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The Stephenson Memorial Miniature Locomotive Association







Report on the 63rd Trials held at Roker Park, Sunderland, 23rd September '18

Our hosts for the day were the City of Sunderland Model Engineering Society. The venue was their large track, 888 feet long in a kidney shape, with a ruling gradient of 1 in 90, and tightest curvature of just under 29 feet at the top of the steepest climb. A challenge indeed for anyone who was not familiar with it.

The original advertised date for the trials had been 9th September but was postponed for two weeks due to the tragic events of the 6th when a lady shopkeeper  was stabbed to death in nearby Sea Road, and which resulted in Roker Park being closed by the police in connection with their inquiries. 

The existing competitors had been canvassed as to their availability for two dates later in the month and nine of the twelve entries had no commitments for the 23rd so that was the date chosen. Fortunately two other entries came forward so we had eleven runners on the day.

Being close to the coast, Roker Park can be affected by adverse weather, sometimes  when the sun shines further inland. The forecasts for this Sunday had ranged from rain and strong wind all day, to scattered showers in the middle of the day as the event got nearer. In the end, the rain held off until we had finished and cleared up, the temperature was reasonable for the time of year and the wind virtually non existent . We couldn't have asked for better given it was late September.

The younger members of the City of Sunderland MES, lead by Daniel and Steven Duncan had been tasked with the organisation of the trials, and everything was in order and the first competitor ready to run when I arrived a little before 10am. New passenger cars have been under construction recently and they had been pressed into service for carrying the larger loads. Two complete vehicles were available and two that had yet to receive their seats and side sheets had been put together with the side sheets upwards, with temporary end sheets to form impressive looking bogie hopper wagons. Parked when not in use on the traverser road they needed to be pushed into the station area to allow each competitor out on to the running line, and be put back once the run had started. This was arguably much easier than loading the vehicles up when needed, and was excecuted very quickly each time with the aid of the air powered traverser. The track and steaming bays had been cleaned, water bottles filled, charcoal prepared and soaked with paraffin and coal weighed into 2lb bags. Members had been tasked with the stewarding jobs so we were all ready to go.

Run 1 - Steven Duncan of the host society was our first competitor with a 3 1/2" gauge BR Class 7, No 70000 Britannia, nicely finished and detailed. Steven had chosen what I thought was a moderate load, even for this track, of 680lbs and ran at a steady and consistent speed for the full twenty minutes, completing just under 15 laps of the track. The benefit of his practice sessions was obvious as he ran the fire down perfectly, stopping on the incline short of steam, just as the whistle blew for the end of the run. Burning no more than 11.6 ounces of coal, and with a score that was unchallenged by any of the other competitors through the day, it was good to see a 3 1/2" loco at the top of the leader board again. Steven was awarded the Stephenson Trophy and the 3 1/2 inch gauge Shield for his efforts, being best overall and best 3 1/2" gauge competitor. Well done. 

Run 2 - Seasoned competitor Joe Gibbons of TSMEE was our next runner and we expected his usual rip roaring performance with 3 1/2" GNR Atlantic No 1418. The start looked easy with the load of 714 lbs, but once on the climb to Sideciffe Road it became obvious that all was not well  and the train came to a stand just before the start of the straight. Joe looked puzzled until it was pointed out that the parking brake was still partially applied on the driving car. Following a couple of unsuccessful attempts to restart the train. Joe backed up beyond the bridge and proceeded to get going again. Unfortunately he didn't manage to run as he would have liked, as his well prepared fire had been wrecked and he ended up in a battle between water level and boiler pressure. The result was Joe only managed seven and a half laps at the expense of 22 ounces of coal. Final position was a disappointing 7th.

Run 3 - Malcolm Lummas of the York Society had joined us again and had brought his LNER 04 2-8-0, an unusual model of a Thompson rebuild of the Great Central heavy hauler. With about 5lbs more load than the previous competitor, Malcolm set off and ran very steadily with no problems until the pony truck derailed and it was necessary to stop. Once re-railed the run continued but was interrupted by further derailments. Eventually the loco slipped to a stand on the reverse curves at the top of the bank and it was noted there was a lot of water on the track at this point, which was the result of leakage from a water connection between engine and tender. This fixed, Malcolm backed up beyond the bridge and managed to make the climb from there. Malcolm made just under six laps (1691 yards) for 17 ounces of fuel putting him into 8th place in the trial.


 Run 4 - Eric Lummas  (Malcolm's brother) was a last minute first time entry to the event and brought  a 3 1/2" gauge 4-8-2 locomotive "Duchess of Swindon". This is to one of LBSC's whimsical designs, which was what he envisaged the GWR might have built after WW2 to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.  The load of 674lbs was quite light for such a large locomotive but despite that, the Duchess failed to make the climb up to the station on the first lap and after several attempts to restart without success, Eric decided to retire. Data was collected, and from 8.6 ounces of coal and a run distance of 180 yards, the points scored placed the run 10th.



Run 5 - Our next competitor was first timer Daniel Duncan of the home club with his 5" Southern Railway Class L1 No 890, based on LBSC's Maid of Kent Design. Competently handled with a load of 767lbs, Daniel lapped very regularly for the whole run time, completing a fraction over 13 circuits. Burning 22.8 ounces of coal  Daniel's score put him in a well deserved 3rd place at the end of the day. Daniel was awarded the President's Shield for the best placed newcomer.


Run 6 - Next run was yours truly, Eddie Gibbons, representing TSMEE, with my 5" Adams Radial Tank 30582. Upping  the load from the last run to 974lbs, I found the Adams worked the load quite well, although there was a little easily controlled slipping on the steeper sections. Generally the engine steamed well, although a slight loss of concentration put me in trouble with boiler pressure for a short time,  requiring a couple of slower laps to recover. A misjudgement of the fire towards the end of the run brought me to a stand before the twenty minutes was up, but I was satisfied with what was one of the best runs I had managed for a long time in these trials. With twelve and a half laps completed for 23.3 ounces of coal, I was pleased to be awarded the 5" gauge Trophy (The Rocket) and the TSMEE Trophy for the runner up.

 Run 7 - Dave Henderson of TSMEE with his Polly VI has been competing for a few years now and has managed to get his name on one or two of the trophies. Expecting his usual steady progress with a load of 738llbs it was disappointing to see that Dave seemed to be struggling for steam. One thing I had noticed when running was the speed at which the coal was burning. I had found it difficult to keep up with the rate of combustion even with some frantic firing sessions as the run progressed and I suspect Dave had fallen foul of this unfortunate property, until he eventually understood the problem after stalling near the top of the incline. After recovering the steam he ran back to beyond the bottom of the bank and proceeded to complete the run without further issues. Distance run was 1992 yards, but with the relatively high coal consumption of 19.3 ounces, Dave ended the day in 5th place

Run 8 - This locomotive was very new, and had been built from a box of bits in a very short time by its driver Peter Laverick, one of Sunderland's younger members, who had never run in the trials before . Peter hasn't had the chance to do a lot of running with his engine, which is a near scale model of an LMS Stanier 4MT 2-6-4 Tank, finished in BR mixed traffic livery. Peter set off with a moderate load of 629lbs, but came to a stand before completing the first lap, after the regulator had apparently blocked up. Unable to get steam to the cylinders, Peter could only retire, a big disappointment. Next year ........? 

Run 9 - West Cumbria was represented by David Davies with his 0-4-2 version of Sweet Pea "The Lady Stephanie". As always, David gave us an unflustered performance, twenty minutes of continuous running with a load of 686lbs and clearly enjoyed the experience. Burning 32 ounces of coal for eleven and a half laps of the track, David managed sixth place in the trials.

Run 10 - Our fourth first timer, Nick Wright of the host society had brought his 7 1/4" Caledonian dock tank to the trials. Loaded to 2568lbs, Nick set off well, but soon began to slow down and eventually had to stop to recover steam pressure. His run continued in this way and the total distance run in the twenty minutes allotted only amounted to 1350 yards, just four and a half circuits of the track. Whilst this was not a resounding performance, a coal consumption of only 35 ounces combined with the substantial load, gave a score that placed Nick fourth, giving him the 7 1/4" Trophy.

 Run 11 - Our President Allan Bones'  Holmside was our last runner. Son Andrew was the driver, and having eschewed dad's advise to take all the load, put 3451lbs on the drawbar. With what was still the heaviest load of the day, Holmside set off in fine style, and looked to be heading for a good run. It was not to be though, as Andrew struggled to keep the fire on the grate. The bean sized coal was being ripped off his shovel by the fierce draft and breaking up so quickly that much of it was going straight through the tubes, unburned,  into the smokebox. The train soon came to a stand near the top of the incline and couldn't be restarted after steam was recovered, so Andrew reversed to the bottom and tried again. After several attempts the train eventually made it almost to the top of the straight, but by now time was up, less than three laps completed. So with 45 ounces of coal used for 842 yards of haulage, Andrew was placed ninth. 

So that was the end of what had turned out to be a very interesting days running. Despite performances varying between brilliant and very disappointing, everyone seemed happy enough and the view of those who didn't do too well seemed to be along the lines of we'll do better next year.

By this time the weather had started to change for the worse and efforts we being made to get everything cleared away before the rain came. That done, those remaining adjourned to the clubhouse for tea and the award of the trophies by John Faulkner the Chairman of the City of Sunderland Model Engineering Society.

The trophies were awarded as follows:


The Stephenson Trophy for the overall winner and the 3 1/2" gauge Shield to Stephen Duncan of CoSMES


The TSMEE Cup for the runner up and the 5" gauge (Rocket) Trophy to Eddie Gibbons of TSMEE


The 7 1/4" gauge Cup to Nicholas Wright of CoSMES

The President's Shield for the best placed newcomer to Daniel Duncan of CoSMES.

My thanks to John Faulkner and his members for hosting our 63rd trials event in the seventieth year since the establishment of the Association. Special thanks of course to the people who did all the work, organising the event, stewarding, and clearing away at the end of the day, and to the ladies who made and served the excellent food provided in the clubhouse during the day.

Next year we hope to hold the event at a new venue and I'm waiting for proposals for date and format of the 64th event. Once we have that information your committee will decide whether we can adopt the new venue and if so details will be sent out so the event can get into club diaries a little sooner than usual.

 My thanks to Andrew Bones, Peter Russell and Joe Gibbons who added hundreds of pictures to my own small collection. 

The trophies were presented by Sunderland Chairman John Faulkner


Much preparation was required to ensure the efficient operation of the event and here are some photographs of the results of our hosts endeavours.


The full set of load carrying vehicles parked in the station - combined weight in excess of two tons



Weighed bags of coal and well soaked charcoal waiting for the competitors


The score board specially made for the trials with the first result displayed


Not to forget the stewards who ensured all the data was collected. Here is John Faulkner out on the trackside with his measuring tape to record Steven Duncan's position at the end of his run.

The results and analysis

Finally, my thanks again to everyone involved in hosting our 2018 trials event. Well done to you all, we couldn't do it without your contributions.

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