By Nigel Town
My “Eigiau” story started way back over 10 years ago…
I first handled an Archangel “Eigiau” when my son was still in his pushchair. It was sitting on an IMP Models stall at the Butterley Garden Railway open weekend. With a young child and a single salary, financially things were tight at home so reluctantly I passed it over. I spent the next 8 years wondering “what-if”….
Now fast- forward 8 years, and Derek Wiggins offered to run a WANTED sub-section within the Heritage section of SMT or Bulletin. I mentioned to Derek that I was on the hunt for an “Eigiau”, so one of the wanted engines listed in there included the “Eigiau” that I was now in a position to afford, should one turn up. My request was included in Derek’s “wanted list” for several years and to be honest I’d given up hope of one ever becoming available.
When the show team decided on theming the 2012 show, and giving it a Penrhyn focus I was looking forward to seeing if any Archangel “Eigi” (plural of “Eigiau”?) would materialise within the Heritage display and I remarked to that effect within my Feb 2012 SMT column. It was this chance remark that was seen by a friend in our local group. Unknown to me he had an “Eigiau” which he didn’t run very often and he suggested he’d be prepared to sell it. Needless to say I did not repeat the mistake and pass over this one.
With that back story, the little “Eigiau” saw its first outing when running at a local open day. My usual approach at these events is to hang back and chat a little, spot the tight radii, and the gradients (both up and down). On this occasion I was Mr. Eager, and we fired up the little engine almost as soon as we arrived. As this is a manually controlled engine I opted to hook up my tippers on the back to dampen any ardour when coming down the spiral, and I also wanted to ensure it was ok climbing the incline too.
The engine was filled with gas, then water to the top of the boiler, extracting a little water to create a steam space, then finally oil. The oil, safety valve and regulator are all combined in the dome, with “real” external steam pipes. As a direct consequence the lubricator is tiny as seen in the picture and insufficient for a slow run, requiring a mid run refill.
Lighting the engine required an amount of patience; I could not get the engine to light. Now I wasn’t sure if this was due to the burner mounting arrangement or simply that there had been little activity in the gas tank to some time. Archangel gas fired engines are quite distinct for their footplate mounted burners which simply point towards the central flue tube. This specific engine has the benefit of a hard copper pipe from the gas tank to the burner. Some of these engines have a plastic pipe from the tank; the copper pipe will help keep the burner jet more rigid.
Perseverance won out and with the burner eventually lit the next guess is the steam pressure, these engines have no pressure gauge fitted, so opening the regulator and guessing when it’s ready to go is the order of the day. The centrally mounted regulator, lubricator, and safety valve means that there are no boiler penetrations on the backhead, compare this to say a more complex contemporary locomotive which would have a regulator, and pressure gauge on the backhead.
As I had no prior operating experience with the engine I gently opened the throttle and started to wheel it down the steam-up bay to clear the condensate. I was surprised that it caught really quickly, my estimate from the amount of condensate that came out was that it was turning over at below 10 psi. I paused allowing the pressure to come up a little further and then hooked up the tippers. I timed my exit from the steam up bay onto the main line to place me neatly in the largest gap between two other circulating trains. Opening the throttle gave an immediate response, and off went “Eigiau”. To be honest that was it. The throttle needed no adjust either up or down hill, there was the usual stop a quarter of the way up the incline, but as is the way with these things, as I was crossing the garden, just before I arrived to tap the throttle open another notch off she went up and over the crest of the incline.
The next run was in public at an exhibition so I took “Eigiau”, along with a Finescale “Betty”, and a Wrightscale “Excelsior”, all three sharing the same wagon train of small tippers. I am pleased to report the in a show setting this engine performed flawlessly seeing the most runs out of the three engines I took with me. Over the course of the day with several running slots I got that much needed familiarity and experience. The burner now lights pretty much straight away, I can tell when the oil level is getting low too.
So what next? Well I would dearly love to produce an alternative lubricator which still sits within the dome space but uses all that volume for oil. The mid run oil top-up is a messy affair, ending with burnt and numbed fingers. I’m also going to get some new name plates made to re-name the engine. I’d like to have a shot at flattening some of those rivets back down too. That said none of these things stop me from enjoying running this simple and straight forward engine today, in fact now………..