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


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!


Monday, 12 September 2016

A damp day at Statfold Barn Railway

Ex-Harrogate Gas Works Peckett 'Harrogate'

There's a delightful two-foot gauge private railway near Tamworth, Staffordshire; The Statfold Barn Railway. It's owned by Graham Lee, former chairman of LH Group Services Ltd, who in 2005 bought the remains of the Hunslet Engine Company. The railway is located on a working farm and has a run of about three miles, with a tear-drop loop to return and a separate (but connected) garden railway.

It also has a large roundhouse where locomotives are stored, and extensive workshops which support a locomotive restoration business. It is not usually open to the public, but three times a year open days are held for invited guests.

The railway has always intrigued me and when I read of the open days I decided to apply to attend the 10th September event. I passed the information to Ivan, Malc, and Peter who also applied, and almost by return we received our invitations. So did a couple of thousand other enthusiasts, it seems, from the attendance yesterday.

Peter drove us there, and the further south and east we travelled the worse the weather got. It was raining when we arrived, but the forecast was for the occluded front to move through the area by mid day, after which it would be dry. Well, the front stalled over the Midlands so the rain never really cleared. But it didn't really matter, and the damp atmosphere allowed plenty of visible 'steam' as the sixteen locomotives in steam worked the trains. There were traction engines too, and the 'Goose' railcar, plus the museum.

Please click on any picture for a larger image. As usual, all pictures are my copyright except those annotated otherwise. Please ask me before re-using any.

Damp, drizzly, misty. Quarry Hunslet 'Sybil Mary', retired from Penrhyn Quarry in 1955 and returned to steam in 2013.

Avonside 'Marchlyn'. Originally a Penrhyn Quarry locomotive it was rescued from a Chattanooga amusement park.

'Marchlyn' in the amusement park - 'Chattanooga Choo Choo'?

Last seen by us in Spooner's Bar, Porthmadog, Quarry Hunslet 'King of the Scarlets'. Built in 1889 it is the oldest of eleven identical locomotives and worked in Dinorwic Slate Quarry until 1965 when it was exported to Canada. It was repatriated in 2012 by Statfold Barn Railway.

Originally supplied in 1898, Jack was built by Hunslet to 18" gauge and spent it's entire working life of sixty years at the John Knowles Clay processing works, near Woodville in Leicestershire 

This one needs a bit of work

No.3903 'Statfold' is a new build undergoing a ten year boiler rebuild. It's possible to see how slim the boilers are on Quarry Hunslets when one sees one with the saddle tank removed. 'Statfold' and open-footplate version of this locomotive 'Jack Lane' were both built at Statfold in 2005.

 Orenstein & Koppel 'Pakis Baru No.1', from the Pakis Baru sugar mill in Java

Also from Indonesia (Jatibarang Sugar Mill) is this Mallet, restored to working order in 2011

Another ex-Penrhyn Quarry Avonside, 'Ogwen', exported to Indiana and recently repatriated

Ex-Dinorwic Quarry, Hunslet 'Michael'

General view of the roundhouse

We had three rides on the main railway. Early trains were overcrowded, but later in the day this wasn't the case. But the poor weather did not let up at all, despite being forecast to improve after lunch.

An intensive service was operated on the railway, with trains either double-headed or operated push-pull. Here, a train approaches the loop, photographed from our train which was waiting at the museum halt. 

'Saccharine', a Fowler built in 1914 for a sugar plantation in South Africa

Another ex-Dinorwic Hunslet, 'Cloister', built in 1892

Kerr Stuart 'Wren' class 3128 'Roger', originally from Avonside smelting works, was working on the garden railway

The other locomotive working in the garden was this new build vertical boilered locomotive

Atmospheric shot of 'Saccharine'

The main railway follows the field edge from the farm to the tear-drop loop at the far end

'Trangkil No.4' (on the right) has a special place in the history of the Hunslet Engine Company, having been the last steam locomotive to be built at the Jack Lane Works in Leeds, as works number 3902. 

She was originally built to 750mm gauge and supplied via Robert Hudson for use on the Trangkil sugar mill estate on the island of Java in Indonesia. It worked there for 33 years until made redundant by rationalisation of the estate’s railway system and was returned to the UK in 2004 to become part of the Statfold collection. During a thorough overhaul in the Statfold workshops 'Trangkil' was re-gauged to 2’0”. She now sees regular use at Statfold, including once again being employed on the harvest, although now of oil seed rather than sugar cane.

'Howard', on the left, is Hunslet Locomotive No, 1842 built 1936 as a 3 foot gauge for British Aluminum at Fort William, and later re-gauged to 2 foot for the Dursley Light Railway and converted from saddle tank to side tank. It was acquired by the Statfold Barn Railway in 2012 and ran in the 2013 season. It was given a major overhaul in 2014 at Statfold Barn. When it came to Statfold it was called Josephine but is now Howard and has reverted to a saddle tank. As can be seen it is an 0-4-2 design with inside valve gear and wheels inside the frames as re-gauged.

Sragi No.1 was built in 1899 by Krauss. This 0-4-2T was restored by the Hunslet Engine Company in September 2008, before making its debut public appearance at the Statfold Barn Railway that year.

 Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0WT+T (well tank plus side tanks) 'Alpha' of 1924 was restored to working order in 2016

Further views of the two garden railway locomotives

Several traction engines were also present, including this one operating a circular saw

'Marchlyn' and 'Sybil Mary' rest between turns

Most of the locomotives were working as coupled pairs for the event

It wasn't quite all steam. The ‘Goose’railcar, based on a Morris commercial chassis was also running. Construction was inspired by the famed Galloping Goose railcars operated by the Rio Grande Southern Railroad between the 1930s and 1950s. The machine, can carry 18 seated passengers.

It was good to get a chance to see this lovely if somewhat secretive little railway and its fascinating collection of narrow gauge steam locomotives. The rain was with us all day but didn't really spoil things as it wasn't heavy - just damp drizzle most of the time. And the damp air showed off the smoke and steam to great effect.

We had a great day out. I can thoroughly recommend a visit to Statfold Barn if you have any interest at all in narrow gauge steam railways.