Friday, 25 January 2013

The great unloading!

As promised some pictures of the delivery of concrete blocks. Now normally this would prove a rather boring and hardly newsworthy item, but when you ask the driver to load directly onto 2ft narrow gauge wagons it's a bit more interesting. With each pack weighing about 1 tonne the whole train including simplex was near 7 tonnes and with the wet rails made for interesting driving, no sand needed though!

The blocks will provide enough square meters for the construction of the entire facilities extension. It is hoped that we will build up to DPC at the beginning of February and then complete the floor slab in time for opening in March.

Watch this space for developments!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Latest developments

Since new year the weather has gone from being wet to cold and snowy and now back to wet again.

Indoors Bill has been working away forming new hand rails around the sissons and robey engines. The robey engine has also been receiving its final coats of JCB yellow with black details. It is now by far the brightest engine in the collection.

On the extensions front, concrete blocks are being delivered later this week. Some 1500! These will stacked alongside the railway in the car park to enable us to move them on trucks to near the site. Storage space is lacking and this option is by far the most fun! In total there will be 21 packs, 4 of which will be loaded directly onto railway flat wagons. Pictures of this later on Friday. The trucks have been prepared ready for the load.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Back to the grind...

Only a few days since we were in steam we are back to our winter jobs! Today saw a range of tasks carried out with unfortunately most of them failing!

First order of the day was to attempt to use our road compressor to start the 33 litre single cylinder crossley Diesel engine. For a bit of background history the engine was used for mixing chlorine with reservoir water before shooting off down the mains pipe. The engine is designed to be started on compressed air at a pressure of 250psi. This was achievable until last year when our air receiver which has to be tested along with our steam boiler was condemned due to high levels of rusting in its base. A new cylinder would be costly plus the compressor used to reach 250psi (100psi higher than your average garage/workshop compressor) was on its last legs.

The answer was believed to run the 150psi road compressor into the engine. Although it is of lower pressure the road compressor can keep up a higher volume than the old air receiver. Initial experiments found that with one pipe connected it wouldn't work, so today an additional connection was made so that from the compressor manifold two large bore flexible pipes fed in to the crossley engine. Unfortunately this didn't prove to make it any better and efforts were quickly abandoned.

With that excitement over, we turned our attention to the wood burning stove. As you may know from previous posts this has given us trouble. The chimney doesn't draw enough to stop a rather leaky tortoise stove from filling the tea room with smoke. So a blast pipe was put up the chimney and driven from an electric blower. Fire was lit, and although an improvement was seen it really wasn't worth the effort... Take 2...

Forget the whole lot and start again! A quick wander around the site made us realise we had a better fire. An old vertical boiler has stood outside for years and really could do with being put to use. The inspector had condemned it as not fit for restoration so work will now begin on installing it in the tea room with a vertical flue through the roof with no bends all in time for next winter! To add to the effect in the tea room the boiler will be cosmetically restored with glass water sight gauges, blow down valve, pressure gauge and for the amusement of the visiting public a temperature gauge as well!

We did at least get some gardening done, an old elder tree was cut back to shoot again in the spring, everyone should have a narrow gauge railway to help clear up, makes it much more fun! See pics below.

Next week will see another series of one step forward two steps back!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Sandfields Pumping Station - Show Your Support

I have just received an email from David Moore who has asked me to post this:

Sandfields Pumping Station in Lichfield is a unique heritage site; however at this moment in time it is lacking public support. To save this valuable site is not a complicated process, it does not need vast amounts of money, or does it need a vast amount of your precious time, it only a show of needs public support.

It needs people to say, in a loud and clear voice 'It is worth saving'; you can do this by simply saying so. Visit my blog, write a comment, visit some of the links, register an interest, it's as simple as that.


David Moore

To find out more about this impressive pumping station and show your support please visit the blog at some images are below but you can see the whole set here at

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Visitor Experiences

Many thanks to Anne Farmer for this article written after a visit to the museum on New Years Day! Enjoy!

Water, water everywhere

Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the ancient Mariner’, containing this famous line, has been on our collective minds recently.

Much of Somerset started 2013 under the stuff (water) so it was almost de rigueur to pay a visit on New Year’s day to Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum, off the still-flooded A361. The Pumping Station was, as the aficionados say, ‘Under Steam’, and the star of the show was the original Easton Amos Land Drainage Machine, which used to pump water off the flooded levels at a rate of 100 tons a minute.

Power for this and a the hugely diverse range of other engines is provided by another monster, the woodfired Marshall Portable Boiler – though it didn’t seem all that portable to me with a thirty-foot chimney belching black smoke and devouring great lumps of timber in its fiery furnace.

This was the first pumping station built on the Somerset Levels in 1831, to lift water from the Moors and Levels into the River Parrett and ultimately into the sea. Flooding is endemic to the area, as natural drainage is impeded by a belt of clay to the North, and the high tides of the Bristol Channel.

The monks of Glastonbury Abbey had dug rhynes in the thirteenth century, but their work ceased with the dissolution of the monasteries. Modern attempts to tame the water date from an 1830 Act of Parliament setting up the drainage district of Othery, Middlezoy and Westonzoyland.

Eventually the banks of the Parrett were raised and in 1951 the Easton Amos was retired in favour of a modern diesel-powered pump situated across the rhyne. The buildings and machinery were saved from dereliction by the Westonzoyland Engine Trust formed in 1977.

There was much else on display too, manned by a marvellous body of volunteers in what seems to be the uniform – interesting hats (more bowlers than you ever see in the City now) waistcoats and neckerchiefs ( preferably worn with a rascally smudge of soot on the cheek). I loved the forge, where the last blacksmith worked until 1955, leaving beautifully arranged tools on the wall as if he’d just popped out for a cuppa.

The human scale of the enterprise is also evident in the ‘Leaning Loo’, now public but formerly the domain of the station attendant. Soft ground has resulted in giving ‘a whole new meaning to the term “listed building”!’( Thanks to the brochure for that one!) You don’t have to be a qualified engineer (or ever to have possessed a meccano set) to appreciate all this local colour and enthusiasm.

But as a reminder that amid this History there is a clear and present problem, half a mile upstream were huge temporary pumps that are currently whooshing thousands of gallons of floodwater into the River Parrett at Burrowbridge. It is an awesome sight, and a reminder that often the forces of Nature often seem to gain the upper hand. Our current difficulties are set firmly in their historical context by a visit to the pumping station, which is open every Sunday afternoon, and In Steam on the first Sunday of the month from April to November, and most Bank Holidays. One more thought - When does the Drought start?

Anne Farmer

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Years Day

Well it was certainly a busy start to 2013! Not only do we steam up right in the middle of our shutdown/maintenance period but also played host to a few guests at this years New Years Day Steam Up!

Set up along the Rhyne bank was a 43m length of 5 inch gauge railway on trestles from the West Huntspill Model Engineers Society. They bought with them one electric locomotive and one steam loco and gave rides to visitors of all ages throughout the afternoon. We extend our thanks to the society for joining us and we hope to host them and the railway again at Steam on the Levels 2013 on the 18th & 19th of May.

We were also greeted by a nice surprise as Ron Darch & Sons Princess Victoria Traction Engine arrived and spent the afternoon parked in the courtyard next to our Marshall Steam Boiler. Thanks go to the drivers for popping in and we hope to also see them back at Steam on the Levels.

With all that going on one would think nothing else was happening, but you would be wrong! The railway ran tirelessly all day supplying wood to the boiler where the stokers kept the pressure all afternoon. Volunteers kept all the steam engines running smoothly and to a new timetable to help reduce steam consumption, Ian lit the forge and could be seen beating hot bits of steel. And in the tea room visitors were fed with homemade cakes and hot cups of tea or coffee!

Thanks to all that helped make 2012 a great year and to those that will hopefully make 2013 an even better year!