Monday, 31 December 2012

The BIG Review...2012...

Happy New Year everyone. Well, thats it, over! The year 2012 has, like many others, passed us completely in the blink of an eye and the experiences from last year will both serve as experience and good memories. Naturally, the year has not been all good; the loss of a dear family member in October being one of the lower points of my life so far. However we must not dwell on these things and must continue in the best way that we can, remembering the good times as we go. In the spirit of this, lets get started on what will probably be a mammoth review of the year from start to finish. If you don't like heavy reading then you may as well stop HERE. If you don't mind reading a years worth of mindless dribble mixed in with some very nice photographs then please do read on! OK, lets go. JANUARY: The first month of 2012: traditionally freezing as usual: brought with it a few outings, mainly to a very cold Shackerstone...
January: Footplate Ride with 30777 "Sir Lamiel" at the GCR
The year began with an important date: Jan 2nd. This was the date for my 2nd (of 3) firing exams aboard the beautiful GWR 2-8-0 No3803. The rest of our outings went like this:
  • A very civilised run on the Elizabethan Dining Train at the GCR
  • A day of P-Way at Shackerstone
  • A day in the shed at Shackerstone
  • A very pleasant visit to the GCR's Winter Gala including a footplate ride on N15 No30777 "Sir Lamiel", driven expertly (and quickly!) by Driver Tom Tighe
An enjoyable January ended at the GCR and we quickly moved on to FEBRUARY. I seem to find that February, traditionally, is probably my quietest month of the year. If I'm not slaving away over a, well, I don't really slave away over anything. So, if I'm not at home or work I'm at Shackerstone. February 2012 also included the LEGO Railway, which made a visit to an exhibition at Solihull, in conjunction with the G Scale Society. My loco "Achilles" even got a very short outing to Ryton Pool in freezing cold conditions.
February: Fitting Brick Arch Bars To "Sir Gomer" at Shack
Moving swiftly on to MARCH, I passed a significant milestone in my Battlefield Line career. Following four years training (since I was 16), I passed out as a Fireman following my final firing exam on Sunday March 4th. A total of 8 posts appeared on the blog that month, with the following outings included:
  • "Achilles" to RPMR
  • Track Work at CMES
  • A Look At The Garden Railway
  • Welding my College Project at Shack, Whilst 3803 Failed
  • A Good Turn on The 38'
  • A Day With "Sir Gomer" & The 38' At Shack
  • "Sir Gomer" on Loaded Test
As you can see, as the weather gets better (well, I say better) I seem to get busier. The firing turns at Shack seemed to pour in during the first half of the year, with alot of miles being enjoyed on 3803.
March: Passed As A Fireman, Aboard 3803!
As well as the above shot regarding March 2012 I've also thrown in a rare shot of the 00 gauge Garden Railway in action, with Small Prairie No4560 heading towards Sutherland from the north, with a freight...
APRIL: The fourth month of 2012 quickly dawned and events & commitments kept on coming. A personal highlight was the double-heading of "Achilles" with CMES's Sweet Pea "John Owen", at the Sunday afternoon public running...
Many other things happened in April, including three firing turns on the Class 3F Jinty No47298, from the Llangollen Railway, over two weekends (as part of Shack's Day Out with Thomas). "Achilles" got two days out running in April, with a 3rd day spent by myself at CMES watching the Easter Sunday run take place. I also had two firing turns on 3803 (see what I mean about them pouring in?!) and enjoyed a day driving a beautiful 7.25" gauge Black 5 at Echills Wood. Finally, we enjoyed an interesting day out on the mainline behind Tyseley's certified Pannier Tanks Nos9600 & 7752, on an amble with a million water stops around the East Midlands. By the way, as I write, please bare in mind that you can read about all of these events by checking back through my 2012 posts...they are all there! MAY soon dawned and the blog enjoyed a further 7 posts being added to its total. The first outing was a first-visit, this time to the 10.25" gauge Stapleford Miniature Railway near Melton Mowbray. I remember it being a very cold day but very enjoyable, riding behind fabulous locomotives, particularly this GWR Saint...
May continued much as you would expect for someone as completely obsessed with railways as I am, with more of a desire to seek out steam engines than the sense to realise how ridiculous I am being by doing so. Other May outings included:
  • A pleasant afternoon driving "James" at the GEC
  • A wet day firing 3803
  • A day on the footplate of "Sir Gomer" at the Chinnor Railway
  • A sunnier day on 3803
  • "Achilles" went on a mid-week visit to the GEC
  • The LEGO Railway attended Shack's "Models Weekend", in warm conditions
I remember the latter half of May being much nicer than the first half in terms of weather. It was much nicer to enjoy the sun rather than worry about the cold and wet. JUNE 2012 was definately the Sammy's World "Hunslet Month". During June I spent a total of four days on the footplate of three different Quarry Hunslets: Jack Lane, Alice and Maid Marian.
June - Driver Eddie with "Alice" at Bala Lake
Another first for me came at the start of June when I was kindly invited to fire at the Statfold Barn Railway's brilliant open day. The locomotive was "Jack Lane", driven by John Britt: another Shackerstone man. The day after the open day, when the Royal Pagent for the Jubilee was taking place in the pouring rain in London, myself and Eddie were off to Bala. On the way we called in at Llynclys: the base of one half of the Cambrian Heritage Railway. The next few days were spent with Hunslets again, with an enjoyable day on "Alice" being followed by two days with "Maid Marian". Also in June I enjoyed two days firing 3803, a day on 'Jessie' the Buffet Car at Shack and of course "Achilles" got her monthly outing to RPMR. Finally, I did a driving turn at RPMR as part of one of the Birthday Special's.
June - Myself & John Romping Along On "Jack Lane" at Statfold (Invercloy)
Moving on again, to JULY, we are over half way through this huge review. I tell you what, reviewing the year is harder than it sounds! July included the following:
  • Another Birthday special at RPMR
  • "Achilles" on a sunny evening outing
  • Two firing turns on 3803
  • A wedding special at Shack, including the Rail Ale festival
  • A garden railway afternoon
  • A day in Shackerstone's loco shed
As you can see there never really seems to be any breaks in my year...which is, I admit, all my fault - I need to slow down before I fall down sometimes.
July - Just Another Day At The Office (D Hanks)
One thing that I will seriously welcome in 2013 is the Rail Ale festival at Shackerstone. Last years event was brilliant, with traction engines & steam rollers being supplemented on both evenings by entertainment from Bawdy singer "Dr Busker". I would seriously recommend this event to you all...if you like bawdy music ;)
Maybe we'll see you at Market Bosworth in July for Busker? He performs all manner of both quirky and well-written songs, passed over to the audience in a comedy manner. But, I must say, he isn't for the faint hearted. One of my favourites (Robin Hood) includes the following chorus:
"Hey, Hey Get On Your Way
Back To Work For Another Day
There Are Many Bills To Pay But Just Don't Ask Me How
Don't Tell The Greater Good
They Would Help You If They Could
Get Word To Robin Hood
Your Country Needs You Now"
That song is brilliantly sang to the tune of a very famous Mary Poppins song, with its name begining with "Super..." and ending with all manner of letters that I won't even attempt to spell. The meanings within the song suggest, well...you work it out...
August - 4936 "Kinlet Hall" On The P & DSR
Now to the holiday month: AUGUST. There were many things to enjoy in August: indeed, the blog had 14 entries that month. First we were in Devon, with visits to the South Devon and Paignton & Dartmouth railways. A firing turn on 3803 was then followed the day after by a spirited run on the 'Shakespeare Express' behind 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall". The following Thursday we had a very warm visit to the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway, on route to Bala. Three days on the footplate at Bala included a very nice day on "Alice" and two days with "Holy War", the latter being part of the brilliant 40th Anniversary Bala Gala weekend: that really was one to remember! "Achilles" got two outings in August: one for a steam test at RPMR and a 2nd to do a days running at Rugby MES' very pleasant, but short, 5" gauge track. I also enjoyed another day on the 38' in August, as well as a driving turn for CMES with Sweet Pea "John Owen" - always a pleasure. A visit to a friends private railway was rewarded with a busy day's driving on a 7.25" Shay-type logging locomotive - another memorable day. I do consider myself very lucky to enjoy all of these outings.
August requires three photographs! Above is the Shay I drove on that sunny afternoon, below are the four Hunslets which were the stars of the "Bala Gala". Again, let me emphasise that you can read all about these events on this blog...please have a look back if you wish.
SEPTEMBER was another good month, and busy with stuff going on at Shackerstone. The Steam Gala over the weekend of September 15th/16th saw us doing two days prep in the week and then two days each on the footplate over the actual weekend. I was out with trainee David both days, with a day on the "club foot" (5521) and another on the beautiful Black Five No45379. As well as the gala stuff we had a flying visit to Kingsbury and a day at Shack Fest, not to mention a few shed days and a day firing 3803, alongside driver Eddie.
All too soon OCTOBER was here and the weather was changing back to the way it often is: changeable. For a start, "Achilles" got three outings and I had three firing turns at Shackerstone: two on 3803 and one on the god forsaken 5521. I also did two days driving 7.25" gauge at the GEC and two days at the Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition on the Fosseway.
A chilly NOVEMBER beckoned quickly and outings included a visit to Warley at the NEC, a day out for "Achilles" to RPMR and three days working for the steam department at Shackerstone. Also, myself & Maisie rode on an Elegant Excursion Dining Train at the GWSR - Toddington.
DECEMBER: Christmas time seemed to be here very quickly and December provided another busy month with which to end the year, including:
  • Two firing turns on 3803
  • Three days stewarding on the train at Shack
  • A visit to the NRM
  • Spotting an A4
  • My 21st Birthday at the GCR
  • A Festive Dinner on the Severn Valley
  • Firing turn on "Sir Gomer"
  • A shed day at Shack
Below, 3803 stands at Shenton with a Santa train on December 22nd...
Right, thank goodness! Thats it! THANK YOU VERY MUCH for reading this blog throughout 2012 and I hope you will continue to do so. I also welcome any comments you have and any questions. Afterall, the blog is meant to be informative for both me and you. Please do not hesitate to contact me - I will help where I can. If anybody wishes to help me in any way then you can do so by telling your friends about MINIATURE TRACTION ENGINE WEEKEND 2013, due to take place at Market Bosworth Station on April 27th/28th...
THANK YOU

A Day Down The Shed at Shackerstone...

Hi guys. A million and one people could have guessed that the final post of the year would be something to do with Shackerstone! Today we were working down at the engine shed. "Sir Gomer" had performed the final three days of steam service for the year, finishing her duties for 2012 last night. The DMU was on service today, with the main jobs in the shed focussing around putting a warming fire in 3803 & cleaning her up, as well as cleaning out & draining the Peckett. The 38' was cleaned up beautifully, with brasswork shining and the boiler barrel & smokebox polished. A warming fire was lit early in the afternoon, allowing the big 2-8-0 to warm up slowly and properly. 3803, naturally, is rostered for all four of tomorrows services to Shenton, in order to celebrate New Years Day 2013.
Pleased With My Work On The Barrel!
The Peckett was rolled out of the shed later in the afternoon to have her tank & boiler drained for the winter period which lies ahead. As 3803 warmed through, we continued to clean her up before heading home. Down on the drive was a visitor: Aveling & Porter "Louise": Mr Bates' steam roller. "Louise" will be returning to us in order to take part in Miniature Traction Engine weekend at Market Bosworth Station on April 27th/28th. "Louise" was simmering away in the North End yard, waiting for a trip to the pub later that night.
The Aveling Roller "Louise"
Well, thats it! Thank you guys for reading the final post of 2012, and I hope that you have found some interest within this blog throughout this year. The review of 2012 will join the post line-up shortly. Cheers guys, and a Happy New Year to you from Sammy's World. Regards, Sam.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Festive Lunch On The Severn Valley...

Hello guys. This morning, through the damp mist, we were heading along the M6, M42 and later the M5 towards Kidderminster. Destination?: The Severn Valley Railway. As the final part of my birthday celebrations we had booked a table for four on the 'Severn Valley Limited'; the SVR's popular dining train. We have travelled on the 'Limited' many times in the past and have never been dissapointed. Therefore we thought we would come again today! Parking up in the spacious Kidderminster station car park, we stumbled across the gravel towards the station footpath. You can see the full extent of the operations around the station from here. 42968 - the Stanier Mogul - was just departing with a late running passenger, whilst Pannier 1501; recently returned from overhaul; stood steam-heating the Dining stock. Running alongside the footpath is the quirky 7.25" gauge Coalyard Miniature Railway: a line that I have driven for the public on before, aboard Dave's 14xx (see blog post here). These days the line has its own steam motive power and takes passengers on a mostly straight-line trip in push-pull mode. Today the little steamer in use was one of the butch-looking Station Road Steam 'Stafford's, with this example wearing yellow and named "Mae"...
"Mae" - A Chunky Engine for Only 10k!
The impressive Kidderminster Station was still festively decorated as the so-called 'Festive Season Trains' came and went behind four different steam locomotives. I really like stations like this that have that authentic feel. Our train departed at 12:55 and we were soon called to take our seats aboard the warm dining coaches.
Having boarded and been seated, we settled in for the 16-mile steam hauled journey to Bridgnorth. The Severn Valley is a beautiful line, cutting through attractive countryside and passing many features of interest. Spotting the Elephants of West Midlands Safari Park at Foley is always a treat, not to mention Daniels Mill and the fabulous views of the River Severn from Victoria Bridge. Enjoying a pint of a local ale over the tasty starter of Leek & Potato Soup, the run was very pleasant. Home-made soup is always the best in my book. The main course was a large cooked dinner with a hearty portion of Turkey Parcel at its centre. The parcel (a large helping of turkey filled with stuffing and wrapped in bacon) was very tasty and went with the good selection of vegetables very well. I can recommend the Severn Valley Limited - as I say, we've never been dissapointed. Over the sound of chomping mouths you could hear the healthy bark of 1501 as she pulled the train along the picturesque Severn Valley.
Maisie Enjoying The SVR Limited
The Dessert orders came as the train approached the terminus at Bridgnorth, where there was a short booked stop of only 8 minutes or so. I alighted at Bridgnorth to have a quick nosey around as, unlike the many paranoid folk who remained on board, I see no reason why a train should depart without us with no locomotive yet attached. In the yard at Bridgnorth was a recent visitor, hiding behind her support coach. Ian Riley's Black 5 No44871 was drafted in to help with Santa duties on the SVR and stood cold today, in the midst of GWR 2-8-0 No2857; who isn't a world different from 3803.
The quick turn around was aided by the addition of a different locomotive on the return run. The attractive Stanier Mogul No42968 was duly attached, having came up from Kidderminster just before us on that late running passenger I mentioned earlier. The Mogul was soon coupled up and I rejoined the train ready for dessert...surprisingly not getting left behind!
Departing from Bridgnorth past the Mogul's previous stock, we gained speed as we chugged towards Hampton Loade. The Dessert was fantastic: a mint cheesecake pleasantly presented...
A Spot On Dessert!
The run back did seem a little different in sound, from the locomotive at least. The strong exhaust beat of 1501; no doubt aided by its recent overhaul; was a stark contrast to 42968. The latter is coming to the end of her boiler ticket now and it sounds as if the valves need some adjustment. The beats were very one-TWO-Three-four, particularly when getting into her stride. Mind you, what do such things matter with an engine so close to her ticket's end - she's still going at least! Following on from the brilliant dessert, Tea and a Mince Pie was served. The Tea was nice and so was the first bite of the Mince Pie...the rest I could not eat for fear of bursting! We did eat very well on this train and the portions were certainly very good for the money. Mind you...thinking of it as I write this post...I could eat it all again!
Back at Kidderminster we detrained following another brilliant meal on the SVR Limited. Though it is of course extra money to travel it is always worth it and, in my mind, there is no better way to see a preserved railway...except maybe from the footplate! ;)
Pretty Stanier Mogul Back at Kidderminster
Thanks for reading guys. Now we have to jump back into the car and retrace our steps back to Bedworth along the M5, M42 and M6. Its the last day of 2012 tomorrow...Can you believe it?! Regards, Sam.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Mince Pie Specials With A Proper Peckett..."Sir Gomer"...

Hi there guys. After many days on the footplate over the years, sometimes things can get a little mundane, other times the days are more enjoyable than one can describe. The day on the Black Five for example was a particular highlight of my firing career, and I enjoyed it very much. However, today, for some reason, was absolutely brilliant and was just a normal day to boot. With 3803 having performed well on all of the Shackerstone Santa duties, it had been decided that we would use the railways own locomotive: the Peckett "Sir Gomer": on three of our five 'Mince Pie Special' days. Having learnt that "SG" would be on service I made it my mission to get a go on her as outings at Shackerstone for the old Peckett are few and far between. Myself & Eddie were rostered for today: the first of "Gomer"s three turns. I arrived at Shackerstone at 7am this morning: one of the luxuries of having an engine with a small boiler. Having carried out all of the usual checks I lit the fire and the 0-6-0 began singing right away. It was then time for a cuppa' whilst I waited for Eddie to appear through the gloomy morning rain. Eddie kindly brought me a Thomas-the-Tank card and a little Victoria sponge, in celebration of yesterdays birthday - Cheers Ed!
We prepared the engine together before taking her outside and dropping down onto the 11:15 departure. There was then time to cook breakfast on the shovel whilst we steam heated the train. We left Shackerstone on time and could not believe how well "Sir Gomer" steamed and pulled. The ex-Mountain Ash Peckett romped along with the 4-coach train and we made Shenton in good time. The old engine really likes the Welsh coal we currently use.
After a spirited run back to Shackerstone, with "Sir Gomer" again showing what she can do, we uncoupled before doing some shunting. There were 3 coaches standing idle in Platform 1, having been taken off the rake the day before. As we couldn't run round without moving them we had to shunt the coaches up the DMU siding. This stock included the Grotto coach, now in store for another year.
Job done, "Sir Gomer" ran across the cross-over to the signalbox before being given the road to drop back into Platform 2 to water up before coupling to the train again. "Sir Gomer" hadn't used alot of water considering we had rushed along and used the steam heat all the way. However, due to the size of the saddletank we did not pass the column without taking water. We worked out that you would probably get two trips out of it...just...but any hold ups may have spelled disaster.
"Sir Gomer" at Shackerstone's Water Column
"Sir Gomer" has a relatively simple cab. There are two injectors, a pole reverser with 3 notches in each direction, two gauge glasses, front & rear sanding, drain taps and a high-pitched (but lovely) original Peckett whistle. Preservation fitments have included vacuum braking and steam heat equipment. Thats one thing that always amazes me about industrial locomotives: they were never designed to haul passengers and the fact that they can still romp along holding good pressure with both vacuum and steam heat equipment on full chat is just brilliant. I doubt Mr Peckett ever imagined a then ten-a-penny engine like "Sir Gomer" performing mile after mile of passenger hauling 80 years after she was built in Bristol.
"Sir Gomer" pulled the 12:30 admirably, with the steam heat holding 20psi all the way. I fired her so as to keep the fire thick but flat, with an extra 3 shovel-fulls at the back: one in each corner and one under the door. The loco blows off at 160psi and trotted along happily with between 140psi and 155psi (feathering) on the clock. Each time Eddie shut off the pressure needle would tear back around towards 160psi, blowing off against the injector now and again. The injectors on the engine were not designed to put in a large amount of water at once and, often, you can end up injecting for half a mile or so to make any real difference to the water level. Nevertheless for an industrial she plodded along well, keeping 20mph or so and making good time. The shrill Peckett whistle echoed around the countryside each time it was sounded and is brilliant for having a play with on the run.
"Sir Gomer" at Home - Shackerstone - Enjoying Her Retirement
After another good run to Shenton we ran round and recoupled before the journey back. "Sir Gomer" was in good voice and, as she often has, chuffed better in reverse.
Myself & Eddie were having a good day, and were joined by Dave J on the first two runs. Dave J later swapped with Dave H, who joined us for the latter two journeys with "Sir Gomer".
"SG" At Bosworth Battlefield
Having returned on the 13:05 from Shenton we ran round again and watered up. As I said "Sir Gomer" pretty much needs water every trip; a far cry from 3803 which could do four trips if you fired it right. On the 13:45 departure I was driving with Eddie firing. With 21 inches of vac on the gauge, 160psi on the clock and a green flag from the Guard...away we went. Setting off in full forward gear with a few revolutions of steam through the drain cocks, you can shut the taps and let her get the weight underway. "Sir Gomer" pulls away easily and will rush out of Shack loudly and strongly if you want her too. She is currently experiencing a very stiff regulator which, from a driving perspective, can be a bit of a pain. As you pull it open, it reaches about 1/3 open before you hit what feels like a blockage in the linkage. You need to wrench it pretty hard to pass that lip, before the valve opens and "Sir G" tears away like a bull at a red rag. You then have to tap her down on the regulator until you find what is an appropriate point. Being a slide valve engine, you have to shut-off to change gear position as she has the power to throw the lever where she wants when under steam. Once you are up to speed she waddles along quite nicely and steams well. When you come to shut off she requries the lever in the full-position for coasting, either forward or reverse, as per a slide valve engine.

The driving positions aren't too bad and visibility is OK. The one thing that is very different as opposed to 3803 is the braking. "Sir Gomer" needed to come down to about 10 inches of vac to provide any kind of useful braking when approaching stations, particuarly with only 4 coaches. However, 3803 would have probably stopped dead if brought down to 10 inches!
Having driven that round trip, I was firing again for the last one. "Sir Gomer" again performed beautifully and we even managed to give my old form tutor a run round on the footplate at Shenton: small world.
All in all a brilliant day on the footplate of "Sir Gomer". I don't know why so many people are opposed to these industrial engines. Yes they are a little ignorant of passenger comfort but they are strong, free-steaming and, in "Sir Gomer"s case, large in the cab. "SG"s cab in particular can easily hold 4 persons with plenty of space still to work in. If you bare in mind that "Sir Gomer" is now 80 years old and is actually an engine built for shunting heavy coal wagons a few hundred yards around a colliery, I don't think she's doing too bad to be hauling and keeping passengers warm in 2012.
And we cannot miss the traditional "Eddie larking about" shot...
Cheers guys. A brilliant day on a brilliant engine. I wonder how long it will be until "Sir Gomer" is out again... :D

Thursday, 27 December 2012

"Arrowvale Belle": My Birthday At The GCR...

Hi everyone. Today was a pretty special day: My Birthday! In a style reflecting the way I like to spend my free time we had booked a special carriage on the Great Central Railway, based in Loughborough. We had hired the 'Arrowvale Belle' Directors Saloon, a beautiful maroon coach built in 1959 and kitted out with its own dining facilities. At one end there is a sitting room/lounge with sofa's and wooden chairs, offering unspoilt views of the Leicestershire countryside whilst in comfort. There is then a small kitchen, a guards compartment and a w/c which all take off a corridor on the right-hand side of the coach. The opposite end of the coach is home to the Dining Room where up to 10 people can sit comfortably around the grand table, still enjoying unspoilt views! The coach is completely self contained with no corridor connections and offers complete comfort and privacy. Though the price for hiring such vehicles on preserved railways seems to be ever growing for one reason or another, the quality of them is worth paying for in my eyes. Why put up with being pressed up against windows in corridors in a Third Class Mk1 when you can travel like this? Mind you, saying that makes me sound like a complete snob!
 
Though we had hired the Arrowvale for the day, the train it was coupled to would perform three round trips of the line. We opted to travel on two of them: the 1:30 and 3:30 departures from Loughborough. Our locomotive was the small but plucky BR Standard 2 Mogul No78019: a Loughborough resident, and regular GCR performer. We joined the coach in our 13-strong party and the '2' departed on time. The Buffet was already aboard the train and it was served whilst the on-board steward served the Tea/Coffee. Meanwhile, 78019 was making good progress along the Great Central metals, passing N2 No1744 on the way. With steam heating on and the food & drink served, the Arrowvale offered a cosy haven on this chilly winters day.
At the terminus station of Leicester North, I jumped out and walked along the platform to capture the little '2' running round. With the Ivatt style tender the Standard shows just how small she actually is. It is worth bearing in mind that a Pannier Tank of the 57XX type is a Class 4, whilst these BR tender engines were only a Class 2. It would be misleading to assume that a tender means a big, powerful loco! Don't get me wrong, the 2's were a popular engine as they were easy to work on and everything was in the right place: particularly for locomen. This one: 78019: was built in 1954 at Darlington Works and spent some of her working life at Nuneaton's 2B shed. Only 12 years old when withdrawn from service in 1966, she was sent to Barry Scrapyard. From Barry, the engine came to the GCR via the Severn Valley, to finish her restoration at Loughborough. In service since 2004 or there abouts, the Standard seems to do mile after mile at the GCR, proving her worth and paying for her no doubt expensive ex-Barry restoration.
 
With 78019 running round, I reboarded the Arrowvale for another cuppa'.
With Dessert being gobbled up, 78019 hauled us smartly back to Loughborough, passing 1744 again at Quorn. Pulling into Loughborough at 2:45pm, we alighted to have a look in the Souvenir shop and enjoy a quick leg-stretch. Loughborough station is something straight out of the 1950s, echoing GCR charm and elegance. "Brief Encounter" wouldn't have looked out of place if filmed here: not in my mind anyway! 78019 was soon back on the front of the train and steam heating again. We departed on time at 3:30pm, this time enjoying Sparkling Wine and Birthday Cake on the Saloon.
78019 At The Head of The Train
As the daylight faded, candles were lit aboard the Saloon as: not forgetting that we are dealing with heritage equipment once again: the lights were not working!
Once again 78019 pulled us smartly along the line, passing the N2 one last time.
At Leicester North the GCR Rep had kindly said that two people could ride on the footplate of the little '2' as she ran round. I didn't really mind as I have been on 78019 at some point in the past. However, as nobody else seemed to want to get a little coal dust on the soles of their shoes I stepped up to the mark and went on myself, accompanied by my dad who, following the countless "its very hot on here" comments has never been on a footplate before! 
The little '2' took the points carefully as she ran round, with 160psi on the clock (full pressure 200) and what seemed to be a thin fire with a thicker back end. The driver reported that it "went alright" but "she doesn't like second valve when accelerating up to speed". I was surprised that the '2' was not so good when you 'gave her the big valve' - in my estimation it  would probably require that sort of treatment to get the right 'GO' out of it with a heavy train. It was very nice to travel on the footplate at the GCR again - if only briefly. After thanking the driver & fireman we rejoined the Arrowvale for the final 8-mile stint back to Loughborough. The ambience aboard the Saloon was spot on: warm, cosy and comfortable. On arrival back at Loughborough's Platform 2 we detrained after a very pleasant afternoon travelling in style on the Arrowvale Belle.
The 'Arrowvale Belle' At Loughborough This Evening
Thanks for reading folks, and certainly thanks to Mum for paying for this day out! Though I am now elderly, I'll be arising early tomorrow to light "Sir Gomer" for a day on the passenger services at Shackerstone so no heavy partying for me tonight! Cheers guys. Sam.