'Li'Jo' passes the signal box - photo by Julian Hudson
'Li’l Jo' is a 71/4” gauge 2-4-0 steam locomotive built by Maxitrak of Kent in 2000. She is based on a locomotive built by the North American locomotive engineering company, Porter, for the 3’ gauge Catherine Plantation
Sugar Cane Railroad in Louisiana, USA.
She has a rather oversized tender that provides plenty of coal and water, as well as a comfortable (?) riding seat for the driver!
The wheel arrangement, 2-4-0, refers to the two small wheels at the front,
then the four driving wheels, the ‘0’ means that there are no wheels at the back (the tender doesn’t count!). The front wheels, or ‘pony truck’, help guide the loco on it’s way down the track and support some of the weight
of the front buffer beam and pilot (or ‘cowcatcher’). The four bigger driving wheels are coupled together and are driven by the pistons – they’re what make the loco move and haul her passengers.
The ‘gauge’ is the
distance between the rails. 7 ¼” is one of the UK standards for miniature railways. In the ‘real world’ any less than the ‘standard’ gauge of 4’ 8 ½” is called ‘narrow gauge’. So as the original
‘Li’l Jo’ ran on a 3’ gauge track, she was a narrow gauge loco.
The loco has two big domes on the boiler. One is to cover the safety valves and collect all the steam that is made in the boiler, the other is for sand that
can be sprinkled on the rails if it’s slippery. In proper American style, she carries a bell to warn people that she’s coming down the track. She also has a pair of steam whistles. The tall chimney has a large top that was designed to help prevent
sparks from the fire setting all the sugar cane alight! There is a very large headlamp mounted on the smokebox to light up the track ahead for safe night-time running.
Her name, in traditional American style, is painted on a wooden frame carried on
the cabside. Brass nameplates, as used on British railways, were rare in the States.
In common with many small gauge locomotives, ‘Li’l Jo’ doesn’t have brakes, these are provided on the tender to which the loco is connected
by a strong ‘drawbar’ and safety chain!
As well as the Churwell Woodland Railway, ‘Li’l Jo’ works at the Porthmadog Woodland Railway and, locally, at the Blackgates track in Tingley.
During August 2017,
'Li'l Jo' went back to her makers, Maxitrak, for work on her valvegear & motion after worn bushes and bad valve timing were diagnosed. 'Li'l Jo' will be in action again in 2018.