7" gauge in the garden

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7¼" gauge in the garden

2008 diary

 

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

January 2008

 

Railways

I have visited the Hamilton Model Engineers track a couple of times. They have a nice park location and three interesting routes. I have become a member which has the benefit of as many free rides as I want!
 

I have just received an email from a guy in Cambridge (New Zealand not England) that owns a 7" gauge railway with a 1000' mainline run. He has offered to show me round the line and maybe let me have a drive.

I visited Grant and his Squirrel Valley Railway over the weekend and what a lovely little line it is. I got to drive Grant's NZR DA-class loco and also his Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes 2-6-2. What a beautiful loco.

 

Engineering

I am currently investigating engineering firms around Hamilton, NZ that can provide bearings (for axle boxes) and laser cutting (for frames).

I obtained a Hercus 9" lathe via TradeMe. I can now start turning my own wheels.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

February 2008

 

AutoCAD evening classes

I have just signed-up for evening classes in the use of AutoCAD. I'd like to start using it to design rolling-stock and then get the parts laser-cut by a company in Hamilton. This is the way that Paul Middleton at Ride on Railways produces his 5" gauge equipment. OK, so a six week introductory course it not likely to have me churning out rolling-stock in five minutes, but it is a piece of software you need some training on because it is so complex.

Engineering

I was originally looking to buy an Atlas 10" lathe on TradeMe, but the seller wanted more for it than I wanted to spend and I ended up buying a "scruffier" Hercus 9" lathe. Now the seller of the Atlas has asked if I am still interested in it at a lower price. I am toying with the idea of buying the Atlas 10" and selling the Hercus. The Hercus could do with a thorough clean / restoration, but do I want to do the work on something I might then sell? The Atlas also has a vertical milling attachment and a lot more accessories than the Hercus, making it even more appealing (both practically and financially). Or, for the money, I could keep both and set one up for milling and the other for turning..... Umm.

Hercus 9" ? or Atlas 10" ?

It really is a small world. The father of a friend of Pip's works for a steel fabrication company in Hamilton. The owner of the business (also a John) is in to miniature railways, is also a member of the Hamilton Model Engineers and knows Grant who owns the SR&RL #24 (see above). He has also told me that if I ever need to use any of his machinery to let him know as he'd be happy to help. He is rebuilding a 5" gauge Meyer articulated at the moment but is also building a 7" gauge Romulus.

I have decided to buy the 10" Atlas lathe. Moving it will be a problem, but I may be able to borrow an engine hoist from John at the steel fabrication company.

I have had an offer of the off-cuts from the flame-cutting machine from a large engineering firm in town. When they make flanges for pipework, the bit they cut out of the middle of the "Polo-mint" is scrap; to them anyway. They are around 6" diameter and about 1½" thick - ideal for wheels. I've also got a supply of off-cuts of 1" diameter steel bar - ideal for axles, so I'm doing pretty well at the moment.

John from Tube Tech (see above) has not only offered to loan me his engine hoist to move the Atlas lathe, he's also offered to help me move it. The guy is almost embarrassingly helpful.

AutoCAD evening classes

I went along to the first class and got drawing almost straightaway. The course is being run at one of Hamilton's better boys schools and the instructor is one of their craft teachers. He seems pretty good but he's said that if anyone really wants to get "in to" AutoCAD then they should look at the more in-depth evening classes run at the Polytechnic. So, I asked them to send me more information as the next course starts in May.

Here's my first drawing. The instructor saw that I was picking it up and instead of drawing the "AA" logo in 2D, he showed me how to convert it in to 3D. Then I added the cone for a bit of fun.

 

I just downloaded and printed off a beginner's guide to AutoCAD 2006, it is 374 pages long and fills three smaller A4 ring binders (OK, so I did print it single-sided). This isn't some cheap-n-cheerful piece of drawing software I can learn in five minutes; but then I knew that.

Engineering

John and I managed to get the Atlas 10" lathe back to my workshop (garage) on Saturday. We needed to use John's engine hoist as it was too heavy for the two of us to lift. It wasn't too much trouble, but the height of the garage door was a bit of a problem as the hoist above the lathe was only a fraction of an inch clear of the top of the door. But it is in place now so that's fine. Seeing as we have our house on the market at the moment, I am not going to get too comfy as we'll need to move it again soon when the house sells.

I just won a small petrol engine on TradeMe for half its retail price, which frankly was too good a deal to pass up. I can always park it in the back of my workshop until a project comes up to use it on.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

March 2008

  After slaving over a hot PC for several hours, I managed to draw this

I don't reckon that's bad for for just two lessons. In case you're wondering what it is, it is the beginning of a chassis for a petrol-hydraulic loco.

Pip and I spent a very pleasant 10 days in Melbourne and I took the opportunity to visit the Box Hill and Diamond Valley miniature railways.

I have finished the 6 week "taster" AutoCAD course at Hamilton Boys High School and I have decided to take this further. I have therefore signed-up for a 10 week course at the polytechnic. From this I will receive a formal certificate or qualification. I'm not fussed about that, but to move on to more CAD work and do 3D, I need the introductory course at the polytechnic.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

April 2008

  I was invited to see another model engineer not far from me by John Bremner. Andy used to be a metalwork teacher but is now retired. His garaged is packed with machinery and he has so many projects on the go that it makes you dizzy to look at them all. He's been building a Tinkerbell for nearly 20 years but though he says he could have it running by the end of the year, he's apparently been saying that for quite a while. He's also in to 32mm gauge live steam and knows Grant who owns the SR&RL #24. It really is a small world in model engineering around here.

Pip and I have been invited down to New Plymouth by a guy who has a 7" gauge line around his garden. We're going down there to stay on ANZAC weekend (25th-27th April).

I sold the Hercus lathe for almost what I paid for it, so that's good. I don't need two lathes so similar and the Atlas is a better bet for what I want.

Unfortunately we didn't make it to New Plymouth as Ted's wife was not well. Shame, but there'll be other occasions, especially seeing as I now work only 4 days per week in the office so I have the flexibility to take a long weekend pretty much whenever I like.

I am gathering more and more information on Weymouth Miniature Railway and Crystal Palace. The detective work is fun if a little frustrating at times. Miniature railway locomotives seem to have some interesting and varied lives making it tricky to pin down accurate information on their movements.

I have identified a potential source of some used aluminium rail in the UK, and some friends are hiring a container to ship their goods from the UK to NZ later in the year - the rail wouldn't take up much space in a corner. Watch this space.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

May 2008

  My AutoCAD beginners course begins at the local polytechnic this week - which I am really looking forward to.

The used rail in the UK was sold some time ago unfortunately.

I am following up on a lead for a 2-8-0 that is for sale in Auckland.

Pip and I went up to Auckland to see a locomotive that is for sale. Stupidly, I forgot to take any photos of it, even though I had the camera in the car.

  • POEM is unusual in that the builder (Murray Lane) combined features of several different locos to build this one. It is vaguely reminiscent of a World War I American ALCO or Baldwin trench loco, but it is a 2-8-0, not a 2-6-2.
  • POEM is a combined side tank and tender loco making it more like a sugar-cane loco. There were no eight-coupled sugar-cane locos in Fiji, though there were still a few in Java (as of 2006 and most of those were German-built).
  • POEM uses Allan straight-link valve motion, which was unusual on full-size locos and even rarer on miniature locomotives.
  • POEM will have to be repainted, it simply doesn't look right to have a blue and purple steam loco. That said, many of the sugar-cane locos in Java (and Australia) were painted some fairly garish colours.

POEM is a big loco, probably bigger than Grant's Sandy River 2-6-2. She was designed for a railway at Manu Ariki Marae a few miles north of Taumarunui in the central north island of New Zealand. She was to be able to haul a load of 54 adults up their 1 in 100 gradient, including a short stretch of 1 in 40 on a bend. Due to a lack of suitably trained staff at the line they decided not to buy the loco in the end and Murray retained her for himself. The railway is still open and now extends to just over 3km (just under 2 miles), or a 25 minute run.

Murray was originally going to build a model of Palm Oil Estates Management (P.O.E.M.) railway locomotive #3 but she would've been too small for the intended use so he changed the design to the semi-freelance 2-8-0; but he kept the name POEM.

Murray said that POEM has been running for about five or six years and he has rebuilt those parts that were not satisfactory, so there is little chance of it developing a fault that he hasn't already uncovered. For instance he re-made slide valves as the original phosphor-bronze ones distorted and he made new cast-iron ones. Murray is a superb engineer and there is no faulting his workmanship.

This is a loco built for hard use and is not a finescale model. The paintwork is a bit tarnished in places but the underlying loco is in very good condition. It is up for sale at a very reasonable price and I am sorely tempted. The colour would have to go though, it is just too... purple.

With an all-up weight of around 1 ton, I am going to have to get a trailer specifically to move it. Where to put it is also a bit of an issue at the moment as our current house is far from ideal, but seeing as we'll be moving soon I am not worrying about that.

I have decided to buy the loco in Auckland.

John Bremner has offered to help me collect the loco using his ute (pickup) and then help me build a trailer for it. I got quotes for a trailer capable of handling 1.25 tons (with brakes) and they both turned out to be around NZ$5000. John has all the equipment necessary to build me a trailer and can get the parts (wheels, hubs, brakes, ball-hitch, etc.). The end result will be much better as it'll be exactly what I need rather than a compromise; and hopefully it'll be cheaper too!

 

Pip and I went back to Auckland for a seminar so we stopped off en-route to take some photos of POEM.

For more photos, see the Locomotives page. There is a also a tender to go behind POEM which is not visible in this photo.

  As an idea, I will probably repaint POEM in the same scheme as VICTORY on the Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway (left).

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

June 2008

  My wife and I are moving to Raglan in July. We are moving in to a rental whilst we look for a suitable piece of land that will "work" for both of us.
 

John Bremner and I went up to Auckland to collect POEM on 14th June.

John had organised a (large) trailer where the deck was as near as we could get it to the height Murray had told us the trolleys were built to - the idea being we could just roll the loco and tender on to the trailer. Well, it didn't quite work like that. Murray had made a mistake and told us 800mm when it should've been 600mm. This meant that the trailer was a good 150mm or 6" different in height to the track on the trolley. This wouldn't have been so bad except that POEM weighs in at around half a ton. After much scratching of heads, and much jacking and blocking of the trolleys we got the trailer level enough to roll POEM and her tender on to the deck.

  This was the first time I had seen loco and tender together.

Once tied down along with the two trolleys and the passenger carriage we came to the easy bit - pulling the trailer out of Murray's drive. Well, that didn't quite go according to plan either. The trailer was very wide and long and when we pushed it back in to the garage by hand we pushed the drawbar over to get in round the slight corner. This is fine, but when you have a pickup truck hitched to it you cannot drag the whole lot back over the other way. Suffice it to say that for what should've been a fairly routine job, it took us 3½ hours to load up.

 

John with the grin that says "see, we got it out of there in the end!"

  The journey back to Hamilton was uneventful and we took her to John's workshop which will be her temporary home for a while. John has the benefit of a 1 ton crane in his workshop which made unloading a lot easier - once you figure out where to put the strops (ropes). This photo shows POEM hanging in thin air on John's one ton hoist - which was a bit un-nerving.

PS. I know there are no photos of me, I was behind the camera!

 

Mid-winter steam-up at Grant Alexander's Squirrel Valley Railway - 21st & 22nd June 2008

This was POEM's first outing since I bought her in June 2008. I had her for only one week before Grant Alexander's mid-winter steam-up at his railway.

Grant let me borrow his trailer as in the week since I'd bought POEM John Bremner and I had not had the chance to build my own. Grant's loco is big but even so POEM was a very tight squeeze - we reckon there was about 3-4mm gap down either side! John and I will definitely make my trailer a bit bigger to make life easier. My car performed well with over 1 ton on the towbar and the half-hour journey from the workshop to Grant's line was uneventful.

Unloading at Grant's track was fairly easy as the ramp is the right height for his trailer (obviously) and the loco and tender were soon on the track. This was the first time I'd seen POEM on rails and she looked great. John and I both through that all the effort to get her from Auckland was well worth it. Next job... raise steam.

John had cut enough bits of wood to fill a 1 gallon ice-cream carton - well that disappeared in the firebox with room to spare, so we rustled up some more. Once this was alight we threw a shovel full of coal on top and after a while the pressure started to rise. Note to self for next time - cut lots of firewood. We noticed a few leaks but POEM seemed to be in good order.

Next came the great moment when POEM moved off under her own steam. OK, so she's 13 years old and has run before, but there is something special about running you new loco for the first time. For some reason the reverser was stuck in dead-centre and didn't want to move. It had moved fine when cold but now with 80 psi of steam on the valves the reverser wouldn't budge. Much scratching of heads and John gave me a nudge and then... POEM erupted like a geyser and leapt forward. I put her back in neutral and everyone said "ah, the regulator works backwards to normal". The regulator had been wide open and the steam chests were full of steam at 80 psi - which is why the reverser wouldn't budge. That embarrassing incident over (and caught on Grant's video camera to be shown for ever more to remind me), the rest of the day went great! It was supposed to rain but stayed fine all day and I may have caught the sun a bit.

There were a few other locos there too. A very nice PHANTOM built by Dennis Collins in only 10 months! Robert Patterson's particularly nice NZR Hunslet Dsa class diesel and Grant's battery-electric "diesel" was running. He didn't get his SR&RL's 2-6-2 out as he was too busy being the host. There were also a number of people there running their G-scale live steam (Grant has G-scale and 7" gauge in his garden).

One interesting problem later on was how to drop the fire. John managed to hook one of the grate segments out but we were both expecting to be able to just drop the whole grate out the bottom - it doesn't work like that.

We got loaded up easily enough and took POEM back to John's workshop in Hamilton and whilst cleaning her up we looked back at a great day which both of us really enjoyed. So I wonder where we are off to next?

PS. That's me driving with Pip on the carriage. CLICK HERE for more photos

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

July 2008

  John and I spent an hour or so discussing our discoveries so far on POEM.
  • There is some quite bad surface rust under the flare on the tender sides. This will need to be rubbed down and repainted.
  • John made up a replacement bracket for the regulator that swaps the pivot and actuating rod holes around thus making the regulator work the "correct" way.
  • After a quick chat with John he made up a new headlight bracket to mount it on top of the smokebox.
  • The chimney looks slightly too short to my eyes.
  • Both John and I agree that the cab sides are too low. We're looking at options to raise the floor of the cab to the tops of the frame - about 70mm. This should make the proportions about right for the Baldwin/ALCO originals.

Not much going on at present. My wife and I just moved house so we've had more than enough to do, therefore POEM and other railway activities have taken a back-seat for a while. However, I have been talking to John concerning the design of POEM's trailer.

John and I have started having regular workshop evenings. This way we'll make some definite progress on jobs - not just POEM.

First up, I am modifying the brass valves on POEM's backhead. As Murray made them they get too hot to touch so I am making up wire surrounds (like those on the gauge-glass blowdown valves). John is making a new bracket to mount the headlight on top of the smokebox and he has also remounted the regulator so that it operates the "correct" way.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

August 2008

 

POEM's new headlight bracket is done and I have turned down all of the brass valves. We just need to finish fitting the coiled wire grips.

We managed to get the cap and base off of the chimney tube. I am going to raise the chimney by 35mm to be more in-line with the top of the cab - it is a bit "dumpy" at the moment.

We took the cab off and will make a start to raise the footplate. This will help raise all the pipe work up off the ground too and make the whole loco look more balanced.

The chimney is done. We've actually cut the tube longer than originally planned; the proportions of the chimney look so much better. Once the cab is back on we can re-assess the height of the chimney and if necessary trim a bit off of the top; taking the brass cap off is easy enough. Checking with prototype photos, the chimney should be higher than the top of the cab by about the diameter of the chimney barrel.

Interestingly, John took one of the side tanks off and POEM looks rather nice as a tender loco!

  POEM's new, higher chimney and relocated headlight. Notice in the photos above that the base of the brass cap is roughly level with the top of the dome.

We all think the proportions look much better now, but once the cab is back on we can always trim a bit off of the barrel to lower it if we need to.

  Without side tank
  John and Grant are contemplating the new footplate - which has been raised at the sides

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

September 2008

  John Bremner performing somewhat "brutal" engineering on POEM's cab - I didn't have the nerve to do it myself and John does this sort of thing all the time, so "leave it to the experts" I say!
  This is POEM's cab tested-fitted back on (compare the shot below to see how much of the cab has been pruned away). We need to re-fit all of the pipework, injectors etc. under the cab, but a strip down and re-paint is going to be next.

Having seen how it's worked out, we'll probably trim about 20mm out of the barrel of the chimney.

 
 

We are making progress. All of the pipework on the righthand side is back on. It looks a lot neater and is up out of the way of the track. we're now working on the lefthand side. After that it is a bit of a tidy up and we take the boiler cladding off to go for painting along with the side tanks, cab and tender body.

I'll get the chassis steam-cleaned and then we can go around and touch-up the black. I am not prepared to strip the whole loco down to do a bare-metal repaint, it doesn't need it and it is a heck of a lot of work.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

October 2008

 

I dismantled the tender ready for painting and turned up some cases for the two vacuum gauges - they were cheap and "plasticy", now they have brass cases.

My search continues for a suitable piece of land on which to build a railway. I have found an old quarry but it would require quite a lot of earthwork to build there. We'll just have to wait and see, something will come up.

I got an email from Maxitrak that my Eaton hydrostatic transmission has been serviced and is ready to ship, so hopefully I'll have it here in a few weeks time.

POEM is nearly all back together. I have stripped most of the gold lining from the loco and tender ready for repainting and John B. has nearly got all of the pipework back on. She is on-schedule to be ready for the summer running season.

Things have slowed down a bit as John B. has to move his workshop to new premises so the next week or so we are busy doing other things.

I just won/bought a set of plans and notes for a 5" gauge Orenstein and Koppel rack locomotive. OK, wrong scale/gauge but interesting nonetheless.

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

November 2008

 

John Bremner and I visited the Tauranga Model Engineers for their steam up on the 9th. POEM wasn't ready (due to delays as a result of having to move John's workshop) so we went as spectators.

  The drawings for the Orenstein & Koppel rack loco have arrived and surprise-surprise, they are for the 7¼" gauge version! Not sure if I want to undertake this as a "first build" so I might look for something a bit simpler, but they were too good an offer to pass up at the price.

Plans are also available for an adhesion-only 0-6-0 which uses a lot of the same parts. I may see if I can track these down as it'd be an easier build than a rack loco.

Size-wise these locos are about the same size as a Romulus.

I received an email earlier in the year suggesting that someone in New Zealand has patterns for the castings. I emailed the sender but so far have not had a reply.

There are apparently two Koppels in New Zealand; one rack loco and one adhesion-only 0-6-0. I am trying to track them down.

John Bremner and I keep getting recurring ideas about building a Garratt. We reckon that if we put CAD and laser-profile-cutting to good use we can cut down on the amount of work involved. One good thing is that there is only one boiler to make, but there are two under frames and twice as many wheels as normal.

 

January      February      March      April      May      June      July      August      September      October      November      December

December 2008

 

Pip and I are off to Perth for the 2009 convention of the Australian Association of Live Steamers (AALS). It is being held at the Castledare Miniature Railway from 9th to 12th April 2009 (i.e. Easter).

 

After much searching and negotiation, we have put in an offer on a piece of land. We actually made an offer on it in September but the vendor took it off the market at the last minute. It came back on the market and hopefully our offer will be accepted this time; we'll know in the next few days.

It is a small gully section and the usable space for the railway is around 1½ acres. It will require some earthworks and at least one bridge, but it'll make a really interesting track.

 
 

My petrol engine and hydrostatic transmission have arrived. Well, I say "arrived", customs have hold of them at the moment whilst I try and explain what they are and the fact that they are mine and I have had them for 20 years!

Good news. I just had the New Zealand Customs Service on the phone and after a short debate and me explaining that they were 20 years old and for my private use, they have released them without me having to pay duty or tax on them - which is good news.

 

We have encountered a major stumbling-block in our land purchase. We've gone back to the vendor to discuss options but unless they "give a little", it looks like this particular section of land is a non-starter.

My petrol engine and hydraulic transmission have actually arrived, so I can start working on designs for my new petrol-hydraulic loco in the New Year.

 

I received an email from a guy who has found out that Alan Keef hold the drawings for all Simplex models, including the 40hp armoured versions from World War I. Jordan is also thinking of making one so perhaps we can collaborate on the design.

 

I have always had a soft spot for the classic V-tippers that were built in the thousands for industrial use all over the world. They are also very practical for construction purposes on a railway.

I have been working on-and-off on some CAD drawings to build some from profile-cut steel and I got the steel for the prototypes back from the profile cutters just before Christmas. I now have the "fun" of welding up what is quite a complex shape for the chassis.

go to the 2009 diary »

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