Wednesday, 12 July 2017

DMU Days at the Battlefield Line

During the Summer Season in 2017, the Battlefield Line scheduled a midweek diesel railcar service to make four round trips from Shackerstone to Shenton, leaving Shackerstone at 11:00, 12:30, 14:00 and 15:30. These were operated by the single-unit 'Bubble Car' (55005) or a 2-car set (51131 and 51321). If either 51131 or 51321 becomes unavailable, the remaining vehicle can be attached to 55005. Exceptionally, all three vehicles can operate as a 3-car set.

On Saturdays and Sundays, the railway usually operates a steam-hauled service but sometimes a diesel railcar is substituted.

Events of Saturday, 1st July 2017

I'd offered to drive 'Cumbria' on the steam service on Saturday, 1st July but on Friday evening I was asked, because of the unavailability of a fireman, if I could operate the diesel railcar instead for the five scheduled round trips of the 'Weekend' timetable. I'd also been told that the 'Bubble Car' had operated the previous 'Midweek' service but that it was low on fuel for a further full day's service so I'd need to use the 2-car set. All three vehicles are normally stabled on the long siding at the side of the Locomotive Shed called the 'DMU Siding'. Since the single unit had been the last to be used, I knew the order of vehicles, from the buffer stop end, would be 51321/51131 and then 55005. So the first order of business was to 'dig-out' the 2-car set from 'behind' 55005. Fortunately, the Signalman has arrived to work the 'box' for the shunt. The moves were:-
1. Fire-up the single-unit and shunt it to the running line, just clear of the crossover by the signal box and 'tie it down'.
2. Perform the daily exam on the 2-car, start it up and position it in platform 1, so that the Guard could unlock the passenger doors and prepare the train as necessary.
3. Shunt the single unit back to the DMU Siding, far enough towards the buffer stops to allow the 2-car set to be stabled behind it at the end of traffic, then shut it down.
I've omitted all the details of starting, testing and shutting down the units, all the walking about from unit to unit and and all the clambering from track to cab and back again. By the time I'd returned to the station and the waiting 2-car set, I felt I'd already done a day's work!

The rest of the day was spent carrying out the five round trips to Shenton. Of course, some of the passengers were disappointed that the trains were not steam hauled (but none more than the writer!). Fortunately, the weather was kind with blue skies, wispy clouds and warm sun, as you can see from the picture below taken at Shenton.

51131 (nearest camera) and 51321 ready to work back to Shackerstone from Shenton.

51131 is the most recently 'outshopped' vehicle, with a repaint and extensive work carried out and looked splendid. The picture below is a detail of the underfloor-mounted Stone's 24 volt d.c. generator which charges the 24 volt battery used for all lighting, indications, engine starting and the electro-pneumatic control system via a Stone's 'IONUM' Generator Control Panel.

Detail of Generator on 51131. Note triple drive belt on the right.

In the 1950s, British Railways designed various patterns of diesel multiple unit and the large numbers required to eliminate steam working on suburban and secondary routes meant that manufacture was divided between a number of works. The three cars preserved at Shackerstone come from three different suppliers (Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon, British Railways Derby and Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon) but can be used in multiple. The early sets were 2-car, with a Driving Motor Car attached to a Driving Trailer Car. The motor car was equipped with two underfloor bus engines, controlled together by an Electro-Pneumatic (E.P.) control system. Various configurations were produced including 3-car sets (with a non-driving trailer in the middle) and, for lightly-used lines, a single motor car with a driving compartment each end (always called 'Bubble Cars'). The power came from underfloor-mounted modified bus engines.

One of the underfloor mounted 150 h.p. adapted bus engines.

Completing the 'diagram' of five round trips was certainly easier than on steam, but I was still pretty tired by the end of the day.

Events of Tuesday, 4th July 2017

A couple of days later, I was back at Shackerstone as driver of the scheduled diesel railcar service of four round trips. At the end of service on the Sunday, I'd left the 2-car set on the DMU Siding and expected an easy start - just check levels, perform daily 'Exam', start up and drift down to the platform. However, I still arrived on site early, because you never know what you'll find. What I found was Steve A. saying that, because of the size of the school party booked on the second train from Shackerstone, arrangements had been made to fuel the 'Bubble Car' (which I'd left, low on fuel, behind the 2-car set) and then run as a 3-car set. I was told that Adrian would fuel (from the locked-up oil drum mounted on a wagon at the north end). Space was restricted at the north end, so I knew that I'd have to take the 'Bubble Car' down on its own and attach it to the 2-car set after fuelling.

So, I'd a bit of a shunt to do, after all! I discussed the moves with the Signalman and 'prepped' the 2-car unit. When I'd sufficient air pressure built up in the air receivers to operate the E.P. (Electro-Pneumatic) controls, I shunted the set to the running line, clear of the crossover by the signal box, applied the handbrake and made it safe to leave. Then it was across to the adjacent DMU Siding to start the 'Bubble Car'. Once I'd sufficient air, I drifted through platform 1 to the north end and parked the vehicle to Adrian's instructions. He said he'd refuel whist I moved the 2-car set into the platform. So I walked back through the station to the waiting 2-car set on the running line and moved it to platform 1 before walking to the north end to pick up the now-fuelled single car unit. I drove back to the station and slowly closed up to the waiting 2-car set. Steve was on hand to couple up - not a trivial task. I described the various connections between vehicles in the section 'The Technical Stuff' forming part of the post Battlefield Line 1940s Weekend (June 2013).

Details of the interconnections between vehicles.

Unfortunately, Steve couldn't obtain a proper seal on the Control Air Palm Coupling, because of the poor condition of the 'washer' or 'rubber'. After Adrian also had a look, we decided to uncouple and run the first train just with the 2-car set, whilst Adrian attempted a repair. So, having struggled to couple the units, there was a further struggle to uncouple them! To make sure everything was back as it should be, I repeated the cab tests.

We set off, as a 2-car set, with the first train of the day, a few minutes late. With 600 horse power on a 2-car unit, acceleration was quite good, so, despite needing to observe the same speed limits as the steam trains, we were about right time into Shenton. After our wait in Shenton, our departure on the return journey was right time, as was our arrival at Shackerstone.

Whilst I was down the line, Adrian had moved the 'Bubble Car' onto platform 2 so that platform 1 was clear for our approach. I discovered that he's not found a replacement 'washer' for the palm coupling but he'd had the same idea that had occurred to me - couple the 'Bubble Car' onto the south end of the 2-car set, rather than the north end. The damaged seal at the north end could remain isolated (there's a white-painted shut-off cock for this purpose). I moved the 1-car unit across from platform 2 and gently buffered up, this time at the south end of the 2-car set. The large school party were already aboard the 2-car set so I was relieved that I managed to just 'kiss' the large buffers together. I was even more relieved when the coupling-up was completed and there were no air leaks. All that remained was to repeat the cab tests to ensure that I had control of all three coaches forming the train (and all six engines!).

Including teachers, the primary school party totalled around 140 and we also carried our individual passengers, who were able to spread themselves out in the leading 'Bubble Car' which had just been attached. Once again, departure was a little late, but we'd recovered this by the time we arrived at Shenton. The well-behaved children formed up on the platform and, when everybody was safely off the train, the School Party were led in a 'Crocodile' to the nearby Battle of Bosworth Site.

On arrival at Shenton, the School Party were led in a 'Crocodile' to the Battlefield Site.

Excitement over, we left Shenton right time and made our booked stop at Market Bosworth before continuing to Shackerstone.

After taking the school party to Shenton, the 3-car set pauses at Market Bosworth on the return to Shackerstone.

We learnt that the School Party were not returning by train but continuing by coach after their visit to the Battlefield so the Guard elected to carry out the remaining two round trips with only the 2-car set. Adrian kindly 'unhooked' the 'Bubble Car' which I drove back to the DMU Siding and shut down, now fuelled and available for future service.

The last two trips were uneventful, except for the Number 1 engine on car 51131 deciding to shut down a few times as we were moving. It's possible to use electric restart from the cab which is generally effective but on a couple of occasions, it wouldn't restart remotely. In such cases, restart has to be attempted from the ground (as in first startup in the morning) which I performed once at Market Bosworth and once at Shackerstone. Starting appeared a little 'sluggish' but, once running, the engine sounded perfect. Had I been unable to restart the engine, the failed engine would have been isolated and the associated final drive disconnected, allowing the DMU to carry on with the remaining engines.

At the end of traffic, the Guard made sure windows were closed and all doors (except Driver's doors) locked then I stabled the set in the DMU Siding and shut down, with the handbrake firmly applied. The problem with the engine was written-up in the daily record sheet at the end of the day. Checking through the train, I found a discarded child's ticket, shown in the picture below. I went round locking Driver's doors, and clambered down to the ground, locking the final door. I then made my final ground level inspection, isolating the battery in each vehicle, checking all lights out and visually inspecting the engines and all underfloor equipment.

An Edmondson pasteboard Child Ticket issued on the day. Note the triangular area on the left punched out by the Ticket Inspector's ticket clipper to show that the ticket has been used.

Related posts on this website

To see all my posts about DMU at the Battlefield Line, select Label 'DMU'
or click here.
To see all my posts about the Battlefield Line, select Label 'Battlefield Line'
or click here.

My photograph albums

DMU Days at the Battlefield Line (51131/51321/55005 in 2017).
Midweek DMU Service (55005 in 2013).
Bubble Car (2011).
Shackerstone DMU Group (Earlier pictures from 2007 onwards).
All my Battlefield Line albums.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Cars and Trains at Peak Rail

Events of Wednesday, 28th June 2017

In 2017, Peak Rail was operating the six-coupled side tank locomotive 'Jennifer', as I described in the post Peak Rail in 2017. It was raining hard on my journey to Rowsley on 28th June, where I was booked to drive 'Jennifer', and the rain seemed to intensify on my arrival. 'Jennifer' had been turned since my last visit, so that the chimney was at the north end, prompting the conclusion that we were going to couple at the north end of the train, with the 'top and tail' diesel at the south end. This was one of the suggestions made previously to investigate the 'surging' problem mentioned in the earlier post. The theory was that, with 'Jennifer' working uphill for most of the journey, the weight of the train would help to keep the couplings tight and reduce the 'surging'.

I was pleased that I'd have an opportunity to see if the theory was valid. Mike, who had driven the previous day with the 'new configuration' was fireman and he had steam raising well in hand. I was pretty wet by the time I'd oiled round but I endeavoured not to complain too much. We'd a two hour driving experience before the service train which concluded with the trainee shunting around the loop to couple onto the north end of the train.

Although my principal interest is 'steel wheels on steel rails', all forms of engineering fascinate me so I was intrigued to see that a coach had been reserved for the 'SUNBEAM TALBOT DARRAQ REGISTER' and, within minutes, a stream of vintage cars started to arrive.

This sign in the rain-splattered coach window (with a missing 'C') alerted me to the arrival of the vintage cars.

The rain had eased somewhat and I managed to take pictures of some of the vehicles but I'd only a few minutes before the train departed, with 'Jennifer' at the tail end. There's a website describing the Sunbeam Talbot Darracq Register vintage car club here.

'Sunbeam' produced high-quality motor vehicles ...

... in a range of styles.

The famous 'Sunbeam' cars were built in Wolverhampton where both my parents originated and where I lived or worked for many years. But the real connection is that my grandfather was Chief Jig and Tool Designer at Sunbeam, three of my uncles had engineering posts there for a time and my mother had a spell as a secretary there. 'Sunbeam' were closely associated with motor racing and, when I was young, my grandfather would proudly discourse on his involvement in the building of the 1,000 h.p. car in which Henry Segrave exceeded 200 m.p.h. for the first time in 1927 at Daytona Beach. Sadly, by the time I was old enough to have a proper understanding, my grandfather had passed away but he had enthused me with a lifelong interest in engineering. The car club have a page on Henry Segrave's exploits here, with a link to a video.

As I expected, with the 'Peak' hauling the train, we experienced some 'surging' on the way to Matlock. At Matlock, we collected the Train Staff from the diesel ready for the return journey. When we received the 'Right Away' from the Guard, I was surprised at how readily we moved away, until I realised that the line from the platform to Matlock Riverside is downhill (at around 1 in 170) and the uphill climb only starts beyond Bridge 26, the Derwent Bridge.

Gradient Diagram Ambergate - Bakewell

Braking was needed to reduce speed for the long-standing 5 m.p.h. restriction through Matlock Riverside, then I put on steam for the climb at around 1 in 400 to Darley Dale. Even with around 300 tons on the drawbar, this was not very taxing. Most importantly, the 'surging' effect appeared considerably attenuated.

I found that stopping accurately was proving more difficult. Like many industrials in preservation, a vacuum brake system has been added to an engine which originally had only steam- and hand-braking. A British Railways pattern combination steam brake had been fitted to the engine so that, as vacuum is reduced in the train pipe to brake the train, the steam brake should apply proportionately to brake the locomotive. Unfortunately, the application of the steam brake applied this way I found rather harsh. A British Railways pattern application valve mounted right in the front corner of the cab I found hard to reach, since I'm not very tall, and having grasped it, my visibility outside was impaired.

Locomotive 'Jennifer': British Railways pattern Driver's Vacuum Brake Application Valve with reservoir release cock (red handle) below.

The stop at Darley Dale wasn't too bad but at Rowsley, I overran a few feet, making it difficult to take water from the Grey Tank Wagon. In any case, a badly-fitting delivery hose meant that, even when stopped correctly, everybody within about twenty feet received a good soaking.

On the second return trip, I used a little more power and we judged the 'surging' to be further attenuated, until steam was turned off during braking when 'bumping' resumed. I was still having trouble with the braking, overrunning a little more than the first time, necessitating getting permission from the Guard to set the train back before we could replenish the tank.

At this point, Mike was relieved for the rest of the day by Chris W.

Chris Ward on the footplate of 'Jennifer'.

The third return trip went well and I stopped correctly for water at Rowsley. However, having used only around one third of a tank, Chris and I agreed to make the fourth trip before watering.

A thoughtful Jan keeping a lookout as the 'Peak' completes the journey to Matlock Town.

The fourth trip was uneventful and we filled with water again for the last time that day and Chris and I enjoyed the fifth and last trip. Even the weather was improving! Our conclusion was that comfort, if not perfect, was at least much improved operating with 'Jennifer' at the north end of the stock.

Cars and trains at Peak Rail: View from 'Jennifer' trailing as the 'Peak' approaches Matlock Town.

Related posts on this website

To see all my posts about Peak Rail, select Label 'Peak Rail' or click here.

My photograph albums

Cars and Trains at Peak Rail.
All my Peak Rail albums.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Battlefield Line Model Steam Weekend, 2017

Events of Saturday, 3rd June 2017

The 3rd and 4th June was the Model Steam Weekend. I wasn't originally rostered since I'd been driver at Shackerstone on the previous Monday 29th May (described here) and I'd also driven at Peak Rail on Wednesday 31st May. However, when I heard that Adrian L. wanted to 'split' his shift, I agreed to help and, to my surprise, Adrian chose to do 'early', allowing me to leave home at the unheard-of time of 10 a.m. rather than the usual 5.30 a.m. I thought this would give me a chance to look at the model steam models before relieving.

So I joined the first train leaving Shackerstone at 11.15 a.m. "on the cushions" (although I was actually in the Guard's 'BG' at the head of the train, leaning out of the window). We were soon making our stop at Market Bosworth, where I left the train and watched it disappear towards Shenton.

'Cumbria' heads out of Market Bosworth with the 11:27 to Shenton.

Market Bosworth station is a much livelier place these days, with Station Staff to welcome passengers.

Battlefield Line Model Steam Weekend, 2017: Smartly-dressed
station staff welcome passengers.

Usually, Dave P. staffs the Ticket Office. Market Bosworth has an impressive range of tickets on sale.

Battlefield Line Model Steam Weekend, 2017: Dave P. in the
Ticket Office at Market Bosworth.

The line through Market Bosworth was built by the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway, a collaboration between the London and North Western Railway and the Midland Railway. They provided Market Bosworth with a substantial, attractive brick Goods Shed which is now used by the Battlefield Line for exhibitions and special functions.

Market Bosworth Goods Shed.

To reach the Goods Shed, I crossed the line by the gated foot crossing at the south end of the station.

Market Bosworth View from foot crossing looking towards Shackerstone showing the station and work in progress on the new passing loop.

The right hand side of the Goods Shed was lined with an array of exhibitors showing live steam models.

Miniature Steam Models at the Battlefield Line.

These were mainly proprietary models of stationary engines either British 'Mamod' or German 'Wilesco', although some exhibits had elaborately detailed scale workshops added.

A large model of a timber yard with various machines driven by overhead shafting from a working steam engine.

'Dave's Toy Steam' showed an extensive range of models and you can find out more at the website here. There's a global forum, started in 2006, for this type of enthusiast called 'The Unofficial Mamod and Other Steam Forum'.

A large 'O' gauge coarse-scale model railway layout was on display. I understand that it was built some years ago by an R.A.F. model railway society before passing into private ownership. It's a 'modular' layout and sections can be assembled in various arrangements, to suit the venue. The layout is now in need of some 'T.L.C.' but the operators ran an '08' (at scale speed, I was pleased to see) on a short freight train round the continuous single line oval whilst I was there. Unfortunately, after a few circuits, the wagons decided that rather than dutifully following the locomotive around a check-railed curve, they would try a 'short-cut' and in the process tumbled down the model embankment, still connected together by the 3-link couplings. I was reminded of the 'Prototype for Everything' feature which used to run in the model railway press and remembered a similar accident I witnessed on the 'big railway' at Wolverhampton which I mentioned, briefly, in the post Wolverhampton High Level Station in Steam Days.

'0' gauge coarse scale modular model railway:The freight train passes through a landscaped area of the layout.

There was an attractive refreshment area in the Goods Shed, so I had an early sandwich lunch before returning to Market Bosworth station to catch the second service from Shenton back to Shackerstone. At Shackerstone, I relieved Adrian and drove the last three round trips to Shenton.

My pictures

Battlefield Line Model Steam Weekend, 2017.
Miniature Steam Models at the Battlefield Line.
'0' gauge coarse scale modular model railway.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Great Eastern Railway

Locomotive 1505 leaving Liverpool Street ('Proud Steam' by C. Hamilton-Ellis).

Although the Great Eastern Railway was absorbed into the London and North Eastern Railway following the Railways Act of 1921 which combined Britain's railways into four Groups, much of the railway's distinctive flavour survived. Unfortunately, being brought up in the West Midlands I didn't have much opportunity to savour that flavour.

Probably my first visit to a former Great Eastern station was in 1951, when my mother took me to the Festival of Britain celebrations in London. We were both impressed by the South Bank site. But I insisted on visiting a number of the main line terminal stations in London, including the former Great Eastern terminus at Liverpool Street.

Sometime later, my mother and I travelled, by train, to an appointment she had in March (the town). A brief introduction, I'm afraid, to a railway of great character.

Over the years I made various train journeys to places on the former Great Eastern network like Cambridge and Ipswich and once went from Stratford (Low Level) to Woolwich in a 2-car DMU. On that journey, I still remember the sense of dereliction hanging over the area around Silvertown. Part of that route is now used by the Docklands Light Railway.

In the 1990s, I visited Sheringham a couple of times by train to visit the marvellous North Norfolk preserved railway, where I was a "guest driver" on 'Ladies Days'. I got to drive the amazing 'B12'. As the '1500' class (shown in the picture above in the handsome livery of the Great Eastern), this long-lived class was one of the star performers on the Great Eastern.

More recently, on 30th July 2011, I travelled to Chelmsford by train to attend Lionsmeet 2011. On 1st July 2013 I travelled to Ely (described here) and, on 8th September 2014, I looked at the Great Eastern in the London Area (and wrote about it here). In January 2017, I made another journey from Liverpool Street to Stratford, described in the post Interlude in London.

The 'Jazz' service

Prior to the electrification of its suburban services in 1960, Liverpool Street was famous for its intensive steam-hauled local trains, known as the 'Jazz', introduced in 1920. This service is recalled by Keith Jaggers in an article here and there's an excellent analysis of the 'Jazz' services in the post The Development of timetables at Liverpool Street station over the past 100 years.

Great Eastern Railway Society

The Great Eastern Railway Society website has comprehensive information about the railway (and a shop).


The Great Eastern was distinctive in signalling matters and used 'somersault' semaphore signals widely. These display a conventional horizontal arm when 'on' but, in the 'off' position, the spectacle turns so as to change the filter displayed in front of the lamp in the conventional manner but the arm pivots away from the spectacle at an angle usually exceeding 45 degrees, giving the appearance of being broken! The advantage of this arrangement is that, during the day, the position of the arm is easier to read at a distance.

Locomotive Headcodes

The Great Eastern also had its own, complex, arrangement of headcodes on locomotives, justified by the intensity of suburban services operated. I discussed this, briefly, in the post British Locomotive Headcodes, which has links to more information on the Great Eastern Railway Society website.

The East London Railway

Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel never managed to provide a cross-river link for horse-drawn vehicles, as was the original intention, but its dimensions allowed it to be adapted for rail traffic. In 1865, the Great Eastern Railway was one of the six subscribers to the East London Railway which purchased the tunnel and converted it for railway use.

The six railways in this joint venture were:-
Great Eastern Railway
Metropolitan Railway
District Railway
London, Brighton & South Coast Railway
London, Chatham and Dover Railway
South Eastern Railway

There's a brief history of this interesting line here.


The Great Eastern Railway connections around London are shown on the Railway Clearing House maps. These are linked below:-

Great Eastern around Liverpool Street.
Great Eastern connections south of the Thames via the East London Railway.
Great Eastern around Stratford.
Great Eastern around Millwall and Poplar.

Book References

[1] ‘Great Eastern Album’ by R. C. Riley (Ian Allan) ISBN 7110 0063 8.
[2] ‘The Great Eastern Railway’ by C. J. Allan (5th edition paperback Ian Allan 1975) ISBN 07110 0659 8.

Related posts on other sites

Great Eastern Railway Society.
Great Eastern Railway.
Liverpool Street, and all that Jazz (PDF).

Related posts on this site

The Great Eastern in the London Area.
Interlude in London
East London Line.

My Pictures

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view or, alternately, pictures from may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes, from the albums listed:-
Ely Station.
London: Former Great Eastern Line.

Train movements at Yangon Central station

Events of Thursday 20th April 2017

This post documents 90 minutes of observations at Yangon Central station, to give an impression of the working at this busy station. The station is controlled from a miniature lever Westinghouse power frame which I described in a post here.

The movements are listed in the table below. Click on 'Photo' ref to view the associated picture. Use 'back button' (not the 'Back to photostream' button) to return to this post.

Time Notes Photo
15:11 Loco-hauled pass in plat 6, facing west.
Unidentified pass in plat 3, facing west.
15:16 Stock for an express propelled into plat 1(?) from the east. 1344
15:18 Station Pilot Kawakasi 500 h.p. diesel hydraulic DD.521, attached to bogie flat WBH/V 14469 for shunters propels stock shown above from the east. The /V indicates vacuum brakes have been removed. 1347
15:18 DF.1200.08 (dual-braked with auto-couplers) heads east, crossing via scissors from plat 5 to plat 6, dragging similarly-fitted DF.2072 in 'modern' livery. 1348
15:20 Locos stand in plat 6 East. DF.2072 (dual-braked with auto-couplers) in 'modern' livery was built by CST Sifang. 1350
15:21 DMU number RBE25126 (second-hand Japanese) travelling west, crosses via scissors from Through to plat 7 west. 1351
15:33 DF.1637 in blue and cream livery (vacuum-braked with ABC couplers) heads east, crossing via scissors from plat 5 to plat 6. 1353
15:45 Station Pilot DD.521 (Kawakasi 500 h.p. diesel hydraulic), attached to bogie flat WBH/V 14469 for shunters, propels coaches westwards into the carriage sidings. 1360
15:48 DMU number RBE.25119 (second-hand Japanese) travelling west, about to cross via scissors from Through to plat 7 west. 1362
16:01 DD.933 (vacuum braked and auto-coupler) arrives in plat 6 East with a local from the east. 1366
16:07 DD.933, having uncoupled and crossed to plat 5 west, now runs round via plat 5 east. In background, DMU (repainted second-hand Japanese) arrives from west in plat 4. 1370
16:09 DMU number RBE-25.106 (second-hand Japanese) travelling west, waits for signal before crossing via scissors from Through to plat 7 west, as passengers disembark. 1371
16:18 DF.1221 (vacuum brake and ABC coupler) arrives in plat 7 east with a train from the east. 1373
16:19 DF.1221, having uncoupled, crosses to Through west, to run round via Through east. 1374
16:40 The loco-hauled westbound train (which has stood in plat 6 west throughout) finally about to leave. 1375
16:40 A terminating DMU arrives from the west into plat 7 west. 1376
16:42 A train from the east has arrived in plat 6 east, hauled by an unidentified 900 h.p. loco which has quickly run round its train to form an anti-clockwise Circle Line departure. 1377
16:47 View of east end of Yangon Central from my departing anti-clockwise Circle Line train. DF.2069 in platform 3 and station pilot DD.521 in platform 1. 1378

Related Posts on this Website

There are a number of posts describing Myanma Railways and my previous visits to Yangon Central station. You can find them all here.

There's a brief introduction to railway diesel traction in Myanmar, and the various classes in use, here.

My Pictures

Pictures referred to above are here.

All my pictures of Myanma Railways, including the Circle Line, are here.

Photographs may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Bank Holiday with Steam and Diesel

Following an e-mail from Steve A. (Footplate Roster Clerk at the Battlefield Line) seeking additional crews to cover the Spring Bank Holiday period, I was rostered as driver on 'Cumbria' - an 'Austerity' tank locomotive - on Monday, 29th May 2017.

Worksplate on 3794 'Cumbria'.

Prior to the normal service of five round trips to Shenton, we had a Gold Footplate Experience booked. These popular courses give the trainee one round trip driving to Shenton and back 'light engine', followed by a second round trip to Shenton with a train attached. Friends and family of the trainee may travel in this train.

A text the night before informed me that Martin Sargent would be fireman for the Gold Footplate Experience but he would not be available all day so it might be necessary to run some of the service trains with the Diesel Multiple Unit.

I 'signed on' in the Staff Room at the station just before 6.30 a.m. - Martin had arrived forty minutes earlier. Having read the 'Notices' displayed in the glass-fronted notice case, I collected a copy of the Operating Notice covering the holiday period. The Operating Notice is issued periodically and lists the speed restrictions currently in effect on the line, important engineering work, the trains to be run day-by-day, special instructions and a list of important telephone numbers.


I walked to the Engine Shed and met Martin. Having completed all the initial checks on the locomotive, he was about to 'light-up'. I hunted for oil feeders, oil bottles and oil to allow me to 'oil round' and carry out the all-important daily examination of the locomotive. I commented to Martin that the 'top' of the engine (all the painted areas above the foot-framing) looked very clean, shining in the artificial lighting in the shed. Sadly, the same was not true of the 'bottom' (wheels, motion and the area between the frames) and my overalls were soon liberally coated in oil and dirt.

Raising steam, oiling and the 'daily exam', together with cleaning as time permits comprise 'Preparation', which is an important part of footplate work. In the old days, footplatemen acquired the necessary technical knowledge by attending Mutual Improvement Classes, briefly described here. There's a list here of articles in this blog which describe working on the footplate or cover topics dealt with at Mutual Improvement Classes.

An earlier article here describes the preparation of a similar 'Austerity' tank at Peak Rail and the post 'Operation: Market Bosworth' - On the Footplate describes the preparation of 'Cumbria' at Shackerstone on a previous occasion.

Gold Footplate Experience

We came 'Off Shed' at about 8.40 a.m. with a full tank of water (using the hose inside the shed) and picked up our Trainee Driver. I briefly described the main driving controls (regulator, reverser, steam brake) and outlined the use of the whistle and cylinder drain cocks. The signalman had set the crossover road and cleared the signals for us so we set off slowly, with the Trainee Driver at the controls, collecting the necessary single line token from the signalman as we passed the signal box. Most Trainees have not driven a steam locomotive before, so the rush of sensations as their actions starts the locomotive usually makes quite an impression! The experience is very different from driving a car - 'Cumbria' on its own, when full of coal and water, weighs around 50 tons.

The driving was complicated by my insistence that we economise on steam by 'linking-up' the motion on the road, the need to comply with the various speed restrictions and whistle at the mandatory 'Whistle' boards but we made good progress to Shenton and stopped in the platform briefly. Having hauled the reverser into full forward gear, we set off back to Shackerstone, with the Trainee Driver now gaining more confidence. On our arrival, I surrendered the Single Line Token to the signalman.

Before coupling onto the train for the second part of the Gold Footplate Experience, we replenished the saddle tank and I described the vacuum braking system that we would use when hauling the train, where the Driver's Vacuum Brake Valve would control the vacuum brake cylinders throughout the four-coach train. Our Trainee's family boarded the train and, on receiving the 'Right Away' from the Guard, we set off again, this time with the Trainee having a better idea of the route he was driving over and the way in which the the locomotive responded to the controls. With four coaches attached, the total train weight was around 200 tons and, of course, we were using the vacuum brake for stopping. Our Trainee did very well and, after Martin had uncoupled 'Cumbria' from its train at Shenton, the Trainee shunted the engine to the opposite end of the train ready for the return leg.

We were soon on the move again and made our way back to Shackerstone, where our Trainee stopped the train correctly in platform 2. His family gathered round to congratulate him and Mark H. asked me, as Supervising Driver, to present the documentation testifying to his Experience.

The Weather

Although the previous few days had been warm and sunny, the weather forecast for the Bank Holiday (naturally) was not too good and the morning was dry but rather overcast. In fact, this type of 'slightly dubious' weather can be helpful to the railway in encouraging people to decide to visit an attraction where the train itself will protect them from any rain and there are things to do under cover (at its three stations, the Battlefield Line boasts three cafes, four shops and a railway museum). Really hot, settled weather encourages people to pursue outdoor activities like the beach and may reduce visitor numbers at the railway. That certainly seemed to be the case on Bank Holiday Monday and both Martin and I were surprised at how many people had arrived for the first departure at 11.15 a.m. Although Martin had arranged to be elsewhere during the day, he decided that he would definitely fire the first round trip, so that we provided the expected steam service to our passengers.

The Service Trains

Having said 'Goodbye' to our Gold Footplate Experience trainee, I ran 'Cumbria' round its train, pausing at the water column where Martin and I filled the saddle tank again, then Martin attached us to the train and I created vacuum in the train pipe. After all the passengers had sorted themselves out, we left somewhat late.

In the earlier post here (also referred to in 'Preparation' above) I listed the various speed restrictions in force some months ago and I'm afraid these remain in place, except that the length of track affected by the 'slack' at Headley's Crossing has been reduced. I discussed some of the issues regarding methods of driving 'Cumbria' in the section "Notes on driving 'Cumbria'" in the earlier post Sunday at Shackerstone. One of the attractions of working on the footplate is that, whilst an understanding of the principles involved in steam locomotives is essential, the final success (or otherwise) is dependent upon the willingness of both driver and fireman to closely observe, every day, the result produced by each action and modify those actions, where required. It's been said it's both a Science and an Art.

After a couple of turns of the coupled wheels in 'Full Gear', I set the reverser to what I call 'Linked-Up a Bit More' (explained in 'Sunday at Shackerstone', mentioned above) and controlled the speed on the regulator until we were clear of the 10 m.p.h. 'slack' at Barton Lane overbridge, when I pushed the regulator handle over to 'Full First Valve'.

Locomotive Regulators

A couple of earlier posts talk about regulators used on steam locomotives - Locomotive Regulators (part 1) and Locomotive Regulators (part 2).

On most locomotives fitted with a slide-valve regulator with two valves, when the regulator handle is at 'Full First Valve' it feels as if there's a definite 'stop', although the quadrant extends further. This occurs when the pilot valve has completed its travel and further movement of the handle requires the much-larger main valve to move. The steam pressure holding the larger main valve against the port face means that a greater effort is required to start to move it. The picture below (looking down on the regulator valve assembly from above) illustrates the difference in size between First Valve and Main Valve on the vertical slide valve regulator of an 'Austerity' Tank Locomotive. Of course, you can only see this when the dome cover has been removed and the steam dome inspection manhole has been unbolted - the picture was only possible during repairs following a regulator failure in service which is described in the post The Best Laid Schemes ....

View of regulator valve, showing 'U' shaped pilot valve in front of the broad main valve.

The First Service Train

Because we were running late, apart from the various speed restrictions and our booked stops at Market Bosworth, most of the running was performed with the reverser set to 'Linked-Up a Bit More' and the regulator at 'Full First Valve', producing a satisfying roar from the chimney top when running at line speed. I personally don't often use main valve - on the types of railways I work on with moderate gradients and modest loads, it's rarely needed and, if your fireman has not had a chance to prepare for the greatly-increased demand for steam when on main valve, the boiler can become 'winded' and lose pressure. However, on a couple of occasions when I pushed the regulator handle over to 'Full First Valve', the handle didn't stop part way across the quadrant, as expected, but moved further, suggesting that the main valve had started to move. 'Cumbria' has suffered a long-term problem in getting the regulator to shut properly also indicating that the main valve is not always, as it should, moving independently of the pilot valve.

Steam Lock

It's possible for a steam locomotive to become 'steam locked', where steam becomes 'trapped' in the steam chest when the locomotive is stationary and the steam pressure on the valve makes the reverser very hard to move. This can occur if the main valve remains partly open with the regulator handle in the fully closed position and open drain cocks are unable to adequately vent the system. Potentially, any locomotive with unbalanced slide valves can develop this difficulty. Even the 1838 locomotive 'Lion', the first locomotive I ever drove, occasionally 'steam locked'. The remedy was to wait and eventually the cylinder drain locks would reduce the pressure sufficiently for the reverser to be moved. I've discussed driving 'Lion' in the post Driving 'Lion' (although I didn't mention 'steam locking').

'Cumbria' has an unfortunate tendency to 'steam lock', making adjustments to the reverser very heavy. This is particularly problematic after 'easing up' to slacken the coupling when 'unhooking' from a train. The effect is similar to a regulator being 'gagged in second valve' described in the post on regulators 'Locomotive Regulators (part 1)' mentioned above. When 'steam lock' occured on 'Cumbria', the technique which worked on 'Lion' offered no solution and brute force on the reverser seemed to be called for. However, I found a slightly-altered driving method reduced, but didn't eliminate, the chance of a 'steam lock' occurring by ensuring that each time the regulator was closed, it was done smartly and from 'Full First Valve' position. The cylinder drain cocks were also opened whilst the train was still in motion, in the hope that any residual steam would be discharged before the locomotive came to a stand.

Later Service Trains

As the engine became thoroughly 'warmed through' both steaming and running seemed to improve and both Martin and I agreed that we were enjoying ourselves. The only tedious part of the proceedings was the need to take on water each time we ran round at Shackerstone - 'Cumbria' does seem rather thirsty. Martin decided that, rather than leaving early as he'd arranged, he'd carry on firing for at least one more trip.

The driving controls of 'Austerity' tank locomotive 'Sapper' illustrated here are similar to 'Cumbria'.

In fact, we ran four of the five booked service trains with 'Cumbria'. By this time, the dry but overcast weather of the morning had deteriorated into drizzle which eventually turned into continuous rain, prompting me to repeat my usual remark "Anyone can work on an engine in good weather - it takes a footplateman to do it in bad weather". We'd agreed that, on completion of the fourth round trip, we'd put 'Cumbria' on shed and, whilst Martin carried out disposal of the steam locomotive, I would 'fire-up' the Diesel Multiple Unit for the final service train, where passenger numbers are usually lower.

The Diesel Multiple Unit

The Battlefield Line is fortunate in being home to the Diesel Multiple Units owned by Ritchie Marcus. There's an introduction to Diesel Multiple Units in the post here.

At Shackerstone, there's a single-unit 'Bubble Car' (55005, built by Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in 1958) and a 2-car set (51131 built Derby in 1958 paired with 51321 built Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon in 1960). When necessary, all three cars can be worked in multiple. In 2016, the single-unit could sometimes be seen working with half of the 2-car set whilst the other half of the set was undergoing renovation but all three cars are now back in traffic after significant work by Ritchie and his team.

Lined up on the Railcar Siding I found the 'Bubble Car' and, next to the outlet signal having been used the previous day, the 2-car set. Having been on a steam locomotive all day, I had to "switch hats" and think about a completely different form of traction. This was the similar to sudden change that countless steam footplatemen were faced with during British Rail's Modernisation Programme in the 1950s and 1960s. Some men adapted well and saw the advantages of a better working environment: others couldn't face mastering a new technology and were devastated by the loss of a way of life.

On a DMU, the driving controls are neatly laid out on the desk in front of the driver.

I can sympathise with both reactions but, as the rain sluiced down, the prospect of sitting on a padded seat in a enclosed cab for the last round trip certainly appealed. I set about carrying out the check of levels and daily exam - much simpler than on a steam locomotive but equally vital.

Having started all four engines from the ground, I was able to climb inside as I waited for the compressors to produce sufficient air pressure to be able to operate the electro-pneumatic controls and carry out the start-up checks, including the all-important test of the Driver's Supervisory Device (DSD), more popularly known as the "dead man's handle", in each cab. Since Diesel Multiple Units are single-manned, the DSD is needed to stop a train in the case of incapacitation of the driver.

The Guard had joined me from the main train and unlocked all the doors. The signalman had 'set the road' and cleared the signal so I gently drifted down to Platform 1 to pick up our passengers. I'm afraid the changing over from steam to diesel made us late away but, with 600 horse power available for a 2-coach train, we could accelerate rapidly although subject to the same speed limits as the steam train. I'd already noted from the previous day's report sheet that one engine had shut down 'on the road' so I wasn't worried when the same engine shut down on me. A push of the engine start button in the cab restarted it and no further problem occurred. We stopped at Market Bosworth for a few passengers, but the station buildings were already locked. At Shenton, I changed ends. That involves switching the electric marker lights at what was the front to red and taking the Master Key, 'Spoon' handle, Brake Handle and Train Staff to what will become the leading cab. I often manage to forget one of these items, resulting in an extra trip back to the other cab.

By the time we set off on our return journey, the rain had started to ease but I was still glad of the air-operated windscreen wiper. However, rain or shine, I normally keep the cab window open so that I can listen to the noises from the train. I'm reluctant to become too isolated in the cab, reliant on the instrumentation provided. The Guard had determined that there were no passengers to alight at Market Bosworth so, as I approached the platform, he buzzed me to omit the station stop. Once through the speed restriction in the station, I was able to accelerate to line speed and we were soon back at Shackerstone. While the Guard closed windows and locked the passenger doors, I changed ends then I took the train back to where I'd found it, shut it down and completed the daily report sheet.

Although tired after a shift of more than 11 hours, I'd had an excellent day and the contrast between the two types of traction we'd used was interesting.

My pictures

Where necessary, clicking on an image above will display an 'uncropped' view. Although I didn't get a chance to take pictures on the day, the albums below (from which pictures may be selected, viewed or downloaded, in various sizes) show the motive power we used:-

2-car DMU.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Leaving Hobart

Events of Saturday 20th May 2017

I'd the morning available for more exploration but in the afternoon I'd start my long journey home. Having looked at the imprisonment of men the previous day, I decided to look at the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart, just a ten-minute taxi ride from my hotel. This is also a World Heritage Site.

Despite the innocuous-sounding name, this was the female prison - the term 'Factory' refers to the laundry work carried out by the inmates. Apart from the Matron's House, not much of the site remains other than external walls but the earlier ground plan has been marked out meticulously with low 'walls', actually metal baskets filled with coloured stone chippings called 'gabions'. It was more like visiting an archaeological site, indeed, digging is still going on.

With limited time at my disposal, I elected for the 'self-guided tour' rather than a conducted tour. To help bring the tragic stories of specific prisoners to life, they also use re=enactors on some tours.

To see a little more of the city, I decided to walk back to my hotel, a journey of perhaps 4 km. A stream, called Hobart Rivulet, passes the Cascades Female Factory and flows towards the centre of Hobart. Part of this has been arranged as an attractive 'Linear Park', used by dog-walkers and cyclists. This gave me an interesting walk which I concluded by rejoining the public roads and walking through Salamanca Market back to the harbour. The market seemed to be mainly craft items and artisan foods.

On arrival back at my hotel, I found Jill Ford waiting for me. Nancy, whom I'd met two days earlier, had given Jill my details since both of them have associations with Burma and Jill, with some ingenuity, had tracked me down. Jill offered to take me to see one of the viewpoints on a hill near Hobart where a semaphore telegraph was used until late in the 19th century. We shared a very pleasant, unexpected interlude and enjoyed hot chocolate and cream cakes at the restaurant housed in the former Signalman's house before Jill returned me to the hotel.

My booked car to the airport arrived early, so Jill and I said our "Good-byes" and I was whisked back to the airport after a very interesting, if brief, visit to Tasmania.

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The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart.
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Port Arthur Historic Site.

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Trip to Port Arthur

Events of Friday 19th May 2017

Friday was my last full day in Tasmania, and I'd accepted my travel agents suggestion to make a day trip to Port Arthur which had been pre-booked with 'Under Down Under Tours'.

I was picked up from my hotel at 7.30 a.m. by a charming Swiss driver/guide in a 15-seater Japanese minibus and, after more pick-ups, we set off for Port Arthur. We made our first stop at the pretty village of Richmond, stopped again for sea-views at Pirates' Lookout and finally stopped at Port Arthur Lavender Farm. I tried the lavender-flavoured chocolate shavings samples but didn't make a purchase.

Soon afterwards, we arrived at the Port Arthur Historic Site visitor centre which in in the process of being massively extended. Since becoming a World Heritage Site in 2010, visitor numbers have increased significantly.

I'm afraid I knew very little about the period of Transportation when large numbers of convicts from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the British Empire were sent to Australia for imprisonment (partly to ease chronic overcrowding in British Gaols). Sentences varied from seven years to life and those convicts who survived the harsh conditions and were released stood very little chance of ever being able to afford the passage back to their birthplace.

Port Arthur, Tasmania had what has been described as "the finest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere", making it a suitable destination for many of the convict ships. Accordingly, Port Arthur developed as a Men's Prison. Although many of the original buildings have been damaged (or destroyed), what remains has been carefully preserved to give an eerie insight into the prison regime. The large site had no external walls: the remote location was largely sufficient to deter escapes by land or water, particularly since the use of manacles and weights attached to prisoners was commonplace.

After a 40-minute orientation by an excellent guide, Andrew, we were free to explore. My party was booked on the 1.40 p.m. harbour cruise in a modern catamaran and I had to hustle to get to the boat in time - I could have spent much longer there.

The autumn sun shone benignly throughout and, seeing the site as a visitor remaining just a few hours, the site was beautiful. An unexpected comparison sprang to mind - I was reminded of the television series 'The Prisoner' (there's a Wikipedia article here) which was filmed in Portmerion, Wales.

On the long drive back to Hobart, we made various stops at natural sea-related land formations - the Tasman Arch, the Blowhole, the Devil's Kitchen. Interesting, but not the thought-provoking experience the Heritage Site at Port Arthur had furnished.

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The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart.
Hobart, Tasmania.
Port Arthur Historic Site.

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Around Hobart

Events of Thursday 18th May 2017

I commented in an earlier post that Tuesday 16th May turned into a 'Railway Day'. Well, Thursday 18th May turned into a 'Museums Day'.

The hotel staff had recommended the 'Museum of Old and New Art', generally called 'MONA'. I commented in my previous report that both the City and my hotel seemed a little 'arty' for my taste and the 'flyer' I'd been given reinforced my fear that 'MONA' might prove too pretentious. But I'd been told that you can reach 'MONA' by a fast catamaran service which took 30 minutes from Brooke Street Pier, no more than ten minutes walk from my Hotel.

The prospect of a river trip convinced me so I took a light breakfast and walked past Victoria Dock, Constitution Dock and Elizabeth Street Pier to reach Brooke Steet Pier. The building had the appearance of a Transit Shed but now houses various places to eat and drink, souvenir shops and booking for the catamaran to 'MONA'. I purchased a combined Ferry/Museum ticket and only had about ten minutes to wait before boarding for the first trip of the day at 9.30 a.m.

The fast ferry left on time, the sun came out and I decided I'd made a good decision. The ferry headed upstream on the River Derwent, past the dock quays on the West bank. The cargo ship I'd spotted the previous day had departed and been replaced by a smaller cargo ship. On the East shore, we passed residential areas. We passed through the centre span of the Tasman Bridge, which I'd crossed by road the previous afternoon on the way in from the airport. The tanker ship I'd seen at the oil depot the previous day had sailed and the oil berth was unoccupied. A large, fairly elderly industrial plant discharging steam appeared on our left and the ferry slowed as we passed the site. We then speeded-up for a final dash across the bay to MONA's landing stage, where we disembarked and climbed the 99 steps to the top of the hill and the entrance to 'MONA'.

Their website is here. Some of the advertising copy I'd read about 'MONA' was vaugely amusing - "Mona: A museum or something in Tasmania or somewhere. Catch the ferry. Drink beer. Eat cheese. Talk c**p about Art. You'll love it" (My italics). But when I arrived, the numerous staff, mainly young and black-attired, seem to take it all rather seriously. There's a Wikipedia article here.

The entrance building on the top of the hill houses a large souvenir shop and cafe. There are three underground galleries at different levels below ground chiselled out of rock. Access is by spiral stairs coiled around a circular lift.

What did I make of it? The subterranean galleries I found stunning. The perpetual ethereal music I found annoying. The exhibits, for me, varied from mildly interesting to irritating or juvenile. I was happy to return above ground where one or two items appealed. I liked Wim Delvoyes 'Flatbed Truck, Trailer and Cement Truck' but more for the technical skill displayed in assembling the artefact from intricately laser-cut steel plate. I would probably have liked his 'Church' exhibit, but didn't get that far. I did, however, find the car parking spaces professionally labelled 'Reserved GOD' and 'Reserved GOD'S MISTRESS'. It is perhaps to be expected that they apparently drive electric cars.

I was happy to return to Hobart on the 11.30 a.m. ferry and very much enjoyed the cruise back. I'm glad I've seen 'MONA' but didn't find it life-changing.

Next on the museum circuit was the Maritime Museum of Tasmania but, on the way, I met a retired lecturer, Nancy, who recognised my longyi (Burmese skirt) from her own time in Burma and we exchanged details before I continued to the museum. The building, dating from about 1900 served as Hobart's central library until the 1960s. I found the museum staffed by very friendly volunteers and immediately felt 'at home'. They were hosting a travelling exhibition arranged by the Australian National Maritime Museum called 'War at Sea', describing the role of the Royal Australian Navy during World War I. This seemed particularly well-researched and I spent a long time here before going to the ground floor galleries where the local maritime history was covered. I found this equally absorbing. You can find out more about the museum at their website here.

Not far away was the third museum of the day - the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (their website is here). This is a large museum and I could have done with more time but they closed at 4.00 p.m. I found all the museum sections very interesting: the art sections rather less satisfying. I'd considered a late lunch at the Museum's Courtyard Cafe but ran out of time so had french fries and a cold drink back at the hotel. I'd had a great day but, inevitably, was totally shattered by 5.00 p.m.

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The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart.
Hobart, Tasmania.

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

On to Tasmania

Events of Wednesday 17th May 2017

I'd never been to Tasmania so, whilst I was in Australia, I'd arranged to tack a couple of days in Hobart on the end of my marathon trip.

Before leaving the Hotel Lindrum on Wednesday morning to fly to Hobart, I'd intended to see a little more of the Melbourne, using train or tram. Although I started to get up when my alarm went off at 6.00 a.m., two things discouraged me from carrying out my planned exploration. Firstly, although I'd slept soundly, I still felt pretty tired - it had been a fairly intensive few weeks and I don't appear to have the stamina I once enjoyed. Secondly, it was raining and miserable outside. So, instead, I just worked in my room on the computer and watched the suburban trains go by, still impressed by the intensity of the service. I checked out a little before the arranged pick-up time of 10.30 a.m. and found the very professional driver to take me to the airport was already waiting outside with an immaculate Audi saloon. By this time, the rain had stopped and I had a very comfortable ride to Melbourne's Quantas Domestic Terminal where it was the usual do-it-yourself check-in.

The aircraft type was a Boeing 719 which I didn't think I'd flown before so not knowing quite where the seat I was allocated (23D) was, I left it unchanged - this proved to be a mistake.

The terminal was quite spacious without too many people travelling so, having browsed a few shops, I took a seat directly opposite the ramp where my aircraft was to arrive. The aircraft was delayed and frequent apologies were made over the public address. It was about 30 minutes late by the time it had shut down the engines and I amused myself taking pictures of all the different teams at work around the aircraft.

At last we boarded the Boeing 719 - a narrow-body, of course, but with it's two engines strapped to the fuselage rather than being wing-mounted. Seating in economy was 3+3 and, although row 23 had windows, the view was restricted by the engines. My row, row 24 only existed on the starboard side so my seat, 24D, was the aisle seat. The port side of the aircraft was completely obstructed with storage for catering equipment and there was no window on either side of the aircraft.

When 'Concorde' was designed, the passenger compartment originally had no windows - that solved an awful lot of engineering problems. But the response of people shown the 'mock-up' was so adverse that they decided to put windows in after all. I share that aversion so I was quite uneasy on the flight which, fortunately, was only just over an hour.

Once I got off the plane in Hobart, I felt much happier. My driver met me in the crowded baggage hall but we had a few minutes to wait for the bags to arrive on the single baggage conveyor. A sniffer dog and his handler, having first checked the arriving passengers, jumped repeatedly on and off the conveyor (yes, dog and handler) checking the bags as they appeared. Hobart was a much smaller airport and, having retrieved my bags, we only had a short walk to the car park and a waiting Mercedes saloon.

I think the journey into the city was about 18 km, on an uncrowded dual carriageway which passed through attractive, wooded hills. As we neared Hobart, we crossed the River Derwent on the impressive Tasman Bridge. This River Derwent is a broad estuary navigable by ocean-going ships, very unlike the Derbyshire River of the same name I'm familiar with. Rather like Melbourne, but on a smaller scale, the city is a mixture of old and new buildings. The older English-style buildings, often 're-purposed', I found very appealing.

We approached the harbour area, largely now a marina but retaining some working boats, and parked outside my hotel, which was formerly Henry Jones' extensive jam factory but is now an up-market hotel called 'The Henry Jones Art Hotel' (the hotel's website is here). Check-in at the hotel was friendly and I was soon in my first-floor room with views over the Victoria Dock.

In addition to being a hotel, it's an Arts Centre, based around the 'IXL Atrium', another part of the original jam factory. There are Studios, Galleries, various eating opportunities, shops and a bar. I didn't fully explore this interesting establishment as I'd promised myself a walk around the old dock area and the part of the town adjacent before it became dark. On my return, I had a snack and a drink at the Peacock and Jones restaurant before retiring to my room.

I'm very taken with Hobart and the hotel, although both are a tad 'arty' for my taste. But it appears an excellent location to end my marathom trip.

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Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne.
Melbourne's Local Railways (2006 and 2017).
Melbourne Airport.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart.
Hobart, Tasmania.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Around Melbourne

Events of Tuesday 16th May 2017

After Myanmar's summer heat, it had been a shock to cross the equator and arrive in Perth in their autumn. Although I was warm enough in the day, each night as the temperature dropped I felt cold and needed an extra blanket on the bed. Melbourne was similar. My hotel room had Air Conditioning but my normal reaction is to turn it off, to prevent the noise from the fan disturbing me. However, without the Air Conditioning heating the room during the night, I'd needed an extra blanket for comfort but I slept well in the huge bed.

Having checked out the walking route from my hotel to Flinders Street Station the previous day and taken the precaution of purchasing the 'Myki' credit card-sized local transport ticket to use on Tuesday, readers will not be surprised that Tuesday turned into a 'Railway Day'. In addition to trying out the 'Metro' local trains, I wanted to travel on the Puffing Billy Railway - a substantial tourist railway in the hills to the east of the city. I knew from my previous visit back in 2006 that it was possible to reach the tourist railway by local electric train from Flinders Street, although on that occasion I was on a coach trip. This time, I was warned to allow at least 90 minutes for the journey travelling by rail.

After breakfast in Hotel Lindrum's restaurant named, oddly, 'Felt' (Lindrum was a famous billiards player so the name refers to the green baize covering a billiard table), I walked to Flinders Street Station in time to catch the 8.22 a.m. to Blackburn, with the intention of changing there to a following train which went on to Belgrave. The Blackburn train was a few minutes late and, by the time I'd worked out that I needed to go to a different platform at Blackburn to join the train onwards to Belgrave, I was in time to see it depart. However, I successfully caught the next train and, on arrival at Belgrave, a footpath (identified with a painted, blue line) led me to the terminus of the Puffing Billy Railway.

The railway's website is here or, for more technical information, see the Wikipedia article here. On the day of my visit, trains were operating as far as Lakeside and I purchased a return ticket to travel to Lakeside on the first departure, the 10.30 a.m. It's a charming railway, run mainly by friendly volunteers, requiring the narrow gauge 2-6-2 tank locomotives which form the majority of the motive power to work quite hard. We were double-headed from Belgrave to Menzies Creek, where the train divided and the pilot engine left us in order to work the detached coaches back to Belgrave to form a later train. We then continued to Lakeside where the train engine took water and ran round the coaches, leaving the locomotive crew a short break before setting off back to Belgrave at 12.30 p.m.

I decided to return on the 12.30 p.m. train, continuing to take lots of pictures. In addition to the elegant and well-maintained steam locomotives, a feature of the line which particularly appealed to me was the semaphore signalling, much of it Mackenzie and Holland lattice posts. I've no doubt I will produce a more technical report on this remarkable line in the future.

Back at Belgrave, I walked to the electrified broad gauge 'Metro' station and only had a few minutes to wait before the next train via Richmond to Flinders Street. On arrival at Flinders Street, I decided to traverse the mainly underground 'City Loop', passing through the huge, modern Southern Cross station, followed by subterranean Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament stations. Having reversed direction around the City Loop, the next station was Richmond, where I alighted. Richmond, with its ten platforms, seems to be Melbourne's 'Clapham Junction'. I crossed to Platform 1 for the next service back to Flinders Street which took around four minutes to reach the southernmost platform at Flinders Street, a bay.

Exhausted by all this travelling, I walked back to my hotel and didn't venture out again, taking a dinner of soup and sorbet in my room whilst working on the computer and just watching the trains go by.

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Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne.
Melbourne (2006 and 2017).
Melbourne's Local Railways (2006 and 2017).
Puffing Billy Railway (2006).
Puffing Billy Railway: Belgrave - Lakeside (2017).
Puffing Billy Railway: Lakeside - Belgrave (2017).

By Air to Melbourne

Events of Monday 15th May 2017

I was picked up a little after 8.00 a.m. on Monday to be taken to the domestic airport at Perth to catch a Quanta flight to Melbourne. I was sad to leave Keith, Fhines and Sasha behind.

I was travelling Economy and the large Check-in Hall was completely devoid of staff (except for a single Business Class check-in desk). So I thought I'd better attempt to use the self-check-in which, rather to my surprise, I managed without incident.

With only minimal hand carried luggage, security was next. There were plenty of staff there and all were friendly and charming, improving my mood considerably.

At the Gate, the seating overlooked the Boeing 737-800 we were about to board and, on time, Quantas staff checked boarding passes and the passengers shuffled down the air bridge to the aircraft. The economy cabin had 3+3 seating and I did find it cramped but the cabin crew were welcoming.

We took off promptly but there was a fair bit of turbulence as we climbed to cruising altitude. Once things had settled down, a meal was served. I had sausage and mash (in a cardboard box) but it was warm and tasty. As well as an orange juice, they followed up with tea or coffee (I had tea, of course) and later in the flight we had a frozen Snickers bar. We reached Melbourne in just over three hours. All in all, I found it a very satisfactory experience.

Because it was a domestic flight, the driver of my booked car was able to meet me in Baggage Reclaim - displaying my name on the screen of his mobile phone which looked very professional. We had a few minutes wait before baggage started to arrive at the carousel, but my two pieces were fairly early and we were soon driving into the city.

Although Melbourne has plenty of modern buildings and skyscrapers, many rather older buildings remain, giving the city an atmosphere which appealed to me, as it did on my first visit back in 2006, which was part of a trip I call 'Round the World 3'. There's a very brief description of that visit in the post here but only the sections 'Saturday 18th' and 'Sunday 19th' cover Melbourne.

This time, my travel agent had recommended the 'Hotel Lindrum', an old office building converted with a modern interior. My room on the third floor looked across the street to the complex network of railway lines entering Flinders Street Station, which pleased me greatly. All of the trains were Electrical Multiple Units and the service was intensive - I discovered Melbourne's population is four and a half million and growing. By the time I'd checked-in, it was late afternoon (Melbourne is two hours ahead of Perth but I decided to half a short walk before it became dark.

My route from the hotel took me along Flinders Street, parallel to the railway, towards Flinders Street railway station. I visited the tourist office, purchased a local transport ticket to use the following day, had a portion of chips in a station cafe and purchased a Coca Cola and Kit-Kat to take back to the hotel. It was dark by the time I was back at the hotel, so I worked in my room on the computer until bedtime.

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Perth Airport (Domestic).
Melbourne Airport.
Hotel Lindrum, Melbourne.
Melbourne's Local Railways (2006 and 2017).

Monday, 15 May 2017

Perth (Sunday)

Events of Sunday 14th May 2017

Keith and I took Sasha for a longer walk on Sunday morning. The area where Keith lives is residential, with large, detached single-storey houses. Various areas of parkland (with all sorts of trees I didn't recognise) are scattered amoung the dwellings and the road system is supplemented by a network of footpaths, offering many alternative routes for walking.

After a leisurely breakfast, Keith and I discussed railways and engineering, as I studied some of Keith's extensive library of locomotive and railway books. We also looked at some of Keith's locomotive models - some proprietary, some built by Keith, including his live steam model based on L.B.S.C's 'Titch' design. Keith's model carries the nameplate 'ECCLES' (after 'The Goons' character).

In the afternoon, Keith, Fhines and I drove to visit another of their friends - Bill Fritchley. Bill had grown up in Myanmar and, before emigrating to Australia, had worked on steam locomotives for Burma Railways and served in the army. Needless to say, I quizzed him about his experiences on the footplate, particularly on the huge Beyer-Garratt locomotives.

In the early evening, we went to a nearby Singaporean restaurant for dinner. We had a sit-down meal but the restaurant also did take-away. Whilst we were there, numerous clients came in for take-away and the other tables started to fill up, testifying to the popularity of the place. We certainly enjoyed our meals.

Back home, we had a relaxing evening watching television. I did a little work on the computer but I also had to contrive to compress all my possessions into one suitcase and one backpack (never an eahy task) because I was being picked up at 8.00 a.m. the following morning to fly on to Melbourne.

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Next Post describing this trip.
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Pictures from earlier trips.
There are a few pictures from this visit to Perth here. More will follow.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Perth (Saturday)

Events of Saturday 13th May 2017

I was up in time to accompany Keith on a short walk with Sasha, Keith's dog. We left by car about 6.45 a.m. by car to drive to the home of Keith's friend, Birgit Gabriels. Occasionally on a Saturday, Keith and Birgit drive to the large Ikea store north of Perth for breakfast in the cafeteria, followed by a browse around the extensive showrooms.

I'd been invited to accompany them so, with Sasha and Birgit's dog Pepper left on guard duty in Birgit's house, we transferred to Birgit's car and drove towards the city, pausing to refuel the car. On a Saturday, we were able to make rapid progress and, after skirting the city centre, we continued north to Ikea and parked in the extensive ground level car park and went to the cafeteria where we each enjoyed an excellent, inexpensive breakfast including scrambled egg, bacon, sausage, tomato and a hash brown, accompanied by tea or coffee with free refills. Then, we spent some time touring the showrooms and Birgit made some purchases - the prices in Australia, like my own country, represent very good value.

Retrieving Birgit's car, we returned south, pausing at a large supermarket, a branch of Woolworth, where Birgit did a little shopping. I was impressed by the size of the 'Deli' counter and also by a small island counter selling Sushi, staffed by no fewer than six Sushi chefs. Shopping complete, we returned to Birgit's house and two very welcoming dogs where we chatted for some time in the elegant Dutch-themed house designed by Birgit's architect father. After a sandwich lunch with Birgit, Keith drove back to his home, detouring to visit another of Keith's friends, Annette. She was born in Australia but trained as a midwife in England, working in Wythenshawe (Manchester) and London's Harley Street before spells as a midwife in both Libya and Turkey.

In Australia, like America, you can make up your own car registration and Keith and I were amused by the registration 'ITZA MINE', attached to a beautifully-restored Ford Mustang.

I'd arranged to meet my friend Captain Myo Lwin, whom I'd first met in 2008 as captain of the 'Road to Mandalay' river cruise ship in Myanmar. Having retired, he now divides his time between Perth, where he lives with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson Wyatt, and Yangon. I was amazed at how Wyatt had grown since I last saw him. After an enjoyable visit, I returned to Keith's home.

We spent a quiet evening in, watching television and talking. I dealt with e-mails, updated the blog and copied my photographs to my computer (in duplicate) until they could be uploaded to the internet.

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Next Post describing this trip.
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Pictures from earlier trips.
There are a few pictures from this trip here. More will follow.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Perth (Friday)

Events of Friday 12th May 2017

I was up around 7.00 a.m. and accompanied my host, Keith Watson, on his walk to exercise his dog, Sasha, on nearby parkland. On our return, we had breakfast before getting ready to go to visit Birgit, a friend of Keith's for many years. Sasha came with us and played happily with Birgit's Manchester Terrier, Pepper.

After a pleasant visit, we returned to Keith's home. After some catching-up, Keith and I drove to a nearby 'Subway' where we purchased a filled baguette which we took home to consume. Later I attempted to connect my laptop to Keith's Wi-Fi, initially without success, but a call to Keith's computer man quickly resolved the problem and I was able to check my e-mails and post brief reports to my blog.

All the travelling had left me quite tired, so I didn't do much for the rest of the day. I was quite impressed by the television news coverage on SBS (the Special Broadcasting Service which is part of ABC - the Australian Broadcasting Commission), less so by the Eurovision Song Contest coverage from Ukraine.

I retired early and slept very well.

Related Posts on this Website

Next Post describing this trip.
All Burma-2017 Trip posts.
All Australia-2017 posts.

My Pictures

Pictures from earlier trips.
There are a few pictures from this trip here. More will follow.