Spring 2020 – News Letter


We are living through strange times. Just when, as the year advances and days lengthen, we should be getting out and doing things, we are exhorted to stay indoors. However, life is on “pause”, not “stop”, and I’m sure (or, at least, fervently hope) we’ll come out of it, rarin’ to go, when the “play” button is finally pressed. Meanwhile, I’m also sure there’s plenty else to be doing.

Around and About the Club

Construction of the Raised Track Carriage Shed has made steady progress, in spite of the heavy rain earlier in the year. The building work is complete with the exception of the roof which has only a temporary covering of plastic sheeting. It needs a spell of dry weather to fit the shingles – this was scheduled for around Easter time, but, like everything else, is now on hold. Two bi-fold steel doors open outwards to give access to the full internal width.

Internally, it is fitted out with twin raised 5” gauge tracks and wall-mounted lighting. The tracks end in fold-up bridging sections which reach through the doorway to the outside. There is also space to accommodate patio tables and five folding wooden tables plus other storage space. The four raised track riding trucks and two ground-level carriages have been moved in from the “Tin Hut”, freeing up much-needed space there.

Externally, the two tracks linking to the swing bridge are installed. One of these necessitated some further ground-works in the front apron area, which has been widened and edged by an additional retaining wall. Around the outside is a gravel-board-edged “moat” filled with 20mm gravel, the same as the Clubhouse.

Out on the ground-level track, the improvements to the signalling and point control systems are complete – additional train detectors now protect the points leading from the station to the main line. Jim Scott has made and installed much-improved point position sensors operated by the blades themselves rather than the pneumatic actuator.

The ravages of winter have left the grounds looking rather sorry. A couple of de-twigging sessions and a run round with a mower just before the closure announcement was made improved matters somewhat. Shame there’s no-one there to see it !

Moving stuff out of the Workshop into the Carriage Shed and “Tin Hut” has freed up some much-needed space. Workshop Manager Steve Lowe reports …

This space will make it a much more comfortable environment. The Myford lathe is located in its new position and the VMC milling machine will also be re-positioned when time allows. After that, the entire machine facilities should be complete.

Mick Jordison is keen to re-start the Sunday morning “how to” sessions – he did some demos. before the overcrowding issues made it unsafe. I’m sure he has some useful techniques up his sleeve. Alongside Mick’s expertise I have an idea to do something along the lines of “Tool-making Tactics for Model Engineers” – some simple techniques and processes that promote precision workmanship and, hopefully, make things easier to complete projects.

Also in mind is to introduce the use of the Surface Grinder to those who may be interested but are not conversant with this type of machine. They are not too common in model engineering workshops, but really are most useful.

Finally, we have to engage more with the Junior Engineers and other less-experienced members, albeit with caution and safety in mind. The Myford lathe is quite beginner-friendly and ideal for learning simple turning techniques. Recent experience suggests there are some who would like advice and guidance but are a little shy of asking. However, once we get started, they may well be more forthcoming.

Future Works

There have been problems with the swing bridge pit flooding during the winter heavy rains. It would be very difficult to install a drain from this area, so a sump is proposed fitted with a sump pump with an outlet hose that can be rolled out when required. Electrical power can be taken from the Carriage Shed.

The 5” gauge rolling stock is in a very dilapidated condition after being stored in, and dragged in and out of, the “Tin Hut”, and requires extensive overhaul and repair. There are three spare seat pads for the riding trucks which could be used to tidy things up, but only as a temporary fix. One of the two ground-level carriages is incomplete with only one bogie. Steve Lowe is to make another, braked, bogie to complete it.

The 7 ¼” gauge carriages are in a very muddy state from the last Public Running day in December and need a thorough wash-out.

With all this smartening up of rolling stock under consideration, the matter of a “Corporate Colour” has arisen. Most favoured seems to be a North Eastern Maroon – not an off-the-shelf colour, but one that could be mixed to order.

The issue of mud has highlighted the desirability of laying hard paths, possibly dolomite, in the most heavily travelled parts of what is presently grass.

Still outstanding from the major works list is the alterations to the locomotive shed. As recorded previously, the ground slab for the traverser has already been cast.


The annual “Unfinished Projects” event was held on Sunday 23rd February and there was a goodly turnout showcasing variety and skill.

In 5” gauge were Ken Johnson’s A3 “Flying Fox”, Keith Pardee’s V3 Tank, Ian Spencer’s V3 Tank, Eddie Gibbons’ K3 and Joe Gibbons’ GNR 18 Series.
In 3 ½” gauge were Ken Burn’s LMS 4F, John Lazzari’s Q5 (a “legacy” project he’s taken on) and Peter Newby’s “Britannia”.

Also displayed were Steve Lowe’s “Neptune”, Mick Jordison’s K1 Garrett for 32mm gauge, and Robert Hopper’s “detailed” Roundhouse Engineering “Lady Anne” and freelance wagons, also for 32mm gauge.

A very tasty lunch, courtesy of Linda Nicholls and Asda, rounded off the proceedings.


Junior Engineer Sam Yeeles is shaping up to be an accomplished line-side photographer with a passion for steam locomotives. He travels extensively to photograph these beasts out there in their natural habitat on the main line. Have a look at his flickr site sam yeeles photography. He’s also posted some videos on Youtube – look for Sam6200 5

Member Martin Ashley, usually deeply ensconced in the South Tynedale Railway at Alston. was spotted by our roving reporter moonlighting as Signalman at Ramsbottom Station Signal Box on the East Lancs. Railway. He was volunteering over the weekend of their Spring Steam Gala in early March.

Diary Dates

Everything is cancelled until further notice.


The Committee, ever mindful of your wellbeing, has submitted some suggestions of on-line content (assuming you have internet access) to help keep you distracted, entertained and informed during this difficult period.

On Youtube:


www.northernsteam.com – TSMEE Member Jim Nolan

www.gadgetbuilder.com – tool-making & machine tool adaptations. American, but based on Model Engineer’s contributions


has a Myford Lathes group for owners to share photos and ideas.

If you have your own favourites, please let the Webmaster or Secretary have the details for inclusion.

Feature Article kindly submitted by Jim Nolan

I am completing a Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 Berkshire. The model was designed by Jim Kreider and some 25+ examples are running in the States.
Building an American locomotive in the UK can be a bit of a challenge.

Unlike most UK designs they are not fully documented and in order to build you need to use a large percentage of original full-size prints. As most locomotives are 1/8 scale it’s relatively easy to divide the full-size dimensions by 8 and use that.

However, it’s always handy to have a look at the real thing, and in 2019 I made a trip out to the West Coast to see some finished locomotives.

Three Berkshires at a recent Riverside Live Steamers Club Meet

It so happens that The Riverside Live Steamers (suburb of Los Angeles) Fall Meet and the Maricopa Live Steamers (Phoenix, .Az.) Fall Meet take place within a week of each other, so are an ideal opportunity for taking detail photographs and talking to builders about how they overcame some of the issues we all come across.

I am also not decided yet on what medium I am going to use to fire the locomotive. The three choices are Coal, Oil, and Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG). All have their pros and cons, and this would be an ideal opportunity to talk to users.

Like everything else in America, the clubs are on a different scale to what we are familiar with in the UK. Not only the loading gauge, but club facilities are of a different order to here.

Steaming bays at the Riverside Club

The other noticeable difference is the amount of scale stock in use, probably due to the plethora of companies offering scale kits or finished rolling stock. Due to the size of most rolling stock and locomotives and the logistics of moving them, there is far more use made of local storage.

Container town and transfer car at Maricopa club.

There are several Berkshire owners that run at the Riverside Club, both oil- and coal-fired, so it’s an ideal place to talk and try the locomotives out.

Coal fired version – #753
Another coal fired example – #756

The fire-box on the Berkshire is 10.5” X 15.5” so it needs a lot of coal to fill it up and while it doesn’t need constant attention once you have a good bed is not that easy to fire on the move. Especially with a scale butterfly fire door. Later versions used an over-scale fire door at 2.5” scale as opposed to the 1.5” my boiler has.

2.5” scale butterfly door gives about a 3” opening for your shovel
Oil fired #777 with Builder Tom Lawson on the left

Oil firing uses either diesel or kerosene fed from a tank in the tender to a single burner which combines steam and oil to atomise the fuel. In order to get the job started the locomotive is connected to an airline until the boiler pressure is high enough to take over. Its advantage is instant heat and on-off control, so if you want a cuppa there’s no need to bank the fire – just turn the burner off.

I found that driving for any length of time can catch your chest a bit with the diesel fumes. If you’re not anticipating steam requirements and load it’s also easy to suck the fire out when opening the
throttle, but that’s probably my bad driving. Another side effect of the flame-outs was thick droplet heavy smoke that covered the engine in an oily residue.

For the last (LPG) option I had to travel over to the Maricopa Track where Larry Kirchner has a Berkshire that was converted to LPG three years ago to enable him to run at Train Mountain where, due to fire risks in the Oregon woods, they had banned all coal and oil firing on their twenty odd miles of track.

At the time of this photograph #759 was still coal fired.

The conversion of #759 required a feed pipe along the underside of the tender to a car containing the LPG cylinders. Normally a stock car is used as it has plenty of ventilation through it. The ash pan and grate are removed and replaced with a bespoke manifold with numerous burners. Usually a stainless steel arch is fitted as well. A control valve regulates the gas flow.

Unfortunately, Larry was not running his locomotive when I was there this time, but I did get a chance to have a long conversation with him. In his opinion there was no discernible difference in steaming or pulling power after the loco was converted to LPG. As he said, he was still romping up the 2.5% grades with 25 cars in tow. He also liked the lack of mess using LPG as opposed to the cinders of coal.

So, plenty to think about. I’m already a bit of a rebel as I am not building something with LNER on the side. Not firing with coal – will that just be a step too far? I think I might need to have a stiff drink before tossing the coin.

A typical LPG manifold

You may have noticed that this issue is headed “Spring” rather than “April”. This is because the Club simply doesn’t generate enough “news” to warrant more than three issues a year, and it gives me a bit of leeway in publishing dates. The others will be “Summer” and “Autumn”.

Let’s all hope we are freed from this viral scourge sooner rather than later and the “Summer” edition can carry some good news.

Thanks as ever to the contributors – Peter Newby, Jim Scott, Steve Lowe, Linda Nicholls & other Committee members and, especially, Jim Nolan.

Be safe and keep well.

Contact info …
  • Newsletter/Bulletin Editor – Mike Maguire – mike.maguire@btinternet.com
  • Club Secretary – Linda Nicholls – lindanic@sky.com – 01 670 816072
  • Website – www.tsmee.co.uk Webmaster – John Rowley – webmaster@tsmee.co.uk
Picture Gallery
New Carriage Shed and additional ground-works
Swing Bridge pit flood
Unfinished Projects Day (sorry about the orientation)
Myford Lathe arrives
Martin Ashley, resplendent in LMS uniform, on duty at the East Lancs Railway