Steam Toys In Action 2009

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Report on the 'Big One'!  STIA 2009

The Abbey Pumping Station, Leicester

My STIA started a few months ago by planning which engines to take and what my theme work be. This year I decided to take the mobiles and English steam engines and workshops. Moving forward to January 31st and it was time to load the car, this always looks a little odd at 6.15am in the morning! We set off about 7.15am and kept a leisurely pace most of the way, stopping off at a few service areas on the way up for coffee, eats and the call of nature!
The familiar landmark chimney hoved into view in Leicester about 12.45pm and this meant that the hotel was just a few miles around the corner and that STIA 2009 was nearly upon us once more.
The weather on the way up was crisp and dry with bright sun and a vicious cold wind. No sign of the snow which would arrive on the Sunday. After a shower and something to eat and drink at the hotel, I had a leisurely walk over to the Pumping Station at Corporation Road. I arrived at the pumping station about 2.30pm and managed to catch to eye of one of the volunteers and was duly let in as the gates were locked. I found Fred busying himself with labelling the tables and generally getting on with preparing the venue for the nineteenth Steam Toys in Action Event. The boating lake was slowly filling and the wind was getting more and colder! I took the chance to take a few images of the deserted pumping station (save for about 3 or 4 volunteers), it was rather nice to walk around the site and take some images of this fine Victorian edifice whilst everything was quiet. I took a few nice images of the red brickwork and detailing as well as the massive Woolf Compound engines and the beam floor. Everything was eerily quiet… a situation that would change the next day. The dealers’ marquee was bare and empty ready to receive the many dealers who home in on this event. Things were less busy in the big shed which is cleared out, set up and restored with its contents by the hard working volunteers who work with Fred on this unmissable event. Fred and I chatted for an hour or so as preparations were made, all the while the boating lake slowly filling! I left the pumping station about 4.00pm and walked briskly back to the hotel, my god it was cold!
The next day I woke about 8am, showered and had a coffee and walked into a deserted and bitterly cold Leicester city centre to pick up a paper and get some money from the hole in the wall, warming up back at the hotel I made sure I had the essentials: camera, flasks of hot water for the engines and food to keep me going, it was going to be a bit chilly in the big shed until the engines got steaming!
Leaving the hotel at 1030am I checked the car over, loaded up my bags (the car was left loaded overnight – the hotel has a secure car park). The diesel clattered into life and I was off, 10 minutes later I’m at the pumping station, parking up and taking my bag into the big shed. I knew where I was situated so dumped my bag at the tables and then went looking for a trolley to bring in the loaded boxes full of my engines. Jim, Wilescoman and Will were already there and the shed was beginning to fill up with collectors and friends saying hello and refreshing old acquaintances… I managed to blag a large trolley and made for my car, all my kit was in 4 large transit boxes so it was a doddle to cart them over to the shed – the trolley was as heavy as the engines and it certainly warmed me up dragging my display over.
Once the car had been parked up, I took a slow walk through the dealer’s marquee – early bargain hunters were out already! I spotted Paul and Mike Sleigh eyeing up the merchandise, I was going to resist buying anything this year – it was hard but I succeeded!
Reaching the shed I set up, taking care to open up a box at a time, following my planned layout – a sketch and a photo!! (I have altered my layout every year when I do it from memory) – you really can get a lot into a two table set up with care and planning – no need to bring the kitchen sink too! My working and steaming area would be in the middle of my display, flanked by my stationary engines on the right and the TEs and SRs on the left – the first time I have brought mobiles to STIA.
It took me an hour to set up making sure everything was in its place and all packing materials put in the right packing crate (saves so much wasted time at the end of the day). Setting up correctly would mean I would have time to make a sweep of the big shed and take in the sights before the public crowds streamed in at 1.00pm. Taking my time here paid dividends, as I did not need to touch the display again, save for taking out engines to be steamed.
Having a quick sweep of the shed I was able to take in the plethora of engines – mobile and stationary, English, German and American. A truly wonderful sight, one which gets the excitement going and is the perfect antidote to all that is negative in the world. By 12.30pm I had the E101 prepared and simmering away, a great engine to start with and one which didn’t need any touching once it was going – gives me plenty of time to take stock of things and get other engines ready for steaming – steaming for the lazy! Other engines I steamed during the day were the 1954 SE2 and full Mamod workshop, the Bowman M135 and dynamo, my first Mamod – the 1973 SR1a on the rolling road, which by the way was a great hit with punters and collectors alike!, the 1953 Minor 2 workshop and finally the Wilesco D14 (which steamed three times during the day!). All engines ran well, the M135 was rather slow (too cold methinks) and the E101 blew a steam tap off – much steam everywhere!! – repaired a little later. I think at one stage I had three engines running – the SR1a on the rolling road, the SE2 and D14 running the workshop in tandem – its hard wok keeping everything running – the public like to see things going!!
Once the time reached 1pm the shed started to fill up, excited children (and dads) streamed in and the special buzz that is STIA began to grow. I had very little to do whilst the 101 was steaming which gave me a chance to chat to the public as well as other collectors, forum embers (both forums) as well as my two neighbours – Steamyjim and Wilescoman. I would personally like to thank Steve S, Rocdoc, Atticman in particular, who took the time to cross barriers and have a damn good chat about our common interests – Toy Steam!! As the afternoon wore on more and more people drifted past, happy families enjoying the day’s event as the atmosphere of steam spirit and sold fuel aromas filled the shed – punctuated by whistle blowing of the best kind!
One special visitor I had during the afternoon was Steve Malins, who remembered me from last year somehow! We chatted for about 5 minutes whilst he watched the engines on my table in steam. Apparently this event is hit annual fix of toy steam. We shook hands and he moved on! Thanks to Steamyjim for ensuring he got one of the forums leaflets, I made sure he had a card too! Other notable visitors to my table were Mike (MC-MC… Toy Steam Bible curator), Silverfox (Stephen), Ian Grantham and Colin Laker always great to talk to!
All too soon the time came to steam the last engine, douse down the last burner and start getting the packing boxes and bubble wrap back out, after a fantastic afternoon of great engines, great sights and great people I’m ready for a sit down and a beer. By now the snow had started to dust the site and for the fist time the snow comes down on STIA 2009 as the curtain comes down too on another wonderful day at The Abbey Pumping Station – many thanks to all who took part, all who came up and talked and above all to Mr Fred Crammond and the Volunteers at APS, who without their unstinting dedication to this special event, would surely leave a big hole in any Toy Steam Enthusiasts calendar!

Mamod mobiles at STIA 2009

Setting up in the big shed...

Crowds in the big shed...