Sunday, 18 August 2013

Another Visit to a Private Railway...

Hi guys. This time last year I was driving a beautiful 7.25" gauge Shay locomotive on a private garden railway in Warwickshire. One year on...I was doing the very same! This astonishing garden railway is only opened to invited guests on a handful of occasions during the year and, for this particular event, three of us from CMES were again invited to drive the three steamers for the day. The many invited guests were mostly Vintage Car owners from across the country, who all converged at the railway's site for a tranquil afternoon of train rides and boat trips. "Boat trips?" I hear you ask: "Well...yes", half of the railway (which runs for around a mile in a figure-of-eight shape) circles a sizeable lake upon which a steam launch is sailed during open days, offering rides to guests. Emma was in charge of steaming and operating the launch whilst myself & Peter busied ourselves with the two resident railway steamers. The unusual Shay locomotive was to be my steed for the day once again, whilst Peter took over operation of the 'Stafford' locomotive: a product of Station Road Steam. As well as the resident steamers, the resident Class 08 electric was out & about as well as Ken's 0-4-0 electric shunter "Janet". Two visiting steamers: Romulus "James" & another 'Stafford' were also in attendance. Having checked over the impressive 'Shay' I was ready to light up and so duly did so, with smokey results!...
"Smokey Steam Up"
It turned out, upon closer inspection, that the coal provided was in fact house coal (very smokey!) and so the mixing of this and paraffin-soaked wood seemed to smoke-out the steaming area! However, the coal certainly seemed to start burning well and so the Shay warmed up fairly quickly despite her large boiler. As usual, a mechanical blower was used atop the American engine's spark arrestor-style chimney to create the draft necessary for raising steam. "Stafford" was also raising steam in front of the 'Shay' whilst the visiting steamers began to unload. Meanwhile, the Steam Launch "Roundtuit" was also being readied for the day up on the lake...
Soon enough the Shay was ready for action and she steamed gracefully off shed. The locomotive is surprisingly smooth in its operation, despite the massive amount of gearing and rodding on her right side. The stock for the engine was soon out of the carriage shed and we steamed away, bound for the station. The locomotive was a little sluggish on her first outing of the day, whilst the three cylinders had yet to get truly warm (believe it or not!). Once at the station the locomotive simmered away happily with full pressure (90psi) on the gauge and 3/4 of a glass. The picture below shows the locomotive about to leave on her first sunny journey of the day at about 11:30am. Notice the smoke drifting from the chimney, proving she was still on house coal!...
The concept of the 'Shay' locomotive was patented by Ephraim Shay, and they were arguably the most successful geared locomotive. The regular fire-tube boiler of the loco is off-set on the frames to compensate for the extra weight of the so-called 'motor' on the right-hand side. The cylinder arrangements came in numbers of two or three and this particular model has three. Mounted vertically on the right-hand side, the cylinders drive directly down onto longitudinal drive-shafts which extend towards both the front & rear of the locomotive at axle-height. The drive-shafts were connected by universal joints which allowed the swivelling trucks under the locomotive to take on corners whilst being driven. Bevel gears were then used to transmit the power from the drive-shafts to the axles on the trucks. This gearing creates a very powerful locomotive. For example, this model locomotive can easily haul the driver & a passenger on her driving truck, followed by her three log-trucks (which are heavy when empty) and each of these carries two passengers. Therefore she can haul 8 adults which tests her when going up the steepest (and longest) gradient on this challenging railway but, she does it...and well. I think the heaviest train I had forced her to go up the hill on full-regulator but she wasn't in full forward gear and she did not slip. A conventional engine with cylinders this size would not even think about doing this!

The Shay's were renowned for high tractive effort, and were not known as 'slippers' due their unusual but effective gearing. Their only real drawback was speed (around 10mph at a 'normal' engine pace), though some examples were known to do almost 'ridiculous' speeds for their design. This model is happy at a 'modest' walking pace (about 3 - 4mph) and will chug around at this speed all day, blowing off most of the time and pulling good weight. Each trip she would plod along at about 85psi before heading up the bank and blowing her head off on full regulator all the way up. As long as you kept the fire bright and the boiler well-filled she was an absolute pleasure. The electric's did find her speed a little 'trying' though shall we say!...
"Janet" The Vulcan Electric, Owned by Ken
Myself, Peter & Ken were busy pulling passengers all afternoon with services operated by the 'Shay', 'Stafford' & 'Janet' the electric. In between, "James" and the other 'Stafford' chugged around happily, making the railway look very busy. "Roundtuit"s rides around the lake were also very popular and Emma was kept busy throughout the afternoon...especially if the loadings on the railway were anything to go by! I think me & Peter sat down for a minute or two over a cuppa' (thanks Peter!) before being marched into action once again. Mind you, we didn't mind...it was a fantastic day! Later in the day, 'Shay' took 5-minutes break as the sun continued to shine...
The basic cab of the 'Shay' was easy to work from and she was, as I've said, a pleasure to operate...
Later in the day, the 'Shay' and "Stafford" stand together at the station as the sun begins to set...
Sunset
The Shay had performed perfectly and I ran her down before taking her down to the steaming bays with the train. It was lucky I still had some embers left as I had to rebuild the fire slightly in order to return some of 'Stafford's passengers to the station as she had stopped playing ball. The 'Shay' continued to run well and after a final ascent of the bank she descended to the steaming bays with an almost dead fire. The locomotive is seen awaiting the road to the shed...
So I then disposed No1 after a fantastic day. Around 6 hours after she had begun her hard work she was done...and still steaming very well. The grate was removed revealing very little clinker and the smokebox was then cleaned out...revealing ALOT of ash (no wonder really)! I must thank the owner of the railway for inviting me along to drive again and of course Peter & Emma for their company. We had given countless rides and both loco's and the launch had performed very well. A job well done. For further encounters with this wonderful railway please check out here and here. Thank you for reading folks, Best Regards...Sam...

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