Sunday, 25 November 2012

Tree Cutting at Flooded Shackerstone...

Hi guys. Today was a visit to the Steam Department at Shackerstone. However, rather than working on the locomotives we were out on the line today, doing a bit of the old Permanent Way. The plan of attack was to get to Shackerstone and pick up some kit before heading 2 miles south to Carlton bridge which crosses the Market Bosworth to Carlton road between Hedleys Crossing and the Airfield. I left home at just before 10am on this chilly morning and roared down into Nuneaton in the Saxo. It had been raining heavily the night before and the tell-tale signs of flooding were already starting to appear. The Weddington road was flooded by a few inches near the 60mph pick-up towards Caldecote. Houses and cars were sodden, with wastebins floating out into the road. The speed here was more like 6mph than 60! The road then dried as I reached the Royal Red Gate (the A5) and picked up the A444 towards Fenny Drayton. Sibson village had just about escaped the floods as it hadn't reached road level...only lower by a couple of inches...though the fields nearby were submurged. As I crested the hill near Sheepy Magna the fields ahead were like the joke. The water was not draining away and lay across the fields like a huge blanket, completely covering fences and grasslands. The Gibbet Lane turn off was clear and so I took it as normal, though the water was deep alongside the road. I knew that as soon as the road drew level with the fields I was done for...and there we had it...a flood! The same section had been flooded this summer and so I tried my luck on the shallower section. The Saxo moaned as it creeped through the drift at about 4 or 5 inches deep. Just as I cleared the drift and was beginning to accelerate I was flagged down by Andy coming the other way who insisted that the next drift was much deeper and that we would not make it through. So, I turned around and headed back through the first drift, this time dropping down a pothole which brought water up into the grill...a narrow escape!

Shackerstone was completely cut off with accesses from Gibbet Lane, Twycross, Bilstone, Congerstone and Newton Burgoland all badly flooded. The Derby lane section was OK but to get there you had to brave Snarestone. We decided to head straight to Carlton but the crossroads was over 2ft deep and so we had to go all the way around Market Bosworth village and down to Carlton village before coming back down the same road to the other side of the flood waters at the bridge. The bridge was also flooded, with its deepest at about 2.5ft...far too deep for a Saxo! We unloaded our cars here as it was clear that there were going to be no passers by (apart from a completely mad runner!) going through it.
Having clambered up the embankment the team started the job. The DMU was running today with trains leaving Shackerstone at 11am, 1pm and 3pm so we only had to watch out for that...rather than the roaring beast that is 3803! Every member of the gang was equipped with a hi-viz jacket and the driver of the DMU was made fully aware of our intent and position and so all was taken care of in the safety stakes. At the lineside, well clear of the track, we started two fires in order to burn away the cut-down foliage.
The floods at the crossroads ahead and under the bridge itself continued to present a problem for most drivers. Countless cars either turned away immediately or tried their luck before giving up. Only the odd, tall 4 x 4 and a stupid Subaru managed to amble their way through. The Subaru in particular was a highlight, with the exhaust and numberplates completely submurged with only light bubbles rising to the surface! Below, a Motorist in an elder 4 x 4 tries his luck...
The lads cut down alot of stuff today, whilst myself and Dave burnt it on the fires. Not only will this open up new views from both the train and from the road, but it will also prevent us from nearly losing an eye everytime we come past on 3803!
Though most of the stuff was getting burnt I did decide to take quite a few of the normal sized logs home with me for our new woodburner. I chopped up some of it when we got back and managed to fill two large baskets with 10" cut-offs, and still having probably 50% of the logs left to cut up too! Free heat ay?!
After a good day at Carlton we decided to give in at about 4pm, a little while after the last DMU run had past us homeward bound. Passenger numbers on the train seemed impressive for the time of year and alot of good work had been completed at the chopping site so a successful day overall. Thanks to all who helped...we had a good day. Cheers guys. Sam.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Steaming The SW1...

Hi everyone. Tonight I gave the SW1 a bit of a steaming around the Dining Room. This blue Steam Wagon has been in my ownership for a couple of years now and is run on the odd occasion. When not running, it spends its time keeping the 00 gauge collection company in the garden railway stores. The engine has been running much better lately, now that the bands which provide the power to the driving axle, from the flywheel, have loosened up a bit. It is still in very good condition in my opinion, with good paintwork all round and a shiney cladding on the firebox. After a few laps around the dining room I cleaned down the engine ready for storage. It requires a few bits and pieces to be done on it to get it into a supreme running condition but it'll get there this winter. Its a lovely model and I really like it. Best Regards, Sam.

The Warley Way...

Hi guys. Today we visited the 2012 Warley National Model Railway Exhibition, held in its traditional home of 'Hall 5' at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre. The show generally attracts approximately 18000 people, 12000 of which visit are said to visit on the Saturday. We've visited Warley every year since 2003, and have been lucky enough to exhibit three times: 2006, 2008 and 2010. Our layout is the 'LEGO Railway'; a colourful O Gauge display which includes moving LEGO train models. The layout will make a hopefully welcome return to Warley for exhibition in November 2013. Today we were just the general visitor, and arrived in Hall 5 just after the 'Advanced Tickets' opening time of 9:15am. There was, as usual, a wide variety of displays including at least 75 layouts in various scales and gauges. There were also countless trade stands, demonstrators and society displays.

The centrepiece locomotive this year, well locomotives I should say, were "Alfred" & "Judy". These two diminutive Bagnall 0-4-0STs were built to standard gauge but to a very small loading gauge. They needed to be able to traverse very tight curves and steam under an extremely low bridge. "Judy" was the first, built in 1937 to a height of only 90 inches on 33" driving wheels. She cost £1200 to built and weighed in at 16 tons. The bridge under the Cornish Mainline on the railway at Port of Par was 8ft high, with "Judy" being designed to fit through by just shy of 4 inches! "Alfred" was built to the same design (with subtle differences) in 1953 and worked at Port of Par alongside "Judy".
 "Alfred" has spent most of his preservation life in the Cornwall area: mostly at Bodmin & Wenford. "Judy" was eventually reunited with "Alfred" and steamed for the first time in preservation in April 2009. If you think you can see a certain similarity with two TV show characters you would be right. "Alfred" & "Judy" ended up being written into the Thomas the Tank stories as "Bill" & "Ben" the China Clay engines, sealing their place in the hearts of children forever. The green pair sat shining on two short lengths of track with staff from the B & WR on their footplates answering questions and talking to the public. At the back of the hall was "Lyd"; the Ffestiniogs big L & B replica...part of the Narrow Gauge display. It was nice to see these loco's a long way from home, in the warm in Birmingham.

All in all a very good visit to Warley 2012. We will, as I say, be there in 2013 with the LEGO Railway so please look out for us if you are a regular visitor to the show ;) Best regards, Sam.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Post 100: Shackerstone Works...

Hi guys. Well, here we are year on...Post No100. Naturally, as one will often find, Post No100 was a day out to Shackerstone. We were working in the loco shed today, performing various tasks from cleaning to changing gaskets on 3803's injectors. At present, there are five steam locomotives in Shackerstone shed, with two more stabled outside. The running area of the shed is taken up by the huge bulk of 3803; the GWR Heavy Freight. She is the only one of the operational fleet that has any work left to do this year: she'll be on Santa train duty from December 1st up until Christmas Eve. Behind 3803 in the storage area: closed off during winter to stop the draft: is 5521. 5521 came in September (see posts) as Gala Guest No2 and yet, having fulfilled all of its operating days at Shackerstone, never left! The owners of the loco (the Flour Mill) have yet to collect her and at present she has shown no signs of leaving.
Welding On Dunlop No7 and The Cold Bulk of 3803
Further down the shed the Peckett duo of "Sir Gomer" and "Dunlop No7" stand side by side. "Dunlop" is still minus her boiler which stands in unrestored condition down the North End. This little 0-4-0 worked at Shackerstone in the early 80s but only spent 3 months in operational traffic before being retired with a condemned firebox. Her loving owners, having restored a Class 04 and Class 08 diesel of late, have now turned their attention to her and there is always some progress to see. Today they were welding the cab floor as part of its repair. The frames have also received stripping and priming. Overall, the babby Peckett looks alot better than she did a few months back. Bigger sister "Sir Gomer" (the railways own locomotive) has had quite a fortunate season and has proved popular with both crews and the public. The loco took part in Halloween weekend and has since been winterised to protect her from the frost. She will see no use prior to the early season of 2013 as of now.

The Aveling "Blue Circle" is also winterised and sits happily in her stabling area at the back of the shed. It is unlikely that she will see any steaming over winter but never say never.
All in all a pleasant but very cold day. The rear end of the shed (the 2-road section) is particularly cold as the guys mostly keep the rear doors open to allow the Class 02 (currently being repainted) in and out when required. The other two steamers (pile of bits "Richard III" and out-of-ticket "Lamport No3") are currently outside but will probably find their way back into the works for dry storage once 5521 has left us. Despite only being a Small Prairie tank engine, 5521 still makes quite an imposing presence inside the shed.

Right, now to post 100. Last year it was the very end of October...this year it comes 3 weeks later meaning that, in theory, we've done less posts this year so far: thats a first! I can only put it down to less use on the Garden Railway due to work and the weather. Ahh well, we'll have to see how many more posts I can squeeze in before the end of the year! Cheers guys. Sam.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Quiet Shed Day at Shackerstone...

Hi guys. Today we were working in the loco shed at Shackerstone as the winter sun shone outside. Work was ongoing with Class 02 Shunter "Diane" whilst other jobs included repairing some damage to the shed itself before the deep winter sets in. There were four trips down the line operating today, all with the DMU duo. Jan was at the helm of the railcar and I caught the 2nd departure down to Market Bosworth so that I could have a look around the site and sort out a few issues regarding my Miniature Traction Engine Weekend. The site itself seemed fairly good and alot of my quarms were resolved. Following my lengthy tour of the large site I joined the DMU again for a ride in the cab back up to Shackerstone. Though I will never turn away from steam, the DMU does have its advantages: its cheap to run, its warm, its comfortable and it does the job easily. It was a pleasant little run back to Shackerstone and the line certainly did look its winter best.
Driver Jan with the DMU
On arrival back at Shackerstone the DMU prepared for one last trip whilst I cleared up some issues in the shed. It was then time for home as the sun started to set and the cold evening began to set in. It had been a short but successful day and the issues resolved regarding M.T.E.W had made me feel alot better about it all. I know the event isn't until April but there is just so much to sort in every department! Best Regards, Sam.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Miniature Traction Engine Weekend April 27th-28th 2013...

Right guys, this has taken up alot of my time over the last few weeks so definitely deserves a quick post! This is the first plug for Miniature Traction Engine Weekend 2013; a brand new event to be held at Market Bosworth Station on the Battlefield Line. The event is being organised by myself and should see 20 miniature traction engines in steam at Market Bosworth on both days. The engines will be roaming free on the old Goods Yard. The centrepiece engine for the steamy weekend will be 10-ton Aveling Porter Roller "Louise", kindly provided by a friend. "Louise" will be playing the 'big sister' and will be in steam alongside the miniatures throughout the weekend. Also on offer on the Goods Yard will be a 5" gauge miniature railway (GEC MES) which will be offering rides: small extra charge applies. The miniature centrepiece will be the beautiful 3" Showmans "The Griffin", coupled up to her Pell Organ (playing) via dynamo. Inside the Goods Shed we will be showcasing displays which include even the smallest of traction engines: the Toy Steamers. Many Mamod and Wilesco engines will be in action as well as a large 16mm Live Steam Railway and select local Model Engineering displays. All of this will be happening alongside full size train operations on the Battlefield Line, upon which the public will be welcome to take a ride during the weekend. Obviously this event is still in the early stages with me being on and off the phone every five minutes and emailing countless people. However, I am very keen to get it off the ground, as is the railway and so please come along and support us for what promises to be an exciting weekend with miniature steam at Market Bosworth Station.

Thanks guys! Sam.

Earl Shilton Toy Steam Fair...

Hi guys. Today I visited the first annual Toy Steam Fair to take place in the town of Earl Shilton, Leicestershire. It was organised in order to raise much needed funds for Age UK. I met the organisers at MMEE 2012 as part of organising an event for the Battlefield Line for April next year and therefore they 'advised' me to pop over. It was 50p to get in and 50p for a cuppa'...oh, and it was free to you cannot argue with that! The exhibition was spread over two rooms and featured a variety of Toy Steam models, particularly from the well known makers of Mamod and Wilesco. The countless models were either in steam or running on compressed air and there were certainly plenty to see. The exhibition definately seemed to be a success and was most certainly a brilliant effort for a first event. I believe it will be happening again this time next year due to the amount of support it got in 2012 so why not go along and support them? Well worth a good hour of anybodies time! Cheers guys. Sam.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

An Elegant Excursion...

Hello everybody. Today, as the rain fell from the winter skies, myself and Maisie were on route to the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway at Winchcombe. The 10-mile long standard gauge preserved railway operates from its headquarters at Toddington but the last few years has seen some severe cases of bad luck on the line. It first severed near Gotherington due to a landslip caused by bad weather and spent the next couple of years operating top & tailed trains from Toddington to Gotherington Halt, via Winchcombe. I visited the line in November 2010 and had a run with "Foremarke Hall" to the stricken, temporary terminus and back. That day, as the train passed over Chicken Curve (near Toddington) it leaned over slightly. I found this most odd. Anyway, the GWSR fixed the Gotherington section and planned to restart services between Toddington and the proper terminus of Cheltenham Racecourse before disaster struck again and Chicken Curve suffered a severe landslide and severed Toddington from the rest of the line. I have never known a railway with such bad luck.

The severing of Toddington left the railway with only one option: to temporarily move base to Winchcombe where the carriage works are. Therefore, the steam locos made their way by road to Winchcombe and have remained there since. Throughout 2012 the trains have operated over the remaining section, with the work on Chicken Curve being completed; thanks to heavy internal & external fundraising; about 2 weeks ago. The GWSR will however continue "as timetabled" between Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse for the rest of the year. Toddington to Cheltenham will reopen for the 2013 running. So, in the Saxo, todays destination was Winchcombe. I had booked us on the lovely GWSR Fine Dining Train, operated by the company known as "Elegant Excursions". We were asked to dress smartly and joined the steam-heated train on Platform 2 at Midday, following a very wet sprint along the A46 and down muddy country lanes. We were given a glass of chilled Bucks Fizz and were shown politely to our Table for Two aboard one of the three Dining Cars.
The atmosphere was lovely. There was tranquil music playing, it was cosy, warm and very comfortable. The warmth of the train was certainly very welcome and was a stark contrast to the horrid, dreary weather outside. The train departed behind the awe-inspiring Turkish 8F 2-8-0 at 12:30, bound for Chelentham Racecourse. The meal was 3 courses starting with a Scottish broth soup and then followed by a tasty Roast Dinner and a large slice of Chocolate Cake with Cream. The meal was topped off with a cup of a tea and after dinner mint: very civilised! The 8F steamed effortlessly along the line as the passengers enjoyed the views across the Cotswold countryside from the coaches. Train Manager and Company Operator Robin gave an interesting commentary as the Turkish '8' chugged along and the friendly staff dished out the various drinks and courses.
Maisie Choosing From The Wine List
The "Elegant Excursion" made two round trips between Winchcombe and Cheltenham Racecourse during the 3-hour run and it was very enjoyable indeed. I love firing and driving the loco's at Shackerstone but, sometimes, it is nice just to sit back and enjoy the journey, particularly when it is accompanied by fine dining. Also in steam today was "Foremarke Hall", hauling the normal passenger service.
We left Winchcombe for home straight after the run following a very enjoyable trip. I felt it was very good value for money, brilliant food and a great atmosphere. I am very tempted to travel Elegant Excursions again in the near future. You can't beat a dining train! Thanks very much for reading folks. Best Regards, Sam.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Achilles Report No21: Steaming Fine...

Hi everyone. After her troubled and short-lived run on Wednesday evening, "Achilles" spent Friday afternoon being cursed at in the workshop whilst I stripped the gudgeon pin and bolt out from the left-hand crosshead. I found some thread locker and, having gripped the nut slightly in the vice to bring tension onto the thread, I refitted the bits to the engine having degreased them. The thread locker was then used to get a good grip on the thread and the whole lot tightened up before being left to set. Though the fitting now looked solid, the only way to test these things out is of course to run against them. Therefore, I decided to bring the loco up to the RPMR (CMES) today for a run in the chilly afternoon sunlight. "Achilles" was wearing her traditional poppy ensemble so as to show respect for the fallen at this time of year. We steamed her up in typical November conditions on the bay, though she came round relatively quickly. We then backed off the steaming bay, through the bendy beam and onto the track with a driving truck and a passenger car.
Hanging Steam On This Cold November Day
With a bit of water from the drain cocks off we went, chugging along quite happily. The gudgeon pin nut stayed firmly in place and the locomotive steamed very well. Throughout the afternoon we ran quite a few laps of the track, turning many heads which we past on the walkways of the country park. The engine was pulling just fine, ambling along with loads of up to five people throughout the afternoon. Naturally there were a few gripes; namely a few leaks and the water pump glands seem to be passing well but those jobs can be sorted over the winter. Otherwise the engine performed very well which was a far cry from its embarrassing evening on Wednesday. Mind you, thats the way with an older engine like this, things are bound to drop off every now and again.
A few members of my family joined me at the RPMR this afternoon, with one even trying his hand at driving the loco. I do worry when other people drive "Achilles" due to her occassionally broken nature but when shes in fine form she does well. Today was a good day and the loco ambled happily around with a different driver on the regulator for a change.
Simmering Away At The Station
As the railway doesn't run for the public at this time of the year, and as "Achilles" was the only loco out on the track, the heads on the paths alongside the track seemed to be drawn to her. Many would gather at the fences along the route to watch her pass by, or simply watch her simmering away at the bendy beam between each lap. It is quite leisurely being the only engine on the track as you can just amble along and stop when you want. Indeed, the blue 0-6-0 sat feathering at the valves happily for most of the afternoon, keeping herself warm on this chilly November day.
With a couple of hours running under her belt we decided to retire the loco, still blowing off. Many people seemed in awe of her as she blew down on the bay, with full boiler pressure being released and condensating wildly in the air. She was then cleaned out and loaded into the car.
Packed And Ready For Home
Thats it then folks. Today was "Achilles"s last running day prior to overhaul. The engine has done well to last 25 years on her current bearings and bushes but many of them will be changed and the valve timing edited to make her run much sweeter over the winter. The colour scheme is also in question as that is slowly ageing as well. The livery may remain the same but will definately be repainted, whether that be over the winter or during the spring when the workshop warms up enough to allow the paint to dry properly. The plan is to return "Achilles" to service in early 2013 for running in, so that we may get her in a good mechanical condition before thinking about tackling the paint job. Maybe a red "Achilles" next year? We'll see. So thats it, the loco is now back in the workshop, cold and ready for overhaul. Hopefully it won't be long before she's raising steam again. Cheers guys. Sam.