Sunday, 31 July 2016

Welland Steam Rally: Road Making With "Howard"...

Hello. At the end of each July, the Welland Steam Rally has been providing an action packed heritage weekend in the shadow of the Malvern hills for 52 years now. The rally includes a lot of the usually expected attractions as well as a number of working displays, showing off various skills and trades of yesteryear. Amongst the countless road going exhibits, there are two demonstration railways: one standard gauge, one 2ft gauge. Statfold's Vertical-Boilered 0-4-0 "Howard" had been invited down to the Worcestershire site for a weekend on the 'Road Making' demonstration and volunteers from the SBR were sought to crew the engine. Myself & JB were asked and kindly accepted the invitation. This morning, not long after 6am, we were off in the direction of Welland in JB's much loved 1982 Land Rover Defender. John has been at the helm of the 3.5-litre V8 beast for over 25 years now and the spotting of the machine is always a giveaway of his presence! It was my first ride out in the Defender and we had a good trip down...
We arrived at the rally site at not long before 7:30am, having encountered very little traffic. Having rowed with Security (I think they thought we were impostors!) we finally managed to get in, escorted by one of the organisers. Parking was thankfully very close to the engine which we discovered waiting patiently on the 2ft gauge track...
"The Discovery of Howard"
Neither of us had been on "Howard" (formerly "Paddy") before and so a good look around the machine was necessary prior to lighting up. Thankfully, yesterdays crew of James and Ian had left the engine in a very fit state and so John soon had a blaze going. The engine carries a 'thimble-tube' (water tube) boiler, unlike the much more common smoke-tube examples. The fire sits below the water filled tubes with quite a low firehole door. With some good, dry wood on the grate, "Howard" soon began crackling away...
I came to Welland on my first visit two years ago and found it to be a very pleasant and varied event. I think its fair to say that we were both looking forward to the days proceedings. Once the wood had taken hold, some hefty lumps of Welsh steam coal were placed strategically on top. The tender contained a vast amount of slack and so, with only an embryo fire, I decided to play it safe and mine for the lumps. "Howard" steamed up gradually alongside a very nice Portable engine which was being used to work the stone crusher. Portables were used for stationary steam power, providing motion to the selected implement via the flywheel belt...
"Howard And The Portable"
With the fire now being left to "sort its life out" as Batesy would say, I set to with the oil cans. The engine is also vertical on this quirky locomotive and I believe it is derived from a steam launch. There are two cylinders, providing downward motion to a cross-shaft which then chain drives the leading axle via two fairly chunky sprockets. Power to the rear axle is then transmitted via the outside connecting rods. The oiling points are mostly pots with trimmings. I used all of my contortionist skills to bend my arms into the various positions required to oil the engine before, upon completion, realising that there is a fairly handy trap door (with No6 on it) to allow full and easy access. "Grand". Anyway, with the engine oiled and steam raising nicely, JB decided that some snap was required. I duly returned with two hearty breakfast cobs which JB, in his usual tone, didn't particularly enthuse over! I thought it was just what the doctor ordered...
With steam gently climbing towards the full working pressure of 120psi, "Howard" was prepared for movement. The vertical engine has both drain cocks and valve chest drains, all four of which worked as a team to successfully coat the rails in oil and condensate. Thus, the first trip: with myself on the regulator for John's amusement: provided some heavy slipping as the 0-4-0 protested to the rail condition. With the weight moving steadily, we struggled up the gradient and eventually ceased progress not far from the top. Having dropped back down gently with the handbrake on, the wheels began to dry off a little. The second trip was much more successful and "Howard" romped up the incline towards the top. The gradient is fairly strong on the demo line, we reckon 1 in 50 at the foot and so its a good chuff to get moving before easing back and chugging along merrily. JB was in his element as he showed me how it was done...
"JB Driving 'Howard' On The Road Making Demo Line"
But his interest soon changed to nearby goings on and out came the camera...
Whilst JB did his all-important filming of proceedings, I chugged gently back and forth on the regulator. The process for the day was simple. The loaded tipplers would provide stone (when/if required) to the stone crusher which was being worked by the Portable. The crushed stone would be loaded into a barrow and raked out in front of the F-Type roller which would then roll it to make a road. The ensemble was completed very nicely by period signage, barriers, tooling and overalls and it all came together to provide a very pleasant atmosphere. Here is a short clip taken behind "Howard" by JB as I drive up the incline on another demo run...

The weather was very mixed. The morning was warm but overcast with a very positive change near dinner time. The sun came out as we enjoyed a tea break...
I had a quick look around the show before returning to relieve JB. The engine was steaming very well on minimal fire and the trusty Weir pump was very handy for filling the boiler at an exciting rate when required. JB then went off for a walk around before returning half an hour later bearing gifts...
JB had commented that he had held up his Ice Cream to the enlarged picture of the '99' adorning the Ice Cream Van window before proclaiming "Its Shrunk!". With a possible Trade Descriptions case quashed, we returned to the job in hand. A bright yellow JCB soon appeared and loaded the second tippler with stone, pretty much doubling the load. It was all part of the fun...
"Loading The Second Tippler"
For the rest of the day we continued as we were. We chugged up the hill before coasting back down. The vertical engine arrangement allowed us to drive the engine in traction engine fashion, using the reverser to provide 'engine braking'. The handbrake on "Howard" is of similar use to one fitted to a canoe and thus, without the aid of the piston compression, we'd have probably ended up in the next field after a sharp descent. A conventional engine may not have took to the arrangement as well as this engine did. The Aveling roller is spotted below, with the stone we previously provided being rolled out...
Though we spent the majority of our time with the engine, the 'one-man' operation allowed us to enjoy the show for brief periods as well. The following pictures have been included for your interest but can by no means do justice to what was on offer at Welland 2016. First off, the other Statfold machine visiting the event was the very popular Erie Steam Shovel. Driven by SBR owner Graham Lee, the engine was busy excavating all weekend. A sizeable crowd was drawn by its unusual and very noisy operation...
Down in the Fairground, a beautiful line-up of immaculate Showman's engines were standing Guard. This was only half of them if that...
The late Len Crane's beautiful Fowler Crane Engine impressed me very much with its interesting load: billed as a brand new Lancashire boiler. This load certainly showed just what Road Locomotive's of this size were meant to do...
Naturally there was the typical miniature contingent. Some of the engines on display are regulars at our annual rallies...
Later on in the day I watched the miniature engines parade into the arena. I counted over 30 engines on display, of course there could have been more that didn't come to the line-up. Seeing a line-up like this provides me a Busman's Holiday!...
"The Sunday Miniature Engine Parade"
On the standard gauge demo line the most unusual Dubs Crane Tank from Foxfield was trundling up and down giving Brakevan rides. Built in 1901, this 14" cylinder 0-4-0 worked for Shelton Iron & Steel Works in Stoke-On-Trent. She was used for various lifting operations around the works; lifting locomotives and wagons back onto the track for example. The Dubs survived in active service there until 1968 and now enjoys regular active use on the Foxfield. These crane tanks, like the road going variants, show the advent of the first mobile cranes...
Naturally there were also many other working displays such as Wood Sawing and Threshing...
Not far from us, this beautiful Fowler Ploughing Engine was working in tandem with a similar example to provide the Ploughing display...
There was far too much to see for my words and images to do justice: it really was a great show. I couldn't help but think how one could lose probably more than a full day around here. As well as everything mentioned there were many classic cars, tractors, motorcycles and lorries as well as stalls, trade stands, stationary engines, military vehicles and more.

Anyway, after a good walk round in the warm afternoon sunshine, I returned to the railway. John was still steaming merrily back and forth up and down the demo line. As he fancied another cuppa', I took over the regulator. I stopped at the top of the line for a chat with a gent interested in "Howard". This was the view looking back...
"Howard" was certainly getting alot of interest. The quirky looks of the locomotive and the interesting livery seems to really age her. The machine was actually made in 2007 from some odds and ends that the previous owner had to hand. The chassis is from a diesel shunter I believe, whilst the engine is from a steam launch. Many people certainly thought the engine was much older than she actually is. The vertical engine is smoother in operation than you'd think, once you get the weight moving. With the bark of the chimney, the squealing of the lightly laid track and the sights and sounds of the stone crusher, you could have been fooled into thinking we were on a real quarry railway. Here the engine is captured in the display area, dropping back towards the loading point...
"Welland Steam Rally Road Making Display"
The attractive livery really adds to the aged look of this fairly young engine...
After a few more chugs up and down with the loaded stone tipplers, it was time to park them up and uncouple them. Once unloaded, the 0-4-0 hissed gently forward before being screwed down ready for disposal. The engine and the Erie will be off back home to Statfold tomorrow after a most enjoyable weekend in Worcestershire...
"A Last Look At Howard"
It had been a very pleasant day crewing "Howard" on behalf of the SBR at Welland. This unusual engine is surprisingly pleasant to drive and is much stronger than she looks. The rally itself had also been most successful and apparently 35,000 people attended over the 3-day weekend. I must thank JB for his amusing company and of course the ride in the Landy, as well as of course Statfold Barn for giving us the opportunity to come and do the job. Another most enjoyable experience. If you've ever wondered where "Howard" hides at Statfold, you'll find her steaming around the lake in the garden! Cheers all, Sam...

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