Thursday, 27 October 2016

One Step Forward: A PTS Course...

Hi everyone. Just a short one from today. I've just returned from a two-day course at West Coast's operational base of Carnforth, around 150 miles north of home. This was my PTS Course - Personal Track Safety. The course covers the dangers of operating on main lines of all kinds and, with the course successfully completed, I can now operate (subject to a medical) at the lineside in conjunction with my duties as Support Crew with Tyseley. This is a great step forward and a good achievement, allowing me to finally help the lads with the general operational tasks that need to be done each time we take a steam engine out onto the national network. A very interesting two days and another step forward! Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 22 October 2016

5043: The "Earl" Goes To Chester...

"A Castle on Chirk Viaduct" (Pic - N.Prior)
Hi all. Volunteering on behalf of Tyseley has become an increasingly enjoyable experience and today, during another outing for the fantastic 5043, there was some new ground broken. Records show that the last time a GWR engine covered the route between Chester and Shrewsbury was in 1998 and so, 18 years on, Tyseley's amazing Castle took Great Western steam back to this section of the main line. The "Chester, Wrexham and Shropshire" excursion would leave its base at the former 84E before steaming out of Birmingham via Walsall. The train would then join the busy WCML for the sprint to Crewe via Stafford before arriving for a few hours break in Chester. The route home would take in former GWR territory, climbing Gresford Bank and skirting the Welsh borders before reaching Shrewsbury. From there, the route home would take in Wolverhampton and the very busy Birmingham New Street before arriving home again at Tyseley. I arrived at a dimly lit Tyseley at around 6:30am, enjoying the not to be lived without McDonalds breakfast once parked up. Once changed, I wandered down through the gloom of the engine shed to find 5043 smoking away outside...
Preparations were taking place both on & about the engine and I soon found myself scaling the heights of the tender watching the water level come up. Filling is done from down below using a valve underneath the tender tank...
This time of year is always the same with steam: you start in the dark and finish in the dark! As sad as it is to say it will only get worse too when the clocks go back in a week or so. It'll be getting later earlier! The scheduled departure from Tyseley was 9:15am and the "Earl" was moved across a good hour before to begin steam heating duties...
Well prior to departure I had the opportunity to take a picture on the cab of the ever immaculate 5043 as she stood waiting in the yard. The engine has the typical Great Western cab layout and you can see on the right the drivers additions such as the steam chest pressure gauge and speedometer. You can also see, below the brake valve, the addition of the oil gauge. The GWR engines have a 'W' valve fitted to the regulator and, when shut-off, the regulator should remain cracked open to allow steam flow via the 'W' valve to keep the cylinders fed with oil. On the hydrostatic arrangement the bubbles of oil will cease to flow up the glass without the valve cracked but with the modified Castle's and King's you have a mechanical lubricator with the 'W' valve feeding steam to the atomizers. When the regulator is shut for coasting purposes it should be reopened until the needle on the oil gauge shows in the white "OIL" section. I believe "Clun" has the same arrangement but the single chimney "Defiant" for example still retains the original hydrostatic arrangement. I find the various small differences quite interesting; a bore as I may be...
By the time departure time came around we were settled in the Support Coach ready for the off. A number of passengers had joined at Tyseley's own Warwick Road platform with a further pick-up due at Wolverhampton. The Castle was in good voice as she left the centre of Birmingham and steamed off towards Chester via the Sutton Park line...
"5043 Leaves Birmingham Behind" (Pic - G.Gifford)
We enjoyed a great run to Chester with lots of fast running. The morning had started fairly dull but towards dinner time the sun began to edge its way out from behind the clouds. Meanwhile, the energetic Castle was sprinting northwards as we enjoyed a variety of chocolate and sweets from the comfort of the Support Coach...
"5043 Near Bunbury, Cheshire" (Pic - Midcheshireman of Flickr)
We arrived at Chester a few minutes early and the mass of passengers disembarked with haste in order to admire the engine. 5043 would soon propel the train back out of Platform 3 and pull into some sidings over the way for servicing...
Whilst the lads did their usual jobs servicing the engine during the Chester stop, I remained on board the train. I'm going for my PTS soon so I'll be able to help out once I've received the safety training. Phil and Stu trotted off into Chester and returned brandishing two bags full of fish and chips which were most pleasant...
Departure from Chester was scheduled for 4:38pm and so the 1936-built Castle would have to be back over there a few minutes before for loading. We steamed triumphantly back into Platform 3 under the watchful gaze of the admiring crowds. I dashed from the Support Coach along the platform in order to grab this snap of 5043 preparing for departure homeward, with the delights of Gresford ahead of her...
I must say I am very grateful to the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in this post. There are some truly spectacular pictures of the Castle from today and I can honestly say they actually humiliate my own very limited photography skills! We left Chester on time and the Castle soon had the weight moving well. You don't see a lot of sights from railway sidings and so it was very nice to see the pretty parts of Chester as we steamed out past the racecourse...
"Leaving Chester Behind" (Pic - Midcheshireman of Flickr)
The climb of Gresford was absolutely fantastic and, though the stiff climb got hold of the "Earl", she seemed to fly over the top. There is a video of her efforts here. The GWR route between Chester and Shrewsbury has its roots in 1846 as the Shrewsbury and Chester Railway. As competition grew from the rival LNWR, the line became part of the Great Western Railway in 1854 and remained a Western region line under BR until 1963 when it became part of the London Midland region. This was my first time travelling over this route and I tell you what, its quite spectacular. There are some wonderful views and some cracking pieces of railway infrastructure. The viaducts in particular are nothing short of impressive, as you can see...
"On Cefn Viaduct" (Pic - D.Chandler)
The "Earl" was in fantastic voice as she strode along the picturesque route. Interestingly, all but one of the intermediate stations on the route are situated in Wales, with only Gobowen being on the English side of the border. Its a brilliant route and it was very poignant to listen to a Great Western engine pounding away on GWR metals once again. Passing Ruabon, you can see traces of the old Barmouth line which ran via Llangollen, Bala and Dolgellau. This was sadly closed under the Beeching Axe in 1965 although both the Llangollen Railway and the Bala Lake Railway use sections of the track bed today. Soon enough, we arrived at Shrewsbury, running slightly early. Again, I dashed out to grab a shot of 5043...
The Castle still looked immaculate as she simmered away at Shrewsbury...
Leaving Shrewsbury we passed the ever impressive Severn Bridge Junction Signalbox. This is the largest mechanical box still in operation in the world, housing 180 levers on the main operational floor. With so many mechanical boxes closing, it is comforting to know that Severn Bridge Jnc is still going strong. From Shrewsbury the Castle steamed on into the dim light of the evening. She just runs for mile after mile, so free. The machine is a credit to the team that restored her...
"5043 Under The Lights & Wires Of Wolverhampton" (Pic - C.Skidmore)
Wolverhampton was left in darkness as the engine climbed through the suburbs of Birmingham to reach New Street. There were countless astonished faces on the platforms there! Leaving New Street behind, the engine was soon back home at Tyseley after a memorable day...
At this point we performed the traditional shunt release with the trusty 08' diesel. Once the Castle was released, I enjoyed a footplate ride through the Tyseley yard to reach the turntable. The 4-6-0 would be turned before disposal...
A final look inside the firebox of No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe"...
Once turned, 5043 returned to the shed and settled down in front of shed mate 4965 "Rood Ashton Hall". It had been another very enjoyable day with the Tyseley lads and I must thank them for their continued hospitality. Its amazing and very engaging to listen to these mighty engines roaring away in their home setting - the main line. The "Earl" in particular is like a volcano, with four 16" cylinders firing an awe inspiring exhaust up a double chimney. There are plenty more Vintage Trains outings coming up, which you can peruse by clicking here. I must also thank once again the photographers who kindly sent in images for use in this post - it is much appreciated. These posts would be boring without the addition of the lineside shots! Thanks for reading all, Sam...
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are merely my own and do not by any means represent the views of the company or any other organisation. Many thanks.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

A Walk Around The Midlands Show 2016...

Hi everyone. This morning, having driven through heavy rain to get there, I spent a few hours wandering around the 2016 Midlands Model Engineering Exhibition up on the Fosseway. I had no turns booked for driving this year. I drove at the show seven years on the bounce on the 5" gauge track between 2008 and 2014 so I think I've done enough back and forth miles! My first port of call this morning was to see the fully assembled Coventry MES stand which looked very impressive...
"Coventry MES Club Stand 2016"
There were a variety of models on display in various gauges from 32mm right up to 5" as well as stationary engines and a few machining items. It was a very varied and interesting stand this year I felt, with my LBSC Maisie standing between Pete's 5" 0-4-0 electric and Roy's 2.5" gauge 0-4-0 to the Sugar design...
"My LBSC Maisie 4-4-2 On The CMES Club Stand 2016"
Having looked at the CMES stand for a while, I made my way past countless other works of engineering art before heading out into the damp of the rally field. A dozen or so miniatures were around in various scales. It was nice to see Russ' 4.5" Foden C Type nearing completion and now running under its own steam. It appeared on static display at Statfold earlier this year without most of its valve gear...
Over the way, Tony Baldwin's forever immaculate 4" Foster DCC "Shirley B" was simmering away to herself. Hopefully we'll see her again at our ever growing Statfold Barn Miniature Rally next May, along with many other engines...
Running up the middle of the field as usual was the fairly steep (in scale terms) 5" gauge portable track. In charge of services was the ever present Golden Slipper: the brass liveried 'Polly V' 2-6-0. This work worn engine seemed to be struggling like mad for adhesion on the oily rails and even three passengers looked almost impossible. I've had some good days driving this engine in the past but time is catching up with her...
For the rest of the morning I spent my time yakking to various people I know across the steam sector and of course enjoying the odd cuppa'. I bought some flue brushes from Polly models and that was about it. I nipped home for lunch before returning at closing time to collect the engine. Getting out of the MMEE with an engine is always a nightmare. As soon as those doors close to the public its like a mad stampede of cars, vans, trolleys and barrows converging on one doorway. By carrying the engine by hand across into the car park I managed to get out fairly quickly...we'd have been there all night if I hadn't! Soon enough the engine was back home on the workbench...
Although my very limited photo's don't show by any means the scale of the event, it was a very good show this year. A video of the proceedings can be seen here. All in all a quiet but pleasant morning spent around the 2016 MMEE and glad to get the engine back home. Some transport chips as normal but nothing the brush can't handle! Cheers, Sam...

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Tyseley: A Right Shunt...

Hi all. A fairly quiet day today; apart from the roar of the Class 08 diesel shunter; spent over at Tyseley Loco Works. I arrived at around 10:30am after a stop off at the Tyseley Corner Cafe for a spot of breakfast. When I arrived I found that the job for the most part of the day was to perform a fairly large shunting operation. The 08' had been rudely awakened from its slumbers ready to shift the bulk of the Jubilee "Kolhapur". The Jub was to be moved back to her usual home up in the Coal Stage, having spent the summer months being stored in the main works. Now that the open weekends for 2016 are complete, 5593 could go back 'upstairs'. To remove the 1934-built 5XP, a few wagons had to be moved about before the tank engine trio of the Peckett and the Panniers were brought out into the Autumn sunshine...
"The Peckett, 9600 and L94 Enjoy The Sunshine"
With the road clear for the 08', out came 5593. "Kolhapur" currently wears a very nice LMS Crimson Lake livery, applied during a cosmetic restoration a couple of years ago. The Jub now waits her turn in the overhaul queue at the former 84E but still looks well despite being out of use for a good while. The Jubilee class of three-cylinder 4-6-0s for the LMS eventually numbered 191 examples, with four surviving in preservation. "Kolhapur" has been with Tyseley since the beginning, joining "Clun Castle" to become the pioneers of the steam centre. Once 5593 was safely stored away in the Coal Stage, along with Pannier Tank 7760, I was sent to work the signalbox to aid the movements of the 08'...
When there is shunting going on the operations inside Tyseley Box are quite interesting. The movements around the yard provided plenty of lever pulling and, just before lunchtime, the job was done. The remainder of the day was spent on the ever progressing 7029 "Clun Castle": arguably Tyseley's signature engine. 7029 will hopefully return to the main line next year and there are also murmurings about a third Castle: No5080 "Defiant". All very exciting stuff and another pleasant day at Tyseley. All the best, Sam...

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Atlantic Report No15: Maintenance and The Midlands Show...

Hi all. After her run three weeks ago, you may remember me reporting that the Atlantic was running her back truck boxes warmer than I'd have liked. Therefore, with an appearance at the Midlands Show coming up and the engine pretty dirty from her recent run, I decided to take out the rear axle to check it prior to cleaning the engine up. Last Tuesday, with some spare time available in the evening, the keeps were removed and the axle dropped out for inspection on the workbench...
"The Recently Unveiled 4-4-0 Atlantic"
The axle on LBSC's Maisie sits right beneath the ashpan and, due to the rocking grate, the ash accumulates around it with the lubricating oil providing an unwelcome sticky surface. As if that wasn't enough, the blow down valve points directly down onto the axle through the cab floor. With the wet, ashy mist that often forms during disposal it is little wonder that the axle gets caked in muck. However, though there was ash on and around the boxes, the journal inside was remarkably clean and the oil ways were free of dirt too. With the boxes removed, I stamped them up (L & R) before washing the axle and wheels with paraffin. The wheelset looked much better without the layer of oil and grime...
With the wheels cleaned and the journals checked thoroughly, the axleboxes were also washed out before being flooded with fresh oil. The oil ways are actually quite substantial and there is little reason I can see why the boxes would run warm. A good rule of thumb is to check that the axlebox is not hotter than the frame but on that recent occasion, to me at least, it seemed to be. Ahh well, at least its all clean and tidy now...
"Clean And Tidy Rear Axle Ready For Refitting"
With the boxes flooded with oil and replaced on their respective journals, the axle was refitted to the Atlantic. The springs are pretty strong on the back end and it wasn't easy to balance everything in the right place whilst you did the keep bolts up. The reachrod then had to be replaced as did the bypass pipe, as both had to be removed to free the back axle. I wondered then as I wonder now why I picked an engine with so much on the inside! Ahh well, another good job done. The fact that the engine had the cab facing the edge of the workbench gave a good opportunity to take a photograph of the back head. Through the firehole door can be seen the LBSC boiler arrangement. The model has superheaters as well as thermic siphons. Although I wouldn't have wanted to have even attempted to have constructed this boiler, I cannot knock its steaming ability or performance...
With Tuesday's jobs complete and lots of oil repeatedly splashed around those pesky rear boxes, the polishing began on Friday. The engine is still looking well, despite the paint being 2 years old and having been polished within an inch of its life since I've owned her. The result of cleaning the loco is captured during the afternoon...
During Friday the engine also had a visit from my own version of "Chips Away", in an effort to remove some tiny blemishes that have appeared during previous runs. On Sunday, with the paintwork having shined up well on the top half thanks to a liberal application of polish, the bottom end was done with paraffin and oil mix...
Though the engine is definitely older than her condition shows now (we don't know how old she is) the builder certainly knew what they were doing. The detail on the rods in particular I really do like. I still love the LNER lining on those wheels...
So folks after a few days polishing and a brief whip out and refit of the rear axle, the engine was ready for her visit to the Midlands Show today. The C1 will be on display on CMES' club stand, as part of the four-day 2016 exhibition on the Fosseway. I think Mike (the stand organiser) likes the 3.5" engines for display as they can still be fairly large tender engines but remain easier to handle. I dropped the engine off this evening and she is spotted below on the second tier of the stand, awaiting more models to join her...
"LBSC Maisie (LNER 4436) On Display At The 2016 Midlands Show"
The engine will be on display now until Sunday, during which time countless model engineering fans will pass her by. The CMES stand has a brilliant line-up of exhibits to see this year and, even during my short period to drop the engine off, I spotted many beautiful pieces of kit on display about the place. It will be interesting to see how many LBSC Maisie's there are on display. As a design, they are very popular and rather numerous but I've never seen more than one or two at the show in one go. I'll keep my eye out on Sunday! One notable exclusion from this show was the 3.5" 2P partner for the C1, owned by well known roving lateness provider 'Eddie the Late'. Rather selfishly, Eddie now resides in Norfolk but I don't see why that should stop him! All the best all, Sam...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Sunday Afternoon Steam At The Rising Sun...

Hi all. After a most enjoyable day out yesterday with 5043 on the Tyseley trip to Oxford and back, today's entertainment was a little more relaxing. Earlier in the week, my mate Phil had mentioned that he and some friends of ours were heading to the Rising Sun in Shackerstone village. Their transport was the Aveling & Porter steam roller "Rosetta" and Phil said that I ought to come along if I was free. With the sun trying its best to shine on this typically Autumnal day, I thought I'd take him up on his offer and have a ride over to Shack. I arrived a little before 12:30 and, from the car park, spotted the trails of steam issuing from the Austerity "Cumbria" as it arrived back from Shenton on a Battlefield working...oh how things change! "Rosetta" was already outside the pub having arrived not long before from her home at Nailstone. The assembled gathering spent the next few hours enjoying the sunshine and a chat over a pint...
One of the pleasures of the Rising Sun is asking for a "Pint of Guest". The Guest Ale's are ever changing at the Sun and are always lovely to sip. I enjoyed a pint whilst admiring the other engine that turned up today: Statfold's 1928-built Foden...
"Here's To Road Steam...Cheers!"
There is something about a well maintained steam lorry. I'm not the biggest fan of road steam by any means, not least because I've grown up loving railway engines, but I can very much see the attraction in them. The Foden in particular is a lovely thing and I've been eyeing it up at Statfold for some years. I forget now how long Statfold have had it but it must be five years or more. I believe she lived in Cornwall before moving to the Midlands and she is one of the Foden Compound Tractors. This one is often known as a Timber Tractor. The Foden's employ a fairly standard boiler arrangement, with the boiler horizontal on the frame much like railway practise. Other well known manufacturers of steam lorries, such as Atkinson and Sentinel, opted for vertical boilers and their engines were often slung beneath the chassis. The Foden's have the engine mounted above the boiler as per usual traction engine practise, with the valve gear spinning above the barrel and firebox...
"Cab Of Foden Tractor 13222 of 1928"
The Foden had travelled the 12 miles or so from Statfold in around an hour, a time that would not be possible with a roller or traction engine. Common estimations of the engines cruising speeds come out around the 25mph mark, whilst topping out at 30mph is apparently not uncommon with a following wind! With the pleasant chit-chat only broken by the occasional bursts of steam from "Rosetta" or the lorry, the afternoon was most enjoyable. When the food was served I managed to get a clear picture of "Rosetta" simmering away outside the Rising Sun. The Aveling was built in 1919 as a Class BS single cylinder roller and now sports an impressive chime whistle...
The food I mentioned earlier was actually cooked by that faithful oven that is "Rosetta". "No, not on the shovel", but in the smokebox! Smokebox cooked jacket potatoes are normally the choice for road steamers and you may have seen the late Fred Dibnah try that on TV once or twice, but today it was two joints of meat: Lamb & Pork. The cobs that were served following the cooking were most enjoyable and cooked to perfection. Until you've tried something that has been cooked inside a steam engine you haven't lived...
"Joints of Meat Freshly Cooked In "Rosetta"s Smokebox"
After the food, following my continuous admiring of the Foden, Nick offered to give me a ride around the block in the cab. "Hurrah, I've been wanting to try this for ages!"...
Pulling out of Shackerstone onto the Congerstone road, the Foden took off like a thing possessed. Although shes on pneumatic tyres rather than the more common solid rubber types, she is still quite noisy due to the gears and valve gear so ear defenders are a must. Leaving the village up the road, the engine was flying along. I couldn't believe how quick the motion was spinning round, strategically ejecting blobs of oil up onto the stained underside of the cab roof. The Compound engine was steaming beautifully with the needle hugging the red line and no shortage of water. Despite the whirring of the various rods flashing round above the barrel, the engine gave a remarkably smooth ride and Nick seemed to have no trouble doing the steering. We steamed up into Congerstone before turning round at the triangle in the middle of the village. Steaming back, I took this video...

The Foden was a lovely thing to be aboard and if truth be told I'm quite taken with it...what a lovely old thing. The view below was taken as we steamed towards Shackerstone having just passed the Primary School on the corner...
"Cab Ride in Foden 13222"
Steaming back into the village and pulling up neatly outside the Rising Sun, I was most impressed. I thanked Nick for the experience and couldn't help wishing for a Lottery win. Even today, a Foden like this will set you back a lot more than an agricultural traction engine or steam roller. Its just a lovely thing and another new steam experience for me. I'd never been in a full size steam lorry before, not on the road anyway. Amazing. We walked down onto the main road to watch the Foden depart for home soon after...
Nick accelerated with such a burst of speed I thought I wouldn't capture the thing!...
With that the Foden steamed off into the distance, barking loudly as it climbed towards Congerstone and ultimately Statfold. I am so impressed with this engine. Back at the pub, "Rosetta" was also getting ready to leave. The light would be fading soon, now that the Autumn weather is upon us, and the crew wanted to be home before dark. They steamed away homeward at around 3:30pm. I left the Sun soon after, having enjoyed a most pleasant afternoon yakking, drinking, eating and best of all riding in the Foden! Great stuff. Many thanks all for reading once again... 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

"A Castle To Oxford": The Beautiful 5043...

"5043 On The 'Cotswold Explorer' Trip" (Pic - P.Wild)
Hi all. In this modern age in which we live, it is comforting sometimes to know that the past is still with us. How much longer for is anyone's guess but at the moment we can still enjoy a colourful abundance of steam on the main line and today, for me, was another of those occasions. Regular readers will know of my tendency to become a little poetic (some would say mushy) in the field of times gone by but in this case I feel it is justified. Today I joined Tyseley on another outing with the thoroughbred double chimney Castle Class 4-6-0 No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe". Billed as the "Cotswold Explorer", the excursion would see the Castle retracing familiar territory, taking in Worcester and Swindon on the long way round to Oxford. From Oxford, the engine would work homeward through Moreton-in-the-Marsh and then back up to Birmingham via Old Hill Bank, giving her and her 10-coach load something to think about. My morning started like most around steam: at dawn: and the now common McDonalds breakfast was enjoyed upon arrival at a dimly lit Tyseley shortly before 6am. I joke you not when I tell you it is my only means of summoning strength...
With my stomach replenished after the hearty meal, I wandered down through the locomotive sheds admiring the various steeds sat cold in the gloom. The express bulk of the Castle stood warming through gently outside the shed, emitting thick smoke into the chilly morning air. The lamps of the nearby London Midland fuel pit were all that illuminated the scene as the old engine prepared for her day out in Oxfordshire...
"Good Morning 5043 - Tyseley 6:00am"
These main line trips are one big adventure. We start out at Tyseley in the early morning, ready the engine and then take hundreds of passengers for a day out somewhere across the country. The engine then brings them home after their pleasant afternoon in the destination of choice and finally she returns to her shed to await her next jolly. Most of the "Earl"s preparation had been done yesterday and by 7:30am she was feathering loudly at the head of the 10-coach train. Departure was scheduled for just after 8am and passengers were boarding in all classes in anticipation of the off...
The main line crew then arrive to take up their duties on the footplate. Preservation on the main line requires a modern presence, quite naturally, and the Driver for today's outing would be Ray Poole for the most part. Ray passed on steam in BR days and has a wealth of experience born out of several years aboard countless footplates. I am actually quite in awe of the drivers that "did it for real" back in the day. For 'youngsters' (I say tongue in cheek!) like me that don't by any means remember steam in action when it was a day to day thing, drivers like Ray are an inspiration and proof of a time which some of us find hard to believe happened at all. Anyway, back to us, we departed Tyseley right on time with a further stop for passengers made at Snow Hill. The run through the Jewellery Quarter is always very audible and the Castle certainly made her voice heard as she stormed onward. I love this unusual shot sent in by Stuart Hassell. It shows the "Earl" passing completely unnoticed through the suburbs...
"5043 Slips Away" (Pic - S.Hassell)
After whistling past the Kidderminster terminus of the Severn Valley (and 7812 in the platform) we pulled up just north of Droitwich for water. 30 minutes (or so) later we were off again and the "Earl" was barking through the platform bound for Oxford...
"5043 At Droitwich Spa" (Pic - R.Walton)
We had a short stop at Worcester to load coal bags onto 5043's tender. The stop was an operational one but did give us a chance to replenish the coal supply. The large Hawksworth tender is certainly tall in stature and is quite imposing compared to the Collett types. It certainly gives the Castle some sleek lines...
Departing Worcester the "Earl" was in fabulous voice as she stormed away towards her birth place at Swindon. She is captured here providing a great display of acceleration...
"5043 Leaves Worcester Behind" (Pic - D.Chandler)
The efforts of 5043 would be no better heard than during her attack on Sapperton. This bank steepens to around 1 in 60 and provides a winding route for the powerful express engine. With load 10 and a strong climb at her feet, the "Earl" certainly made some noise. Meanwhile, we're supping tea and putting the preservation world to rights in the support coach whilst keeping one ear free to admire the sound of the Castle at work. One thing (poetic as it may be) that you notice during these trips is that each member of the Support Crew is always keeping tabs on the engine at the head. Its all about the welfare of the machine and each of us I think takes in each sound, from a change in beat to the noise of the track work rattling beneath us. We may not be on the footplate, but we are there in mind...I assure all readers of that! After a wonderful climb of Sapperton with the "Earl" in full cry...click here for a video of her efforts...progress was slowed for a brief stop at Swindon. Its amazing to think that 5043 was built here, along with countless other Great Western machines. The site of the old works is a shadow of its former self but I bet sister Castle No4073 "Caerphilly Castle": the first of the class built in 1923: was listening intently for the "Earl" from her resting place at the nearby STEAM Museum...
"Castle at Didcot" (Pic - P.Lovell)
From Swindon the Castle ran neatly to Didcot before turning towards Oxford. We pulled into Oxford station before the passengers alighted for their afternoon in the City. 5043 meanwhile would propel the stock back into a nearby loop for her rest period. Servicing was carried out here, with the tender being coaled and watered and the motion receiving a check and oil round. I remained aboard the train and received the role of 'passing person'; passing various tools and hoses up and down from the safety of the Support Coach. (Hopefully I'll be having my PTS Course in a few weeks). Our departure from the famous University City of Oxford was scheduled for 4:54pm and the Castle would need to be in the platform for loading around 10 minutes before that. With steam issuing loudly from the drain cocks, 5043 left the loop and proceeded into the station. The admiring crowds of passengers and onlookers stood in awe at the sight of her as she rolled in.

Leaving Oxford was a strange affair. For pathing purposes the train departed on time but was then looped for 45 minutes just north of the station! Main line steam is often fitted in between various services these days and a path allowing both use of the platform and the desired route in unison can be hard to come by. With the road later given, the Castle got "on the move"! (If you're reading this Will you know what I mean!). The run through the Cotswolds as the days light began to fade was lovely. The Castle roared away towards home throwing white steam over her shoulder as the temperature dipped into the evening dew. I got quite poetic (much to the annoyance of some of my Support Crew colleagues) about the Semaphore's that remain at Worcester. Watching the "Earl" striding away under the armed signals of yesteryear is something to be appreciated before its too late. How much longer will a thoroughbred Great Western express steam engine stride carefree under operational lower quadrants on the National Network? One day it will all (quite sadly) be in the past.

After the delights of Worcester the Castle roared through Kidderminster, passing 34027 "Taw Valley" with the SVR's Saturday evening Diner. The passing of steamers in the night is also a pleasure to see. Finally, to reach home, 5043 had to contend with Old Hill Bank and did so in fine style, barking away into the dark of the night...
"5043 At Rowley Regis" (Pic - A.Edkins)
Load 10 certainly made her bark but this double chimney masterpiece has seemingly no limits! The engine arrived triumphantly back at Tyseley after a very pleasant and successful day and at "right time" too...
With the engine stabled in the Warwick Road platform, the 08' was rudely awakened to shunt release her. With the many passengers (every seat was full today!) having alighted, the "Earl" was uncoupled and the diesel shunter drew the stock away. 5043 was then signalled across to the turntable where we awaited her presence...
"A Castle At Night - Tyseley Turntable 9:00pm"
With the Castle turned, I rode aboard the footplate back to the shed with some of the team. The intoxicating odour of oil and smoke aboard the footplate was wonderful to savour as the "Earl" steamed back to her shed. With the final hiss of the air rushing into the vacuum system the job was done and the "Earl" had completed another successful day out. What an adventure. I must thank the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in this post - it is much appreciated. I must also thank Tyseley once again for putting up with me and for their hospitality. It is a great thrill to see and experience these mighty engines in action in their true home setting: the main line. Plus, with the modern age forever encroaching, each run is precious for these old gals. There are plenty more Tyseley trips available to book so why not see the Vintage Trains website as there is bound to be a trip to suit you, whether it be a Pannier (or two!), a Castle or a Hall. Even with the Castle simmering quietly before disposal, you can almost sense her dreaming of that next trip. Many thanks all, Sam...