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 The Stephenson Memorial Miniature Locomotive Association




                CHAIRMAN                                                                                              HONORARY SECRETARY /TREASURER

T.H.JONES                                                                                                                   E.GIBBONS

Report on 2015 Trials held at Roker Park, Sunderland, 13th September

The host for this years trials was The City of Sunderland Model Engineering Society. In 1947 a trial was held in Roker Park to test the interest in the North East clubs for such a competition and following its success the Stephenson Memorial Miniature Locomotive Association was formed and trials have continued annually except for a few years in the fifties and sixties, so it was appropriate that the Sixtieth event should be held where it all started almost seventy years ago.

The "new" track at Sunderland was built in the late seventies in a site that is of limited width at the east end and where the contours rise more than six feet from west to east. Also the home of many mature trees the railway winds it's way round in a convoluted kidney shape such that in the local newspaper it was referred to as the Lambton Worm Railway. The ruling gradient is 1 in 90 and the tightest radius is just under 28 feet on the climb into the station, and because of this it is seen as a very challenging prospect for drivers, especially those who are not familiar with it, and as you will see in the following report even experienced operators are not immune from its difficulties.

The trials were last held at Sunderland in 1993 so it was a great pleasure to bring the competition back here, organised by some enthusiastic members who did themselves proud, and to whom the Assocation extends its thanks for such an enjoyable day.

It is normal practice to run the smallest locomotives first to avoid excessive weight shifting, but in this event I voluteered to do the first run as in recent years the honour has often fallen to my son, Joseph, which does tend to put him at a disadvantage not having had the chance to see how others performed. I had looked at my previous efforts at Sunderland with my 3 1/2" gauge A4 Sir Nigel Gresley, and having won the trials on this track with it in 1990 I elected to haul 100lbs less than I had done then, in deference to the locomotive,s age and general condition, and fancied the run would be something of a breeze. The start is at the top of a 1 in 200 descent, although the train is on a tight curve, and the A4 made a relatively easy start and soon picked up speed making the climb alongside Roker Park Road and Sidecliffe Roads without much trouble except for a slight slip at the top of the climb and was soon gaining some speed down the S curve to the start of the main climb. The climb the the station was made quite well until near the top in the very severe curves the locomotive began to lose tracction and just made it over the summit. This did not do the fire any good, so a relatively sedate run was made down the bank with the aim of recovering the steam pressure and water levels, but this was not achieved sufficiently well so the bank was approached too slowly and the locomotive slipped to a stand in the S curves. After recovering some pressure an attempt was made to start the train without success so it was reversed to the bottom of the bank. After several attemps to start again in both directions I decided the abandon the run as I had wasted too much time.

  Run 1 - Eddie Gibbons with Sir Nigel Gresley



Joe Gibbons was next to run with his GNR Atlantic in 3 1/2" gauge and had the train weight adjusted to 493 lbs. Joe had a very good run in the alloted twenty minutes of 3262 yards (11 laps) and whilst it was sometimes touch and go getting over the summit at the station the locomotive kept its traction well, Joe keeping everything under control. Having used 22 ounces of coal, Joe's run gave him 5th position at the end of the competition and a well deserved 3 1/2inch gauge shield.

Run 2 - Joe Gibbons with 1418      


We now turned to the 5" entries, and Dave Henderson from TSMEE was the first to try his hand. Dave had brought his Polly VI a 2-6-0 and he loaded up to just over 900lbs. The run started in fine style and the loco sounded good climbing the bank. Eventually Dave failed to make the summit due I think to lack of pressure and had to reverse and spend some time recovering the situation. Ultimately the train competed almost 4 laps of the railway after further stops and used 19 ounces of fuel. Whilst this was not a particularly good run, it was Dave's first time in the competition and his first run at Sunderland. Placed 6th, Dave, who had visibly enjoyed his run, was awarded our new President's Shield for the best placed newcomer to the Trials. I hope this is the first of many appearances for Dave at the trials.

  Run 3 - Dave Henderson with his Polly VI

Our Chairman Tom Jones was our next runner. Tom has done plenty of trials with the engine he brought today, a BR Standard Class 2 2-6-0 which is a Don Young design. Tom is keen to get the best out of his locos and has tweeked the engine in many ways to improve its performance. With 776 lbs behind the tender Tom made a faultless run covering nearly 13 laps of the railway and using just 22 ounces of coal, was finally placed second overall ,receiving the TSMEE Trophy for the runner up and the Rocket trophy for the best 5" gauge entry.

Run 4 - Tom Jones with his BR Class 2    

Our third 5" locomotive was Stan Fisher's LNWR Precurser "Etna", another Don Young design, this time a 4-4-0. Stan had handed control to one of Sunderland's many younger members, Steven Duncan, who took a moderate load of just 600lbs. Steven romped round at  a good steady speed which looked quite effortless with the engine's big drivers, the speed fell very little on the gradients, and he covered nearly 15 laps, the highest distance of the day. The coal consumption, as Stan had earlier predicted, was unfortunately very heavy at 50 ounces, which put Steven into 7th place. Again not a bad perfomance for a first time at the trials and it is hoped we will see Steven again in future events.

  Run 5 - Steven Duncan and Etna


So five competitors had performed leaving our three 7 1/4" gauge entries to go. For many years Alan Bowron and Allan Bones have vied for the Stephenson Cup and the
7 1/4" gauge trophys and it has often been a very close result. As usual Allan (Our President) called for as much weight as the host could muster and by the time the load of weights, sand bags and intrepid passengers had been assembled Allan's Holmside was ready to hook on. The total weight was 3500 lbs, (not enough said Allan), and as usual he set off in fine style. After five laps things were not going too well and the train came to a stand short of the summit of the bank. After several attemps to get it moving again Allan finally reduced the load to 3188lbs and managed to get underway again, but so much time had been wasted that he was unable to complete another lap in the remainder of the twenty minutes allotted. Having used 55 ounces of coal and run only 1688 yards Alan's result put him in 3rd place. When the locomotive was taken off the train it was very difficult to move and a check on the lubricator showed it had used no cylinder oil which obviously caused the below par performance. I can report Holmside has been stripped to its component parts, and can confirm a cylinder had shown clear signs of oil shortage. It should be up and running for next year with new pistons and rings, new trailing axleboxes and new lubricators.

Run 6 - Allan Bones and Belmont  

Stuart Oliver of Carlisle was next to run with his 0-4-0ST Midge. He had entered his 0-4-4T LSWR Class 02, but this had developed a problem the previous weekend and Stuart had not had time to make  a repair, so substituted the Midge. The load selected was 1508lbs and whilst he set off in fine style, it was soon apparent that things were not going too well and Stuart had to make a stop on the bank to recover steam and water. Setting off again the train made progress but it was necessary to make more stops and at the final whistle the distance traveled was only 2072 yards, but the coal consumption was quite low at just 22 ounces putting Stuart at the top of the leader board.

          Run 7 - Stuart Oliver and Midge



Our final runner was Alan Bowren of Carlisle with his spectacular two truck Shay 0-4-4-0T (or is it 0-4-0-0-4-0?). Powered by a three cylinder vertical engine mounted on the right of the offset boiler and driving the bogies through shafting and 2 to 1 reduction bevel gears, this locomotive is an impressive sight and has performed well at previous trials events, and we were looking forward to some exciting running. Alan started his run with a similar load to Allan Bones and the locomotive made light work of it with it's roaring exhaust blasting high over the train as it stormed the bank on each lap. It was noticable that the speed did fall significantly as the train traversed the reverse curves on the station approach, but there was no cause for concern as speed quickly rose through the station and the safety valves frequently made themselves heard. Just after the halfway mark Alan had called for water and a bottle was handed to him just as the train entered the reverse curves at the top of the bank. Whether things were not going quite as well as before or whether Alan was distracted by taking water, the speed fell rather more than before and the engine stalled. After a few moments to recover pressure Alan attempted to restart but there was insufficient traction, so the train was reverse a few yards and another unsuccessful attempt to restart was made. Eventually Alan reversed well down the bank,  A good start followed and the Shay brought the train up the bank and very slowly through the reverse curves where each cylinder's exhaust could be clearly heard. Once through the sation the run continued as before but substantial time had been lost and the train had covered only 2342 yards at the end, which was insufficient to justify the 84 ounces of coal fired and placed Alan and the Shay in 4th place, leaving Stuart Oliver in first position to win the Stephenson Cup and the 7 1/4" gauge Trophy.

Run 8 - Alan Bowren and his 2 truck Shay    


The final result is as follows:

The Stephenson Cup and the & 7 1/4" gauge trophy to Stuart Oliver of Carlisle.

The TSMEE trophy for the runner up and the Rocket Trophy for the best 5" gauge entry to Tom Jones of West Cumbria

The 3 1/2" gauge Shield to Joe Gibbons of TSMEE

and last but not least the President's Shield for the best placed newcomer to Dave Henderson of TSMEE.

The trophies were presented by Sunderland's Chairman John Falkner.

The Association's thanks go the the City of Sunderland MES for hosting this our 60th event. Their organisation made for a smooth running event and our appreciation must go to John Falkner and his team and to Alan Spencer for his recording of the data and brisk calculation of the results using his very clever spread sheet.  Not a bad day for a group who had never done a trials event before, and who for the most part had never been to see one run. Special thanks also to Alec Escombe who came all the way from Lancaster just to help with the stewarding.

Finally our thanks must go to Sunderland's caterers for the excellent spread they placed before us, and keeping us all supplied with drinks. The chocolate cake was delicious.

I'm not sure where we will be next year, but I will let you all know as soon as I have a volunteer. Who has a space in their club diary for the second Sunday in September 2016?

And now for some more pictures. My thanks to Joe and Chris for their contributions.

  Stuart Oliver awarded the Stephenson Cup

Tom Jones receives the Rocket Trophy   

 Dave Henderson is given the Presidents Shield

Joe Gibbons preseted with the 3 1/2" Shield  

 A well appreciated cuppa!

How many engineers to replace an ashpan?   

  The Carlisle contingent

The Thinker! 

  Sharing a joke


And finally the results and data analysis


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