Mike's RVLR Diary
This is where I plan to diarise the most interesting bits of the month to month happenings at the RVLR.
June Open Weekend
on 21st June 2018
We had 78 visitors over the weekend and yet again the sun shone. The sand martins were very busy hunting for insects affording good views from the train.
Work continues apace on Powys with the steam pipes back on for connection to the smoke box. The valves in the steam fountain have been refurbished and the smoke box was re-attached to the boiler. The A frame has been extremely useful for this task and many visitors were interested to watch the ongoing work. Powys’ chassis is back on its wheels and rolling again.
Monty is running but awaiting a bonnet engine cover and a new fuel tank.
The problem with the blower on Jack last month was traced to a leak in the blast pipe and a new pipe has been fitted. The drivers reported that this has really improved running. The injectors have also been cleaned. Again !!!
May Open Weekend
on 20th June 2018
Almost 80 visitors were greeted by glorious sunshine and 25 degree temperatures for the first open weekend of 2018. The site is looking lovely with all the new tree growth, especially near the river where the blackthorn is a lovely foamy white.
While the visitors enjoyed tea and cakes on the lawn, some of the volunteers were busy with Powys which has been re-wheeled and the motion refitted. New eccentric arms are being made as one was found to be cracked. The reversing gear and die blocks have been realigned. Powys’ boiler was leaking but this has been repaired and has been certified by a boiler inspector.
We were running Jack all weekend, but the blower wasn’t working properly and was deadening the fire. The drivers decided to run with the blower off which provided better draught to the engine. This will need to be looked at before the next open weekend but did not diminish the enjoyment of the adults and children in the Montgomeryshire sunshine.
March/April Working Weekends
on 4th May 2018
The planned working weekend for the 3rd and 4th of March was scuppered by heavy snow and replaced by the weekend of 24/25 March. We then met again on 7/8 April as planned with Sunday 8th being particularly springlike.
Mark has been reassembling the motion on Powys and John is taking the reversing gear shaft back to his workshop for some machining work to lengthen it. There was great excitement on Sunday as Powys’ boiler returned from Highbridge where it was being welded by a coded welder. The A frame was put to good use as you can see from the photo. Ian continues with the top coat painting and has been doing this work outside in a dust-free atmosphere. Unfortunately, as soon as he had finished, a fly landed on the new paintwork.
The panelling for Monty has been ordered.
A successful steam test was carried out on Jack, the injectors have been cleaned and replaced and Jack is now ready for the 2018 season.
Some rotten sleepers were replaced on the permanent way near the station and all the track has been checked. The lambs are a delight and the trees along the river are in bud. Do come and join us for the first open weekend of 2018 on 5/6 May.
Feb 2018 Working Weekend
on 18th February 2018
Glorious spring sunshine on Sunday 4th greeted 10 volunteers.
Jack’s injectors have been serviced and are back at the railway ready to be refitted.
Powys’ ‘mislaid’ injectors have been found in the safe place they had been put.
The large job of repainting continues; the cab has had a second coat of primer and the tanks have had two undercoats. The March working weekend will be spent putting on some glossy top coat. The cylinders have been refitted and the valve gear repainted. Alec is working on the new steam brake.
Meanwhile back in Birmingham work continues on Powys' boiler. There ahould be more news on progress next month.
To save the volunteers’ legs, Monty was pressed into service to take people and tools onto the track to cut back some trees which were overhanging the permanent way. Some energetic driving by John meant that the new A frame was deployed to put the last carriage back onto the rails (see photo). All is now well and the track is ready for the 2018 season.
Jan 18 Working Weekend
on 30th January 2018
A small band of 5 volunteers tackled the jobs this weekend. Jack’s injectors have been removed and taken off-site for their annual service. Our main focus is getting Powys ready for the 2018 running season and work continued on the repaint. The valve gear has been removed off-site for repainting and some minor engineering works. The cab has been stripped, filled and sanded and the first coat of primer has been applied. The same treatment has been given to the side tanks. The axles have had their second coat of primer. The boiler cladding and dome have had their first coat of black undercoat and this has transformed them. Three volunteers managed to brush past the dome while it was still wet and so this will need rubbing down again in places (Ian has threatened to ban all from the workshop when he top coats the dome). And we re-designed the station layout (again).
Nov/Dec Working Weekends 2017
on 28th December 2017
We made good progress over the weekends with the repainting of Powys. The frames have had two coats of undercoat and the buffer beams are ready for red undercoat. The wheels have had two coats of chassis black. The running plates and tank top panels have been stripped, prepped and painted with grey primer. The connecting rods have been grey primed. The side tanks and cab have been sanded and filled ready for painting. The boiler cladding, stumpy dome and cylinder covers, have all now had a coat of primer. For those who are interested in these things we are using Craftmaster paints. While we had the paint brushes out Piers was tasked with painting JACKS’ firebox back plate with heat resistant paint. We are looking forward to much of the same in January 2018. While on the subject of 2018 may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and steamy 2018.
October Working Weekend 2017
on 27th December 2017
This was a busy weekend of maintenance with much work done on both Powys and Monty. We were glad to be in the sheds as the weather is turning colder. Powys is being completely re-painted while the boiler is off site having a new smokebox fitted. The chassis is currently being stripped ready to received two coats of high build primer. Powys’ side tanks were suffering some corrosion and this was removed using a pneumatic powered needle gun. A couple of patches of corrosion have been found to go all the way through and have been patched and welded. Powys’ wheels are also being painted. Monty is now running sweetly and a new radiator fan was fitted with a thermostatic switch so that the fan is not running permanently. The new horn is very effective. The carriages got their first overhaul of the winter and the roofs received a coat of paint. Richard delivered an A frame which will be used to move the heavier pieces of railway equipment that ageing bodies can no longer move easily.
We have recently revamped the master plan for the next 10 years and changed our vision from impossibility to near-impossibility. We will be concentrating on working on all 3 engines this winter with a view to getting all the rolling stock fit for next season. Powys may be a bit of challenge but the other 2 will be ready.
2017 Visitor Season
on 26th December 2017
We had a good visitor season in 2017 although visitor numbers were slightly down on last year. A number of clubs visited including the Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club (Central Region) who brought 9 cars from a 1960 Jaguar XK150 to 2 e-types, 2 XJS, 2 Mk2 and others from 1971 to 2017.
We also welcomed Abermule primary school. It was great to see all the children and their parents enjoying riding on the steam trains and talking to the drivers.
The Narrow Gauge Railway Society visited on Friday 2nd June and according to their News Letter report had a really enjoyable visit to the railway.
Just a reminder that the railway is open for private steaming days on the Fridays before an open weekend in the summer with prior arrangement so bring your club along for a day out.
May and June Working Weekends 2013
on 10th June 2013
During May and June we continued working on the new coach, ballasting the new section of track and completing several small jobs on the locos and some essential maintenance on the old track. We have stripped down Jack's wayward injector and having given it a good clean it now works fine. As you can see form this months photo we have also carried out some much needed tea drinking practice. Away from the railway progress is being made on the detailed drawings for the first of the new turnouts that we need to construct for the lower extension. This also involves designing some new point levers. I will post drawings on the web site when they are finalised.
April 2013 Open Weekend
on 15th April 2013
We had a really great weekend. Excellent weather and a really good attendance. Jack and Powys had to have a test steam on the Friday before the Open Weekend so that the boiler inspector could issue boiler certificates for both locos. They both passed with flying colours. The new track section was completed on time in spite of last months terrible weather and everyone agreed that the run along side the river is now really good. One of Jack's injectors started to play up on the Sunday so we will need to carry out some maintenance on it before the July Open Weekend.
March 2013 Working Weekend
on 1st April 2013
Jan and Feb 2013 Working Weekends
on 10th March 2013
November December 2012
on 4th January 2013
Working Weekend 27th 28th October 2012
on 13th November 2012
Working Weekend 6th 7th October 2012
on 12th November 2012
Open Weekend September 2012
on 12th September 2012
What a fantastic weekend we have just had. The sun shone, record numbers of people attended, we took more money than we have ever done before on an Open Weekend and we had a visit from a 1950's Midland Red Bus. Fabulous.
There was of course the odd problem but things wouldn't have seemed right if something hadn't gone wrong. After running well all day Saturday we lost a pin from Powys's valve gear during Sunday afternoon and had to press Monty in to service to help out with the service. Unfortunatley we couldn't find the missing pin so Powys's valve gear has been placed on the winter jobs list. A piece of "Farmers Friend" was employed to hold part of the valve gear off the ground so that Powys could be returned to the shed. After a couple of runs Monty too decided not to play and as a result running, for the last few trains, was restricted to Jack only.
Can I please say a very big thank you to all the volunteers who turned out to help run the railway over the weekend. It was a big effort and everyone had a great time.
Working Weekend 4th 5th August 2012
on 16th August 2012
Excellent progress was made on the ballasting of the new section of track. On Saturday with the aid of Karl's Manitou, Ian, Steve, Dawn and myself started to work our way through 75 tons of ballast while Les, Ray and David formed a spot sleepering party to replace several rotting sleepers close to the station. On Sunday Ian, Les, Ray and myself carried on with the ballasting work. As you can see from the photo the finished replacement trackwork is looking really good and you certainly notice a difference when riding over it. We have managed to persuade Les that there is still a speed restriction applied to the new track despite his best efforts to have it removed !!! Tricia kept up her usual excellent standards of catering throughout the weekend and kept us all supplied with plenty of tea and cakes. Thanks to all who turned out to help it really is much appreciated. It will soon be our September Open Weekend, the main one of our year and I hope to see as many of you as possible over the two days.The next batch of 300 sleepers has been delivered and spikes and fishbolts have been ordered for the next 200m of replacement track.
Working Weekend 7th 8th July
on 11th July 2012
Monday 18th June 2012
on 21st June 2012
Ian, John and myself spent a really useful day fitting a new radiator to Monty and working on the new carriage. As you can see from the photo we are nearly ready to put the roof on. The roof will be covered in canvas which is "glued" to the timber with a matt black paint. In the passed we have used a Farrow and Ball traditional oil based paint but new EU regulations have persuaded Farrow and Ball to discontinue the use of oil in their paints and we are now looking for an alternative supply.
If anyone knows of a manufacturer of a traditional oil based paint that is available in Matt Black then please drop me a quick email (firstname.lastname@example.org) I would be most grateful. We have removed Powys's smoke box door so that we can make a new one. The original has become very thin over the years and is no longer airtight. The original is now on Alec James workbench ready to have a new one drawn up and made.
Open Weekend June 2012
on 4th June 2012
PLEG visit May 2012
on 28th May 2012
On Saturday 26th May 2012 we hosted a visit from PLEG. The Preserved Locomotive Enthusiasts Group. www.pleg.org.uk
Amongst its activities the society organises visits to railways and trips behind non steam locomotives that are rarely available for passenger carrying. In our case the interest was in Monty as in recent years Monty has not been used to pull passanger carrying trains and has only been used for the permanent way and maintenance train. We were a little doubtful as to wether or not Monty was still man enough for the task but after a really thorough overhaul by John, our new self styled Monty "aficionado" we felt that we could accommodate the requested visit. Jack was on standby just in case but all went well and Monty performed excellently.
Working Weekend 5th 6th May
on 8th May 2012
Well we had a better turnout than I was originally expecting. Karl, Pat, John, Ian and myself on Saturday and Ian, John and myself on Sunday.
Most of the time was spent working on the next new coach as it was felt that due to all the rain we have had recently it would have been folly to take heavy machinery on to the land.
Excellent progress was made (once we had sorted some of my earlier mistakes). We managed to assemble the whole of the non door side of the coach and fix it to the chassis.
In between working weekends John has been carrying out sterling work on Monty and nearly all the maintenance work has now been completed. Just the clutch to sort out and Monty will be fully restored to running condition again.
Open Day April 2012
on 7th May 2012
The overall attendance was slightly disappointing but this is the first time we have held an open day over the Easter Weekend and I suppose it will take time for the word to spread. We had more visitors on the Sunday than the Saturday so maybe next year we should consider opening on the Sunday and Monday instead. It was really good to see several friends and family members and overall we had a very good fun weekend.
Thanks go to all the volunteers who helped run the railway over the weekend and to get it ready in advance. Your help is really very much appreciated.
If anyone has any photos of the Open Weekend that they would like to share then please send them to me and we will get a gallery created and put on the web site.
There are some great photos and videos on our Facebook Page.
We had a couple of minor derailments with one of the four wheeled coaches. This was discovered to be due to a section of track having gone out of gauge. This was quickly repaired by the permanent way crew. While the repairs were being carried we operated with one engine at either end of the coaches so that at no time were the coaches being pushed by the locomotive. A first for the RVLR I think.
The whistle valve on Powys has been leaking slightly for some time. On Saturday the valve was leaking more than usual and towards the end of Powys’s first run the boiler pressure dropped to a very low level and the engine had not got enough steam pressure to get up the bank in to the station. The decision was taken to withdraw Powys from service, drop the fire and try to repair the whistle valve in time for Sunday running. Once the whistle valve had been removed it became clear that the problem was a ball bearing not seating properly in the valve. After a good clean we managed to get it to seal, but not consistently, so we decided to run Powys on the Sunday without a whistle. This proved to be successful but we do need to get Powys’s whistle valve properly overhauled before we steam again. I think a quick visit to Mr. James is called for !!!
Monday 2nd April
on 4th April 2012
Well we are nearly there.
Had an excellent day on Monday. Ian, John and myself managed to make up the last track panel, move the remaining track panels in to place and join up the remaining new track panels so that the whole new length of track is fishplated up. We did have a few problems getting some of the fishplates to sit neatly in to the rail web but the skilled use of the angle grinder by John soon sorted the problem. So for the second time I went home with hands covered in permanent way grease. Boy does that stuff stick to skin !!! So just the stepped fishplates to make and then everything will be joined up. It will be touch and go for Saturday but being as we have Friday this week to work on it I think we should make it. Open days Saturday and Sunday. Should be fun if it doesn't snow !!
Working Weekend 24th 25th March
on 26th March 2012
Well what a great weekend we just had, great weather and loads of progress. A great turnout, Steve, Dawn, Karl, Ian, John and myself on Saturday. John, Ian, Bob and myself Sunday. We hired in the mini-digger and the Manitou again and really got stuck in. We managed to finish all the digging out, lay the rest of the geo textile and move and level about 45 tons of stone on Saturday which completed the new track bed over the complete 200 metres that we are replacing. On Sunday we laid all but 3 of the completed track panels in position and fishplated 7 of them. So we are close to having a complete loop again and I'm very grateful to all those who responded to our shout for help!!! I really am very grateful. So all we to do now is build one more track panel, lay the last 4 panels and connect everything up. To that end we will be working Monday 2nd April to try and get finished. We used the new P-Way Lubricant for the first time and I must say it seems to be very good if not somewhat messy.
Update 23rd March
on 23rd March 2012
Update 14th March 2021
on 14th March 2012
Les, Ian and myself had a very productive day on Monday and we managed to move and lay about 30 tons of ballast. Only another 45 tons to go !! We are fighting a bit of a rearguard action now in an effort to be ready for our Easter Open Days. We are going to hold some extra working days on 19th, 24th and 25th March and 2nd April. Hopefully we will get a good turnout and get everything finished. We have to make up another 6 track panels, lay the rest of the vapour barrier and ballast. Position the track panels and connect them all up. We also need to check the timing on Powys and get Monty serviced. Should be fun. Also a great day today as the new lathe and miller have been delivered.
Working Weekend 3rd 4th March
on 7th March 2012
Well we had a great weekend in spite of the weather forecast. At one time it did look as if rain would stop play but fortunately the "railway gods" smiled on us and we managed to get a lot done.
A good turnout made a big difference with Ian, David, Andy, Jezz, Jack and myself on Saturday with Bob joining us all on Sunday. Thanks go to all of you who turned up. Tricia, as usual, provided the snacks and Jack ate most of them !!
Over the course of the weekend we managed to finish the digging out of the trackbed, we moved all the completed track panels off the station platform and put them alongside the track bed ready for laying, we put down the ballast and vapour barrier for 4 lengths of track and put three of them into position. Pretty impressive you must agree.
All this was made possible with the hire of a mini-digger and telehandler from our local man. Thanks Karl.
We have recently purchased the fish bolts we need to join up all the track we are laying and some permanent way grease to lubricate the fishplates with before they are bolted up. This should help to ease possible buckling of the rail due to heat expansion in the summer (if of course we have one this year).
In spite of this great progress we are still behind with our program so it looks as if an extra working weekend will be needed. This will be on the 24th 25th March. I look foward to seeing as many of you as possible then. Thanks for now.
February Working Weekend
on 6th February 2012
Well due to the terrible weather forecast the turnout was
understandably low. Well when I say low, Ian and I on Saturday and just me on
Sunday. The weather forecasters got it wrong for SY21 and we had a relatively
fine weekend. We made good progress with the new track panels and we now have
14 of the required 20 built.
Working Weekend 14th 15th January 2012
on 17th January 2012
Well Saturday brought quite a cool start to the day, very frosty. This weekend we started to make up the 20 30ft track panels that we will need to replace the 200m of track that we removed before Xmas. We started by making up a jig for drilling the holes for the spikes. We decided to make the jig for pilot holes so that the hole size in the jig would be less likely to distort with use. This proved to work quite well. Ian made up the jig. My attempt was a disaster. We started by drilling up 14 sleepers for the first length. We laid these out on the station platform so that we had a firm level (well nearly level) base to work from. The sleepers were space out with 500mm between each and then we leveled the ends to give approximately 250mm at each end of the rail to the first sleeper. Once we had checked that the whole thing was square, by comparing diagonal measurements, the panel was spiked up. Over the weekend we managed to make up three complete panels. Stack all the new sleepers on the platfrom ready for use. Pre-drill about half of the 300 sleepers and sort all the rail we need for the 20 lengths we are going to make. We had to rely on Carl again with his Manitou to lift the rail and help sort it as our Fergie is not really suited to this heavy work. One thing we learnt for sure is that we will have to organise some extra working days if we are going to run at Easter with a complete railway. Thanks to David and Ian for their help and Tricia again for the excellent catering.
Working Weekend 10th 11th December
on 12th December 2011
We had a very productive weekend in spite of the Welsh weather's best efforts on Sunday morning.
The remaining 70m of track scheduled for replacement this winter was lifted. We then removed all the old sleepers from the rail together with the 130m we lifted in November and then the whole lot was loaded on to the dumper and then moved and stacked ready for sale.
The old sleepers were then tipped ready for burning and spike salvage. Thanks to Keith, James (ace dumper driver), Ian and David for all their help. We nearly got the job done on Saturday but were thwarted by the "curse of the flat battery" and so had to finish off Sunday morning once the dumper decided it wanted to play. We had just got the rail stacked when a prospective rail purchaser arrived, great timing.
Bob and I then spent Sunday afternoon looking at the timing on Powys which had been reported as "out" during our last running weekend. So a very productive weekend and thanks go to everyone who helped and a special thanks goes to Tricia for keeping the flow of tea, coffee and bacon sarnies going.
on 28th November 2011
The rail we purchased from the RHDR was delivered on Saturday together with fishplates and some wheel sets. Karl came down with his Manitou and unloaded the rail. It wasn't the easiest job we have done this year as the rail which in the main was in 30ft lengths was blowing about a bit in a rather stiff breeze.
We had to take a fence down to get the machine through in to the paddock where the rail was stacked. Still, we managed it, and without a misshap.
Jezz and I then spent a very rewarding hour and a half with a Snap On impact wrench and removed all the rest of the fishplates from the rail that is being lifted and replaced this winter.
Thanks to Karl for the loan of a great tool. I want one!!
Working Weekend 12th 13th November 2011
on 14th November 2011
We had a very productive first weekend. Karl brought his mini-digger down mid-morning and by the time Andy and Jezz arrived we were all ready to go.
Over the course of the weekend we managed to remove the bolts from 130m of track, this was very hard work and we need to find a better way of doing this. Fish Plate removal proved to be a major bottle neck. We tried cracking off the nuts with a cold chisel, we tried over tensioning with a socket on a long bar, we tried removing the nuts with sockets and spanners. While all methods achieved some success the process was slow and very hard work.
The old track bed was dug out using the mini-digger. This proved tricky at first but once we had sorted out the right bucket it proved to be very successful. We pegged out the gradient profile from data gathered with a level and staff. The gradient is 1 in 200.
My thanks to everyone who helped with a very succesful weekend. Andy, Jezz, Simon, Jack and crew.