About Bob

Very retired electrical engineer who now tries his hand at most things. Dabbles with clocks, steam locos, electric locos, signal systems, Mac computers etc. Always pleased to help.

Michigan UpDate

Work is progressing onMichigan, the new 5″ gauge petrol electric club loco.


The chassis is running and performed well today at the track pulling a loaded train round the track with ease.  Too much ease in fact as some members wanted to get off as they thought I was driving too fast – well these new inventions have to be tested to their limit.  As I say there is plenty of power but if you are very ham-fisted with the throttle it is possible to stall the engine.  Development work is continuing to ensure that the battery provides some of the power and hence take some load off the engine which has a maximum power rating of 1 1/2hp.  Should be plenty for a 5″loco I hear you say but unfortunately the alternator is only 50% efficient which leaves 3/4 hp for the motors which may not be enough for some of our budding Stirling Mosses accelerating up the back straight.  Anyway we are experimental so a little problem solving does not come amiss and we have a number of things to try.  We will probably fit new batteries and do away with the existing ones which are from golf trollies and have been discarded because they will not do a full round on the golf course.




We also have the body which has turned out very well. In particular the louvres really set it off.   It has come in three pieces plus the cab roof and we have to get it welded together. Then we intend to get it powder coated which should give a durable finish.  After that we will be fitting all the bits and pieces which many of our members are making to ensure it is a model fit for a model engineering club.  I am sure it will look splendid.

Watch out for further updates

Bob Lilley




Work is starting on a new 5″ locomotive for the Bristol Society – Michigan.

This will be an electrically powered locomotive with dc motors on each axle with and onboard power supply using an alternator and Honda Engine.   Using the profile of an American switcher loco the engine will drop down between the bogies to make maximum use of the space available.

At present we have the chassis and most of the components to allow it to be assembled for a trial run.  The body which is being supplied in basic form by Ride on Railways is awaited.  A number of members have agreed to make  individual components but much of this work cannot start until the body arrives.

The engine will be similar to our 7 1/4″ locomotive Thomas Telford which has proved to be very successful.    If you want to learn more about Thomas Telford visit the web site  http://thomastelford.wordpress.com.

DSS101 low down

Polly on the Tracks

Polly has arrived – doesn’t it look great.


The Club’s Polly  arrived at Ashton Court today.  It is intended to have it boiler tested at the Fun Day on Sunday 6th October.  Following this members will be allowed to drive it with great care and provided they clean it and put it away when they have finished.  No doubt the queue to drive it will be very long – much longer than the queue to clean it!


Our Polly has been erected and painted by Mike Keighley with much help and assistance, especially in the painting, repainting and re-repainting, from Arthur Clark.  With the experience Arthur has gained on this project I suggest if you want a model painted ask Arthur but stand well back.

Bream Steamers

The events are coming thick and fast at Ashton Court.  Last week the Polly Rally, this week the Bream steamers.   This is a group of enthusiasts who each year spend a week visiting the local societies and running their locomotives.  This year we had an excellent turnout with nine locomotives  and they were treated to Joan’s culinary hospitality and a good session on the track.  Because we caused some slight interruption to the building of  the new workshop they also had to work moving the roof trusses across the track – their efforts were much appreciated and a great day was had by all.  Don’t forget if you want to count the rivets you can click on a photo to see it in greater detail.



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Polly Rally

Colin Ball has taken a few pictures of the very successful Polly Owners Rally which he organised on Saturday 14th September.    !2 locomotives present with 9 in steam.    Engines look good, food looks even better!

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Bob’s Blog 28th Aug

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Three stalwarts of the club spotted taking a well earned rest at our exhibition.   Each is an excellent model engineer and the club owes much to these gentlemen for the enormous contribution they have made over the years.

Running Day – Bank Holiday Monday

A lovely sunny day produced a splendid turn out of members, public and locomotives.

With three steamers on the ground level and three steamers on the raised rack there was plenty of choice for the public.  The steamers were supported by Thomas Telford and Pegasus on ground level  and so many battery locos on the raised track that running was rationed to 1 1/2 hour spells to allow all a fair run.  Yes it is Graham Hawkins taking the tickets.  He spent Sunday driving his loco then turned up on Monday to help on the station – that’s dedication.    Don’t forget you can click on the picture to get a better view.





The New Workshop

Work is due to start shortly so I thought I would take a picture of the space as it is before we start.  Members were busy on Friday clearing the site.  Follow the progress on the Blog.



Bob’s Blog 25th July

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Cluedo Day


This annual event has been running for 26 years and came about following a conversation between a member of the church in Gordano, who run the Cluedo club, and his neighbour Arthur Howard who was a very active club member many will remember.   The club runs an event for children for a week each summer with most activities taking place at Gordano school.  The highlight of their week is when coaches turn up and they travel to the railway at Ashton Court for a fun afternoon.  This year a fleet of coaches turned up with nearly 300 children and helpers.

With six trains on the ground level track and five on the raised track they were quickly loaded and dispatched.   Because there are no tickets to take and children are very sprightly and quick, loading is rapidly carried out and the drivers get very little time to draw breath.  With full loads each time a lot a hard work and concentration is required to keep things moving but everybody has a great time and we even had sunshine to celebrate.

The Chairman of North Somerset Council, Alan Mcmuuray came along with his wife together with two District Councillors and the Head of Planning from Long Ashton.  With the help of the Societies ladies we were able to entertain them in true BSMEE fashion and introduce them to the railway, it’s activities and facilities.   They had a busy time talking to Society members and the organisers of the Cluedo Group who do such a splendid job each year looking after their flock.

Kill or Cure


I am not encouraged to carry out model engineering activities in the kitchen or use any domestic appliances for engineering purposes.  However having just painted my smoke box and chimney with high temperature resistant paint I needed to cure this at a high temperature for 60 mins.    As my wife was going out on Tuesday I thought this a good opportunity and the curing process was duly carried out in the oven.   However when I later came to turn the cooker on it had “blown up” – no lights, no fans, no heat, etc.  A simple check found that the supply to the cooker was ok, so nothing for it but take the cooker  out of it’s housing.  Then the front door opened.  I leave the rest to your imagination.

The good news was that I later managed to mend the cooker but my wife had to help me  put it back.

EGM  7:30pm on Wednesday 31st July at Ashton Court

Please try and get along on Wednesday to give your views.  We need at least 30 members present for a quorum.

Bob’s Blog 19 July

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Just a little job for  Frank


Frank Gribben is one the unsung heroes of the Society.    When something needs tidying up with a bit of woodwork we give it to the ever willing Frank.   As in the case of the signal box some of these little jobs turn into a big job and Frank has been working hard over the last few weeks, often staying behind when everybody else has left, to do the woodwork following the raising of the signal box.   The door has been a particular challenge as the old  one had to be removed and replaced with a new door and frame whilst maintaing security between working sessions.   He has also tidied up the inside of the signal box fitting a neat cover over the wiring and cabling as you can see below.  Well done Frank.



Simplex Superheater

Can anybody help Andy Nicholls who is replacing the burnt out superheater on the clubs Simplex locomotive. In order to improve the heat transfer Andy has designed a new superheater which requires  a piece of 7/16″ diameter 24 gauge stainless steel tube approximately 18″ long.   If anybody can help please contact Andy on 0117 944 6276.

In the meantime he is considering replacing it with a conventional spear type superheater as we need to get the locomotive in operation for the use of members.

Bob’s Blog 16 July

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Life in the Signal Box

It was a hot day on Sunday but we still had quite few passengers and lots of engines on the raised track.

Views from the Signal Box  – Click on picture or wait 10 secs


As you will know if you have tried it, life in the signal box can be hard work. You need an alert mind and nimble fingers to keep up with the demand.   Which track to put the next train on the loop or the main, now the bell rings to tell you that a train has just left the platform and you must lower a signal to call on the next train then reset it when the train has passed.  Then you get three bells and having made sure nobody has gone past the box you put the traverser signal to danger to allow operation of the traverser, now two bells to say the traverser is clear so off with the traverser signal, by now another train is approaching on the ground level track and so it goes on.

Mike Keighley found himself in the box all day and it was very hot

The funny thing was the trains seemed to continue running – no one had the heart to wake him up.

Hope you like the new format  for the web site which has been introduced by Harrison Fletcher.




Bob’s Blog 5th July



On a sunny but chilly  Wednesday evening, members gathered at Ashton Court.  Quite a good turn out of members but unfortunately this was not matched by locomotives.  Only Gordon Cackett brought along his engine and he also allowed Pete Goodman to have a go and see what he could do.  Both drivers had great problems with wheel spin which they put down to an oil leak which occurred on the last running day. Gordon struggled round with himself, and three passengers whilst Pete started with the same number of passengers but soon found he had to drop David Harding and continue with two.   The provisional result , subject to final analyse and scrutiny was a win for Gordon with 0.9% and Pete coming second with 0.6%.   Shame there were not more engines but there was a lot of chatting and much  tea drunk.  Unfortunately the club loco was out of action with a broken grate,  We must make sure it is available next year so we can have a full test of drivers if not of locos.

Gordon Cackett with Pete on board “learning the road”


Pete Goodman – making good time down the back straight.



The long walk home for David Harding.   IMG_0494




Tuesday Steam – Can you identify  the Headless Driver?


As often happens these days a few members turned out on Tuesday to run assorted trams and steam engines and enjoy a cup of coffee and natter.  A new member turned up and enjoyed some laps of the track.  Dennis is re-building a Polly 4 and looking forward to his retirement when he can spend more time at the track.    He is keen to learn more about using a lathe and milling machine he has recently purchased and has offered to help at the exhibition.  Mike Keighley spent the morning clearing ants nests.

Clue to headless driver – he has recently been castigated for the shocking state of his car!