Saturday, 18 October 2008

Driving 5" Gauge at Midlands Model Engineering 2008

Every year,in mid October time,the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre on the 'Fosseway' between Coventry & Leamington hosts the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibiton.The event includes all types of engineering from railway locomotives to traction engines/steam rollers to tanks,trucks,cars,planes & fairground organs! Many engine owners,societies & traders exhibit at the exhibition each year and the five-day show was just as popular this year.My society,Coventry Model Engineering,was its 3rd year of exhibiting there in 2008 and each year we take along a "Portable Track" of 5" gauge.However,we do not have to provide our own locomotives! Polly Model Engineering produces kits of & ready-to-run 5" gauge steam locomotives. Therefore, they provide a locomotive which we drive on our track giving FREE(!) rides to public during the show. This then gives them advertisement of their products and relieves us of the burden of taking one of our "Sweet Pea"s.They normally provide their stalwart "Polly V" which is a 2-6-0 Side Tank model very much resembling a GWR Small Prairie except without the trailing pony.However,this year things were a little different when the company provided their brand new prototype model,"Caroline"!This engine was an 0-4-0 'Well Tank' designed on the narrow gauge O & K engines that were built in Belgium.
The new engine was named "Caroline" and wore a beautiful yellow-lined green livery.I was rostered on the "Saturday PM" shift driving on the portable track.This shift would last from 1:30pm until 5pm.(Or that was the plan!).I arrived at 10:15am and after half an hour or so quickly taking in the sights of the exhibition (very briefly I might add!) I made my way to the track to familiarise myself with the new engine and the man I was going to spend the afternoon with,her builder! He was very pleasant and seemed eager to answer any questions I had about the engine.She was much smaller than the "Polly V" but very smart.The "Well Tank"s were 'fake' and water was carried in the two tanks which surrounded the cab.But there was enough capacity in them to last a good few runs up the track.Features included a mechanical lubricator,injector, crosshead pump, manual drain cocks and more.However, the most unusual thing about the engine was that, when you put the pole reverser to the forward position the engine went backwards.And when you did the opposite, she went forwards.This took a little getting used to and did catch me out a few times during the day but I got the hang of it in the end!
"Caroline" was nice to drive.This was mainly because it was a new engine I believe.The cab layout can be seen below and there is also a view of the "Polly V" which relieved "Caroline" at around 2pm (above).The trouble with the portable track is that the rail quality isn't great.Therefore you are far more likely to slip.Me being the "careful" driver I decided to use the Drain Cocks for one of the runs and this ruined the clean shine on the railheads! After that,"Caroline" slipped up the hill terribly.But it was a fearsome gradient and she was after all, only a small engine.There was no doubt in the power of the engine it was just a lack of weight on the wheels which slightly let her down.We had one car on the back and this would allow for a driver plus 2 children+1 adult OR a driver plus 2 Adults. The start of the station was hard. You needed to get a good turn of speed up as quickly as possible before even thinking about reaching the top! But the engine did pack a punch! There was no doubting that! The "Polly V" replaced her at around 2pm so that "Caroline" could be put on the Polly Models Stand.The "V" is much bigger but still slipped on that sort of a gradient with wet rails.Sometimes even with only the driver on.If the track was flat then we'd have 3 times the load behind it!
The layout of the cab of "Caroline" can be seen above.The far left "Cock" controls the "Bypass" for the Crosshead Pump and the "Screw" on the left is the Handbrake.The Pressure Gauge,Regulator,Gauge Glass & Gauge Glass Blow-Down can be seen quite clearly and so can the pole reverser (painted black).On the Manifold can be seen two controls.The "Bar" on the left is a push-valve for the whistle whilst the "Cock" on the right is the Steam Feed for the injector.The bottom right-hand side "Cock" is the Water Feed for the injector.The Firehole Door is pretty self-explanatory whilst the "Cock" just to the right of the regulator is the Blower.The small silver "Allan-Key" looking device which pokes up from the floor is the "Drain Cock" lever.All in all this cab was very simple and easy to drive from and I had an enjoyable day driving both engines up and down the track.The "Caroline" model is available now I believe and I wouldn't mind one myself. Dear Santa...

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