Monday, 19 December 2016

Last running day of 2016 at Urmston

We have been remarkably lucky with the weather this year, and I can't recall a Sunday at Urmston missed through bad weather for a long time. Today was no exception; cold, a bit misty at first, but dry.

Lovely pictures by Jason as usual. Please click on any for a larger image.

Last traces of overnight mist at Abbotsfield Park early on Sunday 

Jim prepares his Venezuelan Beyer Peacock Tank Loco as I look on. Lots of visible 'steam' in the low air temperature (steam is actually invisible; however, "steam" as seen here refers to wet steam, the visible mist or aerosol of water droplets formed as this water vapour condenses in the cold air of today). This 'wet steam' was to prove problematic (more of that later) as I drove this locomotive on passenger trains on the main track.

 The Venezuelan Tank simmers on its prep bay as Keith prepares 'The Beast' (Arthur Eve) and Alan works on his rebuilt Royal Scot

Another Beyer Peacock (they all came from Gorton of course), this one a Garrett belonging to Dave (on the right) while another Dave looks on

Keith and 'The Beast' 

George, watching the Venezuelan Tank blow off 

The Venezuelan Tank's flight deck 

The club's electric loco 'Spirit of Urmston' in festive garb 

Me and Keith 

The Venezuelan Tank began its day on the inner track with some of Jim's relatives, visiting from Australia. Later, it was transferred to the main track where I drove it on public passenger trains. 

Alan and his rebuilt Scot 

'The Beast' attracts attention from some visitors

The cold winter temperatures generate a lot of 'visible steam' as described in the caption to the second picture above. On the move this is blown back into the driver's face making him virtually blind. It's made worse if (as I do) one wears wrap-around protective glasses to prevent ash and grit from the loco's chimney going int one's eyes. The 'steam' condenses onto the cold surface of the glasses rendering them opaque.

One hurtles along driving by 'feel' while trying to peer past the steam (a crosswind helps!) and sometimes has to remove the steamed-up protective glasses to check the line ahead, upcoming signals, and vital objects in the cab such as boiler water level glass and steam pressure gauge. I managed to get a bit of painful grit in my eye on Sunday as a result!

Great fun, though!

Roll on 2017, the year of 'The Jubilee'!


Sunday, 11 December 2016

Christmas lunch today at Urmston

....But the trains were running as usual.

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

 An ex-member came back today - Lee, a lecturer at Salford University, and his son with a nice Great Western pannier tank loco (a 'Pansy') which he ran on the inner track

Dave and I with his Black Five on a prep bay

Malcolm (above) and me (below) give Eddie's 'Green Five' the once-over. The dome cover and dome top have been removed as work has been done on the regulator valve beneath and a hydraulic test of the boiler revealed a leak at the dome, which is in the process of being attended to. 

Felisa and Dorothy preparing the feast

And here is the feast! Lots of it, and very good it was, too.

Trevor on the left, Peter on the right, Eddie second from right, and Eddie's 'Green Five' undergoing a boiler hydraulic test

Lovely end to a great day


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

'My' Chippy in a forced landing last Sunday

dH Chipmunk Sierra Lima at Sleap, Shropshire, 4th December 2016

About 20 mins after this picture was taken (by Mark Harris) at Sleap, Shropshire, on Sunday afternoon, this de Havilland Chipmunk, the love of my life for several decades, had to force land into disused RAF Poulton airfield near Chester on its way home to Liverpool, with an engine problem (very rough running and lots of vibration - been there myself more than once - that situation I mean, not Poulton which I haven't been to!).

Pilot and aeroplane are both intact.

Another upside - the pilot now has Poulton in his log book!

Got a few unusual locations in my log books through similar circumstances in Sierra Lima.


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


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'.


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

16th October 2016, me driving Dave's realistically grubby Black Five


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