Trains have been running six days a week from the beginning of July, with all four of our locomotives in use hauling trains. Lilian and Covertcoat have been the main locomotives in use, but Velinheli and Dorothea have normally been steamed at least once a week.
In July our latest load of coal arrived; one lorry load of approximately 20 tons will last us just over one year. For the last few years we have been burning Russian coal; despite the fact coal is available from Wales, the cost is approximately the same, and we have found the Russian coal has slightly better characteristics for the work we require our locomotives to do. Unfortunately the latest load of Russian coal has proved to be radically different to the last few loads we have had, resulting in relatively poor steaming in three of our Hunslet locomotives (Covertcoat proved to be the odd one out and has generally steamed well on this coal). Throughout the summer we have been trying different techniques of firing and making modifications to the Hunslets to improve their steaming on this batch of coal. For example, Lilian has been trialled with different diameter blast nozzles in her smokebox and has now been fitted with a new grate in her firebox; her ‘original’ grate was approximately 70% firebars and 30% airgaps between the bars, whilst her new grate is a copy of Covertcoat’s grate and has a firebar to air gap ratio of 50:50. The new grate has improved Lilian’s performance and returned her to being the ‘steady old lady’ our drivers know her to be.
Early summer saw some clearance work of lineside trees around Launceston, and this winter we plan to clear a large amount of the younger trees all the way along the line. To speed the clearance process up, we are currently building an attachment for our digger which can grab, cut and remove smaller trees – although these attachments can be bought, they cost several thousand pounds and we have found we have many of the parts needed to make one already!