Sunday, 26 June 2016

Tyseley: The Perfect Pannier...

Hi all. Continuing on from yesterdays visit to Tyseley for the June Open Weekend, today I returned to the former 84E at just before 7am. Having arrived in the car park after a good run through the typically sparse Sunday dawn traffic, the traditional McDonalds breakfast was enjoyed. Well, it just wouldn't be a steam day without one!...
Stomach satisfied, I unloaded the car and changed into my overalls before wandering down the meandering footpath that comes out in the yard. Having left before the engines went to bed yesterday, I was surprised to see them stabled on and around 'middle road'. The immaculate 4-6-0s were simmering away to themselves quietly in the company of the smaller Pannier Tank No9600...
Then came the offer to go out with 9600 for the day and this was of course gratefully accepted. Driver Dave was already there and was checking the engine over. She was still holding her own on yesterdays heat, with 40psi remaining on the clock, and thus wouldn't require much coaxing to bring her back to the boil. The fire had been made up in warming fire fashion at the back of the box and, following an energetic swinging of the dart from Dave, it began to smoulder away on the grate. An inspection beneath the 0-6-0 then revealed that the ashpan was rammed full and so a gentle hiss backwards through the running part of the shed was necessary to reach the nearest outside pit. Dave removed the pan guards (necessary for Network Rail operation) and I then went underneath the now crackling Pannier in order to reach the pan of ash.

Ashing out is one of those activities that you wish everyone that romanticises about steam could do for you. The hot, steaming bulk of several tons of iron and steel is doing its best to burn you while you work away with a cumbersome implement, wet at the boots and covered in dust, clattering and banging for all you're worth. The steam brake cylinder is often dripping neatly down your neck, the hose pipe is filling the pit in a very much hole in the canoe fashion and its only a matter of time before your luck runs out and you get the dreaded "wet sock experience". (That is enough to strike misery into you for the rest of your day!). Luckily, this morning I managed to escape the sock soaking and 9600 was soon happily nursing a good fire, in part thanks to a clean ashpan. The blue sky that now hovered above the engine provided the very encouraging shot below...
Ashpan emptied, the engine dropped back through the shed to join 4965 and 5043 once again. Dave was going around the engine with the oil can, whilst I gave the rods a rub over with the cloths. Just after 9am, we decided to start the shunting procedures that would get the days operations underway. So, it was up into the cab...
9600 was built at Swindon in 1945 as one of the numerous 5700-type varients of the Pannier Tanks. Panniers were very popular on the Great Western, providing Class 4 motive power with tanks that allowed access to the valve gear and cranks beneath the boiler. This varient has a slightly taller cab with large square windows, as opposed to the earlier types with the usual cab height and round spectacles. Engines like 9600 were common on freight moves, empty coaching stock workings and local passenger services across the network. She was withdrawn from Neath Shed in 1965 and a reprieve from the scrapyard then came in the unlikely form of the NCB. The Pannier ended up at Merthyr Vale Colliery, where she worked until withdrawal in 1973. I've been lucky enough to have had a couple of scanned images sent in of her during her time there...
"9600 in NCB Days. New Years Day 1969" (Pic - H.Llewelyn)
Tyseley bought the engine following the end of her NCB days and a thorough restoration was finally completed in 1997. The Pannier was done up to main line standards and has since been out and about on various excursions across the Midlands. With us now aboard the engine, we steamed back out through the shed and up the gradient onto the demo line. The signalman then set the road and pulled off the peg, allowing us to drop down towards Tyseley Warwick Road platform. Having buffered up to the waiting 2-coach shuttle stock, we drew up the brake before dropping back to the signal...
I think that the shot below, taken in 1971, shows the locomotive's coal board condition. I believe that the LH numberplate was missing by then. The preservation turnaround is beautiful. Tyseley always keep their engines well, but No9600 is still like a new un'...
"9600 at Merthyr Vale - New Years Day 1971" (Pic - H.Llewelyn)
Pannier shed-mate L94 (GWR 7752) had also just been ashed out and we then got the road to drag the coaches to the top of the yard in order to let 52' couple up. With the red Pannier now attached, 9600 was uncoupled. 52' would do the morning shift on the passenger shuttle whilst the BR Black example looked pretty around the turntable. A few minutes later, after a spin on the table, we were in place...
Whilst 9600 sat around the turntable, 4965 & 5043 took turns trundling on and off for photographs. Meanwhile, behind us, 52' was chugging up and down at regular intervals. It was then time, after a cuppa', to do a spot of Pannier anatomy searching. As we were now over another pit, I headed off underneath (feeder in hand) to attempt to get the crank big ends and the four eccentrics. Pannier's employ inside Stephenson's valve gear, connecting 17.5" cylinders to the wheels under a 200psi boiler. I managed to get the eccentrics from underneath but the position of the big ends required a little more contortionism. You have to sit side-saddle on the running plate and squeeze your head in, arms first, through the gap over the splasher behind the toolbox. There is only one way in, and thus only one way out. The chassis is very much the heart of the Pannier...


After a pleasant morning sat around the turntable, the fire was made up slightly to keep the engine on the boil. The 1pm Cavalcade, featuring the two 4-6-0s, would require us to swap duties with 52' whilst the shuttle set was stabled in the 'middle road'. After a spot of shunting under the shattering barks of two Western thoroughbred's storming up and down the demo line, 9600 was in place...
"GWR Pannier Tank No9600, In BR Mixed Traffic Livery"
Once the two big engines had done their bit, they reversed back through the engine shed. The dolly we had been waiting for duly tilted to clear and 9600 blew up the brake before reversing out onto the demo line. The engine then began the afternoon procession of steaming back and forth up the yard. One trip for the passenger means two trips each way up and down the yard...
"The Road Ahead On Another Passenger Shuttle"
The fire was burning well but the ash wasn't doing us any favours. This Scottish coal burns well and gives you the heat but the ash it leaves behind once the carbon content has burnt away just clogs up your grate. I can't say it clinkered because it was fairly clinker free but the ash certainly didn't allow you to provide the best primary air content...
Having halted at the barrow crossing on your way back down, you whistle up and set out on your second working up the yard, propelling the train...
9600 is pictured at Tyseley Warwick Road platform, awaiting another shuttle outing...
Dave kindly let me take 9600 for a couple of trips up & down the yard on the shuttle and what a pleasant engine this is. "It just does what you want", to quote an engineman friend. Due to the engine's ex-NCB condition at the beginning of restoration, a very thorough and exacting rebuild was required to get her back to main line running condition and you can see and feel this through every part of the machine. The regulator is like new, the reverser has zero play, the voice at the chimney is neat and square and the occasionally troublesome (on some engines) GWR combi-brake actually works perfectly well. Its a really lovely job and all credit to the lads at Tyseley who created such a fine machine. She really is a pleasure to drive and to be on in general. That's another one for the 'driven' list!

As the day wore on, the ash was building up in the fire, so much so that we stopped making it up with fresh coal and just rooted through it with the dart after each trip up the yard. Pressure was maintained at 180-ish and so the effects of the clogged grate weren't particularly evident. You can see the ash build up clearly, deadening the fire at the centre but burning bright at the edges where the air can reach up via the plate-work. Strange stuff...
Later, 52' shunt released 9600 which I then took over onto '2 Road' for stabling before going into the shed. 52' then rejoined her slightly younger sister, along with the pretty little Peckett No1. By now the weather had turned from cloudy to drizzly and conditions were set to worsen during the evening...
"Panniers At Rest"
After a very pleasant little day steaming around the site on 9600, it was time to head for home at around 6:30pm. It had been another good weekend at Tyseley and as always I am grateful to them for allowing me to attend and be involved. The Open Weekend seemed to have gone off well with many happy visitors and so it was a good job all round. I must thank Mr Hugh Llewelyn once again for kindly sending in the NCB era images of the Pannier for use in this post; things like that always add interest! Many thanks for reading all, Sam...

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Tyseley: LT's Last...

Hi all. Today I went over to Tyseley for most of the day, arriving there at around 10:30am. This weekend is the annual summer Open Weekend and 5 engines were rostered to be in service: two Panniers, the Castle, the Hall and of course the lovely little Peckett. Later on, during early afternoon, I was asked by Dave to pop on to the Pannier Tank L94 (GWR 7752) as she was about to swap with fellow Pannier No9600 to work the passenger shuttle train on the demo line. I duly accepted, grateful for another go on 52', and we were soon chugging neatly back and forth, up and down the yard. After a few runs up and down, Dave kindly let me have a couple of trips driving. As luck would have it, I was snapped at the controls and the image below is the result...
"Caught Driving Pannier Tank 7752 (as L94)" - (Pic - K.Davies)
I am very grateful to Dave for giving me a go on 52', both firing and of course driving - it was most enjoyable. I came off during mid-afternoon to let some of the other lads have a go as I hadn't been there and done the morning ground work. You can read about my day on L94 at the last open weekend here. The engine was built by North British in 1930 as 7752, one of the numerous 5700-class Pannier Tanks. Sold to London Transport in 1959, the Pannier became the last steam locomotive on the Met, hauling the last steam train in 1971. She was in working condition when she arrived at Tyseley that same year and actually worked at the open day that year. She's a lovely engine, and quite loud...the loudest of the three Tyseley Pannier's so the lads say! Cheers for reading all, and thanks to Kris for letting me use his image of me on L94. All the best, Sam...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Slow Moving Steam On The Road...

Hi guys. Something different today: a temporary sojourn from rail to road. Regular readers will know that my friend Phil owns a much beloved steam roller: Aveling & Porter 11240 of 1925. He and his crew regularly rally this F-Type roller and complete all movements to and from their destinations under the engines own steam. This is no small feat and requires a significant amount of time and effort to make happen. Today, Phil had kindly invited me along to go out with them on the first of a two-day marathon from Tamworth to Tyseley, ready for the latter's Open Weekend next week. Today's route would take us through the centre of Tamworth on rather busy roads, before rumbling out into the countryside via Kingsbury in order to reach our destination: The Plough, a pub in Shustoke, 13 miles or so away. The engine would overnight at The Plough and continue to Tyseley tomorrow. I arrived at Phil's home in Tamworth at around 8am, ready to help with preparation proceedings. The roller stood waiting patiently at the curb...
Preparation on a steam roller isn't far away from that of a railway engine. There is a fire to light, steam to raise and many oiling points. The F-Type is a Compound roller, meaning two sets of valve gear; one for the high pressure cylinder, and one for its low pressure brother. The traditional steam engine act of buffing the brass and polishing the paintwork is also in the prep list, in order to make the roller shiny for the many pictures that would be taken of her today. Unlike on preserved railways, steaming down the road cannot fail to make you noticed and thus every effort is made to make the engine presentable. Phil and his crew keep this engine in pretty immaculate condition and it is a credit to him.

The biggest job of the morning was the inevitable car swap. Naturally, as we're roading, the cars will be where we left them if we don't move them first. Therefore, with steam raising nicely, three of us set off in convoy bound for The Plough. Having stopped off at McDonalds for breakfast on route (Phil is trying to ruin my chances of a beach body!), we reached The Plough soon after. Whilst driving, I was taking in the number of hills on the route and the severity of some of the gradients thereof. "Louise" would certainly work hard up those! Having dropped two of the cars off, we returned in one and found "Louise" now at the head of the road train...
"1925-built Aveling & Porter Roller 11240, named Louise"
"Louise"; named after Phil's daughter; pulls a trailer and living van. The trailer contains all of the essentials for keeping an engine like this going, including coal, wood, tools and an IBC full of water. By 11am, we weren't too far away from being ready for the off, with a cool but dry weather front on the horizon...
"Ready For The Off"
Lee and Phil were at the controls for the start away. With a blast on the whistle, away we went. "Louise" chugged happily away and started the journey for The Plough. Speed with an engine like this is probably something like 3 or 4mph at cruise pace, depending on traffic and the hills encountered. The first hour or so saw us driving through the busy streets of Tamworth. We three sat aboard the trailer (often known to the traction engine men as trailer rats!) had little to do but watch the world go by and it is fun to see peoples reactions at the spectacle. Some can't believe it, standing in awe and waving crazily. Others look at you as if its the most normal thing in the world to see a 91-year old road making machine happily barking through the Saturday shopping traffic! People are odd.

Anyway, here we are steaming along a quieter road, heading away from the Snowdome...
Well, it was quieter in front of us anyway, but not so much behind us!...
The grinding of "Louise" and her steel wheels rumbling along the road were probably nothing in comparison to the volume of the grinding of teeth in the cars stuck behind us! The pace of the world has sped up considerably since roller's like this were commonplace on the local roads and people are in much more of a hurry than they used to be. "Louise" continued however to steam about her merry business until we had a quick oiling stop at a Tesco Metro. From the Tesco, I was on the steering with Lee at the regulator. I haven't been on the road with "Louise" since 2013 and it took a hundred yards or so to get used to the steering again. Rollers do tend to wander, scuttling left and right across the tarmac. The steersman has to almost constantly rotate the wheel; left right left right; to achieve the straightest possible course, following the mark of the white line. Due to the volume on the footplate (we wear ear defenders!), communication is often via pointing, particularly at islands. We wait for a course and then its "chuff, Chuff, CHUFF, CHUFF" with the roller trying her best to get the weight up to pace before the next mad motorist tries his luck. What you have to remember all the time as well is that you aren't just a light engine, and you have two trailer lengths behind you before the road train is clear! Having had a good run out of Tamworth and through Kingsbury, we stopped on the old Coventry road for water and another oil up... 
The residents in the local houses came out to see us and kindly offered us a drink. Its amazing what a draw an old machine like this is. Contributors to the movement such as the late Fred Dibnah: famous for his steeple-jacking and Aveling R10 Roller "Betsy": have ensured that todays public are more than aware of what a steam roller is. Fred's TV programmes have certainly raised awareness and interest in road steam in recent years. Anyway, with engine oiled and ready to go, it was time to set off again, this time with myself and Phil on the footplate...
"The Nerve Centre Of The Job - The Engine"
"Louise" steamed easily down the road, pulling her load behind her. Its a very different life on the road compared to the rails. In a sense you are your own boss but its the everyday motorist that is your enemy. The amount of bad overtaking we saw was unbelievable and near misses are very much commonplace. I know that the load is long, but the speed is very low and so last minute stupid overtaking is fairly well unforgivable. It seems that most drivers are now content to go home in a box.

The duty of the Steersman is just that - to steer the engine. The Driver has more than enough to contend with on a run like this. Unlike the railway engine, a steam roller seems to have two speeds: slow and comfortable. The comfortable speed is your aim: making progress whilst not knocking the engine to bits. Finding the comfortable point isn't so hard, but even the slightest downgrade can see the engine running away and you're easing back the regulator; just a little...oh no, too much...a bit more...all the time. And then she's slowing, then speeding up, you're always at it. Couple this with watching the water, the steam and making up the fire as well as looking out for mad motorists on their quest to bend the engine and you're a busy Driver. Therefore, the Steersman does his/her best to keep that job going smoothly, leaving the Driver to get on with the other tasks in hand. The smell on a steam roller or traction engine is one all of its own. I reckon its the burning oil smouldering away on the top of the firebox - its a lovely odour. The plastering of oil you get from the whirring cranks as they fly round splattering various liquids up your front is also a characteristic!

After another few miles, we reached a local watering hole - The Gate. This lovely little country pub heralded another oiling stop for "Louise" and a bit of pint-glass lubrication for the crew...
"Louise Stands Patiently Outside The Pub"
Stomachs replenished and thirsts quenched, the crew returned to the engine in readiness for the last onward slog towards The Plough. Lee is seen oiling up the motion...
From The Gate, we steamed away. I was back on the trailer now, enjoying the sound of the chimney again. The noise is so loud on the footplate that you can't hear the chimney, with the regulator judged by watching the speed of the cranks and the sound of the valve slap when shut-off. Its all a game...
"Steaming Into Over Whitacre"
What is so surprising is just how many people came out to see us. There were people waving every few yards or so, people in window after window of terraced houses and others stood in pub gardens, supermarket car parks - you name it. They were coming out of their houses, pulling over their cars, running after us for pictures: it was all going on. What is so amazing is that each council would have had lots of steam rollers such as this back in the day and I bet nobody batted an eye lid at the same scene occurring 60 years before - it was normal back then! At last, not long before 4:30pm, we pulled into the road just outside The Plough. The weather had by now changed from a grey-ish sky to blue with white clouds and, best of all, the sun was out!...
"Louise" simmers away after a triumphant arrival at The Plough...
"An Immaculate 11240 'Louise' Outside The Plough"
The rest of the crew then had to go off and retrieve Phil's car from Tamworth, whilst I stayed back to watch over the simmering engine. I've included a quick clip of the motion going around slowly, to show you the sight that greets you on the footplate of one of these machines...
Looking into the firebox of "Louise", currently burning the last of Daw Mill coal I believe...
I was relieved from "Louise" at 6pm and then jumped back in the car to get ready for the short journey home. It had been a lovely day out, enjoying the sights and sounds of slow moving steam on the road. The road steam life is different to that of the rails. Its a slower pace, trundling happily through the green garden but also contending with the more modern road user. However, it is a most pleasant experience and one that is going on each and everyday across the country. Traction engines and steam rollers of all types and sizes can often be seen rumbling around the back roads of the country and of course frequenting backwater public houses. I must thank Phil and his crew for their hospitality and company today - I had a great time. Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A Rainy Evening With Small Engines...

Hi all. This afternoon I've been in the workshop having finally gotten round to doing a few bits and pieces with the small engines. The initial plan was to take one of them (probably "Achilles") to Ryton for the Third Wednesday members running night but this was always going to be touch and go with the state of the recent weather. Early indications suggested it may well be sunny but luckily I decided at around 3pm that I wouldn't go and would just stay in and polish the engines up, saving all of that horrid loading and unloading work. The two engines have had a fairly quiet year so far, with both having been steamed just twice. One factor of this is that every time we seem to plan a run...it rains! It was a good job I decided not to go out during the sunny period as this was the scene at just gone 5:30pm - it was throwing it down!...
"No Weather For Engines..."
Meanwhile, in the cosy and dry haven of the workshop it was time to finally put the Atlantic's cab back on. The 4-4-2 was steam tested last month and has since been waiting patiently for her chance. Having cleaned and polished the barrel, smokebox, splashers and cylinders, the back-head was buffed up with Peek. The manifold and fittings are fairly difficult to access properly with the cab on so I decided to polish it all up before it went back on. I also took out that pesky blower spindle and repacked it with some PTFE yarn, with the usual addition of a blob of cylinder oil of course. That blower has been burning my hand for long enough now and that repack should sort it. With the footplate now shipshape, the cab was put back into place and bolted on. Then followed the traditional session of producing as many expletives as possible whilst trying to refit the bolts which have to go neatly above the spring hanger on the back truck but also under the nicely lined valance of the running board! With all jobs done, the engine was looking somewhere near...
With the rain still bouncing down outside, the rewarding slurp of tea was most welcome. I like being in the workshop when its raining well, particularly when for once I made the right decision not to go out. A glorious heatwave would have been the usual result for putting my foot down! With the Maisie all cleaned up, it was time to turn to "Achilles". "Achilles" ran a few weeks ago at CMES, having last steamed in much colder weather on New Years Day at GEC. The engine just needs a good clean up now...
"Engines At Rest - Safe From The Rain"
I suppose in a way my two engines look a little fairground-ish in their often clean appearance but that's the way I've always liked to keep them where possible. If its not shining, its not going out. In fact, the very thought of even the dried rust being splashed about over the motion and the wheels puts me off on days like today! That's not saying that they don't get run either because anyone that knows me and knows "Achilles" will be aware that she's had the "chimney knocked off" on much more than one occasion doing some good, heavy work. I'm sure they'll both be out again before long. Below, I've included a video that resurfaced recently following the sad loss of the tank engine's builder Ken. Many will remember that the locomotive is older than me, having been finished in 1986/1987. As well as model engineering and music, Ken was also a keen photographer and made the film below in around 1990. It shows "Achilles" at work back then, in her old livery, at the former Stoneleigh Park track in Coventry. The track was CMES' previous home and the forerunner to what we now see at Ryton Pools. Its a lovely, nostalgic piece of film and well worth a look - a great tribute to Ken and his beloved engine. Please enjoy...

Cheers All, Sam

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Northampton & Lamport Railway...

Hi all. Today I took a ride out towards Northampton and paid a visit to the Northampton and Lamport Railway. This standard gauge outfit operates heritage trains over a 1.5-mile stretch of preserved line which once formed part of the Northampton to Market Harborough branch, this having closed to traffic in 1981. The weather was quite foul as I pulled up at the NLR's base at Pitsford & Brampton Station, just before Midday. Having collected my ticket from the Booking Office, I wandered out onto the damp platform following the trail of smoke. Standing in the rain waiting for the "Right Away" was a little Peckett 0-4-0; No2104 of 1948. The engine was brewing up ready for the off and so I duly boarded the soon to depart Midday train on a Mk.2 TSO...
With the "Right Away" given, 2104 gave a loud blast on the whistle to signal departure. She hissed, slipped a little and then took the 2-coach train (plus a brakevan) away. The rain was very persistent, much to my annoyance, but this didn't stop me having a look out. The diminutive saddle tank chugged happily towards the NLR's northern stop-point; just before bridge 14; which is marked clearly by a lonely buffer stop...
After a brief pause at the buffers, 2104 whistled again before starting the train back towards Pitsford. The locomotive propels the train but the Guard does the looking out from his van at the rear...
Tokens are exchanged as the short train reverses through Pitsford & Brampton station before continuing onto the southern part of the line. This section makes its way towards Pitsford sidings where a stop board heralds the end of passenger operations. The line is in place for a further extension towards Boughton and plans are afoot to open that one day. After another pause, the Peckett got going again...
There were some great smoke effects for a little engine!...
Chugging away from Pitsford sidings, past a line of forlorn wagons and a Great Western tender, the engine whistles up for Pitsford station. The tokens are exchanged again as the train passes through the platform for a final run up to the northern extremity. Though its only a short run, the countryside around the NLR is very pleasant and I'm sure it would be even better on a nice day!...
2104 paused again at the northern end before running gently back towards Pitsford...
After plenty of push-pulling up and down the line, 2104 took a well earned breather. This little engine is the mainstay of Nortampton & Lamport steam services and arrived on the line in 1989. She is an R4 class Peckett, built by the Bristol firm for Croydon 'B' Power Station. Though built in 1948, the locomotive was not delivered until 1950 as the power station wasn't finished. She has a cut down cab due to the tight clearances at her former place of employment, giving her an unusually small look. Weighing 29 tons, the 12" Peckett seems happy here, chugging gently up and down with passenger trains...
"Peckett R4 Class No2104 of 1948"
There were three R4 sisters built for Croydon 'B', all three of which survive in preservation. 2103 is based at the Middleton Railway in Leeds whilst 2105 is at Quainton Road. Here, the Fireman puts another round of Scottish coal on 2104's fire...
The Fireman was telling me that 2104 only has around 6 months left on her 10-year ticket. They anticipate that she'll need a new tubeplate and inner firebox this time round and thus it won't be a cheap one. Having been resident at the NLR for over 25 years, 2104 has done some good work for the line and still provides reliable service. She certainly looks a powerful little workhorse...
"Peckett No2104 At Northampton and Lamport Railway"
It wasn't long before the 1pm departure came around and 2104 was once again given the "Right Away". With a loud blast on her shrill whistle, she began to start the train away, with the odd slip here and there...
"Starting Away The 1pm Departure"
I had a drink from the shop whilst waiting for 2104 to return. Sure enough, 10 minutes later she was backing through the station bound for Pitsford Sidings...
I walked a little way along the adjacent Brampton Valley footpath, which follows the NLR along its route, in order to catch 2104 on her return to the station. Here, the Peckett has passed over a foot crossing and is on the final chuff before slowing to pass through the station...
A final view of the little R4 Peckett No2104...
2104 ambled gently past me before exchanging tokens at the station and proceeding off towards the northern end once again. With the rain still trying its best, I decided to call it a day after an interesting little visit. The NLR is trying its best to grow and extend, with plans afoot (one day) to take the line all the way back to Lamport. There are currently 5 steam locomotives based on the line, with only 2104 serviceable however. The others include a GWR 38XX, GWR Hall, another Peckett and a Polish TKH 0-6-0 known as "Vanguard". All four of these engines require either extensive restoration or overhaul, particularly the two Great Western examples. I don't envy the lads at all as there are next to no facilities for doing up engines as there is no loco shed. 2104 even had wooden works plates which I'm guessing were devised to deter thieves. Thanks for reading guys, Sam...