Author Archive: Charlie O'Mahoney

An Autumnal End and into the Winter

dsc_3559_30586770306_o
Our 2016 season has finally finished with another week of running for the school half term holiday week.  The first half term train left Launceston with four full carriages – a sign of things to come!  The railway was busy all week, with many taking advantage of our Locals’ Week special offer in our local newspaper, the Cornish & Devon Post; in fact we believe it may even have been the busiest October half term week we have ever had.

edited_1477246316345_30517936145_o
Having been away all summer on her grand tour, Velinheli was used several days over half term to get a few ‘home’ miles in before she is laid up for the winter.  We know at least one little boy, having avidly followed all the photos of Velinheli’s holiday on our Facebook page, visited specifically to make sure he could ride behind Velinheli at home this year!  Lilian, Covertcoat and Dorothea all took their turns on half term trains as well; most days saw two engines in steam, with lots of double heading to cope with the large passenger numbers.

The October half term week is traditionally the end of our opening season, and this year it is no exception as we will now be closed to the public until Easter 2017.  A common question from visitors at half term was “what are you doing over winter when you are closed?”.  The answer is lots!  The first noticeable winter project, extending the small locomotive shed opposite the platform, is already rapidly nearing completion. The main locomotive shed and workshop, commonly known as ‘Toad Hall’, has a rather leaky roof which it is hoped to replace this winter.  Having completed an overhaul on Lilian earlier this year, this winter it is Covertcoat’s turn to be stripped down for a full check and overhaul.  Another stretch of track is also due to be relaid over the winter, plus we hope to fit in some more work on our experimental diesel railcar as well.  These are just the obvious ‘big’ projects for the winter, and there are a lot of small routine maintenance jobs to do as well – we are just as busy working in the winter as we are at the height of the summer season!

Locals Week

Enjoy a discounted day out this October half term week in conjunction with our local paper The Cornish & Devon Post.

Once again we have teamed up with ‘The Post’ for one of our popular Locals Week special offers. Inside the 20th October edition of the paper will be a voucher offering generous discounts on our normal fares.

Enjoy the chance to ride through the unspoilt Cornish countryside behind a Victorian steam locomotive, fifty years after the original railway through Launceston closed.

The café, shop and museum will all also be open, and for those thinking of Christmas gifts for enthusiasts, this is the last chance to shop locally for railway books, DVDs and related items.

Director Jonathan Mann said: “We recently had a visitor from East Anglia who was bowled over by the beauty of the Cornish countryside seen from the train. She was very amused however when I told her of a conversation overheard in our café, when one person (from another part of the country) said to another ‘It’s all very well, but there is nothing to see but countryside!'”

The half-term service runs from Sunday, October 23 to Friday, October 28 inclusive, and if the good weather holds, it is an excellent time to enjoy the valley. Trains leave Launceston hourly from 11am to 4pm. Discounted fares only valid with voucher from ‘The Post’, normal fares apply otherwise.

Velinheli Returns!

Following a busy summer touring North Wales, Velinheli returned home to Launceston on Wednesday 28th September.  She was quickly unloaded in our car park – visitors may have noticed the length of track in the car park for unloading materials, but as Velinheli will (just) fit under the bridge between the station and the car park it is also the easiest location to load and unload her.

With steam raised the opportunity was taken to run Velinheli as far as possible onto the site of the original Launceston station, nearly fifty years since it closed.  Following a quick run up the line she was returned to her shed for a few weeks well deserved rest, but she will be in steam and hauling passenger trains for a few days during the half term week at the end of October.

Owner James Evans attends to Velinheli whilst steam is raised

Owner James Evans attends to Velinheli whilst steam is raised

Flangeways are cleared in the track to allow Velinheli to enter the site of the original Launceston station

Flangeways are cleared in the track to allow Velinheli to enter the site of the original Launceston station

dsc_3422_29989147665_o

Velinheli sits approximately on the site of the original Launceston station

Velinheli sits approximately on the site of the original Launceston station

Our particular thanks to Paul Lewin of the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways for looking after Velinheli during her tour

Velinheli on Holiday

Over the recent Bank Holiday weekend Velinheli continued her grand summer tour with a visit to the Bala Lake Railway for their gala weekend – where there were no less than seven Hunslet steam locomotives from the Welsh slate quarries gathered together! We sent our roving reporter and here are a few photos of Velinheli and her owner James Evans enjoying their summer holiday.

 

There is just one more stop left on Velinheli’s Tour this year – the Welsh Highland Great and Small Event this coming weekend (9th-11th September), where you can see Velinheli in action at Dinas station on the Welsh Highland Railway.  After this she has a few week’s rest before she comes back home in October – and she will be running some passenger trains here during the half term week at the end of October.

Velinheli and owner James Evans obviously enjoying their summer holiday!

Velinheli and owner James Evans obviously enjoying their summer holiday!

Waiting at the head of a train of slate wagons - similar to how she spent her working life at Dinorwic Quarry

Waiting at the head of a train of slate wagons – similar to how she spent her working life at Dinorwic Quarry

Waiting for the passenger train to arrive behind Diana

Waiting for a passenger train to arrive behind Diana

Next to Kerr Stuart locomotive 'Diana'

Next to Kerr Stuart locomotive ‘Diana’

A Launceston style double header! Velinheli and Winifred (identical sister locomotive to Lilian).

A Launceston style double header! Velinheli and Winifred (identical sister locomotive to Lilian).

New Museum Building now open

For a few years we have been working, as time permits, on a new second museum building to hold more exhibits.  As many regular visitors will know our original museum building was packed full of interesting vintage vehicles and machinery – and with more items becoming available for us to display, we have had to refurbish a second building to hold them all!

The new second museum building has now been opened to the public and has a ‘motor museum’ theme as it holds three of our vintage cars plus a collection of vintage motorcycles (in addition to the motorcycles upstairs in our original museum).  There are also items of rolling stock from the slate quarry railways of North Wales, and a photographic display of the early days of the Launceston Steam Railway.

To find the new museum, simply head through our original museum building out into the yard and turn right, following the roped off area and signs. Entry to our museum is free of charge.

dsc_2900_28770162582_o

Some of the vintage vehicles on display in our new museum building

Lilian’s Boiler Overhaul – Part 2

At the beginning of April we took Lilian out of use for a full overhaul of her boiler – details of the first stages in the overhaul can be found here.

Following a thorough inspection by our boiler inspector, it was decided that the boiler was in remarkably good condition eight years after its last overhaul, and only required a small number of jobs before returning to service – namely the replacement of a number of stays in the firebox, which were welded in place.  A new ‘mudhole’ was also cut at the bottom front of the firebox, to aid washing out the inside of the boiler. The boiler was then refitted to the chassis and subject to a hydraulic test for our boiler inspector.

Washout plugs and new mudhole on the front of the firebox

Washout plugs and new mudhole on the front of the firebox

New stays welded in place

New stays welded in place

Hydraulic test pump connected for a visit from our boiler inspector

Hydraulic test pump connected for a visit from our boiler inspector

One part of a steam locomotive which most people do not realise is frequently replaced is the smokebox.  During the working day ash collects in the smokebox, and being corrosive the ash causes a mild steel smokebox to gradually rust away.  Lilian’s smokebox had become very thin and the decision was taken to manufacture a new smokebox as part of her overhaul. The sides for the new smokebox are stainless steel, chosen in an attempt to make this smokebox last longer than the previous one, whilst the front of the smokebox is actually a sheet steel chequer plate which happened to be in stock and of a suitable size and thickness (we’re firm believers in reusing suitable materials and items we have rather than always buying new material).  The door itself is ‘original’ – although even then it is a replacement fitted when Lilian was at Penryhn Quarry.

New smokebox front under construction

New smokebox front under construction

New smokebox front

New smokebox front

Two halves of the new stainless steel smokebox are welded together in situ

Two halves of the new stainless steel smokebox are welded together in situ

By the beginning of June – so two months after work had started – Lilian was largely back in one piece, but required a number of small jobs completing, such as reconnecting all the pipework.

Cladding is placed around the boiler

Cladding is placed around the boiler

Nearly finished and ready for a return to steam!

Nearly finished and ready for a return to steam!

An interesting final job related to her saddle tank.  For many years Lilian’stank has actually been 3/8″ lower at the back than it is at the front – not that many people had noticed!  When refitted the opportunity was taken to manufacture new supports which would raise the height of the tank at the rear.

Lilian reentered service in mid-June, ready for the peak summer season.  Subject to some good weather she will be in regular use throughout the summer.

Railway Rabbits Day – Sunday 5th June

On Sunday we had a ‘Railway Rabbits Day’ as part of Launceston’s ‘Charles Causley Festival’. ‘The Railway Rabbits’ is a popular series of children’s books written by local author Georgie Adams.  Inspired by the Launceston Steam Railway, they tell the story of a family of rabbits who live alongside a steam railway.

During the day a number of visitors took the opportunity to join Georgie Adams for readings from the books, and also take part in a range of Railway Rabbits activities at Launceston station.

13323575_253619168329782_5415453277707314352_o

Locals Week 2016

We reopen for the summer this coming Sunday (22nd) – and to celebrate we have once again teamed up with our local paper, the Cornish & Devon Post, to run one of our popular Locals Week special offers.

Locals Week runs from Sunday 22nd to Friday 27th May, and to take part simply pick up this week’s copy of ‘The Post’ (issue dated Thursday 19th May) and use the voucher inside to enjoy discounted fares of £6.50 for Adults and £3.25 for Children.

The voucher can only be used once, is not valid with any other special offers, and normal fares of £10.50 Adults and £6.80 Children apply for all those without a voucher – so don’t forget to bring it!

 

Lilian’s Boiler Overhaul – Part 1

Regular visitors will have noticed that Lilian did not make an appearance when we opened at Easter.  Every 10 years or so it is necessary to remove the boiler from a steam locomotive and subject it to a thorough inspection and overhaul.  Lilian’s boiler was last removed for overhaul in the winter of 2007/8.  Therefore although not ‘due’ for another two years, it was decided to bring the overhaul forwards slightly.

dsc_2254_26248852636_o

Lilian stood over the pit for the first stage of dismantling – removal of her ashpan!

As soon as Easter was out of the way work started on dismantling Lilian in our yard.  Although many smaller parts could be removed by hand, obviously many parts are too large and heavy to remove by hand.  Here our Unipower tractor with winch becomes indispensable – designed for use in forestry, it has proved very useful for moving and dismantling railway equipment over the past 50 years!

Lilian stripped down to her chassis and boiler

Lilian stripped down to her chassis and boiler

Jonathan busy removing part of the regulator

Jonathan busy removing part of the regulator

Unipower in place ready to lift the boiler

Unipower in place ready to lift the boiler

Up, up and away!

Up, up and away!

Chassis awaiting wheeling back into the museum for storage

Chassis awaiting wheeling back into the museum for storage

With the boiler removed and stood on its side in our yard, a thorough inspection could be undertaken.  The boiler itself is just over 20 years old, and was constructed in house to replace her previous boiler, which dated from 1885 (it had previously been fitted to her sister ‘Winifred’ and we still have it in store).  Initial inspection showed that the barrel and tubes of the boiler remained in good condition, with the tubes suitable for several more years use. However some of the firebox stays required replacing.

New and old regulator rod ends

New and old regulator rod ends

With the boiler removed, the opportunity was taken to give the chassis a thorough clean

With the boiler removed, the opportunity was taken to give the chassis a thorough clean

Boiler on its side in the yard, with Nigel measuring for new firebox stays

Boiler on its side in the yard, with Nigel measuring for new firebox stays

A view inside Lilian's firebox.  Note the missing stays on the left hand side at the bottom.

A view inside Lilian’s firebox. Note the missing stays on the left hand side at the bottom.

Cutting new stay material

Cutting new stay material

 

Velinheli on Tour

This summer our locomotive Velinheli will be touring England and Wales, visiting a number of different railways and events.

 

We are now able to confirm the full list of events in her diary:

  • 20th – 22nd May: Fawley Hill Vintage Extravaganza
  • 12th-13th August: Shrewsbury Flower Show
  • 18th-21st August: Southport Flower Show
  • 26th – 29th August: Bala Lake Railway Steam Gala
  • 9th-11th September: Welsh Highland Railway Superpower: Welsh Highland Great & Small III
  • And finally 23rd-28th October: a triumphant return home to Launceston for the October half term week!

Between the events at Fawley Hill and Shrewsbury, and during September, she will be based at the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railways and in regular use for various activities such as footplate rides at Porthmadog Harbour station.

The list of events may be subject to changes or additions through the summer – to keep right up to date with Velinheli’s tour make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  If you see Velinheli out and about we’d love to see you photos on social media too!