Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Echills Wood Railway: Driving A Stanier Black 5...

Hi guys. Today I was at the Echills Wood Railway: the 7.25" gauge line that runs through a substantial section of the Kingsbury Water Park near Tamworth. I had been invited up by my friend Dave who's family owns a few 7.25" engines, as well as some road locomotives. Dave had offered me the chance to drive his recently-acquired Black 5 for the day and, to be honest, I jumped at it!...
I arrived at Kingsbury at around 9am and was met by a few of the members. I enjoyed a cuppa' and a Hot Cross Bun in the mess room as constant rain trickled down the windows. Dave & his family were soon on site and after alot of chatting and trotting around the sheds we pushed the shining Black 5 out into the rain. Through the yard we pushed her and onto the large turntable, before backing her down onto Bay No9 in the covered roundhouse. Dave showed me the various controls on the engine as well as the oiling points and he also gave me alot of wood & a lighter. He then said, "light her up then". "Fair enough" came my reply. The boiler was already full as the loco had ran on Saturday and so, with the blower fitted, I lit the fire...
With a good wood-fire in the box, I began adding the substantially-sized lumps of coal. The loco warmed up surprisingly quickly and she was ready by 11:20am. Unlike 5" gauge engines which you sit behind, you sit astride a 7.25" tender loco. The tender has a padded seat atop it and this (providing the tender is properly balanced) provides a good driving perspective and a comfortable ride. As we prepared to leave shed, the 5MT blew off at her full pressure of 90psi. With that, the loco hissed off shed in a cloud of steam. With me driving, I climbed out of the yard and onto the Relief Line light engine. With the points switched behind, the loco rolled back down into the yard where I halted her on the Vacuum Brake. The drain cocks (steam operated!) were kept open throughout this so as to clear the Superheaters and the rest of the steam circuit. 5026 has her own set of scale LMS coaches (of which there are four) plus a mineral wagon (for the Guard's kit & sandwiches!) and a Brake Van (for the Guard). Whilst Dave & the yard master marshalled the train from the sheds, the Black 5 simmered quietly away...
In the cab, the Black 5 was nice & simple, though its regulator was rather stiff: echoing the feeling of alot of power! In honesty, you only needed the regulator just cracked at 50% cut-off to pull a fully loaded train up the steeper sections of the line. The main issue today was wet, greasy rails! In the cab below we can see the manifold atop the backhead. From left to right we have the L-hand injector steam valve, the hooter/whistle, the R-hand injector steam valve, the steam brake supply and the vac ejector supply. The two gauge glasses can be clearly seen with the regulator in the middle. The gauge on the left is the Pressure Gauge, and the one on the right is the Vac Gauge. At the foot of the R-hand gauge glass is the Blower and bottom-left is the Reverser & Steam Valve for the Drain Cocks. The Damper control is just below the firehole door on the right. The brakes are on the right hand side. The vac brake is forward of the steam brake; though the latter is not in use yet. All in all, a very easy-to-work-with cab layout...
With the train coupled up, off we went. As I haven't driven the EWR for a good while, and I hadn't driven the Black 5 before(!), Dave joined me as a Pilotman for the first few laps. As it was raining there were very few passengers. The passengers that came were hauled by the two commerical diesels, pulling their articulated coach rakes. Opening the regulator, the Black 5 slipped and then regained her feet before taking off. Out of the North Gate and onto the 7mph section we went, before slowing for a 3mph slack at Sandy Curve. Atop the climb the train drifts downwards to Picnic Junction Halt where there is a 3mph slack over a Facing Point. The train is then on the double-track to the current terminus at Far Leys. This section is 7mph, though the tunnel is 5mph. The Black 5 chugged easily along this section with her empty train and we arrived at Far Leys in good time. After a brief stop to test the brakes we departed again, upgrade. The return run takes the double-track back across Baldwins Bridge and through the tunnel. There is then a 1mph(!) slack over a foot crossing on a VERY tight bend. From here, the train passes through Picnic Junction before heading out onto a 7mph 'raceway' section. Really, it is 7mph but it feels so much faster on a long, well-maintained and sweeping track. Below, the Black 5 romps along towards Harvesters (the main station)...
I drove the beautiful Black 5 throughout the afternoon and, having been passed off as 'knowing the route' I drove many fare-paying passsengers around the long track. I will admit, pulling the two 'fully loaded' trains that I did made me appreciate not only the power of the 5 but also the greasy nature of the rails. Leaving Far Leys on the curving gradient across the junction, the 5MT lost her feet again & again but didn't stall. In the end she would end up crawling out with a strong bark being ejected up the chimney. Once under way, the hooter would be sounded passing the 'W' board towards Baldwins Bridge. She really was a beautiful engine and I do aspire to maybe owning one like her one day. However, I do maintain a kind of respect for narrow gauge 7.25" that you can 'sit in' rather than 'sit astride', such as the Romulus. Anyway, having driven the 5MT all afternoon, I gave the loco back to Dave for her last run as he hadn't really had a go yet! I did however ride with the engine on her last trip for photos. Below, the trackbed speeds under the tender at 7mph...
At Far Leys, some passengers would join, some would leave and some would simply stay on the train. At 15 minutes per round trip, it isn't bad really! Note the scale LMS coaches...
5026 rests at Far Leys...
After her last trip we shunted the train onto the Loading Road (ready to go in Dave's trailer) before the Black 5 went back onto No9 road. Having emptied the Ashpan and having dropped the Grate, the loco was blown-down in fine style...
5026 engulfed in steam...
Having loaded the now cooling loco and train onto Dave's vehicle we headed home. It had been a brilliant day and I thank everyone at EWR for letting me have another go. Special thanks must go to Dave, Kevin and Vera Brown who constantly welcome me and provide great hospitality. The chance to drive such beautiful locomotives only seems to come through those you know and I am very fortunate to know such kind people. Without them, I would not have driven or experienced so many railways or locomotives. Finally, thanks for reading folks. Goodnight...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

tremendous fun
driven afew myself at the great cockcrow
very interesting