Once a upon a time a binge might have included excessive drinking but not these days. Not for me anyway.  So, “what are you on about?” I hear you say.

lillaBINGE in the way of needing an acronym for everything refers to Beamish Industrial Narrow Gauge Engineers. BINGE is the volunteer group that works on the narrow gauge railway at Beamish Museum in County Durham under the leadership of the Keeper of Transport. Its not a tremendous coincidence that the majority of us are also Festiniog Railway Volunteers or that the Beamish Railway has operated, on loan, assorted examples of the smaller FR motive power.

Less well known, probably, are the restoration efforts of the group. Again these are a mostly a collaboration with the FR, this time with the Heritage Group. The FRHG vols have restored an impressive array of slate waggons for the gravity train with a load more wagons still to be restored. Having tired of doing some waggons more than one all their recent activity has been directed towards building a toy box to keep the toys in. This is a really impressive shed now approaching completion.

toyboxIt is a very splendid facility that should mean waggons get overhauled just the once and then, stored out of the weather, they should only need TLC for many years to come.

That said the line of un-restored waggons is long and will take a long time to work through the pending line.

As a result a deal has been done for four granite waggons and a ballast tipper to come to Beamish.








The deal is something along the lines of “you do the upper works up and you can use them for a bit” [there is a formal deal in place for their restoration, loan and return] These two photo show you what arrived. In one you can see the four granite waggons which are slate wagons with boxed in bodies fitted so they can carry stone whilst the foreground of the other shows the very moth eaten side tipper.

As delivered they were only used very sparingly as a major area to be worked on is refurbished couplings. Moving them involved some avant garde innovation. It wasn’t quite blue hairy string but it was close.



One wagon (978) has been tackled and completed so far. This involved completely stripping it down, removing the granite extensions and boards then then refurbishing everything bar the wheelsets and axleboxes.

We’re not doing the wheelsets because our line is proper 2ft whereas the FR is 1’11 5/8″ and the worn (knackered) profile suits us. The FR waggon gang has evolved from making the best wagon out of several knackered ones and has cast new wheels and has stocks of CNC machined axles so they’ll get a wheel overhaul on their return to Wales.



978 was completed in time for the 2016 Great War Steam Fair in April. Seen here in the workshops it was moved down to the railway for the steam fair and ended up carrying timber rather than granite.



With one granite done it was decided that the next one to be done would the steel bodied side tipper #830.

As you can see in these photos its looking a bit worse for wear as it arrived. Its now been moved from the running line up to the workshops.

[Beamish is a bit like a model railway with the historic public areas where we try to keep things in character but then off scene in the fiddle yard there are modern and well equipped workshops]




Like most things it had to get worse before it could get better!

Reduced to just the chassis and even on that bit several bits need patching or replacing. The floor varied from see through to non existent.





There was much needle gunning and wire brushing of bits as well as cleaning of parts ready to re-use. Plan “don’t touch the wheels and bearings” has gone out of the window with waggon #2 in the restoration. We’ve found that 830 has one bearing so worn the wheel flange rubs on the floor so, not wanting it to wear through our new floor it’ll be getting new whitemetal poured in and machined.

All this destruction was our early November working party.

For the late November bash there were only two and a half of us (one doing half a day rather than a short person) and we managed to do something a bit less destructive

All the bits of the wagon that are being re-used have been grit blasted and primed and then given a further coat of paint. New steel has been bought for the floor and the hopper and we’ve started making the new hopper. In the pictures its been tack welded together and the angles temporarily bolted to it. Lots of holes now need to be drilled through these parts as well as a load of holes in the new floor which should keep the last WP before Christmas busy as we’re aiming for a hot riveting session early in the new year.

At the moment we don’t have an operational steam loco but that should change during 2017.  More about that in another post sometime.

Steam Trains – Lots of Steam Trains

If you’ve read this blog or get my EDM Models newsletters, you’ll have got a bit of an idea I do a bit of driving of steam engines. Here we are at the beginning of November and I’ve realised that I have done quite a bit of driving and have been too busy to write about it.

dsc_0499There’s been three lots of playing with the real thing but it started with some of the toy variety. September starts with Guildex, the O Gauge Guilds two day bash in Telford.

In my logic York to Telford, well that’s half way to Wales so I head for Boston Lodge after the show for some driving on the FR although I have learnt my lesson now and not booked to drive on the Monday. Some rest is needed. Continue reading

AMS Short Caboose

The new AMS 0n3 & 0n30 Short Cabooses (Cabeese?) came and went this week.


Only about four years after they were supposed to be ready but finally arrive they did. I had twenty arrive and nineteen of them were spoken for before they got here. The 20th one is the subject of this initial mini review.

The review model is: –

AM53-0133 Short Caboose in D&RGW Flying Grande Livery numbered 0501 and is 0n3 gauge

1-New_BoxFirst up is new packaging compared to the earlier releases with a plain white card box with just one end label.

Simple, plain and no frills but can be a pain if you want to get it all back in the box once you have part two of the packaging out.

3-Clam_shellGone is the expanded polystyrene inner of old in favour of the clam shell type clear plastic inner so many are using now.

It does hold the model really well whilst isolating it from shocks to the outer box. It is a real pain to get back into the card box and get all the flaps shut though.

4-sideFirst impression are that its a nice model and whilst I haven’t checked it to drawing it looks about right although one or two bits do seem a bit over sized but I suspect that is a manufacturing compromise.



One to watch for when you take it out of the box are the four bits of foam pressed into keep the bogies from rattling about in transit.

I thought I might have to slacken the bogies off to get them out but they pulled out with a pair of tweezers. Once out the bogies are free to rotate.6-threequater

When you look at it more closely you start to realise its too clean. I am sure that when it came out of the shops all that white work may have been shiny white and squeaky clean but that wouldn’t have lasted five minutes.

That said its the work of moments to tone it down

Now this is me getting nit picky. Actually maybe its just me expressing personal preferences but some parts of this model won’t survive if it does stay on my roster.

7_couplersCouplings:  0n3 and 0n30 couplers are quite different in size as the usual 0n3 item is properly scaled for the model and set higher than an 0n30 one whilst the 0n30 coupler is basically an HO one at the HO standard height.

The industry standard is the Kadee with a different one for each scale

AMS have decided to try and produce one coupler that does both and what they have come up with isn’t very good in either. It couples and stays coupled but doesn’t look right and doesn’t auto uncouple reliably. Its not very good at coupling either as the jaw and centering spring is way too strong. They also protrude from the end of the car to allow sufficient clearance on train set curves.

For reliable operation I’d change it for a Kadee 148 in HO8-ends or a 803 in 0n3. If it stays this one will get San Juan EVO couplers. The overscale and rigid representation of the air hose will be replaced with a San Juan rubber one as well.

Clearly this model has to be a compromise between fine scale model and practical survival on a model railway and to that end some of the details are a bit beefy and over scale.

The handrails appear too thick and could be replaced with wire but I think some judicious weathering will do the trick

This last photo is a comparison between the AMS car to the rear and a San Juan version to the fore (which I should have dusted before taking the picture). The San Juan car is one of the limited edition ready to run versions of their kit.

So which do I prefer? Well, I think it would have to be the San Juan one for the finesse of the details but I spent a lot of time getting it to run reliably. Then they’re not available today and would probably cost a lot more. The kit would be about 85 quid at today’s exchange rate.

Price for the AMS version? The first batch arrived at £79 but that was the pre vote price (see my other post on exchange rates). We’re estimating the next batch imported will be £90.

So, will I keep this one? Probably. I am thinking, EVO couplers, decent brake pipes, a Soundtraxx SoundCar decoder, speaker and keep alive. That will also provide interior lighting and marker light and then a battered look paint job. I have no idea when this might happen though


Credit Cards and False Ideas About Security

This issue is becoming a bit of a bugbear and its clear that some people have got entirely the wrong end of the stick. The conversation goes like this…….

“I’ve phoned you with my order because I don’t want to use my card on the internet. Its not secure”

Well I am sorry but if you’re paying by card then its going on the internet! Why?

Website CheckoutIf you order online at our website then you’ll see a form like this. You fill it in with all your name and address details and then press “Place Order” and at that point my website shunts over to Barclays website where they have top level security and its their system that takes your card details. This is secure as it gets.

I don’t see your card details. They never enter my PC. I have no record of them and I can’t access them.WWW

Barclays send me a `token’ which is basically saying they’ve checked you’re good for the money and that I am OK to pack and ship your order. When I have done so I process that token, again on their website and again I don’t see your card details. At this point they actually take the money from your card and, eventually, send it to my bank account. All this is done on the internet.

Web TerminalIf you phone me with an order here is what happens. You probably catch me away from the PC or without the PC turned on so your order and card details get written down. When next at the computer I fire up the internet and log on to Barclays WWWWeb Terminal and enter all those details just written down. I do it on a form that looks like the one to the right.

I am entering all the same details you could be typing in and doing it on, effectively, the same form you could have used and its all done on the internet 

If you see us at a show and pay by credit card then chances are you will be presented with a gadget that looks like thisCard Terminal. This is the Blielatest thing in card readers and its even more `space age’.

First of all the card reader is talking to my phone via Bluetooth which is a short range radio protocol.


WifiNext up my phone is connecting to the outside world via WiFi  which is a longer range radio protocol and is now often provided freely at venues but I also have my own WiFi unit that connects to the mobile phone signal.



After all of that the connection is made to the bank via the internet




There is no escape. Even if you think, “I’ll use cash! That’ll show them”, you’re out of luck as the cash machine checks with your bank to see if you’re good for the cash via the internet



So I guess what I am saying is that ordering online is at least as safe as any other method and probably safer. There are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Firstly only go to the payments page via the website you are shopping on.
  • Don’t go to any payments pages sent in e-mails from people you don’t know
  • Check in the address bar at the top of the payments page that the address start https://  [the S is the important bit as it denotes a secure connection]Secure Sign


I could probably have used bigger and more technically accurate words and left you bemused in the process but I think that is a reasonable layman’s description

Harping on about Switchstands

For some years now I have sold the PSC cast brass switchstand kits but they usually sell out at the first show I attend and then getting more and in any quantity is a bit of a faff to be honest. They have also been creeping up in price too. Harp Stand2For awhile I have been thinking there has to be a better way to supply these.

This is the PSC switchstand kit.


The next question is do I replicate it or design another pattern. Some googling then found images and drawings

Switchstand001Well, in the end I decided that as the known demand was for ones similar to the PSC ones my first effort would be something very similar.

First job was some 3D CAD.

Drawn in SolidWorks this is also a 3 part kit with two halves of the base and the pole. There is a clevis shown in the drawing but this won’t be included in the kit.

Clevis_imageThe reason for not including it is one of the pitfalls of doing this stuff in CAD on a 24 inch twin screen is that you can zoom in and the thing looks huge but then when you actually get a 3D print in actual size it is a) a credit to the 3D printer for being able to print it and b) too tiny to commercially reproduce in brass.

You’ll have to settle for making your own or just having bent wire.

Switchstand002From the 3D SolidWorks drawing STL files are created. These are the format that the 3D printer uses and they are e-mailed to the 3D printer of choice and then you sit back and wait for a week or so.

Eventually a tiny box arrives with the postman which you open and realise that what looked huge on the screen is in reality tiny.

Switchstand-assembled600Prints tend to come in a translucent sort of colour which makes is difficult to see any of the detail so I usually just give them a waft of spray paint so you can actually see the thing before trying a test assembly.

As long as you are careful you can build the model up and make any minor alterations you want. If major alterations were needed you’d just get it reprinted having made the alteration in CAD.

So here we have the 3D print assembled.

What next? well the 3D patterns have gone off to the brass caster of choice and we await their efforts. They will use the parts to make a cold setting silicon rubber mould of the parts. With the pattern removed the mould is then filled with moulten wax which is allowed to cool. This can then be done many times to make lots of waxes. Waxes can be joined by sprues to make on pattern. These joind waxes are then suspended in a mould frame and a ceramic type mould in liquid form is poured around it and allowed to set. The mould is then heated so that the wax runs out or burns off leaving a void in a mould capable of standing high temperature. Moulton brass is then poured into the moulds and allowed to cool after which the mould is broken away and the casting cleaned up.

Battle of the Somme Commemoration


The Motive Power

Beamish Museum held a commemoration of the 100yr anniversary of the Battle of the Somme over the weekend 8th, 9th & 10th July. There were many exhibits and events on show with the theme of both commemorating and explaining the first world war and the Battle of the Somme.

As you’ve probably gathered by now I drive on the narrow gauge railway and, occasionally, the standard gauge colliery railway at Beamish and was there for the whole weekend. We ran the narrow gauge railway with ww1 equipment to demonstrate and explain the logistic support the railways provided.

We were very fortunate to be able to borrow three items of motive power from the Festiniog Railway, effectively hijacking their world tour (France and Staffordshire), along with three wagons from the Moseley Trust at Apedale. With a Simplex (Mary Ann when not in uniform) and A & B four wheel wagons plus a Baldwin Gas Mechanical (Moelwyn in civvies) with a Pershing wagon loaded with a couple of Model T’s we could show a British and an American train.   We did mix them up through the weekend though.


The British Train


The American Train

The railway at Beamish is now a triangle with additional sidings so trains were operating around the triangle leaving wagons on odd places then collecting them in a different order.

Just for added interest Moelwyn wouldn’t go round the tightest part of the newest bit of the triangle (to be honest, we were to scared to try it not wanting to have to re-rail it) so we propelled the wagon on to the tight bit and then went back around the triangle to the other end.


Buster in picnic table mode

There was one other interesting conveyance. A Fairbanks Speeder (Buster in civvies). These were used for officer transport (probably decided they were expendable) at high speed and in one direction only. To go the other way you pick it up and turn it round.


Buster in a rare working foray to the extremities of the network

It was a bit temperamental through the weekend so it doubled as a picnic table in between occasional runs. A full run with four officers on board on the Sunday finished it off. A new gearbox awaits it.

On our small railway you could walk the entire line in the time it took to get it started but that wasn’t the point.

Below is a collection of other photos from the weekend with some more words beyond them.

On both Saturday and Sunday there was a parade starting at Pockerley and marching round to the town. Each day we took all the NG equipment to the Pockerley end of the line to be on display to those gathering for the parade and so we could see the parade.


The only way you’d trust this pair in a model T



Captain Wilkinson and his driver Private Collins


Parade gathering


Lancers ready to go










There was lots to see around the event. The album below has a selection of other peoples photos of the various happenings. These, and more, can all be seen on the Beamish Museum Facebook page.

So, why no steam? We did first world war steam operation as part of the Great War Steam Fair in April for which we borrowed engines from the Festiniog and Moseley Trust. Our own engines are not currently available although we are working on it.


Edward Sholto: Stored on a standard gauge wagon. Out of traffic pending a re-tube of its boiler so it will eventually be moved to the engineering workshop for this to happen but not until our other engine is done


Glyder: Well Glyder’s boiler ready for the tubes to come out. Glyder was exported to the USA from Penrhyn Quarry, returned recently and displayed in the colliery engine shed at Beamish. Late last year it was moved to the workshop and its return to service started.


There is always plenty to see at Beamish Museum although not all the railways operate everyday. The narrow gauge only operates at events at the moment as we currently rely on borrowing loco’s.

A visit is highly recommended. For more information on Beamish try these links

Beamish Museum Website

Beamish Museum Facebook Page

Beamish Museum Transport Blog

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.



  • 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: –


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


Waiting in the Loop


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.




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.


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.


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.


Does he look happy or what?




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


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


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.


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



Blanche Shunts the stock at Woody Bay



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!


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”.


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


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


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


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.


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.

All 1

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