Saturday, 25 March 2017

Statfold Barn: A Glorious Day On No19...

Hi all. Today the award winning Statfold Barn Railway held its first Enthusiasts Day of 2017. A grand total of 20 locomotives were planned to be in steam and the event would also see the debut of the recently restored Burton & Ashby tram and the Peckett "Liassic". I was rostered to drive the lovely 0-4-0 Hudswell Clarke saddle tank No19, built in 1914. I couldn't make the usual prep day yesterday due to work commitments and so arrived at Statfold at 5:40am this morning. Already several of the crew members were in attendance and had begun busying themselves with various tasks around the shed. No19 was found in the centre road, sparkling from a days polishing yesterday. Fireman Max was already on the footplate, lighting the fire with a good round of dry wood. The atmosphere on shed at Statfold during these early morning light ups is always enjoyable...
"No19 Steams Up Behind 'Diana' Whilst 'Max' and 'Howard' Look On"
With so many engines in steam today, most services would be double-headed. No19 was paired with the visiting Kerr Stuart Sirdar Class "Diana", usually found on the Bala Lake Railway and owned by SBR Driver Phil Mason. Myself and Max prepped No19 in readiness for our 8:00am move off shed. The 0-4-0 carries the very accessible Walschaerts valve gear, with all of the components on the outside. The usual queue for the oil drums was enjoyed with several Drivers desperately willing the lethargic cylinder oil to show itself. No19 carries a mechanical lubricator on the drivers side for the cylinders. Most of the points require motion oil (a much thinner viscosity than the cylinder oil) with only the mechanical and the steam brake lubricator needing the latter. As you go round with your oil cans and your rag, the general make-up of the engine is also checked. You're looking for any pins, cotters, nuts or bolts that may be loose or even missing. The drivers eye is always keen to find something out of the ordinary...just in case. Thankfully, No19 was in good health (as per) and the morning prep went without hitch...
A day at Statfold generally starts with a very busy morning, followed later in the day by a very busy afternoon. These generally consist of the countless shunt moves required to get everything into place for the commencement of services and then getting it all ready to put away again in the evening. The actual 'running' part during the day is probably the most relaxed! When the call came for us to move, "Diana" hissed gently forward, tugging us into movement. The two engines descended the bank to the signalbox with their steam brake exhausts whistling away. We were then given the disc signal to steam up into the platform and couple to the waiting stock on Platform 2 road...
"Coupled Up & Ready To Go"
Once in position, the attentions of the Duty Officer turned to the next move on the traction list. We would be stationary now until around 9:30am. The usual Safety Briefing then took place outside the loco shed, with the general arrangements for the day set out in full. After the briefing we decided to go and get our traditional SBR breakfast: a cuppa' and a cob. This was enjoyed upon our return to No19...
The first passenger train of the day left slightly before us, hauled by 4 locomotives. This system eventually works out to get the token system up and running. Our pairing would be the next out, hauling another passenger set. The green double-act of "Alpha" and "Liassic" would tail us for the first trip of the day...
With a "Right Away" from the Guard and the correct signal given, we were "on the move". There was much hissing as we departed... 
"Leaving Statfold" (Pic - J.Evans)
"Diana" led us neatly out of Statfold and into the fields. Coasting downgrade into Oak Tree, the staff for the Statfold section was given up and a green flag received from the crossing. We would now proceed into the next section. "Diana"s driver Phil then turned around and said "need some help here, Sam" as his pressure slowly decreased. My reply came swiftly whilst opening the regulator on No19: "My god Max, can you believe it? Talyllyn men down the nick already and we're not even half way there!". There was much amusement which was captured by Ian Whitfield as we departed Oak Tree. One thing about footplate days is the good humour. Without that, it wouldn't be half as much fun...
"Leaving Oak Tree" (Pic - I.Whitfield)
Steaming away from Oak Tree we descended the bank before heading to the balloon loop at New Road. We were held on the approach by a red flag, allowing the "Goose" railbus to depart along the High Level line...
With the "Goose" out of the way, our ensemble made some row as we got the train moving again into the balloon loop. Low Level trains are held here to allow the previous service to depart on the token. The train stabled in the platform at Cogan Halt will then wait for the next train to come down from Oak Tree before departing...
Upon our restart from Cogan Halt we struggled to get the engines to move. Both had near enough full pressure but the weight was just hanging back solid. A quick nudge from "Alpha" got us underway in the end, though we felt a brake had been left on initially. Leaving New Road, the climb of the bank to Oak Tree was, shall we say, "fairly audible!". No19 and "Diana" really tore into it with probably their heaviest train of the day. Two dead engines on the back makes for some real weight! Soon enough we were waiting at S9 signal: the Statfold Outer Home: for a green...
"Waiting At S9 Signal" (Pic - M.Waldron)
After a pleasant first run, our pair were uncoupled and turned on the table. As "Diana" doesn't have the usual Statfold choppers, a special coupling was joining her to No19. No19 then became the coupling engine so we had to run with the Kerr Stuart leading all day. This was no issue to us. Once turned we spent a little while on the shed before being signalled down into the headshunt adjacent to the garden...
"Max" and the Corpet soon came down on top of us...
There was such a wonderful array of locomotives out today: so much to see. "Max" is passed here by my favourite SBR engine; the beautiful Bagnall 4-4-0 "Isibutu". The green 4-4-0 is seen departing Statfold with the ex-L & B stock...
At this point we enjoyed yet another cup of tea. The tea was certainly flowing today, during every stop at Oak Tree and every stop at Statfold. Well done to the Tea teams! Our second trip was another passenger run and we soon found ourselves at the balloon loop awaiting our next path. Ben Joseph caught me looking for the next train...
"Waiting The Road" (Pic - B.Joseph)
Returning to Statfold once again I was caught checking the time...
"The Big Hand Points To..." (Pic - I.Whitfield)
The third train of the day was a freight working. Max drove this trip with me having a go at chucking the coal in. I was having a brilliant day...
"Around The Loop With The Freight" (Pic - M.Waldron)
We were soon arriving back and surrendering the token once again. I tell you what, we couldn't have asked for better weather for the March open day...
"A Beautiful Day at Statfold" (Pic - J.Evans)
Statfold days go so quickly. As well as driving & firing the engines you spend your day drinking tea, watching the world go by and of course gassing with the countless people you seem to know. I spent my day chatting to almost everyone that passed by the engine. Max commented that I seemed to know everyone...I don't know what he means! We were soon back on shed after our third outing of the day...
After the third trip we did wonder if that was it for the day but at the last moment we had a final passenger working. Julian Birley: owner of "Alice" and "Winifred" at Bala: joined us on the footplate for this final trip and we had a pleasant chat about all things steam. The train is captured at the balloon loop. Max was on the handle for this run...
"Final Trip at New Road" (Pic - Mark of SBR)
Returning to Statfold after the final run, we were uncoupled and then moved (via the turntable) into Platform 1 road behind most of the rest of the engines. We were now awaiting the 5pm Cavalcade and Whistle-Up. This was performed near the Tram Shed before the engines dropped down to the Roundhouse ready for disposal...
A gang of fitters then took over the engines ready to dispose them. Us crews were sent off for tea...can't say fairer than that! All in all it had been another fantastic day at Statfold Barn. I must thank Max for his company aboard No19 and Phil for being such a good sport with "Diana". I must also thank all at Statfold Barn Railway for another great opportunity to volunteer with them and of course the various photographers who have kindly sent in images for use in this post. I am very grateful to you all. Roll on the next Statfold do which it just so happens is our "Giant Miniature Weekend". A family event aimed at all ages with well over 80 miniatures in steam plus plenty of action on the railway and other attractions too. Tickets available here for the May 6th/7th "GMW"

In extremely sad news, I am sorry to round off this post with the news that John Tomlinson: a young, keen SBR volunteer: passed away during the weekend. John's family are the owners of the Fowler Traction Engine "Elsa" which has been featured on here many times before. John was a very pleasant, knowledgeable and enthusiastic young man and it is extremely sad to say that he has left us at age 14. Whenever I saw John at rallies I was always impressed by his confidence with road engines, particularly for his young age. His love and passion for "Elsa" was also clear. My thoughts go out to John's family during this awful time. RIP John.
Thanks All, Sam

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Tyseley: The Future Vision...

Hi all. Just a short post from today about my volunteer Saturday visit to Tyseley. I arrived at around 10:30am and was immediately struck by the sight of 5043 simmering nicely at the rear of the shed. The Castle was in steam for the "Vision of the Future" event which would take place during the afternoon. Myself & Tom were set to work on sister Castle No7029. "Clun" is creeping ever nearer to a return to steam and hopes are still set on 2017 being her year of destiny. Exciting stuff. Out in the car park, Phil was steaming his Aveling & Porter 'F-Type' roller "Louise", built in 1925...
I was grateful to Phil for allowing me to steam slowly back & forth up the car park with his pride & joy. The roller has come on leaps and bounds since Phil has had it and today she was proudly wearing her GWR valve gear covers. Its a pleasant engine to be on. Phil has done a lot of work to make this engine better and it now turns over very quietly in 'top'. Thanks Phil for another go on your engine! I left Tyseley at around 3pm as we had a family party to get to in the evening. Next week we have the delights of the Statfold Open Day where I'm rostered to drive CSR No19 - the Hudswell Clarke 0-4-0 that came from Fiji. I'm looking forward to it! Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 11 March 2017

5043: The "Red Dragon" Goes To Cardiff...

"5043 Hauls The 'Red Dragon' Railtour" (Pic - D.Chandler)
In the twenty first century, heads are still turned to meet the awe inspiring sight of a Great Western Castle Class locomotive thundering loudly through the countryside. Cameras are raised, hands are waved and the general feeling of nostalgia and the atmosphere of yesteryear is hard to shake. Today Tyseley's beautiful No5043 "Earl of Mount Edgcumbe" hauled the "Red Dragon" from Birmingham to Cardiff and back, returning the long way round via the Welsh Marches. The Castle put in yet another great performance, providing a mixture of noise and speed as she put several more miles under her belt. Having been at Tyseley yesterday helping clean the engine, I arrived today at the not so adorable time of 5:15am. The traditional McDonalds breakfast stop was desperately required...
Having devoured my breakfast, I unloaded my various pieces of kit from the car before heading down towards the loco shed. Out the back stood a simmering 5043, proudly wearing the "Red Dragon" headboard. The "Red Dragon" was a named express train which operated on the Western region of BR between 1950 and 1965. The express ran from Paddington to Swansea and Carmarthen and the Castle class engines were regulars on this working until the Britannia pacifics began to take over...
You can never help but feel that these main line steam trips are an adventure. Today the Castle would steam out of her home base at the former 84E with 10 coaches + the GUV (water carrier) behind the tender. Leaving Birmingham behind she would head out via Kidderminster to Worcester before steaming to Gloucester and on to Cardiff via Newport. The "Earl"s last shed allocation was Cardiff East Dock, where she was posted in September 1962. She was withdrawn from there in December 1963. Today would see her first arrival in Cardiff since that time. 54 years later, the "Earl" was going home...
The engine was on the train by 6:15am, simmering away and steam heating the stock. All seats on this trip were sold out and the many eager passengers began boarding in good time for the 7:03am departure. The Castle looked a real picture as she awaited right time at the head of the lengthy train. A good day was ahead...
Right on time, 5043 received the green and the "Right Away", leaving Tyseley upgrade in a cloud of steam. Accelerating away with Driver Ray Poole on the handle, the Castle got the weight moving towards the city centre as we approached the next passenger pick-up at Snow Hill. The echoing blast of the Castle's exhaust amidst the dim gloom of Snow Hill tunnel is always audible! Leaving Snow Hill the Castle steamed through the Jewellery Quarter and out towards Kidderminster. The chat aboard the support coach was the usual mixture of locomotive comparisons and generally putting the preservation world to rights. All the time, 5043 was making progress...
"The Castle Passes Hagley" (Pic - D.Chandler)
Kidderminster was soon approached at speed and we roared through the main line side opposite the terminus of the Severn Valley Railway. Onlookers there marvelled at the express 4-6-0 as she steamed by. The smaller 7802 "Bradley Manor" received a passing screech from 5043's whistle as she was sighted approaching from Bewdley. The crew aboard her waved a reply! With the SVR behind us the engine was well on her way to Worcester for the 30-minute service stop. As well as allowing the Support Crew to service the Castle, the stop allowed passengers to leave the train and admire the gleaming Swindon product that was doing all the work...
"Awaiting The Road at Worcester"
Worcester saw the tender topped up with water and coal. Additional coal (in several bags) is loaded aboard the train and the Support Crew can be found at water stops groaning backwards and forwards with them, gradually topping up the commodity of black stuff. You know you've done it once you get to your 20th bag or more! With the engine ready for the off, we awaited the road and the engine then steamed onward to her next stop at Gloucester. David Chandler caught her again leaving Worcester...
"Onward to Gloucester" (Pic - D.Chandler) 
Gloucester saw the same coaling procedure repeated, with passengers watching in awe at the amount of coal a provoked Castle can eat through in one sitting! Having said that, with the tight timings now imposed by the modern rail services you have to slot in between and the load on the draw bar, 5043's consumption is by no means unusual. This is the REAL world of steam. After Gloucester the engine sped on towards Newport before the final run to Cardiff. The pull up into Cardiff saw the Castle's loud bark turning many heads. A steam engine on the modern main line provides two very different reactions: some people turn and wave in complete awe, others don't look up from their newspaper. Its an interesting topic for the avid people watcher! 11:30am saw our arrival in Cardiff...
With the passengers off the train ready for their day in the city, 5043 and her ECS steamed the short distance into the Cardiff Canton depot: the ex 86C steam shed. Steam engines left the depot in 1962 but today, once more, a Castle was back. 5043 had to go all the way back to Newport to turn before returning to us tender first...
Our return departure towards Birmingham wasn't due off Cardiff until 15:40 and so the afternoon was spent checking and servicing the 4-6-0 in readiness for her upcoming efforts. The tender was coaled with every last lump we had in the train resulting in a gritty and grimy Support Crew. For anyone that hasn't done it and thinks the work of this team is easy...think again! A day on an engine on a heritage railway can often be considered easy steam compared to humping several loaded bags of coal around from floor to footplate! All this has been a real eye-opener I can tell you. By 14:45 the Castle was serviced and ready for the return slog. The return route was an unusual one. Gauging had pushed the Castle from her outward bound path to a longer one around the Welsh Marches route to Shrewsbury. This route is much longer and would see the Castle working hard with her heavy train. Right on time we left Cardiff and began the journey home. Driver Andy Taylor was held in the middle road at Newport for some time, allowing a unit to get away first. Delighted onlookers snapped 5043 as she simmered away...
"Newport Middle Road" (Pic - M.Turner) 
From Newport the Castle steamed on towards Shrewsbury as the light began to fade. The engine marched homeward with a beautiful ease, strolling through the Welsh countryside. Its a beautiful route this one. Shrewsbury was passed at 18:22...
"An Evening in Shrewsbury" (Pic - R.Davies)
Our final water/servicing stop was a loop at Cosford, beside the main line. 5043 was watered for the final run towards Birmingham. She left Cosford in fine style, maintaining some smart acceleration upgrade with a very loud bark...
"On The Move" (Pic - M.Tattam)
The Castle marched at speed for mile after mile, slowing for Wolverhampton and then accelerating again on towards New Street. The exhaust sails neatly above the tender as the 4-6-0 pounds the rails, slipping in between modern rail services with her lengthy rake of coaches snaking along behind her: its just great. Passengers were dropped off at New Street before the final run to Tyseley, arriving home at the Warwick Road platform at around 20:40. Another grand day out for 5043 was complete...
Having been shunt released by the Class 08, 5043 was put to bed...
The "Red Dragon" had been another successful railtour for VT. I must admit it is an absolute pleasure to be involved with the Tyseley team and an even greater pleasure to experience main line steam in the form of 4965 & 5043. Its a real eye-opener. My kind thanks to the Tyseley lads for their continued hospitality and of course to the photographers who have sent in images for use in this post - I'm very grateful. The 84E gang are out again on the Welsh Marches with 5043 on March 25th but as this clashes with a prior engagement with Statfold I can't make that one. However, I plan to be there for the April 8th run to Salisbury. For a great video taken by a lineside enthusiast today - click here. Thanks all, Sam...

Friday, 10 March 2017

Tyseley: Cleaning The Castle...

Hi all. Today I was off work for an appointment in the morning and so, after that, I headed over to Tyseley. Arriving at just before 10:30am, I wandered down through the bustling engine shed (its a weekday remember!) to find 5043 crackling away in the yard. The Castle was warming through nicely and the cleaning procedures had already begun. Tyseley engines benefit from the care of a loving midweek cleaning crew, ensuring that they always go out immaculate. In addition to the usual routines, myself & Paul spent today further buffing up the 1936-built 4-6-0 ready for tomorrows outing to Cardiff. Having scaled the heights of the boiler barrel to Brasso up the safety valve bonnet, I continued with the brasses along the side of the engine. On a Great Western express engine like this, brass is not in short supply! When you're cleaning an engine, there is something quite satisfying about the resulting shine, not to mention the relaxing atmosphere on shed as the loco steadily brews up in preparation for the labours ahead...
Whilst we pushed rags around her, the Castle was raising steam all the time. Due to the early departure time of tomorrows trip (7:03am) almost all of the preparation would be performed today. Once the Castle was ready, it was time to go over for coal. The digger would soon be rudely awakened to fill the tender. The cab on 5043: much like the rest of her: is immaculate. The complete absence of the red regulator handle is a lovely feature of the Tyseley 4-6-0 locomotives - very posh...
As smooth as silk, 5043 hissed away from the shed frontage and out onto the demo line. The coal road is reached by travelling tender first down the 'middle road' and crossing the turntable. Meanwhile, condensate was expelled from the drain cocks...
Down at the coal pile the digger did a sterling job of filling the "Earl"s high-sided Hawksworth tender. 5043 then steamed back over to the shed for the continuation of preparation. Tomorrow's "Red Dragon" trip will signal the "Earl"s first trip to Cardiff since her withdrawal from BR service in 1963 whilst resident at Cardiff East Dock shed. After that 5043 spent 10 unhappy years at Barry Scrapyard before being purchased by Tyseley in 1973. As many of you may know, 5043 was initially planned to be a spares donor for Tyseley's flagship 4-6-0 No7029 "Clun Castle" but thankfully, in 1996, plans changed and 5043 was offered a new lease of life. After a painstaking but beautiful restoration, the "Earl" returned to steam in 2008. As biased as I may be, I can quite honestly say that this is a beautiful engine, restored and cared for to the highest standard. I left Tyseley at around 4:30pm for home, looking forward to tomorrows outing to Wales. Cheers all, Sam...

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The Castle Is Back - 5043's First Run In 2017...

"A Castle In The Night" (Pic - C.Baker)
Hi all. After two 'train free' weekends, today heralded a welcome return to Tyseley Loco Works. Its been a busy few weeks. As some of you may know we moved house just before Christmas and so the short winter evenings have brought with them an attack on the decorating. The last two weeks have seen the plasterer going about his merry work and I am happy to report that the downstairs of the house is now a dank, dark wilderness inhabited only by the odd power tool and a few items of junk mail. We are now heading into a good week of drying time in preparation for the next step of this DIY onslaught. Heading out today at the fairly pleasant time of 10am, I found my way over to the former 84E and included the traditional breakfast stop on route. This time it was the Tyseley Corner Cafe that provided the get up & go for the days tasks...
At the front of the shed on the running road stood an immaculate 5043. The Castle Class 4-6-0 would haul her first railtour of the year this evening, taking a circular route around the East Midlands. Departure time was scheduled for 5:55pm and so we would spend the afternoon around the shed doing odd jobs and generally making ready the train. 5043 had another little jaunt to go on first: a test run to Whitlocks End, planned for not long after lunch. Cleaned and polished, the Castle stood proudly awaiting the off. The tail-lamp was fitted as the 4-6-0 would run tender first on the outward leg of the test trip...
The engine is seen here through the cab window of the Class 08 diesel which was ticking over nearby ready to perform some shunting moves with the ECS...
At right time, the engine steamed triumphantly out of Tyseley light engine and headed off into the distance down the North Warwick line. Running tender first, the copper-capped beauty soon disappeared out of sight. The Support Crew meanwhile busied themselves with little jobs around the works: emptying pits, fixing one of the diesels and shunting the coaching stock. Soon enough, the Castle was back from her successful test trip and was simmering away at the head of the waiting stock. Driver Andy Taylor, of Rugby, would be on the handle for tonight's excursion...
It seemed a long day awaiting the off with the trip. Most excursions tend to start either early or ridiculously early and so the teatime departure was a bit out of character. The trip had initially been planned for the Saturday after Valentines but was rescheduled to today. The original intention of this evening main line saunter then gave the trip the name "The Belated Valentines Express". Right on time, 5043 steamed out of Tyseley with 7 + the GUV (water carrier) behind her Hawksworth tender. The engine accelerated away from a darkening Birmingham and up towards Nuneaton, after a passenger pick-up stop at Coleshill. She strode easily through a quiet Platform 7 at Nuneaton before storming through Hinckley and on towards Leicester. She was certainly blowing the cobwebs away! Passing slowly through Leicester, the typical Saturday evening revellers couldn't seem to believe their eyes. Their tanked up expressions were ones of shock as 5043 drifted through, breaking normality on this blustery winter evening. There was then a short servicing stop at Humberstone Road before continuing on our circular route. The Castle rushed through Loughborough, Castle Donnington and Burton-upon-Trent before setting down passengers at Coleshill once more.

The final leg of the run back to Tyseley was most audible, with 5043 letting her double-chimney tell onlookers she was there. Finally, after drifting through a desolate Small Heath station, we rolled back into the yard of the former 84E at 10:15pm. The "Earl" came to rest in the Warwick Road platform and the passengers soon alighted after a pleasant evening out. The engine had performed faultlessly and sounded a treat. I then recorded my typical "we've just got back" gricer shot...
Arrival back at Tyseley signals the beginning of a familiar routine: the engine has to be shunt released, turned on the turntable and returned to the shed once the 08' has put the stock back in the platform. 5043 always looks a picture under the cover of darkness on Tyseley's turntable, echoing memories of the days when the shed was a day to day centre of Great Western steam. I was glad to ride the short distance over to the shed on the footplate of 5043, taking in the sights and sounds of her in action. She is a beautiful machine and a credit to the team who restored her at Tyseley. I arrived home at around 11:30pm after a most pleasant outing. I'm looking forward to next week - the Castle is off to Cardiff! I guess it'll be "croeso y cymru 5043" once again. The route looks very interesting and offers a return over the Welsh Marches - can't wait. Cheers all, Sam...