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TSMEE NEWS – October 2018




Open Weekend

Once again this was held in July (21stand 22nd) and we were blessed with very good weather on both days.


We had visitors from Kirkintillock and West Cumbria on the Saturday and on the Sunday visitors arrived from Ryedale, Strathaven, Sunderland and York.  The visiting locos included a 7 ¼” GWR 0 4 2 tank loco, a 5” Tennant, Speedy, Maid of Kent, Britannia together with two 3 ½” locos. As you would expect there was also a reasonably good selection of locos in steam from our own members.


Now that our garden railway is complete there was plenty of activity on this over the weekend with several locos in steam.  Many members have said that they are finding it much easier to move the small locos and trucks than to move the 3½” gauge and larger counterparts!  Thanks, as usual, go to our ladies who slaved away in the kitchen during the weekend providing a superb Sunday lunch together with afternoon tea on both days. 





Twenty-two TSMEE members attended three separate tours on 6thSeptember.  On the first tour our guide made a point of saying she was not an engineer, in deference to ourselves, but she was informative and gave lots of details.


The present bridge is the fourth on the site.  The first was Roman, built in 120 AD enduring till 1248 when it burnt down.  A stone bridge of 1320 was partly washed away in 1771.  The next bridge of 1781 was the one demolished by the Commission to make way for the swing bridge.  The bridge was designed by John Ure, engineer to the Tyne Improvement Commission who built the foundations.  The superstructure was designed and built by W G Armstrong and Co. at their Elswick Works and brought to the bridge site in sections.  Work started in September 1868 and the bridge opened to river traffic in July 1876.  Under the 1861 improvement act the Improvement Commission had also carried out extensive dredging and improvements to navigation.  The 1781 bridge was the last obstruction preventing large ships going beyond the quayside to Armstrong's works upstream and enabled him to commence building warships at Elswick.  Though he had started his working life as a lawyer, he was already a world leader in the manufacture of large guns as well as hydraulic machinery.


Our tour started in the East side of the engine room where the electrical gear and pumps are housed. Each side has a water accumulator to provide water to the machinery at about 600psi.  They go down 65 ft. below the engine house.  Only one is now used but can swing the bridge up to one and a half times.  Electric pumps supply water from the mains system to the accumulators.  (My memory may be wrong, but I believe the pumps were steam powered till 1958).  They still use Reyrolle switchgear, which we were told, is itself quite historic.


We next went to the West side of the engine room, where the control valves and two sets of three cylinder, hydraulic oscillating engines are installed, (one is held in reserve).  They are geared for two speeds though only the slower is used and the bridge makes a complete 

revolution in six minutes.  We were told that the engineers prefer to operate the bridge from the look-out tower at the centre.  The rotating part weighs 1300 tons carried on 42 wheels on a 42ft. dia. ring.


To save wear, a hydraulic press lifts a part of the structure weighing 900 tons, while it rotates.  When in position each end of the span rests on concrete filled cast iron caissons sunk into the river bed and capped by granite blocks.  Cast iron blocks raised by hydraulic rams support and lock each end of the span into position.  Tolerances are fine and in hot weather, the bridge would expand and lock itself in position.  This effect was cured in the sixties, by using new reflective paints to prevent it heating up in the sun.


The swing bridge cost £250,000, equivalent to £24,000,000 in modern terms and about the same cost as the millenium bridge.  Its busiest year was in 1924 when it opened 6000 times. By the early 21stcentury, it had opened more than a quarter of a million times, a tribute to Victorian engineering.  Latterly it was operated by a team of fifteen men on a three shift system but closure of Dunston and the Derwenthaugh coal staithes saw a sharp decline in use.  It rarely opens for shipping now because of the expense of manning the operation, but it does open monthly as part of routine maintenance.


Following the tour we had time to take photographs and look around the decks outside. I hope everyone enjoyed their visits as much as I did.

                                                                                                                       Malcolm Phillips




          Continuing the club development under “Future Plans” listed on the club web site

“Home Page” the following projects are scheduled for this coming winter and spring.                                                                                 
As you can see we have an ambitious list.  All of these will improve the club’s facilities while further improving our passenger’s safety. 


Patio– The patio is well under way all the earth having been removed and run through a riddle so the soil can be reused around our site to level various hollows and grade other areas.  We have purchased all the dolomite, sand, cement and paving slabs to finish this area hopefully before the weather turns.  


Green Hut Power Supply– Robin and John Rowley have replaced the power cable from the electric post feeding the green hut.  This job was long overdue and now brings an added level of safety and reliability to the power supply.


Sun Canopy– We are hoping to install a couple of retractable sun canopies over the new patio.  These are better described as rain canopies although we can but hope for another summer like that which we have just had.  To mount the canopies the club house is really not tall enough plus finding a place to mount them would be challenging. We therefore intend making a frame installed on the edge of the patio in the moat and this will be braced at the top onto the club house roof. By doing this we will then have the canopies high enough to provide a reasonable slope thus allowing the rain to drain away.


Loco Bunker– With the construction of the new signal box Robin and John have moved all the signal controls for the track out of the bunker.  This leaves a space where we could install an additional 5” track, which will be used for the junior engineers electric loco and driving truck.  To make this work we will have to the make the door wider and install a traverser in front of the doors so the single track will serve both roads inside the bunker.


Extra Passenger Car Body– After some discussion the committee decided that the disabled passenger car was not stable enough and could result in an accident.  As we live in a very litigious society we did not want to take any risks so we have dismantled the body and will rebuild it as an additional passenger car to be added to the short two-car set.  We will reuse the extra truck which Alan Bones built and as much of the body as possible.


Guards Vans– We need to have two braked guards vans/trucks to provide some additional safety for our passenger hauling.  Alan Bones has already started working on these and over the winter as a joint project we hope to have these in use for next season.


    Improvements to the Steaming Bay Traverser– Several short comings on the traverser have come to light, Lindsey Oliver has corrected a couple of these but a larger alteration needs to be done to further improve its strength and reliability. All the material has been purchased for Lindsey to carry out this improvement.


Sleeper Creosoting– It is also that time of year when the sleepers all need creosoting Jimmy informs me we have the creosote we just need to pick a couple of dry days to do the work.  

                                                                                                                       Peter Newby




We would like to welcome the following new members to the society and hope that you will all enjoy being with our group:- 


Marie Chilvers and Peter Craigen,  Arthur Hogarth,  Dr Steve Spoor.





Sunday 4 November – Ghost Train Special.

Sunday 2 December – Santa Special Sunday. 

Sunday 16 December – Christmas Party,2pm start – there will be a raffle so prize donations would be appreciated.        



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