Economic Suicide (short term I hope)

So here we are, two and a bit weeks past the EU referendum. Since then as EDM Models I haven’t done a newsletter and haven’t said much publicly about the result but I feel the need to say something about it from the point of a business in an optional leisure sector.

Firstly, I think we need to get this bit out of the way, yes, I voted to remain. However, the thing that I need to make clear is that it wasn’t because I thought the present arrangement was perfect or that I don’t think our relationship with the EU needs to change but that I was, and remain, convinced that the option to leave offered way too many unknowns all talked down by rhetoric and damned lies. The other side weren’t much better but didn’t drive round in a bloody great red bus with a lie painted on the side.

Secondly, in the long run (very long run), it may well be the best thing we ever did but a) I am not sure I will live to see that and b) I am not sure mine and many other small businesses will ever see the benefit.

Right with the generalities out of the way let’s talk some specifics as they apply so far to my model business.

  • Immediate:  People have stopped spending!  Understandable really as everyone is now worried about the future and the first thing you do is reign in expenditure. Survivable, I hope so, but toy trains, even specialist narrow gauge toy trains, are a luxury. However, they are my livelihood so if people stop spending and continue to do so I don’t have a business.

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  • Very Soon:  Models are going to get more expensive. This is down to the immediate plummet of the pound against the US dollar and that some items are out of stock now and need replacing. I did some examples of now and next delivery pricing when the rate hadn’t yet reached its record low

Price Comparison

  • Longer Term: Models are going to get even more expensive. They were already headed that way with costs rising in China but they’ve just gone up again because of the exchange rate, shipping costs will rise as fuel costs go up. Yet to come are any impacts from trade deals or the lack of them – that bit is crystal ball territory but it’s not often (if ever) prices fall.

One YearThe unpredictability is the real killer. In recent years whilst the exchange rates have always fluctuated they do so in slow increments and over a long time which allows a business to plan and take them into account and allows them to forecast a price in GBP that they can stick to. Sure, the graph for one year shows ups and downs and a steady decline but it has an element of long term predictability over the short term ups and downs.

Already in the two weeks that have elapsed so far as well as my own observations of what its going to do to prices there have been two communications from UK suppliers of products made in Europe (paid for in Euro’s) and China (USD). The former sell currently available products so that was an immediate price increase. To some extent that is at least manageable because it says the price is X, take it or leave it and a trader can pass that message on. The second was an immediate small increase on some imminent items and a “we reserve the right to, but will try not to, pass on cost increases due to currency fluctuations as a `currency escalator’ adjustment”. Here we are talking reservations for production due over the next year to 18 months. Hard to see what else they can do, they’re basically saying “we haven’t a clue what its going to cost” which is a hard sell to pass on to a retail customer, “dear customer, please commit to buying this fifteen hundred quid locomotive due next year but, sorry, we haven’t actually got a clue what its going to cost!”

I have seen many `experts’ (and what do they know) saying small businesses need to have a plan so here is mine: –

Plan

What is it going to take to fix it? Well there are all sorts of things yet to be resolved such as our relationships, business and otherwise, with other countries. None of that is going to be fixed real soon but the exchange rate reacts quickly to major world status changes. The current plummet results from the UK saying `stop the world we want to get off’ so another world sized change may be needed to get it to swing the other way. I’ll just leave this image here………….Trump

Making a Plymouth Sound!

Accucraft in the USA made this nice brass model of a Plymouth switcher in both 0n30 and 0n3 gauges.

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Catalogue Image of the loco

For a loco that cost as much as this one did its let down by some really crap engineering in its drive and chassis with very noisy gears and bearings that are prone to going round in the plastic instead of the the shaft revolving in the bearings.

If you could get it to run smoothly they were always very noisy which made a DCC and sound installation a bit problematic for which the wiring was rubbish anyway.

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0n3 & 0-14 versions of the power truck

Over the years since it was first introduced I have fettled up a few of them and have got to the point where I won’t do them for customers as the time you have to put into it far outweighs the value and generally just results in a lot of bad language.  I’ve got to the point where I have two or three here which have either had their chassis cannibalised to get others running or that I just can’t face sorting out. Now a plan has been hatched –  a new chassis and 0-14, 0n3, and 0-16.5 versions.

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Chassis with the temp card adaptor

First thing was to ship a loco to Geoff Baxter at Hollywood Foundry in Australia for him to have a look at making a new chassis for it using a custom version of his BullAnt mechanism.

What came back was this super little job and now there are 0-14 and 0n3 versions here. The chassis has worm drive to each axle, belt drive from the motor, a decent motor and flywheel. Even without the weight of the body on them they run really smoothly.

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Top Quality! Card adaptor plate

As they arrive they don’t immediately fit in the loco and some adaption is needed. Firstly, a few no longer needed bits get cut off with a slitting disk and the edges cleaned up. This allows the chassis to drop in but also allows it to drop right through! An adaptor plate is needed.

The Mk1 adaptor plate to test dimensions was done in good old fashioned card. This got some of the sizes right but it doesn’t replicate either the thickness needed to get the ride height right or any means of fixing it to the loco or the chassis to it.

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Screen Capture of 3D part

So out with the 3D CAD. Sometime later this drawing existed and has now gone off to be 3D printed. Just one for now as there will undoubtedly be some slight mods required.

As usual with a project for me instead of a customer this may well blow hot and cold and take ages to go any futher but the target is a DCC sound fitted loco with keep alive installed and, above all else, decent slow running.

More news as it happens – don’t hold your breath!

Playing Away & A Ménage à trois

The original title for this piece was `cultural exchange’ but then other events delayed its publishing and it took on a life of its own.

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Concentrating……

One of the pleasant effects of being involved with a Heritage Railway is that you get to meet and know people who work on other railways and they become friends for life. You may only see them once in a blue moon but that doesn’t matter. You also get the chance to have a go with their toys. Andy Young doesn’t come in to the `once in a blue moon’ category as we have known each other for years both through the heritage railways and model railway circles.

The limit on us playing with each other’s trains is usually one of timing and opportunity but in September we realised we were both attending Guildex in Telford and then heading for our respective railways so the cultural exchange was on.

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Waiting in the Loop

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Douglas, Becky and Me

11988359_10205864834397807_3788303869182873153_nFor Part 1 I joined Andy and Becky for a day on the Talyllyn Railway and a very pleasant day was spent with me driving Douglas with Becky firing whilst Andy generally got in the way. It was a glorious day in beautiful sunshine and two round trips were over in apparently no time at all and it was time to put the toys back in the toy box. It’s always a fun day driving someone else’s train as they’re all a little different. You start the day with a certain degree of trepidation as, whilst driving a steam engine is really just three handles and a chain (Go, which way, stop and get out of the way), each railway has its own way of operating. For me the challenges were the route and the new-fangled Westinghouse air brake. That said apart from backing it out of the shed and one move at Wharf at half time I did all the driving and whilst the day started with a pretty constant commentary from Andy that tailed off to not much more than telling funny stories as I got into the swing of it.

 

 

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Time to put the toys back in the toy box

Getting used to a new brake is always interesting and stopping, in a controlled manner at least, is always harder than actually making it go so some of my early efforts were a bit erratic with too much and then not enough brake so speed went up and down a bit more than it should but I soon got the hang of it. All too soon the toys were put away and after a clean-up a pleasant evening of beer, curry and good company.

Part 2 of the cultural exchange took place two days later with Andy joining me for the day on the Ffestiniog Railway.

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Our steed for Part 2 – Merddin Emrys

We immediately tried to confuse him as he had to upgrade to four handles and a chain (two lots of GO) as our steed was Double Fairlie Merddin Emrys running in the last week of its ten year boiler ticket.

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More Concentrating……

Apart from a first little bit Andy drove most of the day and as I mentioned above the only real issue, and then only one of getting used to it, was the braking as instead of air Andy was having to get used to vacuum brakes. It’s a little cosy with two big blokes on the driver’s side of Merddin so we did fair bit of getting in each other’s way.

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Does he look happy or what?

 

 

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A Beer or Two in Spooners

One remarkable thing was that Merddin has what some of our own drivers think are the devil’s own injectors and despite signing that they are competent to drive the engine really get their underwear in a tangle over them. More than once drivers have failed the engine due to injector faults and the solution has been to change the driver. They need a slightly different technique and to those who have the knack they are a delight to work with. On this day both Andy, who has only used them once before, and I were working them often behind our backs without looking due to the space constraints without any problem. Again all too soon it was toys away time. This time we had to go easy on the “after worker” as Andy was driving back to Tywyn but some time was spent in convivial company

So What’s all this Ménage à trois

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Blanche at Killington Lane on the “does it fit” test run

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Traffic chaos in North Devon. Blanche arrives on the low loader

Well to understand that you need to meet the “other woman” aka Blanche, aka Ricket. In no actual financial or official way Blanche is my engine. My first ever footplate trip was on Blanche, I learnt to fire on Blanche, I learnt to drive on Blanche and for a while was her regular driver. When she was in bits 2 years prior to her 100th Birthday we got RicketRescue together to get her overhauled in time for the big celebrations (One day I may explain the Ricket nickname) and ten years later we raised most of the money for a new boiler and did her 10 year overhaul. As you can see from this she has been in my life longer than Annie so she gets referred to as the other woman.

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Me with both women

12036993_10207884013368379_4040938813669341067_nBlanche moved from Leeds to Wales in 1893 and hasn’t left the principality since. That is until this September when she was to go on her first holiday to Devon as the guest engine at the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway gala. Now the Boss usually blags the North Devon trip (and having been I know why) but this year I hadn’t heard anything about it so a chance text to him, “does Blanche need a chaperone?” resulted in me making my way to Devon to get there in time to unload her from the lorry and get her ready for use. Annie joined me two days later and along with Seamus Rogers and Kevin Lee we operated Blanche throughout the gala.FB_IMG_1443386776428

We had a great time working the XX:30 trains to Killington Lane and back whilst one of their engines worked the XX:00 train. A half hourly service saw everyone step up to a little more urgency that their usual 45 minute operation but it was great fun and everyone made us very welcome.

Blanche fitted in well on the front of their four coaches

 

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Blanche Shunts the stock at Woody Bay

 

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The crew for the weekend, L to R Driver Seamus Rogers, Driver Paul Martin, Fireman Kevin Lee and, of course, Blanche

So back to the playing away!

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Well, it’d be rude not to try all the engines out!

It was perhaps natural that we FR drivers were invited to have a go with the L&B’s engines just as much as they wanted a go with Blanche.

I had a go with Axe and with Charles Wytock but the one I really wanted a go with was Isaac as it was restored for its owner at Boston Lodge and EDM Models does a kit for this type of loco (re-release being worked on).

I had met its owner, Tim Wilkinson, at a garden rail “do” at another friends line and the driver that day was Will Curry, who I had met when he visited the FR, so I was not only invited aboard but given the regulator for the trip.

After my exploits with Douglas earlier the same month the photo of me driving Isaac was captioned “Playing away 2” with the comment from Annie “still not worried”.

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Only made it to trainee guard on this one

Whilst in Devon we had a bit of a tour round and visited Ilfracombe. Annie wanted to wander round the town which is really not my thing so I stayed by the harbour and watched some boats come and go.

I got talking to the guys that ran the road train and as it was only three quid went for a lap of the town with them. The comment to the photo when posted on FaceBook was “did you drive that one too?”   “no, only made it to guard as I was sat nearest the `right away bell’ “ to which Annie commented “now I’m worried”

We had a fantastic time in Devon both at the railway and with the locals we met. If you haven’t been then I would thoroughly recommend a visit. I came away enthused by the L&B which may well have a knock on effect with several projects that are in the doldrums.

That’ll do for this ramble but if you want to see some of the action from the L&B gala then here are some links for you to follow

First up is a video taken by Annie on the footplate of Blanche for a run up the line. Its not the best video but it gives you a taster. Blanche is working hard as the four coaches are heavy and the gradient goes Flat (Killington Lane Stn), up at 1:42, up at 1:50, flat (Woody Bay Stn)

Footplate Video   This video is on Facebook so it may not work if you don’t have Facebook)

This superb video is the full story of the gala if you have an hour to spare

An Ironic Twist to the tale

After just three days at home it was off to Wales for a week of driving committed to long before the jolly to Devon came about and for most of the week I had to make do with driving this which provided some ammunition for a gentle wind up on the L&B Facebook page

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Lyd at TyG with the 13:35 from Porthmadog on Monday 5th October 2015

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On Thursday 8th October arriving in the WHR platform in Porthmadog I am still smiling after four days of it.

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Normal Service was resumed on Friday 9th with the opening day of the annual Victorian Weekend featuring the 10:10 & 13:35 service train double headed by Linda and Blanche. Paul Turner driving Linda and me driving Blanche at Penrhyn Crossing

 

Where did that 10 years go?

IMG_1561_1_3Ten years ago I was up to my neck in project managing major boiler repairs to Ffestiniog Railway Double Fairlie Locomotive Merddin Emrys.

(warning this may be a picture rich ramble)

It returned to service initially in black but was repainted in fully lined maroon in time for the 2005 Vintage Weekend.

XA1L4903Over the last ten years its worked every season and has done over 90,000 miles. In that time I have driven it for quite a few of those miles. 3000 in the last four years.

This season I have driven Merddin for 840 miles and its still the best of the three Double Fairlies.

All good things come to an end (or should I say a pause as I will explain).

Locomotive boilers receive an annual inspection that involves pressure testing and visual inspection with a variety of mirrors on stick, endoscopes and ultrasonic testers whilst cold and then a further in steam inspection. This is all done non-invasively so whilst we remove inspection covers and other fittings we don’t take the structure of the boiler to bits.

This has limits as you can’t see all its little internal bits so it is decreed that every ten years it has to be taken apart for a much closer visual inspection of its internal bits.

shedIn the last week I have driven Merddin Emrys for four days out of a five day visit (well only 3 really but you’ll have to wait for a following post for that to be explained) and yesterday, Sunday 13th September I drove it for my last two trips of this boiler ticket and put it back in the shed with just one day left to run.

Its quite hard not to be sad at it going out of traffic as its a favourite of the loco crews and the best performer right to the end of its ticket. At the moment we run a service that uses two of the three double engines each day and as if just to highlight the vulnerability of just having two to choose from the Earl of Merioneth failed on Saturday morning. Not in a long term way but enough to put it out of action for the weekend.

As I have been typing this blurb the photo below appeared on the Ffestiniog Railway Society Facebook page of Merddin Emrys arriving back in Porthmadog with its last train.

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Right enough of the sloppy nonsense – lets get on and mend it!

Often on many railways the end of a ten year ticket will see the engine join the back of the overhaul queue and not be seen in steam again for many years. Not in this case. The overhaul starts tomorrow!    Ten years ago the boiler had major works done to it and actually went off site to the premises of Israel Newton in Bradford.

Top_end_drivers_sideThe problem with the boiler then was cracking of the throat plates as you can see in this picture where the cracks have been ground out for welding. They had been ground out and welded at least two time previously but the cracks recurred. Actually after this shot they weren’t welded and as the cracks were spreading and a full repair was authorised.

Firstly, it was important to understand why the cracks were occurring and investigations showed that these boilers lacked sufficient longitudinal stays higher up in the boiler whilst being quite rigid lower down. Heating and cooling was causing the boiler to flex and the areas where the cracks started, right on the shoulders didn’t have enough give to allow the movement and so cracked and would keep doing so until the staying issue was addressed.

FireboxFirst thing to address was the staying. New longitudinal stays were added running from the smoke box tube plate at one end to the one at the other end. Handily I have some photos taken when it had one of its domes off (don’t ask, that’s another story) that shows them.

In this photo the longitudinal stay is labelled E and there is another out of shot to the right. Also added were firebox longitudinal stays in the raised top firebox, labelled A.  [the other bits are B – compensation ring,  C girder stays on the top of the inner firebox. D, the inner firebox]

WitBE FS all 2h the cause of the cracking dealt with the next job was to fix the cracks themselves. The material having been ground and welded several times was deemed to need replacing. This is no mean feat as, to use Airfix kit terminology, the throat plates are parts 1A and 1B.

Newtons actually made two complete throat plates as that was easier than trying to makes sections of them. These were then cut to give the sections of plate to be let in to the old ones. In this one here, which is the drivers side top end, same as in the `cracked’ view its been bolted into place before being welded to the adjacent bits of throat plate and then riveted to the barrel and firebox wrapper.

All four corners were done with differing size patches and also some section of the bottom of the barrels at each smoke box end were built up and re-riveted. One of the pluses to this amount of work is that with big holes in the boiler you can have a good look inside and the rest of it was in good order.

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When the boiler was returned to Wales it was craned back into the cradle and there was very nearly a s-Round He comeswhoopsie when we forgot to allow for being round the 180′ curve in Minffordd yard and we nearly had a right hand drive Double Fairlie.

Once in the cradle, which you can see here isn’t that substantial, the loco was returned to Boston Lodge to be put back together.

It doesn’t have to come quite this far apart for this 10 year exam and overhaul but it will be not far of this state in the next few days. The plus of all this access to the inside and doing all the major work ten years ago means we are reasonably confident that there aren’t any major issue looming (although you can never be certain with boilers)

s-Ready to goThe plan is to have it back in traffic for next season and the overhaul will be starting right away. All the long lead time items are in stock at Boston Lodge including the rolled stainless steel and end plates for the new smoke boxes and the tubes  (they even ordered enough for both ends this time – don’t ask) are on a rack in the erecting shop.   There is a hope that the cladding will be back on the re-tubed boiler for Christmas which would be excellent but it depends what else crops up. If the other two behave themselves then the fitters won’t get distracted but they have a habit of attention seeking if ignored. The body work will be going  on for a repaint then.

The power bogies will be getting an overhaul  over the winter and this may actually take the longest but it is just routine stuff. Merddin Emrys should be back for 2016’s High Summer service.

Victorian Weekend 2015

October 9th – 11th 2015    Details Here

It is going to seem odd this year not having Merddin for the Victorian Weekend this year but it will still be well worth a visit. It seems to grow in support each year with more people coming in period dress and more and more of Porthmadog joining in with period dress and decorating shops.

Last years event can be viewed in this video

Meanwhile we’ll hope to see Merddin back at next years eventME-TyG_Sat1

Chuffing About for two weeks

Square2Those who subscribe to the EDM Models Newsletters  [Subscribe] will know that the business has been closed for two weeks and most will have guessed that I was away driving trains again.  I could write a blow by blow account of the two weeks but let’s just stick to the highlights, 640 miles driven over 12 days on duty, totalling 122 hours (bit more than a 40 hour week then) and 25 times to Blaenau.
Four different engines driven, David Lloyd George (56 miles), Linda (166 miles), Earl of Merioneth (194 miles) and Merddin Emrys (224 miles).

Driving trains from Porthmadog to Blaenau, and back, is pretty routine but there is new stuff to be seen. Our railway has got a pretty savvy media team who keep it in the public eye. They are constantly making new videos either for sale or to use in the social media and they are always looking for new angles and now they seem to have found one

Droning On

Drone by shedThe new toy is a sophisticated drone operated by a local company who offered to do some photography with it to demonstrate what it can do. It’s not the sort of drone you find Maplin selling.

 

Drone extract

We’re talking a pro job with six rotors, two cameras, a pilot with a helicopter license and five million quids worth of liability insurance.

Have a look at the video below. This was filmed by drone flown by vertical horizons media and edited by them and not by the railway

Whilst spectacular there are some issues with it. You will note the chap walking backwards and Merddin Emrys inhaling his own smoke. This is because the swooping in shots are actually filmed as swooping out shots as they’re easier to fly and then played backwards (ie forwards) and some bits were missed.  The filming on the cob is all from the seaward side. This is because one of the drone flying rules is you don’t fly over the road.

Its all clever stuff but a film of 100% drone footage does get a bit tiresome.

Vertical Horizons have done other equally good films that are worth a look here Vertical Horizons

The future of drone footage is to use it sparingly cut in amongst ordinary camera shots.  Whilst I was in Wales the railways camera teams and Vertical Horizons set out to film a sequence to demonstrate this and they chose Dduallt as the location and Linda with train as the subject. Five cameras were used and one top notch drone. Have a look at this and see what you think

Now this is actually a compilation of two up trips, the 10:45 and 14:30 ex Port on the 30th July. This I know because I was driving and my friend Clare Oates was firing. Whilst the film gives the impression of a non stop run that’s not the full story. On the first run we stopped to drop one of the cameramen off and the opening drone shot of Linda approaching  to go under the bridge and you’ll see several seconds of steam from the chimney as Clare puts the blower on ready for me shutting the regulator. In the next drone section, the high level shot over the top curve you’ll see Linda slips twice as she tries to accelerate away from the stop. The bit in between of Linda powering through the station was the second non stop trip as the drone was over the embankment for this bit.

Once you  have spotted it it’s difficult not to look directly at the drone and it is kind of weird as it backs away from you as you approach.

This film was just a sample of what is to come as they have apparently filmed loads.

I’ll finish with another video. Bit more of an amateurish attempt this and he needs to buy one of them furry squirrels to stick over the microphone

So why include that one? Well its me driving Merddin Emrys out of Porthmadog on my last day, 9th August, with Matt Ellis firing on what might be our last day on Merddin before its withdrawn in early September for its 10 year overhaul.

Custom Models

Now I try to make a living from model making and there are many things that can get in the way of this but a model has just been completed for a customer that demonstrates one of the problems with trying to make a living its nice to have.

This model is constructed from one of my Darjeeling B Class kits to 16.5mm gauge (it can be built to 14mm) which has then been painted and weathered by Chris Clark. The nice to have problem is that having done it and made a superb job of it a little bit of both Chris and I don’t want to part with it.

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There are higher resolution photos of the model on the gallery tab at the top of the page or click this link. B Class Photos

This model is off to its new owner in Germany and we both hope he treasures it.

Producing one of these models is not a quick job with over 250 hours in the build and then Chris’s time to paint it so they don’t come cheap but both of us are happy to quote for doing a custom model just for you. Others are in build at this time with DCC, Sound & 14mm versions being progressed

Nothing for ages and then loads come along all at once

First, I apologise for it being 8 months since the last witterings on my blog. I guess I need to get my act together and move the blog more into my eye line so I actually think about it occasionally.

Actually the last post was about my experiences with the National Health Service and the comedy of errors that was my stay in hospital. The aftermath of that stay actually went on through until Christmas which created a massive back log in the workings of EDM Models which I am still working to clear now. Luckily my health is pretty much improved and were back to normal.

In a previous post called, “getting a life” I rued the way the job had taken over full time and we never went out anywhere. Still guilty of that to some extent but last weekend we had a cracking day out to the seaside.

We were very fortunate to be offered a family and friends ticket from Northern Rail which allows one days unlimited travel for two on Northern Rail (only) trains for six quid each.

Our day started in York on the 07:19 to Leeds, this was a Blackpool train and was a 158. A pit stop and a coffee in Leeds and the next train was the Midland_Hotel,_Morecambe,_Lancashire,_England-31Aug2010_(5)08:19 to Morecambe. Checking the timings on-line revealed it was timed for a 142 Pacer so finding it to be a 150 was considered an upgrade. Searching for a bin to dump the coffee cups the guard made us smile with the comment that when the trains was built in 1985 the bins were bigger than the coffee cups.

Arrival in Morecambe was at 10:30 and we set off for a mooch round the town and the shops. Shops- Yuk, Browsing pointlessly – Yuk! I did the bloke thing, got a book, found a coffee shop and announced “I’ll be here when you’re done”.

With the pointless browsing out of the way we went for a walk along the sea front towards our goal, The Midland Hotel, originally built by the Midland Railway just over the road from the railway station in the Art Deco style. It fell into disrepair and was close to derelict but its been beautifully restored and is now a superb four star hotel.

Annie’s family used to holiday in Morecambe when she was a kid but The Midland was out of their price range and then by the time they could afford it the hotel was closed and decaying so when its restoration started Annie and her mum watched it with interest and then booked themselves in for three days in the opening week. They visViewited again five years ago as one of the last trips they made before Mum passed away. By this weekend, being the only one where we were both free, just happened to be one day short of the fifth anniversary of her passing which caused a pause for thought more than once.

Enough of that, We were there for lunch this time and dined in the The Sun Terrace Restaurant with this view out to sea.  Lunch was excellent

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  • Starter – Annie, Morecambe Bay Potted Shrimp, Me , Pressings of Pork
  • Main Course –  We both had the roast chicken
  • To finish – (can’t call it pud-too posh) sticky toffee pudding

I could get used to this quiet easily as long as you don’t show me the bill

Back to railways for a bit now and a pet hate. Stations that are no longer stations! Usually its stations that the railway has decided are no longer fit for purpose, to0 big, wasted space, of no use and all the other excuses they come up with to justify doing away with them. Whereupon someone else comes along and makes a liar out of them by renovating the buildings, finding a use for the space and making it pay.

I mean this building is clearly a railway station and now its beautifully done up the only thing it lacks is trains. You can see from 265px-Morecambe_Promenade_Stationthe map below where the line used to run.

 

What was the platform space is now a tatty market, Kentucky Fried Cat and a car park and part of the route is new roads south of which are naff amusements and a supermarket.

Station Map

I suppose the argument was that the new station was easier to maintain, nearer the population centre, sized more in keeping with the train service now there aren’t the holiday trains all of which hides behind the fact that the land was probably flogged off at a profit.

Morecambe Railway Station

Morecambe Railway Station

The new station is at least one up from the abandoned platform with a bus shelter (although it does have one) with a modern station building at the end of a single platform giving two platform faces.

One is a dead end and seems to be used by the class 153 single unit that shuttles back and forth to Lancaster (this based on about 20 minutes of observation) whilst the longer platform has a run round loop so it could accommodate loco hauled passenger trains but is more likely there so that the loco nuclear waste traffic to/from Heysham can run round its train.

The 20 minutes observation mentioned above was the time we waited for our train home. Our luck didn’t hold although there

 

Picture of a Northern Rail Class 142 Pacer diesel multiple unit

Picture of a Northern Rail Class 142 Pacer diesel multiple unit

Class 142’s were instrumental in my taking voluntary redundancy from BREL when it was offered way back in 1988. Having just spent nearly two years working on a technically advanced prototype train for London Underground the next job was building seven of these contraptions a week and they were clearly built down to a price. I was doing the wiring on the underframes and every aspect of it was cheap and nasty. I thought, `if this is the future I want out’.

My feelings were confirmed by the journey home. It started out not too bad and on a journey of half an hour it would have been fine but this unit was on a 75 mile meander through the wilds of Lancashire and Yorkshire lasting 2 hours 20 minutes and after about an hour you start to realise how uncomfortable the seats are, by about two hours standing up is starting to appeal and by the time it arrives in Leeds you want to stand up but everything has gone numb and you can’t stand up.

AnnieThis day then took a very nice twist and a lovely ending to the day. With our Northern only tickets we should have been waiting from 18:36 to 19:20 at Leeds for the next Northern service to York (just 1 an hour) which takes 40 minutes as it stops at all the intermediate stations. Now normally the thrift of our cheap tickets would have seen us refusing to pay for something we could have for free but more than two hours on a Pacer saw us both lose reason. As our Pacer stopped in Platform 9 at 18:36 Platform 10 had the 18:38 to Newcastle Cross Country service waiting to depart. The train manager was standing in the rear door just by where we got off the Pacer. As one we asked, “how much is a single to York?” he Melooked at us a bit odd until we pointed and said, “we’ve just had 2 1/2 hours in that!” pointing at the Pacer. He took pity on us and ushered us in to first class for a 20 minute sprint to York with coffee a biscuit and free WiFi. We were back in York 20 minutes before the train we should have got was due in Leeds.

Final sport of the day was commiserating with the TM as his train filled up with very inebriated Geordies making their way home from York Races and watching the girls in silly shoes and dresses trying to run for the train.

I started this by saying, “Nothing for ages and then loads come along all at once”. This is instalment one, there is already a second being doodled and ideas for another forming. The next two are likely to be more model railway related. 

 

Near Death Experience Opens the Eyes

indexWhat started as an ache in the shoulder and put down to sitting awkwardly whilst packing orders on Friday 26th September turned into a fun night with a paramedic and then a swift ambulance trip to York District Hospital.

From where I was laying it seemed that they were playing a game of “guess what’s wrong with him” and only went back to investigate a some of them once they had got down to the really silly suggestions.  Their initial guess was heart attack and they were on about shipping me off to Leeds but then they decided it was more likely to be pulmonary embolism [PE]

4478966309_6deeb0fb27_z

Anyway after 7 hours on a trolley in A&E I was finally admitted to the acute medical ward and then later moved to another ward which despite me being a medical patient was a surgical ward.

Anyway to cut a long story short I was treated for a PE with clot thinners and dissolvers and eventually given a CT scan to see if it was sorting itself out. One theory is that as some long term swelling on my right calf has just radically changed some crap from an old clot has come lose and then got stuck elsewhere.

The treatment worked quite quickly with normal service at least superficially restored in about 24 hours. What this meant of course was that I was in hospital feeling OK and bored out of my mind. Some serious reading filled some of the time but a saviour was (and I never thought I’d say this) was 10603843_10152377502660205_3529710875076813013_oFacebook. First up it let me keep in touch with friends but it also allowed an outlet for some creative writing which some say should have been written up as a comedy on the TV. Its all still on FB so I am not going to repeat it here apart from one item. As the boredom set in and escape seemed to be being frustrated by and NHS arse and elbow misalignment I noticed that the socks Annie had brought in for me to wear on Wednesday were actually marked Wednesday.

I declared these were my “escape socks” and still awake a 00:51 declared they had 23 hours and 9 minutes validity remaining. I was able to declare that the “escape socks” worked with 4hrs and 25mins to spare. I was back the following day as an outpatient though

Recuperation

10440678_10152388869055205_3255564055943096488_nI was sent home to rest and when I laughed I was told to, basically, “waste a week”.  With the help of some friends that has proved to be quite successfully achieved with an afternoon out in Wetherby and a day spent just riding trains with a trip up to Newcastle, then lap or so of the Metro, a ride on the ferry and the odd bit of refreshment.

10447611_10152388907870205_3802771896577791652_nThe ferry ride was bracing so it was lucky there was respite at with one of these waiting at the end of it

10408014_10203531370622671_2165096766881610957_nThe journey back to York in the First Class of a XC Voyager was OK but with no on board catering until Leeds. Luckily for us whilst I was leaving the service at York and my mate had to go all the way to Derby there was a break of journey at the Station Tap in York where they had these.

The week will be finished off with a trip to the Ffestiniog Railway Victorian weekend where its going to seem weird to be a spectator and not part of the cast

The Future

Well, the last couple of weeks has proved a bit of an eye opener and has changed my outlook on life.  There is certainly going to be more doing stuff I want to do and less doing stuff for others. In the short term things are going to take longer to complete and, if that doesn’t suit some people, they’ll be looking for someone else to do their work.  Longer term I can see me being a lot more choosy about the work I take on but we’ll have to see how it pans out.

Guildex and Playing Trains in Wales

This is an expanded version of some waffle included in an EDM Models newsletter  and done here to keep it brief in the newsletter

Guildex

This tale starts with EDM Models attending Guildex. Guildex is the annual major O scale show organised by The Gauge O Guild on the first weekend in September

Waffer Thin Mint

Typically of a show weekend it starts with me cramming as much stock into the car as I can fit whilst trying to remember to leave room for me.

This time there was added pressure on space as I was away for a week carrying straight on to North Wales for a few days driving trains and had all the kit on-board for that as well.

Guildex is the major show in the O gauge calendar but this year it lacked a certain something. The `buzz’ wasn’t there, visitor numbers were down on last year as were sales.

Its an expensive show to attend as well. By far the highest stand rent we pay and then there is extra cost for almost everything else. It didn’t help that they are rebuilding the centre of Telford by knocking it down and starting again. To be fair though it will be better when its done (it would take some serious effort to make it worse) but for now its a conesfest and parking nightmare.

Sadly for too much of the weekend this was the scene

Telford

I had threatened that we wouldn’t be attending in 2015 but I’ll decide later.

On to Wales

The drive to Porthmadog from Telford starts with a burst of motorway followed by a swarm of roundabouts to rival Milton Keynes. Eventually you get to Nescliffe and turn off on to country roads that take you through Knockin (avoid the obvious joke about the shop) Llanymynech and into the Tanat Valley. This takes you over the top of Milltir Cerrig and on to Bala. This has to be one of the most scenic drives there is on a sunny summers evening like this was. Sadly there seems to permanently be some Burke trying to drag a tin box over this unsuitable road. I used to drive this route to Wales regularly when I lived in Surrey but its about 20 years since I last did it. I could remember there were two hairpins and a chicane but I couldn’t remember which order they came in.

Boston Lodge – Four Days Driving Double Fairlies

This is what was supposed to happen according to the advance roster.

Planned

This is what actually happened

Actual

Rosters need to be taken with a pinch of salt as they adapt to operational needs but even then what happened was plan C. Plan B should have been with the grey one again on Friday.

wdlrfrontcover01The eagle eyed will have spotted I wasn’t doing anything on Monday. Well the day was spent doing admin type nonsense, shopping and house cleaning. The highlight in the evening was a trip to see a friend and fellow modeller Roy Link and I came away with a copy of his new and excellent book on the war department light railways, the study of which saw off the rest of the evening once I got back to base. I would thoroughly recommend this book and also recommend you don’t hang about buying one as the print run is nearly sold out

Whilst there are three double engines we keep using them so they are always in differing states of wear. They do have the advantage that, as the bogies can be swapped, their life can be separated from boiler life and maintained separately. The grey one David Lloyd George is on a brand new pair of piston valve bogies, the maroon one, Merddin Emrys is on a pair that have just had an intermediate overhaul which leaves the green one Earl of Merioneth. A couple of years ago its own bogies were getting very tired, so when DLG was taken in the works for a ten year boiler overhaul, conversion from oil to coal firing and to get its new Earlbogies,  EofM (aka The Square) was put on its old bogies as they were deemed to be in better nick than its own. Two seasons of hard work have rectified that and they are now close to completely knackered.   With the completion of DLG the Earls own bogies are now being overhauled so its just eking out its time waiting for them to be ready.

Merddin08Originally the green one was rostered with the intention of the maroon one having some TLC but then there was an issue with lack of available staff to do the TLC and it was decided that to use the good nick maroon one and rather than run the green one and waiting for it to fall to bits.  I was happy with that as the Merddin Emrys is the original and best Double Fairlie. The only down side of the first two 11 1/2 hour days is the 8pm finish which is too late to do much with your evening.

2014-09-09 15.20.20One of the highlights though was the Pizza delivery. Friends in Porthmadog run the Pethau Melys coffee, cake pizza and craft shop on the harbour. In autumn they close on Monday, my only day off! A playful whinge on their Facebook page resulted in pizza delivery not quite to the engine but close (we were going to photograph it on the engine but it didn’t last long enough.)

On early’s on Thursday (07:15 start) with the grey one(DLG) we got it ready in plenty of time despite the grey livery being nearly impossible to get keep clean we were off shed in plenty of time and over to Port. Its important to achieve the prompt arrival in Port as that is where breakfast is sourced!


A Moments Interlude

Often heard is the statement “I wish I could do something to help” but I don’t have the skills/time (insert excuse of your own choosing). Well there is something you can do.

10155111_10152350882888293_7175121550156132583_nI mentioned cleaning engines. That takes rags and we can never get enough of them. To clean an engines paint and shiny bits at the start of the day and then wipe all the oily filth off it at the end of the day takes a lot of rags. To give it some sort of size one engine takes about four T shirts or one bed sheet per day. With up to eight engines being got ready each day that’s a lot of rag.

You could help collect suitable rags and either deliver them to the railway. In some cases we could collect

Undressing2Actually, we’d have decline this first ladies very kind offer as the rags we need are soft cotton ones with no buttons zips or fasteners. (they scratch paint).  Synthetic materials   aren’t very good either as they tend to be none absorbant and melt on the hot bits

Ideal are shirts (buttons removed, T shirts, bed sheets and the like.

This young ladies contribution would be ideal but if we get any of the more `interesting’ apparel in the rag bin there is always some idiot cleaner who’ll end up wearing it


Anyway back to trains.

The 1o:10 train was 11 very full coaches and DLG had to work hard to pull them (We’ll skirt round the issue of one of its bogies not being very well) but we got to Blaenau with it OK

DLG2

On the late diagram the usual form is to hang around at the top end of the train whilst it unloads and do posing for photos with the passengers and so on.

On the early turn both times you are in Blaenau you are not there long enough and have to get on with running the engine round to the other end of the train, taking water as you pass the tank.

10704169_10154500567535276_238207424753315902_nDLG’s coal bunkers are the smallest on the three Fairlies so with a heavy train you would expect to use a lot of coal but, even so, it was a bit of a surprise when my fireman for the day, Phil Brown, took a photo and then handed me his phone (driver & fireman are separated by the boiler) as we were going down cemetery cutting.

With about two miles to go the bunkers were close to empty and swept out by the time we arrived.

Luckily, help was on hand to fill it up again and the second trip didn’t use as much.

 

Merddin09Friday should have been another grey day but when I walked into the shed Merddin was outside and not DLG. The fireman for the day had come into prep the engine a bit ahead of me and had found a problem with DLG that couldn’t be quickly corrected so we had to make do with another day with Merddin Emrys. Some days you are just lucky!

 

PapersWell that was it. Septembers driving over with and back to reality. A quick shower, three and half hour drive home, a very short nights sleep (or so it seemed) and then unload the car and face this mountain. I am sure the postie takes my being away as a challenge

Start of of a New Section

Well its about time this blog grew with some information. It seems that I have in the past written articles here there and everywhere, on the RM Web Forum, on the NGRM forum, on Facebook, in my own newsletter and in the main NG trains website. This all ends up as a discontinuous mess so the plan now is to do it on here and then have links in all those other places.

Some content will be along shortly