Woodcraft in Action and the "Flying Skate"


This was an eventful, if not a very busy day.  The latter turned out to be quite fortunate.  The railway was operated by myself, Grahame, Robert (my son) and Dominic (a friend from the East Somerset Society of Model and Experimental Engineers).

Advance works

Grahame had spent Thursday attacking the weeds adjacent to the track and Robert and I went down on Saturday to do more of the same and also bring back Lady Mari Jacqueline following the incident at the last running day when one of the split eccentric drives became a little too split.  In fact one of the securing screws had worked loose and fallen out.  This meant that Lady MJ went fine in reverse, but wouldn't go forwards.  A simple repair, just replace the screw (4BA) and whilst I'm at it check all the other eccentric strap screws are tight.

Preparation on the day

So, Sunday dawned clear and bright (or so I'm told, I was asleep at the time!)  We arrived "on site" at 9.00am to do the simple task of setting up.  It shouldn't have taken long as all the strimming and mowing had been done previously.  So we put out all our signs, got the rolling stock out and brought down all the paraphernalia associated with the two steam engines.  On the Saturday previous I had noticed two impending "buckles" in the track, so set to work removing an 1/8" from the end of the rail, re-drilling the fishplate bolt holes and re-assembling.  On completion it was time to run the first train down the circuit.  Everything was fine where I had made changes, then when going around the corner at the end, Stumpy decided that "straight on" was best.  Grahame, Robert and  I had a look but there was nothing obvious.  We re-packed the track and tried again.  Stumpy was adamant, straight on was best.  Eventually after a lot of packing, Stumpy stayed on, however, the cant required would have done credit to a velodrome!  So, no option but to replace the affected rails.  The "Stop" sign (possession limit board) was moved and the process of swapping two 15' lengths of track was started.  Robert went back to steam up Lady MJ and I assisted Grahame. I was interrupted by passengers (Robert is too young to drive with passengers, he can't wait until his 16th birthday!)

Changing Track and Lady MJ throws a wobbly!

The run was temporarily shortened and the out and back became out and back twice.  I was able to help Grahame and two new pieces of rail were slotted in. Prior to ballasting we ran Stumpy over.  No problems, a sigh of relief!  Coming back to give rides, I notice that Lady MJ is sizzling nicely.  Shall we put her on I asked Robert, only to be told that she's fine in reverse, but very, very jerky going forward, which he admirably demonstrates!  I disappear with Stumpy (and passengers) and on my return I have a closer look.  There doesn't appear to be much movement on the forward eccentric on the LHS.  In fact, on closer inspection, the problem becomes obvious, the eccentric is slipping on the axle and imparts no motion to the valve gear at all.  So, the problem last time was more complicated that I thought.  Lady MJ is declared a failure and steamed down.    


Shirley is steamed up.  Shirley (after helping provide rides to nearly 4000 passengers in 4 days at the Bath and West Railway, sees my little rural line as a doddle).  Dominic has just arrived, he steams her up and she then performs faultlessly all day!

Troublesome Trucks

I have two Cromar White sit astride passenger carriages on loan from Alan in Cumbria (many thanks Alan).  Until today, they have performed faultlessly.  (I repeat until today).  First they derailed on the straight after the tunnel.  Nothing particularly obvious, but it may be a dipping rail joint and worn rails.  To cure the former I put in an extra sleeper, the latter will have to wait until I have some more money!  They then started derailing at the tips of the points (splitting the points).  We pushed them over slowly, but as ever, they wouldn't repeat it if you were watching them!  We eventually decided it may be a worn tip (yes, everything is worn on this railway!) and at some point I would need to make some new tips and probably cut them into the stock rail as well (as I did at the station points).  In the meantime a screwdriver and a large hammer would have to suffice.  Fortunately this was towards the end of the day and although there weren't many more trips over them we had no more problems (there anyway!)

Stumpy gets choked!

On almost the last ride of the day I give Grahame the chance to drive (he's done P-way and station duties, so why not drive!)  On coming back around the corner Stumpy stalls and won't restart.  I walk down there, petrol is low (but not that low).  We decide to fill it anyway!  I ask Rob to bring the "Flying Skate" down with some petrol.  With the petrol, Stumpy then starts, but won't run that well and struggles back to the station.  The engine just won't pick up speed.  In the station we take the roof off and have a look.  The choke has gone over centre and jammed on. A quick tweak and Stumpy is back to normal.

That just about concludes the day.  It was bright and sunny all day and we gave around 50 rides, about average for this sort of event.  The nice part is that we reckon that everybody who visited the "Woodcraft in Action" stalls, probably came down to us as well.  We also had our visits from the Branch Line Society, who are always welcome and I hope that they will come back when the loop is complete to do the full circuit!.

"Flying Skate"

So what's a "Flying Skate".  (Not an athletic fish!)  It is in fact a chassis for a battery electric locomotive that I have been commissioned to build by Mark (from Cornwall).  It was the chassis's first outing and I was very pleased. It coped with all the bends, straights and point-work and did a steady 5mph on the flat (it is intended for his children to drive on his garden railway).  So far it has pulled two adults with no significant problem.  I reckon it should do three adults or 5 or 6 children. Pictures of Robert with the "Flying Skate" are in the Photo Gallery.

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