trenches" event was also most enjoyable and very impressively put together. I'm afraid my images and words can't do the scale of it justice. Martyn was telling me that there is the scope to extend the running line at the terminus end when funds allow, thus providing a longer train ride to visitors. I wish them luck at Apedale. The place has bags of potential and an extensive collection of narrow gauge engines and rolling stock. For me, its back in the car now and off to find the Amerton Railway...

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Tyseley: A Great Western Stud...

Hi all. Today was another nice little volunteer day at Tyseley: the former 84E shed. I arrived at just before 10am and, having changed into my overalls, made my way to the loco shed where proceedings were just getting underway. Most of todays jobs centred around the restoration of No7029 "Clun Castle" but two of the other engines were also receiving attention. No5043 (the "Earl") was out in the sun for a while, having been rudely awoken from her slumber by the Class 08 diesel shunter. During the afternoon I was working on Pannier Tank No9600, just doing a little preparation for a bit of a tidy up. This engine was built at Swindon in 1945...
I was needle-gunning on 9600. Needle-gunning basically uses an air driven tool to chip away any paint and corrosion which may be on your metalwork. The Pannier was just having some burnt smokebox paint chipped away in readiness for a new coat to go on the smokebox ring. Tyseley engines are certainly kept ship shape, and rightly so! The Castle meanwhile was basking in the sun...
A real shine adorns the beautiful Castle Class 4-6-0 No5043...
I left Tyseley at around 5:45pm, having had a very worthwhile and interesting day. Its lovely working alongside this terrific stud of Great Western engines! No7029 had also made some great progress: one step closer! Best Regards, Sam...