Thursday, 5 April 2018

First turn at Nether Alderley Mill in 2018

The mill from the front

Nether Alderley Mill has opened for the 2018 season and this afternoon was my first turn there this year.

I have been a volunteer guide here since the Mill re-opened in 2013, after extensive restoration by the National Trust to the building and the mill machinery. In 2014 I qualified as a Miller after a course at Cann Mill, Dorset, and today enjoy carrying out both roles - Guide and Miller, at this delightful location.

The picturesque mill pond. The back wall of the mill forms part of the mill pond dam.

Today I was a Guide, together with Terry, and Bruce was the Miller. Last year the National Trust dropped the Thursday Afternoon openings (the other two open afternoons are Saturday and Sunday) but I'm pleased to say they have had a re-think and the 'Thursday 'A' team' is back together!

We were busy, too, Terry and I running our full quota of three tours each, with a total of well over 40 happy visitors.

The two sets of mill stones on the upper floor, with some visitors descending the narrow and steep stairs to view the Hurst Frame on the floor below.


Sunday, 1 April 2018

The 'Easter Sunday' effect at Urmston today

'Lindow' at home
After last week's run with 'The Wildfowler', I decided to let 'Lindow' stretch her wheels at Urmston today. No pictures as 'Jason the lens' wasn't there, just this one of 'Lindow' at home by me, and three of locos on the prep bays from the club site.
Malc and I arrived fairly early and by 10:30 'Lindow' was in revenue earning service (unlike a steam loco, an electric is out of the car and onto the track and ready to go).
It's perhaps as well I took the electric loco today as there were quite a few customers awaiting train rides and the only three steam locos in prep on the prep bays were there for steam and boiler tests. 'Lindow' and the club's electric loco 'Spirit of Urmston' were kept busy all morning on our 'all electric' railway giving rides. Easter Sunday; the usual regular owner / drivers were no doubt tied up with family arrangements.

Till Joseph arrived with his gorgeous 4" scale traction engine. It even had its own beach towel. To catch any oil drips (in case you were wondering about it reserving its place!).
Jim arrived about mid morning with his Black Five, which was in steam and out on the track by lunchtime, just as the usual 'lunchtime lull' in passenger numbers occurred. So I brought 'Lindow' off and parked her in the head shunt by the traverser (I was getting a bit cold anyway) while I retired to the clubhouse for lunch and to thaw out leaving the club electric and Jim's loco to handle the lunchtime passenger trade.
Usually we get very busy after lunch, but today trade didn't pick up at all in the afternoon. The 'Easter Sunday' effect again, I suppose.

 Aeron's newly acquired B1. He was hoping to get his boiler and and steam certificates done and then run his engine, but unfortunately there were no boiler testers at Urmston today. The Easter Sunday effect again!

Peter Flitcroft's 'Kingscale' Prairie Tank also required the attentions of a boiler tester to sign off its replacement safety valve to complete its steam certificate. The original safety valve failed to dissipate steam fast enough to keep the boiler pressure within its 90psi max with full blower on. The replacement works just fine (we steamed the engine to check).

The B1 and Trevor's Jubilee 'Trafalgar', just like my 'Warspite' (now returned to Kingscale in a deal to replace it with their BR Standard Class 4 Tank which should arrive late summer).
Trevor did run the Jubilee later in the day; it does have a lovely 3-cylinder beat.

Till Joseph's lovely 4" (1/3 scale) traction engine


Sunday, 25 March 2018

Spring has finally arrived at Urmston!

A lovely day at Urmston today driving The Wildfowler. The sun shone, the local families were enjoying the park and also their rides on our railway.

Lots of steam locos running today, and lots of passengers to fill our trains.

Master-of-the-camera Jason wasn't there, so in place of his illustrations I've included here a couple of still frames from a video of The Wildfowler running at Urmston last summer.

There's a lovely bark from The Wildfowler's chimney as she effortlessly hauls her trains of happy families along the track, with her characteristic bouncy rolling motion due her soft springing.

What could be better? The steady staccato bark of a steam loco, Sunlight dappled steam drifting back from the chimney top, the clickety click of the carriage wheels on the track as we roll along the back straight of the Abbotsfield track, and just a feather of white at the safety valves showing the loco has full pressure - but not too much.

A great way to spend a delightful spring Sunday!


Monday, 5 February 2018

Churnet Valley Railway Steam Gala

Sunday 4th February 2018.

Barry Knapper's picture of the Western Tank near Consall illustrates our Churnet Valley Railway Steam Gala today on its last day in service before its boiler ticket expires. It'll be on a low loader this week back to the Dartmouth Steam Railway where it is resident, but I don't know when it'll get fettled.
It was GW green when it arrived which is not prototypical, and was re-painted into correct unlined black livery at Cheddleton when it arrived at CVR late last year.
Barry also stopped by the 'box where I was rostered signalman for the day, and snapped me!


Friday, 26 January 2018

Bye bye 'Warspite'

My first live steam model locomotive was 'Alfred', as readers of this blog will know. 'Alfred was a great little engine to learn the skills of ownership and driving a live steam model, but because of his limited capability in terms of power, boiler capacity, and size of firebox was never going to be a viable passenger hauler on the big track at Urmston.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

'Alfred' with an interested youngster

I was asked by a fellow member what sort of locomotive I'd ideally want to replace 'Alfred', and I replied "I'd really like a Standard Class 4 Tank". I knew it was unlikely I'd ever own such a machine as they are notoriously difficult to model with their subtly curved side tanks, cab, and bunker. There is a set of drawings available from Doug Hewson and some expert model engineers have produced some lovely models using them. Many more have started and years later are still nowhere near completing their models. It's no surprise then that on the rare occasions such models do come up for sale they usually change hands without being advertised, such is the demand.

When the Kingscale 'Jubilee' was announced at an amazingly low price for a big 5" gauge 4-6-0 express tender locomotive I ordered one. And then, out of left field, came 'The Wildfowler'.

'The Wildfowler' dwarfs 'Alfred'

'The Wildfowler' is a fabulous engine, built to a high standard by master model engineer Walter Fiddler in the 1960s, and had just been rebuilt by Steam Workshop when I came across it on their web site. I had found the 5" models of Beyer Peacock narrow gauge tanks owned by Dave and Jim at the club to be excellent locos to drive, and 'The Wildfowler' was in similar vein, so after a trip over the Pennines to see it at Steam Workshop's premises and a visit to Urmston by the steam Workshop team to demonstrate the finished locomotive to me, that was the engine that actually replaced 'Alfred'. It is a lovely thing and an excellent passenger train loco on the club track.

And then 'Warspite, the Kingscale 'Jubilee' arrived. It looked superb but first attempts to run the loco were not successful. However, Kingscale's after sales service was second to none and after a few visits by 'Warspite' back to them (they picked it up from and returned it to me each time and of course all at no cost) it was finally 'sorted'  as reported recently here on the blog, complete with a video of it running at Urmston (repeated below).

And then Kingscale Models announced they were to release a 5" gauge BR Standard 2-6-4 Tank, the very loco I had wanted but thought probably unobtainable. I considered just buying one but really with 'The Wildfowler', 'Warspite', and my electric loco 'Lindow' my stable was full. If I was to go for the Standard 4 Tank one of the others would have to go.

The prototype Kingscale BR Standard Class 4 Tank

'The Wildfowler' is a loco I would be very reluctant indeed to sell so I talked to Kingscale about a buy-back deal for the Jubilee. They made me a very fair offer of taking back the Jubilee with a cash payment to me (the Jubilee is a more expensive model than the Standard Tank), and reserving me the Standard Tank (which is scheduled for delivery in August) as fully paid for.

I really do like the Jubilee; it looks fantastic and has a lovely 3-cylinder 'bark' and at last it was running as it should. But there are a couple of considerations which persuaded me to let it go.

Driving 'Warspite' at Urmston

It's not an easy engine to drive being a long stretch over the tender to reach the cab controls, but perhaps more of a consideration longer term is that being a 3-cylinder engine it has between the frames the middle cylinder, connecting rod, big end, crank axle, and a full set of walchearts valve gear. If anything were to go wrong with any of that it would require an extensive strip down of the engine (boiler off etc) to repair it, which would be very expensive outside warranty. Both 'The Wildfowler' and the Standard Tank are two-cylinder engines with cylinders, valve gear etc.all outside the frames where it can be easily got at for maintenance, and should repairs become necessary. 

So this morning it was bye-bye Jubilee.

Adam from Kingscale Models secures the Jubilee for travel back to Northamptonshire this morning.   

Electric loco 'Lindow' wasted no time in claiming a place on the vacated hydraulic trolley in the garage which will also accommodate the BR Standard Class 4 Tank when that arrives. In the background, on a second hydraulic trolley and covered in a blue towel is 'The Wildfowler'


Sunday, 14 January 2018

'Lindow' at a cold Urmston today

It was bitterly cold today so I decided to give 'Lindow', my electric locomotive, a second outing to Urmston rather than prep a steam loco with freezing fingers.
She ran superbly, straight out of the car into revenue-earning traffic, hauling passengers. There's just so much power there, and no sign of slipping at all. Some people fit electronic 'diesel engine' sound systems to these locos, but I rather like the 'electric train' whine of the four traction motors - sounds like a Virgin trains Pendolino at speed.
Here's a video I took as Malcolm drove the engine round Urmston's main track today. If we'd had passengers on we wouldn't have run at max speed as Malc does down the back straight here - this was a demonstration run to familiarise Malcolm with 'Lindow's characteristics

Click on the link below:

Here are some pictures:
'Lindow' in the station at Urmston 

Ready for the 'right away' 

Parked by the carriage shed at lunchtime


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Wa-hay! Success at last with the Jubilee.

'Warspite' finally ran as she should, and pulled passengers, at Urmston on Sunday. It's taken a while to get her steaming properley but after the manufacturer stripped and re-sealed the interior of the smoke box to eliminate some substantial air leaks the factory had missed, and fitted a 'Blackgates' injector (which picks up immediately) she steams as she should and the boiler can be kept reliably topped up to the correct water level without resorting to the hand pump.

It took a while to work out that this loco needs a BIG fire in that very long firebox if it's to steam properly. You fire it almost until you can't get any more coal in there. Quite unlike 'The Wildfowler' which runs best with a thinner fire.

It's not an easy engine to drive, needing regular attention to fire and water, but does have a lovely 3-cylinder 'bark' when you open her up for the banks on our track.

This video (by Jason Lau) shows James driving her out of the station with a bunch of us on the back, as he attacks the first bank with gusto!

Here are some pictures also by Jason Lau, Click on any picture for a larger image.

A sunny but cold day in the park

Our oak tree, and the club house, the loco prep area between

Trevor on his Polly. Trevor also has a Jubilee like mine

There are several pipes between loco and tender which need to be connected during preparation for running, comprising the water feeds to the injector and from the hand pump, and the axle pump feed and pump-bypass return

The other Malcolm, on his electric-powered Class 20 diesel loco

The Jubilee is a 3-cylinder engine so lubricating the middle cylinder little end, slide bars, big end, valve gear, and the water pump eccentric and drive during preparation means getting down to it and accessing all this from underneath, as I am here!

Keith preparing 'The Beast', James and John in conversation

A closer look at Malcolm's Class 20 in London Transport livery as 'Sir John Betjeman'. Nice job!

'Boiler' Bob on Jim's delightful Black Five

Bob on the Black Five ready to go, 'Warspite' making final preparations before coming out onto the main line 

'Warspite' nearly ready to go. I'm just getting the fire and water where I want them (Malc watching the pressure gauge) before I set off for the first circuit of the track, with George on the back along for the ride.

Tony has a go with Lee's nice little 'Boxhill' on the inner track

Plenty of steam! Piling on that coal for another run.

James (the chap that started all this by selling me 'Alfred') had an extended 'play' driving 'Warspite'. Just about to leave for a circuit of the big track with five of us on board: James, Keith, Bob, me, Malc.

Disposing the Jubilee after a successful day, tender separated from loco so I can drop the fire and blow down the boiler. James, Lee, Malc, me, Keith

And it was Craig's birthday! Happy birthday matey!