Sunday, 27 November 2016

Alfred gets a run...

It's been a few weeks since I took Alfred to Urmston, but today he got to stretch his wheels.

Pictures by Jason Lau. Please click on any one for a larger image.

Prep bays this morning. Keith with 'The Beast', Dave with his Black Five, the Chairman's Rebuilt Scot, and me fettling Alfred. Jim and his 9F haven't arrived yet.

Before lighting up, I 'oil round' all the moving parts. The fine pipe on this oilcan reaches to the valve gear under the boiler, between the frames.

The compressed air blower is inserted in Alfred's chimney to draw the fire after 'lighting up', while I turn on his steam blower to see if there's enough boiler pressure yet to dispose of the external blower

Billy checks out Jim's lovely 9F

Out on the track

Alfred blows off as I fine-tune one of his injectors to feed more water into the boiler and calm things down. The pipe on a stick by the line side is the water supply for topping up his tender water tank.

Dave's Black Five, also blowing off. Steam from the RH injector indicates Dave is attempting to get it to 'pick up, for the same reasons as I did on Alfred, above.

Billy anxious to depart on Jim's 9F, which is also blowing off! Judging by the full load of passengers departure has been delayed while everyone gets on board, resulting in excess steam being generated during the delay, hence the safety valves lifting.

Trevor on the Rebuilt Scot. This one's blowing off as well! Trevor has ordered a Jubilee model from the same source as I have. Both will be LMS Crimson Lake, but his will be named 'Trafalgar' while mine will be 'Warspite'.

Jim tries his hand on Alfred, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Like me, Jim has a soft spot for narrow gauge locomotives.

Ex-BR loco driver Eddie with 'The Beast'

Barry on Dave's Black Five while a young enthusiast looks fascinated by the loco







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Sunday, 20 November 2016

A new addition to the steam fleet is on order

Here's the next addition to the Vince steam loco stud. A brand new 5 inch gauge LMS 3-cylinder Jubilee 4-6-0 express locomotive.

The Jubilee in Crimson Lake 



Cab detail


This is the Jubilee in BR green

With tender it's about six feet long, and should arrive in April or May next year. Mine will be in LMS Crimson Lake, and named 'Warspite'.

I went down to Braunston in September to see the prototype (the Crimson Lake one in these pictures). Gave them my order on the spot! The green one is the second prototype, and there will be a maximum of 50 production locomotives.

Should be popular on passenger trains at Urmston. The kids will think it's Hogwarts Express!

Footnote 27 November: I heard today that fellow Urmston member Trevor has ordered one of these as well, also in Crimson Lake. His will be named 'Trafalgar'.





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A quiet day at Urmston today

Photos by Jason Lau.

Bit bleak at Urmston this morning

These are the three locomotives that were on passenger duty today. L to R, the Chairman's Royal Scot, Jim's Venezuelan tank, and Dave's Black Five.

....While this vertical boilered 'Coffee Pot' ran round the inner track

The early rain and cold weather kept passenger numbers down, but we still ran the trains even if empty. 

Fallen leaves gather in the cuttings around the track. If they are not cleared they eventually get deep enough to impede the coaches of the trains, getting jammed under the foot boards.


Early passengers ride behind 'Spirit of Urmston' while the steam locos are being prepared fro service.

After a spot of leaf clearing (an annual autumn chore at the track) I was driving Jim Moyles' superbly capable Beyer Peacock Venezuelan tank loco on passenger trains.

Driving Jim's Venezuelan tank, with Jim standing behind 
This engine steams like there's no tomorrow. It has an ejector to power the vacuum brakes on the coaches, and even with that running (consuming steam) I had to have the firebox doors open most of the time to draw cold air through the boiler tubes to prevent the loco blowing off.

Barry driving the Beyer Peacock, while I look on musing it's not just me who had problems trying to prevent it blowing off!
Here's a reminder of warmer days, with me moving Alfred on the traverser. Alfred had a rest at home today but he might get a run at Urmston next Sunday if the weather's OK.

Alfred on the traverser back in October






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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Alfred passes his steam test

Miniature live steam locomotives have to have their boilers certified as safe by a boiler inspector to obviate the possibility of a catastrophic boiler explosion, just like full size locomotives. Alfred's boiler has a maximum working pressure of 80psi, and at that pressure water in the boiler will be at several hundred degrees centigrade. If the boiler were to rupture, that water would instantly flash to steam as the pressure is released, liberating enormous amounts of destructive energy.

A new boiler has to be hydraulically tested (pressurised with cold water) to twice working pressure and checked for absence of water leaks. Water is effectively incomprehensible so a boiler rupture even at that high pressure will mean you might get wet - nothing more serious than that.

Thereafter, every four years the boiler has to be hydraulically tested to 1.5 times working pressure. In addition, there is an annual steam test. When I bought Alfred almost a year ago he came with a 'new' hydraulic and steam test certificate, so his steam test is due about now. Without a valid boiler certificate the locomotive should not be steamed even at home, and club boiler insurance for the loco is invalid.

Last Sunday at Urmston I asked the club boiler inspector to perform a steam test on Alfred. Here's how it went.

Photos by Jason Lau.

 Here Bob checks the injectors are working. First I'd removed the steam pressure gauge so Bob could ensure that it was correctly calibrated, then, having replaced it, I steamed Alfred, and Bob checked that the safety valves blew off at 80psi (Alfred's max working pressure) and maintained the boiler pressure at no more than that despite the blower being full on to give a white hot fire. Next, Bob checked that both injectors, and the hand pump in the tender, can deliver feed water to the boiler.

Smiles of relief from me and a thumbs up from Bob as Alfred passes the steam test 

So, as we have Alfred in steam, and he's legal to operate, we might as well run him. Here I push him off the prep bay and onto the traverser to move him to the running track. 

Alfred on the traverser 

Pulling the traverser across towards the entry branch for the running track 

At the end of the entry branch is another traverser for access to the main and inner running tracks. Here, Alfred waits for me to move the traverser into position to transition him across to the running track. 

 I did one circuit of the main track and though I arrived back at the station with plenty of steam (he was blowing off) his fire needed attention as did the boiler water level, and I needed a few minutes to get him ready for another lap. However, passengers were waiting for rides and the bigger five inch gauge engines were ready to take them, so I moved Alfred to the inner track which is is more appropriate to his capabilities.

There was plenty more going on at Urmston on Sunday, as some of Jason's other pictures show: 

Another lovely Sunday in the park; not bad for well into October. We really have enjoyed some great weather this summer and autumn.

A nice BR standard class 9F on the prep bay 

Club member Dave Roberts has some lovely locos, including the Black Five I drove last week, an unusual Beyer Peacock Venezuelan Tank, and this very neat Garratt  

The busy prep bays early in the day. Alfred and me behind the chairman's rebuilt Scot in the foreground. 

Three big BR Standards  - two 9Fs and a Britannia 

 Dave drives his Garratt round the big track








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Monday, 19 September 2016

A busy day hauling passengers at Urmston

Two weeks ago I was passed as a passenger driver at Urmston & District Model Engineering Club's Abbotsfield Park track.

Last Sunday I was rostered signalman in Consal 'box on the Churnet Valley Railway so missed the Urmston meeting. Yesterday was my first full day at the club as a qualified passenger driver, so I gave 'Alfred' (my 3.5" gauge Quarry Hunslet locomotive) a day off and Malc and I headed to Urmston on a lovely sunny morning with me hoping to do some passenger train driving (Malc is not yet passed as a passenger driver, but that can't be far off).

These pictures are from and copyright of Jason Lau, and are excellent as usual. Please click on any photgraph for a larger image.

It's early morning. A member's car is about to reverse to unload a locomotive onto the pneumatically-powered variable-height unloading table. Note the bridge is in place over the outer track (our 'main line') to allow the locomotive to reach the preparation bays, via a couple of traversers.

The club's electric locomotive 'Spirit of Urmston' (driven here by Craig Deardon) was already carrying passengers. This loco provides the passenger service before any steam locomotives have been prepared for running, and does the same at the end of the day as the steam locomotives are disposed. However, it was so busy yesterday because of the lovely weather that 'Spirit of Urmston' helped out during middle of the day as well. 

As part of my 'passing out' as a passenger driver I had to learn to drive this loco, which is not difficult! First thing yesterday I took a couple of passenger trains around the track with this engine, just to 'consolidate' my qualification.

Chris Newton, from Wrexham club, prepares breakfast!

Me and Malc chatting to Chris

Adam Hodson and I have a chat

Keith prepares his 'Polly' tank while Malc looks on. We didn't realise it at the time but we would be spending the day on this loco. Keith said to me "right, you're a driver, take this loco and have fun!" What a generous chap he is!

....So off I went; me and my mount for the day!

Billy Stock on the inner track with a rather nice 0-6-0 tender locomotive 

Chris Newton with two fellow Wrexham members and his magnificent Robinson 2-8-0 which he built himself from scratch (not from a kit, but from raw materials)

Me driving the 'Polly' on a passenger train, on the 'big track' at the station

Resting between turns

So Malc could have some fun as well, and also to consolidate his driving experience to move him towards passing as a driver, Keith suggested I sit behind him and monitor him as we drove passenger trains. That's not easy, as it's difficult for the 'back seater' to keep an eye on vitals such as boiler water level, boiler steam pressure, and the state of the fire. It has to be done by a combination of peering around the 'driver' whenever possible, and asking some discreet questions!

In between runs I stretch my legs while Malc reaches for the 'bag' (water hose) to fill the tanks

 Me and Malc on the 'Polly' by the water tower, as Keith reaches for the cylinder oil to top up the loco's lubricators

 Phil Moyle's Beyer Peacock tank engine I passed out on as a driver two weeks previously. It is running on the inner track, where I usually run 'Alfred'. We are used to having the inner track to ourselves but it's perhaps as well I didn't bring 'Alfred' today as, with Billy on the 0-6-0 and this Beyer Peacock, there'd have been three locos on the inner track if I had. Also, once 'Alfred' is lit up and in steam, he needs regular attention with injectors and shovel which would have precluded our fun on the 'Polly' for me at least. 

 Families gather in the park, encouraged by the super warm and sunny weather

The queue of passengers at the station, waiting for a train ride, was growing!

 Tim Hines on Chris Newton's lovely Robinson 2-8-0 does his bit to reduce the queue


By the end of the day the 'Polly' had been running for many hours and steaming efficiency was falling off as ash built up in the smokebox and boiler tubes. I reversed the train off the 'big track' and we positioned the 'Polly' on one of the prep bays for Keith to dispose. We offered to help with this but really it's a one-man job best done by the loco's owner, so after having fun driving the 'Polly' all day, we left Keith with the mucky job of disposal! 

It only remained to round off this excellent day with a pint at The Bird in Hand on the way home. Very welcome it was, too!





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