Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Deep Wales!

Over the past few days I have made much use of the current Arriva Wales Wales 'Club 55' ticket offer. It allows any return journey on the ATW network for £22. At the weekend, Chris and I used such tickets to attend my brother's birthday party in the wilds of Monouthshire, between the Wye and Raglan. The train took us swiftly from Wilmslow to Abergavenny where we met elder daughter Claire and her boyfriend, Dave. Claire drove us to The Cripple Creek pub (between Abergavenny and my brother's house) for lunch with Dave's parents, and then on to the birthday party where the four of us (among many others!) stayed the night.

Next morning, after watching my brother's alpacas for a while and exploring his rather extensive 'patch', we had Sunday lunch in the nearby Lion Inn at Trellech before Claire drove us to Abergavenny for the train home. Next morning (Monday, yesterday) I'd be passing through Abergavenny by train again!

Peter, Malc and I have been considering a trip by train into 'Deep Wales'. This year ATW have introduced time restrictions on the Club 55 tickets which didn't apply to earlier offers; in particular travel except at weekends cannot commence before 09:30. This seriously limits possible long distance day trips from our home station, Wilmslow, so we decided to incorporate an overnight stay to take us to Tenby via the Welsh Marches, and back via the 'Heart of Wales' line over two days. The 09:46 ATW class 175 departure from Wilmslow took us via Crewe, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Abergavenny, Newport, and Cardiff to Swansea. From there we changed to a Class 143 'nodding donkey' for the final leg to Tenby.

As ever, please click on any picture for a larger image.

 The Tenby train reverses at Camarthen. The line ahead of the train above is fenced off as it no longer proceeds beyond the head shunt. It used to go to Newcastle Emlyn and on to Aberwrystwyth where it joined the Cambrian line from Dovey Junction. If these Beeching cuts had not been implemented, this would be a useful route between South and North Wales today, via Dovey Junction, Porthmadog, and Afon Wen to Caernarfon. 

Beyond Whiteland the single line to Pembroke Dock via Tenby leaves the double track line to Milford Haven. Here, our train arrives at Tenby where there is a passing loop, hence two lines.  

It was a damp and murky day, but the earlier rain had passed through by the time we arrived 

Tenby harbour, with the lifeboat station beyond 

I had booked us rooms at the cheap but pleasant Albany Hotel, and after checking in we explored the town, meeting some locals in the 'Hope & Anchor' pub. Here's the church in the centre of Tenby.

Peter and Malc in the Hope & Anchor 

Next morning the tide was in, and it was blowing a gale. But it was a warm gale! 

The harbour with boats afloat. The red-roofed building is the old lifeboat station now converted to accommodation.  The new lifeboat station is behind it. 

The lifeboat entering the harbour 

Here's a friendly cat I met down by the harbour 

We walked around the point past the lifeboat station. Here's its interior. The lifeboat is absent as the wind was generating a big swell, and after it returned from the harbour it made one attempt to position for winching up into the station before the crew decided to put it on a mooring instead. The crew returned to shore in the inflatable inshore boat. 

Around the corner we came across this small bay to the south of the promontory

On top of the promontory is a statue of Prince Albert

Peter and Malc climb the promontory, with St Catherine's Island in the background

Looking back at the town from the top of the promontory

We made our way to the railway station for the late morning train to Llanelli

Recent rain had swollen the River Towy, which the railway follows from Camarthen to Llanelli

Despite the awful weather forecast, we actually saw some sun!

Malc and Peter watch our single-coach 'Heart of Wales' class 153 unit from Swansea enter Llanelli station as a class 175 bound for Manchester Piccadilly leaves. We could have caught the 175 all the way to Wilmslow, getting there more quickly than our planned route. But Malc hadn't done the Heart of Wales line before, and Peter and I prefered it to the more familiar Welsh Marches route (via Cardiff and Abergavenny).

The River Towy at Llandeilo, much further upstream than we saw it ealier at Camarthen, had burst its banks after heavy overnight rain

The Heart of Wales line crosses the swollen river. Many years ago there was a tragic bridge collapse on the line with a train ending up in the river, with loss of life. 

Sugar Loaf Summit

We left our Heart of Wales train at Craven Arms (above) from where we caught a 175 unit that had worked up the Welsh Marches line, and took us home via Shrewsbury and Crewe. Just in time to meet Ivan there for a nice pint or two and an evening meal at the Bollin Fee! Poor old Ivan still works for a living so had been unable to join this, the latest spree by the Old Codgers!


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Kelham Island Museum

The 'River Don' steam engine has long intrigued me. Billed as the most powerful operating steam engine in Europe, it was a 'must' for a steam buff like me to visit. It was one of four such engines built by Davy Brothers of Sheffield in 1905 and reputed to develop 12,000 horse power. It ran at Cammell's mill for almost fifty years before being transferred to British Steel's River Don works where it rolled steel until 1978, whereupon it was moved to Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield, for preservation.

Malc and I traveled by train from Wilmslow this morning via Stockport, and then a bus and a short walk to the museum. The run from Stockport to Sheffield through the Peak District via the Hope Valley is (apart from some long tunnels) one of the more scenic railway lines in UK, especially the section from Chinley to Grindleford past Edale and Hope.

As ever, please click on any picture for a larger image.

Me outside Sheffield railway station, with a rather good water feature called 'Cutting Edge'. Read more about it here: Cutting Edge Water Feature

Malc at the museum 

This Bessemer Converter is located just outside Kelham Island Museum

This area used to be buzzing with Sheffield's main industry - steel. Now it is a combination of run down ex-steel mills, new housing, and of course the museum. The 'island' is man made and this picture looks from it across a greenery-infested narrow waterway to the disused steel mill on the south bank of the River Don. The much wider River Don proper runs between the island's north shore and the north bank of the river.

The River Don engine in the museum. It is a 3-cylinder engine of 12,000 horse power, which seems an awful lot despite its size. It used to drive a steel rolling mill so has the unusual property of being able to be reversed almost instantly even when working at high speed so the steel billet could be rolled repeatedly backwards and forwards through the rollers of the mill. 

Here is a video of the engine running today. It is run twice a day for just 2 minutes, at 12:00 and at 14:00. The engine ran at 160 pounds per square inch steam pressure when it was in use, but the museum runs it at just 100 PSI as it is not under load these days. At the end of the 2 minutes the boiler steam pressure is down to about 20 PSI. It takes about ten minutes for the gas-fired boiler to regain 100 PSI. and as you might imagine gas is the major expense of the museum.

In this video, watch out for the rapid reversal of the engine controlled by the driver using a foot pedal:

General view of the engine

An end-on view of the engine showing the maker's plate on the rails of the lower of two access galleries and the valve gear, with its reversing mechanism, on the right side of the engine 

This video is of the 14:00 running session, complete with a large group of young school children. Note particularly the engine's reversal, implemented by a hydraulic ram (out of sight on the other side of the engine) which re-positions the levers seen on the right of the engine to change the fulcrum point of the simple valve gear piston rods to reverse the direction of the engine:

This is a crankshaft for a Rolls Royce Merlin aero engine, with the un-machined 'blank' below 

The museum also boasts a Crossley gas engine from a rod rolling mill. It was built in Manchester, but unfortunately it isn't running by gas at the museum but is driven by an electric motor. 

Malc isn't getting fresh here; the dummy's clothing has 'lift-up flaps' with explanatory notes underneath 

A Co-Op milk float; specially for Ivan (don't ask!) 

Something a little more up to date (well, 1950s anyway). A Rolls Royce Avon jet engine, this mark of Avon is as used in the de Havilland Comet 2 airliner but Avons powered all the Comets, the Lightning fighter, Caravelle airliner, and many other aircraft of that era. Sheffield industries provided some of the special metals required for building jet engines.

'Little & Large'  - a full size traction engine and a miniature in the museum's workshop / storage area

This isn't an airliner cabin as you might think at first glance, but a train. We returned home by an East Midlands Norwich to Liverpool service to Stockport, then this crowded Cross Country Manchester to Bournemouth Voyager to Wilmslow (above). There were no unoccupied seats so Malc sat in the vestibule on his portable chair while I perched on the luggage rack at the end of a coach from where I took this picture. Thankfully Stockport to Wilmslow is only one stop taking just a few minutes so the discomfort is of little consequence.

We repaired to the 'Bollin Fee' for a pint or two of good ale and something to eat, where Ivan met us. Unlike me and Malc he still works for a living, poor lad so had been unable to join in our day out!


Sunday, 6 October 2013

A fine autumn day marks the end of the season for me at Consall....

Today was my last for 2013 rostered as signalman in Consall box. The box will be in use at the end of the month for Halloween trains with Howard as signalman, but after that no more 2-train days on the Churnet Valley railway this year, so no more need to open Consall box until the spring.

I decided to take a few 'farewell to Consall 2013' pictures today, which can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Just after 09:00, and the sun is too low to penetrate the valley. The box is still switched out until the 'combined staff' arrives on the 'combined train', hence the up main starter signal being 'off'. 

 Looking north, with the promise of a fine autumn day. Down main starter signal is off, too, because Consall is as yet switched out.

The King Lever (the brown and white striped one) is forward, and all the 'main line' signals are 'off' in both directions, showing the box to be switched out. The windows are all steamed up with dew, so I've opened the far one and the door in an attempt to clear them. 

Just before 10:00 the 'combined train' arrived to be split at Consall (class 33 diesel leading five coaches with the N7 tank engine on the back, coupled to the DMU). After I'd split the staffs, opened the box, and dispatched the 33 and N7 with their train to Froghall, I shunted the DMU to the loop. Here it is in the loop while Chris starts the engines manually from outside because the air reservoirs are at low pressure. Starting the engines will re-charge them

Later in the morning the DMU returned from Cheddleton. The sun was now high enough to penetrate the valley, and the buzzards were mewing. They were impossible to ignore so I went outside for a look. 

I counted eight though there may have been more; six exploiting the rising air as they thermalled over the valley round and around and ever upwards in the rising air, wings outstretched. And two much higher up; these were the most vocal. They were circling around each other for position then diving in on intercept headings like dogfighting aircraft. They slowed and flicked  inverted as they passed. Occasionally just the lower one rolled inverted so they passed breast to breast.  Periodically, on meeting, they stopped still in the air, talons to talons. They seemed able to do this with no noticeable loss of height. As a pilot, and former glider pilot I was jealous of their aerial freedom and their amazing glide performance. Delightful to watch. If re-incarnation is real, I want to come back as a Buzzard!

Mid-day, and the valley is looking lovely in autumn sunshine as a narrow boat approaches on the Caldon Canal. Consall's up loop starter signal is on the left of the picture, the up main starter on the right.

When the 'combined train' arrived this morning, John the guard on the Cauldon Lowe dining train lent me this book to read in the quiet periods between trains. I don't know if he was taking the whatsit, but actually it's a very good book and I shall order a copy.

Glamour in the box! Mike, a friend of mine, arrived with his girlfriend who is 'into' all things steam, and all things railways. Here she is pretending to operate the down loop facing point lock lever.

So that's it for my signalling fun for 2013. I checked out as a qualified signalman at Consall early in the year, and so have been able to enjoy almost a full 2013 season in this lovely location. Roll on next year!


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Acton Bridge Steam up, 2013

The annual gathering of steam traction engines, steam boats, various engines, vintage motorcycles etc at Acton Bridge in Cheshire is always worth a visit. It's a compact meeting on the car park of the Leigh Arms pub hard by the River weaver, hence the marine contingent's attendance. But it always attracts the most interesting of visiting exhibits and people. Today, Malc and I fired up the little bikes and headed through the Cheshire lanes in pleasant weather; Marthall, Peover, Lach Dennis, Davenham, Hartford, Weaverham, to Acton Bridge. Ivan was ensnared by domestics, and couldn't join us.

As ever. please click on any picture for a larger image.

Today's route

Malc's T80 and my C90 at the Acton Bridge gathering

This very nice Rudge Whitworth from the mid 1920s took its proud owner five years to restore 

Note the hand-operated gear change 

This Harley Davidson sports a big single SU carburetor 

An Aveling steam roller enters the site 

 This lovely example is a Burrell

A couple of traction engines 

This roller, 'Rosetta', is sometimes steered by our mate, Mike. Note the Thames Trader lorry in the background. 

A contrast in front ends 

One of the marine contingent - a steam-powered narrow boat (as they all should be!) on the adjacent Weaver Navigation. 

The Weaver Navigation and Acton swing bridge. Steam tug 'Kearne' usually moors here, but maintenance on one of the downstream Weaver swing bridges means the bridge can't be swung, so 'Kearne' could not get up river to Acton Bridge. 

There are always lots of 'miniatures' (small scale working traction engines) at these meetings 

Malc has one of these Velocette Venoms in his garage in bits. We'll have to persuade him to get it fettled so we can have a ride! 

A bit of Italian style in Cheshire - a lovely Gilera

A 2/3 scale replica Lister Railtruck, available in kit form if you fancy one! 

Ivan joined us for a pint at the Bird in Hand, Knolls Green, not far from home on the return journey 

Ivan's Honda Vision, Malc's Yamaha Townmate, and my Honda C90 at the Bird in hand