Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Achilles Report No58: Returning to Steam...

Hi everyone. Today, at long last, "Achilles" appeared at her home track of the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway (CMES) once more. This appearance was her debut/trial steaming in operation, as she had only run whilst on blocks so far. The blue tank engine was unloaded from the slightly bemused BMW (its first meeting with steam locomotive grime!) onto the approach line at around 5pm, and the engine was duly steamed up. Everything, so far, was going to plan. Hooked up to the trusty RPMR-liveried driving truck, the loco came around nicely and was soon ready for action...
With a loud whistle, the locomotive hissed gently forward, expelling lots of water from her cylinder drains. The engine was then moved over, via the traverser, to the run-up-rail. Here I decided that it would be a good idea to 'warm' the cylinders before 'going mad' and heading out onto the track because, once you're out there, if you drop to bits you're stuck! Slowly but surely, "Achilles" trundled down to the carriage shed and then back up, and down, and back up. After a few runs back and forth the exhaust seemed less condensed (less condensation in the steam circuit/cold cylinders) so I decided to try the track. Through the bendy beam we went and then came the third consecutive oiling inside of 10 minutes. Due to the addition of the four new trunnion bearings and the rear pair of brand new axleboxes, the loco was heavily oiled so as to prevent any running hot. Soon enough, it was time to take the plunge. I climbed aboard the truck, selected forward gear and opened the regulator...my face wincing at the no doubt approaching self-destructing explosion! But, wait...it hadn't blown up...all was well...it even moved...and the bells of hallelujah rang down from the heavens! Easily and freely, "Achilles" steamed around the track and past the carriage shed before attacking the bank in gentle fashion. Half way up, I stopped to check her over. All was well and everything was working: spot on. So I continued, through the station and back to the steaming bay where the loco was watered. The blue tank then steamed further on and made a few consecutive laps but was definitely not her usual self. The various checking-over stops did allow the newly painted loco to be photographed though...
The laps continued and the loco, though fighting with me a bit, continued to run herself in at her own pace. And then, just like the never-ending hanging of the "Achilles" repair albatross around my neck, the fine fickle finger of fate pointed down from the sky and burst the steam pipe to the cylinders..."cheers mate". In reality my suspicions were aroused by the lack of steaming ability. The engine was struggling to even keep 50psi whilst on the run (very unlike her) and the fire refused to remain bright no matter how much rock you put on it. The constant jousting match with the fire irons provided little aid and my intuition of "if you think its not broke it probably is" came into play. I've got into the mentality now of model steam engines..."if you're having a problem, and thinking its a simple fix, think again...and get your spanners out". To be fair though, I have been through the mill a bit of late...if I think its a coal problem the back wheels will probably fall off...etc. Anyway, enough of my moaning...the loco was retired from the track after I discovered a fracture on the nipple which joins with its nut to connect the steam pipe to the steam chests. This repair will require removal of the spark arrestor, blower, superheater and wet header...I cannot wait...*insert hideously sarcastic face here*. Ahh well, another learning curve. However, there is one thing, my anger will ensure that the locomotive gets repaired, some way, some how...
Achilles - "Better Luck Next Time, Sam"
Thank you for reading guys and look out for an "Achilles" post no doubt in the near future, either documenting its repair or its conversion to electric! Best Regards, Sam...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, sorry to hear about Achilles, the loco did look superb though!
If its any consolation, the exact same failure happened to my Juliet loco. I cut the old broken nipple off, and with the help of some CMES friends, made a new slightly longer one to make up the length from cutting the old one off, and silver soldered it in place. It worked a treat, the hardest part was undoing the bolts/screws holding the wet header to the boiler steampipe flange without shearing any off. Hopefully Achilles will be ready for the July Steam on Sunday event at Ryton. Kind regards, Emma-claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Emma. Thanks for that. The engine is now stripped with the petticoat, blower, steam pipe, superheater etc all out. An hours work well done. The wet header saw the bolts come out very easily and in perfect condition -
I couldn't believe it. There was however a bit of a confrontation with the wet header then to pull the header away due to the 25 year old oil stained gasket paper sat behind it. The superheaters also needed a fair old tug to get them out so hopefully they aren't damaged but they look OK. Old nipple fell off when removed so new one to be made before it goes back together. Then repaint the smokebox! All go!!! Sam

Anonymous said...

One hours work! You did well, it took me a lot longer to remove all that from "Juliet", although there's much less room to get access in a 3.5" loco. At least you can properly clean the superheater flues without the elements inside them. Pity you've got to re-paint the smokebox though. Good luck! Emma-claire.

Anonymous said...

And the fine, fickle finger of fate followed you all the way to Bala. The b*****d!

Eddie

Anonymous said...

Sounds like there's a story there Eddie?
Pray tell...


Emma-claire.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't possibly comment Emma! Achilles has a paper thin main steam pipe which has twisted so we are looking at ways to remedy this. The plan is to cut it short, silver solder a brass fitting on and then a new piece of steam pipe. Hopefully not disturbing the other joints. If it fails, the skip beckons! Eddie