RUSPER MODEL RAILWAY CLUB
Once again a session was held in the bright summer sunshine, with the temperature feeling a few degrees above the low 20s which the forecast had suggested. It certainly felt considerably warmer than that in shed 3! Once again I was allocated to Newdigate Road, and I was glad to have the opportunity to sit closer to the door and the resulting occasional breeze.
Newdigate Road is a pleasant little station to operate with not too much complexity apart from the occasional freight shunt into the front sidings across the station throat and the odd terminating service [which I tend to store in Platform 1 until a new duty calls]. It is something of a relief that sending trains round to Glovers Lane does not require the use of bell codes due to the proximity of one’s fellow operator, so I only have Russ Hill and Smallfield to ring through to, which helps as I am still fairly new to bell working. Over the course of the day I fell into the general rhythm of things, with the occasional stressful period caused by the bottleneck at Smallfield having operational repercussions further down the line. These issues were very minor; however, compared to the havoc caused when the main line bell between Glovers Lane and Charlwood decided to cease working, causing the clocks to be stopped for some time until it was fixed.
In addition to this, the main clock in Shed 6 started to run backwards, causing further delays just before lunch. Eventually things were fixed and a lengthy afternoon session got going. The heat continued to increase, and caused further problems – the flexitrack between Newdigate Road and Smallfield started to buckle and distort in the direct sunlight, and I had to pin a particularly recalcitrant section back down temporarily, and re-align the track in another. Despite these issues and a period where I slid ten to fifteen minutes behind schedule at one point, I managed to successfully get through all the timetabled workings required.
However, I also was unintentionally the direct cause of another operational problem late on in the session. To add some personal operational interest to Newdigate Road’s steady routine, I sometimes place a light engine in one of the front sidings, either fulfilling the general role of impromptu station pilot or kept in reserve should any train that passes through need extra assistance or a loco changeover. Newdigate Road also has its own timetabled light engine movements and therefore I sometimes change over these locos with the one in the front sidings for variety. So it came to pass that late in the afternoon session the POP sausage train came through from Russ Hill, bound for Ortons Junction and the main line. As it was a heavy train, I felt that the Standard Class 5 on the front could do with a little extra assistance, and at this point a Standard 4 tank was resting in the front siding. It was late in the day and I felt no more need for a lone engine to be sitting around the yard with nothing to do, so in what I felt was a passable copy of prototype practice I put the tank onto the front of the POP, and sent it on its way, theorising that the pilot engine might come in useful in Shed 1 should they need it, and that as there was no space in the timetable to send it down on its own I might as well give it ‘working passage’ to Hookwood. Little did I know that the siding in Shed 1 which holds the POP has very little leeway for anything other than a single locomotive on this particular train, and I had now just gifted the Shed 1 operators an unwanted extra engine which they had to try and fit in to their busy schedule. Apparently the POP arrived in Shed 1 at the same time as a collision, and the extra complexity of the double heading was understandably not appreciated. My apologies to the operators - it just goes to show how tightly knit the Rusper timetable is, and how seemingly innocuous movements in one shed can have a big knock-on effect further down the line.
Locomotive-wise, there were some surprise workings on both the main line and the branch. The daily Pullman express duties were shared by Class 73 E6003 and Rebuilt Merchant Navy Class 35020 ‘Bibby Line’, both new sightings on the main line, although the Class 73 had been seen on some branch line workings the previous month. In addition, there were further sightings of the ex-LNWR Super D heavy goods loco on both the locomotive coal and the milk trains, although the number was not recorded. An unusual working was the appearance of a Lord Nelson class working the stopping NB1 service, presumably on a running in turn after a general overhaul. Most notable though was surely the sighting of preserved A3 class 4472 ‘Flying Scotsman’, resplendent in LNER apple green livery, being piloted through Newdigate Road by an N2 tank hauling the empty stock of what must have been a private enthusiasts’ charter special.
In addition several ex-LSWR O2 Class tank engines were to be observed hauling local stopping services. However, Rusper is not kind to four-coupled wheelbase locomotives, as I found out when running my Adams Radial tank several sessions ago, and the little O2 tanks struggled severely with the steep gradients between Sheds 2 and 3, the lack of adequate adhesion really telling. That said they did add a further unusual flavour to the general diet of BR DMUs, railcars, EMUs and Standard class locomotives which generally make up the local services.
Overall a good session, if quite intense at times, and the heat did seem to fray a few nerves here and there. Hopefully there will be somewhat more temperate weather conditions for the next session.
On a final note, this month saw the opening of the new Glovers Lane signal box, which I have spent the last fortnight or so rebuilding as a personal project. The old cardboard freelance box was looking very tired and ragged, so I elected upon a complete rebuild, again of freelance design. I started with the wooden block core of the old structure and built it up with Slaters brick plasticard, various pieces cannibalised from old Triang buildings, and whatever scraps of card, plastic and other bits I could find. A [very] quick weathering job and it now sits happily at the platform end of the station, towering over the yard. It’s the first time I’ve seriously scratch built anything for a while, so the result is quite pleasing. The only thing is that now I’m looking at the tired Superquick canopies on the main Glovers Lane platforms and thinking about rebuilding them too....