News and Views from the
TYNESIDE SOCIETY of MODEL and EXPERIMENTAL ENGINEERS
All good things come to an end. On 11th August last, our trusty ride-on grass mower caught fire – the result of an electrical short-circuit. Fortunately, no-one was injured, but the machine (already venerable and oft repaired) is beyond economical recovery.
I‟m sure you are all well aware of how presentable the TSMEE site is kept, courtesy of our team of dedicated gardeners led by Jim Scott. Even visitors to the Club frequently remark on how nice everything looks. Much of this is down to the regular cutting of the extensive areas of grass – a job made much easier with the ride-on mower, and at no cost to the Club.
Unfortunately, the Club‟s finances do not run to funding a replacement – Lockdown has (as everywhere else) cost us dear with a much-reduced income but bills still to pay.
To replace the machine will cost around £1500, hence this appeal to the membership for ideas and help. Do any of you have any contacts with ride-on mower sales ? Do you know of an auction house where we might get a refurbished machine ? Do you have any ideas for a fund-raising drive ? Would you like to make a generous donation ? YOUR GRASS NEEDS YOU to help – please contact the Secretary ( email@example.com , 07761960788 ) with ideas and offers
Jim Stephenson Memorial Day (reminder and update)
Sunday September 26th 10:00 ‘til when …
At the suggestion of his Family, the Club is hosting a special day in Jim‟s memory. It will be a private affair for Family and Club members only.
Members are asked to bring along lots of locos to run, and there will also be a “Lockdown Projects” display for you to showcase your inactivity activities.
A running buffet will keep everyone fed and watered throughout the day. Please come along and help make this a truly memorable event.
There will also be a Prize Raffle in the afternoon in aid of the Grass Mower Fund, and members are asked to donate suitable prizes asap please.
The recent drive to collect scrap non-ferrous metals netted the Club the princely sum of £475. Thanks to Steve Lowe for organising this and all those who contributed materials.
The Swan Tea Urn finally gave up the ghost, and, as the Company no longer exists, spare parts are unobtainable. A new urn has been purchased to replace it.
A reminder that the Club will be closed on Sunday 12th September (Great North Run) and Sunday 19th September (“This is Tomorrow” Festival).
Members Musings …
Mixing it with the Big(ish) Boys
As some of you know, as well as running my Romulus “Angkor Thom” at TSMEE, I also take it to the Scottish Model Engineering Trust‟s track near Perth and a private track, the Millerbeck Light Railway, near Newby Bridge at the bottom end of the Lake District.
Stuart, one of the other regulars at Millerbeck, is a gentleman who has served on the committee of the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway Preservation Society since it was founded in the 1960‟s to successfully buy and save the railway from extinction.
If you haven‟t been to the R&E it‟s well worth a visit. It‟s a 15” gauge line that runs from Ravenglass, on the Cumbrian coast, for 7 miles or so along the Esk valley to a terminus at Dalegarth.
Some years ago I had the good fortune to have a round-trip footplate ride, courtesy of a (sadly now deceased) friend, who was a full time driver on the R&E, and it‟s right up there with my most treasured steam related memories, even standing comparison with two driving days on the East Lancs Railway.
In July this year the 60th anniversary of the purchase of the line by the Preservation Society was to be celebrated with a gala weekend. As well as all the R&E locomotives that were operational being in steam, there was to be displays of visiting engines and other forms of steam traction.
Knowing Stuart was involved with Millerbeck he was approached by the R & E to see if it were possible to have a display of 7.25” locos from that location so I was asked if I‟d be interested in bringing “Angkor Thom” along.
Naturally I agreed. So early on the morning of Saturday 11th I arrived in the yard at Ravenglass with “Angkor Thom” in the van and we started the process of unloading and setting up the display.
I should have taken photos of the unloading process as I‟m sure even Allely‟s, the transport specialists, couldn‟t have done it any better. It was really quite surprising what we managed to do with a few lengths of portable track and some wooden chocks.
Eventually we had my Romulus, “Angkor Thom”, Stuart‟s Romulus, “Gunga Din” (which is in the process of being rebuilt) and “Laura”, a Quarry Hunslet to the Milner design, and one of the resident locos at Millerbeck, unloaded and set up on lengths of portable track with some 7.25” slate trucks. I had taken some time to spruce up ”Angkor Thom” prior to the event and also made sure a new TSMEE crest was applied to the riding truck.
We‟d been given a decent location within the station car park for the display. We were between the museum building and the engineering workshop, which also was the access to the south bound platform of Ravenglass Network Rail station, and as the workshop was open for viewing we had a steady stream of visitors passing us by.
I have to say when I arrived and saw what else was on display further in to the station site, two traction engines, one being a replica of one of the largest ever made, a steam lorry, “Black Prince” from The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway, “River Mite”, which was also celebrating its 60th, the boiler and frames of “Northern Rock” and at one point on Saturday “River Irt”, all of which were in steam and could be inspected up-close.
I didn‟t expect our trio of little engines to receive much attention. How wrong I was.
I can only put it down to the “attainable” factor. Leaving aside those who obviously had an interest in model/miniature steam loco‟s it was almost as if a high percentage of visitors had gone straight to see the “big” stuff, with the prospect of owning any of it being out of the question, then walked round the corner and realised here was something steam-related that was attainable to the ordinary enthusiast.
We spent most of our time explaining and discussing how people could get involved with local clubs and building/buying suitable-sized locos for their circumstances, and, I‟m pleased to say, with quite a few recognising the Tyne Bridge on the TSMEE crest adorning the riding truck, although despite being interested in steam railways, and apparently familiar with the Exhibition Park and even the Wylam Brewery, none were aware of our track ! Perhaps we need a few signs at the park entrances.
The highlight of the Saturday occurred as the West Country Pacific “Braunton” passed by on the Cumbrian Coast line with a special just after 5:00pm. I am assuming it must be something that has happened before because the steam special should have passed by at 40mph, but had slowed to walking pace, with the crew hanging out of the cab window as “Braunton‟s” whistling was met by a cacophony of sound from every steam whistle on the R&E side of the tracks, absolutely deafening! You can hear it on the R&E‟s Facebook page.
Saturday had gone so well for our little display that the R&E Event Manager was quite happy that we should steam one of the locos for Sunday‟s proceedings, and with a few extra track panels, run it back and forth. However, come Sunday morning the Operations Manager decided that, as there had been insufficient time to prepare the ubiquitous Health and Safety requirements, steaming a loco would have to wait „til the next event. None-the-less, our presence, boosted by the addition of a second Milner Quarry Hunslet loco, “Red Damsel”, once again went down very well.
Whilst Saturday had been almost exclusively steam enthusiasts, Sunday was a real mix. There were three coach parties, obviously doing tours of the Lakes, families having a day out as well as steam die-hards, yet the interest in the “little” locos was there from them all, once again taking us all by surprise. At times on the Sunday we could have done with a few more bodies just to keep up with the stream of people wanting to talk to us about them.
As we did our “Allely’s” impression again, loading them all up on Sunday we had time to reflect on what had been an unexpected success for our little team despite the “big lads” best efforts. However, I do have to admit that “Black Prince” and the huge John Fowler traction engine “Talisman” were magnificent.
You may recently have noticed a freshness in the early morning air or a hint of yellow colouring the leaves of the trees. The year is turning and we are gently drifting into Autumn. Quite what will happen at the Club in the next weeks and months as the days get cooler but Covid-19 case numbers stay high remains to be seen. Let‟s hope we‟re not heading for another “lost” winter.
Thanks to Dave Henderson for his account of a Ratty Weekend – as he says, if you‟ve not been, you’re missing a treat.
As the nights draw in, what better way to spend an evening than sitting down and writing something for him (and the rest of us) to enjoy.
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