Sunday, 9 July 2017

Ryton Steam Day: A Sweet Pea Story...

Hi all. Today was the second annual 'Steam on Sunday' event at the Ryton Pools base of Coventry Model Engineering Society. Making up my second of only two rostered turns this season, I was on the list to crew. The raised-track RPMR runs on Sunday afternoons between Easter and the end of September, offering rides at £1 a go to the ever growing numbers of visitors that frequent the park. I arrived just before 11:30 and found a busy scene at the steaming bays. If I remember rightly, six steamers turned out - three of which I'd never laid eyes on before. The trusty 'flying battery boxes' were also out in case of a failure with the steam division. Emma had already brought the Sweet Pea "Diane" - built by the late CMES engineer Dan Wooley - out into the late morning sunshine in preparation for steaming...
Emma suggested that I steamed up "Diane", which I was quite happy to do. A well made engine from the start, "Diane" is most definitely the best Pea I've driven over the years. Stoking up the boiler with the marine firebox stuffed with well soaked paraffin wood, the 0-4-0 was soon sending a plume of smoke gently skyward via the electric blower. Across the way, Dave's three-cylinder rebuilt Scot was on the mark...
Having topped off the blazing wood fire with a good helping of coal, I shut the door and let the blower do its work. The tell tale crackling heard in the background whilst you oil up is always reassuring! The Hackworth valve gear was liberally oiled and the mechanical lubricator primed to coax the thicker cylinder oil into movement. As steam pressure neared the red line at 80psi, "Diane" hissed cautiously onto the traverser. A saturated engine with a relatively short steam circuit, there wasn't much condensate to lose during her first moves. Once coupled to an easy rake of three cars, "Diane" moved forward so that the Scot could join the track behind us. It was time for a quick sandwich before we got underway...
I had a good fire in the box ready for the off...
Dave soon steamed away with his ECS behind the Scot, allowing "Diane" to reverse out onto the track. With the bendy beam closed and secure, the all clear was given to make the trip to Ryton Halt. With a pip on the whistle and the opening of the regulator, away we went. Once on the move, link up one, let her settle - forget about it. "Diane" slips along without a care - like a watch. The pressure needle hugged the red line all the way and at Ryton Halt we took water before awaiting our first passengers...
Of the six steamers that turned out for running, only five made it onto the track and only four managed to do some public hauling. A Black Five refused point blank to grip the rails and was soon failed with adhesion problems, surprising all of us. "Diane" was joined by the Scot, a pretty 5" Manor and a 5" O1/B1 hybrid. The hybrid engine employed the 2-8-0 chassis of the O1, plumbed up to a Springbok (5" B1) boiler. It made for a very chunky, powerful looking loco. Just before 1pm we started public running and the queue was steady but not overwhelming. For the first part of the afternoon the Manor was having some running repairs carried out on the steaming bay, leaving just the stalwart trio on the track. "Diane" was performing like a dream, steaming and pulling beautifully. Its a pleasure to drive it really. After a good 7 laps on the handle I swapped with Emma. The owner of the large O1 kindly allowed me to have a drive of his butch steed - thank you...
Pulling away gently with the reverser screwed right forward, as soon as she was on the move you could link back and leave it. With small wheels it had bags of power but the regulator allowed more steam than the rail condition could cope with if you were heavy handed. What a lovely thing though - a gentleman's engine. It slinks along beautifully, chirping away at the chimney with the return cranks spinning round merrily. I did get stopped at the foot of the bank and it required some ginger flicks of the regulator to prevent a slip but she took off again OK, happily lumbering up the hill. Lovely. The Manor did eventually join us and happily pulled two cars for most of the afternoon. Slightly smaller in stature than you'd expect, it was very well detailed...
The smart Manor is later captured in flight...
Emma stokes up "Diane" ready for another round trip...
Soon enough myself and Emma swapped again and I ended up driving "Diane" for the remainder of the afternoon. All of the other steamers later retired with only the O1 leaving the track in serviceable condition I believe. "Diane" meanwhile seemed to have some kind of second wind once I'd cleaned the fire and the pressure gauge happily neared the blowing off point on all of the remaining trips. Good engine! As 4pm neared, we elected to take the Pea off and begin disposal...
The marine firebox was removed, tubes swept, smokebox emptied and boiler blown down as per the usual procedure. The iron cylinders were also topped up with oil to prevent seizing when cold. This is still a great little loco...
The Pea was put back together and given a final check over before bed. I think we'd carried just over 200 people - a fairly quiet day for the RPMR these days to be fair! Several people aren't fans of the Sweet Pea's but I think they're grand. I know they have little wheels tearing round at well over scale speed and the dreaded marine boiler that so many purists fear but really these boilers actually faired very well in use..."Isibutu" is a great example! Well done "Diane" - another triumph. Thank you all for reading and thanks to all at CMES for a pleasant afternoon. Cheers, Sam...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great stuff Sam!
Let's see Achilles next year?
Many thanks for your support for steam,
Great read as always, Emma-claire.

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Emma. Thanks for the comment - glad you're still reading...I appreciate it. Yes lets hope so, and the Atlantic - although not on the passenger day obviously. I wish RPMR was at the end of the garden and I'd be out most evenings! Ahh well, lets hope they'll see the light again. I actually had a really nice afternoon sharing duties on the Pea with yourself. Very pleasant. Cheers, see you soon

Rob Bending said...

Sam, please relieve my ignorance. What's a 'marine boiler'?
Always reading. Thanks, Rob

Sam Brandist said...

Hi Rob. Thanks for your comment. A marine boiler or bullhead boiler is the general term for a variety where the firebox can be removed completely, effectively the grate and ash pan etc. If you look at the image of the fire in the box you'll see the surround isn't part of the footplate as typical, standard boilers are. It allows better maintenance and ease of access. 2ft gauge locomotives carry them, Bagnalls for example. It was once rumoured they were poor steamers but I've always been impressed by their ability and performance. Cheers then, Sam

Sam Brandist said...

Sorry it says footplate, auto correct has changed it. Should say doorplate. Cheers, Sam