Dear Members

Pause for a thought this week!
With the warm weather back again, I have not heard on TV or radio mention of an Indian summer, probably no longer pc. Thanks to Google and Wikipedia I found the following:
An Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere during September to November.

On looking further, I found what can I say instead of Indian summer?
In English, before Indian summer came into vogue, sometimes we called this second summer. There's a strong case to be made for badger summer, pastrami summer, or quince summer as an alternate name for Indian summer, but perhaps simple is best. Enjoy these second summer days, before the frost of fall really sets in.
In the meantime this week, ballasting continues apace on my loco shed layout.
Keep safe



Please email all submissions to  or





We are currently negotiating the re-opening of the club, Phil has organised  a comprehensive Risk Assessment that is being presented to the church, this will be discussed at their next council meeting. It is hoped that this will be positive and together with the latest government guidelines (see below) will enable us to re-open.
We will however have to strictly adhere to the items on the Risk Assessment, with all members signing to say that they agree.



3c: Recreation, leisure and social gatherings

We recognise the importance of social clubs for some individuals and recommend that these can proceed with caution in venues that have been made COVID-19 secure.
Clubs or groups that use community facilities can begin to meet again and facility managers should follow these COVID-19 secure guidelines to facilitate that.
Premises or locations following COVID-19 secure guidelines will be able to hold more than 30 people, subject to their own capacity limits. It is important for people to maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene when visiting these spaces. People using community facilities should continue to limit their interactions with those they do not live with outside of any formal activities they are participating in to help control the virus.
People meeting in a club or group context at a community centre should be encouraged to socially distance from anyone they do not live with or who is not in their support bubble.



YOU Magazine 1992


There are still Spitfire pilots in the blue skies above Kent, still engine drivers, ruddy faced on the footplate of the Flying Scotsman, and British yachtsmen will forever rule the waves.

In the world of modelling – where dreams take shape on a kitchen table or cramped workshop bench – anything is still possible.

At the London Model Yacht Club, for instance, car mechanics and local council workers, for whom the Fastnet yacht race is as accessible as a trip to the moon, compete for silver cupsevery other week of the year. Coaxing their sleek, hand-built vessels across the wind chopped wake of Kensington Gardens’ Round Pond, they can radio control every last quiver of the sails or rudder as surely as a master mariner.

In a field just outside Mardon Kent, meeting place of the Maidstone Model Flying Club, the emotions stir when club chairman Cyril Allcorn’s replica Spitfire Mk1A splutters into life on the airstrip that is lovingly cut every Sunday.

‘If anyone says their legs don’t shake on their first flight, there’s something wrong with them,’ says 26-year old Graham Ashby, a relative beginner at the club, eagerly wathing retired chartered engineer Cyril taxi his Spit into position.

Sons follow their fathers into modelling and at the de Havilland Model Railway Society young men in their 50s hang on every word from members 20 years their senior. Denys Brownlee, a giant of a fellow, 71 years old, holds up a tiny 2mm scale shunting tank that’s no longer than his thumb.
‘When I started building in this scale, in 1960 odd,’ he says, squinting at the model and puffing on his pipe, ‘none of the parts you needed were commercially available. You had to make everything.’

But modellers will eagerly make everything – from a model pilot’s tiny leather flying jacket to a set of directories for a half-inch high trackside telephone box. And that, perhaps, is the ultimate romance.

‘You start off with a pile of balsawood sticks under your arm and you make something from them that obeys your every command,’ explains Cyril Allcorn. ‘What more could you possibly want from a hobby?’

It’s predominantly men who do it, but there are some women involved. ‘When a friend first suggested I sails model boats, I thought he was potty,’ laughs club member Carol Dawson, ‘but I borrowed one off him and became totally hooked. It’s beautiful to see these things sailing round.’   

Report by Martin Townsend
Pictures by Geoff Wilkinson 





Part 1


A few odd stories of bad days on the NVR.

As I have mentioned before the Santa Specials had particularly early starts especially when one of the larger locos was used. In this case it was the BR Standard 5 73050 City of Peterborough. This was because around five hours were required to bring the loco into steam before going off shed at about 9am. A small warming fire would have been lit in the fire box the night before but on cold mornings there would be no warmth left in the boiler.



The start time was 4am which meant leaving home by 3am. I arrived on time and was of course the first person on site, having to unlock the gates etc.  It was of course a cold and dark December morning.

There was no cleaner rostered on this particular day and the driver had not yet arrived. Having had a quick cup of tea I set about lighting up the loco. This involved racking out the fire box to ensure that there was no clinker, then emptying the ash pan before cleaning out the smoke box. A bed of coal was then spread over the fire box bars.

Having completed this it was then necessary to drag a couple of probably wet pallets from the wood pile which was on the far side of the shed. Next these needed to be broken up using a crowbar to pieces small enough to be thrown into the firebox. Finally a bucket of paraffin with waste rags in it was retrieved again from the far side of the shed. At long last and nearly an hour after arriving it was possible to light the rags and push into the firebox around the wood. It was then a matter of waiting with fingers crossed that the wet wood would light.

Once I was certain of this I could retreat back to the mess room for another cup of tea and a chance to warm up. There was now nothing to do until it got light and some cleaning could be done other than to ensure that the fire was burning nicely and to add coal when necessary.

The driver finally arrived around 7.30 just as it was beginning to get light and explained that there was no point in turning up earlier as he couldn’t start oiling round until it got light. Obviously I had another point of view such helping me and ensuring that I wasn’t the only one on site as if I had had an accident no one would have been there to help. This was all explained to him in a polite and friendly manner and if you believe that you will believe anything. Needless to say it was frosty all day and not just the weather!

The next day was also a Santa. This time there was a cleaner and the driver arrived on time to help to light up etc. In due course the loco was ready to come off shed and as usual the driver, cleaner and myself took turns to go to the mess room go change from our dirty, oily boiler suits into the loco crews footplate jacket, bib and brace.

When I left the loco there was a good fire, pressure was hovering around 200 psi (the loco blew off at 225psi by then having originally been 250 psi), and the gauge glass was showing the boiler to be about ¾ full. This was exactly where I wanted it ready for the first train. Upon my return about 10 minutes later I found the driver and cleaner on the footplate chatting. A quick look at the gauge glass now showed only ¼ full. The pressure gauge had dropped to below 100psi and even worse the fire had burned down to a few embers. My words to the driver and fireman are perhaps best left to your imagination.

At this time we were due of shed so there was no possibility of sorting out this mess before moving. It then became a juggling act between slowly adding coal to the fire to bring it round, adding water to the boiler to ensure that it didn’t go to low and expose the fusible plugs and trying to bring the pressure round. As I am sure that you will appreciate as you add water the pressure drops. If the pressure drops too low (about 80 psi) the injectors won’t work. Adding too much coal in one go could result in a ‘black’ fire (i.e. the coal won’t catch fire quick enough) and if does suddenly catch then there is the risk of not being able to add water quick enough to keep everything right. As you see this is a fine juggling act and the only saving grace was that the first train was topped and tailed by the class 14 and as we were on the back we didn't need to do any work. Our only role as this time was to provide steam heat but there simply wasn’t enough pressure to do so.

Somehow we reached Peterborough where the guard said that the passengers were cold and that he would like some steam heat. My reply was that so would I! The 10 minutes or so at Peterborough finally gave me a chance to bring the fire round, top the boiler up and gain enough steam for our return to Wansford. Once on the move the draw on the fire actually helped to pull the fire round. After this the rest of the day was uneventful.

Now we come to another driver whom I think that I have mentioned before as being a little over cautious. On this occasion I arrived to find that City of Peterborough's boiler had leaked overnight and the water level was not visible in the gauge glass. This was not unusual as the boiler leaked like a sieve at that stage and in due course needed to be removed for repair. Clearly it is impossible to light up in this situation as explained previously the fusible plug would be exposed and would therefore blow. It was therefore necessary to back fill the boiler by clipping a hose to the drain pipe on the gauge glass and waiting whilst the boiler slowly filled. This took at least an hour.

By this time the driver was panicking as, with more than an hour lost, we would almost certainly be late off shed. He then asked me to light up which I refused to do without being able to see water in the glass. A discussion ensued where I said that if he wanted to light up then feel free to do so but I would leave the footplate and go home as I wasn’t going to be responsible for a boiler failure. He duly relented and by now the water was just visible in the bottom of the glass. After this there was no further problem although of course the boiler leaked all day and the injectors were more or less continually on.





A mother was working in the kitchen, listening to her five-year-old son playing with his new electric train set in the living room.

She heard the train stop and her son saying, 'All of You b*****ds who want off, get off now, 'cos we're in a hurry! And all of you b*****ds who are getting on, get on now, 'cos we're going down the tracks'.

The horrified mother went in and told her son, 'We don't use that kind of language in this house. Now I want you to go to your room and stay there for TWO HOURS.
When you come out, you may play with your train, but I want you to use nice language.'

Two hours later, the son came out of the bedroom and resumed playing with his train. Soon the train stopped and the mother heard her son say,
'All passengers who are disembarking the train, please remember to take all of your belongings with you.
We thank you for travelling with us today and hope your trip was a pleasant one.'

She hears the little boy continue,

'For those of you just boarding, we ask you to stow all of your hand luggage under your seat. Remember, there is no smoking on the train.
We hope you will have a pleasant and relaxing journey with us today.'

As the mother began to smile, the child added..........

'For those of you who are pissed off about the TWO HOUR delay, please see the fat controller in the kitchen.





L'Aventure Michelin


Whilst on holiday in France in 2016 we visited the Michelin Museum in Clermont-Ferrand, in the foyer was this rather strange looking bus. It wasn't obvious at first, at least to me, but it was on rails and was fitted with rubber tyres. 



The following text is from Wikipedia.


Michelines were a series of rubber-tyred trains developed in France in the 1930s by various rail companies and rubber-tyre manufacturer MichelinSome Michelines were built in the United States by the Budd Company.[1]

Most Michelines were self-propelled, but a number of locomotive-hauled trainsets were also produced.

Michelines offered unprecedented ride smoothness, but they soon proved to be problematic because the low load that the wheels could bear limited railcar sizes and demanded a high number of tyres (up to 20) per car. Furthermore, they were subject to flat tyres, unlike cars with steel wheels.

Eventually, the Michelines gave way to rubber-tyred metros, pioneered by the RATP (Paris transit authority) which introduced them for their superior acceleration characteristics, in order to increase the capacity of their subway lines.

However, as time went by, the extra complexity of rubber-tyred rolling stock meant that they were superseded by conventional steel-wheel rolling stock.







Improving the Environment around Smallford Station




A brief outline, including a couple of delightful Artists Impressions (by our retired architect, John Clemow) can be found on our website - : we’d appreciate your thoughts and feedback – as usual via
We’re currently involved with several departments at Oaklands College and their staff are very excited about the opportunities for their students.
We also expect to make a formal Planning Application to St Albans District Council in a couple of months’ time. Our three ‘sponsors’ are doing a wonderful job –


  • Frances Leonard (a District Councillor who has been a Member of SSAWHS for several years) has been negotiating with and involving SADC Officers
  • John Clemow, a retired Architect, has already drawn up some artists impressions (that beautifully illustrate the potential) and continues to provide excellent advice
  • David Lane, who runs his own Town Planning Company, also provides excellent advice and has already been in contact with SADC Planning Department


So, together with our dedicated committee members, we have drawn together a first-rate team, with high expectations and a wide range of expertise that will ensure this project progresses towards the best of outcomes!


An important part of such a Project is estimating costs and then seeking the funds! To date our estimated costs are in the region of £6,000; we have already received some gifts and offers of support and obviously have a substantial amount of funds to raise.
If –

  • You would like to make a donation
  • Have any suggestions on how we could raise funds
  • Have any experience of fundraising and can offer us some support

please contact us via


A Journey around Hertfordshire through Archive Film
This is a brand new DVD (and the first of several) published by TVP (Transport Video Publishing) – and Smallford Station is included!
I was approached by Stephanie South, the Company Director, and interviewed by Tony Furse (Chair of St Albans South Signal Box – a group that I certainly admire). Mike Izzard, who’s done such an amazing job at Nast Hyde Halt, is also included.
There are several sections in the DVD, which runs for around 80 minutes, including –

  • The Branch Lines of St Albans
  • Gone but not forgotten
  • The Midland Mainline

 Copies are available from TVP and cost £16.95
Transport Video Publishing, PO Box 1279, Wheathampstead, Herts, AL1 9BS


With very best wishes; be well, go well, stay safe!
Jeff Lewis
Chair: Smallford Station & Alban Way Heritage Society





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