Sunday, 19 August 2012

Private Garden Railway: The Shay...

Hi everyone. Now and again you have one of those days where nothing could have really gone much better. Today was one of those days. Last week a friend of mine invited me to a Vintage Car gathering at his house, which was sheduled for today. The private house includes a pond large enough to accomodate a steam launch and a 7.25" gauge railway which is a mile in length. It is no amateurs garden railway! The line began a few years ago and has slowly grown since. It originally skirted the edge of the lake using an out-and-back single line, before being improved to circle the lake entirely. The extension was then added down to what is now the steaming bay area, which includes sheds, a turntable, raised and ground level steaming bays and a water tower. The extended route then continues around the back field before passing over itself via a cross-over. The track then climbs steeply back up to the lakeside, rejoining the lake circuit via a trailing point. The train then circles around 1/4 of the lake on track it has already travelled, before taking a facing point to the right and continuing back around the lake to the station area. So, basically, you travel half of the lake twice during every circuit, so that you can get to the extension, around it, off it and back to the station again. That makes the journey around 12 minutes and over a mile! Today I arrived on site at around 11:30am and was immediately given the resident 7.25" Shay locomotive to steam....
As there were many vehicles and guests expected, all three of the railways engines were in action: the Shay, the Station Road Steam 'Stafford' 0-4-0 and the Class 08 diesel. Two privately owned loco's (a blue electric and 0-4-2 steamer "Wendy") were also in action, providing a varied and intensive service on the route.
'Wendy' (nearest) and Pete with the 'Stafford'
The engine was in steam at just after Midday and out on the line with myself on the pull-out regulator. Behind her she hauled a bogie driving truck and three bogie log wagons. A fully loaded train would allow for 8 adults to ride as well as myself, though the empty train is heavy anyway(!), particularly on the gradient back up to the lake. The owner had insisted that the 3-cylinder Shay not be driven faster than a 'moderate walking pace' as the prototype standard gauge version was only designed to run at 10mph! Therefore the eccentrics would be tearing around at faster speeds, risking potential lubrication issues. Even with a fully loaded train the loco would chug along happily at just over walking pace in the last notch before mid gear and with the regulator barely open. She was a pleasure to drive. She steamed beautifully, allowing you to put water in adequately using the axlepump whilst also making steam with the firehole door cracked open. You never had to worry about her getting you back...she would regardless.
Skirting The Lake On The Station Approach
The first run was empty stock until the station but from then until gone 5:30pm the loco was pulling full trains all afternoon. We stopped once for around 15 minutes in the station loop for a break and that was it. For the rest of the afternoon we steamed around the fields, blowing the US style whistle. The Shay was a beauty...perfect in every way. As long as you made sure to keep her oiled every 4-5 journeys then she was fine, and sounded like a well-oiled sewing machine. The weather also helped, with the sun shining all day.
The day saw countless vintage cars from various makers and from various era's standing on the lineside, whilst the steam launch "Roundtuit" offered steam-powered, tranquil rides on the lake as the trains passed by. It was brilliant. At around 5:45pm the train had become quiet enough for me to call it a day with the Shay. I'd been driving for ages and though I'd enjoyed it I was worn out! The loco sidled happily down the line, away from the lake and to the yard. We chugged up onto the turntable before dropping the air brakes on the train and uncoupling the loco.
The Shay Ready To Go Into The Yard
With very little fire remaining and a full boiler, the Shay was left to cool down at her own accord. 'Stafford', 'Wendy' and the two electrics had all long since retired for the day.
The engine on the Shay is rather interesting, employing three verticle cylinders with Stephenson valve gear, driven to the wheels via a rotating shaft and gears. Simple but effective. I was very surprised at how smooth it was in motion, particularly as all the power is driven from one side. However, it also rides brilliantly as it is a bogie locomotive.
3-Cylinders On The Right Hand Side
 Following the disposal of the Shay, I got yet another drive on the railway, on another loco to boot. A few months ago Eddie bought a Maxitrak Opal; their 0-4-2 7.25" steamer. "Archie" formerly "Roy" was in action early this evening, enjoying a run on this lengthy garden railway. I drove the little red engine on two laps of the route and she was brilliant. I think Eddie was pleased with her/him. She did go very well.
"Archie" formerly "Roy"
All in all a brilliant day. Thanks very much to the railways owners for letting me drive the Shay all day, and to Eddie for letting me drive his new loco. Cheers folks. Sam...

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