Monday, 5 September 2016

'Lionsmeet' 2016

Every year, the Old Locomotive Committee (OLCO) organises a get-together, called 'Lionsmeet' for modellers of the 'Lion' locomotive (and similar models of designs from the early days of railways). On Saturday 27th August 2016, I attended the Old Locomotive Committee annual 'Lionsmeet' event which was held at the Nottingham Society of Model and Experimental Engineers Limited (Nottingham SMEE) site at Ruddington, occupying part of what was formerly called Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre.

Getting there

I travelled by train from Wolverhampton and there's a post describing the journey here. After doing a quick survey of the station and its architecture, I took a taxi from Nottingham Station. As we drove through the city, it started to rain and then the driver had some difficulty locating the destination because the post code which had been advised was not the best one and left us, tantalisingly, a few hundred yards short of my goal. Fortunately, I spotted a brown 'tourist sign' in the distance and was able to direct the local driver the rest of the way! I afterwards discovered that a more helpful post code would have been NG11 6JS. We'd arrived at the large site, apparently originally an industrial complex. Part of the area had been redeveloped as modern commercial property whilst the remainder now provided accommodation not only for Nottingham SMEE, a preserved bus group and a model railway group but also serves as headquarters for the standard gauge-preserved railway Great Central Railway - Nottingham. Just inside the main gate I spotted a large sign directing visitors to the miniature railway so a few minutes trudge through the rain past the Bus Museum took me to my destination.

The Event

I found Andrew and David Neish in the Clubroom, sheltering from the rain and enjoying a warm drink. Soon, I'd also been provided with a beverage and the rain stopped, so things were looking far more promising. Activities transferred to the Steaming Bays as other attendees started to arrive by car.

Nottingham SMEE was first established in 1929 and has been on the present site for around 25 years. The original accommodation is a converted and extended industrial building providing a well-equipped workshop (including multiple Bridgeport manual milling machines), mess, kitchen, toilets and a spacious Clubroom with modern Audio-Visual facilities.

Nottingham SMEE: General view of the well-equipped workshop.

There is substantial purpose-built accommodation for 7.25" gauge locomotives and rolling stock. In one building, I admired a handsome 7.25" gauge model of a '2P' which was undergoing a boiler test.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham: 40602 undergoing a hydraulic test. Boiler Inspector John Lopez underneath checking the firebox foundation ring.

There are custom-built covered Steaming Bays for 3.5" and 5" gauges.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham SMEE: The Steaming Bays have three parallel raised tracks in a handsome building, topped by magnificent smoke louvres.

The original running track is 2270 feet in length, elevated, dumb-bell shaped, offering dual-gauge (3.5"/5") track using aluminium rails. There is now also an extensive 7.25" ground level system, roughly oval-shaped laid outside the elevated track. The 7.25" track also has a triangular junction serving a branch leading to a terminus called Parkgate nearer the site entrance .

As at recent 'Lionsmeet' events, the format was 'free running', that is no competitive running, using only the elevated track since no 7.25" gauge models steamed this year. As the 'early steamers' (notably Andrew and David Neish with David's familiar 'Lion' and Adrian Banks with his 'Thunderbolt') moved their models onto the elevated running track, I obtained permission to walk around the circuit to familiarise myself with the facilities.

The elevated track is signalled with automatic 3-aspect colour-light signals for clockwise running, so I took this direction for my walk, starting at Little Ruddington station.

Nottingham SMEE: Little Ruddington Station with (L-R) elevated track, 7.25" gauge station, exhibits outside Bus Museum.

Immediately on leaving the station, there is the expected traverser to move locomotives from the steaming bays towards the running circuit but this involves crossing the ground-level 7.25" track. This hazard is protected by a proper level crossing with four gates with gate stops, power-operated from the adjacent signal box, Little Ruddington West, and interlocked with signals on the ground level track.

Traverser serving the steaming bays pictured next to the level crossing.

The height of the Traverser can be adjusted as necessary. The Traverser mounts a battery to power the height adjustment and the battery can be re-charged from a power lead mounted on one of the steaming bay roof supporting columns. This traverser does not deliver locomotives directly to the running line but to an intermediate siding.

Next, I passed Little Ruddington West signal box which has a beautifully-engineered 50-lever frame in miniature which controls the power-operated points and signals on the ground-level track. This frame has a miniature level crossing gate wheel to control the level crossing gates and this requires around 12 turns in the appropriate direction before movement of the gates takes place!

Nottingham SMEE: Part of the miniature lever frame in Little Ruddington West signal box. Just visible left is the supporting frame carrying the level crossing gate wheel.

Just outside the signal box, a second traverser not only transfers locomotives from the intermediate siding to the elevated running line but also moves carriages between the carriage shed and the running line.

David Neish moving his 'Lion' onto the running line using the long traverser which also transfers carriages from the brick carriage shed visible in the background to the running line.

After this second traverser, the line then passes through a wooded area as it negotiates one end of the 'dumb bell'. The curvature and, on my visit, the dampness combined with 'leaves in the line' made this a tricky area for drivers.

Nottingham SMEE: The 'wooded area'.

Emerging from the wooded area, the elevated track passes a garden area which includes an extensive 'Gauge 1' layout on an raised baseboard. The elevated track then runs to the rear of the signal box and, on a long 'back straight', passes the station area.

A Nottingham SMEE member undertakes permanent way maintenance (or prayer?) as Adrian Banks heads for the tunnel on 'Thunderbolt'.

Nottingham SMEE: The rail joints in the 3.5" and 5" gauge track are 'lapped' to allow expansion of the aluminium rail.

The elevated track next passes through the first 'bore' of a '2-bore' tunnel before reversing direction on the second 'dumb bell'. After traversing the second 'bore' of the tunnel the line arrives back at the station area.

Nottingham SMEE: The tunnel section, looking towards the station.

A couple of diesel-outline petrol-engined models - a 2-car Diesel Multiple Unit and a 'Class 20' - gave rides to the public on the 7.25" gauge track.

Sophie, a lady engineer who is a member of Nottingham SMEE, ran her 'Lion' on the elevated track. Her 'Lion' is one of three built some years ago by Robert Clark, who was a respected member of Nottingham SMEE. Having sold one of the three (probably for display), the builder died when still quite young. The brother of the deceased gifted the second 'Lion' to a close friend of the builder. The remaining 'Lion' was offered to members of Nottingham SMEE and it was acquired by Sophie, who already had a number of loco building projects to her credit.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham: Sophie and her friend.

By this time, Jon Swindlehurst with his 'Lion' and a fifth 'Lion' were being prepared for demonstration running.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham: Jon Swindlehurst prepares his 'Lion' with another 'Lion' being steamed in the background.

I took one ride behind Jon (forgetting, despite years of being 'Official Observer' or 'Dynamometrix' during 'Lionsmeet' contests, what a 'fire thrower' his willing model can be - a real "Nor' Wessie" engine!) Demonstration running was suspended when a wide range of sandwiches was revealed for the visitors but after a leisurely break, some models continued to steam whilst other attendees either continued to chat or examined the part-built models on display.

John Hawley showed his part-built 7.25" gauge 'Lion' and the assembled driving wheelset for his 5" gauge 'Lion'. I foolishly originally described the as for his 7.25" 'Lion', forgetting that John had displayed his 5" 'Lion', started by Michael Lee, at the Guildford 'Lionsmeet' in 2015 (described here), when the driving wheelset was a 'kit of parts'.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham: Part-assembled driving wheelset for John Hawley's 5" gauge 'Lion'.

Jon Swindlehurst showed progress on his remarkable 7.25" gauge 'Modified Lion', with Stephenson Link Motion and Balanced Slide Valves. Fabrications have replaced what would normally be castings.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham: Jon Swindlehurst's 'Modified Lion' - view from above showing expansions links and valve rods.

OLCO member David Wilson displayed a modified design of regulator suitable for 'Lion' models. Chairman John Brandrick told me that it is based on the screw-down version described by Martin Evans for 'Simplex' and that Jon Swindlehurst's 'Lion' employs a similar design, not unlike that in the full-size Lion. There's a little about the regulators employed on full-size locomotives, including 'Lion', here.

Lionsmeet 2016, Nottingham: An OLCO Member displayed this modified design of regulator.

The rain had held off during most of the day the day and there were some periods of bright sunshine allowing everybody to enjoy the event.

Related posts on other sites

Lion & The Old Locomotive Committee
The Official Website for Lion & The Old Locomotive Committee.
The Nottingham Society of Model and Experimental Engineers Ltd.
Great Central Railway - Nottingham.

Related posts on this site

By Rail to Nottingham.
All my Old Locomotive Committee posts.

My pictures

Lionsmeet 2016.
All my Old Locomotive Committee pictures.

[Corrected following correspondence with J. Brandrick and J. Hawley: 9-Oct-2016]