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Author Topic: A Life of Chaos  (Read 57351 times)

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Offline conan

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #186 on: September 10, 2016, 22:45:30 »
Ah thank you Sentinel S4,that reply really made me chuckle :)
To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #185 on: September 10, 2016, 21:01:24 »
(choking) Yes....

S4.
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline conan

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #184 on: September 10, 2016, 20:47:07 »
Nicely written S4, good old GWR ( I've lived in the West country for over 40 years) Is the engine one of the great George Jackson Churhward CBE designs?
To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #183 on: September 10, 2016, 20:23:15 »
A Run in the Light.
            Today we will be starting with cold locos working our way up to our first run of the day. This will be a normal High Summer Saturday with only a few passengers around, oh and a railway group visiting. It will be busy but nowhere near as pressurised as the other night.

            As we park in the meadow looking down upon the Sylvian setting of the station we can see that the Boss is here and already has one loco out. He is doing a little preparation before lighting up so we have a minute or two just to drink in the setting and enjoy the peace and quiet for that will not last the hour out. So out of the boot come the overalls and hat and we stroll down the hill to the station. This is a terminal with a turntable as the loco release, much like the old Ramsgate Harbour station on the old LCDR. The Boss greets us with the news that today we have the GWR King class, a magnificent and powerful machine but much harder work than the Southern Lord Nelson. But do we care? No she is steam and ours for the day. Then another car turns up and it is the Brogdale lads coming to run their LCDR N class so it will be a three loco day, that makes our life a lot easier. Like the Boss we prepare the loco, clean out the remains of the old fire, then run a brush through the tubes, clean the chimney, empty the smoke box of ash and char (half burnt coal) and finally check the water level in the boiler. Then we lay the fire with plenty of wood, virtually fill the fire box with it, then a little coal and finally a paraffin soaked rag. After a couple of minutes in goes the match and we have fire then on goes the fan to pull the fire through and give draught. Whilst that is going on we start to oil round, first the leading wheels get a squirt behind the then come the cylinders, inside as well as out, the valve gear needs oiling as do the connecting and coupling rods and finally the tender axle boxes need a squirt. By this time we have a roaring wood blaze so we add some more coal, we are selective and pick the smallest coal we can and carefully place the coal where the fire is brightest. After 45 minutes we have steam, 20 psi but it is steam, so off comes the electric blower and the loco is now self sustaining and will proceed apace. We now have a few minutes spare and the Brogdale crew have the kettle on so a brew is in hand and we have time to relax and enjoy the sight of three main line locomotives in steam, okay so what if they are miniatures they are still steam..

            As we sit putting the universe to rights the first cars turn up, not too bad as we were supposed to have the first train ready at 10 am and it is 9:50 am. Two of the locos greet these arrivals by lifting their safety valves so it is on with the game face and to the loco and try to quieten her down a little. That is done by putting water into the boiler so on with the water tap and then on with the steam and the injector sings as it floods the boiler with cooler water. What is an injector? It is a mixture of tapered cones, like a carburettor that, through pressure differentials and Witchcraft, puts water directly into the boiler without the need of a pump. I really don't know how they work, just that they do. We have two, and we will use them both. As the safeties have already lifted we know they work and as we have one injector on we know that works so we just give the second one a quick run, better to be safe and find out it has failed here than up the line. It works well so we have a way of getting rid of the excess pressure and a way to get water in. We are set for the days running. Whilst we have been fiddling around the first train has departed and the N class is dropping onto the second so looks like we have half an hour or so before we run. We make use of that time by cleaning the loco, oily rag over the paint and Brasso on the brass and copper, the GWR have that copper cap on the chimney and it needs a polish, be my guest... Finally we are ready to go so it is hard on with the hand brake and full forward gear and just ease the regulator open and do you see all the water coming out of those pipes at the front? That is condensate. That could do some real damage to the cylinders if not cleared. Now we wind her into full back gear with the regulator untouched, and yes the same thing is happening. Finally she blows clear and we take the brake off and gently roll onto the turntable. The run to the station throat is mainly down hill so we only need a whiff of steam and stop. Here we will fill the tender with water and a bucket of coal, and wait.

            Today we are running both loops so it will be the full 2 1/4 miles of up hill and down dale running. In the distance we hear a whistle and the Lord Nelson drifts out of the trees and into the station. Before he has even stopped we are away across the points and dropping back onto the train and coupling. The Driver the other end uncouples and walks back to us with the single line token and to pass on any words of wisdom and general conditions up the line. The token allows us to pass from the station to the double track section safely. At the other end of the double track section there is a post and the upper token will be hanging there waiting for us. But for now we are building up our fire and making the pressure so that it is just on the red line at 100 psi so when we leave we have all the power we can get. Oh yes one more thing, we have 15 minutes to do the full line...

            We get the flag and away we go, we do not have time to mess around so it is quite a brutal start. Full forward gear and half regulator and she is snapping them off at the stack before we get the drain cocks shut and when we do... She slips! Damn, ease off the regulator and work it up again, she bites and we are away. The first part is a little down hill then almost level to the viaduct at which point we start the climb, it is much less frightening in the daylight than it was in the dark but even so we have to be aware of our train as the track does leave a little to be desired. We round the curve and the double track opens up before us sadly clear of another train so we ease off a little and where we had been pulling her back on the valve gear (this is done to make the loco more efficient, like changing gear in your car) we now have to drop her forward again. Still it allows us a little time to work on the fire. So on go five shovels and the the token onto the pole and we clatter over the points. We are going a little too easy but as the down train is still nowhere to be seen it is better than stopping, suddenly the N class drifts around the curve and we have the line so it is now a case of accelerating as hard as we can get away with, without slipping. The N class Drive has not put the token on its pole so hands it to us in passing, much better than losing a finger nail groping for it on the pole. The loco is going great guns accelerating steadily when the top point appears so we ease off a little and roll through just right and catch her for the hardest part of the climb where she behaves for once, no slipping. Up here in the trees the passengers have time to ignore the train and enjoy the ride. This is old woods, deep old forest that has been unchanged for many years. Really? World War II decimated the forest as did the Hurricane of 1987. Both times this line was nearly lost for good, but the owners persisted and here we are today. Yes today in bright sunshine that is dappled by the leaves with waist high bracken on the forest floor and old trees arching overhead. It is a wonderful thing to experience, the smells and sounds all mingling into one sensation of wistful daydreaming, and that if we don't get a grip on this loco we will be off the rails through going too fast! Finally the Warren comes into view, the top of the bank and the end of the climb from the station.

            Once over the Warren points we are on a fast part of the line, well I say fast but as it is a left hand curve we have to be a little careful, but we are not hanging about. Suddenly from the loco comes a strange booming noise but we don't worry just get the pricker and rake the fire over as it has developed a hole. Our leveling has had little effect so we throw a little more coal on but she is still booming so just leave to fire doors open by 1/4 inch and yes she is quiet. The down side is that she will now steam like a witch and we will be constantly on the injectors to keep her quiet. We clatter over the loop points and onto the racing straight and we are away, never more than 1/2 regulator she thunders like the thoroughbreds she is modeled after, the GWR really knew how to build an express loco (I'm going to be hung by the Southern lads for that). We pound around the right hand curve that changes suddenly to a left hand that drops away to the tunnel so we ease off and let her drift a while. The cutting and tunnel lose some of their mystique in the daylight but as this is an open day we have to whistle long and hard, last open day I chased a chap out of here with this loco as he was walking through "for the experience", damn fool! Today we are lucky and have it clear. To the right at the end of the cutting we can see where the old line curved away to rejoin the straight. That was the section my Father knew, we however go straight on and run parallel to the old line for some distance. We flash past the small clearing where we had the station and ease off to rejoin the main line. Just after we rejoin the main line we see the signal so we use the remote to change the point and watch with satisfaction as the indicator changes to show we have the cut off loop.

            We ease around the points, only the second time this year they have been used, and onto the cutoff with its steep grade and rocky cutting. The track through here is in woeful condition and noisy, so noisy that we can't really hear our exhaust. It also winds around and that makes the train drag so if you thought this was to be easy then you are in for a shock. At the end we ease across the spring points onto the main line and head back toward the tunnel from the opposite direction. As ever with this line we find that we have to work the loco quite hard just before we drop into the cutting, this time shorter, steeper and deeper than the other end, this line seems to change under us on every run. We plunge into the tunnel with the whistle screaming and again hope that the line is clear, but this time the climb out is easier. As we clear the cutting we are looking out across the North Kent Coast, Sheppey and on a day like this we can see Whitstable in the far distance. A view to take our breath away. The vivid greens, yellows and browns with the sea a grey blue smudge along the horizon. Last Winter the Boss had some trees felled here and we will have this view for about five years before the new growth blocks it for another 30 or 40 years. We regain the galloping straight and let rip again as time is now getting on, we have burned about 10 minutes of our 15 allowed, so we press on. As we clear the first loop return we again set the line with the remote and watch, with one hand ready to shut off steam just in case, as the signal shows the road has changed. We dance over the Warren points and charge down hill going ever faster, as fast as we dare as we have a train climbing towards us, a Driver who will not be happy to have to stop, suddenly we thunder around a curve and there is the post for the token and we are going a little too fast to be sure of getting it on the peg so we hang on to it and shut the regulator and drift. The pressure is off, we have beaten the up train so we can relax. The loco rewards us with the safety valve lifting and shouting defiance to the trees, she will not be beaten. Remember that I said we might need both feeds? Well this is the time, the loco is hot, the fire is hot she is steaming faster that we can use it so both feeds go on and we fill the boiler right up. The pressure is down to about 60 psi but we have no work to do, we can drift from here with the mearest whiff to just keep her rolling.

            Around the curve comes the Lord Nelson, her front bouncing as she works hard in the teeth of the bank we pass the token to the Driver and he mutters his thanks and pulls away from us. His train swaying with the clackerty-clack of the wheels over the joints and about 15 smiling riders all going on an adventure, all lost in their own worlds, all wishing that they could own something like this line. A quick glance down at the pressure gauge shows that it has already climbed back to 90 psi, will this loco not be quiet for us today? So we surge ahead to cross the bottom spring points and whistling long drift onto the viaduct. Ahead of us the station is awash with people milling around, most with cameras, all looking for 'that' shot, like those we saw up in the deep woods, even the one who was laying very close to the line to get a low shot. Again we are hard on the whistle and the people part like the Red Sea for Moses and we roll to a stand. We feel the gentle bump as the N class couples up at the other end so we wind the hand brake on, uncouple and walk back to hand the Driver the lower token, we were a minute inside time. Then onto the turntable, turn and repeat. We will do another 10 runs today and by the time we put the locos to bed at around 7 pm we are shattered. We all sit for an hour or so unwinding, drinking tea and the sounds and smells of a steam railway at dusk.

S4.
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #182 on: September 10, 2016, 10:39:09 »
Still living the dream S4 - fantastic stuff! Now, anyone got a large sailing boat I can play with? :)
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #181 on: September 10, 2016, 09:21:52 »
Conan it is 9 inch, the same as Brogdale. That said I was at Brogdale last Sunday to see my friends there. After about half an hour I was asked if I wanted to have a drive. Five different locos later I was passed as Driver..... Hey-ho here we go again...

S4.
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline conan

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #180 on: September 10, 2016, 08:41:02 »
Wonderful stuff S4,just one question, what gauge is the line?
To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline Lyn L

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #179 on: September 10, 2016, 06:53:10 »
Hearing you tell me this story yesterday  was almost like being there , today reading it I was reliving every move ! Having the opportunity to work with something you really love and being able to tell it as it happened to others is brilliant. Long may you continue with your beloved steam ( and woodwork  :) ) And I hope your Grandson/s will enjoy it as much as you and your Dad have done.  :)
Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life tryi

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #178 on: September 10, 2016, 00:05:43 »
This line is very private. It is still owned by the family who built it and on their land. There are no footpaths close to or crossing it, to see it without invitation is trespass. So this is about as close as most will get. I guess that I will have to do a daylight run for you all. It is a spectacular line to ride even more to drive. I am very lucky to be associated with it, as was my Father who is still seen as a Driver, there are only about half a dozen of us Drivers on the line who are not members of the family who own the line. My family connection goes back to Dad who in 1945 cycled to the Big house and knocked on the and asked the then owner if he could see the line. Dad was 12 at the time. My current association is just over two years. I first rode in 1965 on the day of my Baptism but there was an interregnum of 49 years before a member of this forum took me there and introduced me to the owner. It felt like I had come home. This year I was passed as Driver in April and have covered around 100 miles since, there are still two dates on the calender with the possibility of a couple more before we shut down and get some track work done.

S4.
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline JohnWalker

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #177 on: September 09, 2016, 23:38:07 »
Great writing S4 - I was with you all the way.  Sounds like a great place to visit.  :)

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #176 on: September 09, 2016, 21:52:07 »
A Night Run.

            This is an account of a single run on a miniature Steam hauled Railway deep in the heart of Kent (UK). For this event we lit the boilers at 5 pm, after a long day at work, and the first guests arrived at around 6:30 pm. The coaches have tram type (the backs can be moved) single seats mounted on them and the trains were made up of three cars with five seats and a second train with three cars of three seats and three cars of two seats. This section of the line was built during the 1930's and replaces an earlier line that can just be traced in the undergrowth, only if you know where to look. For this special evening we were using the Main Line Single Loop. This means that we were running about 1 1/2 miles instead of the Double Loop which gives a run of 2 1/4 miles. Even though it was a short run we were still on a 15 min time table with an intermediate stop at a temporary Station. We had three locomotives in steam for the evening, a GWR King class 4-6-0 complete with four cylinders as per prototype, a Southern Railway Lord Nelson class, again a four cylinder 4-6-0 as the real machine and finally the visiting locomotive from Brogdale, a superb model of a SECR N class 2-6-0, this is a two cylinder machine that is far more powerful than it looks. We all had our own versions of lighting, mine was a head torch held onto the center lamp iron of the buffer beam with zip-ties, another had the head torch mounted on his head and the driver of the N did not bother and ran with a single hand torch. None of us could really see much and I have invested in a new torch that will be heavily modified to be mounted on the upper lamp iron on the smoke box door for the next night run, I will see where I am going...

            As we sit here in the dark with the hub-bub of many people talking at once we realise that the dew is settling around us, the water tank that was dry to the touch five minutes ago is now wet. That means a half mile slog uphill with a heavy train on greasy rail. Not good. All fifteen seats have full grown adults, we have the long train, six cars as against the three of the other train. Things are getting worse. We are told that we had better leave as the next train will be in soon. We check our fire, it is a roaring incandescent mass of orange and yellow coal, good news, water is right up in the glass and there is a feather of steam at the safety valves. We touch the whistle and the loco shrieks, along with some of the female passengers, touch the regulator and she is away. After about 20 feet we shut the drain cocks to be rewarded with a slip, she just lost her feet on the rails. We catch it and press on, slowly building speed, a little too slowly for we have that climb at around 1 foot for every 30 covered forward. That is steep for anything let alone a miniature loco. Just out of the station there is the viaduct, with good rail, and here we get some real grip and some speed. The train is swaying along behind us and the passengers are quiet for the moment realising that they are going into the woods. The smell of the loco, hot oil and steam, mingles with the smells of the woodland, of leaf mold, dew and bracken. It is quite intoxicating, elemental and invigorating. We look for the double track section where we will pass the next train, he is coming down the bank off a run, and pray that we will not have to stop as a restart will be almost impossible under these rail conditions. We are on a left hand curve, climbing and I risk putting some coal on the fire, we have one hand on the regulator and the other working the reverser as she is 1 psi from a slip and we need to be fast to catch it, the blast pulls the coal and dust from our shovel before we have a chance to place it or even lob it to the front of the fire. The dust is instantly ignited and erupts from the stack dancing in the exhaust much to the delight of the passengers, and all the time we're watching for that headlight coming towards us.

            We come off the curve onto the straight and there is still no sign of that headlight. Under our breath we are casting massive doubts on the other Drivers parentage when we hear the scream of another whistle, we answer with one blast and get two in return. He is clear of the upper points! We are free to run. This is great news. We pass in a flash with him whistling to warn our passengers he is there, a shout from him states there will be a brew ready for us upon our return. We are now busy as we are in the teeth of the bank heading toward a right hand curve that ends with the top points, here we have to collect the token which allows us to run onto the single track of the main line. We ease off on the regulator a little as the points heave into view, too close as our headlight is rubbish and shows what we are about to hit (thankfully nothing) and we over compensate by shutting off too much. We grab the token and ease her open only to be rewarded by a slip so we are back to the start of working the regulator and reverser together to get maximum traction and minimum slip. Just off the top point the line steepens and the right hand curve tightens and it is here she lets go big time. A cascade of sparks and red hot cinders erupt into the night, the passengers cheer at the pretty sight, we groan as we watch our fire vanish into the night sky. Now we are working the loco in what can only be called a controlled slip. Our wheels are turning just a little faster than we are travelling but it gives us a little traction on this relentless uphill slog. Finally the line curves to the left and the grade eases and she bites. Man does she bite and pull and the speed rapidly builds and we run up the last fifty feet or so like a Greyhound out of the traps.

            As we cross the Warren points, they lead to the second loop, we start to ease off again as now we start the long left curve that leads to the long straight. Just off the curve and approaching the first loop points we start to whistle. The party is being held in a marquee in the clearing alongside the line so the whistle is a warning as much as show. We let her have her head as we pass the other guests, we drop her a touch forward (open the valves a little) and give her full regulator. This makes lots of noise at the stack and sounds good. All too soon we realise that we may have over done it a little as the next right hand curve is coming up a little too fast. So we shut the regulator and let her drift off the right hand into the left hander that drops down to the tunnel. Ah the Tunnel. This is deep and curved. You cannot see end to end in the daytime so at night it is very Stygian. You feel the cutting walls rising above you and hold open the whistle, just in case an idiot is walking through, and suddenly the brickwork looms over you and the passengers once again shriek with delight at the sudden increase in noise and atmosphere. Close to the end of the tunnel the line starts to climb again and you have to be ready because the curves and grade combination really do slow you down. Just out of the tunnel in another deep cutting the loco slips again, another volcanic eruption, this time because it is now drizzling but we dare not slow as the time is getting on. As we round a right handed curve the station hoves into view and we start to brake. At which point the tender, our main and only brake, picks up the wheels and slides. The wonderful thing about a steam loco is the fact that the engine can be reversed whilst on the move. So there we are with the tender sliding and us winding the reverser into full back gear whilst opening the regulator gently. It works well enough to bring us to a stand almost at the right spot, yes we overshot by a car length. As the passenger get off they all thank us for a wonderful run, not one of them knows the drama on that tiny loco, of the constant fight to keep her feet, keep water in the glass, keep our fire healthy and keep them safe.

            Once they have all left it is a case of getting back to the terminal. No real pressure now just a nice gentle run down hill. Not forgetting that there is another train coming and he will not want to stop on the bank. So away we go. There is enough fire left to get back, the safeties are still feathering and gently misting our glasses which is a pain in the neck, and makes it difficult to see. On the way you can revel in the solitude, the peace and the gentle noise of night time woodland. The token is placed on the pole as you pass and you gently brake so as not to stop but pass the up train slowly. In the darkness you hear the muffled beat of the N class, slipping, biting then slipping again and as she passes the driver has time to say that your brew is in the water tower and that he can't stop slipping. He is most upset by this as that loco is very sure footed. Finally we drop down across the viaduct we see a red light and ease to a stand just short of the station. One of the others states that we are done and he will hand shunt our train away. So we uncouple and drop forward to the water tower where we fill the tender and start to fill the boiler for the last time. We check the fire and it is almost too good to run down but we have done, done for the night. So out comes the pricker and we riddle the fire to death, all the time the injector is singing as it fills the boiler. Finally the glass is full and the pressure down to around 45 psi, the fire is all in the ash pan and out, the loco is sighing and we sit with the other Driver and the Station Master (sic) for a few minutes to shoot the breeze whilst awaiting the return of the N class. Tonight we have moved 200 passengers with 30 seats and three steam locos. We are shattered, but happy. Not one of us received a penny for tonight as it was all done for pleasure, passengers or not.

I have missed out the constant turning on and off of the water feed. However I really did only fire her twice on that run. Most of the time the safety valves were either feathering or blowing off hard. This loco is an absolute sod when the tubes are clean as she steams, almost, too well. Once we had finished and cleaned up we all drove our cars to the lane that lead to the marquee and got an ovation from the guests as well as plenty of food. It really was a good night.

S4
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #175 on: September 03, 2016, 23:31:06 »
BMW and I, a story of love and fulfilment...

            Oh that is so sad on so many levels, but I will leave it alone. The first was, as stated before, a 325i swapped for a Series IIB Landrover and £5,000 (in my favour). Probably the best deal I have ever done. The BMW was a two door Coupe with a straight six 2.8Ltr engine. What a machine, it was like driving a turbine. It was a revelation, even at 15 years old she was a beauty. Solidly built, engineered not constructed it was so different from the junk I was used to. It was so reliable in the five years I owned her she never once failed on me, and I did abuse her (unlike modern BMW's she was unrestricted to the stupid 155mph limit). I did amost no maintenance to her and when sold the first thing she did was lose the new owner his licence for a year. His fault as 100+mph on the A2 at 10 in the morning was dumb. She was finally scrapped five years ago at almost 30 years old. What a machine.

            Next came my only dissapointment with BMW, a 520i. This was one of the old Shark nose cars of the early to mid 1980's. I found her to be underpowered and a bit of a slug but very comfortable. I actually sold that one to a collector in the Midlands for a Museum of semi-exotic cars. My mind still boggles over that.
 
            Following that came a 525e, same body as the last one but a vastly different beast. She had her faults but for £200 I was not going to complain. I covered many thousands of miles in that car, I took the family to the Isle of Man three times in her. Finally one of her front wishbones broke and that was her end. She was sold to a BMW breakers and as far as I know she kept a few more of her kind going for a while.

            Now for my first 7 series. This was a 1979 730i that I paid the princely sum of £100 for. It was a former Pub Landlady`s car, stunk of fags and booze with a gold paint job with light brown velour upholstry and I was constantly pulled over by the Police in it. On the up-side it was a wonderful drive, smooth and comfortable with electric everything. I managed to commit the cardinal sin of blowing the head gasket of this car and ruined a magnificent 3.2Ltr straight six. At the time I was repairing cars for a living and put her down the back of the workshop, to be repaired later on. That never happened and after about six months I cut half the roof off with a cold chisel to repair a Daimler Limousine. Yes it was sacrilege but the limo was going to pay the bills whereas the BMW was going to cost money. Would I do it again? No not to a 7 series of that age.

            I then went back to the 3 series, a 328i to be exact. This one was quite new at only 8 years old. Another 2 door Coupe that did well for me. I kept her for about four years, The Boss had the use of the other vehicles at the time as the BMW was mine. I sold her to pay a bill a week before I wrote off the Nissan Almera, almost killing myself and The Boss. I had the tread come off a low profile tyre whilst doing a little more than 70 mph on the A2 near Boughton at 02:00hrs. What compounded the issue was that I broke the Bosses ankle and it was her 40th Birthday. Yeah I really know how to treat a girl. The Police did say that if my reactions had not been so good then they would have had two bodies in the car and stressed that it was the tyre and not me.

            Now we come to the second 7. This one was bought very, very cheap. I bought it from a Woman whose husband had left her for a younger model. She had asked that his car be removed several times by him, but the idiot failed to do so. I was told of the car by a friend of mine who knew that we had just lost the Almera (I crashed on the Saturday night and got this 7 Monday morn). The Lady asked me for £200 for a fully loaded 740i with the il (the 'l' is for limousine) interior. The Boss loved riding in this monster, she can curl up on the front seat of a 7 and snuggle down to sleep on a long run. I loved the Cruise Control, automatic rear view mirrors, silky smooth engine and gear box, the awsome smooth power delivery, the handling for such a big car and the fact she was de-restricted. I went to Germany with my brother for a weekend, he wished to visit a museum (that memorable I can't even remember where it was), and found an unlimited Auto-Bahn. According to my Sat-Nav I was doing 185mph when I lifted off the throttle due to the uncontrolled screaming (my brother is such a wimp), however there was much more to go as I was almost 1,500rpm off the red line (she would easily pull 500rpm into the red no problem). I believe that under the right conditions she woul get really close to the magical 200mph mark, thankfully I never got the right conditions. I had her for five years, she went when the cost of fuel started to go up and someone made me an offer on her I could not refuse (remember that museum in the Midlands? Yep them again).

            I then had the Mondeo (that was a real junker, even though it was only five years old and one of my biggest dissapointments with cars ever) which developed a habit of shedding the front wheels at times. I binned that car, I actually paid someone to take it away to the scrap yard. I then bought possibly the second best BMW I ever owned (the best is the current one). She was a pretty little 316i coupe that cost all of £450. The same weekend my Brother (yes that wimp) bought a Renault Clio diesel ('nuff said really) for £4,500. We both kept the cars for five years and ran a cost comparison. Mine was heavier on fuel by about 20% but I only bought one set of wipers, a full set of brake pads and shoes and a complete exhaust system. Total cost of less than £200. My Brother however ended up spending around £4,000 on the Renault, everything that could go wrong did. In the end he gave the Clio to me for The Boss to use whilst I was on the road in the Lorry. It finally died when the alternator caught alight. The 316i was sold to a young man who is still driving her around. I regret selling this one. I once drove her back from the Burnham-on-Sea junction of the M5 almost to Chilham without changing out of top gear, leave Burnham at 9pm and the roads are almost clear all the way. She was magnificent.

            I replaced the 316i with another 740i (named Maus), I can't help it, okay I just adore the big engines. This one has the engine from the il which is bigger than the standard i V8. This has a 4.4ltr engine as opposed to the old one which had the 3,980ltr. Yes both are V8's, yes they are thirsty (16-25mpg), yes they are big, yes, yes, yes I do know that they are not ideal run around cars and yes I would save a bit with a 3 series. However it is what I want to drive. I just feel so safe in them, they weigh 2 tonnes, you don't hear me moaning about the fuel because I chose the car, it is my descision to own and run it. This one is a mere 20 years old and everything still works, and the power from that engine...
 
            Last month The Boss stated that she wants a 3 series Cabriolet. She has stated that she no longer feels safe in most Euro-boxes. I cannot fault her descision.

            So what next? Well Maus is doing fine, just gone through her MOT with a clean sheet so I see no reason to even look at other cars until she starts to let me down. I do, however, have a fitter who is more loved-up than me with the 7 series so I see no reason not to keep her for another five or so years. But why BMW I hear you asking. A good question which I will attempt to answer. I don't much like front wheel drive, as an engineer it is an anathema, steer or drive please, don't build in weakness by doing both. I love the build quality of the vehicles, neither of the V8's I have had use oil. Most cars will use a little oil over time, these big engines don't seem to. The cars feel solid, solid on the road, solid in corners, solid when you close the doors, just solid all round. It is never out of place, I live on a council sink estate and drive steam locos for people who went to school at Eton College, the car fits in, some of the "do's" like last night (2-9-16) when the field is full of Astons, Rolls, etc Maus was not out of place neither was she this morning in the carpark at Morrisons in Canterbury. But for me it is because I just like them, the look, the drive and the POWER...
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #174 on: September 03, 2016, 08:15:44 »
"No Boss, I do Steam..."
           
            As many of you might have guessed I love steam machinery be it road, rail, stationary or marine, if it is steam powered I need to see it or touch it. I recently found out that I was exposed to this magical power at a very young age. Let us go to the start and find out what has moulded the S4 into what he is today...
           
             I was shoved kicking and screaming into this World at around 00:04hrs 7th February 1965, yes I just missed out on the 6th, call me stubbon, or contrary if you wish. A few might remember that winter, I don't as I had more important things on my mind like food and the meaning of life (anyone come up with the answer to that yet?). Within the week I was introduced to my first steam, the loco shed of the Bowaters Railway. Dad and Grandad took me to see some of their friends who worked there. By this time Grandad was in charge of a turbine in the great hall at Kemsley Mill so that meant visit number two. The third exposure came on the day of my Baptism when Dad had the run of the Torry Hill Railway. I am named after Douglas Leigh-Pemberton, the owner and builder of the line, and sadly he had died during the winter just before I was born. However his family allowed Dad one last day before they mothballed the line.
           
            Sadly 1968 saw the demise of mainline steam on British Rail, I do remember being taken up to the Northern provinces of Brittania to see the last working locomotives draw their last breath, a very sad time for Dad as I was seemingly an indifferent 3 year old with more pressing things on his mind, like food and why I was there. However there were still plenty of places that steam could be found, I forget just how many Mills in Yorkshire and Lancashire I have visited, or how many Quarries I have got muddy in just to see a loco or engine working in harness. Yes I have been in the engine rooms of these mills with their huge flywheels humming, the 'clickety-clack' of the valve gear working and the polished steel flashing as they powered these vast (now non-satanic) mills. I have had Engine Drivers stand me on a mark on the floor to see if I was made of the 'Right stuff', then start the engine and have a large rod come at me. I never ducked, why should I? These were steam engines, they were my friends, they would never hurt me, anyway Dad would never allow me to get hurt either so I knew I was safe.
           
            1969 saw us move to Chartham, the end of the Sttingbourne and Kemsley as a commercial line (yes I know that it did work into early 1970) and Dad starting to collect steam plant in the garden. Most people seem to grow stuff, flowers and food, we seemed to gain engines and boilers. Dad would connect this stuff together and sometimes light it up and we had steam machinery running IN MY BACK GARDEN! No more did we have to ride on the Blue Pullman up to the North Country to see a loco die, or mill shut down for the last time. On one memorable occasion when leaving Euston Station I saw one of the last London Transport steam locos with a train (pre 1971). Apparently I tore off down the train so that I could see it longer, happy days. In the Autumn of this year Dad lit up one Saturday for a quiet afternoons running, I think he had gained a new (sic) engine, when he got called into work. We lived in one of the Hospital owned houses at Chartham and 'on call' was part of his job as well. So we have Dad telling a 4 year old S4 to keep an eye on the fire whilst he jumped in the car and vanished up the Drive. I kept an eye on the fire alright, I had been watching men fire boilers for a long time by then, when he got back about half an hour later he had what can be best described as an Ocean Going Fire. He could have got to New York on it, I was just pleased it had not gone out.
           
           After that I was taught how to fire properly, how to look after the water and finally how to run and maintain an engine (all stationary at this time). I must have been a strange child to my contemporaries, I had no interest in football or cricket, I had no real interest in hide-and-seek, pom-pom, conkers or any other games (swimming was the exception but who can resist a river?). I cycled because it was faster than walking, I built soap-box carts because I had machinery that allowed me to do so, and yes I did have the fastest, and no I never bothered with brakes. In the 1970's we had the boats, one screw propeller driven, the other a side wheel paddle steamer, which gave me more experience not only in fireing but in running an engine as well. But all things change and Dad had always wished to be a Clergyman. This ambition finally saw the demise of steam in my life for a decade or more. There was not the time, or the money (my siblings were growing apace) for what was becoming an expensive hobby. However I still had the generators at St Augustine's Hospital that would drip feed my need for steam, I knew all the fitters and spent many hours there when I should have been doing other things. Alas, even they went as did almost every other comercial installation, sacrificed on the altar of efficiency and electricity, and with it went a way of life for many. In came the instant start up, no one had to be in all night to maintain the boilers or come in an hour early to get the engines warmed through. Now you could turn up and push a button and your machine started, I have read of a mill in Yorkshire doing some work on their engines over night started them at 02:00hrs for a test. Within minutes workers were turning up to book on for their shift. These people were so attuned to their mill and engines that they heard them running so it must be time for work. You don't get that with electricity.
           
            So where is the S4 today? I am still involved with steam but in a far different way than I have been for 20 years. As some of you might remember a couple of years ago I had a minor accident that smashed my left ankle and which took me out from work for a year. During that time a member of this wonderful Forum gave me the opportunity to go with his group to a visit to the Torry Hill Railway. This I grabbed with both hands as I had not been there since 1965, a gap of 49 years. I knew where the line was, I knew the line existed but as it is on private land I kept away. I was introduced to the owner and by the end of that meeting I was asked, nay told, to be back there the next day. The appointment was maintained and by the end of the day I was driving the line as my Father had done all those years ago. I must point out that I had not had the regulator of a loco for some 20 years on that Sunday but it all came back. The fire was re-lit in me, the need re-kindled and a Mistress needing attention came once more into my life. I was back with Steam. Now some two years after that wonderful weekend I am a regular driver at Torry Hill, one of about 6 (my Dad included) World wide, and have had a fantastic season there where personally I have driven around 100 miles. That might not sound much on a line two miles long with a gauge of 9 inches, but ask some of the standard gauge boys on the KESR how many miles they do in a year as volunteers and it won't be much more than that for some. Also we have generally had two or three locos in steam at any time, it can be intense at times. So to the title, it comes from a conversation with my Boss on Friday:

Boss, "Doing anything this weekend S4?"
S4, "Driving at Torry Hill"
Boss, "You get paid for that? I only ask because you are there quite a lot."
S4, "No Boss. I do it for pleasure."
Boss, "???? ??? ????" (you fill in the blanks).
S4, "Look Boss, some people smoke weed, some do cocaine, some drink, I do Steam."
Boss, "You're nuts."
S4, "Meh, maybe but my addiction won't kill me, it won't damage me mentally (the truth is the damage was done decades ago) and does not put my job or liberty at risk."

            Could you imagine a self help group for people like me? Along the lines of AA, "Hello, my name is S4 and I'm a recovering Steam Junkie". However it is the last thing I could wish for, I don't want to be cured. I love what I do. Last night we had a night run. There is something magical about running in the woods in the dark. There is the terror as your torch fails (beat it on the footplate, yup it now works again) and the relief that when you have finished it is a job well done. When running you get the smell of the woodland mixed with the smell of steam and hot cylinder oil, a heady aroma and then a light drizzle brings up that wonderful smell you get after it has rained. All the time you are working a machine that relies on fire and water to move. Elemental.

"Hi, my name is S4 and I am an unrepentant Steam Junkie".
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline Sentinel S4

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #173 on: August 20, 2015, 16:34:41 »
And Now For The Cars I Wish to Forget…

I have had a few that are indelibly burned into the memory, for bad reasons. These are the vehicles that I wish had never crossed my path or I had a few extra quid to get something different.
The first was a Lada Riva estate (just ‘state’ would have sufficed). However I needed wheels and had limited funds (a core fact of all these purchases) so I found a beige, yes beige, Lada close to where I lived. I gave it the once over, 4 wheels – check, working engine – check, four doors-check, seats-check, £100 – sold. What I neglected was the mushrooms growing on the doors alongside the windows and the grass growing on the rear parcel shelf. What seemed like a bit of a Godsend was fine for all of a week before things started to fall off and break. First the heater controls locked onto full heat and full blast, ideal in the midst of summer, then the thermostat stuck open (you had to drive forever with the choke (remember what they were?)), the exhaust system decided to divorce the car as did the differential. Luckily the last two happened right outside of Lings Scrapyard at Richborough and as we were living in Canterbury I just walked in and got paid £150 for it as scrap, then walked to Sandwich station and caught a train home.

Next was the Skoda Estelle, in orange with a black vinyl roof. You had to carry two batteries with this one just to start it. It worked better than the Lada though so it was an improvement of sorts. It was noisy, slow and so uncomfortable I just could not believe it was right. I took a wander over to the local dealer and to my horror I found that all the Estelle models were that bad. On the up side he did do me a very good deal on the Skoda Rapide (Estelle chassis with a coupe body). That was a good car and I might be persuaded to get another if one could be found in good condition. To be fair I did like the old rear engine Skoda’s, they were quite tough and when the tyres were worn in they handled well, but the orange car was a real heap.

Sometime later, I think I had killed the Rapide or the Boss had had an accident, I found myself in desperate need of a car. I found a Vauxhall Chevette in a local garage that had been a part exchange vehicle. I should have walked away there and then but I was desperate. It cost £75, this was 1989 and I was on the Romney at the time. Oh man did this car live up to the ‘shovete’ name. It only had 60,000 miles, genuine I might add, on the clock but what a piece of junk. It was initially rust free(ish) but within a month the wings were like lace doylies, the hatch back was held closed with rope and both front seats had all but collapsed. It then got worse when the throttle cable snapped and I rigged the choke cable to work instead, at least I got cruise control. That car literally lasted three months before I had to scrap it. Everything that could break did and it was as noisy as hell.

I then got a Vauxhall Cavalier SRI. It started out well enough but as the weeks went on it got worse. The seats made my back ache, the pedal offset made my legs hurt after about 60 miles, the exhaust was new but when you had the windows down the cabin filled with fumes. The heater was pathetic and the damn radio was incapable of tuning to anything other than Radio 1 (the cassette player ate cassettes at an alarming rate). However the absolute worse thing was the handling. This was a sports saloon, it was a performance car, it had a tricked up engine and was capable of speeds in excess of 130 mph (that is as fast as I ever took it) but it was like driving on ice the whole time. You could not push it hard through a corner, or take perverse pleasure of throwing it through Chilham bends at anything over 40 mph. I had a Vauxhall dealer friend check it out as I thought the suspension was shot, he told me it was in perfect condition. I sold it to him as a PX on a Ford Capri. As a postscript a few years ago I took one of the big engine Vectra’s out for a test drive and I found that that too felt like I was driving on ice, that was the last time I got into a Vauxhall and have now forsworn the marque for eternity.

The last ‘bad’ car was my last Ford. This was the Mondeo. I had lusted after one of these since they first appeared. The one I bought was two years old and fully loaded, a 2Ltr Giha X. It was fast, quiet, comfortable, thirsty (aren’t all Fords?) and handled reasonably well. The big plus though was the Boss liked it, right up to the point the driver’s side front wheel fell off. The entire hub assembly seemed to be held on with one nut. A standard nut that was supposed to stay put at the correct torque. I put the car back together, begged, borrowed and grovelled for the right tools to do the job and had it checked out by a Ford main dealer. Three weeks later it did the same thing again. I swapped that for 450 pound notes and forswore Fords in favour of my baby BMW 316i.


Next time I will do a bit on something else or my love affair with BMW's, am in two minds at the moment.

S4.

 
A day without learning something is a day lost and my brain is hungry. Feed me please.

Offline Signals99

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Re: A Life of Chaos
« Reply #172 on: April 07, 2015, 23:37:36 »
Sentinel S4, thanks for the memories of the Land Rover families.
I first came in contact with this all terrain, go anywhere (almost) vehicle as a young driver in the Royal  Engineers. Just think of it, I was actually paid to play with this very expensive toy. And it did not cost me a penny, free petrol/diesel, free maintenance plus all the fun of driving them, if I broke it they gave me another one. I  was told "it's a tool, use it as such".
I can't recall how many different types the army had, short wheelbase, long wheelbase, fitted for radio, ambulance type,fire engine plus a whole load more of ADP (adapted for purpose) types.
We had in excess of two thousand stored in a forward storage area in Grobendonk, Belgium when I was attached to BAOR Rheindahlen.

 

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