Monday, 31 December 2007

Welcome and a Happy New Year to you all

We are at last ready to go live with our new 'blog' which will keep you up to date with our Railway. We hope you find it of interest and we look forward to seeing you on one of our Open Days, you will be assured of a warm welcome.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

ALRC Locomotive No 6: Lucille

Waiting for the 'right away' on the September 2007 Open Day. Photo: Gemma Beck


This locomotive is a 3-inch to the foot (1/4 scale) model of Elidor, a Hunslet 0-4-0 designed by Alan Ruston. It was bought from David Day of Yaxham on 26 June 2004 by two members of the ALR, Stephen Smith and Alan Ball.

At the time it was named Daibach but this was quickly changed to Dumplin, a name that its new owners thought more appropriate for its Norfolk home. At the same time it was allotted the number 6 to fit it into the ALR stock list.

Regrettably Stephen left the ALR in May 2006; Alan became the sole owner and decided that another change of name was needed. With the surname of Ball, Alan had only one that sprang immediately to mind, it had to be Lucille. Currently undergoing maintenance work, Lucille will be repainted during the spring and should be ready to run at the start of the 2008 season.

22 December 2007: work & running session

Thunderbox stands ready for a trip...

Hotspur coasting into Platform 1...

Lucille runs past the new junction to Eastgate Halt...

Hotspur leaves Platform 1 heading for Laurel Sidings.....

Trackwork progressing at the start of the Stage 3 route...

Looking across the newly dug lake towards the site of Eastgate Halt...

New trackwork coming off Stage 1 onto Stage 3.....

Some of the Gang making track sections in the workshop...

Stage Three



We have started work on our third stage which will create a further run of some 230 metres from a triangular junction off 'Stage One' down to Eastgate Halt, where there will be a through platform and bay, together with an engineer's siding where materials for the railway can be delivered from the adjacent Stone Lane. The route will then return via a loop around the 'Lake' and over a flat crossing back onto our existing trackwork into Ashmanhaugh Station. We hope that this section will be operational in time for our August Open Day... 2008 that is!

ALRC Locomotive No 4: The General


The General was constructed by Norman Duffield and his brother-in-law Reg Ives in 1992 for use on the Little Melton Light Railway (LMLR). It was built as petrol electric locomotive using a Briggs and Stratton 3hp engine and alternator to charge two 70 amp-hour batteries. These powered a 24 volt 747watt (One HP) permanent magnet motor. The rear bogie mounted motor uses a chain to drive a lay-shaft; this in turn chain drives the two axles. The other bogie is free running and fitted with a parking brake that operates on all four wheels.

After a very successful period on the LMLR, The General was transferred to the Ashmanhaugh Light Railway in the spring of 2003, retaining its original number. There it performed extremely well on a level line, running all day at the ALR opening day without the engine being needed to maintain the battery charge. Because of low current draw it was considered that a full charge should be sufficient to run the loco for a full day before the batteries needed re-charging. Consequently the loco was modified to being solely electrically powered, although its battery capacity was doubled to 140 amp-hours. It was also decided to carry out a complete overhaul and rebuild so that the larger members of the Club could get into the cab! In order to achieve this, the bogies were reversed, the power bogie now being at the front.

The project commenced on 17 Jan 04 with the locomotive being totally dismantled. All appropriate components were painted using Hammerite smooth of various colours. The re-assembled chassis was completed on 7 February and pushed out of the shed for a photographic session. On 16 March it emerged from the workshop complete apart from painting. This was completed in time for the first anniversary of the Ashmanhaugh Light Railways’ opening and The General was at last on parade and working hard. Since then the loco has been the mainstay of the ALR having run more hours than the rest of the fleet put together.

ALRC Locomotive No 1: Thunderbox



Bob Brett who was the founder and owner of the Little Melton Light Railway (LMLR) commissioned David King of Suffield to build a locomotive. It was completed in February 1989 and the locomotive was given the name Thunderbox because of the hole in the seat. It was the first locomotive to trundle through Melton Wood Junction when the LMLR was opened on 22 April 1989.

It is powered by a Honda CD 200 motor cycle engine which drives an Eaton 6/7 hydrostatic unit (combined hydraulic pump and motor) via a chain from the gearbox. The output shaft of the unit is fitted with a sprocket driving a chain to the rear axle of the front bogie. This in turn drives the front axle of the bogie by a separate chain. The engine, hydraulic unit and bogie form a completely self contained assembly attached to the locomotive only by the bogie pivot. The rear bogie is free running and is fitted with parking brake acting on all four wheels. The all timber body is made of sweet chestnut. Because of the untimely death of Bob Brett the LMLR closed on March the 24th 2002 after almost fifteen years of operation.

On the 12 October 2002, Thunderbox was bought and transferred to the ALR. It was given the number 1 because it was the first locomotive owned by the Railway. It was kept under cover in the engine shed until the summer of 2004 awaiting the necessary manpower to restore it to full working order. Work began by overhauling the fuel system and on the 29 June the engine ran properly for the first time since arriving on the ALR, albeit using a 12v battery for the starter motor and a separate 6v one for the ignition.

Since then the electrical system has been completely up-graded to 12v, although the starter motor is still the original 6V model. A 70AH battery is now housed in a compartment at the rear of the loco; this compartment also contains a key operated isolation switch in the positive lead so that the electrical system is effectively dead when the key is removed.

Thunderbox is unique with a style of its own; you either like it or loathe it. Although one or two of the ALRC members who initially disliked its appearance, have since had a change of heart. 0n our first anniversary open day held in July 2004 we were visited by the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Bure Valley Railway, David Phillips, in his case it was love at first sight.

ALRC Locomotive No 3: Hotspur



Built by the Valentine Welding & Engineering Co. Enterprise Works, Northamptonshire for Norman Duffield to use on the Little Melton Light Railway (LMLR), it was delivered in August 1997. It was named Hotspur because that was the name of the Britannia class locomotive that Norman’s father-in-law used to drive out of Norwich to London, Liverpool Street. However, unlike its standard gauge namesake, it was not built to a very good standard and it went to Dave King of Suffield who managed to solve the problems and get it steaming.

The locomotive finally entered service at the end of October 1997 and ran for five years on the LMLR until the Railway finally closed in 2002. Then in 2003 Norman, who played a major part in starting the ALR, accepted an invitation to stable ‘Hotspur’ at Ashmanhaugh where it arrived in July 2003. It became No.3 on the ALR stock register and ran until it failed on 3 June 2004 when one of the boiler tubes sprang a leak. It was decided that a complete re-tube was needed and this was done by Graham Bird, a coded welder often employed to carry out similar work for the Bure Valley Railway.

During its time out of commission the opportunity was taken to carry out a complete overhaul and extensive modification program. On completion the loco was steamed again on 13 August 2005 and issued with its two year boiler certificate on 5 October. Thenceforth it ran quite well but a significant improvement was made on 15 April 2006 when the grate was replaced by an in house designed stainless steel one. This had a very different fire-bar air-gap ratio from the previous item and steaming improved dramatically.

From then on Hotspur ran faultlessly until after the 2006 Gala Day when further modifications were embodied to enhance the driving position and improve the weight distribution over the driving wheels. It returned to service after just a couple of weeks and continued to run well until it was taken out of service for the winter and to effect further improvements. These have included fitting needle roller bearings in the coupling and connecting rods, refining the valve gear fly-cranks and the valve timing. Its boiler certificate was renewed for a further two years in September 2007.

Friday, 21 December 2007

About The Ashmanhaugh Light Railway

Photo: Gemma Beck

The closure of the 7¼ inch gauge Little Melton Light Railway [LMLR] on 24 March 2002, was the catalyst for the Ashmanhaugh Light Railway [ALR] to be built. By 16 May, a group of ten enthusiasts had defined a set of objectives to build the ALR and bought most of the equipment from Little Melton. Initially just enough LMLR track was lifted to build Stage One, and this together with most of the rolling stock was transported to Ashmanhaugh.

Because all the sleepers were rotten over 250 yards of track and points were built from scratch. The track bed was dug out, lined with weed-proof membrane and the track laid. In addition to pure railway construction work, we designed and built our fully-equipped clubroom complete with kitchen and toilet facilities.

An awful lot of work, but nevertheless we managed to run our first train round Stage One on 26 July giving us just enough time to fine tune it for our first passenger services on our Opening Day on the 9 August 2003.

Our next objective was to recover the rest of the track from Little Melton - this task was completed with the last track panel being dismantled by 10 January 2004. The rails and fixing screws were all cleaned, examined and fettled as necessary before being rebuilt into new panels. All the rails needed for curves being worked through an in house designed and built, hand-operated machine that 'sets' the rail to the required radius.

While this was going on other members had built a comprehensive workshop and a loco shed with 90 feet of inset track. The purchase of an old South Bend lathe enabled the wheels of most of the rolling stock to be re-profiled, so providing passengers with a smoother ride and being kinder to the track.

A turf cutter was hired and the entire track-bed for Stage Two and the carriage sidings de-turfed in just one Saturday morning. Track laying started on 26 June 2004 and our first train ran round Stage Two late in the afternoon of 17 July.

An average of eight members having laid just over 250 yards of track and four points in five days, so doubling the track length in 12 months, just in time for our 2004 Open Day. This gave our passengers double the length of ride they had enjoyed the previous year.

During this time we had also built a nine-coach carriage shed together with associated sidings. Construction work then slowed a little because we wanted to play with our big boys’ toys, practice and gain experience. Nevertheless, we still managed to hold an Open Day in 2005 and again in 2006, by then the signal box and all the signals had been designed and built and installed.

Additionally, one steam locomotive (Hotspur), and one electric locomotive (The General) had been completely rebuilt and by 2007 we planned and were ready to hold not one but six Open Days. Unfortunately the July event had to be cancelled because of water-logged ground, but despite that over 2,000 passengers were carried during the five days the railway was open during the summer.

Monday, 10 December 2007

ALRC Locomotive No.5: The Sergeant

This locomotive was built in 1998 by a Mr Tully of Wantage, Oxfordshire, and named Fred. Designed for use on a fairly level railway, it was later moved to another with steeper gradients. Unfortunately, Fred was too low powered for this and was put up for sale. He was bought by the Gilham family as a surprise gift for Ken's 60th birthday, Ken being a very enthusiastic founder member of the Ashmanhaugh Light Railway.

Now resident on a new railway and having a new owner, Fred became The Sergeant, partly because it was dwarfed by the ALR’s The General and partly because Ken was a Sergeant in the St John Ambulance. (he has moved onwards & upwards since and is now a Divisional Officer !)

To complete the package and extend The Sergeant’s range, a driving trolley was designed and built at the ALR in which an additional, wired in parallel battery is carried. This trolley entered service on the 30 June 2007.