|March 2007 news|
I do some foolish things now and again (and probably more frequently as the years pass) and have been suffering recently from the consequences of a rather rash challenge I made.
At the end of last year, Jayne and I went up to visit friends who had recently moved to Scotland. I'm sure there are lots of good reasons to move to Scotland, but the main motivation behind this move was to get a lump of land big enough to build a serious garden railway on. This they have achieved in fine style, a couple of acres of beautiful woodland, bisected by a shallow, fast flowing river which rounds a bend at the corner of the property and disappears under a stone bridge carrying the village road past their front door. We spent a most pleasant weekend walking around the estate, in our mind's eye already seeing the new girder bridge over the river, the engine shed and sidings at the top end where ballast and materials could be trans-shipped from the road, the small stone-built Victorian workshop ideal for conversion into the Dumfries version of Boston Lodge. Then came my stupid moment...
Over a beer (or three) on the Saturday night, we each started talking about how quickly we would get on with our respective railways (you may remember that the Metheringham Light Railway has been in prospect, although with precious little real progress, since we moved up here two years ago). Upshot was an agreement, solemnly witnessed by the ladies present, that we would each email the other on the first of the month with progress to date - photographic evidence required. Three months in, it's getting embarrassing thinking up excuses (on both sides, thank God - if he'd got his railway down by now I'd have to emigrate). I'm still hopeful that the arrangement will eventually lead to two railways being built through shame if nothing else.
My pitiful attempt at claiming progress this month involved sending a picture of a recently acquired ballast truck sitting on the (only) piece of track laid out side the engine shed and trying to pass it off as only one part of an almost constant succession of works trains. Sadly didn't work, he's too smart to be fobbed off that easily.
However, in a spirit of "double or quits" type bravado, I hereby pledge to post pictures on future news pages of progress (on either side, his or my railway) until one or both is either finished (the railways) or died of old age (the would-be builders).
I had the pleasure of meeting a most interesting gentleman recently, a man still putting in eight hours a day in the workshop at the age of 82 (in a collar and tie), with an impressive list of models to his name built over the last forty years. He spent his working life as a professional engineer, working both here and abroad, first in Canada, then a twenty-seven year stint in New Zealand. Currently working on a steam fire engine and a well-advanced 5 inch gauge Hunlet to Don Young's design, over several hours talking to him I learned more tricks and wrinkles in a couple of mornings than I'd picked up last year from anywhere else!
His workshop at the bottom of the garden is compact, warm and well-lit. In what I've found typical of a professional's workshop, the ratio of tooling to machines is high - the walls were lined with racks of drills, taps, dies and assorted accessories, he is happy to tackle anything on an engine, still building his own boilers (indeed currently helping out a friend with a "Maid of Kent" boiler) as well as putting in a day each week working at the club track.
He first started building steam engines at forty years old with a 7 1/4 inch gauge Bassett Lowke LNWR "George V" with rivetted Goodhand boiler which he'd acquired. Since then the workshop has seen Don Young's Hunslet and Rail Motor in 5 inch gauge (with another Hunslet currently under build), 4 inch scale Allchin with Ransomes threshing machine ("the traction engine was a swine, five years and 4000 hours"), LNER V1, Caledonian 2-4-0, 7 1/4 inch gauge "Locomotion" to Greenly's 1927 design, LSWR O2, several diesel shunters - the list goes on. He keeps a log book for each engine built with his notes and sketches, there's a counter by the workshop door which he clicks up the hours on at the end of each session.
His advice for beginners includes starting on the tender of a new project first - it gets you into it gently, and improves technique for when you get to the difficult bit! Of his own work, he remains disarmingly modest - he recently took his current project to a friend's house, a man who was building the same model. On seeing 14BA studs fitted to his friend's engine, prototypically scale, he quietly left his engine in the car before taking it home to replace the practical-sized fastenings originally fitted with some minutely authentic ones.
On leaving, I was looking at the pictures on his workshop walls showing some of the engines he'd built. It included an LNER V1 in 5 inch gauge built to Martin Evans' "Enterprise" design, unusually finished in garter blue. He had built it in New Zealand and it was sold to a museum there. By one of those strange coincidences, I had bought the same engine when it came back to England four years ago - by that time the paint was rather worn and the engine had seen a good deal of use but was obviously a high quality build - it ran very well and sold to a friend in the Reading Club. A year later I bought it back and ran it myself for another 18 months, still impressed by its performance. The builder was more than a little amazed at this story, I sent him some pictures of it in recent times to let him see it was still running around, working as intended.
I recently bought the locomotives and stock of a commercial 7 1/4 inch gauge railway, there were several items in it that Sam and I thought would be useful for the railway at home. After an unbroken run of decent weather whilst waiting for it to arrive, on the day the lorry appeared, the heavens opened...
3rd March 2007
January 2007 - Miniature
lathes and photography, Midlands Exhibition, Churnet Valley Railway, testing
October 2006 - Updates on part-built and projects
July 2006 - Evergreens Miniature Railway, local 10 1/4 line, collecting the Pacific from Cleethorpes
April 2006 - Progress in the workshop, visit to the National Railway Museum, visit to Woody Bay
January 2006 - Moving to new units, grit-blasting my hands, shiny Romulus
October 2005 - Stamford SME, Sam starts the restoration of "Pendle Witch", Casterton Working Weekend
August 2005 - New workshop, Thurston Pacific back from Cleethorpes
May 2005 - Berkely Light Railway, dodgy boiler certificates, full-size ploughing engines at auction
January 2005 - digging
October 2004 - initial planning for the garden railway
July 2004 - Fowler ploughing engines in Yorkshire
May 2004 - Moving the workshop, a 9 1/2 inch gauge garden railway
Apr 2004 - Holiday in Shropshire & The Severn Valley Railway, LNER liveried Black 5
Feb 2004 - Refacing a Tangye slide valve, new acquisition 10 ton Aveling roller
2004 - 12 1/4 inch gauge Pacific