Monday, 30 December 2013

Farewell Foremarke Hall

Yesterday, Sunday 29th December, was the last day of Foremarke Hall's boiler certificate and the first day of the 2 day 'Christmas Cracker' mixed traction gala.  I hadn't been rostered for any particular duty, so I took full advantage of the situation and decided to spend a day by the line side recording the event for posterity.  Conditions for photography were perfect; clear blue skies, little wind and it was pretty cold.  Every box was ticked.... well ok, all bar the box that has Julia Bradbury acting as the photographer's assistant.

Here's a bunch of photos that I took (with a few additions from Dan Wigg) during the course of the day:
The diesel contingent of the mixed traction gala
Foremarke Hall shunting in the yard
Shunting in the yard
Steve, the rostered driver for the day
Emerging from a cloak of her own steam
Preparing to back onto the stock
 The other steam loco out on Sunday was 2807:
2807 heads onto her stock
24081 leads 2807 on the first train of the day. Chris prepares to receive the token
 There were a few photographers on the far side of the signal box.  I overheard one of them say what a good job that we'd made of painting up the mess coach.  It was nice to know that our labours had been appreciated.
2807 sandwiched between 24081 and the chocolate and cream set.
Foremarke Hall was off on the second train all by herself as far as Cheltenham at least.  I had suggested to John a few days ago that it might be apt to dust off 'The Cruxonian' headboard and use it for the day. It turns out that he liked that idea.  Ben was responsible for the chalk markings on the smoke box door.
L-R, Steve, Dan and John
At this point, I drove over to Gotherington.  The timetable showed that Foremarke Hall and 2807 would cross each other there, both without diesels attached and both running chimney first.  It was the obvious place to be:
2807 pulls into Gotherington loop
Looks like Chris has taken the opportunity to put on a shovel full or two
 I asked the signal man to refrain from wearing hi-viz for the token exchanges and he kindly complied.
The signal man receives the token from Chris
 Having had the opportunity to chat with John and Steve earlier, I'd let them know where I was intending to be and that a decent bit of exhaust would be nice.  I'm not sure which one of them was driving at this point, but they made a good job of it:
Foremarke Hall pulls out of the platform at Gotherington
 Meanwhile, Dan took the following two photos at Gotherington:
John opens up the regulator
Stood in the platform at Gotherington
Speaking of Dan, here he is in action:
Dan swaps tokens with the signal man
2807 then pulls out of the loop.  Note the signal man in the box preparing to hand over the token
Next, it was back into the car and off to the aquaduct a bit north of Stanway viaduct.  It wasn't a location that I'd visited before, but it yielded the following shot of 2807 heading up to Laverton:
2807 from the aquaduct
Soon after that, Foremarke Hall would be coming back from Laverton across Stanway viaduct, so as the sun was still on the east side of the line, I headed over to Stanway.  Once again, I'd primed John and Steve about where I was going to be and they were all set to get her to steam a bit over the viaduct.  Unfortunately the outer home signal for Toddington was against them, so they ended up coasting much of the way.
Foremarke Hall on Stanway viaduct
 I think that it was shortly after this, that Dan took this rather excellent shot from the footplate of Foremarke Hall as she was passing the north head shunt at Toddington:
Dan's view from the fireman's side
A swift examination of the timetable suggested that a decent back lit shot of 2807 coming up the straight from Bishops Cleeve to Gotherington was on the cards, so I headed back to Gotherington:
I'd have preferred it if the sun had been a bit lower, but I was pleased with this
Shortly afterwards, Foremarke Hall turned up heading to Cheletenham.  She was pushing 37215 as she went:
37215 with steam assistance
Foremarke Hall and 37215
Then it was back to Stanway for a few shots of 2807 on the viaduct. 
2807 on Stanway viaduct
...and a bit further along on the viaduct
47376 was lurking at the back waiting to pull the train back from Laverton
You wouldn't believe how much mud I got on my boots whilst standing in a field taking those last three photos.

The timetable showed that there would be no steam movements facing the right way round for a while, so I took the opportunity to go back to Toddington for a cup of tea in the mess coach, it was the first break that I'd had all day.  

Later on, it was off to three arches bridge to hopefully grab shots of both Foremarke Hall and 2807 before the light faded too far:
Foremarke Hall in Dixton cutting
John leans out the driver's side for a view of Gotherington's outer home signal. Dan leans out the other side
Gotherington's outer home signal was on, bringing them to a halt
A bit later, 2807 heads the other way
By this time, the light had faded too far for any hope of decent photos, so I once again went back to Toddington to await the return of the locos:
The last photo of Foremarke Hall attached to coaching stock and in steam during her first boiler ticket
There is something rather symbolic about the next photo.  She's in better condition than many locos with far less time on their boiler tickets. Here she is, steamed up and ready to go, but the signal says no!
All revved up, but no place to go
  Meanwhile back out in the yard, 8274 waits in the wings to take part in the second day of the 'Christmas Cracker' mixed traction gala:
8274, warming up.
All that remained was to put Foremarke Hall to bed in the David Page shed and celebrate 10 extremely successful years with some chocolate cake and orange juice:

Cake eaten and orange juice quaffed, Formarke Hall simmers in the background.
Here's hoping for a swift rebuild and acquisition of her second boiler ticket followed by another equally reliable and successful 10 years on the GWSR.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Tale of Two Timetables

Christmas Eve was the last of the Santa Specials.  The weather had not been very festive however, none of the snow that Bing Crosby had been dreaming of, but plenty of strong winds and rain instead.  There were a few sizable puddles to be found in the yard at Toddington:
I wouldn't have minded so much, but my boots leak badly
I was booked down to clean the PFP, 5542.  She is a a small but perfectly formed loco.  Small means less to clean, which is definitely a benefit in the teeth of a howling gale.   As I was there before the rostered fireman, during the worst of the rain, I decided that the best thing to clean would be the grate, and once that was clean, get the fire going.... all things that could be done in the dry.  Mark seemed to be pleased when he arrived as it was less for him to do. 

At one point, Nigel, one of the guards popped by and asked who was the crew for today.  I told him that it was Ian and Mark.  "The A team" was his reply.   I inferred from that, that the crew of 8274 must therefore be the 'B team' as they were the only other steam crew around.
Ben, George, Jon & Tina... the 'B team'
I doubt that they would be happy to be known as the 'B team' though. Perhaps we should just refer to them as the 'other A team'.
Before we set off with 5542, there was a bit of a shunt to do:
Shunting the old mess coach
Ok, there was a lot of shunting to do.  The process was not expedited by the fact that at one point we were blocking the DMU in its siding and had to get out of the way to let it out.
Getting out of the way of the DMU
Finally sticking everything back where it was wanted.

 Eventually we were off on our way:
On our way at last
 At Winchcombe, we passed the 'other A team'.  For reasons that eluded me, Nigel, the guard had decided that he could best perform his duties from the footplate.  Everybody else up there ducked out of sight when they saw me with my camera in hand.
Nigel on the footplate
All bar George, who had changed his choice of head gear
Then we were off down to Cheltenham to collect our first group of passengers en-route to Winchcombe The North Pole.  
Ian and Mark... the A team.
Into Greet tunnel
Mark... by the light of the fire in Greet tunnel
The weather was at times quite dreadful....
.... and at times extremely pleasant.
With the passengers safely delivered to the North Pole to visit Santa in his grotto, we could get cracking on the main event... lunch:
Mark cracked on with the cooking...
...and then the brown sauce
Ian wonders how he can get bacon baps for his Christmas dinner instead of turkey
Over an hour to have a relaxed lunch, wonderful.  Then it's back off to Cheltenham to repeat the process all over again:
Crossing with 8274 at Gotherington
Ian decided to test just how waterproof his grease top hat is...
... and then tried to test how waterproof my boots were.
At Cheltenham Ian decided that I hadn't made a good enough job of cleaning the cabside number plates, apparently I'd been over enthusiastic with the Brasso.
I have to confess it did look better when he'd buffed up the black background with a bit of oil
One of the younger visitors to the footplate manage to drop a reindeer hat on to the track, Ian gallantly sprang into action and retrieved it for her:
Ian picking up the dropped hat.
Off back to Winchcombe again and crossing 8274 at Gotherington
Back at Winchcombe once more, we get yet another extended wait for all our passengers to process through Santa's grotto.  What did we find to do to fill the time?  Second lunch of course:
Bacon, sausages and of course mince pies for dessert
All in all, a very civilised way to spend a day; a relaxed timetable with plenty of lengthy breaks for gastronomic diversions.
5542 and 8274 put to bed for the evening
Compare that with Friday.  Now that the Santa Specials have finished, we're back to the blue timetable.  Once again my steed was to be 5542.  The 'A team' on this occasion, was the only team out, Ade on the shovel with John on the regulator for the first of three round trips and Ben for the second two.  The round trips in this case, weren't just between Cheltenham and Winchcombe, but for the whole line length, including up to Laverton loop.

Once again, the weather started off dreadfully.  Once again we had a shunt to do first.  The shunt was to extricate Foremarke Hall from the shed, ready for duties on the 28th and 29th, the last two days of her current boiler ticket.  Foremarke Hall was blocked in by Mavis (small diesel shunter) and some scaffolding.  
Dragging Foremarke Hall and Mavis out into the yard
Mercifully, by now the rain had stopped... briefly
Finally, with everything shunted to where it was wanted, we set off... rather slowly in places where fallen trees or landslips were considered a possibility.  Mercifully no fallen trees or landslips were encountered.

The weather was back to howling gales, by the time that we got to Cheltenham.  Even in the nice cosy and well protected cab of 5542, the wind was still howling through and the rain found its way in at times too.
A chink of light in the otherwise bleak skies as we arrived at Cheltenham
Although the wind didn't drop, by the time that we set off, the skies had cleared and a fine rainbow was to be seen ahead of us:
Rainbow ahead
Needless to say, it didn't last long and not far into the return journey, the rain kicked off again:
Ade is once again grateful for the well protected cab of 5542
That rainbow put in another appearance
Mercifully, by the time that we arrived at Laverton loop, the skies had cleared once more.  Just as well really as there is plenty to be done out in the elements; uncoupling, coupling and operating the ground frames:
5542 runs around the carriages
... and passes the ground frame.
Friday's 'A team':
Ben and Ade
The weather once again reverted to howling gales and because the line changes direction along its route, for some stretches of track, the wind was coming at us sideways on:
Yup, more rain
 The cab of 5542 is the most weather poof cab of any of our locos.  It is a prized loco to be rostered on if the forecast is inclement.  It does however have something of an Achilles heel.  Whilst the front and back are impervious to the worst of the British weather, the gaps above the doors in the side of the cab offer little protection in the event of a cross wind.
The rain was coming in horizontally
Ben's initial idea was that I should stand in the doorway as some kind of human shield.  Oddly, I wasn't impressed by this idea, so Ben swung plan B into action, which was to dangle his coat over the opening:
Ben and his make-shift rain excluder
By the end of the day, we were all extremely thankful that we had been on 5542, if we'd been on any of our other locos, we'd have been soaked. 
Finally putting 5542 to be on Friday
There is no opportunity in the blue timetable for cooking lunch on the shovel, but it's still an extremely enjoyable day on the footplate regardless.