Thursday, 7 December 2017

Christmas lunch at Urmston club

Sunday 3rd December was a dull day, and with Christmas shopping in full swing as well, there were fewer than the usual number of passengers wanting train rides at Urmston track.

That was perhaps as well, as it was the club's Christmas Lunch day and it meant all our members, including those who usually drive the passenger trains, could tuck into the spread. This event was held a week earlier than usual as the chairman and his wife would be away the following weekend. Probably not much point being chairman if the post didn't carry some privileges!

Excellent pictures by Jason Lau, as usual. Please click on a picture for a larger image.

Trevor takes his wife for a trip on his lovely Polly tank loco

Me on Keith's Polly tank loco, wondering where all the passengers are!

Frank on his Sweet Pea

A very nice A2 Pacific

Still no passengers. I think I did a solo circuit of the track in the end.

Youngsters are always fascinated by our steam locomotives

The club room tables groan under the weight of the Christmas buffet. Plenty for everyone, and very good it was too! The wine is for raffle prizes - the lunch is strictly 'dry' as we may be driving passenger trains afterwards.

Plenty of club members, very few customers

Keith gives Tony some driving tuition on the Polly

Lee's turn on Trevor's Polly


Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Wildfowler at Urmston today

The Jubilee is off down south again tomorrow to the supplier for more attention to hopefully get it performing as it should, so today it was The Wildfowler's turn for a run at Urmston track. The weather was fine, the locomotive was steaming like a witch, the passengers were waiting for rides.... so a great day was had by all.

These excellent pictures are, as usual, by Jason Lau. Please click on any picture for a larger image.

Billy enjoying my loco, The Wildfowler. This is a five inch gauge model of a 2 foot gauge industrial locomotive, so it's more than 1/5 full size. That makes for a big model in this gauge.

Dave driving his Venezuelan Beyer Peacock tank loco  

Malc on Jim's Venezuelan tank. These two locos were built as a pair by Dave and Jim, as were their Black Fives. They are delightful to drive; very similar to The Wildfowler., being free steaming and powerful.

A young passenger (with his mum) exchanges smiles with Billy, his driver for their trip around the park behind The Wildfowler 

Stuart with Keith's Polly tank loco. 

 Billy picks up his next batch of passengers with The Wildfowler

 I run The Wildfowler with the entire back of the cab removed, which allows easy access to the controls and the fire. The pink tin (an M&S shortbread tin) carries the coal. Water is, of course, carried in the loco's side tanks and topped up after each run. The Wildfowler has an axle-driven pump to put water into the boiler, and an injector which has to be used occasionally as well, as the pump's capacity is insufficient. For emergency use, there is a hand pump in the right hand side tank the detachable handle for which lives on the left hand side of the cab floor.

Malc on Jim's Beyer Peacock waits his turn to enter the station to pick up passengers

Rogue's gallery outside the clubhouse; L to R Tony, Eddie, Bob, George 

Billy ducking down for a clear view of  The Wildfowler's pressure gauge, while I look on 

Bob's turn on Jim's Beyer Peacock 

Malc has a drive of my loco, with Tony as passenger 

Many's the time I've had a drive of Keith's Polly or 'Beast. Now it's his turn to drive my engine. 

A budding steam enthusiast watches with interest as I top up The Wildfowler's left hand tank after a run around the park 

Here he is again. definitely a future potential member of Urmston club  

...And he's far from alone. These miniature steam locomotives, alive with hissing steam, incandescent fire, and gurgling dripping hot water fascinate youngsters of all ages.   

Billy tops up the right hand tank. The engine must be close to blowing off, as he has left the fire-hole door open to allow cool air to be drawn into the boiler tubes to keep the steam pressure below that which will lift the safety valves. 

Malc on The Wildfowler, which is blowing off vigorously through the safety valves as the maximum allowable boiler pressure is reached

Stuart on Dave's tank loco, with yet another fascinated young enthusiast 

Me on my engine! 

Keith driving his own Polly tank loco

But we don't take ourselves too seriously. There's nothing better than Super Trouper by ABBA for keeping warm on a frosty Sunday at Abbotsfield Park. Driver Frank Gibson with his fabulous dance moves.:


Friday, 17 November 2017

A sad day in aviation

My thoughts tonight are with the families of the four people who died in a mid air collision between a light aircraft and a helicopter, near Aylesbury.
Both aircraft had originated their flights at Wycombe Air Park near High Wycomb, the Cessna 152 on a local pilot training detail, and the Cabri G2 light helicopter on a flight to an as yet unannounced destination, the crash taking place some 15 miles north of the airfield. Both aircraft were 2-seat, and all 4 occupants died in the accident.
Weather conditions are reported to have been 'perfect', a superb flying day with excellent visibility. Unfortunately excellent visibility makes aircraft crews less likely to see each other in the air as ground features stand out clearly and the aircraft blend into this cluttered background. On less clear days other aeroplanes are more easily seen against the misty sky.
The crash took place in uncontrolled airspace where most small aeroplanes fly, on a see-and-be-seen basis. Commercial traffic flies in controlled airspace under radar surveillance by air traffic control who keep them safely separated.
There is nothing inherently dangerous about uncontrolled airspace. I flew mostly in that environment for well over 30 years. The sky is a big place and the chance of two aircraft being in the same place at the same height at precisely the same time is infinitesimally small.
But very occasionally it does happen. And today, sadly, it did.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Light engine move.

It's the Churnet Valley Railway 25th Anniversary Steam Gala this weekend, and I was signaller at delightful Consall on Friday and Saturday. Here, photographed (by Jon Kerr) from just in front of my signal box, 7820 'Dinmore Manor' (train 0F02 in the Working timetable) waits in the up loop at Consall to cross with the down train to Ipstones (2W01).
This was the second of many movements I signalled from Consall 'box on each of the last 2 days. Long days for a retired old git like me, leaving home before light and not getting back until about 8pm. Thought those sort of days were behind me.... But really, great fun!
'Dinmore Manor' is one of two visiting locomotives and is normally resident on the Gloucester Warwickshire Railway (which I know well through visiting our elder daughter Claire in Broadway in the Cotswolds where she is a vet). These Collett-designed locomotives, together with earlier Churchward Swindon designs, have a lovely sharp 'bark' when working hard.
Our other visitor is also an ex-Great Western loco, 2-8-0 tank no. 4277 from the Dartmouth Steam Railway. The resident S160 No.5197 and class 33 diesel 33102 'Sophie' are also participating.
4277 was in unprototypical GWR lined green when she arrived at Cheddleton earlier this month. She was repainted in correct unlined black by the CVR at Cheddleton, where she will remain until her boiler certificate expires in February next year.
Here's a video I found on YouTube. It has some nice scenes around Consall, including (7 minutes in) your truly collecting the Froghall - Consall staff from the Western Tank as it runs in past the waiting Manor.


Monday, 16 October 2017

'The Wildfowler' passenger hauling at Urmston yesterday

It's been a few weeks since 'The Wildfowler' had an outing, so with Sunday's fine weather forecast it seemed only right to take him to Urmston track for a spot of passenger hauling.

Lovely Manchester Ship Canal locomotive built by Don 

Don used to work for the Ship Canal, and has written an excellent book on the Railways of the Manchester Ship Canal  

Proud owner / builder 

'The Wildfowler' during lighting up

Last Wednesday Professor Ian Morison (with the mug of tea in the picture) from Jodrell Bank gave a talk on that radio telescope to our Probus group. I know Ian from attending his astronomy lectures at Wilmslow Guild some years ago and last saw him at Rudyard Lake Steam Railway. I had a chat to him before his talk on Wednesday and it transpired he is about to take delivery of a live steam 5" gauge 'Alice' locomotive.

He was unsure where to run it, so I mentioned Urmston which he had not heard of. I was delighted therefore when I arrived at the club yesterday to see Ian there. He is impressed with the club and its facilities and is going to join and run his loco here.

'The Wildfowler' in the queue to pick up passengers at the station 

Stuart on Dave's Venezuelan Beyer Peacock tank loco. This was the loco I passed my 'driving test' on at Urmston and it was good to see it back in steam after an extended absence.  

A 'Sweet Pea' generates an interest in steam among a couple of young onlookers  

Aaron on Trevor's Polly tank loco 

The fine weather brought out plenty of customers for train rides 

Bit of a stretch over the tenders of these big express engines! 

Keith and Don take Don's MSC loco for a spin round the inner track 

More young enthusiasts, this time admiring Dave's Venezuelan tank loco, driven by Stuart


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Narrow Gauge Steam in Eastern Germany re-visited

In July last year I enjoyed a Ffestiniog Travel holiday 'Narrow Gauge Steam in Eastern Germany' (on the blog, CLICK HERE to see it).

I decided to do it again this year, as did several more of last year's attendees. Again it was just me, not Chris, and the fun started on 1st September.

We started our narrow gauge extravaganza in Saxony, moved north to the Baltic coast, then across to the Harz Mountain system, followed by a Rhine cruise from Koblenz.

All pictures are my copyright. Please click on any picture for a larger image.

An advanced first class ticked Wilmslow to London Euston got me a relatively cheap seat on the 09:11 Pendolino, including breakfast, starting with tea and tomato juice 

The 'full English', as the world whizzed by at 125mph 

Later that afternoon I headed for the Betjeman Arms at London St Pancras International station. Here's one of the new Eurostar units on which we'd be hurtling to Brussels next morning. They can cruise at over 200mph with not a ripple in your wine glass, and none of that airport jobsworthyness either. However, though faster, we found them less comfortable than the original 186mph Eurostar sets which are now being scrapped.

A pint of Youngs bitter as I watched the trains come and go passed the time while I waited for Hamish to arrive from Fife 

In short order, most of last year's 'Beer O'clock Club' joined me: Tony, Dave, Mike, Hazel, Carol, and Hamish. 

From Brussels we caught a Thalys high speed train to Aachen where we stayed the night, and next morning this Regional Express to Cologne

Our loco bears the 'all ones' number 

Tony at Cologne HBF (Hauptbahnhof, or 'main station') 

From Cologne an ICE high speed train took us on to Dresden with a change at Frankfurt. We stayed four nights at the Dresden Inter City Hotel. Here's an internal view of the pointy end of the ICE train (rear cab).

Dresden station next morning, waiting for our train to Radebeul for the Lobnitzgrundbahn Railway to Radeburg. Hamish, Dave, Carol Hazel, Mike.   

Some of the locomotives working in Eastern Germany are getting on a bit, but they still do the job 

Two Tonys, Mike and Carol heading for our first narrow gauge railway of the holiday in the upper deck of a regional train.

Climbing up through the woods to Radeburg

 Our first narrow gauge locomotive of the holiday

Returning to Dresden HBF we pass our hotel 

After lunch, Hamish and Tony and our train to the Weisseritztalbahn 

The weather was superb, so once again we made use of the open carriage. The low September sun highlighted the tendrils of loco smoke in the pine branches. 

Tony 2 takes a picture of our labouring locomotive... 

...And my view of the loco 

The loco takes water

The newly-restored section above Dippoldiswalde is not as scenic as the lower part of the railway and mostly follows the road up the valley

Last year this line terminated at Dippoldiswalde as it had since floods carried away much of the section beyond there in 2002, but the full length of the line to Kurort Kipsdorf  (above) has now been restored

The following day (Tuesday 5th September) found us at Zittau for the Y-shaped railway to Jonsdorf (one branch) and Oybin (the other).

Tank loco footplate 

Our loco at Bertsdorf station, where the two branches divide

Loco builder's plate

The Oybin train comes up from Zittau, viwed from the back of the Jonsdorf train at Bertsdorf

It's a brisk climb from Bertsdorf to Jonsdorf, the loco working hard

Here's a video of the climb, looking back CLICK HERE

Our height above the surrounding countryside can be seen in this picture as we emerge from the woods onto the more level section to the top of branch 

We head back to Dresden, crossing the Elbe as we approach the HBF with a Canaletto-like view of the city skyline

After breakfast the next day we took the Chemnitz train from Dresden as far as Floha, where we cahnged to the Cranzahl branch. These German railcars afford superb views of the this scenic valley as we head for Cranzahl and the Fichtelbergbahn Railway, which , over 17km, rises 200m to Kurort Oberwiesenthal.

At Cranzahl our loco, 99-1785, pauses beside its consecutively-numbered cousin

 Carol and Mike R on the rear balcony of our reserved coach

The line climbs past outlying farms on its way up the hillside

Just beyond those trees is the Czech Republic

The viaduct above marks the arrival at the summit, Kurort Oberwiesenthal

 Our loco runs around at Kurort Oberwiesenthal 

 A passing loop on the way down

On Thursday 7th we travelled from Dresden to our second 'base' of the holiday, Stralsund and Rugen Island on the Baltic coast. A EuroCity service took us to Berlin HBF, from where an Inter City train took us on to Stralsund passing close to the Polish border. Our hotel in Stralsund, as last year, was the Inter City with its lovely restaurant view over the Kleiner Frankenteich lake.

Lunch taken on the way up to Stralsund; good German beer and a bread roll!

...As I followed our progress northwards on a German railways map 

First outing from Stratsund was to Bad Doberan for the 'Mollie' railway. We took a main line train to Rostock, where we changed trains for Bad Doberan. Last year we sat out at a street cafe with beers watching the big tank engines thundering past just inches away in Bad Doberan main street, but not this year! Since we left Saxony the weather had taken a turn for the worst; it was wet and bit too cold for sitting out.

Here is a video of our passage along the main street CLICK HERE

These 2-8-2 locos have bigger wheels than those in Saxony as the gradients are far less severe. They have a lovely bark as they accelerate out of station stops!

We returned from the Mollie's Kuhlungsborn terminus back to Bad Doberhan in the buffet car - very cosy. Hamish and Tony enjoy a beer (mine's on the near table), Beryl and Mike R behind.

 That evening we took a bus to Stralsund harbour and found a superb goulash in a quayside cafe for our evening meal. This is Gorch Fock, a three-masted barque and former sail training ship now permanently moored in the harbour.

Saturday 9th, and the Isle of Rugen calls. We leave Stalsund station for Bergen, then the single-car railbus to Putbus to ride the Rugensche Baderbahn, known as 'Racing Roland'. 

Tour leader Richard with his red crutch, and Hamish, on the way to Putbus 

At Putbus our narrow gauge loco runs onto its train 

Again we had a reserved coach, and most stayed inside as the weather, though dryer than yesterday, was still a tad inclement 

The narrow gauge line terminates at Gohren, on the coast. Despite the weather the trains were full, and Rugen was busy with walkers and cyclists. It's a popular leisure destination for many in this part of Germany. Our driver takes the opportunity to feel for hot bearings or excessive play in the rods, above.

This being a Saturday, a wedding party joined the train with their own wedding coach, being fetched by our loco, above 

 The wedding coach is backed onto our train for the return journey to Putbus

On Sunday 10th September it was time to move on to our third base of the holiday, that narrow gauge rail enthusiast's mecca, the Harz Mountain System. Back to Berlin on an Inter City service, then an ICE train to Frankfurt as far as Halle, then a HEX (Harz Elbe Express) regional service to Wernigerode in the Harz, where we stayed in the superb Hotel Weisser Hirsch, as we did last year.

Hamish in a favorite Beer O'clock Club venue, the bar at Halle station where we waited between trains 

As last year, our first Harz trip was from Wernegirode up the highest mountain in the Harz, the Brocken, on Monday 11th September 

Last year we enjoyed fabulous views from the Brocken, but not this year. Low cloud saw to that! This is on the upper section of the line between Schierke and the summit. 

Summit view

On the descent we entered the passing siding to allow the 'up' train an uninterrupted climb to the summit. I videoed the train with its hard-working loco as it as it passed, HERE

Pat admires a 2-10-2 metre-gauge tank loco on the Harz. Trofimoff valves (so a nice 'clunk' before the loco starts), steam driven air pump, steam driven feed water pump that feeds the pre-heater (the big box atop the smokebox here) then pumps the hot water into the boiler, all add to the external 'gubbins'. 

That afternoon we had a conducted tour of the Harz Railway workshops at Wernigerode Westentor. Our German speaking (but very helpful and enthusiastic) guide is on the right.  

 Locomotive connecting rods

A wheel lathe for re-profiling worn tyres on locomotives and rolling stock

A 2-10-2 tank loco lifted off its wheels. Note the oblong cut-out atop the smoke box; this is to accommodate the feed water pre-heater tank.  

A replacement feed water pre-heater tank ready to be fitted to the above locomotive 

Our guide explains Trofimoff valves; the valve pistons are free to slide towards each other on the valve piston shaft, and are restrained at the out ends by valve stops. Under normal operation steam pressure keeps the valve pistons against their stops (as in the left hand pair above) and they behave as do conventional fixed piston valves, but when the regulator is closed (for instance, going down hill) that removes the steam pressure allowing the valve pistons to remain in the central position (as per the right hand pair above) as the valve shaft continues to move back and forth.

When the regulator is re-opened the steam pressure forces the valve pistons to their stops, which can be heard as a loud 'clonk'. 

Trofimoff clonk CLICK HERE

One of the railway's Mallet articulated locomotives 

Modern plastic bearing materials being used on these old locomotives, visible as the white insert in the bottom bearing of the expansion link, shown here 

Out in the yard, a diesel shunter for moving stock around

A standard gauge water tank waggon on a narrow gauge transporter, used to take water up to the Brocken summit

Spark arrester in the loco's smoke box  

Our group leaves the workshops

 Tuesday's excursion began with a main line HEX service to Halberstadt, then another HEX to Quedlinburg (above) for the narrow gauge steam service to Alexisbad

Our loco at Quedlinburg 

Magdesprung station

At Alexisbad the steam train terminated and we transferred to the diesel railcar which took us up the short Harzegerode branch (above), before returning to Alexisbad and then on to Eisfelder Talmuhle

At Stiege

 View from the railcar's rear cab

At Eisfelder Talmuhle we experienced a parallel arrival with the steam train from Drie Annen Hohne which I videoed from the railcar window. See it by clicking HERE 

 At Eisfelder Talmuhle we changed to the steam train recently arrived from Drie Annen Hohne 

These locos don't hang around when running round - you have to just not be in the way! Here's a video CLICK HERE

Waiting to leave Eisfelder Talmuhle. We had a parallel departure from here, then a dramatic climb out of the valley by our steam train. I captured this on video; see it HERE

Returning to Drei Anna Hohne through sunlit woods CLICK HERE

Back at Westentor we watch the departure of the next Brocken train

On our final day on the Harz, Wednesday 13th, we attempted another Brocken trip. However, strong winds at the summit meant all trains were terminated at Schierke. We returned to Drie Annen Hohne (thankfully it was 'wet' Annen Hohne that day, with the bar open!) for a beer and Bratwurst. Tony and Hamish in the Drie Annen Hohne station cafe.

 We took the next train to Eisfelder Talmuhle as an alternative to the closed Brocken

Harz loco 'with the bag in' at Drie Annen Hohne

Thursday 14th saw us move on to our final hotel of the holiday, at Koblenz on the Rhine. A HEX train took us to Goslar then on to Hannover. From there we took an ICE train to Dortmund, then an Inter City train to Koblenz.

A coach took us from Koblenz HBF almost to our hotel; the driver did not know the way to get right to the hotel and dropped us in a Lidl car park! From there we found our way through an underground car park to the hotel basement. The upside was that the Diehl's Hotel was very good indeed, with lovely views of the river.

The Rhine, from my bedroom balcony

Our last day of holiday was spent on board the 'Goethe', a former paddle steamer now diesel powered, for a gentle cruise up the Rhine to Rudesheim.

Our hotel seen from the 'Goethe' 

Both banks of the river are decorated by many castles 

...And there is much commercial traffic on this busy waterway 

More 'castles on the Rhine' 

Many of the commercial vessels carried their crew's cars on the cabin roof 

...And some are very low in the water

Beer O'clock on the Goethe. Hamish and Pat. 

 Loerlei rock on the Rhine

Old custom house and vinyard terracing 

Busy railways run along both banks of the river. An awful lot of freight moves up and down this valley. 

The Goethe at Rudeshein

The picturesque riverside village of Rudesheim. We returned to our Koblenz hotel by train for a group meal on the final evening of the holiday.

Next morning, Saturday 16th, an Inter City service took us up the Rhine valley to Cologne, from where an ICE high speed train whizzed us to Brussels. A final meeting of the Beer O'clock Club in the Brussels Eurostar lounge preceded a high speed dash on a new Eurostar train to London St Pancras.

The Eurostar rolled to a stand at 16:05, and I did a runner to Euston to catch the 16:40 Pendolino to Wilmslow.

I was at home by 18:30 with many happy memories of an interesting re-discovery of the narrow gauge railways of eastern Germany, and new territory for me - the Rhine. Being later in the year the weather was not as good as last time, but then, the Harz trains in particular were not overcrowded as last year, which made the journeys far more pleasant.

And of course, the company was excellent!

Where will the Beer O'clock Club next meet?