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The Stephenson Memorial Miniature Locomotive Association




                        CHAIRMAN     T.H.Jones                                     HONORARY SECRETARY /TREASURER  E Gibbons



Report on the 62nd Trials held at Curwen Park, Workington, 16th September '17

The West Cumbria Guild of Model Engineers welcomed us as host of the trials this year. There had been some doubt as to the suitability of the track in Curwen Park after the last event held here, but Tom Jones assured us that considerable work had been done to refurbish the track since then and we should not have the problems we had the last time. Since the last event here the facilities have been greatly improved, the club now having its own room in the Community Centre and toilet facilities in close proximity. The track is a basic oval 609 feet long with the high end to the north and gradients of about 1 in 100. Running is anti clockwise so the starting point, just to the north of the traverser from the steaming bays is on a rising grade, but the rails were in reasonable condition and most competitors made their starts without too much of a problem. 

Once again the weather was kind to us, not too hot or windy with the threat of rain receding to give us some sunny intervals for most of the day. Lunch was some excellent fish and chips from a nearby establishment enhanced by plenty of other food prepared by the members, all served in the club room with adequate supplies of hot drinks. Our thanks to all those involved with the organisation and preparation of the meals. 

When we arrived just after 10 a.m the running had already commenced and Dave Cormack was making light work of hauling a 700lb train. His locomtive was a 3 1/2inch guage Brittania Pacific which should have been driven by Dave's son Ian, who had unfortunately been called out to man the local RNLI lifeboat. Dave was having a little trouble with the tender derailing but he was very quick to rerail it on the two or three occations it came off, without the train being stopped. Dave assured us the problem was related to having the wrong drawbar fitted which was pulling the tender off the railway on the south curve. Nontheless he managed to do 18 laps in the twenty minute running time, and having burnt 21.5 ounces of coal was finally placed 6th. 

Malcolm Lummas of the York Society of Model Engineers was next to run. This was his first time at the trials and he had entered his 3 1/2" gauge 4-8-0 which is a model of a French Nord Railway locomotive. It was one of many models built by the late Max Lewit of TSMEE. Being eight coupled and with four cylinders , Malcolm unsurprisingly elected to take a heavy load for a 3 1/2" gauge loco of no less than 1130lbs, substantially more than the other 3 1/2s and more than many of the 5" gauge competitors . Malcolm managed to start the train without too much slipping and settled in to running at a steady pace for a while. Eventually he came to a stand short of steam on the curve at the bottom of the bank, probably the worst place on the railway, but after a few minutes he had pressure and after an effortless start, got back to the running. Completing just over 10 laps and consuming the same amount of coal as the previous competitor (21.5 ounces), Malcolm was placed 7th at the end of the day and was awarded the President's Shield for the best performance by a new entrant. Hopefully Malcolm will be back next year to see if he can improve his position.

The 3 1/2" gauge GNR atlantic of Joe Gibbons (TSMEE) was our third runner. Joe increased the load from the 600lbs he took last year to 717. The start was a little slow, the engine slipping quite a lot, but Joe soon got control and accelerated to a fairly reserved pace for him of about 7 mph. Some way into the run the leading bogie derailed on the north curve, but Joe slowed, hopped off, rerailed it and climbed back aboard without the train actually stopping.  The final few laps were run at a slightly higher speed, confirmation that the work on the track had been successful. Joe completed just over 19 laps, 3947 yards and got through 22.25 ounces of fuel, which put him in fifth place overall and gave him the shield for the best placed  3 1/2" gauge locomotive.

John Harkness of the host club, brought Tom Jones' BR Standard Class 2 to the start for the next run. John had been asked to drive by Tom who was too busy looking after the results and working with his experimental dynamometer. John won the event with his Simplex at the last visit to Workington, and we anticipated another good performance this time. We were not disappointed as, with a load of 1040 lbs John set off at a cracking pace and covered the most ground of the day at 4115 yards, using 19.75 ounces of coal. John was awarded the Stephenson Cup for the best performance overall and the Rocket Trophy for the Best 5" locomotive.

Run No 5 should have been Peter Johnston with his LMS 5XP, but I had had a phone call from home asking me to get back as soon as possible so asked Peter, who had already lit up, if I could run ahead of him, to which he agreed, and for that I have to thank him. I loaded the Adams tank to close to 1000lbs and set off with a small amount of slipping, the engine eventually getting hold of the train and running quite steadily. I discovered the overfllow pipe from the left hand injector had become disconnected so I couldn't see if the injector was working or not and the distraction caused me to forget the fire, and I was soon down to 30 psi. Whilst this was sufficient to run the train it was not particularly efficient so I stopped at the top of the bank where Joe came to my aid and reconnected the overflow. By the time I had recovered pressure and water level , I had lost several minutes of running . Once going again I tried to quicken the pace but found the fire wasn't responding well and I struggled to keep the steam above 40 psi for the rest of the run. At the finish I had covered almost 13 laps and used a little over 18 ounces of coal which, much to my surprise, gave me 4th place.

Dave Henderson of Tyneside with his Polly VI is now one of our regulars and set off with a load of 911lbs. Dave did his first trials only three years ago and has improved his position each time.  He kept up a  good speed for the whole run and completed 3967 yards in twenty minutes for 19.25 ounces of coal. This gave him second place and he received the TSMEE Trophy for the runner up in the competition, his best result with the Polly.

David Davies of West Cumbria is a keen supporter of the trials, but circumstances have combined in recent years to prevent him attending. This time he made it and brought his Sweet Pea to the starting line with the second heaviest train of the day at 1177 lbs. David made a very competent run, looking very relaxed, completing a little over 14 laps and using just under twenty ounces of coal, putting him in third place overall.

Run No 8 was Peter Johnston of WCGME with his 5XP No 5636 Raleigh. Despite being new to the trials Peter took the heaviest load of the day at 1357lbs. The run started well with the loco keeping it's feet quite well and soon getting up to a moderate speed. Peter stopped at least once to recover steam and water levels so in the twenty minutes allowed the distance covered was only 1571 yards (7 3/4 laps) an average of less than 3 mph, and at the expense of almost 25 ounces of coal, putting Peter in 8th position at the end of the day.

Finally, Kristian Messenger, a last minute entry from WCGME and another newcomer to the trials brought his 0-6-0T to the starting line.  Kristian's loco was built a few years ago by octiginarian Don Scarrot of WCGME.  Hauling just the driver and a small driving truck, a total load of just 149lbs, the loco made a spiritted run completing almost 16 laps of the railway but burning 20.625 ounces of coal. With such a small load the total score was quite low and Kristian was placed a disappointing last. I hope Kristian wasn't too disheartened by his result and comes to the trials again in the future to see if he can achieve a better placing.

Once again we had a very good day and I think everyone enjoyed it. As I was rushing to get back home I wasn't  at the presentation of the trophys, but here's the oorder of the day.

The Stephenson Trophy for Ist place overall and the Rocket Trophy for the best placed 5" gauge loco to John Harkness of WCGMES.

The TSMEE Trophy for the runner up to Dave Henderson of TSMEE.

The 3 1/2 inch gauge shield for the best placed 3 1/2" gauge loco to Joe Gibbons of TSMEE.

The President's Shield for the best placed new entrant to Malcolm Lummas of York SME.


Run No 1 Dave Cormac and Solway Firth get the 5 minute warning for the end of the run 


Run No 2 Malcolm Lummas at speed


Run No 3 Joe Gibbons waits at the start line


Run No 4 John Harkness head down concentrating


Run No 5 Dave Henderson with Polly VI looks happy approaching the top of the bank


Run No 6 Eddie Gibbons eases the regulator of the Adams as they start the descent


Run No 7 Dave Davies looking very comfortable as his Sweet Pea runs down the bank


Run No 8 Peter Johnston and his 5XP going well


Run No 9 Kristian Messenger having a go with Duke Pitt 


Last minute adjustments



Oiling round                                                                                       Tom's experimental dynamometer car


A Penny for them


Doing the sums


Counting the laps


Watching the clock


The Score Board


John Harkness is presented with the Stephenson Cup by Gwen Cormack      Dave Henderson accepts the 3.5 inch trophy on behalf of Joe Gibbons


Malcom Lumas recieves the President's Shield                         
Kristian Messenger is congratulated for his efforts with Duke Pitt

May I thank WCGME for hosting this years trials and congratulate them for their efficient organisation that got the event off to a timely start and sent the competitors off on their runs without delays or problems. 

All those involved, the time keeper, lap counter, calculator, water carrier and loaders should pleased with their efforts and be assured their work is much appreciated. Last but not least my thanks to those who looked after our cullinary needs. Excellent grub and plenty of it.

My thanks also to the competitors and the spectators for coming to Workington this year and making the event worthwhile. If we had a prize for the longest journey, Malcolm Lummas would have beaten everone, coming from York. I hope he thought it worth the effort.

Tom Jones, as well as looking after the coal and the computer, also had his experimental dynamometer at work on the trains. I know things didn't go as planned, the machinery was terminating it's recordings before the runs were completed, but I'm sure Tom will get to the bottom of this glitch and get reliable performance in the future. The resuls he did extract are quite interesting though, and I append his graphs for information. There is excellent correlation between the work done recorded by the dyno, and from my calculations in the analysis sheet, except that the dyno is giving a figure of around 2.5 times the work done. I don't know why that is, as my numbers have always appeared to be in the right ball park, but that's something else for Tom to ponder, the main thing is the consistancy which Tom's figures, derived independently from mine, gives to the final order of the results, confirming our method of calculating the results is valid.

Tom comments:

Whilst early termination of runs was a known problem, it is a mystery as to why work done totals could be as far out as a factor of 2.5.  Both load and wheel circumference accuracies have been separately checked.  The basis of the 'sums' is distance per wheel rev x average pull per wheel rev = work done per wheel rev.   All of these 'aliquots'  of work are continually added together to get total work done.  For the result to be that far out must mean that the foregoing sum is not being enacted correctly by the software.

2018 will be the 70th aniversary of the first Stephenson's Trials. Since then we have held 62 trials events (there  were some missed in the 50's and 60's) and it would be good if we could make the 63rd a special event. We will of course need a club to host the event so if you are on your club's committe please ask them to consider the event which we would normally have on the second Sunday in September, or on a date near this on either Saturday or Sunday. If you are just a member but think it a good idea to host our event the then please canvass your committee. I look forward to hearing from you all soon.





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