Part 8 – Track Testing

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‘Harlech’ goes topless in public….

No, this is NOT Page 3!!

Despite appearances and the obvious jokes, there was a serious side to all this! Having made up set of coupling and connecting rods No 2, there was a need to test them. Mike had made arrangements to take the M7 to the Brandon SME club at Weeting in Norfolk. Anyone who has been to the Weeting Steam Engine Rally in the summer will have found the miniature railway, this is the same place.

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My, thats a big pair…. of batteries!! What size are they? 75ah.

Not wanting to steal the moment, Mike took the chassis only and it completed 0.95 miles quite happily. Success!! Bearing in mind the pins into the cranks were only push-fitted and there was a bit of lube oil sloshing about, Mike didn’t push the chassis too hard – although on the last few metres to the loading ramp, the right hand side coupling rod came free and fell into the ballast. That incident nonewithstanding, the rods were considered a success.

During the week following the track test at Brandon, the rods and cranks were removed from the loco and the pins were spot-welded in place from the rear of the cranks. This is sufficient to hold them, and any further alteration will require removal and drilling off the spot welds.

The next big job was modifying the road trailer I had bought a while back to suit the loco and driving trolley – this work involved making up rails and bolting them to the floor, making anchoring points and drilling and fitting, shortening the tailgate and making of a framework to go on the top ready for a custom cover made from plastic coated cloth (the same as used for curtainside lorries). This work was a bit noisy and we moved all the gear to the KLDSME workshop at Lynnsport to avoid upsetting the neighbours. ‘Harlech’ of course, came with us and once we’d finished fabricating it was time to play.

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The moment arrives, Mike reaches in and switches on…

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A very happy looking Me, about to go around for the first time! This day was exactly a year to the date we started cutting metal for this locomotive project.

‘Harlech’ is still under testing at the moment and at the time of writing has completed almost five miles. The cranks are yet to be pinned in place on the axles, so there is work to be done – but once its run in and smoothed itself out a bit!

In the meantime… why not put the motor and controller into ‘Criccieth’ or ‘Cardigan Castle’

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On Mike’s 10ft test track panel, it went up and down happily. The chain drive is only to the rear axle so its haulage is limited at present; once the cranks and rods are on it will have full tractive power. Didn’t stop us having a play the following day though!

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This is what its all about – having a play! Big boys toys, call them what you will. This was the Wednesday after the controller was installed in ‘Cardigan’ and we visited the Lynnsport track once more on the KLDSME regular Working Party day. Needless to say, not much work was done that afternoon!

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‘Harlech’ went home with me and has found itself the centre of attention – I have been doing little odd-jobs on it, such as the wasp stripes on the bufferbeams, general tidying and touching up.

Thorough Track Testing

During Summer 2010,¬†Harlech had been thrown into action at the¬†KLDSME track at Lynnsport on Sundays, me having most weekends in August booked off or a fluke Rest day had helped out! On one occasion, ‘Harlech’ was the only loco out and handled the three-coach train all day and amassed just over 10 miles in revenue earning service.

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Jason drives Harlech around in between passengers.

The Lynnsport track is quite small, a 700ft circuit around a field beside Lynnsport Leisure Centre, but there is a couple of short steep climbs that I was wondering about, given the cranks aren’t pinned yet, but all held up ok.

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Another ALW product gets a spin, this time the M7 had a rare ‘back to front’ moment with the cab leading.

‘Harlech had been doing quite well and attended three Sundays in August and the BBQ Fun Run evening, it worked up some 29 miles with no problems at all.

The true test came on Saturday September 25th at the Evergreens Railway at Stickney, near Boston

Harlech’s first ‘booked’ outing away from King’s Lynn, only two hours up the road to Lincolnshire. I met up with Mike and the M7 near the Little Chef at Lynn and we convoyed up to Stickney. Both locos were signed in, unloaded and coupled up to a large 4 seater coach before doing a test lap.

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Both locos being prepared for duty…

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Mike did not mention the probable deluge of customers which could appear suddenly and turn the nice, slow and peaceful preparations into a hectic scramble! The station master told me that I ‘didn’t know what I was letting myself in for!’ and I wondered quite what he meant. It all became clear once I’d done my test lap…. the queue at the station gate was relentless! ‘Harlech’ and the M7 went on at 10.15 and ran solidly up until 1pm, when Mike and myself got away for a lunch break and did a spot of filming.

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On lunchbreak, Harlech and the steam Quarry Hunslet from Grimsby were the smallest locos in service that day. Both performed superbly!

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Anyone who has been to Evergreens will know of the ‘Mountain’ as it is known; the inner loop-de-loop out in the field section where the track climbs some 5 feet to pass over a steel girder bridge and descends back down again, crossing over itself before re-joining the ground level track. This is quite a climb, as can be seen from these videos…

Evergreens Railway Miscellany; a selection of shots taken over lunchbreak, finishing with a Driver’s Eye View leaving the shed area to do a lap of the ground level and into the station for more passenger hauling.

Driver’s Eye View – two laps, which is what the public get. Once up and over the ‘mountain’ (see how much height we gain from the diamond crossover to the top of the bridge) and the second lap is around the ground level.

We were back on the rails at 1.45pm for more madness, and it was still rather busy! The M7 managed to escape to the sidings at a quiet moment around 3.15 so Mike could begin loading up in good time, but Harlech wasn’t so lucky; we had to keep on running right to the end, at 4pm. I was kept topped up with tea by the station staff, one thing Harlech doesn’t have is a mug holder, so was pleased for the one-handed bell throttle unit I have; tea in one hand, controller in the other!

By the time 4pm rolled round, I was pretty tired and my bum was sore (silly sod had forgotten his cushion!), Harlech was getting that way too with its battery indicators starting to show a yellow light going up the Mountain on the final laps, but it had performed solidly all day and I could not have asked any more from it. Every time round, even with a full load in the coach and occasionally one adult on the back of my driving trolley with me, it held speed going up the mountain.

The new ‘Stafford’ steam loco on test was dropping water onto the rails which wasn’t really helping anybody, but it didn’t present a problem for HC. The loco probably could have managed a second coach, but at the expense of a shorter run time on the batteries.

On packing up, the speedo said it had done 16miles running that day, with a fully loaded coach every time and numerous ascents of the mountain! Proud?! Of course we are! Not bad for being ‘on test’… and what sort of a test was this! Both Mike and myself are very pleased with the loco, and some of the Evergreens regulars were impressed by its durability and wanted to know about the internals and how it all worked.

Now its time to get ‘Criccieth’ up to speed!


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Things went quicker for Criccieth as the experimenting had been done with Harlech. The rods were laser cut as one piece items by Dales, rather than them cutting the ends and Mike welding the bar section in between.

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These ones were to be red…

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and on they went! Ready for static testing!

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Mike spent some time making mock air filters for both Harlech and Criccieth, one is seen here.

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and here one is, fitted and awaiting painting.

Work has been slowed since, I am in the process of buying a house with my girlfriend and Mike has been busy with the arduous task of being a Homewatch Group Chairman. It is hoped our next outing, to the Fenland Light Railway on October 17th will be a success, with both Harlech and Criccieth out for a jog together! This one will be interesting!

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