What a rollercoaster of a day!

I felt like a learner driver on the day of their test. Here was the moment when I would find out whether Liza Jane was a pass or fail.

I arrived early at SCMES to meet Jon Alldridge who had offered to help me prepare and steam the loco for the test. Peter McMillan (our lead inspector) was due to kick off the official proceedings at 11.

The first challenge of getting Liza Jane to Little Hay saw me driving with great care as this was the first time I had tested the cargo facility. That all worked well and Liza Jane was transferred to the rails for the first time.

I had warned Jon that she was quite stiff and that was to prove an issue later. We gently moved her across to the steaming bay.

Jon and I got her ready for the hydraulic test (1.5 x WP – in this case 135psi) by filling the boiler via the blow down valve.

When Peter arrived we first calibrated the gauge against the known master. All was good there and I now need to mark off the Working Pressure of 90psi on the card of the gauge with a thin red pen.

We then tested the system. All was good here except for a few minor weeps that were easily dealt with by tightening a couple of pipes.

Having passed the hydraulic test we moved on to the steam test.

I set the fire with paraffin soaked charcoal and while Jon tended to that, I oiled round the loco.

Steam appeared to be very easy to raise and we were able to switch to the blower in what appeared like no time.

Now what appeared to be the fiercest part of the day. As we hit WP, under Peter’s guidance, I adjusted the safety valve. We then pushed the fire and steam raising hard to check that she didn’t go more than 10% over WP. Blower on max, strong fire and the safety valve at the max.

All was well. The loco had behaved impeccably to this point.

So that was the first part of the steam test. Now we moved onto getting water into the boiler. We had already tested the hand pump and that was fine and continued to work at boiler pressure. We then tried the injector and had some issues that over the day resolved themselves but all I read and hear about injectors tell me that they are a “dark art”. There is more that I can do to improve things and I have spoken to Polly on this and they had a few tips too.

So we were all set to move to the raised level track and this brought the low point of the day’s emotions.

I knew that she was stiff but with some regulator we shunted her onto the track. Once there, however, she seized. Nothing seemed to want to make her budge. Fortunately Mark Dale was on hand to help. He managed to lever the spokes of a wheel to get the mechanism free enough to move again.

It seemed to take ages to fix poor Liza Jane, but in the end Mark was able to drive her round for her first laps of the track. It was great to know that Liza Jane was in safe and knowledgeable hands for her maiden voyage.

Now that things had settled down, Mark had made a few more adjustments to pipes and fittings on the way round, Jon had a go at driving her. I was more than happy again for more experienced hands to settle things down.

Then, finally, it was my turn.

I had a few laps and it was great to drive the thing that has consumed so much of my spare time over the last 18 months.

We all had a few more laps each, including Phil Davis, and finally decided to put her away in time to avoid the dark. In all, I think we had about 2 hours or so of driving her. We even got the injector working quite nicely.

Again, Jon helped with dropping the fire and easing her off steam in a gentle manner.

I was advised not to clean her on the day as her new paint might be a bit soft due to the heat. I did, however, put some good slugs of steam oil in the cylinders and roll her back and forward quite few times.

Jon and others kept reassuring me that she had performed really well for a first steaming and that others often had to tinker with many things to get their engines to work. I have a small list of things to attend to:

1 – See if I can improve the water flow to the injector

2 – Get the lubricator to perform better

3 – Mark the gauge card

4 – Check the cap of the injector clack for minor steam leak

In all, I think these are all very doable over the next few days.

As I said at the beginning, the whole day was a mixture of emotions. I think Jon’s wife, Janice, could tell that I was somewhat in despair when she was stuck and brought me calming tea and soup at essential times (thank you again), but the smile on my face at the end told it all.

Thanks again to all at SCMES for their help and support over the build but in particular to Peter McMillan, Mark Dale and Jon and Janice Alldridge for your help on this important day.

This won’t be the end of the Liza Jane blog. I will bring more news of driving her, looking after her, the people I meet, and the steam events that I attend.

If you want to watch a video that summarise the day, have a look at this YouTube Video