Sunday, 25 June 2017

Tyseley Open Day: Crewing The Pannier...

"A Trio of Castle's - 7029, 5043, 5080" (Pic - K.Felstead)
Hi all. Today I was up bright & early in order to head over to Tyseley for the second day of their June open weekend. The theme for the event was the much anticipated "Castles at Tyseley"; celebrating not only the return of "Defiant" from Quainton but also the latest unveiling of the almost finished "Clun Castle". It was the first opportunity ever to see the three 4-6-0s standing side by side. 5043 was just a kit of parts when she last met "Defiant" and "Clun" hasn't been outside of the workshop for a few years herself. Joining the Castle trio would be the visiting Princess Coronation class pacific "Duchess of Sutherland" and the rest of the operational Tyseley fleet - Pannier 9600, the W7 Peckett and "Rood Ashton Hall". (7752 is currently on holiday at the Dartmouth Steam Railway). Last but not least, another Great Western visitor would be joining the line-up: No6880 "Betton Grange". The Grange is progressing at a fair pace and looked nice in the morning sun alongside "Rood Ashton" and "Defiant"...
Alongside the workshop, the mighty Duchess was brewing up in the company of 9600 and 5043. The device atop the tender at the back of the coal space is the coal pusher - a steam powered aid for the fireman...
5043 was sending a column of smoke gently skyward...
This morning saw the Castle and the Duchess steaming up face to face, making an interesting comparison. The huge size of the pacific is a contrast to the lean, muscular appearance of the Great Western engine. The Castle is big, but the Duchess is something else. They are a large engine indeed...
From the biggest to the smallest, I wandered down through the shed to have a look at No1: the W7 Peckett. She was raising steam at the back of the works. The Peckett tends to only see use at the open days and its always a pleasure to see her out...
I hadn't expected to be doing much during the day, although I was of course available to help out with anything that was needed. To my surprise, I was asked if I fancied firing the Pannier on the demo line passenger shuttles for the morning shift. This is always a pleasant little job, shuffling back and forth with a couple of coaches. Dave was driving 9600 and I soon found myself on the footplate throwing a full shovelfuls in...
From around 10:30am onwards we pottered up and down the demo line at regular intervals with our two coach train. The weather was quite odd, with bursts of sun quickly followed by random downpours. For this event, the LMS Jubilee "Kolhapur" had been placed in Platform 2 at the Warwick Road station...
"Pannier 9600 Stands Alongside 'Kolhapur' - LMS 5593"
We had an enjoyable morning aboard 9600, with our flurry of passengers strengthening to a crowd whenever the rain came down. The firing technique on this job is definitely little and often. A Great Western pannier tank is a Class 4 locomotive and so the effort required to push and pull two coaches is by no means taxing. As long as you keep the holes filled she'll do the job without a care...
Dave kindly let me drive a couple of the trips. I've said before that although 9600 has been in traffic for a number of years now, she is still like new. Everything is tight and fresh as if she had just been outshopped from the works. Its also refreshing to go on an engine where the GWR combi-brake works as it should as some of the more ill-maintained Western's I've been on over the years tend to be troublesome when their brake valves act up. 9600s works just as it should and is pleasant in operation. Its just a lovely engine. Soon enough, just before 1:30pm, we were waiting for the signal to drop into the shed road ready to clear the demo line for the cavalcade...
The 1:30pm cavalcade is always a popular highlight of the Tyseley open days. Today, the Duchess would lead 4965 & 5043. The trio of locomotives stomped loudly up and down the demo line to the delight of onlookers. The run pasts tend to start not far from the signalbox. I caught this view from the window of the box...
The engines bark loudly towards the top of the yard, passing the waiting gallery of photographers, before drifting steadily back down...
Here is a short video clip of the trio starting out on another run past...
The locomotives created a fantastic spectacle as they marched back and forth...
Whilst the big engines had their play, 9600 was simmering quietly on the shed road with the shuttle stock. We were originally to be relieved but a change of plan saw myself and Stuart rostered for the afternoon turn...
The big engines soon returned to the middle road after their fun and it wasn't long before 9600 was back in Platform 1 at the station awaiting more passengers. The Duchess would be coupled to the other end of the train for the rest of the day, allowing us to top and tail rather than propel the stock. Driving the Pannier with the mighty Duchess on the back increased the train weight from two coaches to probably nearer to five or six and so a little more regulator was needed to get the train on the move. The biggest difference was the braking as the pacific tried to nudge you down the hill. You need to keep the brakes on a Pannier above 15 inches if you can as below that the plunger will drop and the steam brake will kick in with unwelcome vigour. Rub the shoes early to gather up the weight and she'll easily slow up with 15 inches or more. It was a very nice afternoon on the engine...
"Driving Pannier Tank No9600" (Pic - M.Creese)
The remaining hours of the day were spent shuttling back and forth. The Duchess would pull us one way and stop before we took control of the vacuum to pull us back the other way. Two trips per 'journey' were completed, with myself & Stuart sharing the duties on the footplate. Passenger numbers were fair right up until the last train at 4:20pm. 9600 had been no trouble as usual...
Once the last train had been completed the Duchess hauled us once more to the top of the yard. We then squeezed-up so that Stuart could uncouple us. With the road set and the signal given, we rolled down into the yard with nothing to hear but the ticking of the vacuum pump. Allowing the Pannier to roll neatly to a stop with a fully closed regulator seems to prevent it passing. The Duchess then propelled the stock back to Platform 1 for stabling whilst 9600 was prepared for disposal...
With the Pannier stabled safely I managed to grab a quick shot of "Clun Castle" before she was put away. The progress in the last two weeks has been fantastic and my hat off to the Tyseley lads for all their hard work. She looks amazing...
"No7029 'Clun Castle' Nears Completion"
Soon enough, under threatening skies, No1 was taking 7029 cautiously back to the shelter of the engine shed. I wonder how long it will be before she's in steam...
Well, after another great day at Tyseley all that remains for me to say is thank you. Thank you to the Tyseley lads for another cracking day, thank you to the photographers who kindly let me use their images in this post and thank you all for reading.  Tyseley is an absolute pleasure to be involved with and I can't wait til' "Shakespeare Season". Until next time, Sam...

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Severn Valley Railway...

Hi all. Today myself and everyone's favourite "I missed my alarm" enthusiast 'Eddie the Late' spent the day at the wonderful Severn Valley Railway. The last few days has seen the late arrival of summer and the rising temperatures were coupled with a sky of cloudless blue. Ed had initially planned to come down from Norfolk to volunteer at the Statfold open day but in an act of extraordinary lateness had booked his hotel a week late so had to come down anyway. This story has created much hilarity to all except Ed himself! So, with little else to do, we decided to have a trip up and down the valley. Running for 16 miles between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, the SVR is probably my favourite preserved line. I met Ed at just before 9am and he immediately insisted on a McDonalds breakfast. Being the kind and caring soul that I am I couldn't refuse his request and we soon found ourselves at the drive through...
Stomachs replenished, we had a quick sprint down the M42 towards Kidderminster. Our planned departure was the 10:15am trip to Bridgnorth which was rostered to No7802 "Bradley Manor". Tickets purchased, we wandered up the platform towards the loco, admiring the immaculate rake of Midland coaches. One thing the SVR should be admired for is its coaching stock as they have a great variety of pre-nationalisation rolling stock from the GWR, LNER and the LMS...
"Bradley Manor" was shining at the head of the train. Over the way, recently overhauled Pannier Tank No7714 was overflowing with water on the column. The tank engine was no doubt glad of a cool down on this warm day! "Bradley Manor" was built under the GWR at Swindon in 1938. Thirty of this popular class of 4-6-0s were built, with the final batch arriving under BR in 1950. 7802 was withdrawn in 1965 and was rescued from Barry Scrapyard for preservation on the SVR in 1979 by the Erlestoke Manor Fund. They are an ideal engine for this sort of work...
"1938-Built GWR Manor Class 7802 'Bradley Manor' At Kidderminster"
To our surprise, the 10:15am train which we thought would be pretty quiet was in fact full! The Manor got the weight moving easily before ticking through the picturesque Severn Valley. We had planned to alight from the train at Highley for our usual visit to the popular 'Engine House'. Having passed sister Manor 7812 at Arley, 7802 barked towards our drop-off point. Once we'd hopped off, the Manor awaited the "Right Away" to depart upgrade towards Hampton Loade...
The 'Engine House' hosts out of ticket engines from the SVR's collection. They are polished up and shining, awaiting their turn in the overhaul queue in covered storage. I think this building is a fabulous idea. The engines aren't rotting in a siding somewhere under tarpaulins, they're on display and continuing to be enjoyed by masses of visitors. Its also a great opportunity for visitors to get up close to these slumbering machines. "Gordon" in particular: the Riddles 2-10-0: is a massive beast...
"Freight Engines At Rest. The 8F 48773 Alongside 'Gordon', No600"
Eddie declared that it was now "brew time" and so we headed upstairs to the café. Sitting outside was the only choice in this weather and the peace across the valley was soon shattered by an approaching Bulleid. The Battle of Britain pacific "Sir Keith Park" was departing Highley towards Arley...
The three-cylinder beat echoed all around as 34053 chugged past...
Our plan was to pick up the 11:44am departure to Bridgnorth and so we had a slow wander back across towards the station. The topic of conversation was the usual - all things steam. No7714 was hauling a 6-coach train and is seen arriving at Highley...
Surprisingly, despite the strong passenger numbers, we actually managed to find a seat. The plucky Pannier then departed towards Bridgnorth. Arriving at the terminus, we alighted from the Mk1 stock and trotted across the footbridge. Another Bulleid - "Taw Valley" - was waiting to depart for Kidderminster. The crew that had manned 7802 this morning had been transferred to the pacific and were preparing for the off. Up close, the Bulleid's are big beasts...
In the sunshine, "Taw Valley" awaited the Guard's signal. The fire was burning brightly in the box as the trainee driver prepared to take her away in front of a no doubt unwelcome audience - nothing worse than being watched...
Soon enough the green flag was waved and 34027 whistled up prior to departure. The stiff regulator was tugged from its resting place and you could hear the steam whistling down to the cylinders. Nothing. It was then I noticed that the die-blocks weren't positioned for starting, particularly when considering the gradient, curve and train weight. Sure enough, "Taw Valley" refused to budge. The 'main driver' came across and attempted movement but she wouldn't go. In the end he resorted to shutting off, opening the drains and attempted to move the now solid reverser. As the pressure dropped, he could change the position and roll the engine back a touch before assuming full forward (75%) and heading off. In his haste the engine caused a slip, much to the cheers of the onlookers who were gripped to the spectacle. As 34027 chugged triumphantly away, the joy drastically reduced as a cloud of smuts like I've never seen rained down upon us. I think its fair to say our shirts were ruined and Ed even had to resort to washing his hair in the gents! Serves us right for judging. This called for a pint at the platform-based "Railwaymans Arms"...
After our refreshing pint we had a look on the bridge to see the goings on in the yard. 7802 had gone on shed for a break whilst 7714 was being coaled. The yard here is always a hive of activity and the number of engines in the SVR fleet never ceases to amaze me. 2857 and the 'Flying Pig' were also spotted...
7714 has her bunker topped up by the JCB...
After coaling and watering, the Pannier was returned to her rightful place at the head of the train. The 1:05pm departure would comprise the Mk1 stock once again. A crew member is seen here bringing the lamp to the front. He then reattached the vacuum bag which is left off during light engine working on engines with the combi-brake to prevent the pump picking up vacuum whilst operating with the steam brake...
"Erlestoke Manor" soon rolled in from Kidderminster. She was working "Foot Ex" courses and her arrival cleared the section for 7714 to depart. 7714 was built for the GWR by Kerr Stuart in 1930...
The plucky Pannier made a fine run to Hampton Loade, providing an audible chorus to excite the ears. "Sir Keith Park" passed us there...
The rest of the run back was most pleasant, with the 0-6-0 ticking through the Severn Valley without a care. I love Pannier tanks and a BR black one is always welcome. They are definitely a go anywhere, do anything machine - as I found the other week watching 9600! After Bewdley, we spotted the elephants out and about in the safari park. You don't see these from many preserved railways I'm sure...
Arriving triumphantly back at Kidderminster, 7714 was uncoupled quickly before a brisk run-round. Her next departure wasn't far away but for us it was time for a final cuppa' before the journey homeward. I did try and snap the pannier a final time but the hot sun was just at the wrong angle so I gave in with that one. Well, after a most enjoyable day at the brilliant SVR it was time for home. Cheers Ed for another good laugh, Sam...

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Driving at Statfold: A Corpet & A Krauss...

"Driving The Corpet" (Pic - M.Dean)
Occasionally you are rostered for a turn that you're 100% certain will be a good day. In fact, all of our locomotive turns at the award winning Statfold Barn Railway have been fantastic over the years, come rain or shine. June 10th heralded the arrival of Statfold's second Enthusiasts Day of the 2017 season and 15 locomotives would be in steam, boosted by the addition of Tram Car No14 and The Goose. During the lead up to the event it seemed I was in for a quiet day, having originally been rostered for a 'Relief' turn - basically a standby driver. However, during the week, a turn became available and the roster was edited to book me on "Minas De Aller" - the French Corpet. Built in Paris in 1884, No2 always attracts interest at the SBR due to her unusual looks. The Brown valve gear, with the valve chests slung beneath the pistons, is always a talking point. After picking up my McDonalds breakfast on route, I arrived in the queue at the Statfold gates at 5:45am. Once we were in, we parked up before stumbling to the engine shed to sign in and start preparations...
"6am - A Smoky Atmosphere On Shed"
As usual, the shed frontage at Statfold was a hive of activity with engine drivers and firemen running around trying to scramble for spanners and oil cans. An interesting point whilst talking about crews is the diversity of the team. The enginemen which staff the SBR open days are from all over - Ffestiniog, West Lancs, Mid Hants, Amerton and Welsh Highland amongst others. The mornings on shed always offer a good opportunity to catch up and exchange gossip! When I arrived at our engine Fireman Ben was getting changed. The Hayling lads had already done their work - they always light the fires before we get in. Opening the firehole door revealed a blazing bed of wood which I then covered with the smoky coal from the bunker. No2, amongst other quirks, has no damper and so comes round like no tomorrow. Within an hour or so she was starting to look like she'd been called to take the Mid Day Scot over Shap...
The valve gear is very accessible on the Corpet, with a variety of cork-stopped reservoirs to top up with motion oil. The axleboxes required a quick syringe to ensure that oil and not water was reaching the brasses. Finally there are two globes mounted on the pannier tanks for the cylinders and a small pot for the steam brake atop the manifold to fill with cylinder oil, plus the mechanical lubricator mounted on the frame on the drivers side. All in all it was a pleasant and easy preparation, with No2 doing her best to provide steam for all of the engines on the shed frontage. As 'off shed' time neared, we had the normal Safety Briefing from the operating managers before we nipped for our breakfast cob ("yes...more food!")...
The Corpet, despite her years, is an amazingly powerful and sure footed machine which is easily capable of handling SBR duties single handed. Double-heading has however become the norm at Statfold due to the large amount of locomotives on the roster at each open day - if we all ran alone we'd only get one trip! We were lucky enough to be coupled to JB and Steve on the equally vintage Krauss 'Sragi No1', which myself & Eddie had a great day on last April - see here. The two engines came off shed at around 10am to take up their place at the head of the freight train. As the Krauss doesn't have a steam brake, the effective example on the Corpet was used to slow our descent from the shed. After an easy first run with our two powerful steeds, we reached the balloon loop and the usual pathing stop...
JB and Steve were great company throughout the day. However, as normal, JB's 'constructive criticism' made them resemble Waldorf and Statler by the end of the day, offering relentless sarcastic driving tips from the comfort of their balcony...
Returning to Statfold Jnc, our fairly long ensemble was turned on the turntable before slowly trundling through the running shed to reach the shed frontage once again. We weren't stationary for long before we were called again...
"Second Trip - Waiting At The Balloon Loop"
Our second outing consisted of the ex-L & B passenger stock which pulls beautifully and has some wonderfully controllable air brakes. Geoff Cryer was out and about with his camera once more and captured Sragi No1 getting us on the move with a little help from the green Corpet tucked inside...
"A Krauss & A Corpet Join Forces" (Pic - G.Cryer)
The Krauss is another machine that surprises with its ratio of strength vs years. The pairing provided a powerful union capable of any task...
"Basking In The Sun at Oak Tree"
Having paused for water and a cuppa' at Oak Tree whilst waiting for the down train to pass, the two engines returned to Statfold with ease. Soon enough, having passed through the yard via the turntable again, we were waiting at the disc signals in the yard near the signalbox for our next move...
"Marchlyn" and "Sybil Mary" soon arrived with the L & B stock once more. This would form our third outing of the day with the Corpet leading once again. We were having a lovely time. Fireman Ben was making steam for our needs with ease and No2 was her usual self - noisy and powerful...
We were soon awaiting departure in the platform...
The Corpet, with no damper, steams like no tomorrow on a candle and so Fireman Ben was even resorting to hand firing. His technique of simply filling the holes in the bed certainly seemed to do the trick as the engine was right where he wanted her. We were having a great day aboard our 133-year old steed...
From a drivers point of view, the Corpet is a pleasant thing to be on. The main eccentricity is the regulator being effectively outside the cab. The handle is located just in front of the weather board. The engine does however have a very nice screw reverser and with the regulator set you can bring her back gently and hear the note change accordingly. The power packed inside this engine is scary really...she just wants to go. The stopping ability is also admirable, with a traditional steam brake fitted which is more than satisfactory. All in all, it is a quirky and workmanlike machine which has far more to offer than you would first think...
"Nearing The Balloon Loop" (Pic - T.Easter)
The beat of the Corpet is also very different. The large cylinders give it a strong exhaust, though the beat does tend to turn into almost machine gun fire once you go faster than a few miles per hour. Its a most unusual engine but great to be on...
"In The Headshunt Awaiting The Road"
For our fourth trip we were yet again on the ex-L & B coaches. JB provided a great display whilst departing from Statfold Jnc as the 1899-built Krauss got us "on the move" in fine style. I think I'll call this the "JB Column"...
"The Volcanic Krauss" (Pic - T.Easter)
Amazingly, after our fourth trip we ended up getting a fifth outing which is always welcome. The Corpet would again be leading for our final passenger working of the day. We are captured here by Michael Dean, returning to Statfold. The Corpet has the train moving easily with a little help from No1. I'm just looking back to check all is well as we approach the viewing gallery at the foot of the bank to Oak Tree...
"On The Move" (Pic - M.Dean)
Leaving Oak Tree, with the train clear of the station limits, the engine accelerated up towards line speed with ease. Leaving the regulator where it is, a spin on the reverser brings her to a sort of cruise and if you need to wind her in a little on the final climb towards the Outer Home you can. What a lovely old thing! Having been uncoupled from our coaches at Statfold Jnc, the engines were turned to reach the shed road a final time before the cavalcade. "Minas De Aller" - the veteran of the Spanish Coal Mines - was then disposed of where she stood along with her 14 stable mates...
Well, another fantastic day on the footplate at Statfold Barn! I must thank Fireman Ben for his cheerful company aboard No2 and for putting up with me as his driver. I must also thank our comedic duo Britt & Steve for their company aboard our assisting engine - the Krauss. Finally, I must thank the various photographers who have kindly allowed me to use their images in this post, as well as all at Statfold for another great opportunity. Cheers all, thanks for reading, Sam...