Sunday, 27 August 2017

A Super Sunny "Shakespeare"...

"A Sunlit Castle" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Hi all. After our week away in Devon, we returned home to what turned out to be a baking Bank Holiday weekend. Today, bright and early, I was on my way over to the former 84E to volunteer on the Support Crew for Tyseley's "Shakespeare Express". Due to the gauging issues which have plagued the regular engine No4965 "Rood Ashton Hall", the larger Castle has been the mainstay of the 2017 season. Today was no exception and an immaculate "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" was edging gently outside as I arrived at the shed. Whilst the rest of the team busied themselves around her with the oil feeders, I grabbed some rag and a set of ladders before setting to with the Brasso. With the sun beaming down, it was already warm at 7:30am and a lovely day was in prospect as the "Earl" brewed up patiently...
At 8am, under blue skies, the "Earl" hissed into life in readiness to go off shed. Reams of condensate filled the air as she summoned her strength to move forwards...
Tyseley engines benefit from a hard working gang of cleaners which turn up during the week between the "Shakespeare" services. They had once again made sure that the "Earl" was shining for her Sunday appearance and the 1936-built 4-6-0 looked a real picture as she awaited departure with the ECS for Snow Hill on this cloudless morning. I think I have about 300 shots or so now of the Castle stood in the exact same spot. I suppose I should really get more creative...
With a little time to spare before the off, I wandered down the yard to have a look at a brief visitor to 84E: "Oliver Cromwell". Built at Crewe in 1951, No70013 had recently arrived at Tyseley from her base at the GCR. In a few days she'll be off to Didcot to collect the blue King before towing her to Old Oak Common for the open day next Saturday. The Britannia made an imposing sight in the sunlit yard...
Back at 5043, "right time" was nearing...
In an effort not to bore regular readers too much, I won't go into massive detail about the goings on today as it was the usual "Shakespeare" format. Instead, I'll just caption a few of the pictures below. After running round the ECS at Snow Hill, 5043 is brought onto the 10am departure for Stratford (Train A)...
After a pleasant run down to Shakespeare's birthplace, we watered the Castle in the usual manner before she backed onto the waiting train. As we have a fairly long layover here I decided to wander over the footbridge and photograph the simmering loco. Unfortunately, the warm sunshine did little for me except create a sea of haze. It was very warm down in Stratford and the rather clement weather duly called for an ice cream and a slush (we know how to live!)...
After returning to Birmingham on Train B, our short run round at Snow Hill was followed by a prompt departure back to Stratford. After watering and servicing, I had a second attempt at the 'waiting for departure shot' with 5043. This one turned out considerably better as the beautiful "Earl" simmered in the sun...
With the sun still shining, the "Earl" left Stratford behind and jogged homeward under the wonderful blue skies. Not to be poetic but a thoroughbred Great Western engine tearing through the green fields of the Warwickshire countryside on a summer Sunday afternoon like this is quite pleasant to experience!...
"A Countryside Castle" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Having the Support Coach right behind the loco on the homeward runs does have its advantages as when we pull up I can grab a shot before the mass of onlookers arrives. 5043 is pictured just after arrival at Snow Hill...
As usual the final run round was followed by a prompt departure back to Tyseley with the ECS. The "Earl" descended into the 'middle road' ready to be shunt released by the Class 08 diesel shunter. Another job well done...
With the train out of the way, a still sparkling 5043 steamed back to the shed...
Finally, the engine rests on the shed road after another successful day out...
There you go then folks - another grand day out with the "Shakespeare Express". I've tried not to ramble on too much with this one as the pictures speak louder than words. Today was another interesting, enjoyable and humorous day out on the Support Crew, if a little warm! I must thank Tyseley for their continued hospitality: its a pleasure to be involved. I must also thank David Chandler for continuing to put up with me badgering him for images - thanks David! All in all, another great experience. Next week is the last "Shakespeare" of 2017 - don't miss it. Cheers all, Sam...

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A Summer Paddle with "Kingswear Castle"...

Hi all. Once we'd alighted from the foot ferry after our ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway, we had a little time to kill before our river cruise on the paddle steamer. Our sailing was the first of the day: the midday departure. We were soon wandering along the pontoon towards the simmering vessel that was moored nearby...
Tickets clipped, we stepped aboard the 1924-built "Kingswear Castle". This must be the fourth time we've done this cruise. Again, much like the railway, I just love it. Its such a quaint piece of living history that I'll never begrudge spending the money on it and taking a trip. Maisie wasn't overly impressed with my chats about the glory years of steam powered shipping and the magnificent liners of the oceans of old...
Right on time, the "KC" signalled her departure from the Dartmouth pontoon with a blast on her hooter. Almost silently, she slipped away towards the sea as the crew began their interesting and humorous commentary about the vessel and her surroundings. The sun was now shining on this changeable day and the warmth on the deck dictated the need for a little beverage. We enjoyed a drink from the "KC"s own bar in the lounge below deck and I quite liked the steamer brew known as "K.C"...
The 1.25-hour cruise first took the paddle steamer out towards the sea...
Once it was time to turn back, the vessel bobbed on the waves as she made her large turn to starboard. The paddle wheels would then take us up through Dartmouth, passing the pontoon before continuing on towards Greenway...
One of the diesel cruisers - also operated by the DSR - was sailing alongside us as we steamed back up the river. I couldn't help but notice just how full it was compared to the "KC". Each to their own but I could sit on the paddle steamer all day. With a beer in hand and the warm sun being gently cooled by the sea breeze, the relaxing lull of the paddle wheels makes this one of the most enjoyable experiences I know of. Its certainly no comparison to the diesel contraption...
As the vessel continues on her voyage, the passengers are encouraged to explore her. The engine hatch is open above her double expansion engine and its a pleasure to watch it gently circulating with (it seems) so little effort. The engine is older than the paddle steamer herself, dating from 1904. The steam is first admitted to the high pressure cylinder, before continuing into the larger low pressure cylinder. The larger diameter piston in the latter makes up for the lower steam pressure. From there, the steam is condensed back into water and this results in nothing but smoke from the fire seeming to leave the vessel via the chimney. The condensing process results in extremely economical water consumption...
Just aft of the engine is the boiler. Below we can see the large boiler with its pressure gauge and left hand water gauge on display. The marine type boiler is coal fired and this is where "KC" gets her claim to fame. She is the last coal fired paddle steamer in the UK and arguably in the world. Overall its just a beautiful piece of engineering and a superb restoration. She was actually built in Dartmouth at the local Philip & Sons shipyard for use on river cruises on the Dart. Happily, 93 years later, she's still there doing the same job. A lesser man than me would get poetic about all this...
Whilst I admired the engine and boiler, the paddles continued to propel us through the waters of the Dart. After turning to starboard once again near Greenway, the "KC" made her way back towards Dartmouth...
It was a lovely day to be out for a paddle...
Everyone on board was sitting outside today: inside was empty...
All in all it was a fantastic experience once again aboard the "KC"...
All too soon the paddle steamer was mooring up once again alongside the pontoon. We alighted after a most enjoyable cruise and I do hope that one day we'll be back again. I cannot recommend this outing enough: its just lovely. "Kingswear Castle" is a credit to those who restored her and to the Dartmouth Steam Railway who now operate her. Really lovely, just beautiful. From the "KC" we had a walk around Dartmouth before taking the ferry back to Kingswear station ready to catch our return train to Paignton behind 7752.  For those interested, the railway post from today can be found by clicking here. Thanks all, Sam...

The Dartmouth Steam Railway...

Hi all. This week we were on our holidays in Devon. We like to do a week each year in the Torquay area and no seaside trip would be complete without a visit to the Dartmouth Steam Railway. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Torbay, the picturesque 6.7-mile line is known to us as "the holiday railway" and I just love going there. Running from its base at Paignton, the line follows the sea as it climbs steeply up to Churston before dropping down through Greenway to skirt the River Dart towards its riverside terminus at Kingswear. From there you can catch the ferry across to the pretty town of Dartmouth and there are also various cruises on offer through the railways river boat services. I called in at the DSR yesterday to purchase our tickets: this saved plenty of queuing this morning! We booked the 'Steam and Paddle Steamer Cruise': train to Kingswear, ferry to Dartmouth and then a 1.25-hour river cruise on the paddle steamer "Kingswear Castle". Our Paignton departure was the 10:45 trip and we arrived in good time. In the platform, simmering away, was a familiar engine: 7752, otherwise known as L94. Tyseley's red Pannier has spent the summer on the Dartmouth...
After a quick look in the gift shop, we wandered out onto the platform passing the queuing hoards. The popularity of the DSR is amazing. A shining 7752 was enjoying a buff up by one of the crew as departure time neared...
We boarded the chocolate and cream rake of coaches at the Kingswear end. It was initially a fight to get a seat aboard the leading TSO... 
As "right time" neared, 7752 hissed into life and gently ticked backwards through the loop towards the Sands Road level crossing...
The red pannier certainly looked smart as she rolled by...
7752 is one of three 5700 Class Panniers based at Tyseley, with batch-mate 7760 and younger sister 9600 making up the trio. 52' was built by the North British Locomotive Company in 1930 for the Great Western Railway as one of the popular 863-strong class. At the end of their BR service life, some panniers found their way into NCB service, others went to the big smoke. London Transport purchased 13 of the 5700s for use on engineering trains on the Undergound between 1956 and 1963. 52' was sold to LT in 1959 and was given the number L94. She was still going strong in 1971 when she had the honour of pulling the last steam train on the Underground before preservation at Tyseley. Since then she has travelled far and wide, visiting many preserved railways as well as being main line certified. I've had the privilege to drive and fire her at the Tyseley open days and, like all panniers, she is willing and strong. The engine has been on loan to the DSR for the summer season and I believe she'll be going home at the end of September.

Anyway, back to today. Our train departed on time at 10:45, hissing out of Paignton Queens Park station. The drain cocks were doing their best to release any condensation from the engines 17.5" cylinders on this first trip of the day. After picking up a few more passengers at Goodrington Sands the plucky pannier got to grips with the 1 in 71 climb towards Waterside. It seemed a bit wet at the chimney, a fact later confirmed by the driver running with the taps open most of the way up the bank. By the time the 1 in 60 towards Churston beckoned the engine had stopped hunting for the water and the exhaust became clear and crisp. You always get a good shout from a pannier! Arriving at Churston, we passed one of the DSR's beautiful heavy tanks: 4277 "Hercules", built in 1920 and the oldest engine in their fleet...
From Churston the line descends towards Kingswear and, after Greenway tunnel, views across the River Dart open up on the right hand side. It was a little dreary as we arrived at the terminus: todays weather didn't know what to do with itself: but being in the leading coach allowed us to alight quickly and trot towards the ferry before the crowds could beat us to the ramp...
Whilst we waited for the ferry, 52' duly ran round her train ready for a prompt return departure for Paignton. The short ferry crossing took us over to the Dartmouth pontoon, where we alighted with a little time to kill before our midday cruise on the "KC"...
"All At Sea On The Paddle Steamer"
There will be a separate post about the "Kingswear Castle" following on from this one. After our cruise we had a walk around Dartmouth, admiring the quaint buildings and of course we didn't miss the Fudge shop!...
Looking at the DSR's orange timetable we opted to catch the 14:55 train back to Paignton. Sure enough, when it rolled in, the eyes of the assembled hoards were met with the sight of 52' (L94) once again...
Rolling in neatly from Paignton, 52' ticked gently past us with her 7-coach train. Realising that the pannier would no doubt offer a good bark as we climbed back towards Churston, we wandered up to the leading coach once again. I've had the pleasure of crewing four of these machines now: the operational Tyseley pair plus 5786 and 9466. Compared to the Midland alternative, known as the 3F or 'Standard Shunt', they offer a lot more grunt and a little more finesse I find. Always liked the 3F and I've been on two or three in the past but a pannier is just a go anywhere do anything tank. This trip was busier: pretty much every seat full: but then again it was probably one of the peak trains of the day. The red pannier duly ran round...
On time, 52' lifted the 7-coach train out of Kingswear and attacked the bank towards Greenway. A request had been made to the Guard to stop at the halt just the other side of the tunnel and so the pannier would have to restart on the climb. The heavy tanks have no issues with their ability to start 12 coaches without breaking a sweat but how would the smaller pannier cope? The answer - she walked away. Its amazing how much power a 200psi boiler plumbed up to 17.5" cylinders gives you. I think they're great engines. Sitting across from us, some older chaps were discussing 4277. "He had six on didn't he?"..."yeah they really load um' up down here, pulling um' backwards an' all". If only they knew: the heavy tank will do more than twice that with ease! At Churston I was pleased to see the railways BR Standard Class 4 No75014 "Braveheart" out in the yard. She returned to service after a lengthy overhaul in December last year and, although sadly she wasn't running today, the engine looked amazing as I grabbed a blurry shot from the passing train...
From Churston, 52' ticked quietly down to Paignton via Goodrington Sands. Again, being so close to the front of the train allowed me to grab a shot before the crowds arrived for their "take me by the engine" souvenir photos...
The pannier was swiftly uncoupled before edging forward ready to have her 1200-gallon pannier tanks replenished. The general public seemed happy to see a red engine; they're aren't many really (apart from the famous Hall that went to Hogwarts). As the crowds slowly cleared, I grabbed a final shot of 52' as she simmered quietly awaiting her next turn of duty...
"See You At Home Old Gal"
Well that's it folks - another great day out on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. I can't fault it: a really lovely day out. If you're ever in the area its always worth a visit and if you haven't been, well, you need to! It must be one of the most picturesque railways in the UK: if not the most: and its certainly my favourite preserved line. Cheers all, Sam...

Sunday, 20 August 2017

16mm Live Steam In The Garden...

Hi all. Today I had kindly been invited over to have another look at JB's garden railway. He builds and operates 16mm live steam models, mainly of the coal-fired variety. I went along last year - see post here - although, happily, this visit took place in far more clement weather! The day was mainly organised for other operators to come along and try out the steeply graded little railway and so, as with last time, JB's engines didn't really show themselves. I was treated to a look at the various projects on the go in his Aladdin's cave of a workshop. He tends to pick up a model of exceeding beauty; hand crafted with many hours of skilled labour; before slagging off just about everything about it! I meanwhile am in awe at the models he has created - some are works of art. When I arrived, a visiting coal-fired Darjeeling B was just raising steam in the preparation area, with the aid of an electric blower...
Already on the track and pulling a passenger train was a meths-fired model built to resemble the Vale of Rheidol tank engines...
After climbing the 1 in 37 on the gruelling bend before the tunnel, the 2-6-2 emerged into the light at the summit of the gradient...
Some of JB's engines have been fitted with radio control, understandably as the gradient requires some good regulator but you don't want to shoot off like a rocket on your way down the other side. The climb seems to knock the wind from the sails of the little engines, before they glide gracefully downward back to the preparation area. In warm sunshine, the Darjeeling B sails through the station at the summit...
This 0-4-0 was a lovely thing to watch, merrily chuffing around leaving nothing but the intoxicating aroma of coal smoke behind her. The gent operating her didn't really need to do anything but top the water up occasionally. I was very surprised at how many continuous laps she managed between firing...
Around Midday, Steve Bell steamed up his Baldwin locomotive...
A huge model, the engine came around fairly quickly on the electric blower before setting off with a rake of wagons. Through the greenery of the "Effing Forest" she went, climbing through the passing loop towards the steepest part of the gradient. This engine runs like a watch and was really a pleasure to see in action. It just sailed around, lap after lap. What a lovely thing to run in your garden...
Steve was impressed with the performance of his engine, and rightly so...
JB kindly laid on some lunch for us and we enjoyed the snap over a cuppa' whilst chatting about all things railway. It was a very enjoyable few hours out in good company. When we returned to the garden a little 0-4-0 was trundling round. This was "Marmaduke": a pot-boilered engine of 1970s vintage. I can see why people do 16mm. The little engines operate in much the same way as the big ones, particularly the coal-fired types. They offer the sight, sound and smell of the real thing, just on a smaller scale. The work and skill that goes into creating these things is staggering, much like their larger 5" scale cousins. It looks to be a great side of the hobby with a good social following. Its not for me though, I don't have enough time as it is!...
Around 2pm I had to head for home as we're off on holiday tomorrow so I have plenty to do. I must thank JB for his kind invitation and for allowing me to see his terrific little garden railway again. Unfortunately, yet again, I missed the fabulous sight of the Garrett's in use but hopefully I'll catch them another time. Cheers all, Sam...