Dear Members

While thinking this week that the weather has turned much colder, a well known phrase came to mind.
I  looked up google and found the following answer to the question what does Brass Monkey mean?

To freeze the balls off a brass monkey means it is very cold. ... It is widely believed that a brass monkey is a brass tray used in naval ships during the Napoleonic Wars for the storage of cannonballs (piled up in a pyramid). The theory goes that the tray would contract in cold weather, causing the balls to fall off.

This week we received the following from Andrew Starr
'I note that there are exceptions to Tier 2 regulations which say it is possible for up to 15 people to meet for a “formal support group”. The Broxbourne/Hoddesdon MRS raised significant lottery funding (ca 25k) by describing themselves as a “men’s support group”. What do we need to change or add, in terms of branding or constitution (or nothing) to change to DHMRS mental health support group? '

In response to this interesting idea, may be we could could get help for our train spotting and anorak wearing - the general view of the media and public at large.
we could all sit in a circle - socially distanced of course and then in turn
I am an anorak******************etc
Seriously, it may be worth having a look at and members suggestions are welcome, remember we would need the support of the church in reopening.
In the meantime, it seems a good idea to stay indoors have another coffee and catch up with the latest newsletter.

Stay safe

Phil and Nigel


Please email all submissions to  or



Malcolm looks at


Classic Diesels on the ECML


Recent photos in the Newsletter of a Western loco reminded me that I had spent some time photographing them in their last year of operation. However, rather than upsetting the great majority of members by including any more of the GWR than is strictly necessary, here are some more acceptable locations to remind you of what used to be the everyday.
Photography in the 70s and 80s was a much more demanding business than it is now. Colour films were slow, typically 25 or 60ASA, and 35mm film cameras had a limited range of lenses unless you were very well off. The professionals tended to use medium format cameras with a much larger negative, and higher quality as a result. It is difficult for those brought up with cameras and phones from the last 10 years to grasp just how difficult it was to get a good photograph.
As train speeds increased the need to be able to freeze the action became more difficult. On a bright day with a typical slide film a shot at 1/250th at f8 on a 135mm lens would get you a reasonable result, by which I mean that you could just about make out the loco number when projected on a screen. A dull day and it would be a very much less sharp result. And most cameras had no or very limited metering, so either a light meter or a good guess and experience determined the camera settings.
Digital cameras allow multiple shots so that the ideal one can be selected, and the rest rejected. Roll film winds on slowly. You had one shot for a high speed train. A slow freight and you could risk a second shot if you had a zoom lens, but not otherwise as with a fixed length lens the subject would be too close, or else your first shot would be too far away! Add to that the cost of film and processing, and films were either 24 or 36 exposure, and you had to be really sure that the shot was worth taking.
So, having given some context to photography 45 years ago, you can appreciate why there are not more photographs around of the everyday railway scene. I hope the following selection will bring back fond memories of what was running on the ECML.
We start at Hatfield on 16th July 1975 with unidentified 31 and a 45 or 46 on a bulk cement train running on the up fast. The coal yard was still rail connected at that time. 08s used to bring wagons up from Brent coal yard on the Midland. I didn’t visit Hatfield much at this time and never managed to see these trains. It was all gone quite soon after this photograph was taken.



Hatfield still had a siding on the Down side and the barrow crossing plus barrows are features long gone.



Upper; 1975, the wiring is in use for suburban trains as far as Foxton and Hitchin.  55021 Argyll & Sutherland Highlander and lower, 31264 on the 09.30 ex Cambridge. The benches may well have been from LNER days.



Welwyn North on 23rd September 1975 and 31209 is on a ballast train. 46032 is on the Up cement train on the same day. Not much has changed in these two views.


55004 on an up service south of Sandy. The photo was taken from the trackbed of the Cambridge line. Telegraph posts still became attached to locos, although now the wiring supports make it more difficult to get a shot lined up.


31206 shunting vans at Sandy on 30th December 1975. Access all areas applied at many locations at that time.


46043 on an up train about to go under the A414 North of Hatfield on 6th May 1976 This would have been taken in the evening. The trains are almost completely hidden now by the trees alongside the line. Some of these coaches are probably familiar to our Hertfordshire Railtours patrons! See what I mean about the posts?


47457 between the tunnels in 1980. There were fences, but attitudes to line siding were rather more relaxed.


A 312 train on a down service in 1980. These wooden framed slam door units provided the first electric services for the outer suburban services. They had a relatively short life being replaced by the 317 units.


A summer evening in August 1982 and 47426 trundles through the back road at Welwyn Garden City while the luggage trolleys sleep quietly on.


A class 40 on the down parcels on an evening in July 1981.


31186 on another ballast train at Welwyn North in 1981.


40187 at Brookmans Park on the evening of 21st July 1981 with the parcels train. Looks like the engine could do with some attention… Safety fences and buddleia bushes now block this viewpoint which was a great one in the later part of a summer’s day.


55008 The Green Howards at Knebworth and a 312 unit on the down service train, 13th June 1981. The GNR wooden buildings were still in use. Taking the photo from the platform ramp gave me a very good low angle shot that suited the Deltic’s front.


The Midland Main Line in 1976, Finedon Road, Its changed a bit since then!!


A couple of “Wardrobes” (20 059 and 076) near Isham.


And finally, Knebworth was still gas-light in 1976.



Volunteering on The Epping Ongar Railway


Part 2


As mentioned last time the EOR has some quite severe gradients which can try many a fireman if they are not prepared and on top of the job. Below is the gradient profile from Epping to Ongar. (Click on it to enlarge).



Although the EOR doesn’t have a station at Epping yet, there have been various rumours about the possibility of one, trains currently run to about 200 metres short of the EOR – London Underground boundary. As there is no run round loop here all trains are topped and tailed, usually by a steam diesel combination. As you can see the start from the Epping end is therefore at 1 in 70 steepening to 1 in 56. With wet rails and a heavy train (up to six coaches at times) pulling away can be a real challenge. It is not unknown for the diesel to slip, particularly if it is the class 31, and for the steam loco to pull the whole load. This will only work if the sanders on the engine are working properly and it is a suitably strong loco such as the N2 when it was based there.



The climb continues up to Coopersale and then the fireman can have a breather as the line drops towards North Weald. The only issue here is to stop the loco blowing off whilst ensuring that there is still sufficient steam for when leaving North Weald or indeed passing through non-stop as on the Santa’s.

Straight after North Weald there is another challenging climb at 1 in 90 up to Marconi bridge. For trains leaving North Weald it is essential for the fireman to ensure that he has a good head of steam and a full boiler. Depending whether the loco is chimney first or bunker first the boiler will of course tip the other way once over the top. Therefore, if for example the loco is chimney first, the water which has been covering the crown of the firebox will surge towards the front and possibly leaving the firebox crown uncovered. If this happens it is possible for the crown to distort and for a fusible plug to blow which will spray water and steam into the firebox. This will help to cool the fire but really only acts as a warning to the crew that there is a serious problem. The loco won’t be going any further, the fire will need to be thrown out and it will be almost certain the firebox will be distorted requiring a very expensive repair. Fortunately, I have never seen this happen although I have heard of cases on other railways.

Past Marconi and it is downhill once again to Blake Hall after which there is another small rise to Perrills Footpath before the final drop at 1 in 70 all the way to Ongar. The final challenge believe it or not is the run into the platform which is at 1 in 147. The problem arises when a fireman has let the fire die down to avoid blowing off and then realises that some steam is required for this last little drag. I have seen trains stall at the beginning of the platform more than once.

Of course, if we now look the other way we face the 1 in 70 straight out of Ongar. The fireman will therefore try and build the fire up ready for this but must try to avoid black smoke as the local residents are prone to complain regularly. With some coal it is virtually impossible, even with firing a little coal at a time and hoping the smoke will clear. Assuming there is a good fire and plenty of water we should be OK back up to Perrills footpath, although firing all the way will almost certainly be required unless the coal is long burning and stays hot. The short drop to Blake Hall gives a chance to rebuild the fire and to make sure there is plenty of water in the boiler for the climb back up to Marconi Bridge at 1 in 65. This is the point at which some firemen get caught out. I have seen several stall on the climb. Perhaps worse of all is when the loco actually makes it over the top but then expires with the rear coaches still to clear the top.

Finally, with the drop back into North Weald it is necessary to now try and cool the fire, top the boiler up and hope the loco won’t be blowing off all the time in the station. If the train terminates here and then has an hour before the next Ongar train, as is the norm on some of the timetables, the problem is even more pronounced and many is the time the loco has sat in the platform for much of the hour blowing off, even with very little fire left in the box. And then of course it all starts again with preparation for the next climb.

If the train continues to Epping the initial climb at 1 in 73 is fairly easy if the loco is still very hot from the descent into North Weald. After that it is of course downhill all the way to Epping again.

You can see that the EOR is quite a challenging line from both the fireman's and driver’s perspective. Some other lines such as the NVR are basically flat by comparison!

So, I have tried to explain the trials of the fireman but what else can go wrong? Well an instance I can think of is from when I was still a cleaner. The loco involved was 4141 and had completed a couple of trips to Ongar and back. However, on the return journey the loco was not steaming well. We had the usual hour at North Weald and the fireman decided to disappear somewhere. The driver was not particularly happy with this and asked me to see if I could sort out the fire whilst he was gone knowing that I had far more experience than the fireman. A quick look in the firebox showed a large amount of clinker. I tried to break this up with the rake* and then the dart* but it was pretty obvious that the fire was far to thick and the clinker extensive and solid. It would have been virtually impossible to break this up without going onto the shed and spending quite some time hammering away with a dart. The driver had a look and agreed that the situation was hopeless and decided that there was no alternative but to fail the loco. He was not to pleased with the fireman and I am sure that words were exchanged, not least because he had abandoned the loco when he really should have been trying to sort out the problem. The last train of the day then of course had to be diesel hauled.

Having explained above how difficult it can be to stop a loco from blowing off when it has been working hard I will now give another example of this. This occurred on the Jinty which was on loan at that time.



This also occurred when I was still a cleaner so I can accept no responsibility for this! It was on the last train of the day from Ongar and Wayne was the driver. He decided to let the fireman drive whilst he decided to build up a really good fire with a view to storming out of Ongar and all the way back to North Weald. This he succeeded in doing and the loco sounded absolutely magnificent on the two climbs. Once on shed of course the loco didn’t want to cool down even though the fire was all but gone and the boiler filled up with cold water.

What happened next wouldn’t have been apparent on most days as the crew would have disposed of the loco and gone home. On this particular day there was bar-b-q laid on for the volunteers and so we stayed for a burger or two. It was about half an hour after disposal that the loco decided to start blowing off again. The fireman retuned to the footplate and put the injectors on again not that there was much room in the boiler to add much water. However, the loco stopped blowing off and we returned to the burgers. Low and behold about 10 minutes later the loco started blowing of yet again. And so, it went on until we left. This gives a good indication of just how hot the boiler and especially the brick arch can get and stay hot.

Next time I will perhaps discuss some of the other locos I have fired on the EOR and there vagaries.

*(Just to explain the fire irons for those not familiar with them. Some have more than one name and these tend to originate from whichever railway they were on. The rake is perhaps the most obvious as it resembles a garden rake only much longer and of course made completely of steel. Depending on the length of the firebox the length of the rake required will be governed. Some are very long and difficult to wield particularly in the cab of a tank engine. The rake is used to pull and push the fire around the firebox bars.

Next there is the dart which is basically a long straight rod and is used to break up clinker. There is also a bent dart which, as it’s name suggests, has a 90 degree bend in it and is used for reaching the back corners of the fire box.

A useful item and one that is particularly hard to use is the clinker shovel. Thus is of course all made of steel with a long handle and is used for reaching into the fire box to dig the clinker out. It is also used for throwing the fire out.

There is also a slice which is a bit like a dart but has a flattened end and is used to scrape across the bars to remove clinker.)




Locomotive Maintenance

For those of you who have a poorly loco and are missing Steve's expertise; I hope this guide that appeared in the Model Railway Enthusiast magazine in the late 1990's will be of some help. It may even act as a refresher course for Steve! As the Ringfield motor is not covered here Steve may be able to show us how to service one.

Click on the top image to view in your browser.







Part 2



The track laying has been completed this week and the point Cobolt motors have been fitted. Next job is the wiring which I hope to complete next week.

There are two holes cut in the back scene. The one on the left is where the switches will be mounted. This will be hidden behind a low relief building. The one on the right is to allow access into a warehouse so that wagons can be swapped and of course the track cleaned etc.

The dip in the board on the left is where the canal will be.





Was anyone a member?







You will probably not be surprised to learn that my favourite locomotive is Sir Nigel Gresley. The day I was born my father came home with the Hornby Dublo 3 rail model. Our model railway in the loft started that day 29th March 1949.





Please email us details of your favourite loco.











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Answers next week.


1. What is the largest city in the world by population?
2. Who was the actor who played Elton John in Rocketman?
3. What is the official language in Brazil?
4. What US singer revealed this year that he has Lymes disease?
5. True or false: The Statue of Liberty was gifted to the US by France
6. Who was behind the SpaceX project where satellites could be seen from space last month?
7. What colours are the five Olympic rings?
8. What UK TV series is the character Tommy Shelby in?
9. Which bird can fly backwards?
10. Who is Sir Keir Starmer?



Answers to last weeks Quiz.


1. Canberra
2. A backbone
3. Choux (we're not being strict on spelling, but make sure you let us know if anyone had a funny/different way of spelling it)
4. Finn Tapp and Paige Turley
5. River Nile
6. Number four.... BINGO
7. The hands and feet. There are 27 in each hand and 26 in each foot.
8. Thunderball
9. Smithy
10. It is actually false. People often assume they grow on trees, however they grow on a herbaceous plant or a 'herb'. It is not a tree because the stem does not contain true woody tissue