Sunday, 29 March 2015

Driving a Great Western 5101 at Shackerstone...

"Double Header Combination" (R.Mathieson)
Hi everyone. Today was another very pleasant day. Today I was driving 4141 at Shackerstone: the Great Western 5101 Class 2-6-2 Large Prairie tank. The day began like most: at dawn. I arrived at the shed to find 3803s Driver (Adrian) already there. This weekend was the Battlefield Line's Spring Steam-Up weekend, with both engines working a regular timetable. Our trainee: Jamie: soon arrived and began preparations on the footplate of 4141. I meanwhile stood alongside, sorting out the hydrostatic lubricator. In the morning, the water must be drained from the lubricator before it is refilled with fresh steam oil until full. Once full, I don't set the lubricator up until just before we are about to move. Jamie soon had a good fire burning inside the box of the 41', with smoke bellowing out everywhere. We are now trialling some different coal which seemed, at first glance, rather smoke inducing! Behind us, 3803 was also raising steam. The 38' was first off, with the 8:45am freight working. 4141 was rostered for her first turn with the 10am passenger. Soon enough, with 3803 having got the call to come off shed, 4141 steamed out into the rain and down through No11 road. We were then sent across to the signalbox, with the drain cocks hissing loudly in order to disperse any condensate from the steam circuit.

3803 was then signalled out and took up her place at the head of the freight, which left around 5 minutes down. 4141 then steamed back over into the shed to have the ashpan emptied. When 3803 returned, 4141 was sitting pretty at the head of the 10am train. We departed pretty much on time on this run, taking the 5101 steadily down to Shenton. She was still pretty 'cold', and the coal was proving a little hard to work. However, once we'd left Shenton, the loco started to perform much better and was now nice & hot. We pulled back into Shackerstone on time and 3803 duly departed with the 11:10 trip. 4141 stood quietly in Platform 1 as the wet weather continued...
With an hour or so to spare, we thought it wise to get cooking! Home grown chef Jamie put my shovel to good use cooking the sausage & bacon cobs: grand job...
The hearty cobs were joined by a hot cup of tea as we watched the drizzle fall. 4141 was simmering away happily, awaiting her next turn. Before long, the 2-8-0 returned and we were required again. We left on time with the 12:20 departure and the locomotive is pictured here awaiting departure from Shenton following run round...
Jamie & Dave were making up the fire ready for the return run at this point, and I managed to snap a shot of the chimney exhaust. This was very reminiscent of the time when myself & David were on 5521 back in 2012...
After a good run back and an on time arrival at Shackerstone, 3803 was off again, leaving us waiting in Platform 1 and supping tea. The loco meanwhile had nothing to do but simmer away quietly to herself...
These hour-long layovers do keep you relaxed, though it is unusual to have so much time to yourself! Nevertheless we were kept busy, and 4141 is seen at the head of the 2:40pm departure...
"4141 Prepares for Departure" (D.Hanks)
Down at Shenton after a good trip, David had his camera out again and snapped me aboard 4141. The rain had finally relented!...
4141 left Shenton in good weather and it was nice to be able to look out of the window without being pelted with rain. It was a very pleasant run back. The 41' handled the 5-coach train easily throughout the day, and will run along with the regulator half way up pilot valve at about 25% cut-off quite easily. Here, the locomotive chugs happily towards Hedley's crossing...
"5101 Class at Hedleys" (Pic by Barry Bryan)
Once back at Shackerstone, 3803 took up her place at the head of the 3:50pm train: the final train for her alone as the 5pm would be double-headed by both engines. The BR Black liveried 38' really does look lovely in her new colour and we're all really pleased with her...
During our final and sunny layover we enjoyed more tea before making up the fire for the last trip. This train was double-headed with the newly repainted 3803. 4141 was taken over first, and duly watered at the column. The 38' then dropped down on top, proudly wearing her "Cambrian Coast Express" headboard...
"Ready to Go" (R.Mathieson)
Double-heading is unusual on the railway and is always very pleasant to do. We left Shackerstone on time, with 'Eddie the Late' joining us on 4141 for a footplate ride. For the outward run, 3803 was leading. This meant that she did the braking, and we carried the token (as the last powered vehicle). As far as giving power was concerned, I would give steam whilst the 38' gave steam and shut-off as soon as they did. The 38' would then be called upon to do the braking and the ejecting where necessary. At Shenton, both engines were uncoupled and the 38' led us into the headshunt. 4141 was then used to create the brake for both vac braked locos before dragging the 38' through the loop. 3803 then regained control for the final drop onto the train. Before the trip back, we decided to have the necessary and self-absorbed crew picture!...
"Team Pic" (R.Mathieson)
The run back left Shenton a little behind time but not too much. The 41' was in good voice as she got the weight moving up the bank; now in control. We steamed easily up & over the bank into Bosworth, where I did the braking aboard the 41'. Leaving Bosworth there was much noise and whistling as we enjoyed a spirited departure. The 38' then shut-off on the fairly flat section, allowing 4141 to keep the momentum up on a breath of steam. Speed dropped as we came through Carlton due to the rising grade and so both engines gave a chuff up through Hedley's before shutting off for the crest of the hill. We then descended into Shackerstone carefully, after a very good trip. The two engines were then separated before returning to shed after a pleasant day. I must thank Jamie & David for their company, and for the turn on 4141. The Prairie has been a welcome addition to the steam fleet and it will be sad to see it go on Tuesday. All the best guys, Sam...

Saturday, 28 March 2015

"Isibutu": A Beautiful Bagnall at Statfold Barn...

Hi there everyone. Today was the much anticipated first Open Day of 2015 at the private Statfold Barn Railway. Myself and John were rostered aboard "Isibutu": a beautiful 4-4-0 Bagnall of 1945. I've been looking at "Isibutu" with wonder for a couple of years now, just hoping to get a go on it. At last, that day had finally arrived! I left home at just after 5am: good lord that's far too early: and proceeded to the SBR site near Tamworth. Naturally there was the obligatory McDonalds Breakfast stop before continuing on, arriving there at just before 6am. 'Eddie the Late' pulled in just behind me, much to his glee as this was the first time we'd arrived simultaneously without being late! Having changed and signed on, we walked through onto the shed frontage to find our loco's. There would be well over 15 engines in steam today, working an intensive timetable. Therefore lateness was not an option. "Isibutu" still had 70psi on the clock and the fire was still lit at the back end. Having added more coal to the back corner, I also began a small wood fire at the front end of the box, just for 'insurance'. All around, other engines were coming to life...
"Isibutu" has a large Marine boiler & firebox. The marine box gives a shallow grate with a large pizza-oven style door in the cab. The damper is also in the cab, as therefore is the ashpan. Here is a quick snapshot of the fire whilst adding more coal...
John arrived soon after me and duly surveyed the locomotive. He then disappeared and came back brandishing two full cups of piping hot tea...grand job!...
After tea, we set to oiling "Isibutu". These big Bagnall's were built by the Staffordshire firm for export to Africa. The 4-4-0 types have picked up the name "Tongaat Bagnalls", as they worked for Tongaat Sugar whilst abroard. Designed to be powerful, the 4-4-0s also had to work over a system of probably 90 miles or so at 2ft gauge. This accounts for their oversize proportions for 2ft gauge metals! Certain records indicate that Tongaat had 14 Bagnalls over a 40-year build period. This engine is No2820 of 1945 and was named "Egolomi" originally. No2374 of 1929 was actually built as "Isibutu", but she didn't survive into preservation. "Egolomi" received the name "Isibutu" when it was preserved and repatriated to the UK. She now lives on, carrying the name of her scrapped sister. We believe 6 of the engines survive, four of which live in the UK: "Isibutu", another at Lynton and a further pair at a private site in Middlesborough. The engine only has two coupled axles as well as a sizeable front bogie, but the length of her doesn't allow for tight corners to be taken easily. Therefore, we always 'take her steady'. Here, "Isi" steams up once oiling is complete...
At 8:30am we had the Safety Briefing before the engines were shunted into position for the first move of the day. Due to the SBR running a '4-Train Rotation' on the dual gauge railway this time, there were a few positioning moves required before the intensive service could begin. Therefore, the first train departed with 5 or 6 engines at its head, with "Howard" leading. The train continued to Oak Tree where "Marchlyn" is pictured tailing "Isibutu"...
At Oak Tree, "Howard" left the formation, as did we. "Howard" took up the rear of the freight, with the big Bagnall on the front. "Marchlyn" and "Sybil Mary" also then joined the rear of the freight. With the right away given, "Isibutu" got the weight moving and proceeded to the balloon loop with the freight...
At the balloon loop, "Isibutu" was uncoupled and the two 0-4-0s duly departed. "Howard" was now head of the freight train and awaited a path, whilst the Bagnall was now to be stabled until the freight train had completed a round trip. This system would see a new engine on the freight in each direction, and keep the brakevan on the right end. Having been laid up for an hour at the balloon loop, "Isibutu" returned on the next freight working, in fine voice. Here, John takes her carefully out of Oak Tree, bound for Statfold Junction...
"Isibutu at Oak Tree" (Pic by 40011 Mauretania - Flickr)
We were then stabled in the Goods Siding and enjoyed a cuppa' whilst John showed off his enjoyment of the day so far...
Here, the Krauss "Sragi No1" and the new in service Davenport steam past us with another freight working...
It was just now that we got the first and best bit of sun of the day. The large bulk of "Isibutu" is seen here being past by "Howard", formerly "Josephine"...
With "Howard" in the station with the ex-L & B coaches, the next departure (a freight) set off and "Isibutu" was then given the road. We backed out of the Goods Siding and then proceeded up into the main platform at Statfold Junction station. The L & B coaches would be our next load. With the right away given, 2820 steamed away easily. We are seen here descending the bank with the train, on route to the balloon loop. Note that there is no return crank as the valve position is actually driven from a rod off the crosshead...
"Descending The Bank" (Pic by 40011 Mauretania - Flickr)
Having proceeded around the balloon loop, we romped back up to Statfold Junction where we uncoupled and took up position on the turntable. The engine was then turned 2 or 3 times for the publics enjoyment, much to John's dismay! Having got the road again, we steamed through the station before reversing up onto the shed. It was then time for another cuppa' and a cheeseburger each: we eat well at Statfold! It wasn't long before we were called again, this time for the other passenger set. I was now driving and am seen here bringing "Isibutu" into Oak Tree with the set...
"Isibutu arrives at Oak Tree" (Pic by S.Donohoe - Flickr)
We steamed out of a very busy Oak Tree and down the bank before slowing for the balloon loop. Here the engine was held whilst we awaited the next service to arrive with our single line token. "Isibutu" waits patiently with the train...
Once "Isibutu" had got the road, away we went again. "Isibutu" pulled the train easily along the dual track: she is a very strong engine: and then made some real noise climbing the bank. At Oak Tree, we arrived cautiously through the point-work before stopping to take passengers and water. Here, John checks the level in the tanks...
"Nearly There"
Tanks full, we reboarded the engine ready for a bunker first departure for Statfold. Road given and a green flag too, off we went. "Isibutu" marched happily away and we steamed into Statfold Junction's main road with ease. Its a nice chuff up into the station now, particularly with the longer platforms. 2820 is in great voice and barks up the climb beautifully. Once stopped and secured after a good run, we were uncoupled ready to go on shed. Our next two movements would be shunt release jobs whilst preparing for the cavalcade. However, we still had to keep a good fire in "Isibutu" as propelling the stock up the grade into the station requires a fair bit of steam. After the shunting to clear the line, the engines began to leave shed for the cavalcade. "Isibutu" was last to go, and took up her place at the head of the line up before the big whistle-off. With the show over, we all returned to shed after a very pleasant day. "Isibutu" is a lovely thing and goes just as well as she steams. I think we were both very impressed with this beautiful Bagnall; another lovely old gal'. All the best guys: another great day at Statfold...

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Repaint Story: GWR 3803...

Hi there everyone. At last, finally, here are the progress pictures I snapped during the repaint of 1939-built GWR 2884 Class 2-8-0 No3803 at Shackerstone. This idea floated around the place at the back end of last year. The plan was to repaint the 38' into BR Plain Black livery, subject to the owners agreeing to the livery switch. The new livery would do nothing more than simply give 3803 a bit of a fresh look for her final year in ticket, as the 10-year boiler certificate expires after this season. The locomotive is pictured in the shed above, on Jan 4th, still proudly wearing its GWR livery. The final public steaming of the loco in GWR Green was on New Years Day. For the first couple of shed Sunday's, work had gone forward with two diesels: the Class 73 and the 02 Shunter. However, by Sunday 25th January the work on the 38' had begun. The engine had been moved under the tarps at the south end of the shed in order to protect the main of it from the elements. The shed roof is good but bad weather will bring the odd bit of soot & muck down off it so the tarps are very necessary indeed. On this day myself, Eddie and Jason began the considerable task of flatting the paintwork...
On a smooth flat surface, a mechanical tool (a DA air sander) may be used to flat the paint. All we wish to do here is take the shine off and open the paint up ready to take undercoat. The barrel was first rubbed over with thinners to remove excess dirt or grime. Steam locomotives do of course, by their very nature, attract lots of smuts and oil residue so a good clean up is vital as preparation. The 'flatting' then began. Using fine sanding pads, the entire locomotive had to be flatted down. The end result we are aiming for is to have a smooth, flat surface for painting. Here, the green of the firebox is just being removed...
I tell you what, never underestimate just how long something this big will take you to hand flat! Sunday February 1st soon came around and the hand flatting continued. The barrel, firebox cladding and cab were all pretty much getting there...
The cab sides had had their number plates removed and the side sheets were being flatted with the DA. As you can see the tender is awaiting work at this early stage...
The fireman's side of the barrel is seen here in the middle of flatting. Rubbing your hand across the panels after this process gave a silky smooth feel...
I did nip into the shed on the 8th of February but I wasn't well so didn't stop long. Therefore, there are no progress snaps from that day. The hand flatting was still in progress but was pretty much done. Jason had a busy week leading up to Sunday February 15th and the sight that greeted us in the shed was quite staggering...
The 38' had received her first coat of undercoat. The total plan would involve two coats of undercoat (with a flat in between), and then two coats of gloss (with a flat in between). On the 15th I was busy needle gunning. This air operated tool, though very noisy, fetches the paint off a treat and, if you work at it, leaves a smooth surface in its wake. The front bufferbeam: now minus number: is seen here during the gunning process...
Note the surface finish here. The gun allows you to start all over again with primer in order to assure a smooth finish at the end...
A capture of the 38' in its first coat of black undercoat; the shine on the smokebox barely gives away the impression its been painted for a good 9 years!...
A close up of the undercoated boiler barrel. We were all very pleased with the finish Jason had achieved...
Meanwhile, the tender had been DA'd and was now also sporting black undercoat, if only on the fireman's side for now...
Sunday February 22nd saw Jason applying the second coat of undercoat to the fireman's side of the tender. Jason is a painter by trade so knows the tricks to get a good finish...
By now my needle gunning activities had led me to the rear of the loco to start on the rear beam of the tender. I don't particularly mind needle gunning, but regular breaks are necessary so as to safeguard against vibration damage...
Up on the cab side, a small amount of filler had been applied. The filler is allowed to dry before being flatted until smooth. It is basically used to cover any pitting in the metalwork and to give a good final finish. Interestingly when the number plates were removed we found remnants of the painted on Barry Scrapyard number, applied during the 2-8-0s time there. Here we see some filler drying off...
The driver's side of the tender was now also in its first coat of undercoat...
Sunday March 1st was a quiet day for 3803, though Jamie was working away between the separated loco & tender. The loco was receiving a clean up of its dragbox and tender intermediates prior to the latter being reunited with the engine. Most of us were however busy, either washing out "Sir Gomer" or on other jobs...
Sunday March 8th was soon upon us and the loco was really getting there. She was undergoing a strip down for washout during the week, hence the removal of the steam pipe covers...
The tender had been glossed but was now in a rubbed down state ready for the second coat...
My job today was to completely degrease the firemans side of the bottom end, which I did so. The paintwork here has suffered a bit over the last 9 years but then again the environment down here is hostile at the best of times...
Here we see the difference between the first coat of gloss and its rubbed down state...
Sunday March 15th saw me degreasing again: this time on the drivers side. I was the only one working on 3803 today as there were many other jobs going on, not to mention 4141 in steam too!...
The tender was now in full gloss all round and only awaited some bufferbeam red and its transfers to complete it...
A rear view of the lovely shine on the BR Black tender...
Looking down the drivers side of the tender...
David had meanwhile been painting the nameplates last week. Here they are with the new black undercoat applied...
Sunday March 22nd saw me out on 4141 whilst work continued in the shed, both on & off 3803. Here she is shining away in a rushed snap I took before we left shed with the 41'...
Thursday March 26th saw me leave work early to get over to Shackerstone to help Jason. The smokebox had been degreased thoroughly and rubbed down ready to receive its number plate, shed plate and matt black paint...
My main job this afternoon was to paint the valances and the slide-bar hangers. This task involved degreasing, flatting, degreasing again and then painting. Here the fireman's side valance is partially rubbed down...
The cylinder covers had now also been flatted and awaited a nice coat of gloss...
A while later we see the repainted valance and slide bar hanger on the fireman's side...
A close up of the gloss black hanger...
I then moved onto the Driver's side where Jason is spotted here trying some paint on the smokebox of 3803...
A final view of 3803 before I left for home. Jason was by now applying the front beam's portion of bufferbeam red...
Friday March 27th arrived all too quickly but sure enough 3803 had the trial fitting of her plates before the smokebox received its coat of matt black. The number plate looks brill and the shed plate represents 84C: Banbury. Its amazing what a difference some plates make!...
I meanwhile put the number plate backs into their top coat of gloss black...
James was busy working away painting the rear bufferbeam of 3803...
The barrel simply needed its last coat of gloss now, with the first coat gloss rubbed down...
Jason begins applying the final coat of gloss...
Another job I did today was painting the ears on the 38's safety valve bonnet, whilst Steve painted the smokebox...
The engine was finished later that evening and, fair play to all concerned, here is the The Finished Product!...
These shots were taken by me on the upcoming Gala Sunday: I'm afraid giving away the fact that this post was written after it said it was. Doesn't she look grand...
Another view of 3803 awaiting departure on Gala Sunday in her new colours...
I must say that 3803 has turned out lovely and the new plain black BR livery has already received great reviews. The engine really does look different and it is quite refreshing to see it in black rather than green. This is the first time in preservation that 3803 has carried these colours. The engine made her debut over the gala weekend and will now operate regular Battlefield Line steam services in her new livery. We must thank the owners of the 38' (the SDR) for allowing the job to be done, and to everyone who worked on it. Its been a pleasure to be involved with this project, and to report on it. Why not come along one day and see the newly painted 3803? All the best everyone, Sam...