It was the best of years, it was the worst of years (Shakespearish). On the plus side, the fleet is at its biggest and best ever. In January, for the first time in 20yrs a brand new just-for-us steam loco arrived to be unwrapped, admired and introduced to service- “Trisantonia” of the RH Atlantic class. In April a nice day out turned into a great day out when we were surprised to learn at the Roundhouse open day that our second new machine “Tennyson” (Taliesin class) was ready, and if we could hang on for 5 minutes while they found a box it could come home with us. Could we? What do you think. Finally after nearly a year of epic brain-bashing the Wizard of Wigfa announced in August that our Lyn was finally fit to travel- and with a couple of last minute tweaks she was. Lyn has been on the books since 2007 but with indifferent-to-nonexistent performance (not helped by a couple of boobs of my own) she’s never really been part of the fleet, more an expensive an frustrating ornament. Not now, though. Runs like a dream.
This insane and un-repeatable level of indulgence isn’t really our style, but it was a now-or-never thing. Taliesin and Atlantic had been on my ‘want’ list ever since they came out, and when it was announced last summer that they were to be discontinued it was decision time. Even then, it would not have been possible without Mr Back2Bay6 and his interest-free-credit scheme, a nice fat deposit and a year to pay off the rest made it do-able, so at the 2012 Llanfair show we signed on the line and settled back to wait for the postman’s knock. Lyn was delivered to Abbeybach at the same time, but a quick re-time and replacement of pony-truck pivots turned into a can-of-worms job, complete with long pauses for new bits to take the slow boat from China. The speed was not helped by my late decision to go for r/c, but having seen what a lively runner she was on test, and remembering how inaccessible the cab is I think it was the right choice.
On the down-side, for the third year running uncertainty over my work-schedule meant we missed the deadline for submitting “available” days to the local area group organiser, so we had to take pot-luck on steamup days. In the previous two years this meant we didn’t get to run every month and some days weren’t particularly convenient. This year we also had a change of organiser, who rather than send out an amended calendar every time there was a change sent out an email to all concerned. This is fair enough, and saves a lot of work BUT it meant that instead of being “on the calendar” we were lost in people’s inboxes and I think attendance suffered. Hopefully work should be more stable next year so we should get our “available” days sent off in plenty of time to get our fair share of dates properly displayed.
Apart from hit-and-miss attendances, it’s been a very poor year for visiting other railways. Work has been absolutely bananas this year. The continuing story of the joint-line upgrade has given us a non-stop year of last-minute crises, with the project blithely asking for impossible levels of extra shifts for engineering work even as our manpower levels shrink as people take jobs elsewhere while they can. It’s been impossible to plan more than a day ahead for any but the biggest personal events, and life has turned into work-sleep-work-sleep-work-runaway! Wifey is pretty good at spotting when I’m at the end of my string and in need of some playtime, and now we have the caravan a break is quick, cheap and easy to organise. The only downside to going away every long weekend is that there’s never any time at home to get things done, either chores or fun things. The project is also running late, originally down to be complete next March it’s now shaping up to continue until the end of August so that may be another summer up the Swanee.
So 2013 in summary, epic year for shiny new toys but unfortunately also an epic year of underachievement. No real progress has been made on anything, which effectively means backward progress as nature continues to take its toll on any model railway in the great outdoors.