Charity Shop Find

Any collector will tell you that it’s always good when they can add something to their collection. It’s even better when it comes at a knock down price and better still when it’s something unusual. All of the above applied recently when I headed off to Cromford Mill with a stationary engine in the back of the van to form part of a display.

Once our display at the mill was set up, I took the oportunity to take a look around some of the small antique shops that now occupy some of the old mill buildings. I didn’t find much of interest on this occasion though and I was just about to give up when I noticed the Arkwright Society’s charity shop was also open.

Now, for those who don’t know, Cromford Mill is a massively important and early piece of our industrial heritage, built by a chap called Richard Arkwright and used in the spinning industry. The Arkwright society now look after it and hence why they have a charity shop on site. It mainly sells books and a few odd bits of china and glassware that people donate. But on this occasion, sitting on the floor in the corner was what appeared to be the case of a 1960s sewing machine. As I collect old machines I opened the case and much to my surprise, found a Jones Spool machine inside!

I had no idea what a Jones Spool was, but I knew enough to know it looked old. So a few pounds changed hands and I carried the non-working machine back to the van.

Luckily I had my tools and a can of oil with me. So while the old stationary engines chugged away in the background, I started work to free off the partially seized machine. A spot of oil here and there and a bit of turning the handle and she was soon running free again. I noticed there was even a needle still in place. however as I didn’t have any thread, I couldn’t try actually sewing anything until I got home.

Less than 24 hours later and the old machine was happily stitching away! It turns out these machines use a unique design of bobbin for the bottom thread and a very rare type of needle. Luckily the needle that was already fitted was good and I found a few spare bobbins in the base of the machine, together with a few other goodies.

I’ll be looking in that shop again in the future!

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Club day at Heeley 23/02/19

Dave testing Andy's railroad

Dave testing newly laid track on Andy’s model railroad

We had another good club day at Heeley City Farm in February. Alan dug some of his vintage braille writing machines out of the loft while Peter brought along more of his advertising displays, this time involving toffee, which actually included a slab of the equally vintage product, still in it’s wrapper.

Andy’s US outline model railroad was also on display with track laying and wiring continuing at quite a pace. By mid-afternoon two sections were fully wired, allowing testing to take place, which Dave undertook while taking a break from steaming his Mamod models outside.

Dave's models and Peter's tins

Dave’s steam models and Peter’s vintage advertising display.

Peter's toffee advertising display.

A closer look at Peter’s advertising display, including a genuine slab of vintage toffee.

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Kelham Christmas Market

The club attended the Christmas market at Kelham Island Industrial Museum again this year. The display took two days to set up and another two to take does, so that is 6 days work in total for those involved.

This was also the first use of Alan’s display trailer, which was the main platform used to support the items we exhibited. Andy towed the trailer from Heeley to Kelham Island and back again, a journey which has shown up a few tweeks that need making to the trailer to make it tow a bit better. In general though it’s a very good platform and is realatively quick to set up.

Unfortunately the event was not as good as last year, with far less trade stalls and other attractions in attendance. One notable loss was the fairground, which was normally situated on the end of the island and attracted in a lot of people with it’s music and coloured lights.

Despite the reductions, we still had a good weekend, with quite a few visitors around on Sunday, which was the second and final day of the event.

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Rain stops play at SMEE

Mamod in the rain at SMEE

Andy’s Mamod steam tractor, number 1, in it’s final moments of steaming for the day as a SMEE garden railway train passes in the background.

The weather did not want to play ball for our last visit if the season to SMEE today. Despite the rain, Andy, Alan and Harry all turned up, determined to put on a display of working Mamod steam engines.

One of Alan’s gazebos was erected in the garden railway area and two engines (one belonging to Andy and one belonging to Alan did make it into steam. However due to the cold, damp weather and a very poor turn out of visitors, it was an early finish, with everything packed away by 4pm.

As the railway at SMEE closes down for the winter, today was our last scheduled visit of the year. Our thanks to all the members at the track for making us so welcome and we hope to be back soon.

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Exhibition Day at Heeley

It was our exhibition day at Heeley City Farm again yesterday. We had another good display, with new members bringing some especially interesting items, including a collection of Sheffield related vintage bottles.

Andy took along some of his vintage sewing machines and a few old telephones, Peter had a display of matchboxes and David had his LGB railway. It was also the first outing for Alan’s miniature fairground, which he got in a non-working condition from an auction earlier this year.

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Exhibition Day at Heeley City Farm

display at the farm

We had a very well attended club day at Heeley City Farm last Saturday, with members old and new turning up with a wide variety of items for display. Alan was there with various collections including coins, metal puzzles and a wide variety of Snoopy memorabilia. Andy was there with just a small part of s telephone collection and Sandra also came along with her miniature shoes and dolls house scale tea sets.

As well as our usual team, we were pleased to welcome new exhibitor Peter along with his fascinating collection of vintage matchboxes, so which is something we’ve never featured at a collector’s club event before.

A great day was had by all and we look forward to our next exhibition day at Heeley City Farm, which will be on the Saturday of the August Bank Holiday weekend.

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Summer at SMEE

We spent last weekend at Abbeydale Miniature Railway for their annual big summer event. Saturday is reserved for members and guests of the railway only, but Sunday is open to the general public.

Despite warm and sunny weather, visitor numbers seemed particularly low, especially on Sunday when the public did not turn out in droves as expected despite it being totally free admission.

The saving grace of the weekend was that Andy managed to pick up quite a few useful tools at a knock down price, although the newly built interactive donation box struggled to take £3 all weekend, so it certainly didn’t pay for them.

Let’s hope more people turn out next month!

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Sheffield Steam & Vintage Rally 2018

Alan, Andy and Harry took a large club display to Sheffield Steam & Vintage Rally last weekend, which was very well received. Andy had just a small part of his collection of telephones on display, together with some vintage sewing machines and a growing collection of paraffin lamps.

Alan took along his Mamod steam toys, which he displayed on a new fold out display built onto his small trailer. This seemed to work very well and even included a loop of LGB model railway track. In the middle of the display was Dave’s fairground and miniature workshop, all of which was controlled by members of the public dropping a coin into our donation box.

Harry took along his Hornby ‘Rocket’ and a new matching coach, which is quite a rare item these days. It was also first time out for his miniature traction Engine ‘Pegasus’, which made an interesting comparison along side Alan’s ‘Lady Doreen’.

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See us at Sheffield Steam 2018!

We are pleased to announce that we will be attending the Sheffield Steam & Vintage Rally with the club display once again this year.

alan with train at Sheffield Steam

Alan with his garden gauge railway at Sheffield Steam 2017.

You can find all the details about this year’s event on the poster below.rally posterYou may remember we took a display there last year and a great weekend was had by all. Andy took his vintage sewing machines and some of his telephones, Harry took a model steam engine and Alan took various things, including a garden railway and his Mamod steam vehicles.

sewing machines and telephones

Andy’s telephones and sewing machines on the Collectors Club display in 2017

Hopefully the weather will be kind to us as our display will be bigger and better than ever this time around. All being well we’ll have a working stationary engine, more telephones, sewing machines, working Mamod models (some of which may be in steam), Alan’s railway and some amazing working scale workshops. So be sure to come along and say hello.

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May visit to SMEE

Another great day was had by all during our second visit of the season to the Abeydale Miniature Railway. Dave and Andy both took along some vintage Mamod steam toys, Andy had that icon of the 1970’s the stylophone on display and Alan brightened the place up with his colourful collection of flags.

Collectors cub display being set up at the railway

Alan and Dave setting up the club display on the grass at Abbeydale Miniature Railway for our May event.

Dave on the club stand

Dave with the display of vintage Mamod live steam engines.

Alan putting up his flags

Alan hanging his display of flags.

We are now scheduled to be at Abbeydale Miniature Railway on a monthly basis right up to the end of the summer season.

Click here to see our calendar for the full list of dates.

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April visit to SMEE

Collectors Club display under the gazeebo at Abbeydale Miniature Railway

Our monthly visits to the Abbeydale Miniature Railway began for this year on Sunday 8th April, when Alan, David, Harry, Josh and Andy took along various items for display. Our hosts at SMEE kindly provided a gazeebo in their members car parking area, which luckily for us was right outside the cafe!

The idea had been to have a large working display of Mamod models, but the requirement to have them bolier tested meant that only a small percentage of the overall number had been done by the big day. But despite this we still managed to have four models in steam at once, tothether with David’s electrically powered showmans engine.

Alan had a large display of static Mamods, while Harry brought along his live steam Hornby Rocket. There was also much excitement at the appearance of Alan’s newly rebuilt ‘button box’ which rewarded anyone who touched it with a squirt of water from the Mamod fire engine!

We will be back at the railway next month.

Alan waiting with his button box for more unsuspecting victims

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Return to Abbeydale

Harry on the collectors club display at abbeydale miniature railway in 2017

Harry manning one of our displays at Abbeydale Miniature Railway in 2017

It’s a big weekend comming up for the club. On Saturday we’ll be at Heeley City Farm’s Spring fair, then on Sunday we are making our first visit of the year to the Abbeydale Miniature Railway, which you can find tucked away deep in the woods, almost opposite Dore station on the big railway.

So why not enjoy a post-Easter weekend out and about and come to say hi? We’ll be at both events from about 11am.

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Latest arrival in Andy’s collection

See, this is what happens when I have a free day! I have enough time to sit down and browse the online auctions, with potentially disasterous results for my pocket!

Actually, this result wasn’t too disasterous. It’s a rare original ‘Ericofon’ telephone, made for the Dutch operator P.T.T. The Ericofon is a design classic, originally dating from the 1950’s, but not available here in the UK until the early 1980s. The British colours were very limited, with US versions being the most diverse. P.T.T. made just three colours available to their customers starting in the late 1970s, dark red (not the same red as in other countries), white and this dark brown. I’ve not come across a Dutch Ericofon before, so I snapped this one up, which is apparently in full working order. Apparently they were not the most popular of phones over there, with production for the operator ending in 1981 but the last of their stock not being sold until 1985.

Because it’s such a 20th century icon, the Ericofon is now widely copied, with modern versions commonly available. However, as with most modern reproductions, they are made as cheaply as possible and certainly not built to last. Originals are now highly desirable, both with telephone collectors and anyone wanting to add a bit of modernist style to their home. Consequently the prices can often be eye-wateringly high. Luckily a bit of cosmetic damage to the plastic body has kept the price down on this one, making it a reasonably priced addition to the collection. I’m now hoping that my special plastic restoration technique will work on the marks, resulting in a showroom condition phone at a fraction of the normal cost for one of these Swedish made wonders. I’ll let you know more when it arrives.

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Boiler testing

Yesterday was a busy one in Alan’s garden. Not only did we have a second (partially successful) attempt to get Lady Doreen into steam, but we were also visited by the boiler tester from SMEE, who came to do boiler tests on the various Mamod models we own, ahead of their debut at SMEE’s Abbeydale Miniature Railway in a couple of weeks.

Dave & Josh sent over five models for testing, while I took my two TE1A traction engines. On the seven, five passed their tests, one failed due to a steam leak on the piston assembly and one was unable to be tested as it required a different fitting for the hydraulic test that we didn’t have available at the time. We still have Harry and Alan’s engines to test, plus a re-test for the one that failed and the other that couldn’t be hydraulic tested once the correct size fitting is found.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, a steam engine boiler test comes in three stages. the first stage is a visual inspection to make sure the engine appears sound and won’t obviously fail. The next stage in the hydraulic test. This involves filling the boiler to the top with water, which is pumped in using a special hand pump. By pumping beyond the point of being full, water pressure is built up inside the boiler and any leaks can easily be seen. Finally the exces water is emptied, the boiler filled to it’s normal level and the engine is steamed, again checking for leaks and correct operation of things such as the safety valve. If all the stages are passed satisfactorily then a boiler certificate is issued by the inspector.

There is some debate as to weather engines as small as a Mamod, which is a mass-produced toy, actualy needs a boiler certificate. The answer seems to depend on who you talk to and they were certainly used in schools without one. However insurance companies love paper-work and they are the ones who decided even the smallest engines need testing before they can operate publicly at Abbeydale. Don’t panic though! Those of you steaming a Mamod or Wilesco toy engine in your own back garden still don’t need a test.

Check out our Calendar of events here to see when we are next at Abbeydale Miniature Railway or Heeley City Farm.

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Lady Doreen’s first run

Friday 16th March 2018 was quite a big day for the club’s steam section. Alan’s engine, Lady Doreen, was scheduled to have her first firing since she was bought from a local Sheffield auction last year. But as none of us knew too much about the firing of such a complex model, we drafted in help from a member of the local model engineering society.

As the light began to fade on Friday afternoon, the moment of first firing drew ever closer. But as it did so, it also became apparent that the allegedly un-steamed Lady Doreen might actually have run previously after all. The first clue was some dried up orange scum in the belly tank, which definitely looked like it had been full of water before. Then, as we tried to use the tiny hand pump to fill the boiler, it became apparent that the boiler was already full! This water must have been in there since before the engine was auctioned off, but the problem nowwas that the boiler was over full, with no way of getting any of the excess water out. A quick telephone call to Markie, who made the engine, resulted in the advice thatw e would have to steam her and let the excess water get thrown out that way. So the gas cart was filled with butane, the pipe conections made and finally the fire was lit.

After about ten minutes the piston spluttered into life, running more on hot water than on steam. Despite our best efforts we couldn’t get the engine to run for more than a few seconds, perhaps because there wasn’t enough space in the boiler to make any steam. Darkness was approaching fast now, so we decided to call it a day. The plan is now to run her again until the water in the boiler gets down to a sensible level. Once the correct level is reached she should run well. At least we now know that all the motion turns and she will go. But with her public debut now less than a fortnight away, it’s all hands quite literally to the pump to get Lady Doreen running reliably.

If you want to see if lady Doreen does indeed make it to her first public event, come and see us at Heeley City Farm in Sheffield on Saturday 31st March.

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Getting the point

The construction of Andy’s ‘HO’ scale model railroad is continuing slowly. The pace has been dictated somewhat by a need for quite a lot of experimentation and testing.

The idea is to model various industries served by diesel outline freight trains. Obviously the scene will involve a lot of shunting plus coupling / uncoupling of cars and the plan is to do all of this automatically, without the need for intervention from the ‘hand of god’ as seen on many other models.

Locomitives are to be controlled using the latest DCC technology, allowing multiple engines to be on the same tracks. However despite DCC being around for a good few years now, there are still some issuse with it, which have become painfully apparent during construction. The first of these is the cost. The original plan was to use second hand rolling stock retro-fitted with DCC control chips. But the small ‘plymouth switcher’ locos being tested often stall out on dead sections of pointwork, despite the DCC chips also containing a ‘stay alive’ power unit, which is supposed to power the loco across these dead sections. From the trials done so far, it looks like the cheap stay-alive used in the experiment was not a good idea! After viewing apparently amazing performance from a DCC Concepts heavy duty unit in a Youtube video, one of these has been ordered to see if it improves things any. Unfortunately no sooner had the order been placed than the ‘Beast from the East’ rolled in and stopped the post from getting through. So as this is written the new stay alive has yet to appear for testing.

For now, track laying is continuing. The first two 4ft long baseboards had their first outing at the February club day, where Andy wired the first one (using some left over telephone wire) and discovered the disappointing performance of the loco over the pointwork. There is track to lay on four boards in total, with a future extension not being completely ruled out.


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The journey home

We are now well into 2018 and we’ve had our first couple of club days this year at Heeley City Farm. Dave, Barry and Josh have been working on their new oval ‘OO’ scale model railway, while Andy is constructing and end-to-end ‘HO’ American outline design.

Alan has exhibited various collections so far, but the main thing he’s been doing is working on his electric trolley, making it look more like a vintage Scammell truck.
The photo shows Alan and Sandra with guide dog Darcy heading home after the February event.

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It’s CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!

December is here once again and as I sit typing this the last Collectors Club event of 2017 is in the can. But before our attentions turn completely to 2018, I thought this would be a good oportunity to share a videos with you, shot by yours truely at our seasonal event at Kelham Island a couple of weeks ago.

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Christmas is coming

Yes, like it or not, it’s that time of year once again. And here at the collectors club preparations are being made for our final visit to Kelham Island Industrial Museum as part of their special weekend-long Christmas event.

This has been a very difficult event to plan for, with Alan having to make numerous trips to Kelham Island for meetings and more meetings to get everything sorted out. The latest of these has meant our original plan for the weekend had to be scrapped when the powers at Kelham decided to errect a ‘cover’ over our pitch, which would mean many of the things we originally planned to exhibit would no longer be able to access the site as they were to be storred in a trailer which now can’t get into the yard because of this cover.  This has resulted in a re-think being necessary and a somewhat reduced display is now the result. We will still be there though for one final time before Christmas.

No plans for next year have been made yet, but as soon as we have display dates and locations for 2018 they will be added to the calendar, which you can find by clicking here.

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Trolley troubles

Alan's trolley

The completed trailer part of Alan’s trolley at our club day at Heeley City Farm.

There is good news and there is bad news. The giod news is Alan’s trolley is now complete. The trailer unit has been fitted out with a body while the tractor, which is a short 4-wheel power unit, is also ready for service. The bad news is that on it’s inaugural run from Alan’s house to our club day in Heeley, a few design flaws came to light.

First problem is the thing is heavy. The chassis is welded up out of steel box sections and this has added a lot of weight. The result is the range had decreased a lot. However the biggest problem is the lack of traction on the tractor unit. Because only one axle is powered the tractor has a tendency to wheel-spin. One wheel also locks up under electric braking, which is a feature left over from when the unit had a previous life as a mobility scooter.

So the decision has been made to rebuild the tractor back into a rigid long-wheelbase trolley, which is pretty much what it was before we modified it! However, as the traler is reasonably successful that part will be left alone, with the thought that it coukd be coupled to the back of the new rigid trolley at a later date.

Work on the project continues, so check back soon for an update.

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