Sunday, 29 October 2017

Tyseley Open Day: Welcome Back "Clun"...

"The Turntable Line-Up" (Pic - M.Tattam)
The Tyseley Open Days always boast a fabulous display of Great Western steam locomotives and the addition of the turntable provides great photographic opportunities. Today's public celebration to welcome No7029 "Clun Castle" back into steam was well attended by enthusiasts from across the UK and the six operational members of the 84E fleet were in action for all to enjoy. I arrived at the Birmingham site at around 6:30am, finding the engines dotted around the yard. I was asked to light up Pannier Tank 9600 which had only had a warming fire yesterday having not been in use. She was down by the lean to alongside a simmering 5043...
Clambering up into the cab I found a strong water level and a warm back head. It wouldn't take long for the Pannier to start bubbling away once the fire was lit. I cleared the remaining ashes from the grate before adding a sprinkling of coal. Tony & Craig kindly broke up some wood which was duly passed up onto the footplate whilst I prepared some oily rags on the shovel. A few minutes later, the ignition rags were lit before being thrown into the firebox...
With the rags blazing away on top of the coal, I added a mound of wood in bonfire fashion before closing the firehole doors. The wood could be heard crackling away as the flames took hold and a tell tale plume of smoke rose steadily skyward from the chimney. Once the wood was well underway I added a good few shovelfuls of coal to cover the flames before leaving the engine to get on with it whilst I started oiling up. All around, the other five locomotives were being readied by other members of the Tyseley team. 9600 is a variation on the 5700 Class Pannier Tank, employing 17.5" cylinders and a 200psi boiler. I like them: I always have. They make for a free steaming and, I feel, incredibly strong tank engine which can be the master of most preserved railways.

Around 9am the Ruston 88' diesel shunter was coupled up to us to drag us down to the ash pit. I crawled beneath the simmering Pannier, bent over like a split pin against the brake shaft. With much cursing the pan was eventually emptied - this is the romance of steam! A much dustier Sam then drove 9600 onto her allotted turntable road to await the crowds that were already gathering in the car park...
At 10am the public were allowed into the site and the sound of clicking cameras filled the air. I was still going around 9600 with the oil cans, preparing myself for the inevitable bout of contortionism that comes with trying to squeeze yourself between the frames. Some go in underneath, aided by the luxury of a pit, but I find it much 'easier' (a term used loosely) to go over the top as I can see better. In my younger years I found it much easier to slide beneath the tanks on these 5700s - the level of groaning has increased as time has passed! Meanwhile, up in the cab, pressure was rising steadily as 5043 backed down beside us on the adjacent road...
Shortly after 10:30am "Clun" was unveiled to her public. The immaculate Castle: the youngest of the trio: was then lined up alongside sisters 5080 & 5043. 4965 & 9600 were also part of the popular spectacle...
It was fun baby sitting 9600 throughout the morning. I love the BR lined black livery; much nicer than the plain black that is seen so often. Historically, I believe that the lining was reserved for engines which worked the Paddington ECS...
The trio of Castles made for a fabulous photograph...
"7029, 5080 and 5043" (Pic - M.Tattam)
Though six of the collection were in steam, the undoubted star of the weekend had to be 7029 herself: Tyseley's iconic pioneer. Martyn Tattam has kindly sent in a number of the images used in this post and this capture of "Clun" is beautiful...
"A Portrait of 7029" (Pic - M.Tattam)
Following the lunchtime cavalcade involving the three operational 4-6-0s, "Clun" spent the afternoon on the two-coach shuttle train, top & tailing with 7752 (L94)...
Once the double chimney Castle had dragged the red Pannier one way, 52' summoned her strength to pull the younger 4-6-0 back towards the platform...
I later had three trips firing 52' up and down, with Driver Ray Churchill on the handle. Its quite an honour sharing the footplate with a man of such experience: Ray has travelled far & wide piloting all kinds of traction during his main line steam career. Back on the shed, the immaculate Peckett 0-4-0 was basking in the sunlight. One of the W7 Class 0-4-0s, 84E's little engine shows just how lovely a well preserved Peckett can be. For me she is the benchmark of industrial steam...
Down in the platform the star of the show was waiting for another run...
I was soon lucky enough to have my first footplate ride on "Clun Castle" and to fling a few shovelfuls of coal into her firebox...
Here, "Clun" waits at the stop boards at the extremity of the Tyseley site as she looks out promisingly towards the main line. One day soon she'll be out there again and I can't wait for that day to come...
As usual the standard of Tyseley's restoration is impeccable and "Clun" is a beauty to behold. The cab is stunning: a mass of burnished steel...
The engine rides like a brand new one: firm, stable and smooth as can be. She's beautiful, just beautiful. Well done Tyseley, you've done it again...
"Aboard 7029" (Pic - M.Tattam)
After my very enjoyable couple of trips on the new Castle I went back to 9600 which was about to head back to the shed with Batesy in control...
"9600 On The Turntable" (Pic - M.Tattam)
We spent the next half an hour or so shuttling up and down the running yard before dropping 9600 onto the shed. As I drove her in, I let her coast down the yard as far as possible before halting her outside the shed on the steam brake. The Panniers have a much better chance of seating their regulator valves if they roll in to a stop so you have to resist the temptation to give it that last breath otherwise they'll tend to pass. 9600 is another lovely old thing and a pleasure to work with...
I then disposed 9600, ensuring that the boiler was well filled and the fire calmed but warm enough to prevent quick cooling. The slower you can bring these old things down the better. As the sun set and the Autumn darkness rolled in, 7029 was pictured simmering quietly outside the shed, no doubt dreaming of her imminent return to the main line. She is a lovely engine and it almost feels like Tyseley have grown a new Castle as I've never seen "Clun" in steam until now. Welcome back 7029...
All in all it had been another great weekend at Tyseley welcoming back "Clun Castle". My hat off to them: she's another fine machine. I've now been with Tyseley for over two years and its been such a thrill experiencing these locomotives on the main line. It really has changed my hobby and I'm so proud to be involved. My contribution to these engines is nothing short of insignificant compared to that of most but still I feel proud to have done my small part. Great stuff. Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 28 October 2017

The Return of 7029 "Clun Castle"...

"No7029 'Clun Castle' Stands In Steam At Tyseley"
Tyseley has always been a haven for Great Western steam. From its working days as the thriving 84E shed to its glowing engineering business supporting the preservation era, the Birmingham site has become a stronghold for all things GWR. The pride of the impressive fleet are without a doubt the Castle Class 4-6-0s, of which Tyseley have not one, not two but three! We're all familiar with the astonishing achievements of No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" and many a Quainton visitor will have come across No5080 "Defiant" in recent years as up until recently she was on permanent display there. The youngest of the trio and the undoubted Tyseley pioneer is No7029 "Clun Castle", built under BR at Swindon in 1950. When withdrawn in 1965 the engine was saved by the late Patrick Whitehouse and has lived at the former 84E ever since. Over the years a selection of other locomotives have joined the collection but "Clun" is forever known as "the one that started it all".

I've been involved with Tyseley for two years now and in that time 7029 has been going through the final stages of overhaul. This week, after a mammoth effort by the engineering staff, "Clun Castle" returned to steam in time for her special re-commissioning weekend. This morning, at 7:30am, a pair of double chimney Castles were seen in steam together for the first time since BR days. Amazing...
"The Historic Moment As 5043 & 7029 Meet Together In Steam"
Today was a private event with a couple of hundred invited guests from across the preservation world. There were a lot of big names there from the world of steam. I arrived at 7am and helped throughout the morning with odd jobs on and around the locomotives. It was the first time I'd seen "Clun" in steam, although there is no doubt a photograph of a much younger me stood next to her at the GCR during her last ticket squirreled away in a box somewhere. The rededication of 7029 was scheduled for 11am and the Castle was at the top of the yard awaiting the call. Right on time, she steamed down through the yard to meet the admiring crowds...
As usual Tyseley have done a stunning job and the BR livery with fantastic lining is a real treat for the eye. Another beautiful Castle...
Down at the turntable "Clun" was posed for photographs before being brought forward for the rededication ceremony...
It was a lovely service. The nameplate was unveiled to the applause of the crowds, the engine was blessed by Patrick Whitehouse's daughter Maggie and a bottle of bubbly was broken over a buffer. Tyseley Chairman Michael Whitehouse spoke fondly of growing up with "Clun Castle" and the importance of her to the collection. I thought it was a fantastic way to welcome 7029 back into steam. Watching from the side lines was her beautiful elder sister 5043...
Three engines were in steam today: the two Castles and 7752 (L94). 52' has recently returned from her summer holidays to the Dartmouth Steam Railway where we had a ride behind her back in August. The engine is pictured steam heating the two-coach shuttle train whilst the ceremony continues...
Near lunch time 7029 & 5043 began to strut up and down the demo line to the delight of onlookers. At the rear of the shed the lovely Peckett W7 No1 was awaiting her turn of duty the next day. I just love this little engine. She really shows just how nice a well preserved Peckett can be...
Alongside No1, Hall Class "Rood Ashton Hall" was being warmed for tomorrows open day. As the sun came out, so did 7029...
The roaring bark of "Clun"s double chimney echoed all around as she pulled her sister up to the top of the yard. "Edgcumbe" then did the honours, hauling the younger Castle back towards the turntable with drain cocks hissing...
The two Castles are pictured awaiting another run up the demo line...
Driver Dean Morris awaits the off on 5043 as 7029 summons her strength...
Whilst the two Castles romped up and down the demo line I managed to snap the single chimney 5080 as she sat cold around the turntable. I believe the plan was for BR to double chimney the whole of the class but the ever nearing end of steam on the Western region put pay to that. Personally I'd love to see "Defiant" run again, just to experience what a finely tuned single chimney variant could do! Donations are being taken towards the overhaul of the third Castle in the group...
I only did half a day today at the former 84E as I have some studying to do at home. I'll be there throughout the day tomorrow for the public open day: six engines are planned to be in steam! Thanks for reading all and welcome back 7029. Another beautiful job from Tyseley: the King of the Castles...

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Little Engines Update...

Just to ensure that at least one post in 2017 talked about my own steam engines I thought it would be nice to write a small update on "Achilles" and 4436. Long term readers will know that I have two coal-fired miniature locomotives: a 5" tank engine and a 3.5" gauge LBSC Maisie. The blue tank engine is an Achilles 0-6-0 and is named after her design whilst the Maisie portrays LBSC's take on the Great Northern large boiler Atlantic. 4436 was one of the class that remained unmodified in GNR form throughout its career and so the LNER livery befits this number. So, where have they been? Well, a combination of being far too busy and being far too busy has resulted in them sitting patiently on the bench since summer last year. "Achilles" did venture to Ryton Pools for CMES' July steam day last year but hasn't turned a wheel since...
Both engines are currently out of ticket and I guess it is now a mixture of sheer laziness and the colder weather which has stopped me taking them for tests. The Atlantic - being easier to handle than the larger tank engine - was going out a little more often but even she hasn't steamed since September 2016...
Her last run was one of those oh so familiar Third Wednesday steaming nights which only seem to see me turning up whenever I take an engine...
Following her previous run, the Maisie did end up going to the Midlands show last year to take part in the 2016 stand line-up for CMES. This was of course after a thorough clean up and polish as I hate them going anywhere if they're not shining...
There we go then folks; a small update just to show that I still have the engines and they're just patiently waiting for their next outings. Hopefully they'll see more use (some at all would be nice) in 2018. In recent times they've both turned out to be free steaming and reliable engines which are great fun to operate on the track...I just need to get myself into gear! Cheers all, Sam...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

A Battlefield Sunday On The Planets Favourite Prairie...

Today was another one of those days where you don't quite appreciate just how good it was until you try to write a blog post about it! This Autumn Sunday was spent aboard the Great Western 4575 Class No5542 at Shackerstone, in the company of David and Graham. I arrived at the gloomy gates of Shackerstone station at around 05:45, with David catching up with me soon after. After trudging up the drive to Platform 1 we signed in and read the notices before continuing through the darkness to the engine shed. As we opened the door the tell-tale heat emanating from 5542 gave the impression of a good warming fire the day before. Having placed our kit in the real mess area we began our checks on and around the locomotive. Sure enough, 42' had about 30psi on the clock, a full glass of water and the final remnants of her warming fire still crackling away in the box: another few shovelfuls yesterday and we wouldn't have needed any wood today! I removed the deflector and checked around the firebox, confirming the water level by gently draining the gauge frame. With all checks complete, I tossed a few shovelfuls of coal around the box and onto the glowing embers. We would have no need to rush ourselves this morning...
"06:00 - The Small Prairie Simmers Over The Pit"
Graham, who was to be our trainee fireman, duly arrived and covered the rest of the grate whilst I passed up some nice, dry wood. I then lit a good pile of oily rags on the shovel before tossing them onto the coal near the back of the box, adding a mound of wood on top. Doors shut and back damper open, 42' was soon crackling away happily. In the meantime I filled both the hydrostatic (cylinders and regulator) and steam brake lubricators. David meanwhile - headtorch affixed and looking like a lost miner - was going around the outside of the engine with the oil cans. By now the wood was blazing away nicely and more coal could be added to cover the flames. An hour or so later, following some cursing and energetic wrestling with the long iron, a full fire was achieved and steam pressure was climbing nicely...
It was all going well: the engine was nearly fully oiled, the needle was gradually climbing and we were still good for time. A minor irritation did rear its head though when I bent down to talk to David as he mountaineered up inside the Stephenson's motion between the frames and my backside caught an unfavourable light switch which duly plunged us into total darkness as the breaker tripped. I won't tell you what I said...this is a family blog! At this moment our 'Footplate Experience' chap arrived and I welcomed him before giving the usual chat about the course ahead and the locomotive we'd be using: "5542 was built at Swindon in 1928 as one of the 100-strong 4575 Class of Small Prairie tanks" so on and so forth. The participant then had the signalbox talk whilst I fixed the lights: "And the Lord said"...

With all ready, I drove 5542 outside into the morning air. I always warm the cylinders and steam brake before we move off, as is standard practise. If we had a vacuum engine we'd do a vacuum bag test and a reservoir test too. Descending through the point work into Platform 1, the participant boarded the footplate and was talked through the various controls and the relationship between Fireman and Driver. As this was a Gold 'Foot-Ex', the course would include two round trips to Shenton and back: one light engine, one with the rake of four passenger coaches...
"09:30 - Simmering At Shenton In The Drizzle"
Having returned to Shackerstone following the two pleasant trips, we did end up running late on the 11:15. The reason was unknown although there was a cake crumb filled plate in the Guards van...
David kindly allowed me to take the 11:15 whilst he "got his firing in early". Late but still smiling, we departed Shackerstone in a cloud of steam. 5542 is pleasant to drive. She's light on the reverser (piston valve you see), light on the regulator and responsive to all controls. Four coaches provides no strain for this super machine and she ticks merrily through the Leicestershire countryside without a care. Whilst I enjoyed the drivers view, David was busy talking Graham through all the reasons why his firing was better than mine. Down at Shenton, we ran the Small Prairie round the train and were joined by Batesy for the northbound restart...
"5542 With The Slightly Late 11:50 Train"
Returning to Shackerstone was just as pleasant. 5542 is a joy and you never seem to have a bad day with her. Back at Shack the engine was topped up with water at the column before being dropped onto the waiting 12:30 train. We would have just about managed to claw back the time but someone's tea was mashing...
I remained on the handle for the 12:30 run. By now Graham was firing under David's expert tuition...but lets not forget who taught David! Down at Shenton, Barbara kindly delivered the breakfast cobs to the footplate and my best camera efforts were once again focussed on the popular eating shots...
The valves were feathering as we awaited the "Right Away" with the 13:05...
We were unusually signalled back into Platform 1 road at Shackerstone; an honour only usually given to Santa Deluxe trains. 5542 is pictured whilst being uncoupled after coming to a stand and being made safe...
I later snapped David standing on the column wheel whilst the tanks were topped up. I like to think his expression portrays the thoughts in his mind: that he couldn't believe his luck being rostered with such a brilliant team...
For the 13:45 train I was on the fireman's side, trying my best to offer good advice to our trainee Graham. David meanwhile was on the handle and got 42' smartly on the move out of Shackerstone bound for Shenton...
The Prairie had been steaming well up to now - as usual - but the needle was becoming increasingly low on the gauge and seemed keen on 160psi and no more. Looking around the firebox I couldn't see anything wrong with the fire and this points to nothing more than clinker. The four previous trains had had good lumps of coal available but by now we were unfortunately shovelling muck from the bunker; mainly light dust and slack with the odd lump or two mixed in. Its a good job David hasn't got a blog as he would no doubt describe how his firing had resulted in the fine results of earlier today and that the coal quality at my disposal had nothing to do with it! I took over the firing for the rest of the trip and, having cleaned the fire at Shenton, the steaming improved on the way back. 42' normally steams on a candle and so when the needle hugs 160psi you know the fire is getting dirty. Having cleaned the fire again at Shackerstone and freed off some more clinker, the engine steamed like a dream on the 15:00, with Graham wielding the shovel and me supervising from the side lines...
5542 awaits the "Right Away" from Market Bosworth...
Down at the terminus the handsome tank engine prepares to run round her train as she stands amongst the sea of brown leaves...
The afternoon sun was just showing itself as departure time neared...
Graham had certainly learnt well from David as when I rejoined the footplate after coupling up a traditional 'David Column' was being ejected skyward from the chimney, the pressure was nearing the red line and all was well...
It was all quite pleasant and tranquil as we steamed through the countryside on this Autumn Sunday afternoon. Notice the pheasants flying in front of the loco...
5542 awaits the off from Market Bosworth...
We were soon on route back to Shackerstone through the trees which bring us out near Market Bosworth International Airport and its famous landing strip. In 10 years of volunteering here I've seen the plane outside once or twice being washed but I must admit I've never seen it in the air...
Arriving back at Shackerstone we'd got 5542 back on the ball: its amazing what a clean fire does for you, despite David's disdain for fire irons! As she stood on the column for the last time the Autumn sun was settling lower in the sky...
David suggested he drove to Shenton and I drove back: I was happy with that! Leaving Shackerstone with the four coach train, 42' steamed easily down to the terminus before a brisk run round for the final run home...
"17:00 - Awaiting The Final 'Right Away' From Shenton"
After a spirited homeward run through the quiet Sunday afternoon countryside, we pulled up triumphantly in Shackerstone's Platform 2 where the stock would be stabled until next required. Once uncoupled, I drove 5542 back to No11 point before continuing up onto the shed frontage once Graham had set the road. Here is a rare one for you: David with a fire iron in the firebox...
Whilst David cleaned the fire I jumped down quickly to grab this blurred image of 42' standing outside the shed door...
"18:00 - Resting Outside The Shed Before Disposal"
Once ready to back in, I opened the regulator and took 42' inside for stabling. Coming to rest over the pit, we set the drivers-side injector to fill the boiler. The fire by now was fairly dead with just a light, clean covering across the bars to keep her warm. The chimney cap was soon affixed and the cab fittings isolated where necessary. With the boiler full and the cab swept, 42' was left for the night as the three of us fell back into the real mess area for a wash up and a recap of the days events. All in all it had been a great day in good company: I always have a good day with JB or David. 5542 is a lovely old engine, no problem at all. Cheers guys, until next time, Sam...