Saturday, 25 November 2017

A Warley Wander...

Hi all. A short one from today. We had a quick visit to the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition for their 2017 show at the NEC. There was an impressive array of layouts and stands on offer and it was worth a few hours walking around amongst several thousand bobble-hatted show-goers. A pint and a pork pie completed the day and we returned home for a cuppa'. Warley is always worth a wander and always makes me feel like the beginning of the Christmas season. Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Tyseley: In The Bleak Midwinter...

"In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan". Today I was over at Tyseley for another of their Saturday working parties. Various groups were in the shed today including the "Kinlet Hall" crew and the Duke brigade in their shiny green overalls. A couple of us were set to work on 84E's pioneer Castle class 4-6-0 No7029 "Clun Castle". The task was simple: to clean her up and keep her pristine ready for the winter break. After her triumphant return to steam at the October open weekend, 7029 now awaits her main line trips with the first scheduled for March next year. At around 4pm following a good day pushing some rags around the immaculate Castle it was time to head for home. Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 11 November 2017

"The Valley Rambler" Remembers The Fallen...

"Panniers at Highley" (Pic - K.Felstead)
Tyseley's Pannier trips are a popular addition to Vintage Trains' main line steam calendar and today would see "The Valley Rambler" steaming to Bridgnorth via Stratford. Bridgnorth is of course the terminus of the Severn Valley Railway, which we would join during the afternoon. Hauling the train today would be 84E's 1945-built 9600 and her larger Hawksworth cousin 9466. Following my now traditional McDonalds stop I arrived at Tyseley at around 6:30am. As is typical when preparing Panniers for the main line, the weather was bleak: wet and windy. Wandering down through the loco shed I discovered some of the lads already gathering around 9600 whilst the Class 08 diesel shunter rumbled away outside making up air. As the drizzle came down we moved the engine across to the usual prep road whilst Hall Class 4965 looked out longingly from the shed. Soon enough the fire was lit and 9600 was coming to life...
Down the site, 9466 was being prepared by her own Support Crew. The train would leave Tyseley top and tailed for the run to Stratford, with the larger Pannier at the head. 9600 is seen just before leaving shed for turning following oiling and watering...
Our departure time was scheduled for 9:15am and so 9600 was soon on the turntable being prepared for a bunker first departure from 84E...
The next task involved dragging all of the stock up the site to allow 9466 to assume her place at the other end of the train. The bank up the yard is a strong climb and yet 9600 just picked up the train with ease. 17.5" cylinders and a 200psi boiler gives these chunky 0-6-0s a massive amount of punch for a tank engine and you can really imagine them taking trains of 12 coaches or more up into Paddington from Old Oak Common. Having warmed herself up shunting the stock, 9600 simmered away quietly steam heating. The passengers would be glad of the warmth on this chilly day...
Right on time, 9600 barked out of Tyseley up the bank and onto Network Rail metals. Once the train was clear of the museum site, the road was given to proceed down through the loop to reach the main line. We were soon ticking happily down the North Warwick line towards Stratford. The Panniers are allowed to do up to 45mph and certainly seem to settle down once they're up there. A red signal up ahead heralded a short stop at Whitlocks End where 9600 proved popular...
"On Board 9600" (Pic - A.Endsor)
Once the signal had cleared, the Pannier duo got the train quickly up to speed again as they roared on towards Stratford. 9466 was doing the lions share...
"9466 Leads The Way" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Our arrival in Shakespeare's town was as always greeted by an army of excited onlookers. 9466 would run round whilst the hoses were quickly connected up to 9600 so that watering could begin. The Panniers can manage around 30 miles on average on a tank of water and so the rambler trips do tend to turn into a 'water stop express'. Once the Tyseley engine was watered, the Hawksworth was also filled up ready for the climb back towards Birmingham. At 11am a small service and a silence took place on the platform to remember the countless who lost their lives during the war years. 9600 was wearing a poppy wreath as a mark of respect. We left Stratford on time at 11:15am, climbing the bank towards Wilmcote in fine style...
"Pannier Power" (Pic - D.Chandler)
I don't think anyone could ever argue that Panniers aren't great fun on the main line - they sound a treat with their little wheels flying around. Once we reached Tyseley it was time for another water stop in the loop. Both Panniers also had their smokeboxes emptied after their efforts on the run back from Stratford. Leaving 84E behind for the second time we steamed down to Kidderminster via Snow Hill and Stourbridge Junction. At Kidderminster there was a brief operational stop in the main line platform before steaming over the cross-over onto the preserved metals of the SVR. As we came to a stop in the loop an adjacent Class 08 was rumbling away waiting to haul our train back into the platform at Kidderminster Town. Before this shunt could take place the SVR's Pannier 7714 had to come in and go out again...
Once our train was in the platform it was over to the SVR crew to water the Panniers prior to the departure to Bridgnorth. We meanwhile enjoyed a mountain of fish and chips that we'd ordered from Captain Cod's over the road from the station - they were delicious! The Pannier duo were removed from the train to be watered at the column...
"9600 & 9466 At Kidderminster Town" (Pic - D.Chandler)
2:40pm saw us depart Kidderminster Town for Bridgnorth. The steady run along the Severn Valley must have been a stroll for the two tank engines after rushing along the main line. The light was already fading as we dropped a few passengers off at Highley to visit the Engine House before proceeding to the terminus. The Pullman team kindly delivered a massive victoria sponge to the support coach as we approached Hampton Loade - that was also delicious! At Bridgnorth the two Panniers were removed from the stock to be watered and serviced on the yard. The less said about that whole experience the better I think. Our homeward departure time rolled around quickly and the Panniers prepared to leave Bridgnorth behind...
"Ready To Leave Bridgnorth" (Pic - D.Chandler)
After a steady wander back down the Severn Valley to Kidderminster, the GUV was reattached to the rake and the Panniers prepared to steam back onto the main line. They were well up to speed as we roared through Blakedown and on towards Stourbridge Junction. Having watered at Kidderminster Town the tank engines could easily get home without another stop. Here they are back at Tyseley...
The usual operation then took place as the Class 08 shunt released the locomotives. The engines then proceeded down the middle road for 9600 to be turned...
Once turned 9600 steamed back to the engine shed, passing 9466 on the lean to road. It wasn't long before she was back in the shed and settling down for the night. All in all it had been another great Pannier jaunt and it was nice to take in the preserved setting of the Severn Valley as well. I must thank Tyseley for another great day out and another enriching experience. Finally...
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them"
Robert Laurence Binyon - 1914

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The "Giant Miniature Weekend" 2018...

Its about this time of year that all of the organising begins for the miniature do - or in this case Statfold's "Giant Miniature Weekend". The massive gathering of miniatures will be returning over May 12th/13th to the award winning narrow gauge railway...
From the events early beginnings as MTEW at Market Bosworth in 2013 where we welcomed 24 engines, the event grew to a whopping 94 miniatures in 2017. I hope to push this figure even higher next year...hopefully over the 100 mark! As well as the colourful abundance of scale models, Statfold will be offering rides on the steam trains and tramway as well as its popular Roundhouse museum. This is the only event in the SBR calendar to welcome all ages to the site and is now one of the biggest gatherings of miniature road steam in the UK. Don't miss it. Cheers all, Sam...

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Tyseley Open Day: Welcome Back "Clun"...

"The Turntable Line-Up" (Pic - M.Tattam)
The Tyseley Open Days always boast a fabulous display of Great Western steam locomotives and the addition of the turntable provides great photographic opportunities. Today's public celebration to welcome No7029 "Clun Castle" back into steam was well attended by enthusiasts from across the UK and the six operational members of the 84E fleet were in action for all to enjoy. I arrived at the Birmingham site at around 6:30am, finding the engines dotted around the yard. I was asked to light up Pannier Tank 9600 which had only had a warming fire yesterday having not been in use. She was down by the lean to alongside a simmering 5043...
Clambering up into the cab I found a strong water level and a warm back head. It wouldn't take long for the Pannier to start bubbling away once the fire was lit. I cleared the remaining ashes from the grate before adding a sprinkling of coal. Tony & Craig kindly broke up some wood which was duly passed up onto the footplate whilst I prepared some oily rags on the shovel. A few minutes later, the ignition rags were lit before being thrown into the firebox...
With the rags blazing away on top of the coal, I added a mound of wood in bonfire fashion before closing the firehole doors. The wood could be heard crackling away as the flames took hold and a tell tale plume of smoke rose steadily skyward from the chimney. Once the wood was well underway I added a good few shovelfuls of coal to cover the flames before leaving the engine to get on with it whilst I started oiling up. All around, the other five locomotives were being readied by other members of the Tyseley team. 9600 is a variation on the 5700 Class Pannier Tank, employing 17.5" cylinders and a 200psi boiler. I like them: I always have. They make for a free steaming and, I feel, incredibly strong tank engine which can be the master of most preserved railways.

Around 9am the Ruston 88' diesel shunter was coupled up to us to drag us down to the ash pit. I crawled beneath the simmering Pannier, bent over like a split pin against the brake shaft. With much cursing the pan was eventually emptied - this is the romance of steam! A much dustier Sam then drove 9600 onto her allotted turntable road to await the crowds that were already gathering in the car park...
At 10am the public were allowed into the site and the sound of clicking cameras filled the air. I was still going around 9600 with the oil cans, preparing myself for the inevitable bout of contortionism that comes with trying to squeeze yourself between the frames. Some go in underneath, aided by the luxury of a pit, but I find it much 'easier' (a term used loosely) to go over the top as I can see better. In my younger years I found it much easier to slide beneath the tanks on these 5700s - the level of groaning has increased as time has passed! Meanwhile, up in the cab, pressure was rising steadily as 5043 backed down beside us on the adjacent road...
Shortly after 10:30am "Clun" was unveiled to her public. The immaculate Castle: the youngest of the trio: was then lined up alongside sisters 5080 & 5043. 4965 & 9600 were also part of the popular spectacle...
It was fun baby sitting 9600 throughout the morning. I love the BR lined black livery; much nicer than the plain black that is seen so often. Historically, I believe that the lining was reserved for engines which worked the Paddington ECS...
The trio of Castles made for a fabulous photograph...
"7029, 5080 and 5043" (Pic - M.Tattam)
Though six of the collection were in steam, the undoubted star of the weekend had to be 7029 herself: Tyseley's iconic pioneer. Martyn Tattam has kindly sent in a number of the images used in this post and this capture of "Clun" is beautiful...
"A Portrait of 7029" (Pic - M.Tattam)
Following the lunchtime cavalcade involving the three operational 4-6-0s, "Clun" spent the afternoon on the two-coach shuttle train, top & tailing with 7752 (L94)...
Once the double chimney Castle had dragged the red Pannier one way, 52' summoned her strength to pull the younger 4-6-0 back towards the platform...
I later had three trips firing 52' up and down, with Driver Ray Churchill on the handle. Its quite an honour sharing the footplate with a man of such experience: Ray has travelled far & wide piloting all kinds of traction during his main line steam career. Back on the shed, the immaculate Peckett 0-4-0 was basking in the sunlight. One of the W7 Class 0-4-0s, 84E's little engine shows just how lovely a well preserved Peckett can be. For me she is the benchmark of industrial steam...
Down in the platform the star of the show was waiting for another run...
I was soon lucky enough to have my first footplate ride on "Clun Castle" and to fling a few shovelfuls of coal into her firebox...
Here, "Clun" waits at the stop boards at the extremity of the Tyseley site as she looks out promisingly towards the main line. One day soon she'll be out there again and I can't wait for that day to come...
As usual the standard of Tyseley's restoration is impeccable and "Clun" is a beauty to behold. The cab is stunning: a mass of burnished steel...
The engine rides like a brand new one: firm, stable and smooth as can be. She's beautiful, just beautiful. Well done Tyseley, you've done it again...
"Aboard 7029" (Pic - M.Tattam)
After my very enjoyable couple of trips on the new Castle I went back to 9600 which was about to head back to the shed with Batesy in control...
"9600 On The Turntable" (Pic - M.Tattam)
We spent the next half an hour or so shuttling up and down the running yard before dropping 9600 onto the shed. As I drove her in, I let her coast down the yard as far as possible before halting her outside the shed on the steam brake. The Panniers have a much better chance of seating their regulator valves if they roll in to a stop so you have to resist the temptation to give it that last breath otherwise they'll tend to pass. 9600 is another lovely old thing and a pleasure to work with...
I then disposed 9600, ensuring that the boiler was well filled and the fire calmed but warm enough to prevent quick cooling. The slower you can bring these old things down the better. As the sun set and the Autumn darkness rolled in, 7029 was pictured simmering quietly outside the shed, no doubt dreaming of her imminent return to the main line. She is a lovely engine and it almost feels like Tyseley have grown a new Castle as I've never seen "Clun" in steam until now. Welcome back 7029...
All in all it had been another great weekend at Tyseley welcoming back "Clun Castle". My hat off to them: she's another fine machine. I've now been with Tyseley for over two years and its been such a thrill experiencing these locomotives on the main line. It really has changed my hobby and I'm so proud to be involved. My contribution to these engines is nothing short of insignificant compared to that of most but still I feel proud to have done my small part. Great stuff. Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Return of 7029 "Clun Castle"...

"No7029 'Clun Castle' Stands In Steam At Tyseley"
Tyseley has always been a haven for Great Western steam. From its working days as the thriving 84E shed to its glowing engineering business supporting the preservation era, the Birmingham site has become a stronghold for all things GWR. The pride of the impressive fleet are without a doubt the Castle Class 4-6-0s, of which Tyseley have not one, not two but three! We're all familiar with the astonishing achievements of No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" and many a Quainton visitor will have come across No5080 "Defiant" in recent years as up until recently she was on permanent display there. The youngest of the trio and the undoubted Tyseley pioneer is No7029 "Clun Castle", built under BR at Swindon in 1950. When withdrawn in 1965 the engine was saved by the late Patrick Whitehouse and has lived at the former 84E ever since. Over the years a selection of other locomotives have joined the collection but "Clun" is forever known as "the one that started it all".

I've been involved with Tyseley for two years now and in that time 7029 has been going through the final stages of overhaul. This week, after a mammoth effort by the engineering staff, "Clun Castle" returned to steam in time for her special re-commissioning weekend. This morning, at 7:30am, a pair of double chimney Castles were seen in steam together for the first time since BR days. Amazing...
"The Historic Moment As 5043 & 7029 Meet Together In Steam"
Today was a private event with a couple of hundred invited guests from across the preservation world. There were a lot of big names there from the world of steam. I arrived at 7am and helped throughout the morning with odd jobs on and around the locomotives. It was the first time I'd seen "Clun" in steam, although there is no doubt a photograph of a much younger me stood next to her at the GCR during her last ticket squirreled away in a box somewhere. The rededication of 7029 was scheduled for 11am and the Castle was at the top of the yard awaiting the call. Right on time, she steamed down through the yard to meet the admiring crowds...
As usual Tyseley have done a stunning job and the BR livery with fantastic lining is a real treat for the eye. Another beautiful Castle...
Down at the turntable "Clun" was posed for photographs before being brought forward for the rededication ceremony...
It was a lovely service. The nameplate was unveiled to the applause of the crowds, the engine was blessed by Patrick Whitehouse's daughter Maggie and a bottle of bubbly was broken over a buffer. Tyseley Chairman Michael Whitehouse spoke fondly of growing up with "Clun Castle" and the importance of her to the collection. I thought it was a fantastic way to welcome 7029 back into steam. Watching from the side lines was her beautiful elder sister 5043...
Three engines were in steam today: the two Castles and 7752 (L94). 52' has recently returned from her summer holidays to the Dartmouth Steam Railway where we had a ride behind her back in August. The engine is pictured steam heating the two-coach shuttle train whilst the ceremony continues...
Near lunch time 7029 & 5043 began to strut up and down the demo line to the delight of onlookers. At the rear of the shed the lovely Peckett W7 No1 was awaiting her turn of duty the next day. I just love this little engine. She really shows just how nice a well preserved Peckett can be...
Alongside No1, Hall Class "Rood Ashton Hall" was being warmed for tomorrows open day. As the sun came out, so did 7029...
The roaring bark of "Clun"s double chimney echoed all around as she pulled her sister up to the top of the yard. "Edgcumbe" then did the honours, hauling the younger Castle back towards the turntable with drain cocks hissing...
The two Castles are pictured awaiting another run up the demo line...
Driver Dean Morris awaits the off on 5043 as 7029 summons her strength...
Whilst the two Castles romped up and down the demo line I managed to snap the single chimney 5080 as she sat cold around the turntable. I believe the plan was for BR to double chimney the whole of the class but the ever nearing end of steam on the Western region put pay to that. Personally I'd love to see "Defiant" run again, just to experience what a finely tuned single chimney variant could do! Donations are being taken towards the overhaul of the third Castle in the group...
I only did half a day today at the former 84E as I have some studying to do at home. I'll be there throughout the day tomorrow for the public open day: six engines are planned to be in steam! Thanks for reading all and welcome back 7029. Another beautiful job from Tyseley: the King of the Castles...

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Little Engines Update...

Just to ensure that at least one post in 2017 talked about my own steam engines I thought it would be nice to write a small update on "Achilles" and 4436. Long term readers will know that I have two coal-fired miniature locomotives: a 5" tank engine and a 3.5" gauge LBSC Maisie. The blue tank engine is an Achilles 0-6-0 and is named after her design whilst the Maisie portrays LBSC's take on the Great Northern large boiler Atlantic. 4436 was one of the class that remained unmodified in GNR form throughout its career and so the LNER livery befits this number. So, where have they been? Well, a combination of being far too busy and being far too busy has resulted in them sitting patiently on the bench since summer last year. "Achilles" did venture to Ryton Pools for CMES' July steam day last year but hasn't turned a wheel since...
Both engines are currently out of ticket and I guess it is now a mixture of sheer laziness and the colder weather which has stopped me taking them for tests. The Atlantic - being easier to handle than the larger tank engine - was going out a little more often but even she hasn't steamed since September 2016...
Her last run was one of those oh so familiar Third Wednesday steaming nights which only seem to see me turning up whenever I take an engine...
Following her previous run, the Maisie did end up going to the Midlands show last year to take part in the 2016 stand line-up for CMES. This was of course after a thorough clean up and polish as I hate them going anywhere if they're not shining...
There we go then folks; a small update just to show that I still have the engines and they're just patiently waiting for their next outings. Hopefully they'll see more use (some at all would be nice) in 2018. In recent times they've both turned out to be free steaming and reliable engines which are great fun to operate on the track...I just need to get myself into gear! Cheers all, Sam...