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How much does it cost to stop a train?

What components do I need for a complete vacuum braking system and how much will it cost?

We are frequently asked what items are required to fit vacuum brakes.

There are of course many different types of locomotives and rolling stock so there is no generic answer.

The example solution shown below is based on a narrow-gauge Romulus hauling two eight wheeled wagons. On the loco, all wheels are braked whilst on the wagons just the rear four-wheel bogie is braked.

 

Product Part No. Description Qty Unit Cost Total Cost
PNR-4R Vacuum Ejector No 1

Required to create the vacuum

1 £78.95 £78.95
PNR-1H Vacuum Limiting Valve

Used to set the limit of vacuum in the system

1 £40.95 £40.95
PNR-3P 7¼” Narrow Gauge Progressive Brake Valve with Lap 1 £195.90 £195.90
PNR-2D Vacuum Brake Kit with Trunnion. This version is to allow for fitting in carriages where space may be an issue. 3 £45.70 £137.10
PNR-1C Vacuum Reservoir

To hold a reserve of vacuum without which the brakes would not be able to be applied

3 £17.00 £51.00
PNR-1G Vacuum Release Valve Employed to allow atmospheric air pressure into the vacuum reservoir 3 £12.00 £36.00
PNR-3U Vacuum Gauge – Brass

Two are required, one to show the vacuum in the train pipe and the second to show what is in the reservoir on the loco.

2 £51.80 £103.60
PNR-1E 1/3 Scale Brake Blocks (Set of 4) 3 £15.80 £47.40
PNR-1J T-Hose Connector 6 £1.45 £8.70
PNR-1M BSP Socket 3 £2.00 £6.00
PNR-1L Male Taper Hose 3 £1.85 £5.55
PNR-1I Clear PVC Tube 3 1/16th 4 m £1.15 £4.60
Example Total Including VAT £715.75

Prices correct as at June 2021.

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Baltic Tank 4-6-4 Locomotive

 

At the start of this time of self-isolation, I made a foray down to our garage, where some of our locomotives and rolling stock are housed, along with a variety of other bits and bobs. I was just contemplating one of my father’s miniature steam plants that he must have built way back in the late fifties, and just as I was trying to place where the piece of lino that was on its mounting board was from, my other half pointed out a puce green locomotive.

At first glance, to my untrained eye, she looked rather ungainly a long lanky tank engine with quite small wheels, to make it worse it had a funny sort of Tender truck behind it that I later found out was not a natural pairing for this locomotive. “Odd” I thought, but being no oil painting myself I kept quiet, as hubby launched into an explanation of what this 5” gauge locomotive was and why she was special.

Firstly, her size is unusual as this model is a 5” gauge reproduction of a prototype 5’ 6” broad gauge locomotive so a scaling factor of 1:13.2 has been employed to build this model. Normally for models of standard gauge (4’ 8½” ) a scaling factor of 1:12 or (actually 1: 11.3) for the purist using 1 1/16” to represent 1 foot is employed.

I was informed of this before he told me that she was a model of a Baltic tank 4-6-4 locomotive. She is a 3-cylinder tank engine built originally to service The Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway that was in service between 1886 to 1948. These 4-6-4 tank locomotives were designed and built by Robert Stephenson and Co. and this particular type of locomotive was built between 1928 and 1930. This model Baltic tank engine’s number is 2367 and as it worked on an Argentinean Railway you can see that the number plate is reproduced in the Spanish language Ferro Carril De Buenos Aires Al Pacifico.

Apparently, the name of this “Baltic” locomotive tank engine comes from the very first 4-6-4 tender locomotive, a 4-cylinder compound locomotive designed by Gaston du Bousquet for the Chemin de Fer du Nard in France in 1911. The 4-6-4 was designed and built for the Paris to Saint Petersburg express and so was named after the Baltic sea. This model Baltic tank engine is a copy of one designed and built by Robert Stephenson and Company Ltd, Darlington, engineers, as mentioned above. It was awarded a Highly Commended certificate at the 50th Model Engineer Exhibition, also at a Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition sometime later, and bears a plaque attesting to this on the front just below the smokebox.

I was looking at the 4-6-4 wheel arrangement on hubby’s model Baltic tank locomotive which according to my mentor is a fairly good wheel arrangement for passenger tank locomotives. However, more commonly a 4-6-2 arrangement is often employed. The beauty of a tank engine with carrying wheels at each end of the locomotive is that it can run equally well forwards as backwards and hence does not need to be turned on a turntable. The 4-6-4 is well suited to high speed running across flat terrain because this type of engine has fewer driving wheels than carrying wheels, hence a smaller percentage of the engines weight contributes to traction compared to other engines with more numerous driving wheels. The 4-6-4 is therefore more suited to higher speed passenger travel rather than hauling heavy freight or slogging up sustained grades and inclines.

The 4-6-4T, is essentially the tank locomotive equivalent of the 4-6-0 tender Locomotive, but they have water tanks and coal bunker supported by four smaller wheels trailing behind the engine instead of a tender.

Hubby’s model has three cylinders. The external (outside) cylinders valve gears are Walchaert’s, but the internal (inside) valve gear is Stephenson’s link. The inside cylinder drives an internal crank on the middle axle, as do the outside cylinders so they all drive on the same axle. The middle cylinder sits over the front bogie. This front bogie even has a swing-link system, so it is in effect a self-banking bogie. The turbo generator which can be seen on the images is capable of running the front or rear head lamp depending which way the locomotive is heading on the train. Powerful headlamps were necessary on the routes served by these locomotives, owing to the fact that many parts of this railway were unfenced, and obstacles and wildlife had to be detected early on the route.

The model has a non-prototypical four-wheel coal and water tender which when the removable part of the cab and imitation bunker coal is removed, makes driving much more convenient while adding to the distance that can be covered without stopping. All in all, a lovely model acquired from Robin West of View Models on the understanding that some refurbishment is required to bring it back to its former prize-winning condition.

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Just how low can we go?

We recently had a request for a repeat order for a bar rail chair suitable for ½” x 1” hot rolled steel rail. The last order had been placed in 2005 for an installation in Canada where they do not have access to metric bar rail.

But this re-order came with a rather unusual question: At a track-planning meeting yesterday the question of low-temperature tolerance of your chair material in a Canadian winter was raised. Can you tell me what the usable temperature range is for the chairs please? In our location the extreme low temperature would be about -20C on rare occasions. A normal winter low would be in the -5C to -10C range.

We had to put in quite a bit of research on this alongside the suppliers of the polymer. Although the manufacturers did not specify a minimum usable temperature in their data, we had been given a verbal assurance previously that it would withstand the temperature range requested.

Reassuringly for users of our metric sized chairs, these are also made from the same weather resilient polymer.
So, as we speak, 800 of these chairs are en-route to Canada. We will endeavour to find out how they faired in the depths of a Canadian winter.

The imperial chair is shown below alongside PNR-12K metric bar rail chair and below that in situ in Canada.
We are considering putting the imperial measurement chair into full production and adding to our website as a stock item. Do you think that it would be an item that would be of interest? Please do let us know.

PNP-5P and PNP-12KPNP-5P and PNP-12K

 

Imperial sized bar rail – Canada

 

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Introduction to Vacuum Braking System

It is becoming increasingly important in the interests of safety that passenger-carrying trains should have good automatic (fail safe) brakes.

                   Brake Valve                                                             Vacuum Reservoir                                                         Vacuum Brake Actuator

As on full steam railways the two main choices are between Vacuum and Compressed Air. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

Compressed Air

Advantages: High air pressure means only small brake cylinders are required which can easily be fitted into small spaces on vehicles. Air leaks usually easy to trace.

Disadvantages: Air pump (compressor) always required. Pressure vessels required for reservoirs. Pressure connections required on all pipe work.

Vacuum

Advantages: On steam engines vacuum can be created by a very small ‘ejector’.  No pressure vessels required for reservoirs. Pipe work and connections can be simple plastic push on fittings.

Disadvantages: On none ejector fitted locos a vacuum pump is required. Low air pressure means relatively large brake cylinders (actuators) are required which may be awkward to site. Leaks can be difficult to find.

Because of its inherent simplicity and since most miniature railways and model engineering societies have steam engines, the popular choice is the vacuum braking system.

      Vacuum Ejector                                                        Vacuum Limiting Valve                                               Vacuum Release Valve

How Do They Work?
• The ejector or vacuum pump draws the air from the train pipe, the brake cylinder and the reservoir (via the none-return valve). The brakes will then be off and the system will be in equilibrium.
• The brakes will be kept off by being weight biased or lightly sprung. Please refer to the diagram.
• Letting air back into the train pipe via the drivers brake valve or a pipe disconnection the air pressure acting on the underside of the piston or, in this case diaphragm, will push the piston up and pull on the brakes.
• Since the vacuum on the upper side of the piston is trapped by the none return valve the vacuum must be recreated in the train pipe to release the brakes.
• Similarly when the loco is removed and the brakes need to be released to shunt the train this trapped vacuum can be destroyed by opening the release valve.

See our working schematic of a Vacuum Braking System

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Make ’em look rusty they said………………

t’s a bit of a juxtaposition really. Manufacturing a brand-new product and then getting very intense and spending a not inconsiderable sum of money to make them look aged, weather beaten and corroded. But that’s exactly what we did with our PNP railways chairs.

It’s very important to us, and I’m sure you, that everything about your miniature railway looks as authentic as possible. So, we kept at it, varying the colour blend, moulding hundreds of chairs and then lining them up on a big bench to see if we had achieved the look we were after, until eventually we were happy. What I mean is we kept at it until the boss was happy. They really do look like the real thing. (Why does that make me thirsty?)

Rusty Chairs

 

 

 

 

But one thing that, thankfully, isn’t authentic, is the price. A collection of five cast iron railway chairs is on offer on E-bay at £300! You can get one of our chairs for as little as £0.13, which you could look at it as a saving of 99.96%. What a bargain.

So, six words that you, and definitely I, need to remember about chairs:

Wood – Plastic – Screw – Clip – Surrey – Bar

Wood: Because we make plastic chairs that can be mounted on wooden sleepers

Plastic: I think you can guess this one, but just to be thorough: We make plastic chairs that can be used with our own plastic sleepers.

Screw: We make chairs that be fixed to either wooden or plastic sleepers using screws. and are suitable for light and heavy use including club and commercial environments,

These are ideal for garden railways and indeed club use if 5/8″x 5/8″ rail is considered adequate for the weight and traffic to be handled.

Surrey: We make a standard scale or narrow-gauge Surrey rail chair to go with our 5.2ib yard flat bottom steel rail. These have a 3° cant and are for use with our 7¼”plastic sleepers or can be mounted on wooden sleepers.

Bar: Because I’m really getting ready for a drink……………….We can supply chairs to secure 10x20mm or 12x30mm bar rail to either our plastic sleepers or wooden sleepers.

PNP Rail Chairs

The other thing that my boss told me to mention is that all our chairs are manufactured using a very tough, rot and frost resistant and UV stabilised polymer. In English that means they are made from hard wearing plastic. Oh, and you will also benefit from automatic gauge widening if you mount our plastic chairs on our plastic sleepers.

There is more, isn’t there always? And pictures and diagrams and technical stuff with words like “gauge” and measurements but if you want to immerse yourself in that then why not take a look at pnp-railways.co.uk  and immerse away.

NB When I say “our” plastic chairs and sleepers that is because we really do manufacture them, right here in our factory in a very pretty part of the Cotswolds called Woodchester from whence I pen this article.

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A teen, steam and a tall dark stranger. – Romantic Railways

I thought that you might like to hear a little about “this narrator” and how my fondness for steam developed.

My other half has a 5” gauge model of a 2’ 6” narrow gauge steam locomotive built in 1953. It is a replica of the last ever narrow gauge loco to be built for industrial use in the UK. The original is one of seven similar engines constructed in the 1950’s, the other six were exported to South Africa. It is an unusual design of locomotive and the model is named as the original, and I wonder if anyone can guess what it is?

I am the only child of an industrial chemist and a stay at home mum (back in the late fifties and early sixties most mothers stayed at home). My father, however, was also an avid steam enthusiast and dabbling model engineer. We spent our holidays with my maternal grandmother on the Mid Wales border in Oswestry. From here we made day trips out to all the great little trains of Wales. I think my father would have liked to have had a son, but undeterred, he explained all the basic principles of the steam engine to me, and as I mentioned in my very first report on The Brecon Mountain Railway, I spent many a happy hour in the garage with him as he worked on his little Myford Lathe.

Fortunately, my mathematics was reasonably good, and science has always interested me more than the arts. It was not until I became a teenager, however, that steam started to creep into my soul. Up until the age of thirteen steam trips for me had been a pleasant and fascinating holiday pastime to indulge my rather fanatical father.

It was one early Autumn evening, most probably a Tuesday, when dad arrived home from work to find that mum was going out, clashing with his expected attendance at a meeting of the Stroud Society of Model Engineers. After a slight debate, as to whether I could be left in the house alone, I found myself in Dad’s car heading towards the outskirts of Stroud to an abandoned Work House, where the then newly formed society had leased some space to set up a club room and machine shop. I had homework with me and Dad suggested that I stay in the car and finish my work. “Not a chance” as soon as he disappeared I was out of the car exploring the huge building and its surroundings.

About twenty minutes later, I was balancing on a log, rocking to and fro, gazing at the Cotswold scenery, from what served as the car park, when a rather smart sports car pulled up, and a tall, skinny, dark haired young man jumped out, and tugging his hand through his thick dark hair, rushed into the building. I think it was the car that piqued my interest, a harvest gold MGBGT (that my father later called an upholstered roller skate).

I hopped off the log and followed the young man inside. What a delight drilling machines, a big lathe an assortment of bits and bobs all strewn around as about eight men tried to make order of their recent acquisitions. Even at this early stage it smelt like a machine shop, that whiff of oil and hot swarf. Needless to say, I did not complete my homework that night, I spent the remainder of the evening wielding a broom, clearing floor space for machines to be pushed or hoisted in. I am not sure how good a job I did, because I kept one beady eye on the skinny dark-haired young man.

To raise funds for their club, volunteers attended all the summer fete’s in the area. Arriving the evening prior to the fete and laying a straight length of portable track of dual gauge 3½” and 5”. Returning on fete day with either a 5” 0-6-0 tank engine with Baker valve gear, or a beautiful 3½” gauge Great Western 4-6-0 County class engine built by Gordon Jones, one of the first club members. Two running coaches that could seat about four or five children linked up behind to form the train and we were in business.

The very first fete I attended was, I think, where my awe of steam locomotives really began. To see an engine being lit and fired up, coming to life in front of your eyes is quite a sight to behold. A lovely aesthetic inert ornament turns into a warm living chattering animal, with a glowing fire in its belly and a life all its own.

At these fete’s I would help children on and off the coaches and sit at the back to avoid anyone falling off. Elf and Safety was laxer in the 70’s. One society member’s son did fall of the back of the train when we attended an away day at another club. It was a raised track and he was only about 3 ½ years old. When his mother finally reached him, he was screaming and protesting very loudly, not because he was hurt, but because the train was going on without him. That toddler today is also an avid model engineer and steam buff.

On rainy days I often sat behind the driver, sometimes this was my father, who would be smoking a cigar (Elf and Safety!!) holding an umbrella over his head as we ran up and down the track with no passengers trying to attract some children onto the ride.

At the end of the fete when all the children had gone home, there would often be a fire remaining under the boiler and some steam would still be available to power the train. I was the kid begging at the side of the track to be allowed to drive the engine and, oddly enough, they let me. To begin with the owner of the 0-6-0 tank engine sat behind me instructing me and modifying my speed as we romped up and down the track. As I grew older he would still sometimes sit behind me taking his seat after running his hands through his thick dark hair.

Perhaps it was not only the steam that I found so attractive!!!!

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“A Spirit of Adventure in the Forest” – A visit to Perrygrove Miniature Railway in the Forest of Dean.

Saturday 4th August 2018 was another beautiful sunny day.

We decided to take a brief excursion down to The Perrygrove Railway. Having packed some cold drinks and a few sandwiches we headed off towards Coleford in The Forest of Dean.It was not a long trip and very soon we were pulling off the road into a large shady car park. As I killed the car’s engine, we herd the resonating “toot toot” of a steam loco.

The sound made us both smile as we headed up the track towards the entrance. We were greeted by the sight of a Hunslet named “Jubilee”, stationary, in a siding. We purchased two tickets in the booking office and finding we had a little time to spare we decided to buy hot beverages and eat our picnic outside the booking office and small café.

The walls of the buildings were adorned with some lovely informative bill boards. One particular board caught my eye, “Explore Lydia’s Boiler”. This showed a diagrammatic view of a steam boiler and gave a simple but clear explanation as to how a steam engine actually works. It seemed to me that Perrygrove has made a big effort to entertain and educate young children. They have an adventure playground including a tree house. Youngsters are also encouraged to take part in a treasure trail.

The engine shed was closed, much to our disappointment, as we would have liked to have seen ” Soony” an American 0-4-0 Baldwin Switcher Tender loco that he knew was housed at Perrygrove (I get all these extra snippets of information being married to an enthusiast). The Soony is only brought out on very special occasions as it is a small engine and is unsuitable to pull heavy loads.

 

Picnic finished, it was not long before an 0-6-0 freelance narrow gauge loco “The Spirit of Adventure” chugged into the station. My hubby informed me that she was built by “The Exmore Steam Railway” in 1993 and that she had Walschaerts valve gear. We then had quite a debate as I suggested that she was a Pannier tank engine and hubby declared that she was a side tank engine (can anyone settle this argument for us?). Debate aside I do have a soft spot for Steam engines and I thought she was exquisite, beautifully presented with a very tidy cab.

The Guard, a very jolly chap, found us a free seat in one of the five carriages and we hopped aboard. Green flag waved and whistle blown we were off on a meandering route that doubled back past the station and on through fairly dense woodland, clearing a little at Rookwood Halt were we paused for a while. Setting off again we meandered on up, arriving at Oakiron where the loco was uncoupled and ran to the other end of the train for the return journey. Many families with young children alighted here to picnic by the adventure play area. This is a very child friendly railway.

The return journey was equally as pleasant for us two old fogies who remained on board. Back at Perrygrove I purchased a couple of Christopher Vine “Peter’s Railway” books. I was very impressed by the selection that they held. I also treated hubby and myself to a huge ice cream.

We arrived home and my husband immediately went onto the internet and found me a picture of “The Soony”. I shall definitely be heading down to the Forest of Dean when they next bring her out for the day.