Saturday, 23 February 2013

Churnet Valley Steam Gala

Back to Consall box at last! The railway's February Steam Gala is the first time since October that more than one train at a time has run and therefore the first time that Consall signal box (where the trains pass on the otherwise single line) has been in use since then.

I arrived at Cheddleton soon after 08:00 this morning, and Southern Railway 'U' class loco was simmering at the head of its train, ready for its 08:30 departure to Cauldon Lowe
I was rostered as trainee at Consall signal box but had decided to park at Cheddleton and ride on one of the locomotives to Consall (the S160 and the N7 tank were timetabled to run light engine to Consall at 08:50).

The N7's driver checks his steed; my transport, the S160 which will lead to Consall is wreathed in steam, invisible, to the rear of the N7. They will run tender (and bunker!) first down the valley.

On board the S160, awaiting departure from Cheddleton
  A closer look at that enormous fire! Just keep a good back 
end, and it'll shake down to the front (in theory!).

Here are some videos I took of the trains today. Turn up the volume and preferably use headphones for the full sound effect:

The fireman gets a few round on in the S160 at Cheddleton this morning

Before we can go, we need the staff! (our authority to travel the line)

The driver opens the regulator - and off we go!

Looking forward round the tender as we arrive at Consall

Videoed from the signal box steps, the S160 departs Consall for Froghall to pick up its train. Once past signal 13, Howard (who is in the Box) drops it back to danger.

Some time later the S160 returns from Frogahall with its train for its first stop at Consall on its way up to Cauldon Lowe. With the Big Yank still some way away, the gentle hiss-thump..... hiss-thump of the steam-driven air pump on the N7 tank engine (waiting in the other platform) can be heard.

The Southern 'U'class (visiting from the Mid Hants Railway) arrives at Consall from Froghall on the second Cauldon Lowe train of the day. As it rolls in, signalman Howard collects the token from the loco crew.

We also ran a freight train as the public and the photographers like to see some variety on these gala weekends. Here the N7 tank engine leaves Consall on that train.

The big S160 blows off vigourously in Consall station prior to departure. I love that chime whistle she blows just before she sets off and before she reaches the Black Lion foot crossing. As the rear of the train (a DMU acting as extra passenger coaches) passes the Black Lion pub the driver opens her up and she strides away down the valley.

At the end of the day the N7 tank, having left its train at Froghall, is attached as pilot engine to the 'U' class, again mostly as a photo opportunity for our visitors.

I was in Consall box again on the second day of the gala, Sunday 24th February, with Roger as the signalman. We had a track circuit failure in the morning, but luckily the S&T (Signal & Telegraph) men were working in the signal box basement and soon fixed the fault (a duff battery).

The basement of Consall signal box, with electrical and mechanical interlocking of points and signals, and power supplies for the equipment

 Malc and Ivan visited late morning on the same bikes we were out on last Sunday. They were frozen when they arrived, but soon thawed out in the cosy box as they watched us working the trains up and down the valley, amazed at quite how much is involved in even a simple box like Consall. They stayed with us almost until we closed the box at about 3pm. That's an early finish for us, but after that time there would be only one train at a time in the valley, so no need to use Consall loop for passing.

Talking of passing, I've been chasing our signal inspector, Nick, to assess me for passing as signalman. I'll need to chase him more vigourously I think or else it'll never happen!


Sunday, 17 February 2013

A lovely day for a walk and a Stepper ride

Today was like spring; bright sunshine, birds singing in the trees, and buzzards mewing as they soared the thermal currents above the tree tops. Only the low angle of the sun in the blue sky and the chill late in the day when the sun went down reminded one it's still only mid February.

Sunday morning is when the Alderley Edge Wilmslow & District Footpath Preservation Society, of which I am secretary, hold our walks. We usually walk between four and six miles ostensibly to check the condition of paths, stiles, etc. in our area, though most of our members simply come along because they enjoy a Sunday morning walk through lovely countryside in pleasant company.

We started the walk this morning close to Withington Hall, near the famous Jodrell Bank radio telescope.

Apologies for the low quality of the photographs of the walk, which were taken on my mobile phone camera. Please click on them for a larger image.

Lovely old farmhouse at Smiths Green

Happy walkers enjoying the winter sun; it feels like spring!

But the low angle of the sun reminds us it is still February

Famous Cheshire landmark in the background; the Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank (click on the picture to enlarge to to see the telescope more easily)

Hillary, our walk leader today, turns to face the camera

Lower Withington - about halfway round the walk

Marion and Brian with some snowdrops in the background (click on the picture to enlarge it to see them more clearly)

Heading back up from Lower Withington towards Withington Hall

Withington Hall and its lake

After the walk we called in at the Stags Head in Warford for a pint of their own 'Stag' ale (lovely and light and hoppy). We enjoyed our drinks al fresco in the rural environs of the Stag's garden (not bad for February!) before I headed home for a shower and change and a spot of light lunch prior to firing up the mighty Honda C90 step-through to meet some mates at Malc's house for a ride out to Northwich.

Garry, Tony, Ivan, and Malc ready for departure
First stop was Geoff's house to pick him up. My red C90 in the middle of the picture.

Ooops! On Noah's Ark Lane Garry hit some mud and slid off the bike he'd borrowed from Tony. Here we are all stopped while a broken indicator is removed from the fallen steed.

Garry's borrowed bike was acting up, so at Ollerton he and Tony decided to return home, and Geoff went with them. So then there were three! Me, Malc, and Ivan carried on to the Weaver Hall Salt Museum. My C90 nearest the camera, then Ivan's SS50, and Malc's Novio, with Malc and Ivan.

A better view of Mal'c Novio (and Ivan!). Leftwich railway viaduct on the Mid Cheshire Line in the background.

We had a look around the museum, including watching a short film in the museum cinema. Northwich's history, from pre-historic times right through to shipbuilding on the River Weaver, the railway, and of course the salt industry that the town is famous for are well represented.

We set off home calling in to see Graham at Lostock Gralham on the way. It got surprisingly chilly as the sun set, reminding us that despite the spring-like sunshine it is indeed still only mid February.

Malc on his Novio, me on the C90, and Ivan on his SS50 in Graham's yard at Lostock Gralham

A look back to Tuesday 12th February

I attended the media launch of Quarry Bank Mill's appeal for funds to enable the National Trust to carry out extensive improvements at the Mill. I was interviewed by Radio Manchester and chatted to some journalists. In the afternoon I went to Nether Alderley Church Hall to meet the other volunteer guides, staff, and Nether Alderley church folk who will be involved in the re-opening and running of the recently restored mill in March.

The press taking a photo opportunity at Styal Mill with mill owner 'Samual Gregg' and his 'daughter'


Friday, 8 February 2013

A fire-damaged 47... and Agecroft goes to the Ribble Steam Railway

On Wednesday 23rd January a train of empty coaching stock of West Coast Railways with a Class 47 diesel locomotive at the front and another at the back was routing through Manchester on its way back to its base at Carnforth having had the coach wheels turned on the wheel lathe at the Siemens Ardwick Trans Pennine depot. Between Castlefield Junction and Ordsall Lane the rear loco, 47500, derailed and a limited but intense fuel fire broke out when fuel lines were ruptured and sprayed fuel onto the traction motors.

47500 on fire after derailing 
It took many hours to clear the line, causing chaos for rail travellers. 47500 was re-railed using two rail cranes (one had to come from the Midlands) and while the leading locomotive took the train on to Carnforth, 47500 was placed onto the spur line that connects the Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI) to the main line. Later, MoSI's battery electric locomotive hauled it into the Museum yard which is more secure, prior to it being moved by road to Carnforth. That was to have happened on Monday, but was postponed to today.

I went to MoSI today to watch our Agecroft No1 steam locomotive being loaded onto a road trailer in the morning to be taken to the Ribble Steam Railway for their Steam Gala next weekend, and 47500 similarly loaded in the afternoon. But the latter move was again postponed, to maybe this coming Monday or Tuesday.

As ever, please click on a picture for a bigger image.

Agecroft peeps out of the Power Hall at MoSI, eyeing up the trailer that will will take her to the Ribble Steam Railway for a couple of weeks

While the trailer was being prepared, I walked up to the Ordsall Lane end of the MoSI site where 47500 is parked, to have a look

Not too much damage on this side....

.....But it's a bit worse on the other side

The coupling link has been cut off leaving just the hook, and there's some damage to the buffer beam; evidence of the difficulty of separating the loco from the coaches, to which she was buffer-locked after the derailment

By the time I got back to the Power hall, the temporary track from MoSI yard onto the trailer was almost complete. It has to be well packed underneath by wood blocks to support the weight of the locomotive as she rides up onto the trailer.

Agecroft in the Power Hall, ready to be loaded onto the road trailer

The delicate operation of getting her aboard the trailer begins... At first she is pushed out of the Power Hall by our battery electric locomotive behind the blue carriages...

....Then a cable is run from the head of the trailer, round a pulley on Agecroft's coupling, to the tractor unit of the lorry. The tractor unit is reversed away from the Power Hall, and Agecroft climbs the ramp onto the trailer at half the speed the tractor unit travels, but with a 2 to 1 mechanical advantage to the tractor.

She's aboard!

The tractor unit is attached to the trailer, air and electrical connections plugged in, and the trailer hydraulically raised to the running position

With chains holding her fore and aft, and to the sides, Agecroft leaves MoSI for her spell of duty at the Ribble Steam Railway

Update: 13th February 2013

In a snow storm 47500 finally left MoSI on a road trailer. Photo below by Charlie Hulme:

Charlie's North Wales Rail site is well worth a look;


Saturday, 2 February 2013

C90 out and about again. And a blast on the Bonnie!

After over six weeks in various stages of dismantlement in the garage, I started the C90 yesterday and took it for a tentative run up and down the road in the rain. Today, a glorious one of bright low sun and blue-sky, I took her on a thorough test.

 After today's test; the C90 and the T140D Bonneville, which also got a run today

Yesterday morning I helped Malcolm weld up the main stand and repair its 'C' piece in his garage. In the afternoon I got the bike on its side again in the driveway, resting on an old milk crate covered with a sheet of corrugated cardboard and a folded blanket, the position I'd used to replace the engine cover while locating the clutch release components, and also for cutting out the stand yesterday. Malcolm drilled and tapped the brake pedal stop, and we re-fitted the stand and the modified new stand pin. Then the bike was put back on the bike lift in the garage while we fitted the exhaust and battery, and put some 10/30 oil into the engine. Off the lift again and outside (where it had started to rain - thank heavens it stayed dry for the earlier work), it was the moment of truth - would it start!

I kicked it over a few times to circulate the engine oil, turned on the ignition, and kicked again. There was no sign of the clutch slip that had been there before we started this work, but there no sign of life in the bike either..... Until the third kick with about half choke - when she fired! And ticked over evenly if a little rattly until the hydraulic tensioner on the cam chain got re-filled with oil and started to do its job. We revved her for a while, check for oil leaks (none!), and let her settle to a sewing-machine-like tick over.

I cocked my leg over the little bike, settled in the seat, snicked the gear pedal into first, and gave the throttle a gentle twist. The new clutch took up the drive automatically as its centrifugal engagement mechanism operated exactly as it should. Out of the drive, into the road. Up to second gear, then third. back down to first again. Everything worked perfectly! Malc had a go, and declared the bike absolutely fine.

We were quite wet by then, and the light was failing, so we called it a day. A very good day!

The entire fleet take the air; Bonnie, C90, and Suzuki XF 650 Freewind

This morning we took the bike for a proper test. I'd left the leg shields off so I could check for oil leaks, kicked her into life (she started second kick) and set off for Malc's, then both on C90s we rode round to Ivan's house where he fired up his sporty Honda 50. The three Hondas did the 'Test Circuit'; To Alderley, up the Edge to The Wizard where we stopped to check my bike - all was fine. Then down Artist's Lane to the A34, and home via the Alderley bypass. We did two laps of the bypass (I did three) some of which I rode with the back brake on to give her 'a bit of work to do' (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!).

Back at Ivan's I gave her a good look over and all was well, so when I got home I fitted the leg shields back on and had another short ride before firing up the mighty Bonneville to give that its first 2013 blast.

So, job done, just the final drive chain to take a look at and lubricate if necessary. No more clutch slip, no more backfiring on the over-run, more power, easier starting, and a more solid main stand that will not wear out. She's now the bike she always should have been, and I look forward to many adventures on her in 2013!

Update 8th February 2013

Yesterday the chain was adjusted and lubricated... and today a basket was added to the front end! So useful for those bits and bobs one sometimes needs to cart about!