Monday, 30 August 2010

Simple Steamy Day with "Mayflower"...

Hi everybody. Only a short one today; another trainee turn on LNER B1 No1306 "Mayflower" at Shackerstone. I arrived at around 6:30am before helping to prepare and clean the engine with Fireman Adrian and Driver Neil. Six trips were rostered for today; we would be working the 2nd, 4th and 6th, the other three being worked by visiting Prairie Tank No5542. I didn't do any firing today as I did so much on Saturday; what an easy day it was! Passenger numbers weren't too bad either, a good day overall really. We were also joined on the footplate by the locomotive's owner; Gerald; who acted as our Pilotman for the day. Above, myself and Neil lean from 1306 as we approach Market Bosworth Station southbound. Below, 5542 works northwards, pictured at Carlton. Trainee Fireman Joe ('Coppercap') is leaning from the Fireman's side...
Again, another good day on 1306 "Mayflower". Thank you to the crew, the owner and of course Mr D.Hanks for providing the photos once again. Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Another Turn with 5542...

Hi everyone. Today I was again out at 6am, to be at Shackerstone for 6:30am ready to light GWR Small Prairie No5542. I was to be Trainee Fireman once again, with Adrian as Driver and Carl as Fireman. On arrival at Shack loco works, we unlocked the door and walked inside to discover the fleet of engine's cosy and safe. 5542 stood in front of "Sir Gomer" and "Mayflower". I climbed up onto the footplate and checked the Water Level; 1/2 a glass; good. I then opened the Firebox doors and saw a small pile of ash at the front; the result of the 'warming fire' from the day before. The ash was still very hot and there was even the odd flame here and there. 5542 was very warm indeed and it wouldn't be too hard to steam her up for the days work. It was then time to check the Firebox including the Sheets, Stays, Grate and of course the Fusible plugs. You can also check the Brick Arch and the few tubes/flue's which you can see. It is also good practise to take a look in the 'front end'; the Smokebox; to examine the tubes at that end too. All this done, you can rake the grate. The motto is: the cleaner the grate, the better the fire. Fire raked, 5542 was dragged out into the morning light by Class 02 shunter; D2867 "Diane". I then spread a bed of coal 1-lump thick around the grate before adding wood (spread diagonally) on top. Two or three parrafin-soaked rags followed; two of which were lit. You can then open the Damper(s) and shut the Firebox doors. The fire should then take hold...
With the help of Gina and fellow CMES member Eddie, we cleaned the engine in good time and it wasn't long before she was ready. We then ran across the crossover, coupled up to the train and watered up. However, due to the unscheduled water stop, we left Shackerstone about 6 minutes late, at 10:56am. This lateness prompted Adrian to enduce some 'spirited running'. I was on the shovel for alot of the day and therefore bore the stress of this first trip in which the engine is still 'warming up' as it were! Storming up through the cutting and under the 1st bridge, 5542 was chuffing loudly; notched up too. However, though I'd made the effort of keeping a 'good back end' in the box, the pressure was dropping. The front Damper was then raised 2-notches, baring in mind that we're going backwards, and the steam then began to come back. Normally, I find that an engine really settles in after the first full round trip. However, in this case, 5542 was 'settled in' by the time we got to Bosworth on the first run; only 3 miles away from Shackerstone! This was all down to the 'spirited running' of course! From that point on, 5542 was her usual self; a Fireman's dream. Eddie came with us on the first two trips, before we were joined by 'Mal' on the third. We then enjoyed a fourth run with just three in the cab before adopting another passenger on the last run...
In the end, I fired four out of the five trips that we did. Fireman Carl was pressed into action to fire the last one; simply because he was bored by now! I therefore enjoyed the comfort of a sit-down on the Fireman's side. I really like 5542 from a Fireman's point of view; she steams so well on so little coal. Below, 5542 leaks steam from every possible angle as we traverse the points into Shenton loop...
Here, we come across the foot crossing before continuing the run-round procedure; "Crossing Clear My Side!"...
Below, we climb Shenton Bank, working Northwards back towards Shackerstone with the 5-coach rake. In the distance, I can be spotted in the cab!...
After the last, shal we say 'spirited'(!), trip we retired 5542 to the shed and disposed. Once put to bed, she was left for the night. I had had another great day on the Prairie; she really is something. Firing four out of the five trips was very enjoyable indeed; I wasn't even very tired afterwards...surprisingly! Thank you to Adrian and Carl for a great day out on the line. I must also extend a special thanks to Mr D. Hanks, a respected and much appreciated member of our Steam Department, who took the time to capture and send in all of the images which you see in this post; Thank You very much. And, finally, thank you for reading folks; Good Evening...

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

"St Egwin" On The Evesham Vale...

Hello everyone. Today, even with the once again horrid weather forecast, we set off for another visit to the Evesham Vale Light Railway in Worcestershire. This would be our second visit of 2010 but, as with our last trip there in February, the weather wasn't on our side! "Oh well, can't help the weather". The EVLR was running it's daily 'summer' service; operating from 10:30am until 5pm. The locomotive in charge was the illusive Exmoor-built 0-4-0STT "St Egwin"; owned by EVLR Driver Steve Bell. I say 'illusive' as it's the first time I've actually managed to catch "Egwin" on film! (At last!). We arrived at the Evesham Country Park at just before 12 Midday, under dark skies threatening rain. (The drive from here to there is about an hour as long as the traffic isn't too bad in the Stratford area). After parking up, we enjoyed a cuppa' from our assembled flasks and a picnic; all undertaken from the safety of the dry, warm car of course! Soon, the train, hauled by "St Egwin", arrived back at Twyford Station and we purchased our tickets before climbing aboard. The chunky Exmoor engine took up her place at the head of the train and, right on time, we departed at 12:30pm. The hard working EVLR owners were on site as usual; one driving and one acting as Guard. We then enjoyed a 15-minute round trip through the Apple Orchards and around the Baloon Loop to Evesham Vale Station. The run also included the usual 5-minute or so break at Evesham Vale, overlooking the location of the same name! Below, today's video footage; filmed over a couple of trips; can be viewed...

Back at Twyford with the rain falling, I decided to look over the engine. "St Egwin" was ordered and constructed new in 2003 by Exmoor Steam Railway in Devon as Work's Number 312. She is a large 0-4-0 tendered side tank, wearing a green livery and the EVLR initials on the tender. The loco wears a large boiler with all the usual features from a regulator to a whistle. I particularly like the two large gauge glasses and the stylish cab front. The loco carries Walschaerts valve gear, employing outside-frames to give bigger width and overall stature. All bearings are 'Roller Bearings'; adding to the modernity of this now 7-year old locomotive. Gearing is on a Pole Reverser, with two notches in either direction. This allows for a little bit of 'notching up' but, as the EVLR is a fairly steep line, advanced steam exploitation isn't necessary. Stopping is provided by Air Brakes as well as a Handbrake. Furthermore, as her owner is a Driver on the famous Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, "St Egwin" has also been fitted with Vacuum Brakes. This has allowed her to visit Romney on a few occasions, taking part in gala's and hauling heavier trains. Of course, she is more a powerful machine than a fast one but I'm told that she performed well at RHDR regardless. She has also visited the Bure Valley Railway at Wroxham. Next month, she is even visiting the Kirklees Light Railway in Yorkshire for their gala (why not go and see her there?!). Below, the 3.5-tonne locomotive is seen from the rear, looking over the tender...
Here we can see the cab of the locomotive. There are two injectors which provide water for the boiler...
Below, the Walschaerts valve gear is seen, operating on Slide Valves...
"St Egwin"s worksplate, showing her youth as a steam locomotive...
After run's, the EVLR always turn their engines. "St Egwin" is seen being turned by George whilst Driver Helen Shackell keeps watch from the footplate...
One thing I always like about the EVLR is their keeness to talk to visitors and answer questions. This is a factor that is becoming increasing rare on steam railway's I believe; some people just don't want to know! The friendliness of the staff is then reflected in the morale of the visitors. Below, with rain not putting them off, visitors crowd around "St Egwin" as Driver Helen gives one of her routine demonstrations as to how a steam locomotive works, encouraging the youngsters to ask questions and enchance their knowledge of their beloved steam trains. How many other places do you know that are this informative and encouraging?...
"The Road Ahead": A quick snap through what would be the Drivers-side cab window if she was full size...
By 2pm, soaked through, cold and increasing unenthusiastic about continuing, I decided to call it a day. I had got my film and some pictures, and had had a chat to boot. The EVLR always proves an interesting few hours out; whatever the weather. I watched the 2pm departure leave, saying goodbye to Helen and Jim (the owners) as I did so. The line will continue to operate at weekends throughout the year. Click HERE for details. I will be visiting the wonderful EVLR again in a few months; possibly November time. Thank you to Jim, Helen and all of the EVLR staff for another nice, friendly visit. Also thanks to "St Egwin"s owner, Steve Bell; you have a lovely engine, Sir! Thank you for reading folks. Good Evening...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Firing 5542 at Shackerstone...

Hi everyone. Today I was due to crew Shackerstone's visiting engine; GWR 'Light Prairie' No5542. I collected Fireman Carl at 6am and we proceeded to Shackerstone, arriving there at about 6:15am. As the first two on site, we discovered a still very warm No5542 in the South Yard behind the engine sheds. There was still a bit of steam in the boiler and therefore, it wouldn't be too hard to steam the engine up again. Carl proceeded to break up some wood whilst I got the rake from atop the fireman's-side tank. I then raked the grate which was only slightly covered with spent fuel from the day before. I then checked the inside of the firebox as I normally would. It was then time to cover the grate with a bed of coal 'one-lump thick'; this takes a few shovelfulls on this engine. Then, thanks to Carl, I had some wood to start the fire with. Stacking the planks diagonally, I soon had a good heap of fuel on the grate. It was then time to grab the shovel and light some diesel-soaked rags. Once lit, the rags are thrown through the firehole ring and, hopefully, onto the centre of the fire. I then open the Damper and close the Firehole doors. The fire is then left to 'get going'. Meanwhile, Driver Jan had arrived and was starting to oil the engine round. After a few hours, 5542 was just about ready and we left the shed on time at 10:30am. We had also done some brass cleaning both atop the engine and inside the cab! Below, 5542 is spotted just after coming off shed. (Photo by D.Hanks)...
Once coupled up to the first train we were ready to go. I would be firing the first two trips with Jan driving and Carl basically supervising. We left Shackerstone on time at 10:50am, joined by a shareholder of 5542! (No pressure then!). The engine steamed well on the way to Shenton and it wasn't long before we arrived there (time flies when you're firing). After running round we were given a cup of coffee each (thanks to the Buffet Car staff) and we were then given the "Right Away" for Shackerstone. 5542 steamed very well on the way back too and we made it back to base in good time. One thing I did notice however was that the 'heat' was a little different. I know that sounds silly but, due to the different brand of coal being used today compared to what I fired on last time, it seems a fair observation indeed! For example, the use of the Dampers to ignite the fuel was a little more regular. On the last coal, the engine steamed with very little use of the Damper. This coal required a little more time to get-going I thought. However, once it was 'really hot', it really did the job well. The only problem was a bit of clinker here and there. Best idea seemed to rake it off the grate and push it under the door; as Pockets said to. After a successful 1st trip I had an even better 2nd trip; it was relatively easy; I would even go so far as to say I enjoyed it! 5542 is seen at Shack waiting to be watered up after the 2nd trip...
For the 3rd trip, I decided to take a break and enjoy my lunch and a cuppa' in the shed. This would also give Pockets a chance to do some firing on 5542 as he wanted to (he normally gets lumbered with driving only!). After 55 minutes out on the line, 5542 returned right on time with, unusually, Pockets on the handle! I then returned to the footplate for the 4th trip, firing again. I then fired the first half of the 5th trip; Pockets fired the way back before we put 5542 to bed. Throughout the day, we had been firing with the flap rather than the doors. This is a much 'lighter' method, saving more energy in the process...
5542 is seen pulling out of Market Bosworth with the 5-coach rake, bound for Shenton; seen through the Driver's window; note the ever important cuppa' on the window sill...
After the 5th trip we uncoupled the loco and ran off the train into the North End. Meanwhile, Pockets was raking the fire through. (It wasn't mine, it was his; normal practise of course!). We then proceeded in reverse back through Platform 1 and into the Dock Road (leading upgrade to the Shed). 5542 was put neatly into the shed by Driver Jan and she was then 'screwed down' and filled up with water for the evening; thus ending her disposal. (Her main disposal is done in the week when she's cooler). 5542 runs off the train and into the North End...
All in all, it had been a great day and I left Shack at about 7:15pm; driving home. Thank you to Firemen Pockets and Carl as well as Driver Jan Ford and of course No5542 herself. On another note, Driver Jan has her own blog and her own railway photography site. Why not check them out? (Click on them to view). 5542 performed very well again today and was, again, willing to work. I'm also crewing the engine next Saturday and then I've got 1306 "Mayflower" on August 30th and September 5th. (Should be good; more posts coming as they happen!). Thanks again to everyone involved for a great day firing; I really enjoyed it. Thank you for reading folks. Good Evening...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

5542 and "Sir Gomer" at Shackerstone...

Hi everyone. Today I arrived at Shack with Phil at around 9:30am. Up in the yard 5542 was simmering away, carefully looked after by Drivers John & Dave and Fireman Mic. The Cleaner, Danny, was also there making the final preparations for the first departure of the day; the 10:50am. 5542 would be operating the standard 5-train service as usual. By 10:30am the loco had gone off shed ready to work her first duty. In the meantime, myself, Danny and Joe broke up some wood and also prepared our Peckett; "Sir Gomer"; for movement. The Peckett was sheduled for washout today. Therefore, whilst 5542 worked the services, we worked on our engine and prepared her for her washout. These preparations involve the removal of all inspection plugs and mudlids as well as making sure that all valves, such as the regulator and manifold cocks are closed. The washout normally then involves a pressure washer connected to a lance. The lance is poked through the inspection holes and the pressure of the water should then free any scale, rust or even swarf that is inside the boiler. The water should then run out of the bottom of the boiler through the other inspection ports. Washouts are normally done every 15-20 steamings, or there abouts. However, when we came to wash out "Sir Gomer" today, somebody had misplaced the lance so, unfortunately, "no luck there"...
"Sir Gomer" is now coming to the end of a long and difficult overhaul, having been out of service since August 2008. However, she should now be back in service by this Christmas season at the very latest; she needs to share 'Santa Train' duties with B1 "Mayflower" you see. Below, you will see our sign; Locomotive Ready for Use; "Not just yet I'm afraid...but soon!"...
Below, a 'Going-Away' shot as 5542 descends into Platform 2 at Shackerstone with the 2nd last train of the day. With that, we decided to go for a ride on the last train. Therefore, we put "Sir Gomer" away before cleaning ourselves up and boarding the train. It was a nice little journey; much easier than being on the footplate!...
Below, see an unusual short clip of No5542 that I filmed today. The loco passes over my digital camera as she barks out of Shackerstone for Shenton with the 10:50am train...

After arriving back after our round trip on the train we collected our things and departed for home. I'll next be at Shackerstone next Sunday (22nd) when I'm due to crew 5542 with Jan and Carl; that'll be an early start! Thanks to Phil for today's lifts. Thank you for reading folks. Good Evening...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Very Quick Call to GEC Miniature Railway...

Hi all. Another quickie. On my way home from the very wet RPMR Invitation Day, I decided to take a quick detour to the GEC Miniature Railway at Allard Way to see how they were getting on. I had been told that they had a private 'Birthday Party' in operation; meaning that trains would run regardless of the weather; it's all income you see! On arrival, with the sun making a very brief appearence between the stormy outbursts of rain, I found a very nice little Simplex simmering on the 5" gauge steaming bays. The 0-6-0, wearing BR Black and a '2P' classification on the cab side looked very well indeed. Feathering at the safety valves, the substantial tank engine was awaiting her second outing of the day. The railway had already catered for one birthday party around midday and the 2nd group would be arriving shortly. The two parties had both chosen the 5" gauge raised track for their usage and, therefore, the 7.25" track was desolate and silent; the Simplex being the only loco in use. The Simplex, numbered 30947, is spotted below on the bay...
After a quick chat with one or two of the usual members, I decided to carry on for home. I was already cold, wet and tired and, looking overhead, two large black clouds were approaching from the direction of the city. ("Time to go!"). In all, I probably spent a quick 10-15 minutes or so at the GEC. Once back in the car I was glad of the shelter. The sun had already dissapeared again and the rain was beginning to fall; harder and harder! Thanks to the GEC for letting me take a few snaps whilst they were between duties. I was home by 3pm and showered and sat down before 4pm! (Great stuff; this railway lark is too easy!). Anyway, off to Shackerstone tomorrow; look out for the post on that as it happens. Thanks all. Good Evening...

Wet, Windy, Damp, Dark Invitation Day at RPMR...

Hiya everyone. Today, unfortunately in ridiculously damp, dark, depressing weather, my 5" gauge concern, the Ryton Pool Miniature Railway, held their first ever Invitation Day. However, due to the terrible forecast and the terrible outcome of the weather, only two visiting engines turned up. One visitor brought a rather nice Bo-Bo Petrol Hydraulic which, though apparently freelance, reminds me of a Met-Vickers Class 28 Bo-Co in it's body shape, save for the inclusion of two forward-facing cab windows and not three. This BR Maroon liveried monster ran very well and her owner seemed pleased with his steed. Above, fellow driver Emma seems riddled with joy as she drives the petrol hydraulic up the bank. The second visitor brought a rather large electric loco; a Class 66, possibly a detailed Compass House model? The 66 is seen below, crossing the Bendy-Beam, driven by a younger visitor...
In the meantime, two other electrics, based at the RPMR, were out and about. A little Maxitrak 'Planet' was in operation during the morning. Secondly, Ken's Class 08 'Jocko' was spotted out and about during the afternoon...
The 5th and final locomotive in operation was the club's stalwart 0-4-0 Sweet Pea, "John H Owen". Kevin had steamed the engine up but many members, including myself, enjoyed a good few laps on the regulator. The 'P' seemed to be steaming very well, as per usual...
Though I was rostered to help out until gone 5pm, the disastrous and rather depressing wet weather saw only the two mentioned visitors turn up. Also, there were more than enough CMES members on site to help out. With this in mind, I decided to leave for home early (after checking that it was 'OK' to do so of course!). Therefore, I said my goodbyes and left the site at just after 2pm...with more rain falling from the dark grey skies. (Can't help the weather; wish we could though!). I drove out of the gate as another very heavy spell of rain fell; dear me what a day! In the meantime, I think CMES will have to redate for another Invitation Day; this one was such a shame. I reckon we would have got a good turn out of visiting loco's had the sun showed itself! However, the rain did subside as I continued to drive towards home. Maybe I'll call into GEC on the way back?...Thanks for reading folks and thanks to the two visiting loco's which turned up in the horrid conditions. Good Day...

Friday, 13 August 2010

Narrowboating On The Ashby...

Hello everybody. Now, something different(!); railways to waterways. Today, for my grandad's 70th birthday, we had hired a Narrowboat for the day on the Ashby Canal. (He used to live on two Working Boats). The Ashby Boat Company, operating from the sleepy village of Stoke Golding near Hinckley, gives customers the chance to holiday on Britain's inland railways or simply to hire a boat for the day; as we did. I have holidayed on the waterways before, traversing the beautiful Llangollen Canal in North Wales, back in 2007. I make no bones about the fact that I enjoy the waterways; even though railways are 'my thing' of course (it is nice to have a change, just for a little while!). We arrived at Stoke Golding at about 10am this morning, in pouring rain (typical), but we soon boarded our boat, "Heron"; a standard short-ish narrowboat and the family made it back into the dry. However, I had to stay up on deck; I was driving! Narrowboats are powered by a variety of engines; ranging from electric through petrol to steam! This boat is a Diesel model, powered by a small Lister engine under the floor. 'Steering' (if you can call it that) is provided by the 'Tiller'; the large 'S'-shaped handle which is rodded through the stern to the Rudder, located under the Waterline. Therefore, as the engine turns the prop, the Tiller is used to divert the powered water into the desired direction, thus steering the boat either to Port or to Starboard. With myself driving "Heron", we set off from Stoke Golding at about 10:20am, unfortunately travelling behind two very slow but very beautiful Fellows Morton & Clayton-liveried Working Boats, working in 'Motor and Butty' mode and fully loaded with tons of Hardcore. Within just over 3 hours, we reached Market Bosworth where "Heron" is spotted after being moored...Driving a Narrowboat is what you make it. I personally enjoy it but it does require concentration. Unlike a railway locomotive, a boat has the tendency to go wherever it likes; depending on what the Driver is doing of course! The fact that the boat is simply 'gliding' on top of the water doesn't help matters as any 'current' will push the boat in its direction. There are of course no brakes or anchors on a Narrowboat, you use the Tiller and Reverse Thrust when stopping, whilst also, in some cases, sending one or two of your assembled crew off to 'pull in' the ropes and guide you neatly to a stop. Reverse gear on "Heron" was in a 3-1 ratio with Forward; meaning that you had 3 times more power in reverse; to account for stopping quickly! The biggest problem is that, due to the arrangement of the Tiller, there is NO steering in reverse. Therefore, if the boat drifts on top of the 'wash' that your reverse thrust provides, then you could end up drifting anywhere; especially in windy weather! In full forward though, "Heron" steered beautifully and I was very surprised at how responsive she was. I couldn't drive the boat all day without having a gander at the engine. After raising the floor at the stern, the Lister engine is spotted. It sounded much better than a more modern engine!...
After leaving Market Bosworth we approached Carlton (around 3/4 mile further on) before I swung the boat around in a 'Winding Hole' (a cut away area designated for turning boats around). Since Shenton, the Battlefield Line Railway; my standard gauge concern where I do all my firing turns; had been coming in on the right of the canal. The railway follows the canal for almost all of its 5-mile length and thats why I'd seen "Heron" before today; I'd passed her on "Mayflower" two months before! On the return run, with the Working Boats' out of the way, we could give "Heron" full forward throttle (not very fast with the gearing) and we made it back to Stoke Golding after another few hours driving. It's great fun driving a Narrowboat in my opinion. You stand there, Tiller in hand, looking at the scenary and the wildlife, whilst the 'Galley Slaves' below bring you cup after cup of hot Tea as well as lots of food; what could be better?! (Well, I'll tell you, no rain would have been better; we got it for most of the day; "Get the brolley up, Skipper!"). Below, the smallest of a group of baby ducks approaches "Heron"s stern; the family were throwing bread to the group; brought every duck in sight towards the boat!...
After returning to Stoke Golding at just after 6pm we cleaned off "Heron" and locked her up ready for storage overnight; no doubt she'll be booked to operate tomorrow! Narrowboating on Britain's inland waterways continues to be a popular past-time and one that even I (the 'railway buff') enjoy! Maybe we'll do another Narrowboating holiday next year? (Hmm, "Mum..."). Another great day. Thanks for reading folks. Good Evening...

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Rearranging The Rails On The Garden Railway...

Hi all. Just a bit of track relaying today on the Garden Railway. Since we built the extension, back in early 2006, there have been some 'bad joints' on the Ashford Station to Chilvers Bank section. As the joints were strong as they were, the decision was taken to leave them alone. However, as the garden itself is undergoing certain renovations at the current time, we decided that now would be a good a time as any to relay the 'bad joint' section. Therefore, we set to work. Firstly, the track was raised, as was the wooden base underneath. We then relayed the wooden base 2 inches closer to the wall edge so as to allow the following 225 degree curve to be 'loosened'. This would close the 'bad joints', making them smooth, and would then allow bigger engines (such as my 9F Class) to finally traverse the track properly. My 9F, 92139, is a tender-driven Hornby model but, to be truthful, has never run properly on my line since I acquired her in 2006! 92139, like the real 9F's, has the centre-axle flange 'blanked' so as to allow tighter curves to be traversed. She also has alot of 'play' built into the axles so as to allow freedom of movement when rounding curves. However, unlike the real 9F's, she lacks the necessary weight to keep all of her wheels on the track when rounding tight curves. Therefore, now that I have 'ironed out' the 225 degree upgrade bend, she should run round a lot better! (He says!). Thanks for reading folks. Off to the RPMR on Saturday then Shackerstone on Sunday...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Western Intruder: 5542 At Shackerstone...

Hello all. Today, after offering to cover a morning shift for fellow trainee Dave, I arrived at Shackerstone just before 6:30am. After leaving the car I walked up through the silent station to the loco yard where I caught my first climpse of the railway's Western intruder; summer visitor No5542. No5542 is a GWR 2-6-2 4575 Class Small Prairie tank and is owned by the 5542 Loco Group; see their website here. The lovely Western tank is visiting until September and will haul trains on the railway every Saturday and Sunday. Anyway, back to me: In the yard were the day's crew; Big Andy and Little Andy (Pockets). As Dave wouldn't be arriving until after the 1st trip, Pockets said I could fire that one. Therefore, as 5542 warmed up, I continued to add more fuel to the already blazing fire whilst keep an eye on the water level and steam pressure. On top of this, I had to go underneath the engine to empty the ashpan which, admittedly, isn't easy on a Prairie positioned over a short pit! Engine crews, particularly Midland men, tend not to like the Western's as they are apparently 'bad for fitters'. However, looking at the underside of this Western I do not see what the problem is! There is plenty of room to move about between the frames and the valve gear. The ashpan is positioned a little far back for my liking but even this is not to drastic effect. However, I do admit, engines such as the 14xx 0-4-2 would be difficult to work on, as would the Taffe Tank's (56xx). One of the best Western's, admittedly in my own opinion, is the 57xx Pannier Tank with plenty of room under the tanks and above them; for boiler access etc. 5542 is seen warming up in the loco yard under the morning sun...
Driver Andy was oiling up the Western throughbred whilst myself and Fireman Andy (Pockets) began cleaning the loco. However, in the meantime, there was also time for me to get a few pics and to examine the 4575 class engine. Firstly from a Fireman's view, this engine is a dream. I fired the first trip and found the injectors to be more than perfect and the steaming to be amazing. In fact, you only needed a very small fire and 5542 would steam beautifully; easily hauling the 5-coach train on the 10-mile round trip to Shenton and back. The ultra-reliable Swindon injectors were a joy and needed minimal effort to get them working perfectly; well done GWR! From a firing perspective, the loco is fired almost from the floor; give or take 2 inches or so. The water valves for the injectors sit either side of the coal bunker cab access...
On the Driver's side, there is good visibility, especially when considering how far into the cab the water tanks intrude! There is a large pole reverser as well as a hydrostatic lubricator, sanders, brake lever, brake gauge, regulator, 2nd injector and blower all on the Driver's side...
The cab is well laid out, even if the backhead does look the slightest bit congested. The two injector steam valves (top), pressure gauge (top), steam heat gauge, regulator, combined steam & vacuum brake lever, hydrostatic lubricator, single water gauge, firebox and firing flap can all be seen below...
I really enjoyed firing 5542; she was a dream. (Thanks Pockets and Andy!). I then handed over to the rostered trainee; Dave. I did however continue to ride on the 3rd and final (5th) trips of the day; just for the interest! I am actually rostered on the Prairie on August 22nd and 28th; really looking forward to those two dates! 5542 is spotted below, waiting to leave Platform 2 at Shackerstone to run round...
Below, trainee Dave gets to grips with firing a Western on the final trip of the day...
Here, 5542 chugs towards "Three Bridges" and Market Bosworth with the final returning trip of the day from Shenton...
All in all, today was another good day at Shackerstone. I will be back down there next Sunday (15th) for another working day in the shed before my 2 days on 5542 on the following 2 weekends. After arriving back at Shack with the final round trip, 5542 went straight back onto the pit for disposal before being shunted into the shed for dry and secure stabling throughout the week. She is a very nice engine and a dream to fire; thank you to her owners for her summer visit. For more details on the operating days of 5542, click here. Thanks for reading folks. Good evening...

Friday, 6 August 2010

Thursday, 5 August 2010

National Railway Museum, York, Final Part (IV): The South Yard...

Hello everybody. Before I start this post I must extend a vote of thanks to my regular readers who have followed these four post's regarding my visit to the National Railway Museum in York. This is Post No4; the final post in the series; talking about the day's activities in the South Yard. As you have seen in the previous three posts, the NRM has many beautiful locomotives and items of rolling stock kept safely under cover in it's climate controlled confines. This is all well and good for all weather visits but, to my mind, the best way to appreciate railway engineering is to see it in action. Therefore, the NRM opened the 'South Yard' to the public. The yard extends southwards towards the museum's main line connection before continuing onto Network Rail metals. Now and again, train rides, wether steam or diesel hauled, can be taken in the South Yard for a small fee. Throughout the summer of 2010, train rides will again be available to the public. During my visit, the shuttles were in the capable hands of one of the Great Western's finest; 4-4-0 City Class No3717 "City of Truro"; the first steam engine to run at speeds exceeding 100mph. "Truro" was built by the GWR in 1903 under Churchward. Her and her class were designed to be fast but the top speed of these locomotives has been under much debate over the years, due to 3717's apparent record. On May 9th 1904, "Truro" was timed at 102.3mph whilst hauling the "Ocean Mails" special from Plymouth to Paddington. Though the speed was properly recorded, the GWR, frightened that customers would be scared away from its trains, decided that it would be best to sweep the record under the carpet. Today, "Truro" has a slower life and is spotted in the South Yard today...
Below, see another of my video's from Youtube, showing 3717 in the South Yard under dark skies threatening rain (enjoy!)...
As "Truro"s record was unofficial, the title of the 'First Steam Locomotive to Reach 100mph' was still up for grabs. Therefore, on 30th November 1934; no less than 30 years after "Truro"s infamous run; another NRM engine, No4472 "Flying Scotsman", became the first OFFICIAL engine to reach 100mph. (She was robbed!). Much debate has gone on over the years as to wether "Truro" could actually achieve 100mph and many sources have said "yes". This is because her main 100mph timing had been whilst descending Wellington Bank, which is steep at the best of times, more than allowing "Truro" to use the downward gradient to her own advantage. "Oh well", it's done now, but I'm sure "Truro" could have achieved the magic 100mph, even if the world's most famous steam engine ("Scotsman") stole the record 30 years later! Back to today, "Truro" seemed happy yet a tad confined as she chugged easily up and down the yard with one rigid-framed coach and a bogie Brake Van. She is a beautiful machine, echoing an Edwardian age with her outside frames and large connecting rods. I have footplated this engine before, at the GCR back in 2008. She is said by crews to "steam on a candle" (typical Western!). Across the yard was a huge Sand Statue, celebrating 175 years of the GWR. The NRM staff claimed that it had took 5 days work and 20 tonnes of building sand; donated by Wickes. (However, I reckon more like 5 ton!). Nice job...

You can tell its the summer holidays! There was the chance to try your hand at "Walking on Water" for £4 per 5 minutes (not today thanks!)...
Over in the corner, tucked away behind the attractive Picnic Area, the NRM hides it's quaint 7.25" gauge Miniature Railway. With trains top and tailed by two little 0-6-0 petrol hydraulics, the miniature railway runs southwards alongside the South Yard before approaching a dead end. Trains then run back up the line, through the station and onto the northward section. Overall, the ride is not too bad. The only problem is...it isn't steam! Shame really, as I know a good few people with lovely 7.25" loco's that would love to bring their engines here (something worth thinking about?!). Below, one of the twin petrol hydraulics, "John", is spotted at the station, working the Southern end of the train...
Back with "Truro", people seemed to filling both her coach and her Brake Van, paying £2 a time for a trip up the yard. £2 per adult for a train ride does seem fair to me, taking into account the amount of beautiful exhibits which visitors see for FREE at the NRM. As well as taking people in the train, the NRM crew seemed more than happy to give Footplate Rides. I don't think there was one run I saw without a member of the public on the footplate! (Well done NRM, bout' time someone broke through the Red Tape of today's society!). I didn't ride the train today. As I say, I've footplated "Truro" before and I've also ridden up the yard before. Back in 2008, I had a footplate ride on 2ft gauge Hunslet "Trangkil No4" (from Statfold) as she was running on the 2ft gauge Demonstration line. (Thanks for that again, Phil!). Below, we see "City of Truro" coming back towards the station with the 2ft gauge line at the bottom of the image...
All in all, the NRM seemed to be putting on a pretty good show in the South Yard. It was much, much better than seeing nothing running at all. Also in the yard, you can visit "The Depot". This covered area simply keeps some of the extra rolling stock dry. It's worth a look just in case you find something of interest! There was also a new exhibition being prepared for opening in the near future. In fact, peeking inside, I noticed a beautifully restored Ocre-liveried 0-6-0 Class A1X Terrier Tank; designed by Stroudley. Maybe a new exhibit?! Train Rides will be operating daily in the South Yard throughout the summer; except for this Sunday (Aug 15th). Loco duties will alternate between 3717 and the replica of "Stephensons Rocket". See http://www.nrm.org.uk/ for more details. You can also check out the NRM website for further event details for the rest of 2010. Honestly, if you're a rail fan or even a general member of the public looking for somewhere to take the family for a nice day out; the NRM is the place to go! I can highly recommend it! After leaving the NRM we took in some of the sights of York such as the City Centre, the River Ouse and the beautiful York Minster. There are also many shops, cafes, boutiques and street displays to check out. We then left for home before arriving back at just before 7:30pm. It is a long way though; just over 135 miles. Phew! Thanks for reading folks. I hope you have enjoyed all four posts. Good Evening...