Wednesday, March 30, 2011

White Lion

Heljan's latest model of a diesel prototype, D0260 Lion, is now on the shelves and, although I have so far only seen photographs of her, she does look like a stunning model.
The prototype Lion was built in 1962 by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company (BRCW). She was a Type 4 diesel with a Co-Co wheel arrangement and was fitted with a 2,750 HP Sulzer engine. She weighed 114 tons and had a top speed of 100 mph.
She certainly looked striking enough in her coat of white paint with five gold stripes along the body-side, however, I cannot imagine that she stayed white for very long since life on the railways is a dirty business!
Initially Lion began life on the Western Region and was based at Wolverhampton Stafford Road Shed. Later she was moved to Finsbury Park where she worked services from King's Cross.
Sadly, though, her revenue-earning life was short-lived since the decision was made by BR to purchase its new standard Type 4s from Brush Traction and these, of course, became the 500+ strong fleet of Class 47s.
Lion was subsequently withdrawn in November 1963 and, although full details of her fate after withdrawal are somewhat shrouded in mystery, it is known that she found her way to AEI Works at Attercliffe. Here AEI recovered all of their electrical components from the locomotive and, at some stage, Sulzer recovered their 12LDA28C Power Unit and sent it to Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness for reconditioning.

Apparently this power unit was later installed in a production Class 47 but which one this was is not known. The body of D0260 was then sold to scrap merchant T W Ward for around £350 whereupon it was eventually cut up, probably in 1965.
Heljan's model of Lion, like their earlier model of Kestrel, is a Limited Edition of 4,000 pieces and sells for around £100.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Express Some Thoughts

The train standing at Plataforma 4
Why does someone always have to stand in the way?
Inside one of the two 1950s carriages
Alco RS-3 Switcher Locomotive 6001
The train staff befriend their turista inglês
Having only returned from Brazil a little over a week ago there has been no new construction work carried out on the layout, although we did spend an afternoon cleaning track and running trains again after three weeks of inactivity. 
So, with no progress on our model railway to report, I thought I would continue with a few more postings of my various real railway encounters whilst in the land of samba! 
In my previous posting, I stated that I thought we had lost the chance to travel on the Expresso Turistico owing to the fact that it was fully booked on the only Saturday that we were able to travel. Well luck, as they say, favours the bold or, in our case, the determined since, after many enquiries, we finally managed to acquire a pair of tickets that someone had returned!
The Tourist Express commenced operations on 18 April 2009 and is run each weekend from Estação da Luz by the Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM). Every Saturday it visits Jundiai (pronounced zhoon-zhy-ee) whilst each Sunday it alternates between Paranapiacaba and Mogi das Cruzes.
Since our trip was on a Saturday we were bound for Jundiaí where we would have six hours to kill before the return journey. During that time one can either join a CPTM-organized tour of a local fruit farm or do as we did and head for the city centre and, thence, to the Museu da Companhia Paulista de Estradas de Ferro (Railway Museum). This was very interesting but more of that in another posting.  
The time taken for the train to travel the 60 km to Jundiaí is about 75 minutes, which means that, at an average speed of 48 km per hour the term 'express' is a bit of a misnomer! However, having said that, it was a very pleasant journey and the relaxing ride made for a very welcome change from the more usual stresses and strains that is driving in São Paulo! 
I also managed to capture some of the journey on video and I intend to upload a version of this onto YouTube once it has been edited.
Actually the train is great for rail enthusiasts since the windows in the carriages all open sideways (there's no air conditioning) while the doors in the vestibule have no windows at all. A fact that almost got me into trouble since I was leaning out of the 'window' videoing the departure from Jundiaí only to hear frantic calls from the guard in Portuguese who was, I gather, warning me of the possible dangers of leaning out. This did strike me as somewhat incongruous since I had already witnessed the Brazilian attitude to road safety.

Still, once the guard learned that I was English and did not understand all of what he was saying to me, he laughed heartily, firmly shook my hand and promised to come and get me later when the train reached a point where he considered it would be safe to video.
This he did and I have some superb video footage of the train as it approaches a twin-bore tunnel - a very narrow twin-bore tunnel which, had I been leaning out very far, could have proved extremely dangerous - hmmmm!
As for the train itself, it consists of an Alco RS-3, 1,600 HP B-B switcher locomotive and two, 1950's, Brazilian-built stainless steel coaches or cars. 
Forty-six of the RS-3s were purchased in 1952 by the Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil from the Montreal Locomotive Works although I am not sure how many still operate on Brazilian railways today.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Luz The Opportunity?

Luz station in São Paulo
Inside the station
The lights may be green but these cars are going nowhere!
Well, this entry comes to you from Brazil where I am spending two weeks on holiday - this week I am in São Paulo before travelling to Rio on Sunday. Of course, while I am here, I just had to visit a  railway station and the plan was to take a train ride somewhere too.
The station we visited was Luz or, more properly, ´Estação da Luz´ which was the first station to be built in São Paulo.
It was constructed in the late 19th century and was the headquarters of the São Paulo Railway Company. In the first few decades of the 20th Century it was also the main entrance to the city and this gave it a major economic relevance since coffee from Santos was transported via the station. The current building was completed in 1901 with the materials for its construction coming from the UK.
The station was designed by the English architect Henry Driver and designed and produced by Walter MacFarlane & Co of Glasgow. It was actually assembled in Glasgow and then disassembled for transportation to, and reassembly in, São Paulo.
During the 1940s the station caught fire and during the rebuilding process a new floor was added. After that, sadly, rail transport in Brazil declined dramatically and the same can be said for the district of Luz itself which, in turn, led to the degradation of the station.
However, during the 1990s, the building underwent much restoration work and it now looks truly magnificent.
The station is part of the Metropolitan Railway System which is run by the Companhia Paulista de Trens Metropolitanos (CPTM) and, since 2006, it has also housed the Museum of the Portuguese Language.
On visiting the station we noticed advertisements for the Tourist Express which is, in fact, three separate trains that all commence their journeys at Luz station and, then, run to each of three tourist-oriented destinations. However, upon further investigation, we discovered that these trains only run once a week (on Saturdays), have but two carriages per train and are fully booked until April!
So the opportunity to travel by train in Brazil appears to have passed me by for the moment although, apparently, there is a chance that some tickets will be returned prior to departure. However, we will not know until tomorrow so, until then, we will have to keep our fingers crossed. 
Actually, having travelled around São Paulo quite a lot by car during these past few days, it is abundantly clear to me that it is crying out for a decent public transport system. Congestion is horrendous and it can take hours to travel but a few miles at certain times of the day. There is a Metro (underground) system and some overground lines but they are hopelessly inadequate for a city that is, after all, the third largest in the world.

There are also buses, of course, and these do have their own bus lanes but they can, and do, still get caught up in the traffic jams. How this country will cope during the World Cup I cannot begin to imagine. With just over three years to go until kick-off, I truly cannot see them constructing a public transport system that will be anywhere near good enough to handle the many people who will doubtless arrive for football and samba.
Ah well, if it really does prove to be impossible to get to your match, I guess one can always sit back and enjoy the music and the caipirinhas.
Ah, muito bom!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Comings and Goings

As it was going to be our last session in the Shed for a few weeks (of which more later) we decided to finish work a little earlier at the weekend so that we could spend some time simply playing trains - and what fun it was too!
We started by carrying out a variety of shunting operations so that various goods wagons which had been left in the wrong location during previous weeks could be returned to their rightful places. Much better, we thought, than simply moving them by hand!
After this we ran a few passenger trains between Davemoor and Sueston and, in the picture above, we see a busy scene at the latter terminus with 33025 'Sultan' standing at Platform 2 having just brought in a semi-fast consisting of BR blue and grey Mk 1s. 
Meanwhile, at Platform 3, there is a rake of Cumbrian Coast Express chocolate and cream coaches with D812 'Royal Naval Reserve' at the buffer stop end and 37251 at the far end about to couple up in readiness for the return journey.
Well, as I mentioned earlier, work on the railway will now have to be suspended for a few weeks, as will entries to this blog, since I will be going on a slightly longer journey myself in a couple of days. However, upon coming back and with the better weather (hopefully) with us by then, we will be recommencing in earnest, beginning with the completion of the town area before we start major alteration work on the northern end of the layout such that we can eliminate that annoying 'crawl-through'.
Yes, it will mean a lot of upheaval but, personally, I cannot wait to start!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mini Metro

D5705 at the Worksop Open Day on 1st September 1991
Hattons Model Railways, through Heljan UK, will soon be introducing a model of the Metropolitan-Vickers (or MeteroVick as they were more commonly known) Type 2 diesel locomotive. This is the latest in a growing line of shorted-lived and prototypical diesels that have recently appeared (or are about to appear) in model form.
The prototypes were built as part of the BR Modernisation Plan of 1955 and they were unique on BR in that they had a Co-Bo wheel arrangement, i.e. a 6-wheel bogie at one end and a 4-wheel bogie at the other. This, however, did tend to affect their route availability, due to the different axle loadings, and it also made maintenance somewhat complicated.
Just 20 of these unusual locomotives were built in the late 1950s and they were numbered D5700 - D5719. They were fitted with a Crossley 8-cylinder, two stroke engine which was extremely noisy and which, almost from the start, proved to be unreliable.
The locos were initially assigned to the Midland Region and are best remembered for their use in hauling the overnight 'Condor' express freight trains. They were later to be transferred to Barrow but their continued engine problems led to their early demise in the late 1960s after only 11 years in service. 
All but one of these odd locos was then scrapped by the end of 1969 with the survivor is, I believe, currently on the East Lancs Railway although I am not sure if it is operational or not.
A ready to run model of the Class 28 in OO gauge was produced by Hornby Dublo and a kit form was made by Silver Fox Models but, so far as I am aware, no other ready to run model of the Class 28 has been made since the Hornby Dublo version.
The model will be produced in a variety of liveries, both pristine and weathered, and will be DCC Ready with an 8-pin socket. They should be available in June of this year with an RRP of around £130.