Monday, 31 August 2009

Devon Holiday Post II: PDSR Train Ride...

The Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway runs for around 7 miles between the seaside town of Paignton and the riverside village of Kingswear. Operated by 'Dart Rail', the railway runs daily throughout the summer season with steam locomotive's heading the trains. As well as the two terminus', the railway has two intermediate stops: Goodrington (for water park, beach, amusements etc) and Churston (for the bus service to Brixham). Being a once GWR line, the railway operates ex-GWR engine's, the collection currently being made up of 5 Western's (3 of which are in service). There is also however a BR Standard 4-6-0 named "Braveheart" which is currently under overhaul at Churston works. The three working engine's are 42XX 2-8-0 No4277 "Hercules", 52XX 2-8-0 No5239 "Goliath" and BR (W) 4-6-0 No7827 "Lydham Manor", the only PDSR engine which carried her name during her working life. Leaving Paignton, PDSR trains head to Goodrington where a pick-up stop is made. Leaving Goodrington, trains have to tackle the very, very steep Goodrington Bank as passengers enjoy the fantastic scenary. The PDSR surely has to have the best scenary from any carriage window in the country... After topping the bank trains head to Churston where, on peak day's, an opposite service train is passed. Leaving Churston behind, train's descend through Greenway Tunnel and then down alongside the River Dart into Kingswear. Here, passengers can either return straight away or catch the foot ferry to the lovely, bustling riverside town of Dartmouth. Today we caught the 12:20pm departure from Goodrington to Kingswear where we then admired the quaint "Lydham Manor" which had hauled our 9-coach train on it's journey. The above image show's the cab of the Manor. The regulator and firehole door's can be clearly seen with the red reversing gear to the right. The two gauges on fireman's side (left) are the pressure gauge & steam heat gauge. (This engine doesn't carry a "steam chest" gauge). The hydrostatic lubricator can be seen just the left of the reverser. The gauge in the top right corner is the vacuum gauge with the brass brake lever just below. The single water gauge glass can be seen on the fireman's side of the regulator.
7827 was built in 1950 but of course never wore the GWR livery that it wears today. The livery is also an inauthetic GWR livery! It was designed by the company for the engine. Thats why none of the other preserved Manor's look like this one! Now for the technical's...the Manor's were designed for heavy work but on line's which couldn't take the weight of larger engine's such as the Hall's and Grange's. A good example of this is the Cambrian Coast line. With a tractive effort of 27, 340 lbs being produced by 18"x30" cylinders, a 225psi boiler, a 22.1ft grate and 5ft 8" driving wheels, the Manor's were substantially powerful. All of this combined with their Blue "D" colour-coded 17 ton axleload made them an ideal choice for the 'restrictive routes'. However, their existance was relatively short lived and "Lydham Manor" only worked for 15 years before being retired in 1965. Back to us...After heading into Dartmouth on the Ferry we had a walk around the quaint shops before returning to Kingswear once again. 7827 was ready in the main platform with the 15:15 departure for Paignton via Churston & Goodrington Sands (where we would alight). On time, 7827 barked out of Kingswear tender-first and up the strong climb into Greenway Tunnel and on to Churston. After Churston, 7827 descended with the regulator mostly closed through the fantastic coastal scenary towards Goodrington.
Back at Goodrington, we alighted from the train after another very scenic & of course enjoyable journey. I took the above image from the footbridge above the track, just before 7827 departed for the short run to Paignton. The locomotive, admittedly, looks very attractive in the inauthentic livery which she wears. The brightly-burning fire can be seen through the open firehole doors as the fireman leans out for the "right away" from the Guard. 7827 soon departed and headed off into the distance and around the corner out of sight. We then headed off back to our caravan for a rest after our enjoyable train ride & ferry trip to Dartmouth. I throughly recommend a train ride on the PDSR if you're in the area as the beautiful coastal scenary is simply too good to miss!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Devon Holiday Post No1: The "Torbay Express"...

Hi all. This is the first post of about 6 I believe, one of which isn't railway related, documenting my Devon holiday which took place from August 29th-September 4th. This one is about my spotting of the "Torbay Express". The "Torbay Express" is a steam hauled main line railtour which operates between Bristol Temple Meads and Kingswear (PDSR) on most summer Sunday's. Sunday 30th August was no exception and GWR King Class No6024 "King Edward I" was providing the motive power for the sizeable 11 coach train (10 passenger coaches+6024 support coach). Having checked the timings, prior to leaving home on the Saturday morning, I caught up with the outward run at Saltern Cove which is located on the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway's 7 mile line...on which the railtour completes it's journey to Kingswear. After seeing, but not filming (due to rain), the King's two light engine moves (for servicing) on the PDSR, I caught the return "Torbay" as it rejoined the national network at Paignton before departing for Bristol. The video I filmed can be seen below (simply click the 'Play' button to view). I have yet to ride the "Torbay Express" but I'm sure I will one day!

Thanks for reading, post No2 coming soon! Good Evening...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Driving Sunday Afternoon Steam at RPMR...

Hello all. Today I was part of the rostered crew for my 5" gauge concern's Sunday public running. There were 4 of us rostered plus Ken and newly-passed driver Emma as extra's. We arrived at around 12:15pm, with running due to start at 1pm. The electric locomotive (Compass House Class 37) was soon pressed into service before shunting the stock for the afternoon's trains. Whilst the other crew members began to set out signals and check the track, I headed in the opposite direction to prep 0-4-0 Sweet Pea Class No499 "John H Owen" for service. After filling the boiler and oiling round, I lit the fire using the usual parrafin wood. It was then time to start cleaning the engine, using the dirty rag provided(!). At just before 1pm the railway opened with the Class 37 heading the 3-car rake. A few round trips were made whilst "John H Owen" slowly "came round" on the steaming bay. A little later, when No499 was ready, myself & another member lifted the 0-4-0 onto the track before I took her 'light engine' to the station, where water was taken at the column. We then proceeded 'light' to the bendy-beam where 499 awaited the Class 37 and the ECS. When the 37 arrived it was uncoupled and taken into the siding before "John H Owen" backed down onto the stock. I coupled the engine up before taking my seat as the driver. (This first 1/2 lap would be ECS only however).
As we approached the station with the ECS the queue's were forming and after two successful, but very well-filled, journeys the 2nd train rake was called upon, hauled by the Class 37. (We couldn't manage without it!). Newly-passed driver Emma then took up driving the diesel whilst I continued driving the steamer. After a good few laps (6 or 7) with No499 holding 65psi or more all the way around the track, I swapped with Emma to be Guard on the train. This was Emma's first 'real' go at driving a steam-hauled passenger train following her test. I must admit, it was quite pleasant sitting on the back without having to worry about water level's or steam pressure's! Mind you, I wouldn't swap my job for the world! Whilst Emma was driving we did a 'running service' on No499 by cleaning out the smokebox and behind the firebox ("oh the beauty of the Marine Boiler!"). After Emma had managed a few successful laps she asked if I would like to drive again and, you've guessed it, the answer was "yes"! After taking water I set off again with a relatively light train, followed by a somewhat heavier one! However, No499 seemed unstoppable and was steaming, as well as performing, very well. It's a pleasure to drive these engine's when everything works out!
After a couple more successful laps I arrived back at Ryton Halt with the safety valve's feathering again. However, it was now 3:45pm (we close at 4pm) and we still had 2 trains operating the service, one of them being steam to boot. Therefore, the decision was taken to make 499's next run another ECS move to drop the coaches off before running 'light' back to the steaming bay. Meanwhile, the Class 37 would stay on the track and work the last handfull of services. After taking water, Emma boarded the ECS and called "don't spare the horses!". (This was to get out of the way of the Class 37 without holding it up). So, we certainly didn't! No499 'flew' out of Ryton Halt and rattled & rocked along the track before crossing the bridge. (For legal reasons, it wasn't doing over the 6mph speed limit!!). Arriving at the bendy beam the engine was quickly uncoupled before the stock was shunted into the siding by Emma. 499 then continued light, with me running alongside(!), around the track towards the steaming bay...just keeping ahead of the 37! Emma soon caught up with us and we then lifted 499 back onto the steaming bay, clearing the line for the passenger train(s). The quick operation had been a sucess and "John H Owen" was then blown down, filled with water, cleaned and put to bed. We carried just over 180 people today, not bad going for 2 little trains and only 3 hours running! Another great day! Thanks for reading folks!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Peckett Progress...

Hi all. Today I was again at my standard gauge concern, the Battlefield Line Railway at Shackerstone. Now, it is a well known fact that steam locomotive overhaul's can take massive amount's of time to complete. However, the railway's 0-6-0 Peckett Saddle Tank No1859 of 1932 "Sir Gomer" is now, effectively, on her way back! The engine was removed from service in August 2008 for overhaul and by early January 2009 she was stripped back to a bare chassis. Since then, alot of work has been done to the locomotive. This has included the cab fittings, wheels, valve gear, steam chest's, lubricator's, brakes, frames and much more. The valve gear has been re-timed and the connecting rods have been stripped of their previously red paint. This has resulted in very nice looking silver rods. The job was done using paint stripper and then a mixture of oil & parrafin to create a shiney effect. Today, after "Sir Gomer" was rolled outside, much degreasing work was done, mainly focussing on the green wheels and the frames. The Crosshead's were then needle-gunned, as can be seen below:- Surprisingly, beneath the gathered grease was a still very shiney green livery. The newly cleaned rods, barings and wheels can be seen below. The frames behind the wheels had also been cleaned with parrafin to remove further dust & grease, as had the left-hand rear sanding pipe in the bottom right of the image:-
"Sir Gomer"s 'bottom-end' work is now almost complete with only minimal "touching up" jobs left to do between the frames. Once the boiler returns from Llangollen it will be craned straight back into the frames so that the "piping up" work can begin. This will, unfortunately, "take as long as it takes" (same old story!). Once "Sir Gomer" is finished then a steam test will have to take place, to make sure that everything has been put back properly! The 77-year old lady will then have to undertake "proving runs", both 'light' & 'loaded', to run her back in after over a year out of service. If the many tests are completed sucessfully then the engine can be released back into service. With all work done, "Sir Gomer" will be back at the head of steam trains to the Battlefield, starting the new season, during Easter 2010, in style! The view below shows an unusual shot of the inside of the frames:- Now, for those who don't know it, here's a bit of history on the engine. No1859 (her only title when built) was built in June 1932 by Peckett & Sons of Bristol. Her class in the Peckett line was "OX1" (this is stamped on her rear bufferbeam). "Sir Gomer" spent her entire working life at Mountain Ash Colliery in Wales and was one of the last steam locomotive's operating in the area when finally retired in 1981. When retired, "Sir Gomer" was owned by the NCB who then loaned her to a preservation society, though she required restoration by then. By 1993 the group had restored the Peckett at their own expense. They later purchased the engine. Her owning society later became the Vale of Glamorgan Railway and No1859 was their first steam engine. However, due to the engine's 16"x24" cylinders she was barred from working on the railway's new extension which had restrictive clearances. This made her, unfortunately, surplus to requirements. The engine was later bought by the Battlefield Line and arrived in October 2001. For your interest I have included the 2 images below. It shows "Sir Gomer" complete, in steam and, running well(!) in June 2008, in the capable hands of Driver Jan Ford & Fireman Eddie Jones:-
After a few troubled years what with one thing & another, "Sir Gomer" was, as mentioned, taken out of service in late August last year. Power-wise, No1859 is, according to Peckett's pamplet, capable of hauling 980 tons on level ground. Due to her large cylinders and 3' 10" wheels, the engine can generate 545HP at 10mph. So, she may be small but she's by no means weak! Her "running weight" of around 43 tons is also quite substantial for her size. Finally, "Why is 'Sir Gomer' named so?"...Well, she is named after Sir James Gomer Berry who was a Director of many colleries in South Wales including, of course, Mountain Ash, "Sir Gomer"s former home. So, "Sir Gomer" should be back in use by Easter 2010 at the latest so why not come and ride behind her at the Battlefield Line Railway, Shackerstone, Leicestershire. Thanks for reading! More posts coming relatively soon. Good Evening.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Quick Visit To Echills Wood Railway...

After deciding to take a midday stroll "somewhere" we finally chose Kingsbury Water Park which lies on the outskirts of Tamworth. The park is largely wooded and features numorous expanses of open water. (This allows sailing during the summer months). However, since early 2005, the park has had yet another attraction: The Echills Wood Railway. The EWR is a 7.25" gauge miniature railway which runs from it's "Harvesters Station" base, located near the visitor centre. We had already checked that the railway would be running on their website and so left knowing that their would be something to see when we got there! After 25 minutes or so of motorway driving we reached Kingsbury Water Park and quickly parked up. We then took a gentle stroll across the main car park to the station. I was firstly glad to see a train in the platform but was then, admittedly, a little dissapointed to see that it wasn't steam. I suppose the railway wasn't planning it to be busy enough for steam, though there seemed to be many people already on the train. We payed our fares before boarding the small, but comfortable, 7.25" gauge coaches.
Train services were in the capable hands of the EWR's diesel locomotive, named "River Avon". (This engine is generally seen on maintainance/works trains). With a blast on the Guard's whistle the diesel began to move. Leaving "Harvesters", the line crosses a seemingly busy access road via a level crossing with barriers. It then passes through the main yard. Here can be seen the engine shed's, turntable, sidings and steaming bays. once through the yard, the line changes to single track and heads into one of the deeply wooded sections. The scenary on the line is very nice. The sound of the locomotive is seemingly the only thing that can break the sounds of birdsong and rustling leaves. After meandering its way through the trees the line passes "Picnic Junction" where there is a triangle. When the EWR extension to "Far Leys" is complete, trains will use the triangle to allow a non-stop return trip but, for now, trains pass along the bottom edge of the triangle and then proceed through a small station without stopping. The triangle is then left behind as the train follows another access-road which runs parrallel to the left of the track. Views of the surrounding woodland can once again be appreciated. After the straight the line then curves right again before meandering through the woodland once more. Trains cross a small bridge over a creek before arriving on the last section of line back to "Harvesters". After a few more twists and turns trains approach the signals which control operations at "Harvesters Station". Passengers are then asked to "All Change"(!) as the train pulls carefully back into the platform. I must say I enjoyed the ride very much, even though it was diesel! I found that it was nicely wooded and very scenic indeed. The best bit of the ride for me was that you couldn't see where you were going until you got there. The next section of track was always hidden, making the ride much more interesting! Great value for only £1 each! After leaving the train we took a stroll to Kingsbury Village where we enjoyed a nice bag of fish & chips each (highly recommended!). On the return walk I took a detour to "Far Leys" to see progress on the extension:-
This is the scene at "Far Leys" at the present time. The double-tunnel is 72ft long and has been made with the help of many EWR members. I believe that the plan is to create an extra loop, beginning and ending at Pincic Junction Triangle on the current loop (discussed earlier). The view of the tunnels is from the Picnic Junction end. I believe that the track doesn't go very far on the other side so far but, in time, it will be a fantastic train ride! The current loop is long enough, let alone with this massive extension plan! I'll certainly be back to see it in action! After leaving "Far Leys" we walked along the edge of the extension as far as "Picnic Junction" where the path rejoined the current loop. There was however, unfortunately, no sign of "River Avon" whilst we were there. Continuing down the heavily wooded path we made it back to "Harvesters" where I saw the track of the fantastic 32mm gauge "Station Masters Garden Railway". Looks like a good layout, especially for live steam!
Leaving "Harvesters" I found a location on the approach to the station from where to catch a shot of the next train. (You can see the shot that I caught above). The EWR is fully signalled using both colour-light signals and semaphore signals. There are also, I'm told, interlocking systems in the points to increase the safety of operations. So, I had a very nice little visit to the EWR. It was the first time that I had rode on the railway but it would be nice to go again when there is some steam running. For your information, the railway runs on selected Sunday's and during some school holidays. The railway's website is . For only £1 each I throughly recommend a trip! More posts coming soon! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

A Weekend With An Eastern Lady...

Firstly, its not what it sounds like! Or is it? LNER Thompson B1 Class 4-6-0 No1306 "Mayflower" is definately an Eastern Lady! Built in 1947 by what was then the London & North Eastern Railway, she was one of a class of 410 mixed-traffic locomotives that came under the name of "B1". It was a simple, two cylinder design which employed Walschaerts valve gear and a boiler with a 225psi 'blow-off' pressure. 1306 (or 61306 under BR) was retired in September 1967 and is now privately-owned and currently based at Shackerstone. She carries an LNER livery which shows how she might have looked when delivered brand new. (Another B1, No61264, has also been preserved and is currently under repair). Anyway, this weekend, 1306 was due to steam on normal service trains at Shackerstone with an extra evening "Special" on Saturday Night. DAY ONE: I arrived at Shackerstone at just before 6:30am and prepared 1306 with my crew and her owner. The first train was at 11:45am (the usual on "Timetable B") and therefore the 4-6-0 went "off shed" at around 11:25am. I wasn't on the footplate for the 1st trip as we giving a ride to a special 'Work Experience' guest.When 1306 returned from her 10 mile run I was changed into my 'smart overalls' and ready to go. I then went up onto the footplate before we ran round the next departure. At 1:20pm we were off to Shenton. 1306 barked up the cutting out of Shackerstone and then out into the open countryside. We completed this run and the following one without problems. On returning to Shackerstone, with the 3rd trip, we had to take water and therefore pulled up at the column with the coaches standing way out of the platform. (This is necessary due to the 6-coach rake blocking the water tower when parked in the platform). Once we had replenished the 4500-gallon tender it was time to 'set-back' into the station so that passengers could alight. On the other platform were many very enthusiastic photographers who were with the 5:20pm "Special". (The Special was operated for the Sutton Coldfield Railway Club). However, the participants also rode on the 4pm public train (last train of the day).

After operating the 4pm train and returning the final public passengers to Shackerstone, we ran round ready for the "Special". 1306 was now wearing a very nice "SCRS SPECIAL" headboard! (This had actually been carried before on 2 previous occasions at 2 different railways by 1306 herself!). With the many happy passengers on the train we left for Shenton with a "raffle winner" on the footplate enjoying a ride (what a prize!). The train arrived on time at Shenton before 1306 was uncoupled. However, she didn't move off the stock for photographs and, believe me, there were lots of photographs! (I was even asked to pose for a few of them!...celebrity now!). With the photos all taken we ran round and re-coupled to the other end of the train. We then left before enjoying a spirited run back to Shackerstone with another "raffle winner" enjoying a footplate ride. (Sounds worth entering a raffle like that doesn't it?!). At Shackerstone, 1306 was the subject of many more photographs and so were we (the crew). We had to pose on the bufferbeam with the headboard for many photos! We then received many thanks and even a round of applause before we took 1306 off to bed, finally leaving her after disposal at 8:30pm.

DAY TWO: After sleeping on site I signed on at 6:30am again and headed off to the shed to let myself in. 1306 was simmering nicely with 50psi still on the clock. Adrian then arrived and began raking the last bits of ash in the firebox. The locomotive's owner then arrived before he & myself broke up some pallet's for the engine's new fire. Pockets (the fireman) then arrived and myself & he then oiled the engine's inner parts (i.e. bogie axles etc). 02 Shunter "Diane" was then used to drag 1306 out into the morning sun. The fire was then lit before we all enjoyed a morning 'cuppa' (to wake us up properly!). After the tea, it was time to begin the cleaning ritual! I was concentrating on the 'bottom-end'. This is cleaned using a mixture of loco oil & parrafin so that the parts end up clean as well as shiney. At 10:55am the loco was moved off shed for her days work. (The main train was down the line, hauled by 31 130, making up the "Sunday Early Train" which now leaves Shackerstone at 10:35am). After coming off shed, 1306 took water before moving back into Platform 1 to await the Class 31. I wasn't on the footplate for the first trip (11:45am) as our new collegue Dave was enjoying a ride.
With 1306 now down the line, I cleaned myself up and once again changed into my 'smart overalls'. When she returned, I swapped with Dave and remained on the footplate for the rest of the day. It was, to say the least, very hot with the sometimes lacking breeze and hot outbursts of sunshine. We completed the rest of the days trips with out any problems. The railway seems very nice at this time of the year with the views over the Leicestershire countryside being spectacular in some area's. (My favourite locations are the Shenton Bank & Hedley's Crossing as the views are so distant and varied). We took water after the 3rd trip but, unlike the day before, the train was taken into Platform 1 so that 1306 could cross to the now free Platform 2 for water. After watering we operated the last trip without problems. On returning to Shackerstone again we headed into the shed for disposal. 1306's boiler was then filled, grate cleaned, ashpan emptied, tools put away and footplate doors locked. We then left 1306 (now with less than 100psi on the clock) to cool down by herself in the company of shedmates "Sir Gomer" & "Blue Circle". We then headed to the staff room to wash-up and sign off. The view below shows Shackerstone Station (Platform 1) just as was going home when almost everyone else had left:-
All in all it was a fantastic weekend with the 62-year old Eastern Lady! The video below shows us arriving at Shackerstone into Platform 1 with "Mayflower" before taking water. I can be spotted a couple of times in the video, most notably getting wet from the water tower! (Video Copyright C. Simmons).Thanks very much to the owner, the crews and the locomotive herself. I'll next be at Shackerstone next Sunday for, yes you've guessed it(!), more work on "Sir Gomer"! Thanks for reading. More posts coming soon!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

A Fabulous Day At The GEC Miniature Railway "50th Anniversary Gala"

Hi all. The first thing to say is that I make absolutely no apologies for the massive length of this post! It really was a fantastic day and there is just so much to say! Well, firstly, today I visited the GEC Miniature Railway, located on the Sports Ground just off Allard Way, Binley (Coventry). Today was a special day, it was a celebration of the railway's "50th Anniversary". I arrived just after 11am to find the 3.5"/5" gauge steaming bays very busy with many different locomotive's being prepared for running. Notably, they were all of 5" gauge. They included three 15XX 'Speedy' Pannier tanks, a small 0-6-0 named "Connie", a MR 4-4-0 Compound, a Southern 4-4-0, an LMS 4F and a small battery Y7 tram. However, a real eye-catcher was an LNER B1 named "Springbok", proudly wearing LNER Apple Green livery:-

Now, for a description of the GEC Miniature Railway. The railway includes 3.5", 5" & 7.25" gauge tracks as well as an indoor 00 gauge model railway & tea-room. The 3.5"/5" are both encorporated on the dual-gauge raised track, with the 7.25" being at ground level. First I'll talk about the raised track:-Now, I've already mentioned the steaming bays but I haven't said that they also include a turntable and independant electricity supplies (for blower's etc) to each bay. Loco's can then transfer onto the raised track by a 'traverser-like' rail. Having transferred, the locomotive will now be in the station area which includes a water tower. (This is where passengers board for a ride). Operations on the raised track are controlled by automatic signalling, making sure that locomotive's do not catch up with eachother. The signals include red, ambre & green colour lights. Leaving the station, the line passes the 7.25" yard before continuing on a "reverse curve". It then curves right into a deeply wooded area. Soon after, it emerges on a long straight with the station dead ahead once again. This straight runs parallel to the main access road into the ground, seperated by a small wooden fence. At the end of the straight trains re-enter the station. The total length of the raised track, so I've been told, is just over 600ft.

Back to me (remember I've only just arrived!), I admired the 5" gauge engines. I then met up with a friend of mine who is a GEC member. He then presented me with a "Guest" ("access all area's") badge with my name on! How kind! He also told me that the badge allowed me FREE cups of tea! Now, that is fantastic! (I can't live without tea!). He then took me to the 7.25" steaming bays where 0-4-0 Romulus No5 "James" & 0-4-0 Free-Lance Saddle Tank No10 "Trojan" were being oiled, ready for running. Meanwhile, 0-4-0 Diesel Hydraulic "Sammy" was hauling the passenger trains on the ground level line. After a chat, I returned to the centre of the site and the clubhouse for, you've guessed it(!), a cup of tea! Now for a talk on the 7.25" gauge line:- The diagram which you see above is the 7.25" gauge railway's layout. The location of the station is the bottom right where you see "T1". Leaving the station, the railway passes through the preparation yard (which includes the steaming bays) before contiuning into the first section. This takes the train into a wooded area, adjacent to the raised track. The track then curves left (at "T3") before continuing into the main section (seen at "T7" on the diagram). The driver is then faced with a very long straight, the first part of which is also wooded. Soon after, trains pass through the "up" side of the 1/2 way passing loop, seen in the middle-left of the diagram. Once though the loop, the train is back on a long-straight again. Almost immediately, the emerges from the wooded area, running directly alongside the main football pitches. Meanwhile, on the right hand side of the train, the tree's hide 'Allard Way' which runs on the other side of the hidden fence. Soon after, the train arrives in the first section of the new terminus triangle, seen at the bottom-left of the image. Trains treverse the triangle before receiving the all-clear to return to the station via the same route, obeying all signals. Today, trains were passing in the 1/2 way loop. (Note=The triangle at the top of the diagram, through "S6" & "T5", is no longer in regular use). Trains then pass through the yard again before arriving back at the station. Locomotive's are then uncoupled before running up to the sheds for turning, watering, coaling etc. It is, I must admit, a very scenic and varied journey, especially if you're riding behind a steam engine. The shed's as I call them are only for the storage of carraiges as the locomotive's are not based on the site and are privately owned. The coaching stock is vacuum braked, as are the locomotive's. The railway has recently took-delivery of some ex-Rugby MES stock which is a very different type to its original stock with passengers being seated astride a main beam rather than in proper seats. The 7.25" line is also controlled by automatic signalling with 'walkie-talkies' being used between the 'Train Guard' and the station 'Signalman' to control operations at the triangle. (This is only a temporary measure as signalling with soon be fitted to the triangle as well, enabling an even-safer operation). The 'GEC' as it is known also includes a model railway...

In the tea-room is this lovely 00 gauge model railway. The railway includes two complete circuit's and one "out & back" track on which is usually operated a model of "Thomas the Tank Engine". The two full circuits usually host many different locomotives of all shapes, sizes and manufacturers. All three tracks make their way to a full fiddle-yard which can be seen in the top-left of my "debatable" image! This indoor railway is well worth a look and includes some very interesting and quirky little features. The tea-room sells such things as tea (great!), coffee and, best of all, home made cakes. (I really, really recommend the home made cakes! Yum!). It's all for society funds of course. Every little helps! The tea-room is also a great place to hide from bad weather but luckily enough we didn't have any of that today! The video below (which I took today) gives a brief indication of the going's on at the event:- I spent my day at the GEC hovering about, talking to many people, drinking lots of tea, taking lots of pictures and of course indulging in the BBQ (great burgers by the way!). It really was a fantastic day and I didn't leave until gone 4pm...(not that late I know but you know what I mean!). Just before I left though I got a very enjoyable drive on No10 "Trojan", fantastic!:- Thank you to all at GEC Miniature Railway for a fantastic day out, a lovely place to visit! Now, for those of you who wish to visit, the GEC runs for the public every first weekend of each month from May-October. The Saturday's are usually designated to 3.5"/5" gauge running with the Sunday's designated to 7.25" gauge trains. There is also a Christmas Special (which we visit), for which I cannot remember the date. The railway is run by the GEC Model Engineering Society who makes no profit from the railway's operations. All proceed's go towards the upkeep of the railway and its stock. Again, the railway is based on the Sports Ground just off Allard Way, Binley (Coventry). Be sure to visit for a friendly and enjoyable train ride! Thanks again GEC! More posts coming soon! Thanks for reading folks.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Prepping 'Sweet Pea' No499 "John H Owen"...

Today I was at my 5" gauge concern, the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway (operated by Coventry Model Engineering Society) as 'passed driver' so that 'trainee driver' Emma could practise her driving skills on No499. No499, named "John H Owen", is owned by CMES and is one of the numorous 5" gauge 0-4-0 Sweet Pea Class Saddle Tank locomotives. With a boiler pressed to 80psi the engine is substantially powerful and operates with Hackworth Valve Gear. On arrival, the engine was placed on the track ready for preparation for running.
First thing to do is check that nothing is falling off the engine. For example, loose bolts or fittings. With this check being successful it is time to oil up.
"John Owen" includes many different oiling points such as axleboxes, slides, pistons, crosshead, water pump pistons, connecting rod barings, reversing gear and of course the cylinders. The hackworth valve gear is easily accessible though so oiling up isn't difficult.
Is it now time to light up?! Not yet! With water in the boiler I like to check inside the smokebox & Marine firebox. This then involves checking the tubes, blast pipe, steam pipes and blower pipes, not to mention the all-important spark arrestor. It is also worth checking the firebars and ashpan. If you have a safe level of water in the boiler (around 1/4 of a glass or more) then it's now time to light up. (If you don't have enough water then we add more water via the double-acting handpump, situated under the footplate floor). We light up using parrafin wood. This is piled in the firebox before being lit. A battery-operated 'blower' is then placed inside the chimney, creating an artificial draft with which to "pull" the fire. Once the wood has taken a good hold then its time to try and add coal, a few shovel fulls will do for now.
We also need to check the mechanical lubricator. This oils the cylinders and operates from the left-side valve gear. We fill this with steam-oil. It is then worth "priming" the lubricator by 'turning the wheel' a couple of times. That way the oil will be (hopefully!) be pumping as soon as you begin to move and you should already have oil in the cylinders to prevent seizing. Above you see "John H Owen"s cab. The firebox door & ashpan door can be seen clearly below. The two water gauge glasses can also be seen. The pressure gauge can on top of the manifold with the whistle just behind it. The blowdown valve, used to empty the boiler of steam & water, can be seen below the ashpan door, pointing towards the ground. This is operated using a specially-made handle. The "on-off" (bypass) valves for the two water points are the two red stalks, one either side of the firebox. The handbrake can also be seen on the right. The reverser, with three 'notches' in either direction, can then be seen on the left. In the centre of the firebox can be seen the regulator. The small handle in front of the pressure gauge is for the whistle and the small 'wheel' to the left of that is the blower. The small rod with the red-handle on the left is the lever for the handpump. (It is stored on the footplate to prevent it getting lost!).
After a clean up, "John H Owen" is seen above with the battery-blower working hard. At 30psi, the locomotive blower can be used. The coal fire would normally, by now, have taken a good hold. The loco blower is more than enough to 'pull' the coal fire well.
With 80psi on the clock, the only thing left to test is that the Safety Valve's work. With the valves having 'lifted', this test has been passed. With no injector(s) to test, preparation is complete. All thats left to do is couple up the riding truck(s), clear away the prep tools and chug away. This engine has automatic drain cocks and so a careful start is vital to prevent over-loading the cylinders with water. More Posts Coming Soon! Thanks for reading!