Saturday, 20 April 2013

Slow Moving Steam On The Road...

Hi guys. Today was a fab day, and in fact something quite different to what I am used to. Today there were no railways in sight, well not for the most part anyway. The agenda for today was something a little more roadworthy...a Steam Roller! Yes, Phil had kindly invited me out for the day on his steam roller "Louise": a 10-ton Aveling & Porter. The engine is based at Statfold Barn and therefore this was our starting point today. I arrived at the site of the SBR at 6am, after a quick breakfast at McDonalds on route. Below, the Saxo watches the sun come up at Oak Tree yard...
Phil was already up & about, getting "Louise" ready. The engine was clean but cold, and we spent some time breaking some wood up before Tom arrived. The engine was then pushed outside using a fork-truck and rolled happily into the middle of the yard. There, she was lit up...
The Engine Outside
Today's route would take us on the road...which was after all laid by Steam Roller's in the first instance! The rollers of today are of course not steam rollers, but diesel rollers, though the name often still applies. As a vintage vehicle the engine is free to road tax and, with boiler insurance as well as current certificates under her belt, there is nothing to stop her going on the road amongst modern traffic. Ian & Caroline were also soon present, completing the crew of five. Big, green "Louise" was steaming up nicely in Oak Tree Yard as the promise of a warm, sunny day beckoned. Tom was oiling the engine up whilst the rest of us busied ourselves with little jobs like loading the trailer with wood. Todays route would take us to Market Bosworth. We would leave Statfold and travel the 3-mile road through No Mans Heath to Appleby Island, where the A444 crosses the M42. From there we would slowly snake along the A444, up through Appleby and past Twycross Zoo. From there we would chug towards Sibson and then turn off left towards Market Bosworth, dropping towards the station on a downgrade past the Water Trust. Below, "Louise" is getting up steam...
"Aveling & Porter - The Workmans Machine" (Dr Busker)
I was very surprised at how quick "Louise" got hot, especially with no warming fire having been put in the day before. The roller was at almost full pressure within a couple of hours: brilliant! The next job was to do the car swap so that we could actually get back from Bosworth once we got there. Three of us jumped into our cars and headed for Bosworth, dropping two cars off when we got there and returning to Statfold in mine. When we got back, "Louise" was at full pressure and we soon had her connected to the trailer & living van, as the sun continued to shine...
With full steam pressure achieved, away we went. The engine chugged happily out of Statfold with the trailer & living van on the back, and set to the first upgrade climb. Tom was driving, I was steering. That's one thing that's different for a start...you have to steer this! Tom's duties were to work the regulator and reverser, as well as keep the pressure up by firing and working the injector accordingly. All the time, "Louise" would be making steady but sure progress along the road, rumbling along happily. We both wore ear defenders on the footplate, as the rumbling from the two rollers on the back and the roar of the valve gear was just unreal!
 
I tell you what though, its a different life with steam on the road, as you get to see the nicer side of people. Everybody was smiling, waving and even taking photographs as we passed. Even in the houses the windows would open and people would be there waving as we chugged by. Cars would overtake and then up ahead you would see the car pull over and the occupants would disembark and get their cameras at the ready! Certainly in this sunshine I must admit, there were some good photo opportunities. Then again, I say all this but you do get the odd 'fool' shall we say. Some people don't understand why overtaking on blind bends is a bad idea, or that the steam rollers were on the road long before your modern Audi's and Merc's. Anyway, back on the engine we were going well, with Phil, Caroline and Ian riding in the trailer. It took an hour or so to reach the M42 island and then, the moment of truth...going around the bloody thing! It was kind of a ready, set, go out of the slipway and onto the island, mingling with modern traffic. "Louise" steamed happily around the island and across the busy carriageways of the M42 before we turned off via hand-signals to the A444, pulling over in the lay-by adjacent to the McDonalds...
The Steersmans Road Ahead
At Appleby we stopped for a break to water the engine from the tank in the trailer, as well as to grab a Quarter Pounder from McDonalds. The sun was still shining brightly as "Louise" simmered in the lay-by...
Engine watered, us refreshed...we were ready to go again! Below, we can see the double-crank compound engine which moves the roller along. The crank is driven by a high-pressure and low-pressure cylinder, with a full pressure of 200psi...
From Appleby we weaved along the A444. The engine was performing well and happily chugged uphill and down dale. The modern traffic was definitely clogging up behind the engine, until we reached a straight section and it all came tearing by at once. Approaching the hill before the Austrey bend we had another stop, this time to ash the engine out as she was getting a little choked up. The shot below shows just what a beautiful day it was...
"For We Live In A Time When It Ain't No Crime Taking
Slow Moving Steam On The Road" (Dr Busker)
Finally, after a run past the Zoo on one of the busiest days that I've seen it (plus a lot of rampant waves from almost every visitor over the fence!) we reached Twycross village. Here we had a crew change, with Phil & Caroline taking over on their engine whilst myself & Tom retired to the trailer after our stint of just over 2 hours. I tell you what, I loved every minute of steering it all that way but I was glad to step down as my legs were tired out!...
Aveling & Porter "Louise" in Twycross Village
From Twycross it was a leisurely and very pleasant ride in the trailer to Market Bosworth...
Finally, after navigating the tight bend into the Market Bosworth Station drive whilst blocking up the entire road...we made it! Here is "Louise" on the Market Bosworth driveway after a triumphant run over, ready to take part in my Miniature Traction Engine Weekend next week!...
After we had collected the cars from Statfold and got back to Bosworth again, here is "Louise" inside the Goods shed ready for disposal at about 7:30pm. What a long but very enjoyable day :) ...
Overall a very different day, spent in very pleasant company. I must thank Phil & Caroline for inviting me out and also Ian & Tom for providing good company. "Louise" is a very nice engine and it was certainly enjoyable being out on the road rather than the rails...for a change. Cheers guys. Sam.

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