I start with an apology – this post will feature Samson, a lot! There has been a comment regarding the railway-heavy content on this blog. This isn’t due to any bias this way, it’s just that the railway side has been the focus of our attention lately – and other vehicle projects have progressed more slowly.
We are in the full-swing of summer operation, with the site busy and everyone crossing their fingers that the operation holds up to the rigorous demands placed upon it! We always have a degree of attrition – the first of these instances being GWR 813 breaking a spring last week. Whilst a spare finds its way here, Peckett 2000 is covering the duty – showing how vital it is to have spare motive power if at all possible! The trams also find themselves playing tramway – depot tennis, as the weather ranges from hot sunshine to torrential rain, making it hard for the team leaders to select vehicles as the situation changes by the hour! B&F 40 is operating additional days, thanks to an agreed mileage extension with the National Tramway Museum, and this is proving to be popular. Its last days in service will be August 31st and September 1st.
Below: Darlington 4 has been in the workshop for remedial work to commence on the roof – one of a number of jobs that are to be attended to before it enters service. The current cramped conditions for working can be seen here…
Below: … so it’s just as well we are building a new depot and workshop! This view shows the concreting taking place at the front of the depot.
Below: I mentioned attrition… As well as 813’s broken spring, a track fault developed adjacent to the signalbox which took a number of days to rectify (largely due to staff holiday etc. and the time taken to procure materials). This area is particularly wet, and I am now considering that this whole area should be renewed – lifting the track in the foreground, including the headshunt, to install drainage and a ballast sub-base. I am so often told how good it was here in the 1970s – when railways were laid on mud! We are now paying the price for this, and so the work in this area will remove another of the early short-cuts to getting things running. The signalbox, readers may recall, had to have a concrete foundation cast (just visible here) after we discovered that the cracks appearing were due to it having no foundations whatsoever! An advantage to relaying the headshunt will be to bring this back into use – we could then lock-out the goods yard for shunting demonstrations, whilst the passenger operation remains running and isolated. So every cloud has a silver lining! It will also enable the drainage at this end of the cutting to be brought up to the standard that was applied when we reconstructed the railway behind this view, through the cutting. Not very exciting, but all very necessary…
Below: With services resuming, Peckett 2000 is this week’s motive power – looking rather lovely in the sunshine.
Below: During one of the days we were unable to operate passenger trains, a shunt of the RMS took place in order to extract NER luggage composite No.3071 (incorrectly numbered 818 – we think). This was to enable a survey to be carried out by a group restoring the NER autocoach, which will be used with the NER Autocar, recently restored to operation: https://electricautocar.co.uk/
I have alluded before to the slight change in direction for the RHEC, which will be attend to a broader range of work needed by the museum. The last two of the programme of ‘therapy’ projects, utilising left-overs and bits and pieces to create charming (we think so anyway!) items of rolling stock have been finished off, with testing taking place this week (see below).
Below: The Pew Coach, now polished to bring out the lustre of the Victorian Pitch-pine that was recycled for this coach, has been completed. The handbrake has been finished, likewise the couplings.
Below: The more esoteric ‘Wellington Coach’ has also been completed, the awning (can it really be called a roof?!) being canvassed and painted using off-cuts and surplus paint. The couplings were yet to be fitted when this photo was taken, showing the pair of coaches in the RHEC. As readers will recall, this coach is based on a sketch and description of a standard gauge coach in this style built for the opening of the Hetton Railway by the Duke of Wellington. This was considered for the Waggonway brake coach, but the Brampton Dandy was selected as a better design for our purposes, the surplus materials from that project being used here. Incidentally, the air braking system for the Brampton Dandy is currently being installed to enable it to be commissioned for use in its new guise.
On Friday the coaches were moved to the railway for testing to commence…
Below: Here they are in the sunshine, and on a railway for the first time. Glyder was in steam to provide motive power for testing, as we wanted to ensure the couplings and buffer interaction was satisfactory. The roof also came in handy on the Wellington Coach as there was considerable rain after these photos were taken! The images don’t show how lovely the patina on the Pew coach is too.
Below: The following Monday the train was loaded up in readiness for movement to Kent. Samson is seen within its bespoke lifting cradle for the journey.
Samson at the Richmond Light Railway
Below: After arriving in Kent, the Friday saw Samson steamed in order to complete some test runs around the system. These were pronounced satisfactory and the locomotive was put to bed warm, ready for the Saturday running session. The railway is a private concern and only opens once per annum, and strictly for pre-sold ticketholders. The opportunity for some interesting haulage is a given, and this year Samson’s passenger train debut seemed to appeal to some of those who rode with us during the day!
The railway was started in the first decade of the century, based on the site of a former pig farm. It has been developed into an impressive collection with an interesting railway upon which to operate this rolling stock on. It is a private site, but the annual open day gives enthusiasts and the public alike the chance to see the collection at work and ride on a variety of trains behind a selection of steam and internal combustion motive power.
Below: Samson and train were coupled to Leary, the FR-built, and RLR re-built, 0-4-0VBTG. Between the two locomotives, they provided some vary rare haulage for riders, not to mention the novelty of the coaches themselves! The train operated a shuttle from Richmond station, along a length of the running line to a point just short of the branchline junction. The railway describes a circle, with a link across the middle of it to enable reversal, and access to a branchline to New Barn Halt. This was the main entry point for visitors. The main-line trains would depart Richmond, cross the centre of the oval to access the branch and terminate there. There an engine change would take place, the train then departing to cover the branch, carry out a full circle of the oval then a near full-circle, this time entering the station platform at Richmond. Here resident Jung 0-4-0T Jenny is seen on it’s second lap of the oval. Interspersed with these runs, Samson and Leary provided a regular shuttle service for riders wishing to be jolted and bashed around by single-cylinder traction!
Below: Visiting from the Bredgar & Wormshill Railway nearby was Orenstein & Koppel 0-4-0T Eigiau, built in 1912 and which spent some of its working life at Penrhyn Quarry. It is seen on the oval main line, having just passed the junction with the cut-across line and site of the sawmill.
Below: Several local traction engines also attended the event – which was blessed with warm and dry weather – given the rain on Friday this was of considerable relief!
Below: The pride of the line! Built by Couillet in 1885 (works no.810), this tiny locomotive was originally 500mm gauge. It was supplied to Enrique Ayulo & Cie (Decauville’s Peruvian agent) for use on a sugar cane plantation. It was named Chuquitanta, due to its small size – it weighs just 3.5 tons! It was later displayed in a restaurant, from where it was purchased in 2004. It was restored to steam in 2016 (see a blog post from that time) and in 2017 visited the Quirks & Curiosities event at the Ffestiniog Railway, also attended by Samson. It is in as perfect a condition as a working locomotive can be – coal being carried in a bucket rather than bunker to preserve the pristine finish that can only be admired with some envy! A tender is being constructed to run with the locomotive, based on a Decauville design and which will carry both coal and water as well as enable continuous braking to be fitted. The tender is seen in the second image.
Below: End of the day… A train was run for the benefit of volunteers at the event, which included a stop to watch a fireworks display and followed a superb barbecue and buffet. Definitely a good way to say thank you! The event income was in support of the charity Riding for the Disabled, who also had a presence on site. Samson performed well and is now going to remain for a private event in September. Thank you to Jeremy Martin for his hospitality, and the volunteers at the RLR for their welcome and ensuring Samson’s visit went so smoothly.
Below: On the Sunday, whilst in the area, a quick call was made on the Kent & East Sussex Railway at Tenterden. Here their Norwegian mogul prepares to depart for Bodiam. This was a light railway, and was probably the best known of the Colonel Stephens empire of associated light railways, so it is appropriate that a museum dedicated to his portfolio is also located here.
Below: The museum owns the standard gauge replica Model T Ford railbus – several were built by Colonel Stephens in order to reduce operating costs on his railways. This example was built by Colin Shutt, who left it to the museum following his sad death a few years ago. He was also building the cargo version, in order to run this back to back. Operating railbuses like this in reverse causes considerable problems with overheating engines, the radiator not being presented to the cooling air from the front.
Below: A star exhibit in the museum is Gazelle, built in 1893 and with a chequered and fascinating history! The subject of a number of separate thoughts towards building a replica, you can read more on the locomotive’s history here: https://preservedbritishsteamlocomotives.com/1-0-4-2wt-shropshire-montgomery/