Dear Members
We start this week by sending congratulations to Ray and Anna on their recent wedding.
As many of you would not have seen the original Havil layout, in this edition we have included the article written by Denis Moore for the Railway Modeller which appeared just before our move from Hatfield. We continue to be grateful to Keith who continues to supply us with his trials and tribulations of One Foot in the Smokebox, to Nigel for his car or railway reports and Malcolm with his foreign travels.For future editions, we would still like to receive articles and or photos from members we have not previously heard from.

In the meantime as always stay safe and well.
Phil and Nigel

Please email all submissions to  or

One Foot in the Smoke Box
The Trials of a Heritage Railway Fireman - Number 17

Over the next ten years I completed 96 firing turns most of which passed without any memorable incidents. However a few come to mind of out of course events and I’ll try and remember some of these.

I thought that I’d perhaps start with a list of the loco’s that I fired not least to help prompt my memory. So as I said in the last article I started on the Polish  0-8-0T No. 5485 and did a few turns in a row on that. I also had a turn on Thomas of which I am sure that I don’t need to say more.

In 2005 the BR Standard Class 5MT 4-6-0 ‘City of Peterborough’ returned to service after a lengthy overhaul. Wayne just happened to be the first to fire it. Not sure that I would have wanted to as if any thing had gone wrong I am sure that he and the driver would have taken the blame!

My chance on ‘City of Peterborough’ came in early July. This just happened to be one of the days without a cleaner of which more later and with Harry as driver. This was quite a long and challenging day particularly without a cleaner to help and Harry not really being up to helping with coupling and uncoupling. He did however fire whilst I was off of the footplate. Whether that was good or bad is debatable. Harry to me tends to over-fire and means that I then had to carefully balance firing with topping the boiler up to stop it blowing off.

However the day passed without incident and I was quite happy with how I fired particularly as it has a longish narrow firebox and it needs careful firing to the front to ensure that there are no holes in the fire. If you fail to reach the front you can end up with a heap in the middle of the box which then makes it even more difficult to reach the front. This tended to happen quite often with inexperienced cleaners and on driver experience. The only solution was to take a long rake and push the heap forwards.

The next loco other than those already mentioned was a GWR 0-6-0PT No.1612 which was on loan to the NVR for July 2007. John was the driver and asked me if I would like to oil up whilst the cleaner lit up. I was soon to discover why. The GWR reputedly considered the loco crew in the design to make life easier. I can assure that that is not the case on 1612. The hardest part apart from struggling underneath to reach oiling points is the need to lay on the running plate and shuffle under the pannier tank to reach the oil pots on top of the connecting rods and valve gear. Fortunately it was a dry day but I have heard from others how wonderful it is when it is raining and you end up laying in a pool of water soaking wet.

Apart from the trials of oiling it proved to be a nice little loco to fire. I only had one more turn on this about a week later before it returned to it’s home railway which I think at that time was the South Devon.

The next interesting and very different loco was a Norwegian 2-6-0 ‘King Haakon 7’ which used to be at Bressingham. Some of you may have seen it there. This was on 29th December 2007.

Now there are two things to remember about King Haakon. Firstly it is very light on it’s feet and will slip on it’s own let alone pulling anything. It was limited to three coaches for that reason. The second is that whilst the back of the ‘loco’ cab is partially enclosed the tender is completely devoid of any cover at all. This is bad enough running chimney first but running tender first there is absolutely no protection what so ever. Fortunately it was a bright clear day and not too cold. Quite a nice little loco overall.

The next loco in June 2008 was on the ‘J94’ Austerity 0-6-0ST. I had a few turns on this over the next month before it’s ticket ran out.

In April 2010 the former LMS (Midland Railway) 4F 0-6-0 No. 44422 was visiting for a few weeks and had just one turn on this. Nice to fire but again not so nice when running tender first.

In May another ‘J94’ Austerity No.22 arrived from the Appleby-Frodingham railway on loan and I fired this a few times. I do recall on one occasion a bolt fell out of the fire box doors meaning that one jammed half open and the other would only half close. This is not good when cold air is constantly being drawn into the fire. Fortunately we were on with the loco rep so he couldn’t blame us for anything. On return to Wansford he found a spare bolt which was soon fitted and there were no more incidents throughout the day.

It fired much the same as the NVR’s own ‘J94’ although one of the injectors was a bit temperamental at times and the loco was also quite notorious for suddenly losing steam for no apparent reason. This seemed to be caused by a small hole in the fire but it was barely visible. I heard that several fireman found this out the hard way.

King Haakon7 made a return visit in December 2010and 44422 in May 2011 staying until March 2012.

The next major event was the visit of Tornado in September 2012. Firing this is just something else. For those of you that don’t know the ex LNER A1’s had the largest grate of any British loco at 50 Square feet. All LNER locos also have a firing flap known as a letter box. This is just about big enough to get a shovel through. The art then is to manage to project coal through this slot into the far corners of the firebox and of course around the rest as well. The back corners are particularly interesting as it is necessary to push the shovel into the box, turn the shoveland throw it right into the corners. This takes some learning and skill. The mainline fireman then and of course now must be very skilled in achieving this on a rocking footplate at 70 or 80 MPH.

We had a loco rep with us and this was fortunate as he gave tips on firing and also driving to Terry. As you can imagine this is a very powerful loco and pottering along a heritage railway at 25mph with 6 coaches is hardly taxing. Therefore the fire is kept very thin with the bars barely covered. With a long boiler the water level in the gauge glasses fluctuates between full and empty very quickly. The rep said to keep the water at about half a glass (water gauge glass) as he didn’t want to risk priming (carrying water over into the cylinders). Terry was having a heart attack watching the water disappear out of the bottom of the glass but the rep was totally unconcerned.

I was to fire Tornado once again in September 2014.

I’ll carry on with the remaining loco’s and a few more incidents in the next article.


An article from Railway Modeller August 1993
A vintage LMS scene. Down express is in charge of a Stanier Jubilee, about to pass a 4F-hauled up goods.
HAVIL JUNCTION is a layout which has evolved over the period of some 32 years' existence of the de Havilland Model Railway Society, a section of the Sports & Social Club located at the Hatfield site of what is now, of course, British Aerospace - but not for much longer, it is feared.
With this in mind it is felt that some record of the layout should be made, the sooner the more professionally the better. An approach to Railway Modeller has resulted in these superb photographs by Len Weal to whom, in particular, we are very grateful. We are more than pleased to be able to share the layout with the extended audience of RM readers.
We believe that Havil has been innovative in many respects and, for the record, here are some of them.
A general view across the canal basin and urban sprawl. 
General view of the MPD. The tram tracks descend in the foreground to pass under the viaduct and climb up past the houses on the other side of the valley. Permissive block on the goods line - notice the loco up to the brake van of the train of NE Hoppers.
The fish and chip shop in the foreground is an echo back to the past of the Chairman. It is based on one he used in Huddersfield 60 odd years ago!
View of Havil goods yard and branch exchange sidings..
Conditional link control
This is the use of the lever frame, via the electrics, to control the sectioning of the layout, thus eliminating cab-control switches and suchlike, and the necessity to 'think electrics' when operating. The electrics on 'Heckmondwyke' was based on our system, following a visit by their group to examine its potential by operating Havil. Those on 'Bodmin' subsequently followed suit too, as did Malcolm Hayward (who devised the method) on 'Buxton', Leslie Bevis-Smith's 'Thame' and Denys Brownlee with 'Leefield' and 'Burnham-on-Sea'
The 'split' viaduct. The goods loop relieving line approaches the main line over the two-span girder bridge.
This was assembled using the Brook-Smith method of ply sleepers (mass-produced using a special tool) and brass gimp pins, held in jigs and resistance soldered. The underlay is rubberised cork, laid in strips arranged  so that the butt joints aligned with the centrelines of the tracks; this obviates the need for marking out twice.

Autumnal setting
At the time of Havil's construction all the layouts seemed to have been set in mid-summer; ours has an autumnal heel, the trees being suitably coloured.

Building for photographs
The Midland Railway warehouse on Havil was constructed from photographs of the Leicester prototype and incorporated on the layout before any drawings, to the best of our knowledge, had appeared in the model press.
Red Hill tunnel portals and approaches to the Trent girder bridges.
This used to be the entrance to the hidden sidings, but not any more - the layout grew by some 18' 6".
Two plate girder bridges carry main and goods lines over the tram route.
View of the 'split viaduct. The two-span bridge (shades of Monsal Dale) can be glimpsed behind the earlier viaduct.
Betws-y-Coed Railway Museum
Just next to Betws-y-Coed railway station is a model railway shop come museum, with a couple of miniature ride on trains outside. It's somewhat neglected but does have a few interesting but neglected dioramas and railway items. The stock in the shop has clearly been there a long time, the staff not particularly interested in selling anything and even less interested in stopping their own conversations to talk to customers. The dioramas are worth showing as are a couple of beautiful models of Britannia. It would be a great place with a little more effort, a duster and a broom. 
MIDDLETON Circa 2002
Following on from last week, we have a few more pictures of Middleton given to us by Malcolm.
These photos we believe were taken by Chris
If you have missed one of our Newsletters you can find them on our website
Answers in the next Newsletter.
Answers to last weeks Quiz.
  1. MG - Morris Garages
  2. BMW - Bayerische Motoren Werke
  3. ERF - Edwin Richard Foden
  4. FIAT - Fabrica Italiana Automobili Torino
  5. TVR - TREVOR (Trevor Wilkinson)
  6. ALFA - Anonima Lombarda Fabrica Automo0bili
  7. BRM - British Racing Motors
  8. SEAT - Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo
  9. AMG - Aufreucht Melcher Gesselshaft
  10. MAN - Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg