Sunday, 31 July 2016

Welland Steam Rally: Road Making With "Howard"...

Hello. At the end of each July, the Welland Steam Rally has been providing an action packed heritage weekend in the shadow of the Malvern hills for 52 years now. The rally includes a lot of the usually expected attractions as well as a number of working displays, showing off various skills and trades of yesteryear. Amongst the countless road going exhibits, there are two demonstration railways: one standard gauge, one 2ft gauge. Statfold's Vertical-Boilered 0-4-0 "Howard" had been invited down to the Worcestershire site for a weekend on the 'Road Making' demonstration and volunteers from the SBR were sought to crew the engine. Myself & JB were asked and kindly accepted the invitation. This morning, not long after 6am, we were off in the direction of Welland in JB's much loved 1982 Land Rover Defender. John has been at the helm of the 3.5-litre V8 beast for over 25 years now and the spotting of the machine is always a giveaway of his presence! It was my first ride out in the Defender and we had a good trip down...
We arrived at the rally site at not long before 7:30am, having encountered very little traffic. Having rowed with Security (I think they thought we were impostors!) we finally managed to get in, escorted by one of the organisers. Parking was thankfully very close to the engine which we discovered waiting patiently on the 2ft gauge track...
"The Discovery of Howard"
Neither of us had been on "Howard" (formerly "Paddy") before and so a good look around the machine was necessary prior to lighting up. Thankfully, yesterdays crew of James and Ian had left the engine in a very fit state and so John soon had a blaze going. The engine carries a 'thimble-tube' (water tube) boiler, unlike the much more common smoke-tube examples. The fire sits below the water filled tubes with quite a low firehole door. With some good, dry wood on the grate, "Howard" soon began crackling away...
I came to Welland on my first visit two years ago and found it to be a very pleasant and varied event. I think its fair to say that we were both looking forward to the days proceedings. Once the wood had taken hold, some hefty lumps of Welsh steam coal were placed strategically on top. The tender contained a vast amount of slack and so, with only an embryo fire, I decided to play it safe and mine for the lumps. "Howard" steamed up gradually alongside a very nice Portable engine which was being used to work the stone crusher. Portables were used for stationary steam power, providing motion to the selected implement via the flywheel belt...
"Howard And The Portable"
With the fire now being left to "sort its life out" as Batesy would say, I set to with the oil cans. The engine is also vertical on this quirky locomotive and I believe it is derived from a steam launch. There are two cylinders, providing downward motion to a cross-shaft which then chain drives the leading axle via two fairly chunky sprockets. Power to the rear axle is then transmitted via the outside connecting rods. The oiling points are mostly pots with trimmings. I used all of my contortionist skills to bend my arms into the various positions required to oil the engine before, upon completion, realising that there is a fairly handy trap door (with No6 on it) to allow full and easy access. "Grand". Anyway, with the engine oiled and steam raising nicely, JB decided that some snap was required. I duly returned with two hearty breakfast cobs which JB, in his usual tone, didn't particularly enthuse over! I thought it was just what the doctor ordered...
With steam gently climbing towards the full working pressure of 120psi, "Howard" was prepared for movement. The vertical engine has both drain cocks and valve chest drains, all four of which worked as a team to successfully coat the rails in oil and condensate. Thus, the first trip: with myself on the regulator for John's amusement: provided some heavy slipping as the 0-4-0 protested to the rail condition. With the weight moving steadily, we struggled up the gradient and eventually ceased progress not far from the top. Having dropped back down gently with the handbrake on, the wheels began to dry off a little. The second trip was much more successful and "Howard" romped up the incline towards the top. The gradient is fairly strong on the demo line, we reckon 1 in 50 at the foot and so its a good chuff to get moving before easing back and chugging along merrily. JB was in his element as he showed me how it was done...
"JB Driving 'Howard' On The Road Making Demo Line"
But his interest soon changed to nearby goings on and out came the camera...
Whilst JB did his all-important filming of proceedings, I chugged gently back and forth on the regulator. The process for the day was simple. The loaded tipplers would provide stone (when/if required) to the stone crusher which was being worked by the Portable. The crushed stone would be loaded into a barrow and raked out in front of the F-Type roller which would then roll it to make a road. The ensemble was completed very nicely by period signage, barriers, tooling and overalls and it all came together to provide a very pleasant atmosphere. Here is a short clip taken behind "Howard" by JB as I drive up the incline on another demo run...

The weather was very mixed. The morning was warm but overcast with a very positive change near dinner time. The sun came out as we enjoyed a tea break...
I had a quick look around the show before returning to relieve JB. The engine was steaming very well on minimal fire and the trusty Weir pump was very handy for filling the boiler at an exciting rate when required. JB then went off for a walk around before returning half an hour later bearing gifts...
JB had commented that he had held up his Ice Cream to the enlarged picture of the '99' adorning the Ice Cream Van window before proclaiming "Its Shrunk!". With a possible Trade Descriptions case quashed, we returned to the job in hand. A bright yellow JCB soon appeared and loaded the second tippler with stone, pretty much doubling the load. It was all part of the fun...
"Loading The Second Tippler"
For the rest of the day we continued as we were. We chugged up the hill before coasting back down. The vertical engine arrangement allowed us to drive the engine in traction engine fashion, using the reverser to provide 'engine braking'. The handbrake on "Howard" is of similar use to one fitted to a canoe and thus, without the aid of the piston compression, we'd have probably ended up in the next field after a sharp descent. A conventional engine may not have took to the arrangement as well as this engine did. The Aveling roller is spotted below, with the stone we previously provided being rolled out...
Though we spent the majority of our time with the engine, the 'one-man' operation allowed us to enjoy the show for brief periods as well. The following pictures have been included for your interest but can by no means do justice to what was on offer at Welland 2016. First off, the other Statfold machine visiting the event was the very popular Erie Steam Shovel. Driven by SBR owner Graham Lee, the engine was busy excavating all weekend. A sizeable crowd was drawn by its unusual and very noisy operation...
Down in the Fairground, a beautiful line-up of immaculate Showman's engines were standing Guard. This was only half of them if that...
The late Len Crane's beautiful Fowler Crane Engine impressed me very much with its interesting load: billed as a brand new Lancashire boiler. This load certainly showed just what Road Locomotive's of this size were meant to do...
Naturally there was the typical miniature contingent. Some of the engines on display are regulars at our annual rallies...
Later on in the day I watched the miniature engines parade into the arena. I counted over 30 engines on display, of course there could have been more that didn't come to the line-up. Seeing a line-up like this provides me a Busman's Holiday!...
"The Sunday Miniature Engine Parade"
On the standard gauge demo line the most unusual Dubs Crane Tank from Foxfield was trundling up and down giving Brakevan rides. Built in 1901, this 14" cylinder 0-4-0 worked for Shelton Iron & Steel Works in Stoke-On-Trent. She was used for various lifting operations around the works; lifting locomotives and wagons back onto the track for example. The Dubs survived in active service there until 1968 and now enjoys regular active use on the Foxfield. These crane tanks, like the road going variants, show the advent of the first mobile cranes...
Naturally there were also many other working displays such as Wood Sawing and Threshing...
Not far from us, this beautiful Fowler Ploughing Engine was working in tandem with a similar example to provide the Ploughing display...
There was far too much to see for my words and images to do justice: it really was a great show. I couldn't help but think how one could lose probably more than a full day around here. As well as everything mentioned there were many classic cars, tractors, motorcycles and lorries as well as stalls, trade stands, stationary engines, military vehicles and more.

Anyway, after a good walk round in the warm afternoon sunshine, I returned to the railway. John was still steaming merrily back and forth up and down the demo line. As he fancied another cuppa', I took over the regulator. I stopped at the top of the line for a chat with a gent interested in "Howard". This was the view looking back...
"Howard" was certainly getting alot of interest. The quirky looks of the locomotive and the interesting livery seems to really age her. The machine was actually made in 2007 from some odds and ends that the previous owner had to hand. The chassis is from a diesel shunter I believe, whilst the engine is from a steam launch. Many people certainly thought the engine was much older than she actually is. The vertical engine is smoother in operation than you'd think, once you get the weight moving. With the bark of the chimney, the squealing of the lightly laid track and the sights and sounds of the stone crusher, you could have been fooled into thinking we were on a real quarry railway. Here the engine is captured in the display area, dropping back towards the loading point...
"Welland Steam Rally Road Making Display"
The attractive livery really adds to the aged look of this fairly young engine...
After a few more chugs up and down with the loaded stone tipplers, it was time to park them up and uncouple them. Once unloaded, the 0-4-0 hissed gently forward before being screwed down ready for disposal. The engine and the Erie will be off back home to Statfold tomorrow after a most enjoyable weekend in Worcestershire...
"A Last Look At Howard"
It had been a very pleasant day crewing "Howard" on behalf of the SBR at Welland. This unusual engine is surprisingly pleasant to drive and is much stronger than she looks. The rally itself had also been most successful and apparently 35,000 people attended over the 3-day weekend. I must thank JB for his amusing company and of course the ride in the Landy, as well as of course Statfold Barn for giving us the opportunity to come and do the job. Another most enjoyable experience. If you've ever wondered where "Howard" hides at Statfold, you'll find her steaming around the lake in the garden! Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 30 July 2016

00 Gauge In The Garden: Summer Colours...

Hi all. Today, with the car out of action for some engine work, I decided to tick off one of the many items on my ever growing "To-Do List". The task in question was tidying up the shed and, once the job was done, I couldn't help but get a couple of trains on the move. The Garden Railway has only seen the light a couple of times this year and thus this is the first and possibly only post about it. For more recent readers, the Garden Railway started life in 2005 as a small oval of track set around the flowerbed at the top of the garden. In 2006, with the original circuit having proved very short with little chance of giving the engines a good run, we extended. The extension took the line down the edge of the fence towards the house before rounding a tight curve. A fairly stiff climb then ensued as the trains climbed back up the garden towards the shed. Its a basic set up: analogue control and with manual point-work. (We tried motors at one stage but they didn't last long). Today, a few engines made some steady laps of the garden, hauling varying loads...
I thought I'd get the camera out and record a few snaps of the goings on as, quite simply, you never know if or when there will be a "next time". When I was younger, I would spend every waking moment of free time out in the garden playing with the 00 gauge trains. Back then, in my school years, I had a paper round and the proceeds of that funded the slow growth of the collection of engines that traversed the garden. At present there are over 30 locomotives and many, many coaches and wagons. Some of the models are from my first train recollections, including the LNER rake of coaches which was in my first train-set at age 5, whilst other items are much more recent. One model I love is the Bachmann C1 Class which I bought a year or two ago just as "one to keep" (mainly for the reason it looks like the Maisie!)...
"GNR 251 of Ivatt's Large Boiler Atlantic Class"
My stalwart Bachmann 56xx heads down the garden with a colourful mixed freight...
I thought it would be nice to take a few pictures today as the garden has really, quite literally, blossomed in the recent weeks. We replanted a lot of the beds earlier in the Spring and dug out pretty much everything that was there before. The new Summer plants and flowers have now grown nicely and provide almost a jungle effect as the little trains make their way up and down. I haven't had any of my scenery bits and pieces out for a good long time but in some ways it doesn't really feel necessary as the flowers give the trains something to contrast with...
"Hornby 0-6-0 J94/Austerity No68075 On A Mixed Working"
The much photographed Sutherland Bank section has seen the repair of the once forlorn looking Windmill that used to be a regular sight in pictures of the model railway...
The line is quite undulating in places, with the wood laid down originally as the base having swollen and contracted over the years. There are some stiff gradients and, unlike with steam engines, the electric models just find their own way at their own pace. The climb away from the house towards the shed is particularly steep in both directions of the circuit. The Atlantic is seen below pulling through the Chilvers Loop (laid in 2007) where trains used to pass eachother or run round prior to a return trip. Its funny how the flowers seem to be overtaking the place as the little train climbs upgrade...
"Jungle Train With 251"
The Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 hauls the little seen Pullman Dining Train Rake...
The varying garden ornaments have always provided animal apocalypse shots...
After an hour or two of running the little trains on the old 00 gauge metals I decided to call it a day. It was nice to see a few engines out and about, using the railway which I once used more often than I can remember. If anyone is interested in seeing more of the garden railway, back in its so called "heyday", there is plenty to read about it on this blog and also plenty to see on YouTube. You can see just how much the garden has grown-up lately by the shot below. That's the old turntable spur from the junction of the old Ashford Station. The electrically operated turntable was there very often once upon a time and the area was surrounded by two now removed conifers...
As always, many thanks for reading folks and I hope that the 00 gauge garden railway has provided a bit of interest, if any. The railway represents a different side to the hobby that I used to do so much with but it does just go to show how time and interests move on. My ambition (for want of a better word) one day is to make a small 00 layout so I can do something with the scenery bits I have stored away and perhaps reduce the currently high risk of these engines getting horribly smashed up in this outdoor environment. However, time is the key and time is not in abundance at the moment! Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Tyseley: "Rood Ashton" Brews Up...

Hi all. Today saw me making another jaunt over to Tyseley to help with the preparation of GWR Hall Class 4-6-0 No4965 "Rood Ashton Hall". I arrived at the site of the former 84E shed at just before 10am, having stopped off on route to collect breakfast from the Tyseley Corner Cafe. This made a nice change from the increasingly regular McDonalds menu and I can heartily recommend this cafe if you're ever in the area! These sandwiches were just what I needed to start the day!...
"A Beautiful Breakfast"
Stomach satisfied, I changed into my overalls before wandering down to the Mess Room. The Hall was waiting patiently on her road when I arrived, with the 08' ticking over outside. The 4-6-0 was then dragged out into the warm morning air ready for preparation to begin. The engine had been cleaned out during the week and so a check-over was all that was necessary before lighting the fire. A traditional warming fire was laid in the box, rising up around the back corners in order to bring the engine around slowly. To my surprise, she was still warm from last Sunday's efforts: must be a well lagged boiler! With the engine now crackling away to herself, efforts turned to cleaning her and later shunting the stock...
The shunting again involved the Class 08 and the signalbox. In an effort to further increase my knowledge of the signalbox, I offered to work it during the shunting operations. There are a few things to remember, particularly when dealing with the motor points and FPL's, but the set-up generally allows you to succeed providing you do everything in the required order. I certainly felt more confident with the frame this week. Later in the day, with the stock shunted and waiting on No1 platform road behind the Class 08, 4965 was brewing up nicely on the shed. The engine doesn't move during the prep: the oiling, cleaning and checking is done whilst stationary. This provides a good opportunity to try and photograph the engine whilst she lazes around in the afternoon sun. I have said it before and I'll say it again - 4965 is a very photogenic engine...
"4965 Rood Ashton Hall" Brews Up On Shed
And this weeks "Boredom Corner" concludes with my rendition of the 4965 story. Built in 1929 at Swindon, 4965 was once thought to have been cut-up. (Gasps from the side lines!). The Tyseley team actually purchased what they thought was No4983 "Albert Hall" when they chose a Hall from Barry Scrapyard in 1970. When restoration of the so called '4983' began, the engineers involved came across plenty of reasons that led to her being dubbed an impostor. Many parts that were once stamped 65' were now stamped 83' and the Swindon works records revealed some unusual goings on. 4983 had revisited the works on a few regular occasions for undisclosed reasons and her boiler hadn't been more than 9 months fresh from a major overhaul when the switch is believed to have occurred. 4965 was marked as being condemned and cut up in 1962. However, what is obvious from the framing and the tender is that they are in fact from 4965. The boiler on the other hand is from 4983. 

The only conclusion that can be reached is that "Albert Hall" was either an unlucky engine which regularly came into bother or that she had a condemned bottom end, whilst 4965 had the better of the latter but needed a fresh boiler. What has essentially happened is that two poorly engines have been brought together to provide one good one. Its an interesting tale but one that, despite many debates, definitely shows that 4965 is the unlikely survivor, despite the notes that she was scrapped. Boiler swapping was by no means uncommon in steam days as they were swapped regularly during general works, hence the standardisation of parts. However, what is unusual is that the identity of the loco was swapped despite the only piece of 4983 being the boiler she last carried. Anyhow, that's the basic story. I'm sure there is more to be read about it online but I think it certainly provides some interest to the engine. Anyway, after a good day I returned home at just after 5pm. Many thanks for reading folks, Sam...

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Severn Valley Railway...

Hi all. Well, I guess this week at long last we can finally say summer is here. Luckily for us we had already planned a day out to the brilliant Severn Valley Railway and so good weather was merely a bonus. Myself, JB and well known late arrival Eddie the Late arrived at the SVR terminus of Kidderminster Town Station at a little after 11am. Our first spot was standing at the head of the 11:45am departure: 43106, otherwise known as "The Flying Pig". Having purchased our tickets and grabbed a cuppa' from the cafe, we wandered along the lengthy platform to survey the Mogul. 43106 is a Darlington product of 1951 and was one of the 162-strong class of Ivatt Class 4 Mogul's. 43106 is the only survivor of the type and has operated happily on the SVR for many years. The cab layout is seen below, sporting a number of LMS features but with a pull-out regulator...
"Cab of 43106 - Flying Pig"
You could easily argue that this class of engine were the forerunners of the BR Standard Mogul's that came next; they certainly have some strong similarities. JB was chatting to the Trainee Fireman about the pedigree of the engine...
The running boards on the Pig stand high above the valve gear, giving the engine an unusually tall look. The class was designed with ease of maintenance in mind and you can appreciate the relatively easy access to components and pipework. Employing 17.5" cylinders with 5ft 3" wheels sat underneath a 225psi boiler, the Ivatt Mogul's pumped out roughly 24,170lb's of tractive effort...
"Anatomy Of The Pig"
We boarded the GWR rake of coaches behind 43106 and duly departed on time towards Bridgnorth. The 'Flying Pig' got the train away easily and she was soon strolling through the sunlit countryside on route to Bewdley. There was a short wait at Bewdley as the down train had been delayed by some P-Way issues. Meanwhile, JB and Ed were putting the preservation world to rights...
The late running 4-6-0 No7812 "Erlestoke Manor" soon passed us, allowing us a path into the next section of the line towards Arley...
The plan was to break our journey to Bridgnorth at Highley for a spot of grub at the well appointed Engine House. We left the train and clambered over the footbridge, the air littered with the echoing chrous of 43106's efforts as she worked upgrade out of the station. In the Engine House, the two big brute's (48773 and "Gordon") stood shining but silent...
The Engine House, though we've visited before, is very much worth a look and its always nice to see out of ticket engines being displayed in such pleasant conditions rather than rusting in a siding somewhere. The cafe is upstairs and having aided Ed on the gruesome ascent we sat down for lunch. He was very keen on the idea of an impromptu "Three Course Challenge" but unfortunately there wasn't time today...
"Lunch Stop"
JB managed to have an accident with his tray and duly covered himself in gravy. His expression of "I've never liked trays" was more aggressive than I can convey. Having heard a whistle over the sound of lunch being devoured, I wandered outside to grab a quick snap of the Bullied Pacific No34027 "Taw Valley" heading away from Highley towards Arley...
Stomachs replenished, we wandered back down into the loco area. GWR Mogul No7325 has been done up for footplate access, with some plates explaining what some of the controls do. The regulator is surprisingly thrust right up into full main valve which I think is optimistic in the circumstances as the brake valve is set to full application! Jokes aside, its nice to see that, even with no boiler ticket, 7325 is still providing a useful service to the SVR and is still being appreciated by many visitors. She is one of only two such Mogul's that survive today...
"Cabbing A GWR Mogul"
Other locomotives in the Engine House included the well known Black Five No45110 (famous for her 1968 exploits) and the Ivatt Class 2...
Having enjoyed our lunch and a walk around the Engine House, we wandered back over to the platform to await the 1:49pm departure for Bridgnorth. Right on time, in rolled 7812 "Erlestoke Manor". The 4-6-0 was very much in Cambrian guise, having been done up with a liberal application of 'Dannys Bull'...
"7812 Arrives"
The climb out of Highley requires a "good chuff" and even 7812's Fireman wanted to record her efforts with her 8-coach train...
Having passed 43106 at Hampton Loade, the Manor continued on towards Bridgnorth after a good run up Eardington Bank. The shed area at Bridgnorth was, as usual, alive with locomotives of all types and sizes...
The Manor was swiftly uncoupled before running over for water. The level was checked and it was decided that she had enough on board to continue...
Small Prairie No4566 was clearly being warmed up for a fairly imminent duty. Steam was escaping well from her snifting valves as a plume of smoke rose gently skyward...
7812 meanwhile took up her place at the head of our train: the 2:57pm departure for Kidderminster via all stations...
I took a fairly sedate video of 7812 as she got the train away. Its a good climb out of Bridgnorth and with the front end pinned down by a well-loaded 8-coach train, 7812 did slip now & again as she got herself together...

With the weight now moving nicely, the Manor was away...
On our return journey we enjoyed a most welcome beer from the Buffet Car. The guy working the bar recommended this one - 2857...
We passed "Taw Valley" at Hampton Loade before we saw 43106 again at Bewdley. Surprisingly the Pig had the same crew aboard - I thought the SVR would specify a crew change. She was working another train to Bridgnorth...
On "The Rock" at Bewdley was 7812's sister engine No7802 "Bradley Manor". "Bradley" returned to service last November after a full overhaul and looked very smart as she relaxed in the afternoon sun. 7802 is owned by the same group that owns 7812, though the former carries the larger 4000-gallon Collett tender...
"7802 Bradley Manor"
Leaving Bewdley in good voice, 7812 did some real shifting as she climbed towards Foley Park Tunnel. The crew were certainly determined to clear the fire out as she stormed into the tunnel with sparks flying down past the windows. I'm glad we rode in the first compartment as the noise was amazing as the 1939-built engine roared along. All too soon however, the regulator was shut and drift position assumed for the run into Kidderminster. Having backed away from the stock, I finally managed to get a fairly unhindered picture of the Manor...
With that, it was time for home. Well, what a very pleasant little day out to the Severn Valley Railway. No matter when you come on a visit here you get a nice engine on a nice railway with nice rolling stock. A visit to the SVR doesn't dissapoint. My thanks to Ed and JB for an enjoyable day chuntering around the countryside behind some very nice steam engines. Cheers all, Sam...