Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Severn Valley Railway...

Hi all. Today myself and everyone's favourite "I missed my alarm" enthusiast 'Eddie the Late' spent the day at the wonderful Severn Valley Railway. The last few days has seen the late arrival of summer and the rising temperatures were coupled with a sky of cloudless blue. Ed had initially planned to come down from Norfolk to volunteer at the Statfold open day but in an act of extraordinary lateness had booked his hotel a week late so had to come down anyway. This story has created much hilarity to all except Ed himself! So, with little else to do, we decided to have a trip up and down the valley. Running for 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, the SVR is probably my favourite preserved line. I met Ed at just before 9am and he immediately insisted on a McDonalds breakfast. Being the kind and caring soul that I am I couldn't refuse his request and we soon found ourselves at the drive through...
Stomachs replenished, we had a quick sprint down the M42 towards Kidderminster. Our planned departure was the 10:15am trip to Bridgnorth which was rostered to No7802 "Bradley Manor". Tickets purchased, we wandered up the platform towards the loco, admiring the immaculate rake of Midland coaches. One thing the SVR should be admired for is its coaching stock as they have a great variety of pre-nationalisation rolling stock from the GWR, LNER and the LMS...
"Bradley Manor" was shining at the head of the train. Over the way, recently overhauled Pannier Tank No7714 was overflowing with water on the column. The tank engine was no doubt glad of a cool down on this warm day! "Bradley Manor" was built under the GWR at Swindon in 1938. Thirty of this popular class of 4-6-0s were built, with the final batch arriving under BR in 1950. 7802 was withdrawn in 1965 and was rescued from Barry Scrapyard for preservation on the SVR in 1979 by the Erlestoke Manor Fund. They are an ideal engine for this sort of work...
"1938-Built GWR Manor Class 7802 'Bradley Manor' At Kidderminster"
To our surprise, the 10:15am train which we thought would be pretty quiet was in fact full! The Manor got the weight moving easily before ticking through the picturesque Severn Valley. We had planned to alight from the train at Highley for our usual visit to the popular 'Engine House'. Having passed sister Manor 7812 at Arley, 7802 barked towards our drop-off point. Once we'd hopped off, the Manor awaited the "Right Away" to depart upgrade towards Hampton Loade...
The 'Engine House' hosts out of ticket engines from the SVR's collection. They are polished up and shining, awaiting their turn in the overhaul queue in covered storage. I think this building is a fabulous idea. The engines aren't rotting in a siding somewhere under tarpaulins, they're on display and continuing to be enjoyed by masses of visitors. Its also a great opportunity for visitors to get up close to these slumbering machines. "Gordon" in particular: the Riddles 2-10-0: is a massive beast...
"Freight Engines At Rest. The 8F 48773 Alongside 'Gordon', No600"
Eddie declared that it was now "brew time" and so we headed upstairs to the café. Sitting outside was the only choice in this weather and the peace across the valley was soon shattered by an approaching Bulleid. The Battle of Britain pacific "Sir Keith Park" was departing Highley towards Arley...
The three-cylinder beat echoed all around as 34053 chugged past...
Our plan was to pick up the 11:44am departure to Bridgnorth and so we had a slow wander back across towards the station. The topic of conversation was the usual - all things steam. No7714 was hauling a 6-coach train and is seen arriving at Highley...
Surprisingly, despite the strong passenger numbers, we actually managed to find a seat. The plucky Pannier then departed towards Bridgnorth. Arriving at the terminus, we alighted from the Mk1 stock and trotted across the footbridge. Another Bulleid - "Taw Valley" - was waiting to depart for Kidderminster. The crew that had manned 7802 this morning had been transferred to the pacific and were preparing for the off. Up close, the Bulleid's are big beasts...
In the sunshine, "Taw Valley" awaited the Guard's signal. The fire was burning brightly in the box as the trainee driver prepared to take her away in front of a no doubt unwelcome audience - nothing worse than being watched...
Soon enough the green flag was waved and 34027 whistled up prior to departure. The stiff regulator was tugged from its resting place and you could hear the steam whistling down to the cylinders. Nothing. It was then I noticed that the die-blocks weren't positioned for starting, particularly when considering the gradient, curve and train weight. Sure enough, "Taw Valley" refused to budge. The 'main driver' came across and attempted movement but she wouldn't go. In the end he resorted to shutting off, opening the drains and attempted to move the now solid reverser. As the pressure dropped, he could change the position and roll the engine back a touch before assuming full forward (75%) and heading off. In his haste the engine caused a slip, much to the cheers of the onlookers who were gripped to the spectacle. As 34027 chugged triumphantly away, the joy drastically reduced as a cloud of smuts like I've never seen rained down upon us. I think its fair to say our shirts were ruined and Ed even had to resort to washing his hair in the gents! Serves us right for judging. This called for a pint at the platform-based "Railwaymans Arms"...
After our refreshing pint we had a look on the bridge to see the goings on in the yard. 7802 had gone on shed for a break whilst 7714 was being coaled. The yard here is always a hive of activity and the number of engines in the SVR fleet never ceases to amaze me. 2857 and the 'Flying Pig' were also spotted...
7714 has her bunker topped up by the JCB...
After coaling and watering, the Pannier was returned to her rightful place at the head of the train. The 1:05pm departure would comprise the Mk1 stock once again. A crew member is seen here bringing the lamp to the front. He then reattached the vacuum bag which is left off during light engine working on engines with the combi-brake to prevent the pump picking up vacuum whilst operating with the steam brake...
"Erlestoke Manor" soon rolled in from Kidderminster. She was working "Foot Ex" courses and her arrival cleared the section for 7714 to depart. 7714 was built for the GWR by Kerr Stuart in 1930...
The plucky Pannier made a fine run to Hampton Loade, providing an audible chorus to excite the ears. "Sir Keith Park" passed us there...
The rest of the run back was most pleasant, with the 0-6-0 ticking through the Severn Valley without a care. I love Pannier tanks and a BR black one is always welcome. They are definitely a go anywhere, do anything machine - as I found the other week watching 9600! After Bewdley, we spotted the elephants out and about in the safari park. You don't see these from many preserved railways I'm sure...
Arriving triumphantly back at Kidderminster, 7714 was uncoupled quickly before a brisk run-round. Her next departure wasn't far away but for us it was time for a final cuppa' before the journey homeward. I did try and snap the pannier a final time but the hot sun was just at the wrong angle so I gave in with that one. Well, after a most enjoyable day at the brilliant SVR it was time for home. Cheers Ed for another good laugh, Sam...

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Driving at Statfold: A Corpet & A Krauss...

"Driving The Corpet" (Pic - M.Dean)
Occasionally you are rostered for a turn that you're 100% certain will be a good day. In fact, all of our locomotive turns at the award winning Statfold Barn Railway have been fantastic over the years, come rain or shine. June 10th heralded the arrival of Statfold's second Enthusiasts Day of the 2017 season and 15 locomotives would be in steam, boosted by the addition of Tram Car No14 and The Goose. During the lead up to the event it seemed I was in for a quiet day, having originally been rostered for a 'Relief' turn - basically a standby driver. However, during the week, a turn became available and the roster was edited to book me on "Minas De Aller" - the French Corpet. Built in Paris in 1884, No2 always attracts interest at the SBR due to her unusual looks. The Brown valve gear, with the valve chests slung beneath the pistons, is always a talking point. After picking up my McDonalds breakfast on route, I arrived in the queue at the Statfold gates at 5:45am. Once we were in, we parked up before stumbling to the engine shed to sign in and start preparations...
"6am - A Smoky Atmosphere On Shed"
As usual, the shed frontage at Statfold was a hive of activity with engine drivers and firemen running around trying to scramble for spanners and oil cans. An interesting point whilst talking about crews is the diversity of the team. The enginemen which staff the SBR open days are from all over - Ffestiniog, West Lancs, Mid Hants, Amerton and Welsh Highland amongst others. The mornings on shed always offer a good opportunity to catch up and exchange gossip! When I arrived at our engine Fireman Ben was getting changed. The Hayling lads had already done their work - they always light the fires before we get in. Opening the firehole door revealed a blazing bed of wood which I then covered with the smoky coal from the bunker. No2, amongst other quirks, has no damper and so comes round like no tomorrow. Within an hour or so she was starting to look like she'd been called to take the Mid Day Scot over Shap...
The valve gear is very accessible on the Corpet, with a variety of cork-stopped reservoirs to top up with motion oil. The axleboxes required a quick syringe to ensure that oil and not water was reaching the brasses. Finally there are two globes mounted on the pannier tanks for the cylinders and a small pot for the steam brake atop the manifold to fill with cylinder oil, plus the mechanical lubricator mounted on the frame on the drivers side. All in all it was a pleasant and easy preparation, with No2 doing her best to provide steam for all of the engines on the shed frontage. As 'off shed' time neared, we had the normal Safety Briefing from the operating managers before we nipped for our breakfast cob ("yes...more food!")...
The Corpet, despite her years, is an amazingly powerful and sure footed machine which is easily capable of handling SBR duties single handed. Double-heading has however become the norm at Statfold due to the large amount of locomotives on the roster at each open day - if we all ran alone we'd only get one trip! We were lucky enough to be coupled to JB and Steve on the equally vintage Krauss 'Sragi No1', which myself & Eddie had a great day on last April - see here. The two engines came off shed at around 10am to take up their place at the head of the freight train. As the Krauss doesn't have a steam brake, the effective example on the Corpet was used to slow our descent from the shed. After an easy first run with our two powerful steeds, we reached the balloon loop and the usual pathing stop...
JB and Steve were great company throughout the day. However, as normal, JB's 'constructive criticism' made them resemble Waldorf and Statler by the end of the day, offering relentless sarcastic driving tips from the comfort of their balcony...
Returning to Statfold Jnc, our fairly long ensemble was turned on the turntable before slowly trundling through the running shed to reach the shed frontage once again. We weren't stationary for long before we were called again...
"Second Trip - Waiting At The Balloon Loop"
Our second outing consisted of the ex-L & B passenger stock which pulls beautifully and has some wonderfully controllable air brakes. Geoff Cryer was out and about with his camera once more and captured Sragi No1 getting us on the move with a little help from the green Corpet tucked inside...
"A Krauss & A Corpet Join Forces" (Pic - G.Cryer)
The Krauss is another machine that surprises with its ratio of strength vs years. The pairing provided a powerful union capable of any task...
"Basking In The Sun at Oak Tree"
Having paused for water and a cuppa' at Oak Tree whilst waiting for the down train to pass, the two engines returned to Statfold with ease. Soon enough, having passed through the yard via the turntable again, we were waiting at the disc signals in the yard near the signalbox for our next move...
"Marchlyn" and "Sybil Mary" soon arrived with the L & B stock once more. This would form our third outing of the day with the Corpet leading once again. We were having a lovely time. Fireman Ben was making steam for our needs with ease and No2 was her usual self - noisy and powerful...
We were soon awaiting departure in the platform...
The Corpet, with no damper, steams like no tomorrow on a candle and so Fireman Ben was even resorting to hand firing. His technique of simply filling the holes in the bed certainly seemed to do the trick as the engine was right where he wanted her. We were having a great day aboard our 133-year old steed...
From a drivers point of view, the Corpet is a pleasant thing to be on. The main eccentricity is the regulator being effectively outside the cab. The handle is located just in front of the weather board. The engine does however have a very nice screw reverser and with the regulator set you can bring her back gently and hear the note change accordingly. The power packed inside this engine is scary really...she just wants to go. The stopping ability is also admirable, with a traditional steam brake fitted which is more than satisfactory. All in all, it is a quirky and workmanlike machine which has far more to offer than you would first think...
"Nearing The Balloon Loop" (Pic - T.Easter)
The beat of the Corpet is also very different. The large cylinders give it a strong exhaust, though the beat does tend to turn into almost machine gun fire once you go faster than a few miles per hour. Its a most unusual engine but great to be on...
"In The Headshunt Awaiting The Road"
For our fourth trip we were yet again on the ex-L & B coaches. JB provided a great display whilst departing from Statfold Jnc as the 1899-built Krauss got us "on the move" in fine style. I think I'll call this the "JB Column"...
"The Volcanic Krauss" (Pic - T.Easter)
Amazingly, after our fourth trip we ended up getting a fifth outing which is always welcome. The Corpet would again be leading for our final passenger working of the day. We are captured here by Michael Dean, returning to Statfold. The Corpet has the train moving easily with a little help from No1. I'm just looking back to check all is well as we approach the viewing gallery at the foot of the bank to Oak Tree...
"On The Move" (Pic - M.Dean)
Leaving Oak Tree, with the train clear of the station limits, the engine accelerated up towards line speed with ease. Leaving the regulator where it is, a spin on the reverser brings her to a sort of cruise and if you need to wind her in a little on the final climb towards the Outer Home you can. What a lovely old thing! Having been uncoupled from our coaches at Statfold Jnc, the engines were turned to reach the shed road a final time before the cavalcade. "Minas De Aller" - the veteran of the Spanish Coal Mines - was then disposed of where she stood along with her 14 stable mates...
Well, another fantastic day on the footplate at Statfold Barn! I must thank Fireman Ben for his cheerful company aboard No2 and for putting up with me as his driver. I must also thank our comedic duo Britt & Steve for their company aboard our assisting engine - the Krauss. Finally, I must thank the various photographers who have kindly allowed me to use their images in this post, as well as all at Statfold for another great opportunity. Cheers all, thanks for reading, Sam...

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Evesham Vale: A "Dougal" Day...

Hi all. After a quiet day working on "Clun Castle" yesterday at Tyseley, this morning saw me out bright and early for another turn at the Evesham Vale Light Railway. Hitting the road just before 7am, the saunter into Worcestershire along the A46 proved no trouble and, having collected my McDonalds breakfast on route, I continued to the EVLR's base at Twyford. Stomach satisfied, I met with Adrian & Sandra before signing in. On this pleasant sunny morning I was very pleased to hear Adrian utter the words "you're on Dougal today" . The Severn Lamb 0-6-2 is a strong and characterful little engine and with the sun shining it seemed that a great day was ahead. With the shed open, we pushed No3 outside in readiness for preparation...
"Dougal" had been on service for a couple of days and the heat emanating from the doorplate into the cab showed I'd have no issue raising steam. Before the fire could be lit, any remaining embers would be raked through the bars and the David Curwen ashpan also had to be emptied - an easy way to get covered in dust before things got going! Having checked in the smokebox and firebox to ensure all was well, an embryo fire was lit using paraffin-soaked rags...
With the rags blazing away on the grate, wood was added before a final layer of coal. In my limited experience the Welsh coal needs a good heat beneath it to take easily and so I tend to just layer up the box with good lumps and leave the engine to get on with it. The warm chimney and the auxiliary draft provided by the airline ensured that there was plenty of airflow through the fire bed and that everything would move in the right direction. With the fire crackling away to itself nicely, I set to with the cleaning implements: Peek for the Brasses, Pledge for the Paintwork. I normally try to go off shed just after 10am, leaving plenty of time prior to the first departure at 10:30. Before leaving, the Baker valve gear is lubricated with motion oil and the mechanical lubricator topped up with cylinder oil. A splash of oil down the horn guides completes the process and with 130psi on the clock we were ready to go. With a pip on the whistle, "Dougal" hissed into life and meandered gently through the groaning point work to reach the mouth of the yard. At this point the locomotive was blown down...
Some passers by did ask about the purpose of the loud ejection of steam from the boiler at this stage. The answer is simple really. Any deposits which leave the water during evaporation tend to collect at the boilers lowest point: the foundation ring at the foot of the firebox. The EVLR engines have blow down valves fitted here so that each morning the valve can be opened and steam ejected at high pressure. The ejected steam will take along deposits with it, thus effectively 'cleaning out' the boiler. This process doesn't make washouts or water changes any less necessary but it does help increase the life of the boiler and reduce the amount of deposits inside. Soon enough, "Dougal" was waiting for the off with the 10:30 departure...
I knew it was all too good to be true. Only a few minutes before departure the dark clouds rolled in and the heavens began to open. As it started spitting, the decision was taken to shunt the open stock into the spur line on Platform 3 road whilst the diesel "Cromwell" put the closed stock in Platform 1...
Having shunted the open stock onto the spare road, I rolled "Dougal" back across to Platform 1 and assumed our position at the head of the train. Sure enough it hadn't rained heavily after all, though the dark clouds were persistent and threatening. Leaving Twyford a couple of minutes down, the engine steamed easily to Evesham Vale. The first train was quiet, with only a couple of passengers aboard...
"No3 at Evesham Vale With The First Train"
Returning to Twyford, "Dougal" was turned on the table before calling at the water column for water. The addition of the large tender to the former tank engine has resulted in plenty of room on the footplate and its a very pleasant environment to work in. The tender was soon full of water...
Adrian would be the Guard until the 1:30pm trip, when Sandra would take over for the afternoon stint. The flurry of passengers during the first two trips was steady but four coaches were required for the Midday outing. With four on "Dougal" does bark well up the stiff banks on the approach to Evesham Vale. Although she is a fair size, the Exmoor engines "Monty" and "Egwin" both find four coaches fairly easy in comparison. As long as you have the steam though, "Dougal" will do what you ask...
Later, "Dougal" climbs towards Twyford from Evesham Vale...
A peek in the firebox during a layover at Twyford between trips...
"Fire In The Hole"
"Dougal" pulled well and steamed freely throughout most of the day. The short bursts of power required at Evesham are easily provided as long as you don't get too complacent. The coal used aboard the EVLR engines is such that little and often is the only way to prevent almost constant blowing off. However, running the fire down has its limits and sometimes the coal you think is there is actually just glowing ash that has already burnt off its calorific value. For example, an early afternoon four coach train got hold of "Dougal" a little more than I'd have liked and the pressure needle began to creep back. On closer inspection of the grate the coal had burnt away fully and a few rounds brought smoke to the chimney and also the required results to the gauge. Sure enough, the red line was reached as soon as the regulator was closed and I then spent two trips trying to calm the thing down...always the way! For the 3pm trip, the traditional Evesham "Tea & Cake" was served to the footplate. A Bakewell Tart was the order of the day and was subsequently devoured...
As I sat down on the tender seat with my cuppa', I couldn't help but notice the unsavoury clouds from earlier rolling in once more. Sure enough, the 3pm train departed in a cloud of steam and rain! My tea was protected behind the weather board but my face took the full force of the battering. The rain did clear slightly for the Evesham Vale layover but would return as we departed with sanders in operation. It was a very changeable day...
The road ahead with a damp cab roof...
Departing Evesham Vale on wet rails, "Dougal" had a couple of slips before climbing towards Twyford. The general idea here is to get the weight moving upgrade as quickly as possible as if you are going to stall you need to make sure your train clears the spring-loaded trailing points. Most of the time the engine will hold firm until the foot crossing just after the points, where the accumulation of dirt and leaves brought over by crossing pedestrians tends to lower the rail condition. Again, the bigger engines like "Monty" don't really bother but the Severn Lamb is just that little bit lighter. Earlier in the day the sanders had already been used during an impromptu downpour...
"Taking Shelter at Twyford Station"
Having sheltered for a short while under the canopy at Twyford, the engine was brought around smartly to take out the 3:30pm train. It was still raining and the best way to hide from it (I find anyway) is to stand up and just let your face take it whilst the cab does its best to protect your overalls. Amazingly, the 4pm train waited to depart in sunshine as the clouds parted revealing patches of blue sky!...
It had already been decided that "Cromwell" would provide diesel haulage for the 4:30pm train and so "Dougal"s last trip was the 4pm. We departed in sunshine, although it was still quite damp in the air. "Dougal" is perhaps the 'drivers engine' of Evesham. She has the standard regulator arrangement, unlike the silky smooth ball valves carried on the Exmoor's. This gives her a bit of a 'feel' and you can set the regulator where you like and she'll stride away. Its a very nice engine. Built in Stratford in 1970 by Severn Lamb, the engine worked its heart out at the Safari Park-based Longleat Railway. Back then it was a tank engine with a smaller boiler. The team at Evesham gave her a new, larger boiler and a tender and this has transformed her into a much more powerful machine...
After a final stop at Evesham Vale, we prepared for departure homeward...
"The Footplate of No3"
As I've said many times before, a day at Evesham isn't stressful nor taxing. Its a very pleasant, quiet experience involving gentle chugs through countryside greenery with a happy little engine. Upon returning to Twyford, Steve already had "Cromwell" ticking away in readiness to take over our train. "Dougal" was turned once more and then steamed back to the shed for disposal and ashing out...
With the ashpan dropped, I drove "Dougal" over onto "Egwin"s road as the latter is in the main shed having the cylinders and chassis overhauled. The smokebox was cleaned out and everything checked prior to cleaning her up and filling the boiler. It would soon be time to drive "Dougal" gently backwards into the shed on her final breaths of steam before stabling...
With the engine safely back in the shed after a most enjoyable day, it was time to wash up and sign out before the journey home. As usual I must thank Adrian & Sandra for another brilliant day on the footplate at their railway. "Dougal" is a lovely little engine and always a pleasure to be on. Until next time - Cheers, Sam...