Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Traction Engine Life, On Rails...

Hi guys. Today I was kindly invited aboard Aveling & Porter 2-2-0 "The Blue Circle" for the day. The engine: the fourth in our gala line-up: was back in action on her normal duties, performing brakevan rides around Shackerstone Station. I arrived in the morning and helped owner Mick clean the engine and oil up. It wasn't until after 11am or so that we actually managed to get the Aveling out of the shed, due to other operational difficulties during the morning. However, sure enough, when the road was set, the 2-2-0 steamed easily out of the shed and down into the North End to collect the newly-restored Southern Railway 25-ton brakevan. The engine was then brought into Platform 1 to perform brakevan rides whilst the 11am service train was out on the line. Mick kindly allowed me to take control of the engine, though it has to be remembered at all times that you are not dealing with a typical railway engine here.

"Blue Circle" is basically a large single-cylinder Aveling traction engine on rail wheels. This means that she can be a bit of a brute if not handled correctly. Her drive is geared which is different for a start, and acts on the right-hand wheel. Furthermore, one cylinder means that she can be prone to 'centring', which involves the crank getting stuck if you like in a 'dead centre' position. At this point, she will not move. Depending on your judgement, you can then decide what to do next. The best way to get the engine going again is to shut off steam, select reverse and then, just as the crank moves, select forward. Though this will create a slight jump forwards, you should not shut-off steam as you have not yet achieved the momentum to complete a full cycle. Once the initial jarring is overcome, the engine will settle down quite nicely and you barely notice the very heavy flywheel and the connecting rod tearing around. Of course, conventional railway engines do occasionally centre but not as often as a 'single' traction engine. Anyway, during the day we gave many rides and it was great fun to be on a different engine again. It was also nice to see "BC" out again after her winter slumbers. My friend Anthony kindly took this photograph of me on "Blue Circle" before giving another brakevan ride...
"Me Driving Blue Circle"
The Aveling & Porter 2-2-0 performed very well during the day and it was most enjoyable. I must thank Mick for the opportunity of playing on his engine. Its a real eye opener when you get the chance to try something different. A grand wee day on "Blue Circle". Cheers guys, Sam...

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