Sunday, 24 April 2016

Rubbish weather forecast today, so we got wet at Urmston

It started fine, but it didn't last. The forecast had been for a few showers up to mid morning, then dry. It actually turned out the reverse of that - mostly dry until mid morning, then showers, some quite heavy.

Again, my thanks to Jason Lau for the excellent pictures. Please click on any one for a larger image.

 Keith with The Beast and a young potential new member. Me and Alfred in the background.

Alfred on the main traverser heading for the prep bay. Note the bottle of lubricating oil Keith has sourced for us, for use in the oil can in oiling round Alfred before each running session and during the session as well if we're running for extended periods. Many oils, including motor oils, contain additives that are corrosive to bronze, and since the bearing parts of many model locomotives are phosphor bronze, one has to be careful with what oil one uses.

Pete Flitcroft with Alfred and me. I've connected the tender to the loco, and the water hoses between tender and loco for the two injectors and the hand pump, oiled around, filled the boiler and the tender tank with water, filled the tender bunker with coal, put a fire in the firebox, and raised steam as can be seen by Alfred's blowing off merrily. 

Eddie, on the right, about to start preparing his green Black Five 

A more typical black Black Five is prepared 

The rain has arrived as Alfred nears readiness for the track 

Tool tin open on the tender as I get the fire stable for running while Peter, our young visitor, and his father look on 

This young chap has his own live steam model traction engine and is quite knowledgeable on steam matters  

Still on the prep bay, but nearly ready... 

A tender full of clean dust-free coal, boiler pressure looking healthy, ready to go 

The Beast loading with passengers in the station while I work on Alfred in the prep bay 

When running on the inner track one has to stop from time to time to allow the traverser to be used to move engines from the prep bay approach tracks to the main track, or vice versa. Alfred waits short of the gap left when the traverser is in use. When one is running on the inner track one has a 'token', a large brass pin which is carried on the engine. The traverser cannot be unlocked from its position as part of the inner track unless this token is inserted into a receptacle on the traverser, thus if you are in possession of the token while driving on the inner track, you know that no-one can move the traverser leaving a gap (visible below in front of Alfred) for you to plunge into! 

The gap you don't want to plunge into! Running Alfred in the rain was interesting when starting from the water stop, which is at the foot of a slight incline. Being relatively light he will slip on a wet greasy rail and very careful handling of the regulator is required to enable Alfred to grip and not 'loose his feet'. Once his wheels spin on a greasy rail he'll go nowhere.

The black Black Five. Very nice! 

Eddie couples the carriages to his green Black Five, which is blowing off, ready to go 

The rain got more persistent in the afternoon so we packed up about 14:30. Here Keith moves The Beast, on the main traverser, to a prep bay for disposal.

Here's a link to a video of me driving Alfred today

Next weekend, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday is our Steam Gala at Urmston. Let's hope the weather is kinder to us then that it was today.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

MoSI 1830 Express; the former railway dumbed down, like MoSI itself

Followers of this blog will know that I used to be volunteer steam locomotive crew at the steam railway at Manchester's Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI). Since the Museum took a £3M sweetener to drop its objection to the proposed routing of the Network Rail Ordsall Chord adjacent to the Museum site, cutting off the main line connection and curtailing the MoSI railway to couple of hundred metres, many railway volunteers have left, including me.

With not much of the Museum's railway left, running passenger rides of about fifteen minutes as we used to is no longer possible, so MoSI has introduced instead the '1830 Express' and I went along today to sample it.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

MoSI are using this picture of me on Agecroft No.1 to publicise the 1830 Express, though it was taken back in the days when MoSI had a 'proper' railway

Entertainers on the platform at Liverpool Road station. The target audience are families with small children. A couple of cuddly toy animals are handed out (these children represent farmers), a spade (a navvy), toy vegetables (market gardeners) and various other 'props' including white and purple flags to wave "to make the train go (white) and stop (purple)" .

An entertainer with a radio mike tells the children about the different 'trains' (oh dear!) that took part in the Rainhill Trials 

Agecroft sets off from Liverpool Road station..... only to stop shortly afterwards at the buffer stops in the 1830 station

 Piled up on the former Pineapple Line are track panels and components lifted from the railway

The train travels slowly so takes about a minute to cover the couple of hundred metres to the 1830 station, which is now the end of the line

 Truncated rails at Water Street Bridge with the former MoSI trackbed beyond. The overhead gantries on the electrified main line can be seen to the left of the picture.

From the 1830 station the train sets back to the Liverpool Road station again. The goods waggons on the right are now marooned on a length of track with buffer stops at one end and the trackless Water Street Bridge at the other. 

The train setting back to Liverpool Road station, a run of about one minute. During the ride the train does two out and back trips, a total of four minutes running for the £4 fare. But the kids do get to hold up their stuffed animals, toy vegetables, spades, and to wave their flags!

Someone has placed a wreath on the new buffer stops in the 1830 station in memory of the former MoSI steam railway 

Water Street Bridge now devoid of railway tracks. MoSI trains used to run past here towards the main line, over the Irwell into Salford, before setting back along the Pineapple Line (by the yellow digger) almost to the Great Western Warehouse, before retracing their route back to Salford and then back to Liverpool Road station giving a total running time for the return trip of around fifteen minutes.

The lack of volunteers to run this 'railway' has meant MoSI has had to advertise for paid staff. On today's visit I didn't see any of the many railway volunteers I worked with, which is hardly surprising. The MoSI Railway has undergone a monumental dumbing down, and one wonders for how much longer the beautifully restored (by former Railway volunteers) Agecroft No1 and the superb replica 1830 'Planet' locomotive (which was built on site) will continue to ply the few metres of track at MoSI. It's almost cruel - like caging wild beasts in a confined space. It wouldn't surprise me to see them removed to somewhere with space for them to run properly.

A visit to the Power Hall revealed that none of the giant mill steam engines were running, and they have not run for many months now because of 'boiler problems'. It seems today's museum management have absolutely no interest in 'things that work', like mill steam engines and a viable steam railway.  It is unimaginable when one looks at the Museum today that 'Planet' was built here - in long gone engineering workshops and by engineering-qualified volunteers. That scenario would be anathema to today's MoSI management who seem only to want interactive displays with buttons for the kids to mindlessly push.

Former MoSI Director and Director of the National Railway Museum, Steve Davies, called the Ordsall Chord debacle "public funded cultural vandalism". It would never have happened like this on his watch.

And that steam boiler for the mill engines would have been back in action in days when Steve was in charge, not the best part of a year. I even remember his hiring in a portable boiler to run the mill engines during problems with old boiler. Different times!


Friday, 22 April 2016

Appalling behavior, self-interested and anti-safety, by quango UK regulatory authority

You might have noticed that some airshows (Barton, for one) you enjoyed in 2015 will not be happening this year, or any other probably. This is because the UK regulatory authority, The Civil Aviation Authority, have reacted to the tragedy at Shoreham Air Show last year in a most odd way. 

Or perhaps not so odd for those of us used to the ways of the CAA. Read Lauren Richardson's piece to see that the CAA are a self-interested non-elected quango. Self interested in that their reaction to the Shoreham tragedy is to massively increase their already outrageous charges, while at the same time killing off many airshows while making those that remain less safe than they were.

Lauren says it all, from an insider's viewpoint, better than I can:

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Lovely day today for a sunny and scenic train ride

Lovely and sunny today so I decided to exercise the privileges of my 'northern' (nee 'Northern Rail') rail pass, with a day out by train.

Please click on any picture for a larger image.

The destination was the scenic Penistome line in West Yorkshire

The ghost of Northern Rail. My first train today was a 'northern' class 323 electric train from Wilmslow to Manchester via the Airport. While waiting to reverse at the Airport another 323 on a Crewe service drew in. Looking carefully you can see where the 'Northern Rail' vinyls have been removed from the coach side when the franchise changed on 1st April from 'Northern Rail' to 'northern', operated by Arriva.  

A sunny morning at Manchester Piccadilly seen from our class 150 Sprinter train to Sheffield 

River Goyt near Mellor 

New Mills 

After New Mills Central we join the scenic Hope Valley Line near Chinley. Once through Cowburn Tunnel we are in Edale, with Rushup Edge and Mam Tor visible through the window.

A closer look at Mam Tor. I've climbed up to there and walked the ridge a few times with Stockport Walkers. 

The train curves around the foot of Mam Tor to Hope. Here is the end of the Mam Tor ridge; it's quite a climb from the railway to the top of that hill, as I can testify! 

Freightliner class 66 locomotives at Earles Sidings, Hope, for the cement trains from the Hope cement works

Near Bamford. Soon after Hathersage and Gridleford stations we enter the 3.5 mile long Totley Tunnel. Until the two High Speed One tunnels opened in 2007 this was the second longest tunnel in UK (the Severn Tunnel was the longest). 

Our 150 Sprinter at journey's end in the bay platform at Sheffield

At Sheffield we join a class 144 Pacer for the journey along the Penistone line to Huddersfield. Just look at that ridiculous seat spacing. These 4-wheel 'bus trains' are uncomfortable enough without seat spacing a cowboy charter airline wouldn't be allowed to get away with! And those tombstone-high seat backs give a claustrophobic feel to the interior as well. These must be the worst trains in UK! Good job the journey is a scenic one to compensate!

Once clear of the north Sheffield suburbs the post-industrial landscape gives way to wooded agricultural land 

Once a major junction station on the electrified main Manchester to Sheffield Woodhead line (closed and lifted in 1981) Penistone is now a simple passing loop on this single track railway

The view from Penistone viaduct 

Emly Moor TV transmitter mast keeps swapping between the left and right hand sides of the train as we weave our way towards Huddersfield 

Near Denby Dale 

Denby Dale station, with the former goods shed beyond 

That mast again 

A converted station goods shed, now a des res 

That mast again 

This line crosses many valleys, so there are plenty of tunnels, embankments, cuttings, and lofty viaducts 

Stocksmoor station 

Lots of lovely stone buildings along the line. Pity about the lineside trees which, when they come into leaf, will block views like this. It's a common problem on most of our railways in recent years since Network Rail appear to have given up on clearing lineside vegetation. 

Huddersfield viaduct 

The railway passes above the town before curving round to the right into the station 

Our 144 Pacer at Huddersfield. From here it will retrace its steps back to Sheffield. 

Huddersfield station; the train on the right starts from here and runs to Wigan Wallgate. I will ride it as far as Salford Crescent. 

The 'Cafeteria and Bar' sign points to 'The Head of Steam' pub, which we have visited many times on 'Beer by Train' trips. In this view from the Wigan train our Pacer from Sheffield can be seen in the bay platform at right, while a Trans Pennine Express for Manchester waits in the other platform.

Slaithwaite, pronounced 'Slewit' is the first stop west of Huddersfield

  Next is Marsden, by the eastern end of Standedge Tunnel

Standedge Tunnel buildings 

On the west side of the tunnel, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal 

Near Greenfield 

Approaching Manchester Victoria with a tram to Bury going the other way 

This part of Victoria Station has recently been refurbished. But much of the station is as drab and dark as ever. 

I left the Wigan train at Salford Crescent and boarded a train to Manchester Airport. Here it's passing MoSI (Museum of Science & Industry) where work is progressing on the Ordsall Chord. 

The Castlefield area of Manchester 

The Vimto sculpture between Oxford Road and Piccadilly stations 

Passing over the Mid Cheshire line (Stockport to Altrincham section) near Gatley, single-lined here in the 1980s to cheapen the building of bridges for the then new M60 motorway. It's easy to see where transport priorities lay back then; thankfully such destruction of working railway infrastructure to ease the building of a road wouldn't happen today. Maybe one day the reverse will happen!   

Our Sprinter at the Airport, in the new platform 4 

Last train for me today - the class 323 electric to Crewe which will take me to Wilmslow runs into the Airport station from Manchester. From Wilmslow, the 88 bus will take me to the Bird in Hand at Knolls Green, Mobberley, to meet Ivan for a couple of pints outside in today's warm sunshine.