Sutton Coldfield MES (SCMES) - private Little Hay Railway
Tuesday 31st May 2016
Having, despite 60 years residence in the 'Royal Town', never visited this local railway (which is somewhat remote from its town and actually nearer Shenstone), this fixture was not to be missed! The layout is described in Peter Scott's handbook as 'complex' and 29 members attended. Three trains were laid on operating simultaneously and starting at 18.15 for early arrivals. 'Great Northern' 280A, a 7¼" gauge American diesel outline loco running on 700yd of mixed 5/7¼" gauge track, hauled a mainline train with two sit-astride coaches. Starting from P2 of Little Hay Low Level station, adjacent to the clubhouse, it ran via a short tunnel then alongside the main line before crossing to it at Pool Jn via an 'unusual' crossover. A complete perimeter circuit of the site followed, then an 'unusual' crossover to the inner loop, before diverging right to return to the station. Passing through P2 again, this time the train continued straight ahead at Pool Jn to follow the inner loop, converging with the outer one at the site entrance level crossing. It continued on via Pool Jn again to terminate back at P3.
LMS Pacific 6220 'Coronation' in blue-liveried streamlined condition.
This train's running was periodically interrupted by the second train's manoeuvres which covered the various sidings and branches connected to the running lines. Also formed of two riding vehicles, it was hauled by 'Hymek' D7101 'George Weedon'. A route description without a diagram would not be very illuminating. Suffice it to say that station P1 was included, sidings at both ends of the station, both turntable approaches (and onto it for some trips), the shed and workshop sidings at the east side of the site and (not previously covered by passenger carrying trains) the lengthy west loading line.
Within the area bounded by the station, the shed and Pool Junction is a slightly elevated 460ft long line of very mixed gauge (2½/3½/5") with a third train was running. It was hauled by live steam engine, LMS Pacific 6220 'Coronation' in blue-liveried streamlined condition. This needed periodic attention to its working but the ride round two circuits from Little Hay High Level (there are no sidings) was quite fast and exhilarating. The total distance with a trip on each of the three trains was about 1½ miles.
The modern simulator of the system in the Club House.
Virtually all track on site was covered other than a second loading siding which was only accessible from the turntable via a flat crossing of the running lines and the track inside the shed gates. Other points of interest included the signalling, a modern simulator of the system in the Club House and a 'G Gauge' (45mm) outdoor model railway layout inside the elevated circuit. The finale, which certainly lifted spirits in the light rain, was a ride on the unusual vertical carriage lift normally used for ECS (and demonstrated to be able to carry at least 17 people effortlessly). The riding vehicles are stabled on several levels in the shed, the 'basement' is very rare indeed and only used by the lift for the annual firework night event, the busiest day of the year with all available stock in service. Most participants managed to do all the track comprehensively before the rain set in; some even arrived by (big) train, walking from Blake Street station.
Thanks to SCMES for an excellent visit on many levels and for the refreshments including cakes, biscuits, drinks and the splendid late afternoon 'breakfast rolls'; also toour very own inimitable Kev Adlam for yet another great organisational success. There is no public running but two events per annum are generally available (by day membership).
On the up; some of the participants rise to the occasion with an uplifting experience on the hydraulic vertical carriage lift.
[Bill Colman, SCMES]
The SCMES clearly enjoyed our visit as much as we did; from their June bulletin: 'The Branch Line Society visit on a Tuesday night was attended by 29 of their members. Their enthusiasm was infectious and it turned out to be a really enjoyable occasion. They wanted to ride on every inch of track we possessed. They even had a ride on the carriage lift.' Another quote 'I do hope your group enjoyed your visit to Little Hay last night in spite of the inclement weather. For our part, it was interesting to meet with folks with slightly different interests. We loved having you.'