Dear Members

It's hard to believe that we have now reached Newsletter 20, it's interesting that we have managed to achieve this with contributions from only 12 out of 34 members. Lockdown remains in its various guises and when we are out and about we are all used to wearing masks and social distancing is the norm! In the meantime, our risk assessment still has to be finalised and we await confirmation from the church that we can safely return to our clubroom in September. Finally as always keep safe and well.




Phil and Nigel

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Philadelphia Railroad Museum


On another inspection tour my work took me to Philadelphia. On Saturday we had a look around the historic buildings of what had been the capital of the USA in its earliest days. The most revered exhibit is of course the Liberty Bell, which was cast in London, and unfortunately was cracked very soon after its arrival in Philadelphia.
On the Sunday we drove out to the Philadelphia Railroad Museum which is about an hour from the city. As we approached the museum we were delighted to see that we were in Amish country, one of the handful of areas where they live. Being a Sunday many of the families were out in their horse drawn buggies. Then just to put the top hat on it all, I saw a steam hauled train heading parallel with us towards the museum.
The steam loco and horse-drawn buggies gave an impression of time travel. It was hard to say which represented the older technology as the buggies have battery operated lights.



The loco is No. 475 4-8-0 of the Norfolk & Western built by Baldwin in 1906. It is owned and operated by the Strasburg Railroad which is situated across the road from the railroad museum. It is the only N&W loco still steaming and has been used in numerous films in different guises. The loco has been modified over the years to make it easier to operate, but it is hand fired.
The valve gear is Baker’s and the cylinders are 21 x 30 inches.





The museum collection is dominated by the Philadelphia Railroad, but also includes several industrial locos including logging locos, of which more later. There is a good collection of electric locos as electrification of passenger services out of New York and several freight lines happened in the 1930s. The diesel collection includes some early examples through to more recent versions.




General Motors Diesel Electric E7 of 1945.



No 94 Switcher of 1917, probably the world’s heaviest 0-4-0! Maybe Hornby should have used this as a basis for their tinplate loco. The sloping tender gives much better visibility for shunting.


1911 Electric loco DD, and another GG1 class behind it.


4465, 1963 e44 5,000hp electric freight loco, 2233 GM diesel of 1963


5690 1934 switcher of 3,000hp and C wheel arrangement, built to marshal passenger trains at termini


GG1 class of 1943, 8,500hp, for express passenger work. Probably the most stylish electric loco ever.


The world’s largest fireless loco, an 0-8-0 streamlined for a trade exhibition in 1940.


The ‘John Bull’ replica of 1946. The original is in the Smithsonian Museum, built by Stephenson & Co and shipped as a kit of parts. It was significantly improved with the cow catcher and rather unusual tender, looking more like a summer house.



One Foot in the Smoke Box
The Trials of a Heritage Railway Fireman - Number 18


The next loco that I fired was a visiting Black 5 45337 on 28/12/13 and again on 11/1/14. A nice loco to fire and it steamed well. The injectors always picked up which is always a bonus.



The next turn on 3rd May 2014 was with Wayne who had now passed out as a driver on No. 22. Not a good day. There was a steam leak from somewhere around the cylinders or valves which severely restricted visibility when running forwards. There was also a leak around the regulator packing which resulted in a mixture of steam and boiling water dropping on my neck every time I fired. On the way back on the second trip at Ferry Meadows Wayne decided enough was enough as it was now becoming dangerous to see when running forwards and the regulator leak had now turned into a torrent. Therefore once back at Wansford he failed the loco much to the engineers disgust. It is always the responsibility of the loco crew and particularly the driver to be happy with the state of the loco no matter what the engineer, ops manager etc. may say. After all it is our safety and that of others that must always come first.

On 9th July it was City of Peterborough again followed on 21st September with another visit from Tornado. If I remember correctly Tornado was booked to handle the Royal Mail train with a mail drop at Sutton Cross. Unfortunately Tornado was tender first towards Wansford and the loco reps would not allow it to be turned on the table at Wansford for some reason. Therefore the photographers were somewhat disappointed seeing the loco tender first.

On 17th October I was on as afternoon fireman on a driver experience on a S160 2-8-0 No. 6046. On driver experience there was a morning crew who lit up, prepared and did a couple of trips with those who had paid for the experience. The afternoon crew arrived before the last morning trip and had lunch which was included. This was the only time we ever got anything like this. The morning crew had lunch after we had taken over.



So I waited at Wansford at the due time and nothing materialised. Word went round that he loco had failed near Ferry Meadows and a class 14 was despatched to go to the rescue. In due course 6046 was towed back with part of the cylinder cover missing and the rods disconnected and tied up where necessary. Clearly there would be no more trips that day! I never did get to fire 6046 or any of the other S160’s that had visited and jumping ahead I haven’t fired any at the Epping Ongar Railway either of which more later.

At Christmas 2014 a 15XX pannier tank No. 1501 from the Severn Valley Railway visited to help with the Santa specials. I did two mid week turns on this  on 3rd and 12th December. The mid week Santa's were only two round trips with a comparatively late start and a finish at about 3.30. The main Santa's were something like a 4am start and about at 6pm finish with 5 round trips so I opted for the easier days.



For the first trip we a had a loco rep who positioned him self in the corner of the can on the fireman's side. With a cleaner as well there wasn’t much room to swing the shovel and it involved a shuffle round every time which really doesn’t help. It was even worse with the injector as the water valve is at floor level and was right behind where the loco rep was standing.

On the plus side the loco had been fitted with an ash-pan washer and rocking grate, neither of which was original. Therefore disposal was really easy.

The next trip on the 17th December was without a rep which made life much easier. The only problem was that the loco was at the Peterborough end with a class 14 on the rear, as the Santa's were always topped and tailed. The first class carriages were at the locos end and therefore got the full benefit of the steam heat. The second class of course weren't so lucky. Having arrived at Peterborough with a good fire to make sure that we had enough steam for the heating, whilst the Class 14 was pulling and therefore doing all of the work, the guard then announced that they were too hot in first class and asked us to turn off the steam heat. Therefore the loco now blew off and presumably the second class passengers sat in the cold.

We now come to my last three turns on the NVR which taken together partly contributed to my decision to leave.

On 22/2/15 there was a mini gala. As this only involved one guest loco and used two of the NVR’s own fleet it couldn't be called anything else. The guest loco was the only surviving ex LNER D49 4-4-0 No. 62712 Morayshire. There were to be six round trips from Wansford to Peterborough so it was going to be a long day. Therefore it had been decided that there would be two crews rostered with one starting early, lighting up and preparing whilst the second crew would start at lunch time and do the three afternoon turns and then dispose.



I was rostered for the afternoon turns but as Wayne was rostered early I drove up with him. The morning D49 crew had already lit up so I wandered over to the footplate to have a look around. I found the loco rep there together with the fireman who was beginning to panic, as the loco was due off shed in about half an hour and the pressure was still to low. He was baling coal into the firebox which wasn’t helping as by then the fire was too thick and therefore ‘black’. He then threw limps of coal soaked in paraffin in but this doesn’t help as the paraffin simply evaporates and achieves nothing. Anyway I looked at the state of the fire and at the pressure gauge and noticed that the pressure was slowly creeping up. Of course as the pressure increases the blower pushes more draught up the chimney which pulls more air in from the ash-pan and through the fire. I looked at the loco rep when the fireman wasn’t looking and said that the loco would be blowing off in twenty minutes. By a combination of experience and luck I suppose the loco did indeed blow off exactly twenty minutes later. The loco rep was suitably impressed but I said that with experience you can ‘feel’ what the loco is doing. Never the less to be spot on was a good bit of luck!

I spent the morning taking photos before joining the footplate after lunch, By now the train was late, as almost invariably happened on gala days, as with two trains running alternatively to Peterborough and one goods train shuttling in-between to Yarwell, there was no way to make up time once it was lost and delays just accumulated.

The morning weather had been quite fair but by the afternoon it had started to rain and became much colder. Now the D49 has quite a large cab but also a comparatively low tender and without a weather sheet between the cab and tender. Therefore when running tender first the wind and rain drives straight into the cab.

By the fifth trip we were already about an hour late and by the time we left Wansford we were actually at the time of the last trip. It was suggested to the ops manager that the fifth trip effectively be cancelled and then we would be back on time. As the rain was by now very heavy there were virtually no passengers about anyway and all of the line side photographers had long since given up. However the ops manager insisted we run the last two trips. By the sixth trip we were over an hour late and as far as I could see there were only four passengers on the train and they were only sheltering from the rain.

By now I was soaked and cold, there being no where to hide, when access to the tender to fire was constantly required. The driver was huddled in one corner, the loco rep in the other and the cleaner was parked in front to the firebox. This of course does not help access to the ‘letter box’ for firing. (you may recall from Tornado that LNER loco’s have a small flap for firing through). The driver was concerned that the pressure wasn’t as high as he would have liked particularly as he would have liked to push the loco harder to try and make up time. My comment was along the lines of ‘so would I and if I could reach the firebox I might be able to add more coal’. The cleaner did not take the hint.

By the end of the last trip I was cold, wet and tired and more than pleased to be heading home. One of those days when you question just why you do this. The Answer was going to come soon.

The next turn was on 6/5/15 on No.22 with the same driver that I had had on Morayshire. Now he was a relatively inexperienced driver and was inclined to panic a bit. There was no cleaner that day and he did little to help, making my life that much more difficult. During the day ‘22’ was reluctant to steam partly I think due to the coal which wasn’t the best. All in all it was another bad day and once again I headed home questioning why I did this again.



Now we come to my 96th and last turn at the NVR. This was on an 0-6-0ST ‘Ringhaw’, which was on loan from the North Norfolk Railway. I had another fairly inexperienced driver, who also tended to panic and indeed had been that way when I saw him as a fireman. The loco steamed well enough but the injectors were very slow and, despite having both on all the way from Peterborough, we were forced to stop just before reaching Wansford, as the water was right in the bottom of the gauge glass. I believed that we could have limped home and then sorted out the problem but the driver panicked and asked why I hadn’t put the injectors on. My ‘polite’ reply was that they had both been on all the way from Peterborough. I am sure you can work out the rest. Needless to say the rest of the day was somewhat quiet.

So once again I headed home having had three bad turns in a row. If you have one and the next is fine then all is well but three is pushing things a bit. It was also about now that my shoulder was painful and stiff and firing would have been difficult. Apparently I have a worn shoulder joint. So along with having had enough and the shoulder, I didn’t do any turns for the rest of 2015 and into 2016. Although I was still a member I stopped receiving the roster sheets and so any idea I had had of returning one day drifted away.

In the mean time the Epping Ongar Railway had opened in May 2012 and Wayne was one of the first there, as he knew one of the originators. So in September 2013 I had joined as well of which more later. As the EOR is much closer than the NVR it seemed a much easier roll and so the NVR lost out to the EOR as we will see.




Greetings from the Far! North


Just thought I'd drop you all a note to let you know that I'm getting settled in, up here in the far north of Lincolnshire. So far it's been all general household and gardening stuff, but in the last few days my N Gauge layout has gone up in the dedicated train room. Now I just need to find the power units and tools to connect everything! But at least I can look at a train, even if it is not moving.
However, I can see trains moving a few hundred yards from the house and attach a few photos of Coxhill, my local station with good old "field" gated crossing worked from a signal box.

The final picture is looking north from the road bridge just north of the station demonstrating that there actually is a prototype for long straight track!
I'm hoping shortly to put out feelers to the few local clubs to see what they are like and must also get to Immingham museum where they have a large 00 model of the local loco shed on display (just a little bigger than Steve's!).
Wishing the club and all its members well, hope you're getting back into the club now in safety.








Digswell Viaduct turns 170 years old


PUBLISHED: 08:20 09 August 2020 Welwyn Hatfield Times
Matt Powell


The Digswell Viaduct. Picture: Charlotte McLaughlin


The Digswell Viaduct, located between Welwyn Garden City and Digswell, celebrated its 170th birthday this week.


Digswell Viaduct and steam train 1957 [Picture: Ken Wright


The 475m long, 30m high viaduct was built between 1848 and 1850 and officially opened August 6 1850.
Queen Victoria opened the viaduct, but was reportedly so frightened of its height that she refused to travel across it.


Digswell viaduct


Instead choosing to travel in a horse-drawn carriage to travel the length of the bridge on the ground, before re-entering the train at the other end of the viaduct and continuing her journey.
The Grade II* listed viaduct boasts 40 arches that carry the East Coast Main Line, which stretches from London to Edinburgh.
The land beside the Digswell Viaduct has recently drawn a lot of attention after it was split up into plots and listed for auction.
The sale of the land led to a petition to stop any potential development – which received more than 4,200 signatures.







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