Saturday, 25 July 2015

Driving 3803 For Rail Ale...

"3803 Gets Away from Shackerstone" (ColinT - Flickr)
Hello everyone. Today I was driving 3803 again on behalf of the Battlefield Line. Having enjoyed a pleasant visit to the thriving Rail Ale event at Market Bosworth last night, an early start was required this morning for a 6am arrival at Shackerstone. Pulling into the car park at around 5:50, I was soon joined by Fireman Steve and Trainee James. The blurry eyed trio then ambled to the loco shed, signing in on route. When we reached the loco shed there sat 3803, simmering away with 20psi still on the clock from yesterdays antics. Steve & James duly got to work with cleaning the grate and emptying the ashpan. The morning weather was fairly pleasant and a fair day was in prospect. My first job would be to locate and fire up the Class 02 Shunter; D2867 "Diane". I found the little 0-4-0 up on the DMU road...
Now, having been dragged from your bed at an ungodly hour as it is, the last thing you really need is to set up the cold start for a throaty Rolls-Royce engine like this! BIS on and cold start in, I pressed the go-go button and sure enough the 02 roared into life, throwing the usual first burst of blue smoke up into the sky...
The 02 would then be left to make air in her secured position. With no control air you can't do anything other than free-roll everywhere! I then decided to change into my prep overalls in readiness for the usual oiling up procedure. Returning to the 02, the appropriate level of air had been reached and the loco shuddered down the DMU road and forth to No11. The No11 road allows access to the shed and, with fire already lit, 3803 was duly dragged out into the morning haze. Loco secured and crackling away, it was time for tea!...
Trainee James was then tasked with the traditional cleaners role of, well, cleaning! Steve meanwhile tended to the fire and polished off the rods. In the background I was meandering around the 100+ oiling points on 3803 with the faithful oil pump (R2D2 to his friends) trailing along behind me. When Churchward initially designed the forerunner of the 38xx class: the 2800: he did the usual Great Western thing: he made a good, strong engine with no ease of maintenance. In fairness, the 38' isn't too bad but there are certainly no oiling aids or an abundance of well located steps! I do like oiling up outside on these pleasant mornings though. There's something about being one with the engine, as poetic as that sounds. Whilst you're tending to her various needs, the loco is constantly warming herself through, expanding in places and building steam as required. Steve had her singing to him today, she came round without the blower.

Today's timetable was a 6-train variant of the green timetable (an additional 10am train had been added). Due to the fair weather expected, the trains were sure to be busy on this enjoyable event weekend. The hours passed quickly and 3803 is seen below about to leave Shenton with the 11:50 for Shack; her second return trip of the day...
By this time we were all ready for our breakfast and it was kindly delivered to the footplate!...
The Shenton cafĂ© breakfast baps are very tasty and I'll always try to order one if we're on the footplate! Having had a good run back, 3803 drifts into Shackerstone with the returning 11:15 departure. Her express headlamp code is clearly seen...
"3803 Arrives at Shackerstone" (ColinT - Flickr)
The engine then duly ran round ready for a prompt 12:30 departure. The paint job applied by the team at Shack last winter is pretty immaculate when clean...
"3803 Shines at Shackerstone" (ColinT - Flickr)
The big engine was running fairly well though she is now showing her age as parts start to wear out. It must be remembered that she's been in traffic for well over 9 years now of her 10 year ticket and has done some hard work and many, many miles. Ahh well, she still chugs on happily in her retirement year! Having enjoyed another successful run with the 12:30 trip, the 13:45 train would see us requiring water. In this quick shot below, James demonstrates exactly what happens when the water column bag kicks out of the tank and fills the top well. Its fair to say James was soaked, much to Steve's delight!...
Steve drove the 15:00 train whilst I fired. As the driver I still like to have a go at firing because you must keep your hand in! The train loadings throughout the day had been very strong and you could tell that the public were really enjoying themselves. Even we with 3803 had managed to keep to time with the tight timetable; something I was very pleased about! The big black engine was soon coupled up and ready with the on time 4:15 departure for Shenton. The image below was taken during one of the days routine check-overs and a fresh oiling of the wheel backs and slidebars...
On the last trip 3803 continued to perform well. She steamed well, pulled well and proved no trouble. Her age may be showing but she is still a strong old engine and very pleasant to drive. Upon our arrival back at Shackerstone the locomotive was pulled into platform 1 behind the waiting DMU set. The railcar duo would operate two Rail-Ale specials during the evening which seemed, to us, to be well patronised. The 38' simmered happily in platform 1 until the road ahead was clear and we could pull into No11 road for disposal...
All in all this had been a long, tiring but very enjoyable day. We may sometimes moan about what we do but, allas, we do love it. I for one have been very lucky to fire what I've fired and drive what I've driven, and I do appreciate that. I must thank ColinT of Flickr for sending in some great images for use in this post and thank Steve & James for their company aboard the shining heavy freight 2-8-0 No3803. Thanks all...
"I am a massive mighty creature
When fed and watered I am Energy
I am Effort, I am Power
I am a product of the skill of man, and therefore respond to Man's commands
When I am unleashed I am a furious, rushing beast of burden
Industry and Commerce cannot do without me
 I am essential in Peace and War. I am the Steam Locomotive"
(Taken from "Meet the Locomotive" - R.Bernard Way, 1947)

Friday, 24 July 2015

Friday Evening at Rail Ale...

Hi all. This evening, admittedly in the pouring rain, I spent some hours at Market Bosworth enjoying the evening entertainment of the first day of the Rail Ale festival. This fantastic event takes place every July on the station yard and within the Goods Shed itself. Well over 10 of those strange iron horses of the road attended and looked fabulous on the yard, with the 1920-built Fowler Showmans Engine "Repulse" and her shining fairground lamps being the undoubted star. Ticking away happily with her dynamo wining outside the shed, the engine certainly looked the part, raining or not! Inside the shed the beer was flowing with over 60 real ales on offer and of course the first of two performances of the weekend by the amazing Doctor Busker. I stayed for a couple of hours to see Dr Busker get the crowd going before heading off for home with an early start in prospect tomorrow, involving 3803.

"Singing I will if you will so will I
Singing I will if you will so will I
Singing I will if you will
I will if you will
I will if you will so will I"
 
For anyone who hasn't seen Dr Busker yet during one of his many performances across the country, you need to! Often billed as the last surviving Victorian pub pianist, his evenings are full of fun, laughter and bawdy numbers: a must for all. Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Saturday Steam with 3803...

Hi all. This morning I was rostered to drive Heavy Freight 2-8-0 No3803 at Shackerstone. In the company of my good friend and colleague Mick, we arrived at the engine shed at around 5:30am. Today would consist of the usual five trips on the green timetable, plus one of the popular Footplate Experience courses - which would take place during the first part of the day. The engine was lit by 6am and sat simmering away in the gloom of the shed. After a cuppa', Mick began the cleaning whilst I started the seemingly never ending task of oiling up. Starting in the cab and working your way around, oiling up tends to take about an hour - that way you don't miss anything! The engine was ready by 9am and the two Foot-Ex participants were ready and waiting for their go.

During a Foot-Ex course such as today, we as the crew have to turn very quickly into tutors. Mick would be teaching the firing, whilst I would be teaching the driving. Arguably, Mick had the much harder task! The skill and knowledge behind the appropriate firing technique does not come immediately, it takes years of practise and tweaking in order to adapt your own interpretation of everyone else's ideas. Regardless of this, we still explain the vital laws of combustion and neat firing, such as "Little and Often". At this point I did the all important safety briefing, covering just a few danger points and safety commands whilst on and around the locomotive. After all, despite this being our much loved hobby, the environment is still potentially dangerous and all precautions must be taken. With two participants aboard, I like to ensure that both do the same as the other so one will fire whilst the other drives, and vice versa. The process takes a little longer this way as you have to continually reiterate the basics at each swap but it is worth it. Our two gents today were celebrating their 70th Birthday's and had a great time. They were a pleasure to have on board.

As Mick was explaining the firing to one chap, I was getting the engine underway and practising accelerating and braking with the other. At first glance, driving is easy. However, the basic routine of jobs and the order in which they are done is the defining factor. The participant can feel the power in the regulator: the resistance, the weight, the movement. At the other end of the scale is the vacuum brake, which has little feeling at all to the hand but lots through the floor of the cab and the force applied to the wheels as you operate it. The reverser is also forward biased on 3803, causing most participants to fly forward a foot or so when it catches them unawares. As the driver's we have to be mindful of this when notching up in reverse as 3803 will happily pull herself into full forward with little regard for her own safety, if allowed to that is. Despite the work involved, I do enjoy doing Foot-Ex's, mainly because it is so refreshing to see others enjoying something which we as regulars arguably take for granted. After a very enjoyable Foot-Ex course, the two participants retired to the comfort of the cushions whilst myself and Mick got the engine underway with the 11:15 departure for Shenton. 3803 is spotted later in the day waiting to depart from the terminus...
The five trips went very well today, with me driving three of them and Mick driving two. Mick (MJ to his friends) is great company aboard the engine and we had a great time (half of the reason for being on the footplate is to natter and giggle with your friends). I must thank MJ for his company during the day and for being a great sport. It was a very enjoyable outing. I am next back on the 38' next Saturday for the Rail Ale event. Best Regards, Sam...

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Atlantic Report No9: A Faultless Performance...

Hi all. Tonight saw another 'Third Wednesday' outing for my 3.5" gauge LBSC Maisie Atlantic. Our destination, as usual, was the Ryton Pools track of my home club: CMES. There isn't really much to say about this evening. We arrived at just gone 6pm to find some engines already steaming up on the bay. My engine had however already been filled with water and prepared for lighting via the laying of a wood base across the grate. A lit match was soon used to ignite the soaking wood, closely followed by the switching on of the electric blower. No4436 duly steamed up and joined Dave's 3.5" gauge Mongoliper on the track. Being a small engine with such a large combustion chamber in the boiler, "Maisie" steams up quite quickly for her size. Once on the track her performance was, for want of a better word, faultless. She steamed well, pulled well and generally flew into the corners and marched along the straights. I ran for around 90 minutes before retiring after a very pleasant and successful little outing. The loco had run very well indeed and I'm very pleased with her. Its so refreshing to have no maintenance jobs to do, apart from the usual cleaning and polishing. For now, 4436 is back on the bench whilst shed-mate "Achilles" is continuing to undergo some more heavy surgery. Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Return to "Monty" at Evesham...

Hi all. Today was another pleasant outing to the Evesham Vale Light Railway and another day driving "Monty". I arrived at Twyford at just before 8:30 and immediately signed in before being sent, keys in hand, to unlock the loco shed. The shining red 0-4-2 was duly pushed outside; a move which is greatly aided by her roller bearings. The engine had already been cleaned out since her last run and so a general check over was all that was required before lighting up. With 1/2 a glass of water in the boiler, it wasn't long before I had a bright fire burning away in the box...
As soon as the fire was lit it was time to attach the air-line. This basically provides an artificial draft, taking the place of the steam blower and aiding initial combustion. Only the slightest draw was required today as "Monty" was in use yesterday and was still very warm. In fact, it wasn't long before she was singing away to herself whilst I started cleaning. A good buff up of the brasses was followed by the application of polish to the paintwork. Oiling is the last job on "Monty"s agenda, this being completed in a matter of minutes with the help of the grease-gun and trimming pots. Leaving shed at just after 10am, "Monty" proceeded out onto the running line for blowing down. A few minutes later and 1/4 of a glass of water lighter, the loco is pictured at the head of the first train of the day...
A few passengers had joined us for the first outing of the day and "Monty" was soon chuffing merrily through the green fields of the country park. Despite this being the first run of the day she was already steaming very well and proving no trouble. Three coaches was the order of the day and thus hardly a murmur was heard from No300s chimney. The first trip was completed in good time and with ease, with the day continuing pretty much that way. The engine is seen on a later run, stationed at Evesham Vale being photographed...
Passenger numbers today were steady but worthwhile. As usual, many visitors commented on the immaculate nature of "Monty" and the coaching stock: the EVLR team sure do look after their beloved fleet. Adrian, who was guarding today, is always more than happy to enthuse about his engine, which has been a labour of love during her latest rebuild. The smart footplate of No300 is spotted during a layover...
Ready for departure from Evesham Vale, upgrade for Twyford...
Overall the day went very well with "Monty" being her usual good self. If anything, she's almost too good and could do with a good heavy train behind her to make her work a bit! The day was very enjoyable on my part although one, erm, incident did occur. Upon leaving Evesham Vale the driver is to look back and acknowledge the guard's signal, given after clearing the trailing point. On board "Monty" however, I have to turn and lean out to see from the driving side and, at one point, I kicked the bearing oil can clean out of the door! It was like a slow motion picture as it fell cleanly through the air and landed neatly on the ballast. Don't forget, you can't stop here as the sprung trailing points may take you off the road so we had no choice but to collect it later on. No real problem was caused by this but the embarrassment of it is quite a factor!...
Apart from the oil can incident it was a great day and, with "Monty" disposed and put to bed, I left the EVLR site for home at around 5:30pm. The EVLR is, as I've said before, great fun and a pleasure to be involved with. Best Regards, Sam...

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Severn Valley Railway...

Hello everyone. Today was another day out, this time to the fantastic Severn Valley Railway. The 16-mile long SVR has featured on this blog many times but mostly during our dining experiences. Today myself, 'Eddie the Late', David and JB were off on an enthusiasts outing, allowing us to take our time and look at things properly. Upon arrival at Kidderminster at around 10:40am, we immediately met up with David before grabbing a cuppa' from the station buffet. The stock was in the platform ready for our planned 11:15am departure but, allas, just then a d-d-d-diesel pulled in and took up its place at the head of our train. It transpired that Pannier Tank No1501 had failed at the last minute with broken springs: a home from home! The Class 20 would take the engines place until standby engine No4566 could be brought into full steam...
Having grabbed a compartment on this busy train, the right away was soon given. The Class 20 marched away from Kidderminster with ease, towing behind it some beautiful Great Western corridor stock. Whilst myself, Ed and David sulked in the compartment at the thought of being hauled by a diesel, John was quite the opposite. For most of the run he leaned from the open window like an overactive boxer dog, often shouting things like "oh yes, its going for it now!". Dear me, another one goes to the dark side! Having passed a poorly 1501 at Bewdley as well as the 'Flying Pig' on a Foot-Ex working, the train continued to Arley. Arley saw us being passed by Bullied Pacific No34053 "Sir Keith Park"...
Owing to the diesel haulage at the head of the train, we decided to change our plans slightly and alight at Highley first, continuing to Bridgnorth later on. The pretty little station at Highley has seen its passenger numbers rise in recent years with the opening of the SVR's 'Engine House' in the station yard...
Having checked out the book stall, JB is spotted ambling along the platform with little rush, as seen by myself & David from the footbridge...
Over the bridge and up the yard lies the 'Engine House'. Owing to us being on the diner during most of our SVR visits, I'd never had the chance to alight and see it before. I'm so glad that I did so today because its quite a building. Making an imposing presence as you walk in is WD Austerity 2-10-0 No600 "Gordon", of 1943. A strong and useful Riddles type built chiefly for the war effort, these engines far outshone their original expectations. Today, "Gordon" awaits overhaul but has received a cosmetic paint job to keep her shining...
Next to "Gordon" stood another beast: 48773. One of Stanier's chunky 2-8-0 8F types, 48773 was built in 1940 as LMS 8233. Another engine awaiting overhaul, she stood proudly displaying her society's headboard...
As well as the two biggies, the 'Engine House' also included a Standard Tank, Churchward Mogul, Black 5, Jinty, Mickey Mouse (Ivatt 2) and the Hunslet 0-6-0 tank. Overall it is a very impressive building and well worth a look. Its lovely to see these out of ticket engines  so shiny and on display rather than rotting in a siding somewhere under a weather sheet. With that, it was on to the canteen!...
Having had some more tea upstairs, we wandered back up towards Highley station where freshly overhauled Bullied pacific No34027 "Taw Valley" had just pulled in. Built in 1945, this is another beautiful SVR restoration. She looked lovely...
With 34027 having cleared the line, her 1947-built sister No34053 rolled in from Kidderminster with a train for Bridgnorth. We duly boarded this working...
No34053 made light work of the departure upgrade from Highley with BR stock in tow...
After a good run up to Bridgnorth the Bullied pulled in alongside Ivatt Mogul No43106, nicknamed 'Flying Pig'. The engine was awaiting departure now that the line was clear...
Having alighted at Bridgnorth I walked down and underneath the track before climbing up the steps onto the footpath. This was a good place to capture 43106 pulling away. The Ivatt was hauling some beautiful LMS coaches...
In the shed yard at Bridgnorth stood a few Great Western examples. 28xx 2-8-0 No2857 and 14xx Autotank No1450 stood silent, though the former had heat rising from her chimney as if used yesterday. Hall Class 4-6-0 "Hagley Hall" was also spotted with dismantling in progress prior to overhaul...
No34053 "Sir Keith Park" was by now taking water ready for her next departure...
I just couldn't seem to ignore the sign below: it made so little sense!...
A view along the very clean boiler of "Sir Keith Park"...
Back aboard the train myself & JB enjoyed a beer whilst Eddie enjoyed his traditional, refreshing cup of tea. He seemed upset that no 'Three Course Challenge' had been had but you can't win them all!...
John eyes up 4-6-0 No7812 "Erlestoke Manor" over a pint...
34053 departed from Bridgnorth on time with another packed train. Stationed in the buffet car, we had the pleasure of some inebriated diesel fans before they alighted a couple of stops later. The Bullied put in a good performance, passing 34027 at Hampton Loade and 4566 at Bewdley before arriving into Kidderminster...
Over on the 7.25" gauge line, one of Station Road Steam's popular 0-4-0 'Feldbahn's was on duty with one of the final trains of the day...
In a final shot we see No34053 once more. Having run round the train and recoupled to the other end, she is ready for an imminent departure for Bridgnorth...
Now, after a long but very enjoyable day, it was time for the car ride home. All in all it was a great day in great company. The Severn Valley offers everything you could want from a preserved railway: slick operation, well turned out impressive locomotives, beautiful period rolling stock, tidy stations and great scenery: my hat off to all involved. Another grand day out! Best Regards, Sam...

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Calling In At Bure Valley...

Hi all. A very quick call in this one - I'm afraid rain stopped play. The 15" gauge Bure Valley Railway runs for 9 miles between Aylsham and Wroxham in Norfolk. As myself & Maisie were away this weekend up there, we decided to pop in. The weather wasn't playing ball - it was wet, windy and completely miserable. We arrived at the BVR base of Aylsham station at around 12:20 and immediately spotted 2-6-4 Tank "Mark Timothy", built in 1999. The driver was oiling up ready for the next trip, albeit under the sanctuary of the station roof! Soon enough, the engine pulled forward to begin the run round...
The Bure Valley runs on the trackbed of the old East Norfolk Railway, which saw its last BR passengers in 1952. This part of the route was reopened for preservation as a 15" concern in 1990. "Mark Timothy" is designed around a Leek & Manifold type and is one of five steam loco's resident here. Its a Winson's design at heart so I was surprised in fact that it actually works (dare I say). Its a very pretty and powerful looking thing...
I stood for a short while watching the 2-6-4 simmer in the persistent rain before heading back along the platform. I relieved myself of a tenner in the impressive shop before returning to the car for a ride into Norwich. We would have ridden on the train had the rain given in but I didn't want to have a wet day out and not enjoy my first outing on the BVR. Maybe next time...