Monday, 26 August 2013

Anson Engine Museum

Today dawned clear and sunny, so we'd arranged for the little bikes to go to Higher Poynton to visit the Anson Engine Museum, who were hosting one of their three days a year when their big cross-compound steam engine is in steam. Why only three days a year? Because it costs them £500 in gas to generate the steam in their boiler to power the engine.

We began the day with breakfast at the Bollin Fee, which is becoming a bit of a habit. But it sets one up for the day and negates the need for lunch.

Malc enjoys Eggs Benedict, while Ivan and me go with the traditional breakfast

We arrive at Anson; Malc with his Townmate, my C90, and Ivan with the SS50 

 The first machine we watched in action was of a type not too well known. It has a vertical cylinder where the piston is fired up the cylinder, rather like a vertical cannon. Attached to the piston isn't a connecting rod, and there is no crank to convert the vertical piston movement to useful rotary power. Instead, attached to the piston is a rack that drives a pinion. But the power stroke, where the piston is forced up the cylinder by igniting gas, isn't the one that drives the pinion. It's the descending stroke where the rack drives the pinion to produce rotary power. And the piston is made to descend by the partial vacuum left in the cylinder after the power stroke. Click on the link to see it running (sorry the video is 90 degrees out; one day I'll discover how to correct that!)..

At the base of the engine is a clever bit of kit that admits the gas to the cylinder, transfers a pocket of lit gas from the pilot gas light into the cylinder to fire the charge, then opens the exhaust port to allow the burnt gasses out.

This engine used to run on town gas, but today propane has to be used, with hydrogen for the pilot and transfer flames.  

The amazing Deltic engine:

A sectioned Napier Deltic 2-stroke opposed piston engine

The Deltic comprises three banks of cylinders with opposed pistons in a 'delta' plan form with three geared-together crankshafts, one at each corner of the delta. On the left in the picture can be seen the centrifugal impeller of the supercharger. 

The Deltic was conceived as a marine engine, but found fame when English Electric used two in each of their Deltic diesel electric express passenger locomotives used on British Railway's Eastern Region on Kings Cross to Edinburgh services, replacing Gresley's iconic A4 pacific steam locomotives.

There were several small engines running, including this one. It has a 'hit and miss' intake valve controlled by a speed-sensing governor. Only when the revs drop does the inlet valve open and a power stroke is produced. Click on the link to see one in action.

A couple of the museum volunteers were trying to get this engine going. Click on the link to see Ivan watching them cajole it into life:


The Deltic is a pretty unusual configuration for an internal combustion engine, but how about this? It's a Bentley W12 car engine, with two sets of V6 cylinders mounted above a common crankshaft.

Meanwhile, down at the forge the blacksmith was using his hammer. It's driven (in this case) by a diesel engine, but obviously steam could be used. The small constantly-driven piston charges a reservoir of compressed air which is used to drive the big hammer. Click on the link to see it in action (sorry, it's another one 90 degrees out).

But what attracted us to come today was the big 250hp cross-compound steam engine in operation. It didn't start first time because the high pressure cylinder's inlet valve was closed. Once that was corrected, away it went. Being a compound it has a high and a low pressure cylinder, in a cross compound these are arranged one each side of the crank shaft. The engine also has a condenser which would provide vacuum assistance on the exhaust stroke of the low pressure cylinder, but that would require a large water supply (to condense the exhaust steam) that Anson doesn't have, so the condenser and its associated air/condensate pump is not used. The engine is relatively simple; it has Corliss valve gear for the high pressure intake valves, but the exhaust, and all low pressure valves are simple rotary valves. There is no facility for varying the valve gear setting and therefore the steam cutoff - it's fixed. Click here to watch the engine start and run:


After such a strenuous afternoon at Anson, it was time for a drink. We headed down the lanes from Higher Poynton to Bollington, admiring the superb views to our right over the Cheshire Plain, to the Vale Inn. The Vale has its own brewery, and here Malc and me enjoy the lovely hoppy Bollington 'Long Hop', while Ivan has their traditional 'Best Bitter'.

Me and Malc enjoy our pints in the garden of the Vale Inn

From Bollington we found 'Long Lane' up a steep hill out of the village on the valley side, again with superb views over Cheshire once 'up at altitude'. From there we passed Adlington Hall and were soon home.

Another great day out!


Saturday, 24 August 2013

Consall - a new locomotive, 'staff & ticket' working, and a wedding train!

I've done quite a few turns as rostered signaller in Consall box now, including today. The public timetable for today on the Churnet Valley Railway showed only one train running, up and down the valley between Leekbrook Junction and Froghall. However, the rosterer was looking for signallers at Consall and at Leekbrook, so clearly there was another train scheduled to run as well, not only up and down the valley but up onto the Moorland & City line to Cauldon Lowe. When I arrived at Cheddleton early this morning I was handed a working timetable and from this discovered that that second train was a 'wedding special', and it was to be hauled by a locomotive new to the railway; the North York Moors Railway's Lambton Tank, no.29, assisted by resident class 33 diesel 33102 'Sophie'.

As ever, click (twice) on any picture for a larger image.

No.29, the Lambton Tank loco on its home railway, the North York Moors. The loco came from the Lambton Colliery, County Durham

The 'service train' for public use, running up and down the valley, would be hauled by our other resident class 33 diesel, 33021 'Captain Charles'. With the Cauldon Lowe line in use as well as the CVR 'valley' line, we would need to operate 'Staff & Ticket' procedures (more of that later). I collected the Consall Signalbox 'ticket box', and drove down to Consall, where I unlocked the signal box, powered it up and checked all was well, prepared the train register, and studied the working timetable to acquaint myself with the day's train movements. I usually write out a list of the day's movements at Consall derived from the Working Timetable.

The first train to arrive was the public service train from Cheddleton, and I retrieved the 'combined staff' from its driver. In the 'box I used the key there to separate the staffs into the 'Consall to Leekbrook' and 'Consall to Froghall' staffs, inserted them into the instruments in the 'box, and switched the 'box 'in'. I handed the Froghall staff to the driver and the train departed for that station. The next movement would be that train returning from Froghall, so I put the kettle on and made a cup of tea.

Consall 'box this morning; working timetable, list of movements (derived from the WTT), 'Staff & Ticket' box, cup of tea!

Consall today was back to its quiet, peaceful self after the recent (but profitable!) frenzy of the Peppa Pig event. The wedding train wasn't due to run until about mid day and in truth we could have left the 'box switched out while only the service train was running up and down the valley, but having it switched in meant there'd be no delay when 'two train' operations commenced.

 Consall yard and station, from the 'box this morning

The first 'two train' movement was the returning service train, but with both our class 33 diesels on the front. At Consall, 33102 'Sophie' detached from the front of the train and pulled forward. I dropped the up starter signal behind it as it proceeded down the line as far as London Bridge (so clear of the track circuit protecting  the points at the up end of the loop) whereupon I was able to reverse those points, pull off the relevant signal, and 'Sophie' ran back into the station but this time on the loop line, so it could pass the train in the main platform and proceed back to Cheddleton. Once 'Sophie' was gone, I could clear the Froghall section, normalise the loop points, hand the driver of 33021 'Captain Charles' the Froghall staff, pull off the up starter, and see that train off on its way to Froghall.

Next, the service train returned from Froghall, and the wedding train with 'Sophie' on the front and the Lambton Tank on the rear (facing backwards) arrived. I signalled the service train into the main line platform, and the wedding train into the loop platform in the usual 'two train' method at Consall.

The Consall frame, set for the departure of both 'up' and 'down' trains. Both 'up loop' and 'down main line' starter signals are 'off'  (allowing the trains to pass them), the 'up' loop points are reversed while the 'down' loop points are normalised so the road and the signals are set for both trains to depart.

Just after the above picture was taken, 'Sophie' departs towards Froghall with the wedding train, about to pass the up loop starter signal and heading towards the points at the 'up' end of the loop. The service train is still in the main line platform, about to depart to Cheddleton

 Moments later, the Lambton Tank on the rear of the wedding train comes into view

About half an hour later, the wedding train returned from Froghall, with the Lambton Tank leading

The wedding train would leave Consall for Leekbrook Junction, where it would leave the Churnet Valley Railway metals and take to those of Moorland & City Railways up to Cauldon Lowe. Meanwhile, the service train would leave Consall for Froghall, then return to Consall about half an hour later, and then proceed to Leekbrook Junction. Do you see the problem? If the wedding train took the 'Leekbrook' staff up to Leekbrook and then proceeded to Cauldon Lowe, the Leekbrook staff would be marooned at Leekbrook, and not be available at Consall for the service train to use to enter that section, as there is no interim train returning with that staff from Leekbrook to Consall.

That's where 'staff & ticket' proceedures come in.

Instead of taking the staff to Leekbrook from Consall, the wedding train takes a ticket authorising it to travel on that section. I issue the ticket in Consall 'box, and retain the Leekbrook staff in the 'box. I hand the driver the ticket, and show him the staff so he knows no other train has it. He then proceeds to Leekbrook. I place 'stop blocks' on both 'down' starter signals (as a reminder to me, so no train can inadvertently be signalled into the section while it is occupied by the wedding train). I also phone the Leekbrook signalman advising him that the wedding train is in the Consall - Leekbrook section under the authorisation of the ticket. I inform him of the ticket number and the time that I issued it.

When the wedding train arrives at Leekbrook, the signalman there cancels the ticket, and phones me to advise he has done so, and that the train is out of the Consall - Leekbrook section. I can then remove the stop blocks from the down starter signals, and authorise the service train to proceed to Leekbrook with its driver in possession of the staff for that section.

Stop blocks on the down starter levers, 3 and 12, in Consall 'box during 'staff & ticket' working

 A close up of the stop block on lever 3, the down main line starter

The 'staff & ticket' box for Consall. It is kept locked and can only be opened with a key attached to the Consall - Leekbrook staff, so a ticket can only be issued when the signaller has possession of that staff.

 A blank ticket for the Consall - Leekbrook section

Similarly, a ticket is issued by the Leekbrook signalman to return two consecutive trains to Consal.

Both 33s at Consall. The wedding train, on the left in the 'down' main line platform and heading for Leekbrook has 'Sophie' pushing from the back, while the service train, on the right in the 'up' loop platform is heading for Froghall hauled by 'Captain Charles.

 The 'wedding coach' in the wedding train. The rest of the train comprised a kitchen car to prepare the wedding feast, and guard's brake coach.

 On the front of the wedding train is the Lambton Tank. The lady fireman is the delightful Diana.

Here's a video (taken on my very old spare camera, so not so good quality) of the Lambton Tank departing Consall this afternoon for Cheddleton, the last leg of the day for the wedding train. It's worth listening with headphones - the Lambton has a nice chime whistle and once past the Black Lion pub demonstrates that she's got a bit of a bark on her!


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Tour of the Monarch Airlines hangar at Manchester

Monarch Airlines are raising money for charity by offering tours of their maintenance hangar at Manchester Airport. The first tour was this morning, and a few of us Concorde guides had been invited to attend along with some TAS (The Aviation Society) members; seven of us altogether.

We assembled at the Runway Visitor Park in time to be picked up by the Monarch minibus and driven round to the hangar. After being given security passes our host, Martin Francis, led us into the main part of the building where the aircraft are worked on. There were two in there this morning; a Monarch Airbus A321 undergoing an 'A' check, and a Fed Ex Boeing 757 cargo aircraft in for x-raying of part of its structure.

As ever, click (twice) on any picture for a larger image.

The Monarch Airlines A321

Federal Express Boeing 757 freighter

 A321's cargo door open

First, we had a look around the A321. It was due out of maintenance at lunch time and so the staff in the hangar were busy ensuring it would be ready. 

Martin Frances, our guide, on the right of one of the A321's engines

The back end of one of the engines

 Martin points out the fire detectors on the engine

 The back of the fan, and the side of the engine core

 The APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) in the tail of the A321

 The APU is a small jet engine which provides electrical, hydraulic, and air power when the main engines are not running. The air intake is the oblong-shaped orifice in the middle, and the compressed air for main engine start comes out of the APU in that thick pipe which is slightly blued at the APU end.

 The left engine, with all the cowls open. It was these that were left unfastened on the BA A320 at Heathrow a few months ago, resulting in loss of the cowlings in flight and a rapid return for the aeroplane.

 Main undercarriage detail, showing the radially-mounted multiple hydraulic brake slave cylinders. The pistons in the cylinders extend when the brakes are applied, and press the static and the rotating brake discs together to brake the wheel.

 The view as one stands inside the right hand main undercarriage bay. The twin wheels of the right hand gear, when retracted, occupy the space this side of the aluminium beam, up to the top of the bay. There is, of course, a similar space on the other side of the aeroplane for the left hand gear.

The A321 from the front, our party in front of the wing

Nose wheel assembly, showing the hydraulic cylinders for steering the aeroplane on the ground

Avionics bay under the nose

Total Air Temperature sensor, just like those on Concorde

 The nose wheel bay. During retraction, the main undercarriage wheels are automatically braked to prevent them rotating in the bay after take off. The nose wheels have no brakes, so when they retract the tyres rub on these two strips in the bay to stop post-take off rotation.

A321 flight deck. No yokes, just side-stick controllers

 The P1 side stick. Think I prefer traditional yokes, myself......

.....Or better yet, a proper stick like this (Yak 52 G-BWVR  I part-owned for a few years)

 A321 overhead panel

P1 pilot's panel

 Centre panel detail

 The author tries out the P1 seat

P2 DV (Direct Vision) panel open

Next, we moved across to the Boeing 757

An unusual view of the 757

A close look at the right engine

The 757 is perhaps one of the more graceful of today's airliners, though it is vanishing from passenger service these days and more are relegated, like this one, to freight

 Martin tried to find some passenger steps for us to board the 757, but none were available. So we volunteered to use these 'service' steps at our own risk!

The 757 flight deck - like the A321 a 'glass cockpit', but a generation or two older and of course being a Boeing, it has traditional pilot's yokes instead of side-sticks. This picture was taken before Martin powered up the displays.

The displays with power on

The author tries the P1 seat of the 757. I so much prefer yokes to side sticks! Or, of course, my real preference of a central stick; see Yak52 cockpit picture earlier.

The interior of the 757 freighter 

A last look at the 757 before we leave the hangar
Many thanks to Monarch, and to Martin in particular, for not only allowing us into their hangar but also ensuring we got full access to both aeroplanes, and a full explanation of any points that required clarification. We willingly contributed a generous donation to their charity as left after a really superb morning.
If you get the chance to go on one of these tours, grab it. I guarantee that if you have the slightest interest in aeroplanes you will have a wonderful time.