Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Has the advent of GPS reduced pilots' map reading skills?

Pilots ain't what they used to be!
Must be all this relying on new-fangled GPS, not map reading like what we used to do. Apparently pilots of light aircraft have landed at the BAe Warton airfield instead of Blackpool, their intended destination, and it's a enough of a problem that BAe have issued a video of 'how to tell the difference' (CLUE! The Irish Sea is at one end of the runway at Blackpool, but not at Warton!).

The footage of the approach from the south is interesting; that area of Lancashire (south of the Ribble and east of Southport) is nice and flat and has straight railway lines across it at 90 degrees for direction reference, and I frequently used to practice aeros there in the Chippy and the Yak, with Warton keeping a radar watch on me and advising of any conflicting traffic.

BAe video showing approaches to Blackpool and Warton


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Carpe Diem at Urmston!

Seize the day! And as it was the first dry Sunday for weeks, Malc and I did just that. Alfred hasn't been steamed since the end of 2015 and we'd noted continued problems with trying to use the right hand injector. On investigation I found the ball in the right hand clack valve to be once again stuck firmly closed, preventing the injector from delivering water to the boiler. A bit of internet research revealed that the ball in the clacks on Alfred are not stainless steel as I'd assumed, but Viton rubber. This has the advantage of giving a better seal against boiler pressure blowing back through the injector, but are not as long lasting. Stainless and Viton balls are not interchangeable as Viton requires a tapered seat in the valve whereas steel requires a flat seat.

A phone call to Polly Engineering had a couple of new Viton balls in the post, and I fitted one to Alfred's clack. Time will tell if that will cure the 'sticking clack' problem.

So, this morning, in cold but bright sunshine, we set off for Urmston for the first time this year.

Pictures are by Jason Lau and are his copyright. Please c;lick on any picture for a larger image.

Malc, me, and Alfred on our usual prep bay. Note the blower on the chimney to draw air though the fire. Once we have some boiler pressure we can dispense with that and use the loco's own steam blower.

As we work on Alfred, Keith wheels 'The Beast' towards the traverser to put it on a prep bay

Malc puts Alfred through his paces on the test track

A Black Five on passenger train duty on the main track

Keith on The Beast on a passenger train

Me admiring a lovely 5" gauge Britannia Pacific 'Tennyson'.

The Brit is superbly detailed, right down to the leather seat for the driver and the plain wooden one for the fireman. Note the 'V' of exhaust steam plumes from the twin safety valves.

Time for Alfred to stretch his little wheels on the main track. I'm about to set off on the first of three circuits I made. Malc went round twice.

Another view of Tennyson on a passenger train

Disposal time; Tennyson on the prep / disposal bay

Alfred sans tender at disposal. We've dropped the fire (the whole fire grate can literally be dropped out from under the firebox) and opened the boiler blow down valve (still issuing a slight wisp of steam) and the lubricator blow down so Alfred is now 'dead'. I'm shoveling the ash out of the smoke box while Malc gives the cab a clean round with a blast of compressed air. Next job will be to use the flue brush to clean the boiler tubes before blasting the tubes and smokebox with compressed air to get rid of the last of the grit, coal dust, and ash.

What a great day's running, including several runs on the big (main) track. It's quite an art to keep Alfred going on the main track. One has to ensure, before leaving the station, that the boiler pressure is at max, water is a full glass in the sight gauge, and the fire is in first rate condition. Then one takes a run at the curving climb out of the station and on reaching level ground the regulator can be eased back, the reverser pulled back a couple of notches, an injector put on to replenish boiler water, and a round or two put on the fire (quickly, as having the firehole door open lets cold air in and kills boiler pressure).

The secret is to keep on top of all these parameters, especially the boiler water level which must never be allowed to get too low or boiler damage or worse may result. If one runs low on boiler pressure one can always stop for a 'blow up' (get the fire right, and get the boiler pressure back up to where it should be). 

On two of my circuits I made it all the way round with no problems, even arriving back in the station with Alfred blowing off. On the last run I was hurried into setting off with less than full pressure and was on the back foot from the off, only just made it all the way round, arriving back in the station with quite low boiler pressure after a touch-and-go slow climb of the final gradient.

Everyone who rides behind Alfred is impressed with how well he steams, and today we had both injectors working fine, so no technical problems at all. Lets just hope the new Viton ball in the right hand clack has cured its propensity to stick closed.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

There is NO SUCH THING as stall speed!

de Havilland Chipmunk
There’s no such thing as stall speed! A wing does NOT understand stall speed, all it knows about is angle of attack (AoA). Have a look at the video at the end of this piece.
I've been banging on about this on aviation forums for decades! - there is NO SUCH THING as stall speed, only stall angle. Yet every time the tired old responses come back supporting monitoring of indicated air speed in stall avoidance.
The General Aviation world does NOT think AoA, they think stall speed. The airliner world is obsessed by 'speeds', and the only airliner I know with an AoA indicator is Concorde!
Vortex lift visible on a Concorde wing at high AoA
As the video says, the military know better. They always think AoA, just as the aeroplane does.
I've said it before, and here it is again.... I'd trade just about any instrument on the Chipmunk's or Yak's panel for an AoA indicator! Especially for aerobatics.
There's been a problem to date with fitting them to prop singles - the propwash mucks up AoA measurement using conventional vane sensors. One wonders if it's significant that the aeroplane in the video is a pusher?
I really hope these guys have produced an affordable dependable AoA indicator for GA use. If they have, it will be a game changer.

Click the link below for the video:
Angle of Attack video


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Last day of the full length MoSI Railway

MoSI Railway volunteer Duncan holds a headboard for the day. It reads "Inter City. 1830 - 1975 - 1979 - 2016  Liverpool - Salford - Manchester".

I used to be a regular volunteer steam locomotive fireman and driver on the railway at the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry. Have a look on the blog here for a typical day at MoSI:

Easter on the MoSI Railway

The railway began to lose its way when threatened by Network Rail's building of the Ordsall Chord, a new bit of main line railway to connect Manchester's two main stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. The Chord will pass very close to Liverpool Road station (the terminus of the world's first passenger railway, the Liverpool & Manchester, and now the MoSI site) and cut the railway from a ten minute out and back trip to a mere 150 metres or so. When the Museum withdrew its objection to the Chord in exchange for financial compensation, and the Railway Officer left, volunteer development (including my driver training) stalled and I lost interest, visiting only occasionally. The Museum's 'rolling over' so readily did not impress many, including me. The railway now has a replacement Railway Officer.

The go-ahead for building the Chord was recently achieved by Network Rail after delays brought about by some more robust objections than that put up by the Museum, but really once MoSI withdrew its objection it somewhat undermined the other objectors.

There is no reason this Chord could not have been built on an alignment further from MoSI that would not have curtailed our railway, but that would have cost more. It was decided the railway, and having the Chord further away from the listed 1830 buildings, wasn't worth the extra cost.

Network Rail lost no time in removing MoSI's main line connection so the 1830 route of the L&M has already been severed, and it is about to have its internal railway emasculated. Today was the very last day of operations on the MoSI Railway before Network Rail cut it off at the end of the 1830 station leaving just those 150 metres or so of running line, and I went along to participate.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

Agecroft No.1 with 16 ton mineral wagon in the station with Richard as fireman

Planet outside the power hall, while Agecroft passes with the 16T 

 Agecroft runs back down towards the station with the 16T, past Planet

The first passenger train of the day comprises the brake van, the 16T, L&M coaches, double headed by Agecroft and the battery electric locomotive. Here, the train is assembled on the disposal siding before backing down into the station for the passengers to board (volunteers past and present only, no members of the public). At lunch time and early afternoon some fare-charging public runs were made, but really today was a day for the volunteers. 

Fireman Richard boards Agecroft as the train prepares to leave the station 

This is Steve Davies, former MoSI director, and former director of the National Railway Museum in York. If Steve had remained at MoSI, perhaps we would still have our railway after today. Steve certainly thinks so, and I for one believe he is right.

Up at the Salford end of the line the points are changed for us to propel down the Pineapple Line. Network Rail have already cleared vegetation from the bridge deck and put up temporary fencing to keep people off. 

Looking across from the end of the Pineapple Line to Planet by the curatorial yard

Martin Stewart's picture, which he aptly entitles "Hi viz vultures already circling". These are the Network Rail staff who hung around the Irwell bridge area all day. They look suitably 'droid-ish', standing back to the railway in their uniform dress, totally engrossed in their 'phones. 

Soon to be lost. This is the Pineapple Line viewed from the Salford end of the site looking back towards the Great Western warehouse. Soon it will be lifted as the Chord will cut off rail access to it. MoSI have plans to make it a walkway round the 1830 warehouse.

Planet by the curatorial yard, in the rain. The Hyatt Hotel (Beetham Tower) is in the background. 

Steaming past the 1830 warehouse 

We dropped the Battery Locomotive off on line LR2 by Water St bridge, while we continued to the disposal siding (above) to drop off the 16T and the brake van. 

Agecroft and driver in the station 

Steve Davies on Agecroft's footplate 

Steve puts Agecroft into back gear to set the train back further into the platform 

Steve sets back while the rostored driver looks a bit anxious! 

 Volunteers past and present in the L&M coaches

Crossing the Irwell into Salford. Won't be able to do this after today. 

.....And there won't be any more of this. It's traditional that when one of the steam locos meets a main line train at the Salford end of the site there's an exchange of whistling and hooting between the two! 

This trip we are double headed by Agecroft and Planet. We stop on line LR1 next to the battery loco (on LR2) for a 'team photo' of past and present volunteers. I'm in the light blue jacket. 

All three MoSI locos can be seen in this shot. Driver Bev (who usually let me drive when I was rostored fireman to him) stands in front of Planet. 

We re-board and head back to the station, leaving the battery loco on LR2

Agecroft and Planet in a rather wet station. Shortly after this was taken both locos detached from the train and moved up to the 1830 station. Planet picked up the Museum's Manchester & Birmingham coach (the first time I have seen that out of the museum where it is usually a static exhibit) while Agecroft was stabled in the curatorial yard. 

 Planet returns to the station with the M&B coach, to attach it to the front of the train in the platform (the two L&M coaches). 

Note purple building in the background; these have been built very recently (they weren't there last time I was). They are built on what could otherwise have been an alternative route for the Chord, a route which would not have compromised the MoSI railway but which would have been more expensive than the route chosen. Not only did these buildings go up suspiciously quickly, but they also block the view westwards from the MoSI site. Previously the distinctive 1830 station and 1830 warehouse profiles stood on the skyline, clearly visible. Now they blend invisibly into the brickwork of the massive new structures behind them.

Here is Chris Lawton's video of retrieving the M&B coach, and its first run:

M&B coach run 

M&B coat of arms on the coach 

The plush interior of the M&B coach, showing its 'stage coach' ancestry 

A feature that remained with the railways right up to the middle of the last century - windows raised and lowered by a leather strap.  

'The end of the road'. The track finishes shortly after the gate, ahead of Planet (click on the picture to enlarge it to see this more clearly). Until recently it used to extend to the main line which it joined via a point. Now the point and connecting rails have been removed by Network Rail.

After riding the M&B coach a couple of times, including my final ever trip down the Pineapple Line, or indeed anywhere on the MoSI railway beyond the 1830 station, I returned home. This 156 Sprinter took me from Deansgate station to the Airport where I had my first use of the recently opened new platform 4 (above). Note the Metrolink tram in the adjacent  tram platforms. 

A Northern rail 323 electric multiple unit took me from the Airport to Wilmslow, just in time to catch a late-running 88 bus to home!

A very sad day for MoSI, but it was good to meet the other volunteers again, and Steve Davies (who showed me his extensive documentation of the Agecroft locomotives), but very enjoyable to experience so many runs up and down the railway on some unusual train formations.

Well done to the Railway Officer, William, and the present volunteers for organising it and making it happen.

Here's Duncan's picture of the very last train, hauled by Agecroft as Planet had taken an early bath due brake problems. The line went out with a bang, thanks to use of detonators for the last train!

Artist's impression of the finished chord. Note the buffer stops at the end of the 1830 station on the MoSI railway, which previously ran to the left hand edge of the picture then on through a gate to the main line junction. Just in front of the bow string bridge can be seen the trackbed of the Pineapple line. MoSI trains used to run from the eastern end of the site (Liverpool Road East station) through the 1830 station to the gate before the main line, then propel down the Pineapple line, then return by the same route to Liverpool Road East, a run of about 10 minutes.

Here's the running order for today:

Last Museum Trains to Ordsall Lane
5th of January 2016
185 years, 3 months & 21 days since the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway

M&B coach* positioned just inside Power Hall doors

Planet+Agecroft+7&8 to platform

7&8 secured in platform

Agecroft drawn forward on to pit & detached (prep to begin ASAP) (Reverser Padlocked)

Planet air reservoirs charged

Planet to in front of Curatorial Yard gates (Regulator Chained and Locked)
09:30 – 10:10
Battery loco to run (starting from shipping shed siding) with goods train
Battery returns goods train to shipping shed siding

Stable brake van against buffer stop (Handbrake Chained & Locked)

Detach 16T Mineral Wagon

Battery shunts 16T Mineral Wagon on to L’pool end of Agecroft

Battery stabled in shipping shed siding
16T + Agecroft to Ordsall Lane for photos
16T + Agecroft to platform, couple to 7&8

16T + Agecroft + 7&8 to MCR side of Shipping Shed Point (Reverser Padlocked)

Battery shunts 16T on to brake van

Battery couples to Liverpool end of Agecroft

Battery + Agecroft + 7&8 draw forward clear of Shipping Shed Siding Point

Couple 7&8 to goods train forming mixed (create Vac & complete brake test)

Battery + Agecroft + Mixed set back to Platform
Staff/Vols only departure – Battery Loco and Agecroft (Double Headed + Mixed)
On return leg of 11:15 train stop on MCR side of Loop Points West

Battery stabled on LR2

Agecroft + Mixed to platform
Vols/Staff only departure – Agecroft + Mixed
On return leg of 11:35 train stop on L’pool side of Shipping Shed Siding Point

Goods portion of mixed train set back and stabled in siding

Brakevan (Handbrake Chained & Locked)

Agecroft + 7&8 to platform
12:00 – 13:00
Agecroft hauled public train rides
Agecroft + 7&8 stabled in platform (Reverser Padlocked)

Planet released from outside Curatorial Yard gates

Planet to platform, couple to Agecroft + 7&8
Staff/Vols only trip – Planet and Agecroft (Double Headed)
Return Leg, stop Planet & Agecroft alongside Battery Loco

Volunteers (Past & Present) detrained by ladder for team photo
Planet and Agecroft detach from 7&8, draw forward to Disposal

Planet detaches and retrieves M&B coach* from Power Hall

Planet + M&B coach* run up LR1

Agecroft stabled outside curatorial yard gates (Reverser Padlocked)

Planet + M&B coach* on to 7&8 in platform
14:00 – 15:45
Planet hauled 3 carr* public train rides
Friends of MOSI invited guests + vols departure – Last Ever Passenger Train
Planet + train on to disposal (Regulator Chained and Locked)

Planet to be disposed of
Battery Loco to in front of Planet on disposal
Volunteers (Past & Present) team photo
Battery loco draws Planet+train forward on to LR1

Agecroft on to MCR end of 7&8

Agecroft+7&8 detached and draw back on to disposal (Reverser Padlocked)

Battery loco shunts Planet + M&B to Power Hall

Battery loco stabled in front of Curatorial Yard gates
Agecroft+7&8 run to Platform
Staff/Vols only train -  Agecroft on wrong end
(Radio Comms between driver & Guard at Liverpool end, competent crew member stationed by vac dump on leading coach)
On return train stops on disposal, rear clear of design points

Battery loco shunts 7&8 to Power Hall
Agecroft on to goods train in shipping shed siding, runs down PL and back

Goods train returned to shipping shed siding
Agecroft to be disposed of

Battery returns Agecroft to Power Hall
Last of All
Buffer Stop to Buffer Stop - Light Engine run with Battery

Here's an update from Facebook on 23rd January:

Chris Bruce's picture of the MoSI railway truncated short of Water St bridge. The other side of the gates and beyond the bridge the Pineapple line trackbed can be seen coming in from the right. The gates in the far distance used to be the limit of the MoSI railway before Network Rail metals were reached.