Saturday, 5 May 2018

Tyseley: An Eastern And An "Earl"...

Evening all. Today was another pleasant volunteer Saturday at Tyseley Loco Works in Birmingham. In beautiful sunshine and under bright blue skies I arrived at the former 84E at just after 10am. There was already much activity in the yard near the turntable and the focal point was a brief Eastern visitor: the K1. 62005 "Lord of the Isles" is the sole survivor of the Thompson/Peppercorn K1 Class moguls which were principally a two-cylinder version of Nigel Gresley's earlier three-cylinder K4 Class. Only six K4's were built whereas the K1's eventually numbered seventy locomotives. A boiler pressed to 225psi feeding 20" cylinders driving 5ft 2" wheels gave the class a considerable tractive effort and they were versatile machines which, like the K4's, were mostly associated with the West Highland line. 62005 is owned by NELPG and spends a lot of time on the West Highland route between Fort William and Mallaig working the "Jacobite" excursions made famous by the route's inclusion in the Harry Potter movies. This morning, with rods dropped, 62005 was being collected by the Class 08 shunter from the main line depot next door for tyre turning on their floor mounted lathe. I believe the K1 is the biggest wheel they can do...
"K1 'Lord of the Isles' Alongside 7812"
Slowly disappearing from view, "Lord of the Isles" left us in the sunshine. What a nice old thing and I'm sure a very useful tool. In the works today we were continuing with maintenance on the beautiful Castle Class No5043. The "Earl" is a pleasure to work on and it's always nice to be amongst the various steeds which make up the Tyseley fleet. Behind "Edgcumbe" stands the equally lovely 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall". Hopefully we'll see her in steam again at the upcoming June open weekend...
I left Tyseley at around 5pm after another very enjoyable day with the lads. I have a busy few weeks coming up now as the ever looming "Giant Miniature Weekend" draws nearer - can't wait. Thank you all for reading, cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Tyseley: A Date With The "Earl"...

Hi all. A very quick post from today. I was on the Saturday volunteer crew again at Tyseley Loco Works and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon helping with maintenance on No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe". It's always nice to work around such fine machines. Thanks all - nothing else to report, Sam...

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Ryton: A Battery Box Sunday...

Hi all. Today in the persistent and miserable drizzle I was rostered as part of the crew at the Ryton Pools Miniature Railway, home of Coventry MES and its impressive 3.5"/5" gauge raised track. I arrived at midday along with the rest of the booked crew and as usual both trains and their traction were already on the track raring to go. I think we began running for the public slightly early at around 12:45pm and had a steady stream of customers throughout the afternoon. The rain was determined to carry on - heavy enough to be an annoyance but not heavy enough to call the job off. I had a mixture of guarding and driving spells on both trains and found the new guards trucks in particular a lot nicer to ride on than their predecessors. In service today were the two electric locomotives or 'flying battery boxes' as some know them. The Class 37 lookalike has received a new body in recent times and now wears an EWS-style livery. Its looks are much improved over its BR green incarnation...
I have nothing against these battery models but they just do nothing for me...give me a steam engine that is proving hard work any day! Despite this nobody can argue that they aren't useful, powerful and reliable for this sort of passenger work. By 4pm I think all of us were pretty soaked and ready for a cuppa' at home. We'd carried just over 100 passengers during the session which was a real surprise considering the dreary conditions. Until next time, Sam...

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Tyseley: "Clun" On The Move...

Hi all. Today was spent at Tyseley Loco Works amongst its stud of Great Western express locomotives. Recently restored 1950-built Castle Class 4-6-0 No7029 "Clun Castle" is due to star in a photo charter next weekend as well as a public steaming and thus was being spruced up today for her outing. I spent the day in "Clun"s cab, buffing up the mass of copper and brass. It is a pleasure really to clean a Tyseley engine as everything comes up lovely. There is nothing more soul destroying than cleaning an engine that is absolutely filthy as the mess is just pushed from place to place - none of that here! After a good 6 hours of polishing my efforts were rewarding...
Just after 4pm, with an immaculate cab on 7029, I left Tyseley for home. Unfortunately I can't make next weekend but will be in the Saturday after. Thanks all, Sam...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

A Bure Valley Railway Footplate Day with "Beaver 6"...

Each year on the footplate there comes a day or two when you think "that was a really cracking day" - this was one of them! Today, thanks to well known alarm clock snoozer 'Eddie the Late', I'd been invited over to the Bure Valley Railway at Aylsham for a day on the engine. Having stayed at Ed's last night, we rose with the dawn chorus before heading over to Aylsham along the quiet Norfolk roads. We were booked on the 'Steam 1' service, meaning a 7:30am sign on. With our kit unloaded from the car, we trotted through the workshop and into the running shed area where the two rostered locomotives: No9 and No6: stood quietly awaiting preparation. 'Steam 1' allows the crew first choice over which locomotive you take and, although the weather men had promised rain later in the day, we opted for No6 for the true 'tender engine experience'. Who cares about a little bit of rain? - easily said in the morning...
With the roller shutters now open, a group of us got together to push No6 outside by hand: a luxury afforded to 15" gauge locomotives although she was some handful! Once out in the pleasant morning sunshine, the large footplate of the 2-6-2 was apparent, as was the warmth emanating from the doorplate...
Eddie then explained the BVR preparation procedure (everywhere is slightly different) before setting me to work with the dart and shovel to clear the grate. We then moved to the front end to clear the accumulated char from the smokebox after yesterdays efforts. With checks complete, it was time to start the embryo fire. As instructed I threw a few handfuls of stone across the bars before laying a bed of coal. The stone helps to prevent any clinker from the Welsh coal sticking to the bars and is a process which increases firebar life. The 'Steam 2' crew duly arrived to start preparing No9 and this was a good thing as Ed had to go begging for a lighter...
With a soaked pile of rags blazing away on the grate, a mound of wood was added on top and then the doors closed until it caught properly. With the wood fire burning nice & hot the coal was added - you always need a good hot fire when starting this open cast Welsh I find. The draw from the already warm chimney helped the process along but BVR engines also benefit from an artificial blower provided by an airline from the shed compressor. Just a little touch keeps the smoke out of the cab and the heat continuously drawing through the tubes. A large engine in 15" gauge, No6 has a deflector plate and an arch to protect the tubeplate...
As I said yesterday, BVR No6 "Blickling Hall" was built for the Bure Valley by Winson's in 1994. She is one of a pair of ZB-type 2-6-2 tender locomotives based on the line and hasn't long returned from full overhaul. I really like the shape of this machine and the attractive blue livery. As the sun shone down on the shed during this warm Spring morning, I couldn't wait to get out on the footplate...
For the next hour or so No's 6 & 9 were prepared side by side. The first train on the 'Steam 1' service was scheduled for 10am and, half an hour prior, we were ready to go. With a pip on the Stanier style hooter, No6 hissed into life as Ed drove her off shed, expelling reams of condensate from the steam operated drain cocks...
The engine was backed clear of the shed before pulling forward onto the turntable road. The ZB weighs around 13 tons and isn't the easiest thing to push round! Once turned, No6 was ready to pull forward for water and ashing out...
With the large tender replenished, No6 backed down onto the waiting 8-car train...
Over on the shed No9 "Mark Timothy" was near to completing preparation in readiness to haul the 11:30am service to Wroxham. No9 is a 2-6-4 tank locomotive built by Winson's in 1999. Originally built as a County Donegal lookalike, she was rebuilt at Alan Keef's into her current Leek & Manifold Railway form in 2003...
Eddie leans out from No6 as 10am departure time nears...
Right on time, the Guard gave us the "Right Away" and off we went. No6 picked up the 8-car train and eased out of Aylsham passing the control box. Once clear of the station limits, No6 increased speed on the downward gradient towards the tunnel. From there on we headed to Wroxham. I tell you what, the whole experience is fantastic and isn't at all far removed from steam on the main line. If it wasn't for the size of the locomotives, everything else about the whole job is main line style. Watching Ed at work with the controls, it was clear that you needed to be on the ball with this job. As the driver here you are the driver and fireman together, operating a locomotive at speeds of up to 20mph on a 9-mile route, as well as having to contend with request stops, crossings, passing loops etc. It's quite a job to keep on top of! Here, No6 steams happily towards Hautbois Hall and its 10mph crossing...
The following video clip should give some idea as to the Bure Valley footplate experience. The engines are worked just like a main line engine. When accelerating up gradients the regulator is most often in second valve with the reverser being wound back as the need dictates. It's all quite exhilarating...
Flying along towards Wroxham aboard "Blickling Hall"...
Dropping down into the terminus station at Wroxham: adjacent to the Network Rail station: BVR 6 came to a stop in the platform. We uncoupled the locomotive from the train before turning her on the table and coming to rest in the centre road...
Once the passengers had taken their souvenir snaps, the engine chuffed to the other end of the loop in readiness to back down onto the returning train. The BVR engines are blown down between trips. Ed looked like he was listening to ABBA as the suspended solids were violently expelled from the boiler...
A quick oil round for "Blickling Hall" before the 11:10am departure for Aylsham...
With a bacon cob on the tea tray, Ed makes up the fire ready for departure...
The return run was equally energetic. No6 approaches Coltishall from Wroxham...
A typical cab shot on No6: regulator well open and sounding a treat...
As the sun shone and the chimney shouted, No6 was definitely the right choice...
I just couldn't decide which shots to include for this post so there are many!...
At Brampton Loop near Aylsham we crossed over with No9 on the 11:30am train...
Flying along towards Aylsham tunnel on the approach to the station...
Right on time, we arrived back at Aylsham after a great first trip. What a railway - exhilarating, delicious, amazing. Once coaled, turned and watered, No6 was placed at the head of the next departure - the 12:40pm off Aylsham. Note the interesting coupling arrangement - not unlike that of a car and caravan...
I was kindly allowed to chuck a few round on the second and third trips, under Ed's instruction. The firebox on the ZB's is considerable for their size at 5.5ft sq...
The second trip was just as good as the first - I loved it. A nice level fire keeping the holes filled keeps the needle near the red line (180psi) and as long as you're ahead of the game with the injectors No6 is a dream. For saturated engines these machines steam beautifully and their performances are nothing short of staggering when you consider their scale. Here, No6 waits at Wroxham ready to depart on the 2pm...
Returning to Aylsham, Ed radios in to control having entered a section...
At this point it would probably be good to talk about the BVR radio system. So, tokens aren't used in regular service at Bure Valley. Each locomotive has a radio name (so in our case 'Beaver 6') and is given permission to enter sections of the line via radio authority from the control box at Aylsham. As an example, if you're approaching a loop you radio in to alert control to this fact, control will then give permission to proceed in (or not) and wait, or proceed through depending on the situation. All transmissions are completed using the phonetic alphabet and professionalism is constantly maintained. It's an interesting system to see in action but it clearly works. As you can see though, the radio is just another job for the driver whilst the engine tears along...
At Buxton on the second train, we passed No9 again on her second outing...
At Aylsham we coaled, turned and watered No6 once again in readiness for our third and final train of the day: the 3:30pm to Wroxham...
'Eddie the Cake' couldn't resist a slice as we awaited departure from Aylsham...
Looking ahead from Aylsham in the sun: the control box is on the right...
A crew shot of me and Ed before our final run of the day (check out those clouds!)...
A final on-time departure was followed by a sunny drop down into Aylsham tunnel...
We did hit some rain on the approach to Hautbois but I was thankfully saved by the shelter of No6's warm backhead - Ed and his 'Toad of Toad Hall' goggles got a soaking! At Wroxham we turned the engine and ran round before grabbing a cuppa' prior to the final homeward run. No6 sat at the head of a quiet train...
The run out of Wroxham is always fantastic, stomping alongside the standard gauge track with the 7" cylinders powering the wheels for all they're worth! It was a great last run back and despite the horrid forecasts that the weather men had issued we got off very lightly with only a couple of showers. It was well worth taking a chance on No6! Back at Aylsham with a nicely run down fire, we steamed back through the station before pulling into the shed prior to disposal. What a cracking day...
We then disposed 'Beaver 6' prior to signing off after 54 miles of main line in miniature! I must thank the team at the Bure Valley for their kindness and hospitality during my visit - what a railway. It's great: the locomotives are pristine and yet are worked hard doing a 'real' job, the scenery is lovely, the staff friendly and the outlook professional...can't beat it. If you haven't been - go for a visit. Massive thanks must also go to Eddie and Lynn for arranging the visit and for having me. It was an all round great visit...maybe Ed wasn't so selfish moving to Norfolk afterall! I can't hope to do the railway full justice in this post but I've had a go and I hope you've enjoyed it. Thank you all for reading - this was one unique steam experience...

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Bure Valley Railway...

After a pleasant visit to the North Norfolk Railway at Sheringham earlier today, myself & Ed headed over to the Bure Valley Railway at Aylsham. Myself & Maisie called in a few years ago but the weather was so foul that day that we decided not to ride on the train. A return visit has been on the cards for some time and Ed's recent passing as a Steam Driver on the railway gave a good excuse! The BVR runs for 9 miles between Aylsham and Wroxham on 15" tracks laid atop the tracked of the former East Norfolk Railway, with standard gauge trains over the line having ceased in 1982. The BVR came into being in 1990 and is now a successful tourist attraction carrying well over 100,000 passengers per year. Ed has been crewing on this fine narrow gauge set-up for a couple of years now and had been regaling me on how great it all was. After a walk through the engine shed and a talk on the five impressive members of the fleet, we walked over to see BVR No6 "Blickling Hall" stood at the head of the final departure of the day for Wroxham; and very nice she was too... 
Driver Mark was preparing for the off as we watched from the platform. No6 is one of two 2-6-2 ZB locomotives based on the line, loosely based on the Indian Railway prototype and built by Winson's in 1994. Being essentially a Winson's product, it wouldn't be a surprise to anyone to learn that they weren't the best machines from new. However, with massive potential in their design and a wealth of engineering knowledge at the BVR, the pair have been transformed into powerful, free steaming and reliable engines capable of fantastic performances. Ed has kindly arranged for me to spend the day with him on the footplate tomorrow on the 'Steam 1' service and, as you can imagine, I am looking forward to this immensely! I can't wait to see the BVR engines in action on the route and to enjoy them from the cab to boot. I'm sure it will provide a knowledge enhancing day. Thanks for reading all, Sam...

North Norfolk Railway Delight...

Today, during a couple of days over in Norfolk with good friend and well known bringer of lateness 'Eddie the Late', we took in a return visit to the North Norfolk Railway. Ed now lives in Sheringham and the NNR's base is only a short ride down the road so I couldn't really miss it. Strolling up to the station from the sea front, we were just in time to see our train roll in behind the huge WD 2-10-0 No90775, now named "Royal Norfolk Regiment". This was the first time I'd seen a Riddles Austerity in steam: what a brute of an engine! The loco was uncoupled from the train before running round to take on water at the column in anticipation of the 12:10 departure for Holt...
We boarded the Mk1 coaches behind the 2-10-0 and settled in for the journey of just over 5 miles. Right on time, the Guard gave the "Right Away" and the big black engine hissed into life. Moving cautiously away, the engine barely muttered as she picked up the train and strolled out of Sheringham towards Weybourne. It was a pleasure to look out from the droplight and listen to the engine casually steaming along with barely 50psi in the chests. Any engine of this size is really overkill in regular preserved railway settings but it certainly saves them being overworked...
At the attractive intermediate station of Weybourne the fireman surrendered the token to the signalman and awaited the 'down' train from Holt. Crossing over with us was the wonderful sole-surviving B12 4-6-0 No8572...
With the B12 clear of the section, 90775 received the appropriate token and the road. With an all clear from the Guard, the 2-10-0 departed Weybourne for Holt. The climb out of Weybourne is the steepest part of the line and the driver did give her a bit more stick up there. You could hear the engine digging in as the reverser was wound in; no doubt to give her something to do. Myself & Eddie both commented that you really did just want a few more miles of that! All too soon, the regulator was closed as the train slowed for arrival at the terminus station at Holt...
These powerful engines were designed by R.A.Riddles for service during World War II as a cost effective but useful machine. The original design was a 2-8-0, with the 2-10-0 variant joining later so as to provide the same power output but a lighter axle loading for use on secondary routes. Surprisingly, the tractive effort is slightly lower than the GWR 2800 Class 2-8-0s, despite the huge proportions. They were known as the "Austerity" and a total of 150 of the 2-10-0 version were built during 1943-1945. 90775 never actually saw BR service (the last BR example was 90774). She was built in Glasgow in 1943 by North British and was, I believe, exported to Greece from new. Repatriated in 1984, the engine first worked on the North Norfolk in 2003. Having not long returned to service from a heavy overhaul, the engine looks and sounds lovely. She was named "Royal Norfolk Regiment" last year. At Holt, the driver kindly invited me onto the footplate for a ride during the run round, much to Eddie's irritation...
As the driver opened the regulator you could feel the engine come to life as its 19" cylinders got it on the move. It's quite a beast, it really is - I'd love a go on something like this! The driver commented that he preferred the WD over the BR 9F which surprised us as Riddles was never a fan of the Austerity. In fact, their designer was quoted as saying that "they could all be pushed into the sea once the war was won". To the surprise of all, they survived long after World War II and 10 of the 2-10-0 type still live on today, although only 3 are in the UK. What a fine engine...
"On The Footplate of Austerity 90775"
Once the driver had gently settled 90775 onto the train, I thanked the crew for my ride and returned to Eddie on the platform. The Fireman then jumped down to couple the loco up to the train. A nice touch I think at the NNR is the addition of a parcels van within the rake to carry pushchairs and other items that require storage: much nicer than storing them in the corridors or vestibules...
Holt station has a refreshment room, museum and miniature railway. After a wander around the museum we spotted a little 5" 3F simmering away on the raised track. The miniature railway runs up the yard and around again in a loop...
It wasn't long before departure time was near and so we boarded the train at the opposite end. Leaving Holt, 90775 drifted gently downgrade back towards Weybourne where we alighted for a cuppa' on the platform...
Another grab shot of 90775 as she prepared to depart Weybourne...
With the train gone we walked over the footbridge to see the attractive signalbox. The friendly signalman kindly invited us in and the high standard of restoration was clear throughout the box. It's lovely to see the appropriate bells, indicators and token machines working as they should: the hallmark of a well restored signalbox. Wandering back over the bridge we visited the refreshment room for a cake and a cuppa' before the Austerity was heard climbing in from Sheringham...
Over in the yard, BR Standard 4 No76084 was undergoing a steam test. This engine is main line registered and is used to work the NNR's Cromer dining trains over Network Rail. I like the Standard 4: a workable engine for any purpose...
With the Austerity waiting patiently in the platform on route to Holt, it wasn't long before the B12 arrived with the Sheringham train...
With a "Right Away" from the Guard we departed Weybourne behind the elderly B12. It sounds just like the T9 - but bigger! Once out of Weybourne the engine drifted steadily back towards Sheringham where we arrived right on time. Having alighted from the train I walked over the footbridge in an attempt to get some shots of the B12 as I missed out on her during her January visit to the Great Central...
Built to a Great Eastern design in 1928, this LNER Apple Green beauty employs a 180psi boiler and 20" cylinders. What a lovely old engine. You can't beat an inside cylindered express engine. The LSWR T9 was wonderful and the B12 looks very much along the same antique lines...
Once uncoupled from the train the engine ran round...
Having watered on the column she was placed at the head of the train...
All in all this was a great second visit to the North Norfolk Railway with two fantastic locomotives in action. Thanks Eddie for the company and thanks to the crew on 90775 for the ride during the run round - it was much appreciated! The NNR is a great set up and well worth a visit. Although only 5 miles long, the line boasts many well restored locomotives, coaches and stations in an attractive seaside setting - what can be better? Now it's off to the Bure Valley Railway! Thanks all, Sam...