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Wirral Model Engineering Society
Tales from the Sidings

An occasional Blog from the Locomotives and their crews at Royden Park.

WMES visit to RNLI Hoylake

Photos: Geof Moulding and friend. Text: Alan Pennell 13th Oct 2018

On the very wet Saturday morning of 13th October 2018 eleven members and friends gathered outside the Lifeboat Station. We were greeted by volunteers Brian and Nick (the technical man) inside the magnificent building as it was too wet to start the tour outside.

The original Hoylake station (1803) was one of the earliest lifeboat stations in the UK, pre-dating the founding of the RNLI in 1824.The original station was sited at the Hilbre end of the prom and founded by the Mersey Docks & Harbour Board to provide maritime life-saving in the Mersey environs. A later station was provided nearer the current one, this can still be seen and for a time was used as a lifeboat museum now closed. There was a lifeboat station on Hilbre island which was used depending on the state of tide and convenience of launching. The present station was opened in 2008.

Hoylake houses the latest Shannon class all weather lifeboat (£2.2 million) with its Seacat launching tractor/trailer (£1.2 million) which is a very impressive piece of kit, dwarfing the hovercraft (£450,000) alongside. The lifeboat is propelled by waterjets enabling it to operate in very shallow water and has no propellers to foul or damage. The jets are supplied by diesel engines driving high pressure/high volume water pumps. The engines are fuelled from two 1200 gallon tanks which give circa 8 hours, 100 miles range, of full power operations but this time can increase at lower power but decrease when rescue towing a vessel. Manoeuvring ability is amazing, capable of stopping in its own length and also turning in its length and can move sideways! Normal crew is 5 plus doctor (only occasionally needed) but can house (cramped) up to 17 on rescues. The Shannon is the lightest in the current fleet at 28 tons? Looking at the size of the vessel and its weight it is amazing to remember that it is also capable of self-righting!  

The launching tractor/trailer is out of ‘Thunderbirds’ (almost), powered by a 450hp Cummins marinized diesel engine driving 7 hydraulic pumps which power the various functions on the unit. This power unit is totally enclosed within a large watertight cylinder. Cooling for the engine is provided by large external radiators which can withstand immersion. A multiplicity of hydraulic hoses provide power to the caterpillar tracks (on both tractor and trailer), trailer tilt and slew. The whole outfit is driven into the sea, when the tide is out at Hoylake this can be 2 miles! The driver’s cab is watertight to 9 metres.

We are told that recovery of the lifeboat, at Hoylake, is simple – drive straight at the beach at 22 knots till the boat grounds! The trailer manoeuvres up to the bow and winches the boat on to the trailer deck. It does not end there – because the boat is not ready for relaunch in that position the whole trailer deck, with boat, rotates 180 degrees and then the whole outfit retreats back to the boat-house.

When back on the concrete ramp the boat is washed down from top to bottom, leathered down, and everything is checked for damage. The whole unit is returned into the building and the boat re-fuelled, all ready to go out on the next ‘shout’.

The station also houses a Hovercraft. This is mounted on a launching trailer which is driven to the launching point by a detachable tractor marinized for partial submersion though not normally necessary. The Hovercraft is used most often for inshore rescue – people trapped on mudflats and sandbanks. It can be used at sea but not when waves reach 4ft high, at which point the machine becomes unmanageable. It is powered by two marinized Golf – type diesels, driving fans to lift it up on its skirts, and each driving an aircraft type propeller, the thrust from which is directed by flaps at the rear to give steering. It is usually manned by 3-4 crew and carries rescue equipment such as ladders and boards for mud rescue as well as first aid equipment. Nick said that the balance, and steering response, of the craft is very susceptible to the position, on the deck, of crew and the rescued.

A very interesting visit to a vital maritime lifesaving installation.

Something we must all remember is that the station is manned by VOLUNTEERS most of whom live within a mile or so from the station. Nick told me that he ‘felt it was a privilege’ to be involved and that the majority of, if not all, volunteers feel that way.

The RNLI depends solely on DONATIONS - so please remember whenever you see a RNLI donation box put some money in, if you can.

Any thoughts as to why ships are generally referred to as ‘she’??

For more on the Shannon at the RNLI website

For photographs of the launch system when tested at Hoylake See Here

Go Green Day

In support of  Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, 4th Feb 2018

A cool day with some bright sunshine at times, getting colder after 3.00pm!  
A very big ‘Thank you’ to those members who turned up and operated in support of the ‘Go Green’ Day. 
Despite the car parking charges there was a good turnout of visitors for both railways.
The welcome donations for the day were forwarded to the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity.

A visit from Paramedic Pup

July 15th,  2017

Paramedic Pup visits the miniature railways!

A very friendly event was held at the tracks at Royden Park in July.

An event had been organised that enabled the North West Air Ambulance team to visit and arrange a sales table.

However, with the team came Paramedic Pup! The Pup is a very colourful character and a great hit with youngsters of all ages. Posing for photographs, and included in many selfies, the Pup was kept busy all afternoon. A trip on the train was also arranged of course.

Steady streams of visitors were provided with train rides on both tracks during the afternoon, some visitors having come a fair distance to visit us.

The Air Ambulance collected the kind donations given by visitors during the afternoon and we were all very pleased that the miniature railways provided a worthwhile and fun event.

Many thanks to the WMES members who came along and participated.

Member's Day 17th June 2017

Photo’s by Roger Couche, F & M Stephen

A very warm and fine day provided the opportunity for members to enjoy all our facilities at Royden Park. The early birds set-to putting tables and chairs out and getting the urn on in preparation for tea-making. As usual, drinks were available throughout the day.

The Ground Level personnel drew out 2 carriage sets together with both Roanokes and ‘Eudlo’. We had a few members who do not normally come on a Sunday who, with others, enjoyed driving the various locos during the day. The photo’s show the activities!

Lunch was well attended with a wide variety of food to choose from – thanks to Mo & Chris for their hard work and for providing the food. It was nice to see family members and friends who called in during the day enjoying the atmosphere.

The Raised Track members brought 3 locos to run, had an enjoyable time and also enjoyed the food. Being a bit darker under the trees photography can be a challenge.

The new benches have been delivered and members were able to enjoy a ‘good sit’ during the day’s activities on both tracks.

The day drew to a close around 4.00 pm and a number of compliments were received from those who participated.

Alan Pennell

The Station side wall that needed replacing & damage done by Storm Doris

’Thanks to all members for attending the AGM'.

The meeting went smoothly with the reports accepted. There are vacancies on Committee if any member wishes to become involved.

(A little self promotion) 

  • Thanks were expressed to you at the AGM for your work with the website on our behalf. The new format is being viewed by more members - which seems encouraging. Unless they are telling fibs!

Which reminds me that I can use material relevant to the site. Photos are great but for preference I need the originals or if edited at least

  • 3000 x 2000 pixels
  • Focus as sharp as possible on subject
  • If subject moving best results are with 'panning' to get the subject in focus and background blurred.
  • For the web the best depth of field possible with the available light. (more relevant for Raised Track under tree canopy).
  • A caption or explanation to put alongside the image is helpful

I really don't like to reject photos sent in by members, so please be self critical and send in only those you are really happy with.

However, something is certainly better than nowt!

Also anything written as an article, report, anecdote or 'how-to' in a document format always welcome.

Alan (on the web)

The Station side wall that needed replacing & damage done by Storm Doris


Wirral Mid-week Drive 10th May
Nine members in four Wolseleys took part in the mid-week drive round the Wirral Peninsula.

The first stop was New Brighton before they headed for Royden Park where they swapped roads for rails on the Wirral Model Engineers Railway round part of the park. WMES host Alan Pennell gave most of the members a new experience by letting them take the driving seat on the engine to have a go at driving the train round the track!

The day out concluded with a great meal at the Boat Inn at Park Gate. Many thanks to Alan for the driving experience and to Bob Leyland for organising a splendid days run and for ordering the glorious weather.

The latest issue of their Newsletter is available here.


A new Engine for 'Little Cliffy'

The Station side wall that needed replacing & damage done by Storm Doris

Storm Doris

'Its an Ill Wind'

For about a year it had been noted that at the Ground Level station the sandstone wall, where our passengers queue, had been leaning towards the field and had been considered dangerous. This lean caused by the roots of the adjacent trees. The Rangers barriered off the whole length whilst Wirral Borough Council decide where funds could be found to re-build the wall, £10,000 having been quoted.

During the week commencing 20th February stonemasons had been engaged and demolished the whole of the wall and mechanically excavated a trench, in the original position, to pour concrete footings for the re-build. This excavation cut through quite a number of the roots of the trees lining the wall leaving them exposed.

On Thursday 23rd Storm Doris arrived and duly blew one fir tree down right across all the tracks with the crown finishing in the bushes at the far side of the footpath leading to the Raised Track. Another fir tree was blown to lean such that it was considered it should be taken down. On the Friday a Ranger sawed the fallen crown back to within 4ft of the paling fence, leaving the main trunk sprawled across all 5 tracks. The footpath was taped off, at both ends, so that walkers had to walk round the Eastern edge of the Mere to access the field. This resulted in the railway being unable to run from the station on Sunday 26th but was able to run a successful journey, with a four-coach set topped and tailed with locos, starting at the Workshops and terminating at the Halt. The public soon appreciated this unique experience and kept staff busy till 3.40pm. 

On Wednesday 1st March the fallen tree was cut into sections and by use of the tractor, the sections were craned to the side of the footpath. The leaning tree was then felled without damage to the station fences and was dropped into the gap formed in the previously broken paling fence. This was removed to the side of the footpath. This fall damaged line 2 rail near the turntable and a short section will require replacement. With some effort in clearing up it will be possible to run trains normally on Sunday 5th March but not use line 2. Head Ranger has said that the remaining four trees will remain despite the previously recorded root damage. It may be some days before the footpath will be re-opened for the public because there are some damaged limbs on other trees which may pose a risk till dealt with.

This report was penned by Alan Pennell on Thursday 2nd March.

The photo(s) were taken by Derek Jones on the day after Doris struck.

With apologies to the author and photographer for the delay in publishing this item (Ed)


A Special Anniversary

Members of the Society were very pleased to pay due recognition of a significant milestone in the life of one of its members at the 'Quiz Night' at Thornton Hough on 16th February.
Les (John) Dobbing celebrates his 90th Birthday on 19th February. We had hoped to recognise this on the due date at Royden Park but Les had already made his own private arrangements for that day. It was decided the best we could do was to celebrate with him, and his wife Kit, on the nearest meeting to his birthdate.
After the Quiz was finished a chocolate cake was wheeled out adorned with two candles representing 90 which Les duly blew out. He was presented with a Birthday Card signed by many of his friends in WMES and was assailed by a rendering of 'Happy Birthday to You' from the assembled multitude. The cake was cut and distributed with the usual tea and coffee. Kit was particularly pleased with the cake as she is a chocaholic!
Les now joins an elite small group of members who have reached their 90th birthday - Bill McGlade (92) and Albert Canes (91).

Alan Pennell
Image Geoff Moulding