Sunday, 31 August 2014

Firing and Driving on 3803...

Hi everyone. Today, once again, I was booked to fire the Great Western 2-8-0 No3803 at Shackerstone. There were in fact two booked firemen: myself and Scott. Scott however was a driver a couple of years ago and has now taken up life on the footplate again, so today was about recertifying him as a driver: fair play. We both arrived somewhere around 6am, and immediately set to work prepping the big eight wheeler. The grate was cleaned, ashpan emptied and all of the usual checks were made. Following this, I lit a strong wood fire in the box before blacking it out with coal as normal. The engine was then left to her own devices with a strong Western-style wedge at the back end, which would later be pushed forward as time progressed. 40psi was already on the clock after yesterdays run so we would definitely have no problems. The morning weather was not looking good but as the first departure of the day drew near the clouds parted and the sun began to shine. The engine was soon waiting patiently at the head of the 11:15 departure for Shenton...
Throughout the day myself & Scott took turns firing and driving, with footplate inspector John along for the ride and for the all-seeing examination. The final trip was driven by John himself and I am happy to say that Scott is now a driver again. It was a brilliant day both on the regulator and on the shovel, in great company. The loco steamed and pulled well, as normal, and everything just went to plan...we even ran to time! Thanks for reading folks, all the best, Sam...

Monday, 25 August 2014

Wet, Wet, Wet on Bank Holiday Monday...

Hi all. Just words again today I'm afraid - too wet for pictures of any real clarity. Today I was at my usual haunt again: the Battlefield Line at Shackerstone. I was rostered to fire the 1939-built GWR 2-8-0 No3803, who remains the mainstay of services on the 5-mile line. My driver today was to be Jan and I was looking forward to the day as I hadn't been on with Jan for a good while. The weather wasn't too bad when we turned up, just murky, but the rain was soon to draw in. The 6:30am sign on was then followed by the usual antics of dragging cart-loads of equipment down to the loco shed and stumbling inelegantly through the door. First job, as always: check the loco. Having changed into my overalls I had opened the gauge glass slowly. The water level stood around 3/4 of a glass: very good. However, the top gland nut was passing well and therefore the protector was heavily misted. So, I shut the gauge glass off again and waited for the hissing to die down. The protector was then removed and the leak examined. Leaving a known leak causes the glass to become scored by the constant rush of steam coming down the outside, not to mention the fact you can't see the water level with a misted up protector. Tightening the nut by hand (as practise) sealed the leak as the seal crushed into the top frame. The protector was then refitted and the gauge opened again to reveal a leak free seal: just the job.

The firebox however gave little joy as the back end was, though free-ish, very clinkered. A few 'dinner plates' lay on the grate front & back and unfortunately, though I detest doing so, I had to 'go in'. Going into the firebox of a loco that is still in steam can seem harrowing, but it is not an unknown practise. Starting a strong, clean fire will require the cleanest possible grate that can be achieved and so at least you can say you've done your job right as a fireman, plus you can examine the tubes behind the brick arch too. You need to slide your bulk through the firehole as quickly as possible as the ring is very, very hot with the engine in steam. Once you're inside its just really humid, and not at all pleasant. Speed is the key here, with a brisk clean around the grate and bars the best possible plan. Get in, get out! With the grate cleared I left the box with the typical sigh of relief. The footplate felt like -50 degrees as I came out...oh the relief! With a look in the front end and a check around the various plugs and mud doors, the loco was declared safe to light. A strong fire was lit and the engine left to 'get on with it'. It was now time for a well deserved cuppa'. Jan is full of good stories if she's got time to tell them between her oiling duties. She's driven engines far & wide, big & small. She's even driven 4472 "Flying Scotsman" on a few occasions and it was to my amusement that she uttered, "it was always a pretty lousy engine". This sentiment has of course been repeated throughout the preservation industry over the last couple of years as the mammoth overhaul of 4472 has sparked chaos in the press.

Anyway, with the cuppa' drank, Jan oiled the loco around whilst I tended to the fire and made other preparations. The rain was now falling well so I affixed the Great Western's answer to all weather crew comfort: the storm sheet..."cheers Churchward!". Mind you, Collett was no better, fitting a tiny window to his modified 2884 class rather than a full cab! "Give me a Black Five on a rainy day...38's are for sunny weather!". At around 10:45am we moved the loco across, in the rain, to join our coaches in Platform 2. With "four on", we left on time. It was a most enjoyable day, steaming through the very wet countryside. In honesty, the footplate isn't a terrible place to be on a rainy day if you manage to stay on there. Its when you step outside, get wet, then attempt to dry off that you hit trouble as you simply cannot! But, nonetheless, a very enjoyable day and the loco steamed and ran well. For an engine now ever nearing her ticket expiry, she is still going well. We completed 50 miles today with 3803, all of which she covered as a free-steamer. Jan kindly allowed me to drive the 3rd trip, with David joining us to take over the firing for the run. Braking must be considered on a wet day like today as the wet wheels will obviously attempt to lubricate the cast-iron brake blocks underneath. The loco therefore may require slightly more stopping time and also may expect a little more tenderness on the regulator to prevent a slip.

To round off, a very pleasant day out with 3803 again, despite the rain. As I continued to feel sorry for myself throughout the day with my wet jacket, Jan reminded me of one of her sayings, "anybody can crew an engine in fair weather, but it takes enginemen to do it in the rain", and I guess that's a fair statement to agree with! I must thank Jan for her company today and for a good day out with the 2-8-0. However, I cannot lie, I wasn't sad to put the engine away today...I hate rain! All the best everyone, Sam...

Friday, 22 August 2014

Friday at Shackerstone...

Hi all. Today there was a working party (consisting of all of us that had a day off together today!) at Shackerstone in the Loco Shed. Work was ongoing with "Sir Gomer" and her axlebox repairs, as well as the normal cleaning out, inspection and warming of 3803. I carried out a few tasks today including shunting the engine with the 02, coaling the engine with the digger and also tidying up a few of "Gomer"s now filthy connecting rods. A very worthwhile day all told and now 3803 is ready for the weekend. All the best guys, Sam...

Sunday, 17 August 2014

CMES August Steam Day: 'P' for Pleasing...

Hi all. Today was the third and final CMES Public Running 'Steam Day' of the 2014 season. These days have, this year, been specifically put into the running calendar in order to provide steam haulage on the public trains. Almost every other RPMR running day will provide electric or petrol hydraulic traction instead and therefore it is always worth attending on the steam days to see the 'real thing'. When I arrived at 11:30am there were already a couple of members loco's in attendance. With "Achilles" still incapacitated and myself on booked crew anyway, I was quite happy to attend as a member rather than a runner. Unfortunately 0-6-0 Pannier "Victoria" failed early on, leaving the large Manor Class 4-6-0 hauling services alongside a Simplex, a Butch and a Sweet Pea. The service ran well for a while before the Butch retired, followed by the Sweet Pea, with the latter coming off for a light service. Three loco's down and with a large queue in the station, Member in Charge Emma asked me if I would steam one of the society engines, namely 0-4-0 Sweet Pea "Diane". Naturally I was quite happy to do this as I love driving the Pea's on public trains when a load is guaranteed! "Diane" was built by a late club member who was both a friendly guy and a talented engineer. He built the engine to the Jack Buckler design with skill, and "Diane" is probably the best Pea I've come across in terms of giving good, reliable service. She's always been good. The engine, with safety valves feathering, was soon in steam and ready to go...
By 2:15pm "Diane" was in action on the services and "Donald" (the other Pea) had also returned to work. Together, alongside the Manor and the Simplex, the engines began attacking the queue. Slowly but surely, we were getting down them. The Simplex later retired, leaving the two Pea's and the Manor to keep up the service. I was in charge of driving "Diane": a most pleasing experience. The engine steams well, pulls well and just generally does what you want. You can bank the fire up at the station and, once the weight is underway, notch back to 3rd notch and let her go. She'll keep the water level up on the crosshead pump and if she comes more than 10psi below the red line you've done something wrong! She's a great little engine; practically perfect in every way...
"Me Driving 'Diane' With Another Return Trip" (Pic = D.Strapps)
"Diane" performed well throughout the afternoon and needed little coaxing to do the job. I've always had a high regard for this design. In 5" gauge they make for a chunky, powerful engine with lots to give. Their narrow gauge scaling makes for a large engine in 0-4-0 form, though they can bounce a bit with their little wheels on bumpy track. Criticism for them has come at the hands of the Marine boiler, which employs a very shallow grate. However, with a light, bright fire well made up, I've never come across a Pea that won't steam well or fails to pull a good load around a track. Maybe my soft spot for them came with them being the first live steam loco's I ever drove, "John Owen" and "Diane" at RPMR specifically. "Diane"s builder in fact delivered some of my first driver training about 10 years ago! Say what you like about the 'Pea', but "when other engines fall down dead, fetch a Sweet Pea to do the job instead" will remain one of my favourite 5" gauge expressions, they are lovely things...
At 4pm the railway closed and the last train was taken, of course, by "Diane". The engine then worked the ECS back to the bendy beam and into the 'run up road', still steaming well after 2 hours running. Normally you get about 3 hours before the 'Pea's start to play up, depending on how much ash has managed to find its way over the baffle plate to become lodged at the foot of the tubeplate. "Diane" was soon uncoupled from the train and duly disposed. She is captured here after disposal with smokebox emptied, boiler blown down, tubes cleaned and firebox washed out...
"0-4-0 Sweet Pea 'Diane' Rests After A Hard Days Work"
As I say I've always had a high regard for the 'Pea' design: they're great, as shown today by both "Diane" and "Donald". If they can keep up with working heavy passenger trains for a few hours on a track as long as Ryton with a 1 in 100 climb on a strong curve, there cannot be much wrong with them! There are still some non believers but, the proof is there, these are capable little engines. Ahh well, mindless dribbling over! All in all a very enjoyable afternoon both selling tickets and then later driving at the RPMR steam day. That's the last one for this season so we'll have to see what next year brings...maybe "Achilles" may be out & about for next years events...but I won't count my chickens with my run of luck! Thanks all for reading. All the best, Sam...

Friday, 15 August 2014

A Friday Spent with 3803...

Hello everyone. Today I had planned to head over to Shackerstone in order to perform the traditional Friday task of warming 3803. The 1939-built GWR 2-8-0 is still working all Battlefield Line steam services and that means, for the summer, Saturday & Sunday outings. Therefore, we warm the engine on the Friday. Large steam locomotives take around 8 hours on average to make steam from cold but 'rushing' a boiler into steam can cause nothing but trouble. Therefore, the engine will be warmed for approximately 12 hours on average I would say, before the new, full fire is lit ready for the days work. The boiler is full of several different materials with several different expansion rates and therefore, warming everything slowly is the way to do it. I arrived at around 11am and performed the most important task first: feeding the Railway Cat 'Morris'. Morris has gone by several different alias' over the years but I would say that Morris is perhaps the most popular one, despite her being a female cat! The cat was soon chowing down whilst I changed into my overalls...
Once changed into my overalls it was time to begin the checks. First, up into the cab, to check that the engine is secure and that the water level is OK for potential lighting: yes, 3/4 of a glass. Next, torch in hand, we go for an excursion into the massive smokebox of the 38XX. We check the tubes for leaks, the flu's for leaks, the superheater header, the pipework (main steam pipes, lube pipes etc), the petticoat, the blast pipe: everything really. We are not only checking for leaks but also structural problems such as loose blast pipe etc for example. It is always better performing an FTR (fitness to run) where you can on a cold engine as its easier to get around. Mind you, I say cold engine, it was still very warm in the gloom of the smokebox from last Sunday's running would you believe! The smokebox is also cleaned out at this point...
Next it is time to secure the smokebox door using the dart handles as a loose door will lose the vacuum required for steam raising. We then check around the engine for the mudlid inspection ports and the inspection plugs, looking for leaks all over. If all is OK it is time to check the firebox. We will check the stays, seems, tubeplate, tubes, flu's, fusible plugs and the condition of the grate and brick arch. If all is well, then the dry and ready locomotive is ready to light. Lucky for me, the locomotive had already had her firebox cleaned out and ashpan emptied which saves a fair bit of time...
When lighting a warming fire we do not light across the entire grate as this fire would be too much too quickly. Therefore we just light the rear-most section of the grate and end up with a sloping fire which will eventually rise up to the firehole door, sloping down to around 3ft in from the back-plate. This will mean that the flames will gradually rise up from the old coal to the new coal and thus the fire will gradually burn down. After all, the engine will be left burning overnight with all dampers closed and firehole doors shut. I lit the engine starting with a small bed of coal 1-lump thick at the back end to around 3ft in, as per usual. Around 1/2 a pallet of wood (if that) was then put on top with around 3-4 well soaked paraffin rags. The last rag was lit on the shovel before being tossed on top of the pile, which duly caught light. The fire then raged for a minute or so to get going before I piled around 5-6 shovelful's on top. The firehole doors were then shut with the rear damper open in order to provide the necessary primary air to get the fire going. With hardly any coal left in the tender it was time to fetch a shunter to take the engine down for coal. The shunter for the job was the feisty 0-4-0 BR Class 02 diesel hydraulic D2857 "Diane"...
With 3803 crackling away in the shed 'getting herself going', I was down in the North End checking over D2857 which I had been told was 'fit for use', and she was. D2857 is fairly easy to operate as the controls are basic. To start, we switch on the BIS (the electrics basically) and proceed to the 'engine room'. The cold-start on the Rolls-Royce engine is pushed in and the green button pressed. Without hesitation, the 02 roared into life, spewing a little blue smoke from the exhausts to start with. The engine then ticks over happily, creating air in the reservoir from the compressor. On the 02 the air is used for all of the controls such as the reversing gear, sanding, throttle, gear lever and of course the brakes. We wait until the necessary air has been created before setting off. The 'dashboard' on the 02 is seen here...
"Cab Controls on BR Class 02 Diesel Shunter D2857 Diane"
The view ahead...
3803 was soon dragged by D2857 down to the North End and secured on the coaling road...
"GWR Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No3803"
The warming fire was now burning away brightly and so I made it up in the traditional Western wedge fashion to the firehole door, with the coal on top not remotely burning (it all burns down slowly but surely). This view was taken from atop the tender whilst 'trimming' the freshly loaded coal...
The JCB waits patiently with the next bucket full of coal until the trimming has been completed...
After the JCB had easily loaded 8 buckets of coal into 3803's tender (which pretty much filled it), it was time for D2857 to push 3803 back to the shed. I left the loco at about 4pm with the fire made up to the firehole door in the traditional fashion...
"A Back End Warming Fire"
The picture above is slightly deceptive. The fire looks big but it isn't really when you consider the size of the huge grate and overall firebox. With the dampers all shut and the firehole shut, the engine was left gently singing away to herself. Though hot around the firebox after around 3 hours alight, the smokebox is only warm, as is the manifold. This shows that the heat is gradually working its way through the boiler and fittings, and therefore we have a good while before steam will be raised. Sure enough, the following crew would later report to me that the engine was 'just fine' the following the day and had around 10psi on the clock ready for the new fire to be lit. The engine would have been warmed slowly for around 17 hours or so at this point from cold, meaning that everything had been brought up to temperature at an easy pace so as not to cause any damage. In the days of steam, engines would have remained in constant steam for a few weeks at a time, reducing possible boiler damage from excessive expansion & contraction. I don't know of any big railway that takes big engines out without warming them prior...it just isn't the right thing to do, not if the engine is cared for. Warming the engine throughout correctly will keep the boiler free of leaks and extend its life for much longer than starting from cold will. A most enjoyable afternoon with 3803, making her ready for her weekend of hard work ahead. Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Shed Day at Shackerstone...

Hi all. A quiet day today at Shackerstone today between 10am and 5pm working in the engine shed, mainly emptying the pit and tidying around the shed. The working party rode on the 4pm train and enjoyed a beer after signing off - most pleasant. 3803 worked all trains today with ease. Best Regards, Sam...

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Bye Bye Bala, Bala Goodbye...

Hello everyone. And so, as time passes so quickly, here we were on our final morning this year on the Bala Lake Railway. Down at the sheds at the usual start time of 8:30am we found "Holy War" at the head of the line. The bumpy ride given by the "Maid" when we had her on Sunday had caused yesterdays crew to play it safe with the blue beast once again, putting her red sister to one side for repairs. Having performed our usual preparation duties, we were soon steaming happily along the picturesque BLR metals...
A gloomy start was later rewarded by bursts of sunshine with Eddie almost uttering the word..."Alice". However, the bursts of rain in between certainly would have put pay to any thoughts of "Alice" for me! The sun came out during our arrival at Llangower with the returning 11:15 departure...
"Holy War" is pictured here standing alongside the calm waters of Bala Lake with her blue livery shining. I do like this engine...
Having returned to the base on time, we were soon out on the 12:50 departure. Its amazing how the day passes sometimes. I drove this trip and therefore adopted the drivers duties during the base station run round. This involves generally checking the engine over, oiling up and filling the water tank...
Checking the level in the tank prior to the 2:25pm departure for Bala...
Running the engine around onto the 2:25pm train...
Buffering up to the coaches...
We then departed with the 2:25 train, with "Holy War" steaming well and running easily. We always have such a pleasant and easy day out here with the engines that its almost a shame to go home. "Holy War" is pictured here running into the loop at Bala with Eddie the Egg at the helm...
The shining blue livery of the engine is apparent here, as is the condition in which the much loved BLR engines are kept. Eddie is oiling up ready for the return departure at 3pm...
"Holy War" at Bala ready for the 3pm, pictured from the opposite side 'just for a change'...
Having enjoyed the 3pm journey with "Holy War" performing perfectly well, the 4pm departure from the base saw me on the handle again. We had a very pleasant final run and it was almost sad as we pulled into Llanuwchllyn for the last time. We'll have to see what next year brings. Whatever happens, I would just like to thank the friendly team at the Bala Lake Railway for making me so welcome over the last five seasons. My first visit in 2010 was so enjoyable that I've been attending with Eddie ever since and have had some great times both firing and driving. Even though this years 'Three Course Challenge's have given me some grief over the last few evenings, Eddie assures me that they are the right thing to do when heading out for a meal. Beware all, a warning for you, an evening out with Eddie is not a cheap night out, its 'Three Courses or BUST' anytime, every time. What great times we've had here over the last few years: brilliant. Thank you for reading folks, kind regards Sam...

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Welsh Tour Part IV: Sunny Evening at Porthmadog...

So guys we come to the final post of the day. I just thought I'd put up a couple of pictures from this evening at Porthmadog. We hung around til 7pm watching the various movements around the Harbour Station. There was a special train scheduled tonight along part of the WHR, using two smaller locomotives: "Fiji" and "Linda". The name "Fiji" may ring a bell. She is a Statfold engine; Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 tender engine No972 of 1912, named after her place of work in her former life. The large red 0-6-0 normally lives at Statfold but is spending the summer months this year on holiday, giving footplate rides at Porthmadog station. The engine would be double-heading with "Linda" tonight up to Beddgelert with a 'Young Volunteers Special'. In the WHR platform just over the way from "Fiji", NGG16 No87 was uncoupled and ready to head off to Boston Lodge for disposal having hauled our train from Caernarfon...
In one of the middle roads stood "Linda", which I was very pleased to see in steam. "Linda" is an 1893-built Hunslet 2-4-0, modified to carry a tender by the FR. Along with her two sisters "Blanche" and "Charles", "Linda" worked on the Penrhyn Quarry railway until being purchased by the FR in 1962. "Blanche" is also based at the FR and is also in service, whilst "Charles" lives at Penrhyn Castle. I think these Hunslet's, with the inclined cylinders and the connecting rod on the inside of the coupling rods are very attractive. Though she looked fairly small in comparison to "Fiji", the chances are she is more powerful as "Fiji" is quite a tall engine with a very tall cab. "Linda" is seen here simmering in the sun. I was so pleased to see her in steam...
"2-4-0 Hunslet Saddle Tank 'Linda' of 1893"
The final FR service of the day had been worked into Harbour Station by replica Double Fairlie "David Lloyd George", built at Boston Lodge and completed in 1992. The engine returned to work in May this year in works grey, now burning coal rather than oil. The FR had adopted an oil firing policy many years ago but, due to the increase in oil costs, most of the engines have now returned to coal firing...
"David Lloyd George" is spotted here, sizing up the much taller Hudswell "Fiji"...
Having watched a few more shunting movements and listened to some arguably frustrated wannabe engine drivers come door handle polishers and their views on conventional injectors, we felt it was time for the off. Ahh well, perhaps one more daft picture just for the album...
"Eddie With His Business"
It had been a most enjoyable day but a long and tiring one. Now it was back in the car for the route back to base, and then off to the Eagles for a pint or two in celebration. No three courses I hear you cry? Eddie was much the same, but I just couldn't face it! All the best everyone and thank you for reading about our epic adventure. Cheers all, Sam...

The Welsh Tour Part III: The Welsh Highland Railway...

Hi there everyone. And so, we had made it: the final connection. The FR had brought us to Blaenau, the main line to Bangor, the bus to Caernarfon and now we were making the final trip back to Porthmadog via the Welsh Highland Railway. Like the FR, I had never had the chance to visit the WHR before so was very pleased that we could manage both in a day. Having spent some time in Caernarfon (where the WHR begins), we made our way over to the station before purchasing our single journey tickets. The train was due in around 3:30pm ready for a 4:05pm departure. The 25-mile journey would take just over 2 hours to complete: what an achievement. The rather basic station at Caernarfon stood quiet in the warm afternoon sun when we arrived...
Right on time, an echoing African-style chime whistle, commonly referred to as 'The Elephant Blaster', was heard in the distance. Just then, the peace was shattered by the arrival of one of the huge Garrett locomotives. This example is No87, built in 1937 by Cockerill's of Belgium. She is an NGG16, employing two power bogies which give her a wheel arrangement of 2-6-2+2-6-2. The NGG16 class consisted of a run of 34 engines of 2ft gauge, weighing in at around 60 tons. Despite their huge weight for a narrow gauge engine, due to their amount of wheels they could manage a very low axle-load, giving them a large route availability for such a large locomotive. Furthermore, their huge boilers spanning the two bogies gave them great steaming abilities whilst the articulated nature of the engine allowed them to round tight curves where rigid-framed engines of their size would not be able to work. With a boiler pressure of 180psi, the class made for a very powerful 4-cylinder locomotive which was very popular. No87 herself spent her working life, like her sisters, in Africa and was restored at the FR's Boston Lodge Works. She returned to steam in 2009. The WHR has five NGG16's of which three are operational. One has been used for spares whilst the other is in store...
A close up of the large boiler on NGG16 No87...
Having uncoupled from the well-loaded train, No87 ran into the loop at Caernarfon to take water and for the fireman to remake up the fire. The driver oiled the Garrett round heavily during this break...
"The Garrett Takes A Drink"
Eddie was very pleased that his trip had been a success, so far. He had initially feared ridicule if one of our connections had failed and we had missed the Garrett departure. Luckily for him, we made it...
The WHR as it is today was completed in 2011. It is owned and operated by the Ffestiniog Railway, hence sharing the terminus station of Porthmadog with them. During its 25-mile journey the WHR takes in 13 stations of varying sizes. Our train today departed on time at 16:05 behind No87. The train was very well loaded but mostly towards the rear of the train, meaning that Eddie & I had a coach to ourselves almost directly behind the Garrett. The engine got the lengthy train underway easily (not surprising really) and we were soon tearing along the scenic 2ft gauge track. Having passed through Dinas (the engineering base of the line and around 2.7 miles from Caernarfon), the engine began to accelerate across the flat plains before beginning the gradual but nevertheless steep ascent towards Rhyd Dhu, the summit of the line. The on-train buffet service was again in operation and we enjoyed a cuppa' whilst surveying the wonderful scenery...
"The Route of the WHR"
I am very much an engineman. What I mean by that is I am much happier driving or firing the locomotive rather than sitting back and enjoying the scenery. However, no matter what your preference, you cannot help but be in awe of what has been achieved here. The train takes you through completely unspoilt scenery which is ever changing. You speed across flat green fields before climbing through wooded cuttings and then steaming through valley's and along hillsides at the foot of Snowdon. The train is ever climbing towards Rhyd Dhu, but the Garrett takes it all in her stride. The engine did give us a few well meaning chuffs but really, she has a lot more to give. The scenery from the train window was just fantastic...
Around every corner there were spectacular views. On a clear day like this we even spotted a little steam engine descending from the summit station of the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Without doubt, if we could see them, then they could probably see the snaking train of the Garrett. On the tight bends where the Garrett's come into their own, 87 popped into sight...
Meanwhile the train snaked along behind her...
Just one of the many spectacular views taken from the WHR train...
After an almost breath taking journey up to Rhyd Dhu, the Garrett paused for water. Sister NGG16 No143 also passed us here with the final returning Caernarfon bound train of the day. Here is a view of the large footplate of the Garrett, where a Bala engine is made to look like a toy...
Here, the Garrett stands under the blue skies whilst the driver fills the water tank, carried over the front bogie for adhesion purposes as well as practicality, for the rest of the trip ahead...
From Rhyd Dhu it is pretty much downhill all the way. No87 barely murmured once the train was underway. The WHR trip is probably unbelievably impressive the other way, but the FR is downhill the other way and so our version of the round-trip seemed the best. The amount of height lost by the WHR over just a few miles is tremendous. The train snakes down through cuttings and wooded glades and you can sometimes see the tail of your train above you as you've taken such a sharp, downgrade curve that it is still up there! Its just amazing. The Garrett's must work damn hard going back up that's for sure! Having descended for a good while the train began once again tearing across the flat plains, bound for Porthmadog. Having passed the small Welsh Highland Heritage Railway on the right-hand side, the train slowed to pass-over Britannia Bridge. This is the road bridge in the centre of Porthmadog and is the only WHR access to the FR station. The train snakes over onto the centre of the road bridge and the trains take up the place of the traffic as they wind their way over into the station: its quite an experience... 
"Across The Road We Go"
Having held up the traffic for a short while, No87 and her lengthy train came to rest in the station at Porthmadog after a beautiful journey. We couldn't have picked better weather...
The friendly crew aboard No87 invited us up onto the Garrett for a look around the cab. The driver commented that the Garrett's are the only locomotives that can handle peak summer services on the WHR, due to their size and power. If a Garrett isn't available, then the FR engines have to be double-headed in their place. The FR is the same though, they rely on the Double Fairlie's being available for the heavy summer work...
The view ahead aboard No87. Note the water tank which looks to be another engine sat in front...
"Wouldn't Mind Driving This!"
The Garrett's are just huge. Its amazing to think that No87 weighs much more than "Sir Gomer"! It had been an amazing experience on the WHR and I am so pleased that I have now 'done it'. The line is just brilliant and the scenery, arguably, is second to none. Its just fantastic and words and pictures cannot really describe it on a day like today. Just go and have a ride! Cheers guys, Sam...