Monday, 24 March 2014

No Makeup Selfie

My spy in the Dinmore Manor group let me know that test runs were being planned for late in the day on Thursday and as I had an evening engagement that would involve me practically passing Toddington, I decided to call in with my camera and record the event for posterity.  So far Dinmore Manor had only run in the yard along with a foray into platform 1 to draw water from the water crane.  This was to be her first venture outside station limits.  When I arrived, the most obvious thing to note was that she had now been hooked up to the Churchward 3500 gallon tender borrowed from The Bluebell Railway's Dukedog, 9017 Earl of Berkeley.
Dinmore Manor and the Dukedog's tender
Just about the only tender left on the railway that Dinmore Manor hasn't been rumoured to be paired with at some point or other is the Stanier 4000 gallon tender attached to the 8F seen on the right of this picture. 

A little bit of last minute fettling was going on underneath Dinmore Manor when I arrived:
Mark adjusting the valve timing
Having had a few warming fires and being kept in steam much of the time recently, even if she had only been trundling up and down the yard, meant that the ash pan was full and needed emptying out.  I was keen to discover what was involved in this process.  To start off with, there is no direct hose attachment to an ash pan sprinkler, it's just a case of getting under and squirting a hose in through the front damper until he ash acquires a porridge like texture and then open the door at the back and watch as it all tumbles into the pit before your eyes.  Well the theory was good, but the ash pan was extremely full and the hose pipe in the pit seems to be lacking in pressure:
Hosing down the ash pan through the front damper
Ben tried damping the ash through the door at the back of the ash pan as well.
As the ash wasn't keen to make its own way out, we settled for Ben hosing it down through the back door of the ash pan and me pushing it with a scraper inserted through the front damper door.  That did the trick.

Once the ash pan was emptied, Dinmore Manor was off and running up and down the main running line for a few hundred yards or so then back again to make sure that nothing was running too hot:
Dinmore Manor's first go at steaming on our main running line
Mark checking that the injector isn't running wet?
The second of several runs past.
 After several more runs of few hundred yards, they popped back into platform 1 to top up with water.  Mark shouted out that this time they would be going all the way up to Winchcombe, albeit at a very slow pace.  I took the opportunity to drive up to Hailes bridge and watch them pass before heading on to Winchcombe:
Dinmore Manor on the new track at Hailes
Next stop Winchcombe
Pulling into Winchcombe's platform 1
L - R Mike, Ben, Mark & John with Dinmore Manor at Winchcombe
Mike & Mark with their pride & joy
 At this point, it started pouring with rain, so I decided that photos from under the platform canopy were going to be a smart move.
Platform clearance checking on Platform 2.
 I curtailed my activities at this point having another engagement elsewhere to attend however Mike took some video footage of the trip into Greet tunnel as they progressed further down the line:  Apparently it was Dinmore Manor's first run through a tunnel in preservation.  I hope she's not afraid of the dark, because she'll be going through there plenty more times in the years to come.

This brings us on to Saturday, my first official fireman training turn of the year.  The rostered loco was the 8F, which was nice as it has been a fair while since I'd last fired her.  

It was nice to have a cleaner rostered as well, Ed was doing the honours on this occasion:
Ed making the 8F shine.
 Ed made the perfect start, by appearing with a tray of tea.   Ed is of course a trainee fireman himself, so there is a good chance that I'll find myself cleaning a loco for him in the near future.  I'll try to remember to start off by bringing him tea.

The rest of the crew was Ade (my instructor) and once again Paul.  Paul thinks that Ben (who does the crew rostering) doesn't like him as he always seems to get lumbered with me on my fireman training turns.  

Ade will be starting practical driver training in the near future, so Paul decided that he would give him a head start and let him help out in the oiling up process.
Paul filling an oil pot
Ade applying the grease gun to the thingamajig
Fully fledged firemen, never mind trainee ones aren't required to be able to identify all the bits of the motion, so I can safely get away with describing that as a 'thingamajig'.  Ade being a trainee driver does need to know.  I didn't think to ask him what it was though.

One of the things a trainee fireman does need to do is to check the fault report card for his loco before lighting the fire.  The 8F's mentioned three things that hadn't been attended to.  The one that was of particular relevance to me was that she was blowing off light at 215 PSI rather than the 225 that she should.  That effectively gave me a reduced range of boiler pressure to try and maintain her in.   

The water gauge lamp had lost its spindle too,  a simple workaround was to hang the lamp from the shut off lever:
An elegant solution
The lamp kept on blowing out though, sometimes you just can't win.
Just about ready to run round to the ash pit
Ed helping out with emptying the ash pan.
I'd like to be able to report that the day went off uneventfully and that it was all plain sailing steaming up and down the line, but that wouldn't be entirely truthful.  The unexpected appearance of Jeff, one of our inspectors on the footplate when we got to Cheltenham on the first trip was a little unnerving. It's the rough equivalent of having your car driving test examiner sitting in the back seat whilst you're on a driving lesson. He didn't make too many comments on what I was doing wrong, I'm guessing that he just didn't know where to start.

The team of bricklayers working on Cheltenham's platform 2 were hard at work. Their normal operations involve running trolleys loaded with bricks or mortar up and down the run around loop, which is a potential hazard.   To mitigate that, on running days they time their tea breaks according the timetable to make sure that they are out of the way each time we arrived.  I imagine that we must have been a very welcome sight then:  Checking their blog, I find that one of them was taking a photo of us.
Cheltenham platform 2 under construction
Running round at Laverton
We had been going to take water at Toddington when we got back from Laverton, but unusually we were signaled into platform 2 which meant that we were at the wrong end of the platform for the water crane.  No problem, the tender was still half full when we got back down to Cheltenham where we eventually topped it up again.  After switching on the water, Paul disappeared off to grab his lunch on the footplate.  When the water level was nearing the top, I could easily have got down from the tender and switched it off myself however one of the sprays of water from the leaking pipe was squirting directly onto the corner of the tender where the steps are.  Mercifully Paul reappeared in time to switch the water off, thereby saving me from getting wet if I'd ended up having to do it myself..
Filling the tender, note the leaking pipe.
Ade helpfully pulling coal forward in the tender.
The second round trip was a 'Fish & Chip' special and there was one portion left over to be shared amongst the crew.
Apparently there is such a thing as a free lunch
 The trick is not to put the plastic tray directly onto the warming plate as it will melt and leave a nasty brown gooey mess.  The paper was still extremely hot when it came time to pick it up and dispose of the leftovers in the fire.

There was a fair old downpour at Cheltenham as we set off on the second trip from there.  The fireman is supposed to watch the train out of the platform and alert the driver if doors are opened or the guard waves a red flag etc.  Standing in the doorway of the cab, I discovered that rain water that has collected on the gutter on the cab roof chooses exactly that point to drain down.  It's rather uncomfortable having cold rain water pour down the back of your neck.
The last drops from the roof waiting to drip.
 On the plus side, we were rewarded by some fine views of a rainbow.  No sign of any pots of gold though.
Rainbow at Bishops Cleeve
The lineside clearance gang were out in force by Stanway viaduct. A number of other heritage railways are quite lax at clearing the lineside of vegetation which is a bit of a shame, in some cases it's a bit like traveling through a green tunnel. Our lineside clearance gang do a great job in keeping the vegetation down, rewarding our passengers with fine views of the Cotswold and Malvern hills.   Too much vegetation is also a bit of a fire risk in the summer, so their work is doubly valuable. Note the chap in the hi-viz with the camera.  On their website you can find what I presume is his (Alistair's?) photo of us.
Lineside clearance gang at work
For completeness, I should mention that the Lineside Drainage Management gang was working up at laverton and the Permanent Way gang were hard at work between Toddington & Winchcombe, I didn't manage to get any photos of them, but they did of us.

As mentioned recently, I've bought a new shovel from Mark Shere-Massey, he was in flight to his new life in Canada at around the time that I took this photo of it in the tender.
New (to me) firing shovel
I have just received news that Mark is shortly to start his own blog on the trials and tribulations of becoming a truck driver in Canada.  I'll add it to the list of related links when he gets it going.

Filling up the tender again at Toddington proved to be rather interesting.  Somebody who shall remain nameless (purely to protect the guilty) found the 'other off' when asked to shut off the water supply.  Consequently I ended up with my own swimming pool on top of the tender.  Note that by this stage I'm stood on top of the hatch.
Keeping my boots dry
We had a slightly unusual, but nonetheless poignant request from Barrie Etter, one of the Traveling Ticket Inspectors who wanted us blow a long blast on the whistle when we finally got back on shed in memory of his friend Ken, an ex GWR engine man who had recently passed away.  It's always sad to hear of the passing of those who operated these wonderful machines when they were cutting edge technology.  R.I.P.  Ken.

My spy in the 4270 team (I have informants everywhere now) had led me to believe that much work had taken place on the backhead since last I had taken a look.  The last thing I did before leaving on Saturday was wander into the David Page shed and point my camera into the cab.
4270's backhead
The backhead cladding is nicely painted black and most of the fittings appear to be in place.  The injector water valves are not installed and most obviously the regulator handle is missing.  The firebox doors are short of a handle too.  Other than that, it looks to be fairly complete.  Hopefully, she won't be too far behind Dinmore Manor in joining our operational fleet.

And finally, anybody who has succumbed to getting a Facebook account can't fail to have noticed the recent phenomena of ladies of all ages posting self portrait photos of themselves without makeup for cancer awareness.  Even one of the ladies of the steam loco dept has had a go at this.  I'm not referring to Tina or Tonia now, so which lady is it?  I am of course referring to none other than Foremarke Hall:
Foremarke Hall, sans makeup.
Rest assured, she'll be fully made up and lined out by the time she next appears in public.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dinmore Manor's First Moves on the GWSR

No sooner had I uploaded last week's blog, than I discovered an email from Frederick Lea containing a photo taken of Tina on the footplate of 5542 at Winchcombe.  Being skilled at artistic composition, he has carefully chosen a moment when I wasn't visible on the footplate.  Frederick has painted a number of excellent water colour images of scenes from the line, more details of which can be found on his website. 
Tina in 5542, Photo courtesy of Frederick Lea
 Last week saw the railway running race specials on most days to the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  The timetable is a fairly relaxed one, taking the race goers from Toddington to Cheltenham in the morning, returning to Toddington with empty coaching stock, then waiting there until the races are over and it's time to go back to Cheltenham and fetch them back again.  The quandry as to what to do with all the free time between trips was solved by Derek and Howard who both managed to fall asleep.  Somehow Derek dozed off sat upright.  Reports that their snoring could be heard as far away as Cheltenham have been refuted.
Asleep on the job. Photo courtesy of Tim Pickthorn.
Firemen need to arrive on the railway with some means of igniting their fires.  A box of matches or a cigarette lighter being the preferred options, though rubbing two boy scouts sticks together or focusing the suns rays using a magnifying glass are useful standbys.  Once the fire has taken hold, it's usually considered a good idea to put your means of commencing combustion away in a safe place. The warming tray whilst being conveniently located, is not a safe place as Phil discovered:
Spontaneous combustion.  Photo courtesy of Andy Beale.
By Saturday, the races were all done and dusted, large sums of money had doubtless changed hands and I suspect that more than a few sore heads were bearing testimony to the consumption of prodigious quantities of alcohol.

Saturday being a blue timetable day meant that only one steam loco was running, the 8F was in an advanced state of being prepared for service by the time I arrived.  I'd not quite finished cleaning the smoke box when Cliff needed to move her a bit to give access to some of those hard to get at oiling points.  As usual, the use of the ejector to create a vacuum and release the brakes caused plenty of water to be sprayed out of the chimney and onto the nicely cleaned smoke box much to the amusement of all present.
It was clean a moment ago, honest!
She was soon off shed and round to the ash pit to empty her ash pan
I noticed inside the oil store that what last week had been a pair of scissors chained to the bench at the back was now just a scissor:
Doing things by halves
Clive has the other half and would like to reconnect them however the screw in the middle has gone AWOL.  Should you be the guilty party that broke the scissors and happen to know where the missing screw is, please return it to Clive.  He was last seen muttering dark things about sticking pins into a voodoo doll of the culprit, so if you are suddenly experiencing sharp and otherwise inexplicable pains, you'll now know why. 

We have another new hose by the ash pit now, for connecting up to locos that have fitments to sprinkle water directly into the ash pan:
Steve, Ade and Cliff wait for the new hose to finish damping down the ash pan
 Chris was firing the 8F today.  Being one of the leading lights of the Churchill 8F group, he was more than happy to be firing his own loco.  I think he was saying something about having slightly over-prepped his fire at this point, but I couldn't hear him over the background noise.
Chris and some rather low cloud formations over the safety valves
Chris claimed mitigating circumstances when he got back at the end of the day saying that the safety valves were blowing light at 215 rather than 225 PSI.  I'll try and remember that for next week when I'm down for a training turn on the 8F.

Once the 8F had set off to join the stock in the platform and breakfast had been consumed, it was time to check up on the jobs that were in progress in the yard.  Andy was cracking on with 4270 and by the time he had finished her smoke box was a very smart looking gloss black:
Photo courtesy of Andy Beale
 Several others carried on with stripping down Foremarke Hall:
Tim repainted the smoke box...
...whilst John & Ade removed the brakes
Paul got the job of pressure washing the elements of the brake assembly that were removed:
How many footplate men does it take to fix a pressure washer?
John gets it going at last.  Paul is ready to start cleaning the brake parts.
One of the recent batch of fork lift truck graduates discovered that using it to shift things such as re-railers out of the oil store means having to turn the thing round in a fairly confined space.  A task which proved to be rather difficult as it turns out.  I won't name the culprit for fear of getting an even worse report than usual on my next firing lesson.  He won't like the fact that I was reminded of this classic song that describes the difficulties that can be experienced getting vehicles out of tight spaces. 
Fork lift in a fix
I have an interest in getting Dinmore Manor ready for service on our line, for reasons which will become apparent in a few weeks time, so I rather foolishly approached Mark and asked what needed doing on her.  Well the answer was that we have taken delivery of a tender borrowed from the Dukedog, 9017 Earl of Berkeley. Earl of Berkeley is a resident of the Bluebell railway in Kent and has been out of ticket for a few years.  The tender is already in BR black however it needed a bit of a clean, both internally and externally as well as a few coats of paint in the coal space and around the water inlet before it could be used.  I've been inside a tender before and knew that it wasn't going to be a pleasant job.  Sure enough, everybody within earshot either made themselves scarce, pretended to be extremely busy doing important things or came up with lame excuses why it shouldn't be them "Old war wound don't you know". Some thought that I might fall for flattery "Well you're far thinner than me Ray".  Having just devoured a full English breakfast in the Flag and Whistle,the last thing I was feeling was thin
Three Churchward 3500 gallon tenders in this shot.
Before heading into the bowels of the tender, I took a few photos of the people who grabbed the cleaner jobs.  I'm sure that one of the reasons they wanted me to go in there was that they'd be safe from my camera for a while:
Ralph painting the coal space
Ade (l) and Martin (r) got on with painting the water tank filler end
Martin recommended that the best way to clean the inside of a tender is to get a cat, strap a banger onto its tail and throw it in.  As Toddington has no station cat we couldn't follow up on that plan, so it was down to me to get in there. Mercifully nobody strapped a firework to my tail before I went in.   

Tender water tanks are usually rather damp inside (the clue is in the name) however this one had been out of use for a while, so if I was lucky it might be fairly dry: 
Perhaps my luck is in, it looks dry down there.
Only one way to find out, I dropped down inside and once a light had been hooked up and passed in had a look around. I was in luck, it was bone dry in there.  Aside from the expected industrial quantities of loose flaky rust, I was surprised to find quite a large number of what appear to be shells from dead water snails:
It would seem that the Bluebell railway gets their water from a river
No live ones in there, I suppose that they don't fare very well without water to live in.

For those of you that have never inspected the inside of a tender before, they have baffle plates inside to stop the water sloshing around whilst traversing bends and potentially destabilising them.  That's all well and good until you need to get in there and move from one section to another.  Churchward designed these things in an era when the practice of sending 5 year old children up chimneys to sweep them had not long since been discontinued, consequently the passages through the baffle plates had been designed to accommodate at best teenage boys, malnourished teenage boys at that.  
Anorexics only need apply
There's no real sense of scale to that photo, but the bucket I was using to sweep the rust into wouldn't fit through any of those apertures.  I had to ask Ade to fetch me the smallest bucket he could find, which only just made it through the largest of those round holes.  I managed to squeeze through the one at the bottom, just, by lying on my back and shimmying in. When my feet hit the next baffle plate I had to twist sideways to get the rest of me in.  I really wouldn't have wanted to try to get from one section to another if there had still been any water in there.

The tender is split internally into 4 sections on each side.  In the third section, the water level gauge float is strategically placed to block entry into the fourth section:
Water level gauge float impeding progress.
The float raised and lowered quite easily, but I didn't fancy trying to shimmy into the fourth section as it would be resting on my face as I crawled underneath it.  I elected to poke a broom in through one of the holes and sweep it out from the third section on each side.
I could almost reach all the way to the front this way.
One of a number of bucket loads of rust and water snail shells emerging into daylight
Yes, I was using the 'light up bucket'.  I cleaned it up afterwards and put it back where it came from.  Hopefully Clive won't notice that I've used it for the wrong thing, apparently he has quote an extensive collection of voodoo dolls!

At one point, I heard a muffled voice outside ask "Who's in there?".  When the disembodied voice had discovered that it was me, there was a considerable clanging as hands hammered on the tender sides. It was quite deafening in the confined space.  Mike confessed to being the culprit later.  I might be able to find a use for one of Clive's voodoo dolls myself!

I finally emerged back into the daylight with the last bucket load of rust etc from inside the tender looking rather like I had used my overalls to clean it with.  Needless to say, it was the first wearing of a freshly laundered pair of overalls.  

Inside of the tender cleaned, it was now time to crack on with the outside.  It had only been painted black a few years ago and it scrubbed up rather well.  I was quite pleased with the end result:
Not looking at all bad
Meanwhile, feverish activity was taking place on Dinmore Manor herself.  Not least of the outstanding tasks was weighing her to make sure that her weight was evenly distributed across each wheel.  Without doing this, she might end up with too much weight being placed on one of her springs causing the spring to break.
On the scales
She'd had a warming fire put in her on Friday and Dan had re-lit her and got her slowly into steam during the course of the day:
Still with Foremarke Hall's tender whilst the Dukedog's was being cleaned & painted
Slowly building up the fire during the day
By the time that the 8F was back on shed at the end of the day, Dinmore Manor was pretty much up to the red line on her pressure gauge:
All steamed up and ready to go
Well it would have been a shame to let all that steam go to waste wouldn't it!  So as sun was starting to go down, Dinmore Manor moved under her own steam to the south head shunt and back for the first time:
Getting ready to go
Drain cocks open....
.... and she's off.
Underway at last.
The use of the 4000 gallon Hawksworth tender from Foremarke Hall is quite possibly a first for a Manor.  A little research has shown Manors occasionally ran with a Churchward 4000 gallon tender and briefly with a Collett one, but not as far as I have been able to determine with a Hawksworth 4000 gallon tender.  Another first for the GWSR.  Now that the Dukedog's 3500 gallon Churchward tender is pretty much ready for service, she'll soon be back to looking as BR intended back in 1950, so this curious pairing will be short lived.

After the first run, there was a stop for checking that nothing was hotter than it should have been and that there were no leaks from places that shouldn't be leaking:
Dinmore Manor appears to have eaten Mark
Andy checks for leaks in the smoke box
The inspection process took a fair while, which was a bit of a shame as there was a spectacular sunset going on, all it needed was Dinmore Manor placed in the foreground.  By the time she did steam up and down the yard again, the light had all but gone and I couldn't get enough shutter speed and the depth of field for the shot that I really wanted:
Light all but gone
15 minutes earlier and I'd have been on to a winner.