Sunday, 8 October 2017

Autumn Colours At Evesham Vale...

Autumn was truly in the air today as I drove down to the 15" gauge Evesham Vale Light Railway for a driving turn on "Monty". A misty start was followed quickly by ever parting clouds which eventually revealed a bright blue sky and warm sunshine. I arrived at the usual time of 08:30 to sign in and begin preparing the locomotive. "Monty" is the 1996-built Exmoor product which formally worked in Derby as "Markeaton Lady". She's a strong, free steaming and handsome engine and is always a pleasure to be on. Myself & Adrian pushed No300 out into the morning air before I reached up to remove the chimney cap. The engine was still very warm after yesterdays exploits and wouldn't take much to bring into steam. Having checked her over thoroughly and cleaned the grate, I lit some rags on the shovel to begin making up the fire...
During steam raising Evesham engines benefit from a compressed air line which creates an initial draft. You don't really need anymore than just enough to keep the smoke out of the cab, especially when the locomotive is as warm as this. With the rags blazing away on the firebars I added a good helping of wood before closing the doors for a minute or two. Once the wood has taken I add the coal and cover the wood thoroughly. Then, with the damper open and the air line pulling the heat through the tubes, you can leave the engine to get on with it...
Once you've lit the locomotive up you tend to have an hour or so to do the rest of your preparation tasks: cleaning, oiling and greasing. Its quite a relaxing atmosphere cleaning the singing engine in the morning sunshine: Peek for the brasses, Pledge for the paintwork. The oiling procedure is simple on "Monty": four pots per side and a couple of oil ways for things like the die blocks. All of the main rod bearings and motion pins are on grease. "Monty" looked a treat as our off-shed time neared...
Moving the engine gingerly forward, she groaned through the tight point work to reach the mouth of the yard. Here she was blown down 1/2 a glass as normal. This violent release of steam and water allows any impurities (which leave the water during evaporation) that have settled around the foundation ring to be expelled...
With drain cocks hissing, "Monty" was then backed onto the waiting three-coach train which would form the 10:30 departure from Twyford...
Leaving Twyford right on time, the red 0-4-2 steamed easily out into the fields and was no trouble at all. She steams well, pulls well and generally does anything you want. The recently fitted Gresham injector on the right-hand side was fabulous in operation and certainly shifted some water into the boiler. The sun was out for the 11:40 departure from Evesham Vale station...
We were soon climbing the bank towards Twyford...
An early afternoon departure saw "Monty" waiting in beautiful sunshine...
Basking in the sun on shed was the 1970-built Severn Lamb "Dougal". She was having a boiler washout. In addition to blowing down, the engines are washed out on a regular basis to remove any deposits from their boilers...
As we awaited the 13:30 round trip I decided to grab a shot of "Monty"s cab. Its just immaculate and is a credit to her operators...
The road ahead with the 13:30 train...
The Welsh coal was once again doing its best to keep the needle up against the red line all day. You tread quite a tightrope with this stuff. You really don't need too much or with a full pot you'll be blowing off all day. There is quite a balance with it but it provides good heat as long as you keep the holes in the bed filled...
The day went on much like the above. The trains were well loaded and most of the peak trains had the fourth coach added and were still full at that. I was very surprised at the loadings on this October Sunday, although the weather was fine. "Monty" continued to be a joy to drive & fire. As usual I watered her and re-oiled her every third trip to keep everything in order. For the 15:00 train the now traditional Evesham Tea & Cake was delivered to the footplate; very nice it was too...
Looking up the bank from Evesham Vale on the 15:30 train...
Mike the Guard clips the tickets prior to the return departure for Twyford...
Topping Twyford Bank before descending towards the crossing...
Prior to the final departure of the day (the 16:30) "Monty" was watered for the last time on the column. The engines are always topped up ready for a prompt disposal upon our return with the last passenger train...
By now the Lister diesel shunter "Sludge" had dragged "St Egwin" outside to have her large tender filled up with coal...
In bright sun, "Monty" is ready for the off with the 16:30...
Our final layover at Evesham Vale was in beautiful Autumn conditions...
Steaming easily back to Twyford with the final train, I passed the token to Sandra as she prepared the diesel "Cromwell" for the evening shunt. Having turned the engine for a final time, I drove "Monty" steadily through the point work back onto the shed alongside stablemate "St Egwin"...
The engine was then disposed in the usual way: the fire was deadened, the ashpan emptied, the boiler filled up: and she was then cleaned all over again. With all tasks complete, I carefully drove "Monty" into the shed on her remaining breaths of steam, coming to rest in front of "Dougal". All in all, another great day on the EVLR. I find it quite relaxing driving steadily around the country park aboard one of their fine locomotives. Its a lovely place and I must thank Adrian & Sandra for their continued hospitality. Cheers all, Sam...

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