Saturday, 31 January 2009

Great Central Railway Winter Steam Gala 2009!

Hello everyone. Today I made my annual outing to the Great Central Railway's Winter Steam Gala 2009. Every year I go, along with a few thousand other enthusiasts(!), to savour the atmosphere of real main line steam. As the years pass, the gala's seem to get better and better, as was proven today! This years gala was held from Friday January 30th-Sunday February 1st with no less than 7 steam locomotives in steam & running! Trains of course began from Loughborough Station with Passenger, Freight, Mineral, Parcels & Postal Trains all running in a mixed fashion! There were also some light engine moves and much shunting at both Rothley & Loughborough Stations. If you forgot where you were you could be led to believe you were in 1968...not 2009! I will give a brief section of information about each locomotive that took part as well as a few assorted pics of the event and of course a description of my day. I left home at 7:10am to head to my local station, Bedworth, to catch the 7:25am to Nuneaton. At Nuneaton I had to change to the 7:53am to Leicester before changing again at Leicester onto the 8:30am to Loughborough! After the 10-minute or so walk from the main line station to the GCR and a 10-minute queue for my Day Rover Ticket, I caught the day's first train, the 9:15am, behind No70013 "Oliver Cromwell". I took this train all the way to the end of the line before returning to Quorn, also behind 70013. I then decided to hang around and watch the action at Quorn for a while. Now I will begin with the locomotive descriptions. The locomotive that topped the gala's bill was LNER 0-8-0 Q6 No63395 which is normally based at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and is owned by the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group. This engine was built in 1918 at Darlington Works. For the first 25 years of her life her home shed was Blaydon. She did however grace other locations including Selby & Hull. By 1967, 63395 was of only two Q6's remaining at work. 63395 was withdrawn on 9/9/1967 and went into storage before a new life in preservation was found. Following her 2nd overhaul in preservation, the 0-8-0 returned to service in 2007 on the NYMR and was turned out in her BR Black livery. During the gala she was seen many times on Mineral trains but I managed to get about 4 miles of passenger haulage in behind her. A very attractive and powerful lady! LMS 8F 2-8-0 No48305 is one of the bigger GCR residents that took part. Privately owned, 48305 was built in November 1943. After a hard life working heavy freight trains the 8F was withdrawn in January 1968, only 7 months before the end of main line steam in Britain. However her fate seemed sealed as by September that year she had joined many of her classmates in the large scrapyard at Barry. But, even at Barry 48305 had a claim to fame: the words "please don't let me die" were written on the smokebox door with a "crying face". It was bought for preservation from Barry in 1985 and after a few different moves between GCR and other railway's she returned to Loughborough in 2006. During the gala she was seen many times hauling many different types of trains. She was renumbered 48773 (the SVR's out-of-ticket 8F) for the event. This was done to remember 48773 which ran until the last day of steam on BR. 48773's fireman on that day in 1968 was riding on the footplate at the event! What a fitting way to remember the end of BR steam! The engine also wore a wreath at different times during the event with the headboard "Goodbye To Rose Grove Steam".

GCR Class 8K/LNER 04 2-8-0 No63601 is my favourite GCR based locomotive and, happily, was operating at the event! Built in 1911 at Gorton Works, 63601 worked with other 8K's on freight work. The 8K's later became the main MOD engine for the first world world, being built under the Railway Operating Department, giving them the nickname "ROD"s. After the war, most engines returned to Britain and were distributed between the "Big Four" companies. Modifications by the LNER made the Class 8K a Class 04. Owned by the National Railway Musuem, a full restoration of the locomotive by Craig Stinchcombe and his team took place at Loughborough. After many years of faithful service, 63601 has now entered the final year of its boiler ticket and is due to be retired this autumn. 63601 was another of the big engines featured in the gala. She increased the number of heavy freight engines in use to "3"! What a gala! Not just for big engines, the gala's 4th engine was BR Standard Class 2 Mogul No78019. One of the GCR's regularly used workhorses, 78019 was built in 1954 and was withdrawn at Crewe in 1966. She then moved to Barry in 1967. Not yet life expired, 78019 was purchased for preservation and is owned by the Loughborough Standard Locomotive Group.
GWR 41XX 2-6-2 Large Prairie No4141 was also in steam but was advertised not to be pulling services as she was to be station pilot at Loughborough. However, there seemed to have been some changes as the full timetable saw her doing one round trip per day. Saturday saw her hauling a 3-coach "Local" rake (shown above at Rothley) whilst Sunday saw her hauling the Dining Train. For the rest of the time however she remained at Rothley. This locomotive is owned by Dr John Kennedy, who also owns Tyseley-based Hall Class 4-6-0 No4953 "Pitchford Hall". She is one of the Large Prairie types, designed for suburban passenger work and able to start and stop regularly with quick acceleration in between. 4141 has been a regular GCR workhorse and she will be withdrawn following expiry of her boiler ticket in March. (Correct me if I'm wrong). Even though the 5305 Association's Black 5 No45305 is still out of service, the group still turned out the lovely N15 Class 4-6-0 No30777 "Sir Lamiel". 30777 is currently main line certified and is of course an NRM engine. She worked many services back & forth between Loughborough & Leicester during the gala but I also filmed her on the 4:22pm Postal at Quorn on the Saturday. I've placed the video below this text for your enjoyment! The bark is fantastic. I didn't film the drop but you can see the mail bags drop out from the train on the approach.

BR Standard Class 7 Britannia No70013 "Oliver Cromwell" completed the 7 locomotive line-up in style. She is, without doubt, massive! I rode behind her for 14 miles or so on the 9:15am Loughborough-Leicester & the 10:00am Leicester-Loughborough (I got off at Quorn). She did however run without nameplates, probably something to do with the 1968 theme as, afterall, 70013 did run until the end of BR steam and was involved in the infamous "15 Guinea Special". She is a joy to see running and the bark that she can put out is fantastic! Seeing her and 30777 pass on the double track is an inspiring sight but also gives a feeling of sorrow as we realise that we may never see it's like on the real main line ever again. Anyway, not to lower the tone to a dissapointed one, the gala was fantastic. The freight engines did most of the freight work (obviously!) but 70013 was also seen on the occasional rake of minerals...And why not?!. 70013 was withdrawn in 1968 and was preserved at another location. However her steaming days in early preservation were short lived and she was soon back in store. Happily the engine was moved to Loughborough where restoration took place, being completed in Spring 2008. She is now a fully main line certified locomotive and you will no doubt see her rushing up along Britain's main line metals at 75mph some time in the near future!

An engine that was to perform during the gala but didn't quite make it in the end was LMS Fairburn 2-6-4 Tank No42085. I went to see her in the locomotive shed at Loughborough and she does look almost finished! The new tanks are fitted and the engine seems to be awaiting painting. What a hansome engine she is. 42085 is one of only two Fairburn Tanks left in the world. The other one, sister No42073, shares the same home as "85", the Lakeside & Havertwaite Railway near Windemere. The engine is due to steam at Easter alongside the railway's N2 Class 0-6-2 which is also nearing completion. At Quorn were engine's a little more my size(!): 0-6-0 Side Tank "Gothernburg" (as "Thomas"), 0-4-0 "Toby the Tram" (diesel) & 0-6-0 NCB Austerity "Robert" (awaiting restoration).

In conclusion, the event was very very enjoyable AND, as usual, I will definately be back again next year! Can they make it any better? Well they usually do!! Can't wait! Well done once again GCR and thank you to all the loco crews for an enjoyable performance. For any GCR information their website is ! If you want that extra special doubletrack main line experience then you have to go! And, without doubt, the best event, is the Winter Gala! Cheers everyone! New post coming soon!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

First 2009 Working Day at Shackerstone

Hello again everyone. 25th Jan saw me head back to Shackerstone for my first working visit of 2009...have been so busy so far this new year(!)...and I signed on at 10:30am. On arrival I had been greeted by some unusual sights..."Sir Gomer"s Cab and Saddle Tank were in the car park! Oh well, the work is progressing as you can see from the pictures. Basically the boiler has been stripped fully. This will then allow for it to be sent away to another railway where repairs will take place. The boiler will then be returned to Shackerstone where we can slowly build the engine back up to its usual glory....shining in her Green, Black & Yellow livery. I took the whistle valve off today...with the help of a big adjustable...but this was one of the last bits to come off the boiler, if not the last. A couple of us were busy just generally tidying up the boiler ready for its departure whilst elsewhere in the shed, other work was going on.
This work included little bits & bobs being done to "Mayflower" (LNER 1306) which can be seen behind "Sir Gomer". Further back in the shed, 2-2-0 Aveiling & Porter "The Blue Circle" is slowly being put back together during her winter maintainance project. Various parts are being repaired and repainted, with the engine returning to steam in May wearing a brand new coat of its fabulous blue & red livery. Meanwhile, outside the confines of the shed, two diesel locomotives (Class 33 "Griffon" & 04 110) were busying themselves with the P-Way coach and the Hi-Ab wagon, before dissapearing down the line to work on the track & lineside vegitation. They were down there from around 11am and didn't return into 4pm...Good work lads! At least we have protection from the elements in the shed! "Sir Gomer" will hopefully return to steam early in the new season ready to chuff down to the Battlefield with some happy passengers on board once again! Next post coming relatively soon folks!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Illuminating The Garden Railway

What do you do on a dark and dismal Wednesday afternoon?Well I decided to brave the elements and do a little work on our 00 gauge garden railway.Now,I found a wagon which had a 12V bulb inside,due to light up as the wagon was mobilised.Well, I tried it...didn't work! So I decided to try and illuminate a building with it! I cut the wires and then soldered 2 new wires to the bulb (known as a 12V "Lilliput" I believe) then found one of my station buildings.The station I decided to experiment on was "Ashford", the 3rd station along the line. I took the booking hall and removed the roof. I then, using a vice to support it, drilled the back of the building with a small handrill, to allow the wires to be fed through. The buld was then placed inside and the wires fed through the hole I had made. The contraption was then tested by placing the wires on the electrified rails...success! The bulb shone brightly! I then added a bit of glue to the hole from the inside. Once dry, this stopped the wires moving and also allowed the bulb more safety. Then roof was then replaced and the "booking hall" glued to its platform. It was then placed outside and "wired up" as it were. Success once again! As you can see in the pic, the bulb works fine and we now plan to illuminate every building! It should look very good in Winter's darkness...but 2009-2010 Winter darkness! :)

So that's 3 more stations, 3 signalboxes, 2 engine sheds, 2 shops and many houses....A little to be getting on with! Next post coming soon!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

A Day In The Garden...

Sunday January 11th 2009, a blustery, damp and relatively chilly day...So I headed out to play with the garden railway! The trouble with the winter weather is that the 00 Gauge gets even dirtier than normal! So, the first job is of course to clean the track. The next job is to test the track. This is done using our small 0-4-0 diesel locomotive D2785 which looks a little worn these days as it is also used for P-Way work and all general dirty work! Once the track is tested then it is time to set out the buildings in the fashion that is normal. We have 4 stations and a full circuit of single line which twists & turns around one side of the garden completely. The line also includes a spur to a large turntable, a passing loop capable of storing 6-coach trains and a 2-road engine yard & shed. Even though trains can just go around and around, we often run end-to-end like real preserved railways. Our main station, Sutherland, is the starting point for trains. (In the pic above, 0-6-2 GWR 56XX Taffe Tank No6600, a new arrival, and long-term resident 2-6-2 45XX No4560 prepare to leave Sutherland with a freight). Trains then make their way to Chilvers, the end of the line, via the small halts of Grantham & Ashford. Over the last few weeks we've had 3 new locomotives arrive. These include the 56XX Tank, metioned above, an J94 0-6-0 Saddle Tank and a quaint kit-built GWR City Class 4-4-0 (pictured above at Ashford Jnc). The 56XX is a lovely model by Bachmann whilst the J94 is a 1999 Hornby model, still unused when we bought her! We have no real info on the 4-4-0 but I know it was kit-built and has had alot of detail added too. This detail includes footplatemen, fireirons, coal, headlamps etc. The engine was displayed at Ashford throughout today's running but, after a bit of tweaking, should be in perfect running condition and hauling trains soon. Today I was running 6 steam locomotives. These included 45XX No4560, 56XX No6600, 57XX No5775, J94 No68075, 43XX No5328 & a small 0-4-0 Saddle Tank. I also used our LNER, BR & LMS coach rakes during the day as well as the full freight train rake. This course a small part of our collection which includes over 25 locomotives and a large amount of coaches and wagons too! Still growing I might add!The J94 is pictured above at Sutherland in the failing light. Behind her is our 4-coach BR Mk1 rake as well as our Autocoach, in Maroon livery, at the back of the train. The signal shows that the locomotive has the road as far as Ashford Junction where a 2nd set of signals determines whether the line is clear to Chilvers. At this point, the signals at Ashford were set at "Danger" as 4560 & 5775 were both in the platform at Chilvers, on the main line. Once the train had been shunted into the passing loop, 68075 was allowed to pass Ashford Jnc safely. Once in the loop, 68075 was "locked in" to allow 5775 and the LMS Rake, with 4560 on the rear, to depart for Sutherland into the gloom. 68075 then ran round and performed the final passenger run of the day from Chilvers, at around 5pm and in complete darkness! I think 00 Gauge Garden Railway's are severely underestimated as they are both cheaper to built and more compact that other gauges, such as "O" or "Gauge 1". Aside from the large amount of track cleaning that has to be carried out before each running session, my railway, since its full completion in August 2006, has ran perfectly well with only minimal replacements of track, power clips etc. I've always been a firm believer in the suggestion that garden railway's offer their operators a full sense of real railway operation. For example, you have to maintain the track & locomotives, you have to overcome differing weather conditions, you have to overcome gradients and curves across potentially difficult terrain etc. My railway includes some pretty substantial which, even with simply 4-coach loads, causes some locomotives to put in the odd slip here & there: Just like the real thing!
Following a full day working differing locomotives betwen Sutherland & Chilvers with differing train formations, I decided to have a little play at the end of the day. 6600 was dispatched from Sutherland and worked to Ashford. The engine is then seen standing in the small country station with 47 844 (stabled in the spur) standing dormant behind. This was taken around 5:10pm and the whole railway was in complete darkness. It is only in the light of my camera flash that the station was even illuminated! Behind 6600, the line curves right on a 180 degree sharp bend towards Chilvers. You can see from the image that she is standing on Ashford Bank, the railway's sharpest and longest climb. Trains calling at the station need to "find there own way up the bank" if they leave in the Sutherland direction from a standing start up the sharp graident. After packing away I retired to the house for a cup of tea and a mince pie as the garden hides the railway from view.Almost as if it wasn't there. If you would like to view the video, taken at the railway today, go to and click "Watch in High Quality" for the best results.Good evening all.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

An Afternoon On The Great Central Railway...

For those of you who have never had chance to visit, the Great Central is a preserved railway which operates 8-miles of former main line from its base at Loughborough in Leicestershire. Trains leave the beautifully restored station, Loughborough Central, and run as far as the site of former Belgrave & Birstall station, now rebuilt as Leicester North station. Between the two terminus' lie two quaint intermediate stations: Quorn & Woodhouse and Rothley. The GCR's biggest claim to fame has to be its "Double Track Project", completed in the year 2000. The project succeeded in providing the Loughborough Central to Rothley section (around 5.5 miles long) with fully signalled double track. The track was also laid to full mainline standards allowing the GCR to operate trains of up to 60mph for test purposes etc. This is the only preserved railway in the UK where double-track operations still occur. It is a great thrill to see massive mainline locomotives passing eachother at speed with either passenger or freight trains. As well as offering a pleasant journey with well-kept stations, the railway also boasts a fantastic steam locomotive fleet... Many "big name" locomotives have been restored at the railway's Loughborough Shed including unique BR Standard Class 8 Pacific No71000 "Duke of Gloucester" and 7P Pacific No70013 "Oliver Cromwell", seen in the top image. Currently the railway is operating a Standard Class 2 (78019), the NRM's LNER 04 (63601), "Oliver Cromwell" and, when available, a Class 8F (48305). However, these are only the running fleet. Inside the shed stand more engines awaiting their turn. These include Black 5 No45305 "Alderman A E Draper", the LNER N2 Tank, a Standard Class 5, West Country "Boscastle", Hall Class "Witherslack Hall", a Jinty and a select few others. Currently under overhaul on behalf of the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway is 2-6-4 Fairburn Tank No42085. With such a fantastic locomotive fleet the railway is able to offer almost anything to the budding enthusiast. Trains run throughout the year at weekends and also during school holiday's with many differing special events held in between. A personal favourite of mine is the "Winter Steam Gala", traditionally being held at the end of each January. Gala's offer even more to the enthusiast with freight trains, doubleheaders, light engine moves and more being operated for everyones pleasure. A very popular addition to the gala timetables are the spine-tingling "High Speed Postal's". This involves the picking-up and dropping-down of mail bags by train at speed, using apparatus at Quorn & Woodhouse. These are great fun to watch and a joy to catch on film! (Below I've included a video of a previous of a post drop performed by 4953 "Pitchford Hall" during the 2008 Winter Gala that I myself recorded)...

Anyway, back to my latest visit (today!). I arrived at the quaint Rothley Station at around 12:20pm after a 40 or so minute drive from home. After crossing the track by means of the foot crossing I made my way to the ticket office and bought my "Runabout". At 12:33pm, Class 7P Britannia Class No70013 "Oliver Cromwell" rolled into the platform with a service for Leicester North. I wasn't planning to catch this one as I wanted to stop for a cuppa' before I got stuck in! I headed up to the end of the platform to photograph 70013 who wasn't in her normal guise. She was disguised as scrapped sister No70048 "The Territorial Army 1908-1958". I believe this is in memory of all those who fell and "Cromwell" will retain this guise for a while yet. A nice touch I think! After a "Drive A Diesel" special had passed, the signal arm rose and "Cromwell" powered away towards Leicester North. Meanwhile I had a look at the cracking "G-Gauge" Garden Railway at Rothley before taking in the "Ellis Tea Room". At 1:11pm 70013 rolled back into Rothley tender first for Loughborough and I caught this service. Away from Rothley we went and out onto the double-track. The large yard at Swithland is where alot of the lines rolling stock is stored and this is spotted before crossing the large reservoir. The line then heads into a cutting before emerging on a long, straight embankment with Quorn Station in the distance...We stopped at Quorn before continuing to Loughborough where, after arriving on time at 1:28pm and uncoupling, "70048" duly took on water. I in the meantime headed down to the sheds at Loughborough which can often be visited. Just visible inside the shed were the two resident 2-8-0s, 63601 & 48305 with a special visitor sitting just outside. LNER Q6 2-8-0 No69395 is owned by NELPG (North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group) and is visiting the line for the Winter Gala event at the end of this month. 69395's connecting rods had been removed and the engine stood with the front-end "jacked & packed". I'm not sure what was going on as I didn't stop to ask but its apparently just routine. I rejoined the Britannia ready for the 2:15pm departure for Leicester North but instead of finding a spare window I headed to the "Griddle Car" and enjoyed the "Great Central Fry-Up"! Very tasty indeed. A fry-up, lovely scenery and a cup of tea, thats the real reason for steam trains! I remained in the griddle until Rothley where I chose a window ready for the uphill departure towards the terminus. The driver didn't dissapoint and really hit the 4-6-2 hard coming out of the platform. Even though it remains single track, I feel that the Rothley to Leicester North section of the GCR does have something about it and is very scenic. The end of the line was soon reached, 8 miles or so from Loughborough. 70048 was duly uncoupled and ran round ready for the 3pm departure for Loughborough...
After some brisk running on the return trip, "Cromwell" rolled back into Loughborough tender-first on time at 3:28pm. After uncoupling 70048 slowly made her way down to the shed where, I believe, she would be disposed of at this time of the day. The final departure from Loughborough of the day was at 3:45pm and I was on board. Up at the front the day's other steam engine, 78019, a Standard Class 2 Mogul, was ready to go. The sun was already starting to set as the 2-6-0 hauled us up the doubletrack formation bound for Leicester North. Once at Leicester North I was invited onto the footplate for a look at the controls. I'd already been on this footplate before however, last year, when I did my 2-week Work Experience at the GCR's Loughborough Shed! But this didn't matter, you can go on the same footplate twice! I was told that 78019 likes the "back kept thick" firewise. After I stepped down from the footplate, the 2MT ran round and then blew off as she came back on to the other end of the train. The shackel, steam heat bags and then the vacuum bags were all connected before the "brake test" was performed. The Guard then gave the "right away" to the fireman before 78019's whistle was blown. And off she went again! With the safety valves blowing off loudly, the 2-6-0 stormed tender-first back towards Rothley...
This train was the final train into Rothley of the day so I alighted before watching the Class 2 depart and head off into the distance. (The shot above was taken earlier in the day from a train hauled by 70013 and shows 78019 passing on the doubletrack in the opposite direction. This gives an insight into the thrilling experience that is the preserved "Great Central Main Line"!). It was now almost dark and this gave the Edwardian Station an air of nostalgia. After taking in the atmosphere for a mear moment I caught my lift (mum again!) and then headed home. It had been a good day and no doubt I'll make my regular annual visit for the "Winter Gala" in a few weeks time! Watch this space...

Thursday, 1 January 2009

An Afternoon With "Achilles"

New Years Day 2009 saw me once again heading up to my 5" gauge concern, the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway near Coventry. New Years Day has traditionally been a "Members Steam Up" event at the 2000ft long miniature line and today was no exception. I was to drive 0-6-0 Side Tank locomotive "Achilles" which was built over 25 years ago to a design by the miniature locomotive manufacturers "Reeves and Co". The engine represents not a prototype, but a typical dockyard shunting engine. In my opinion, the engine bares a resemblence to the Robert Stephenson & Hawthawn locomotives. From a drivers point of view the loco includes an Axle Pump, Hand Pump, Whistle, Pole Reverser, One Gauge Glass and Automatic Drain Cocks. The two safety valves blow off at 90psi and this provides ample power to the two cylinders. In the photographs above and below, "Achilles" is shown at the track but with no cab. The cab roof and bunker had been removed to allow the engines yearly "Steam Test" to be carried out more easily. (They will be refitted in due course).
Once in steam, as in the top picture, I opened "Achilles" regulator and she moved "off shed" and onto the main track. It was then time to move the reverser into "full forward" and head off around the track. Moving away from the steaming area the track curves left and then right before passing through a "would of been" station. The line then begins to climb at 1 in 100 whilst also curving sharply right on a 180 degree sweep. Once out of the curve the line straightens before crossing a small river bridge. Once across the bridge the line steepens to a further 1 in 70 and "Achilles" barked well at this point. Once the bank is topped the line drifts downwards and across the double track main bridge. After a few twists and turns the line approaches the main station, "Ryton Halt", on a large sweeping right hand curve. A "W" (whistle) board is passed before drivers shut off and roll into the station's "Arrival" platform. This platform isn't covered but this isn't a necessary arrangement as passengers alight here AFTER their journey. The "Departure" platform is the next section of the platform. This area is covered by a large overall roof with benches, a queue area, water tower and booking office.

Leaving the station, the line remains straight before traversing a lengthy right-hand shickane. The track then recross' the bridge before descending back into the steaming area. "Achilles" ran well all afternoon but I eventually "failed" her with a fault in the Axlepump. After unscrewing the feed pipe FROM the Pump and "running" water through it the problem seemed to have sorted itself and a "push" test proved this. "Achilles" was then cleaned down and taken home after an eventful day. I look forward to driving "Achilles" again in the future!