Thursday, 31 July 2014

Are We Nearly There Yet?

I have been rather remiss in not getting updates on the sponsored walk for the Broadway station appeal up on this blog, I'm afraid a variety of events, including a lack of reliable internet access have conspired against me.  So where are we in the sponsored walk along the Cotswold Way in aid of the Broadway Station appeal? 

Well in terms of miles done, we're nearly there, Tina and I have made it as far north as Wood Stanway (just a few fields away from Toddington) with the stretch from Wood Stanway to Chipping Campden left for Friday and then the return from Chipping Campden to Toddington on Sunday.  I'm afraid that I still have very limited internet access, so this update will be entirely text based with no photos to relieve the monotony. I'll upload the photos to Photobucket when I return to civilisation for anybody who might be foolish enough to want to go and look.


Day 1, Bath to Cold Ashton (10.5 miles)

Weather:  Wall to wall sunshine

Tina and I started early Friday afternoon at Bath Green Park station.  Rather touchingly, Chris, one of the GWSR's other volunteers had come along (and no he doesn't live anywhere near Bath) to see us off on our way. He even brought us both a cup of tea to refresh us before we set off.

Bath Abbey is the official start of the Cotswold Way, and only a few hundred yards from Bath Green Park station.  Sadly of course, the trains run no more from Bath along the famous  Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway.

The "Cotswold Way" signs are quite prolific elsewhere along the route, but in central Bath they are all but non-existant.  We had maybe covered the first mile before we spotted the first one.  The only time that I have needed to break out the OS maps so far was in Bath.  The compass and GPS have remained unused.

Once outside Bath and in open country, we arrived at Lansdown Hill, which turns out to have been the scene of a battle during the English civil war (curious name, wars are anything but civilised affairs). Tina read the plaque describing the event, so you'd best ask her who won.

My guide book to the Cotswold Way sneakily includes a few pages of pictures of common flowers that you might see, including three different kinds of orchids (early purple, spotted and pyramidal if you must know), so far, I haven't spotted any of them


Day 2, Cold Ashton to Hawksbury Upton (14 miles)

Weather:  Hot enough to melt brass monkeys

Not content with berating me for my woeful lack of knowledge on all things botanical, Tina has also taken it upon herself to dispense history lessons at various points along the route where something that she considered important might have happened a long time ago. High on the list of such things are haunted houses, one of which happened to be in Cold Ashton. I'm pleased to report that there were no signs of paranormal activities whilst we passed through.

If one thing sticks in my mind from this walk, it was all the butterflies, there seemed to be no end of them. 

Today's route took us past the Dyrham Park National Trust property, to Tormarton, Dodington Park, Old Sodbury and Little Sodbury (which has a fine hill fort above it), before passing through Horton (yet another hill fort) and eventually into Hawkesbury Upton.  The views out across to the river Severn and the Brecon hills beyond were astounding in several places.

The heat was relentless and this was probably the toughest day's walking so far, Tina was even heard to say "I think I've bitten off more than I can chew" along with the more usual "My legs are killing me".


Day 3, Hawkesbury Upton to Dursley (14.5 miles)

Weather:  Phew, what a scorcher!

We started off passing by a tall memorial to General Lord Robert Somerset.  I have no idea why there was a memorial to him, but I'm guessing that it wasn't anything to do with services to geography as we were well into Gloucestershire and far from Somerset. 

As we approached Wotton-Under-Edge, we were adopted by a large lost dog of indeterminate breed.  It came bounding up to us as we passed a farm, so we initially thought that it was a farm dog and would soon return whence it came, but no, it stuck with us for about a mile.  Not having the slightest idea what to do with a lost dog, or who to report it to, we were quite relieved when it spotted a young lad a little way off who was out walking two dogs of his own and bounded off to make friends with them.

One of the highlights for me was Tyndale Monument near North Nibley.  It's the one that is very obvious as you drive past on the M5.  It has a fine spiral staircase inside, with 121 steps and is well worth the climb to get to the top.

Before dropping down to Dursley, the route takes a tour around Stinchcombe Hill, which again commands fine views across Gloucestershire to the river Severn and the Brecon Hills beyond.


Day 4, Dursley to Haresfield Beacon (nominally 10.5 miles)

Weather: Hotter than July.

The good news was that Derek had decided to join us for this section, and sure enough, when we arrived at the car park in Dursley, there he was, rummaging around in the boot of his car.  It turned out that he was rummaging around in the boot of his car, because he had lost his car keys.  We spent 15 minutes turning his car inside out trying to find his keys, I eventually spotted them dangling from the lock of the boot of his car.

If you asked me to choose a favourite day from the walk so far, this would probably be it, the views were simply stunning from so many different places along the way.  We passed through two fields containing bulls, but I wasn't at all concerned about that, because Derek was wearing a red top, so they'd chase him in preference to me (ok, I know bulls are colour blind, but why let that spoil a good story?).

The route splits in two a little south of Stonehouse, there is a "direct route" and a "scenic route", which goes over Selsley Common.  The "scenic route" adds around two miles to the walk. Convinced that if I offered them the choice, Tina and Derek would opt for the direct route, I foolishly let them decide which way we should go.  Tina deferred to Derek, Derek decided on the "scenic route".  The problem with that was that our ten mile walk now became a twelve mile walk. It was scenic, but of course quite hilly, and as a group, we didn't tackle the hills at any great pace, so by the end, it took us rather longer than anticipated to cover the distance.  Derek and Tina were both rather worn out by the end, so were my ears.


Day 5, Haresfield Beacon to Birdlip (14 miles)

Weather: Far too hot for comfort.

The day starts well, with fine views from Haresfield Beacon, but much of this walk was just wandering through a tunnel of trees.  That did help to keep it all pleasantly cool, but once Haresfield Beacon was behind us, we had none of the fine views over Gloucestershire that the previous days had provided.  A welcome relief was the delightful village of Painswick, shortly before reaching which we passed a stone set in a field purporting to be the half way marker, in spite of the fact that it was brazenly telling us that we had 47 miles left to Chipping Campden whilst people going the other way had 55 miles to go to Bath.  The route took us over Cooper's Hill, famed for its cheese rolling events.  Having neglected to bring a cheese, we couldn't chase one down the hill, which was probably a good thing.


Day 6, Birdlip to Cleeve Hill (13.5 miles)

Weather: Who says there's no such thing as global warming?

The start was good, with fine views from Barrow Wake and Crickley Hill. The next stop was Leckhampton Hill, with excellent views over Cheltenham to Cleeve Hill.

We were going to be taking a bit of a circuitous route, but Cleeve Hill in the distance was our destination for the day. Tina isn't a big fan of hills, and getting her up Cleeve Hill was always going to be a bit of a challenge.  It took a lot of Licorice Allsorts to eventually coax her to the top, but it was worth it for the views.  Sadly we got up there too late to see any of the trains running in or out of Cheltenham Race Course station, but we could clearly see where the station was from up there.


Day 7, Cleeve Hill to Wood Stanway (13.5 miles)

Weather: hot, a bit cloudy, even had a precious few drops of rain near the end.

Well here we are, 7 days in and I haven't seen a sign of Julia Bradbury yet, I shall write to the BBC and complain.

The route took us from Cleeve Hill to Postlip, then up to Belas Knap long barrow, before winding down to Winchcombe where we stopped for lunch. Suitably refreshed, it was a windy route past Hailes Abbey, then up to Beckbury Camp (I've seen more hill forts in the last week than you could shake a stick at) before a gentle descent (including a light shower of rain, of at most 1 minutes duration), before arriving in Wood Stanway.  Being so close to the railway at this point, we saw 4270 in the distance near Winchcombe.  Derek was rostered as fireman, so he had clearly recovered from the ordeal of walking with us a few days before.


I was going to sign off at this point with the usual stuff about how to sponsor us for the Broadway Station appeal, but there is other steam loco dept news that is far too good to save until later.  On Tuesday, Dan passed out as a fireman. Needless to say, he's chuffed to bits. Congratulations Dan, a very well deserved promotion.  Dan had been primed to send me a photo of himself shoveling a torn up L plate into the firebox, but instead he sent me one of him shaking hands with Inspector Irving who passed him out.  I'll upload the photo here as soon as I get to a usable internet connection again.

Dan will hopefully be joining us on Sunday for the final walk from Chipping Campden back to Toddington, the link to how to sponsor us will be at the end of the previous blog post, I can't get enough life out of this painfully slow interweb connection to go back and find it for you.

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Delicate Sound of Thunder

The thunder and lightning was quite impressive as I drove towards Toddington on Saturday morning, it didn't bode well for a day out on 2807.  Crew comfort was fairly low down on Churchward's priorities when he designed the 28XX locos.  In fairness, he probably mostly envisaged them running smoke box first for the majority of the time, in which direction, the crew is merely poorly defended from the elements, as opposed to totally unprotected as they are when running tender first.   Not being blessed with turntables at either end of the line, we are forced to run 2807 tender first for half of the time.

As I was down for a fireman training turn, I was reasonably disinterested during the loco prep period in the fact that it was raining, I could mostly skulk in the cab and get my fire going along with cleaning the cab fittings.

Normally you wouldn't expect to get both fireman training and driver training taking place on the same loco.  I have no idea why it was happening on this occasion, but nobody else seemed to mind, so neither did I.  My usual firing instructor, Ade was there, but this was his first outing as a trainee driver under the instruction of Steve.  Clive was going to be my firing instructor.  Ade and Steve got on with oiling up the motion (in the rain), whilst I got on with getting my fire going:
Ade and Steve, out in the rain

My nice warm fire
For what it was worth, we even put the storm sheet up, but frankly it did little to keep the rain off, but plenty to obscure vision when running tender first:
Storm sheet fitted
After ashing out etc, we were off to fetch the stock from the north headshunt.
Steve instructs Ade in the workings of the hydrostatic lubricator
What followed was rather like the weather, we had a mixture of everything.  From the firing point of view, the first run to Cheltenham and back was ok going down, less good, but not too bad coming back.  The weather however was solid heavy rain in both directions.  I was soaked through before we reached Winchcombe on the way out, never mind the return journey running tender first.  I have noticed that whenever anything needs doing that involves leaning/getting out of the cab (token exchange, watching trains in and out of stations, phoning/walking to the signal box etc), that it is always the poor fireman that has to do it. 
4270's cab is nicely weather proof, unlike 2807's
 Sean, our Senior firing instructor had decided that he wanted to check up on my progress and after making sure that the weather was forecast to be as good as it was going to get for the second run, he took Clive's place.  What followed was an unmitigated disaster.  By the time that I had got back to the loco from attending to the call of nature, the fire that had been thin but bright across the grate had now largely gone out, just a section at the front and the back to work with.  I had twenty minutes to work a miracle, however miracles were in short supply.  Ultimately, we ended up setting off with a small section of the grate about two feet in on the centre and right hand side that didn't seem to want to burn. Arriving at Winchcombe the black area was still sat there doing nothing.  We had little time at Winchcombe and I was happy that we had enough water and pressure to get through the tunnel so I waited until we had done that before putting a bar in and mixing up the dead spot in the fire with the stuff that was burning as it was supposed to. I don't like putting bars in the fire on the move, but if you need to, then you need to.  I seemed to manage to do it without clouting or burning anybody, nor hitting a signal or other bit of line side furniture. It pepped the fire up a bit, but by this point, I was fairly annoyed with myself for making such a hash of things and was determined to do better on the return journey.  When we arrived at Cheltenham, a quick glance at my printed and laminated copy of the working timetable indicated that we had plenty of time, so I delayed building up the fire.  Suddenly, Ade was saying that we're off in 5 minutes, are you ready?  A post mortem later on revealed that I had looked at the wrong side of my printed off timetable, I had looked at the side for the pink timetable (train 1 departure time 13:40) instead of the red timetable (departure time 13:15).  A bit of a school boy error really.  Needless to say some frantic baling in of coal followed.  Somehow we got back and somehow Ade seemed fairly unperturbed by it all.  Ade was having a good day apart from the weather.   The dull thudding sound that you can hear in the distance is me kicking myself.

The weather was set to turn bad again, so Sean stepped off the footplate and Clive returned for the third trip. This one was fine from the firing point of view, but the weather going down was as abysmal as my firing had been on the second trip.  Plenty of thunder, lightning and rain with most of the Cotswold hills lost to view in the low cloud.  The knowledge that the cab of a steam loco is in essence a rudimentary Faraday Cage was some reassurance given the frequency and close proximity of the lightning, but it was still an interesting and extremely wet ride.  Having just about dried out from the morning's soaking, I was more than a bit disappointed to get drenched yet again, but at least I wasn't hit by lightning.  Mercifully, the rain ceased for the tender first return journey, so by the time we made it back to Toddington I was mostly dry again.
Evidence of the recent deluge on the platform at Winchcombe
4270 arrives for her last trip
2807 was down for a fish and chip special that evening, so after emptying the ash pan and smoke box along with topping up the tender with water and coal, we just handed her over to the next crew.  I hope they had better weather than we did.
Ade coaling 2807
Clive damping down the ash pan before I scrape the ash out.
The mess coach doesn't have a bar, so I had to make do as best I could to drown my sorrows with a cup of tea.    The gallant team of people who work on our Merchant Navy, 35006, were there enjoying a brew as well.  Putting my blog writing hat on, I ventured the question "What's left to do on 35006?".    It turns out that they have been busy lately, the centre valve motion has been fitted, so the only big things left are fitting the con rods, finishing off the brakes in the tender and finishing off the smoke box internals, along with a number of "little jobs".  A timescale was quoted saying that if all went to plan, she'd be running in a certain amount of time.  I won't quote it here, as things never go to plan, and "little things" always take longer than you'd think, but it was certainly sooner than I was expecting.  It transpired that much of the recent work had been done by several people called Bob, which reminded me of a certain comedy classic.

You have probably noticed by now that internet is the source of no end of trivia and amusement.  One such item that I spotted recently was the current craze of deaf people drenching themselves by pouring a bucket of water over their own heads.  So what does this have to do with the GWSR in general and the steam loco dept in particular? I hear you say.  Well the answer to that is that if enough people sign up for the sponsored walk for Broadway appeal, mentioning "Ian Chilton" as they do, then Ian will do the deed.  Date and location as yet to be ascertained, but a video by way of evidence will appear on this blog soon after the event.  Personally I'm hoping for platform 2 at Toddington whilst loco 2 is taking water after the first round trip on Saturday August 2nd, but I'm not holding my breath.
Ian Chilton, he won't be allowed to wear a hat at the time.
I'll now have to provide a bit of sponsorship myself to encourage Ian of course.

The sponsored walk for the Broadway Station appeal is looming large now, in fact Tina and I will be setting off on Friday.  All support gratefully received.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A Bad Day at the Office

One midweek evening, an email arrived with several attached photos and a tale of woe regarding one of the steam loco dept's members, a few hours later, a text from somebody else with another photo and the same tale of woe.  News travels fast, bad news travels even faster.  It appears that one of that day's crew (name withheld to protect the unfortunate) had a slight mishap whilst coaling up 4270. Some (exactly how much depends on whose version of events you're listening to) of the coal missing the bunker and ending up in the pit.  

Photo courtesy Dan Wigg
Photo courtesy Sean Nielsen
To make it worse, at least two members of the public were to be seen videoing the proceedings from the car park.  No videos have turned up on Youtube yet that I know about, but it's probably just a matter of time. 

The same trio were present on Saturday as well, the leg pulling was merciless.  You need to develop a very thick skin if you are to survive for long in the steam loco dept.

All of which brings us neatly on to Saturday morning.  A quick look around revealed that the north west quadrant of the David Page shed had been finished as far as the laying of the concrete was concerned, and it was looking extremely good for it. It will be painted and sealed to keep it looking good, sometime in the near future.
Concrete floor in the David Page shed
A little bit of the surplus concrete had been put to good use in starting a walkway past the front of the diesel shed too:
Surplus concrete put to good use
The lamp cupboard has moved once more.  Its relocation into the oil store turned out to be a temporary move, and it has now found its way into the tool store:
The lamp cupboard in its final (hopefully) resting place
You'll notice that the photo includes some of the tools to be found in the tool store, not all of which are present and correct in the places allotted to them.  As a general rule of thumb, any tool that you could conceivably want, won't be in its place, whereas any tool that fits absolutely nothing anywhere on the railway will be sitting smugly in its designated location. 

Rags are still appearing in the rag collecting point which is gratifying.  As far as I can make out, I'm the only person passed out to empty it and move the rags into the oil store.  I'll have to make sure that plenty of other people become qualified to do it as well:
A wheel barrow load of rags en-route to the oil store
Thank you to everybody who has continued to provide us with rags.

My task on Saturday morning was to get 2807 cleaned and ready for service, Cliff & Chris were down as driver and fireman respectively.  Once I'd washed over the boiler, it was time to give the smoke box a bit of a going over with a 50/50 mix of motion oil & diesel.  The trick is to make the mix in an empty baked bean tin and apply it liberally with an old paint brush.  The old baked bean tin that had been used until recently had gone AWOL, so I improvised with an old fizzy drink can that I found in a skip:
  The edges were still a little bit sharp, so should anybody continue to use it, make sure you wear gloves or take great care.
Andy oils up 4270
Stuart is more normally associated with maintaining/driving the DMUs however he has seen the light and is converting back to steam.  I say converting back, as he has been qualified as a fireman on the GWSR in the past.  It seems that he can still remember how to get his hands mucky and operate a kettle, so he should have no trouble getting back into the swing of things.
Stuart, returning from the dark side.
Sean cleaning 4270's wheels & motion
Taking care not to damage 4270's paintwork whilst buffing up her brass cabside
2807 and 4270 looking good and ready for a day's work
2807 heads off with the 10:00 service to Cheltenham Race Course
 Once 2807 was safely off shed and off down the line with the first train of the day, it was time to head off with Tina for a practice walk in readiness for our upcoming sponsored walk for the Broadway Station appeal.  As I was already at Toddington, it seemed to make good sense to drive out to Chipping Campden, then walk back down the Cotswold Way as far as Stanway, then walk back along the B4077 to Toddington.  At a guess, somewhere around 12 or 13 miles and therefore towards the upper end of the distances that we are intending to cover each day.
Looking back at Chipping Campden
The idea of trig points is that they are visible from a long distance, to aid with surveying land.  This one on Dovers Hill was almost entirely hidden from view down in the valleys below by trees.
Trig point on Dovers Hill
 A short distance away was a toposcope, which afforded excellent views to the north and west.
Tina, surveying the view from Dovers Hill
 The local architecture was very much to my taste if not my finances, this house along the way had something of a finial on the left hand side of the roof, complete with a sundial set into it.
Who needs a watch with a house like this?
 Broadway tower and Broadway itself were both on the route.  Never having been up to the tower before, I was quite charmed by it, and judging by the crowds, many others were too.
Broadway Tower
  Down in Broadway village itself, there was some sort of event taking place which had drawn substantial crowds.  I'm not entirely sure what was going on, "Broadfest" apparently, whatever that is.  It involved lots of people, stalls and music.  It turns out the Broadway Action Group were in attendance too, but I'm afraid that we didn't spot them.  It would be nice to think that in the not too distant future, we will be running trains from Cheltenham Race Course (where there is plentiful parking) to Broadway, bringing visitors to this delightful village nestling in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Choir on the village green
I noticed in one of the shops in Broadway that we passed, several references to the golden age of steam.  This jigsaw puzzle of Lode Star was amongst several that caught my eye:

Lode Star
 The prospect of sampling the delights of Broadway had to be set aside though, as the trail beckoned, and soon we were back out in the sticks again:
Looking back on Broadway
Amongst the items of note on the route, was this rather fine fungus sprouting from the base of a tree, each section the size of a dinner plate.
But is it edible?
 Tina has worked out how to distract me so that she can take a sneaky rest break, just point me in the direction of something interesting to photograph. Thus it was that I didn't believe her at first when she said that she could see a badger in the next field as they are noted for being nocturnal animals. Tina was right though, there really was a badger in the next field.   The badger was reasonably young and was happy to let me get fairly close to it before backing off a short distance.  This was one of those occasions when I wished I'd packed my proper camera rather than the point and shoot.
I'd never seen a live wild badger so close before.
Tina doesn't get on well with hills, flat ground is ok, shallow down hill sections even better.  Anything that involves going up, or steeply down is not.  I learned some new words on the long & steep descent from Shenberrow Hill to Stanton.  Tina is not looking forward to going up this section when we do it for real.  I tried to explain that hills are easier on the legs, and particularly the feet & knees when you're going up them, but she wouldn't believe me.  Encouragingly, we occasionally heard the horn of the DMU as it was heading to/from Laverton whilst we were on this section, suggesting that the end of the day's walk wasn't too far off..
Occasional impediments to progress
Tina rests her legs in Stanton
 This last photo shows the 117 class DMU on Stanway viaduct in the middle distance.
DMU on Stanway viaduct
After that, all that was left was to cross several fields, one containing a herd of cows complete with a large bull, then take our lives in our hands as we walked along the footpath less B4077 from Stanway back to Toddington. 

It's fair to say that Tina is quite some way outside her comfort zone in doing this walk. Many miles and steep hills are not really her cup of tea, and I've yet to mention to her that it's likely to rain and how much fun blisters can be  I'm sure it would help to spur her on if you were to contribute generously towards the appeal for Broadway Station, demolished in 1963, to be rebuilt and put back into service sometime soon.  The more you donate, the sooner it will be.

On line donations can be made by clicking here.

Failing that, good old fashioned cheques will still do nicely:

Please send cheques to:
Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director)
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Tina Sutton and Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.

Monday, 7 July 2014


I was more than a little apprehensive on Saturday morning when my alarm went off, there was quite a loud rattle of rain on the bedroom windows which didn't bode well.  Fortunately our roster clerk, Ben, had experienced some difficulty in finding an available fireman, and a deal had been struck wherein I would light up 4270 ready for the first train, John would turn up much later and fire the first round trip, then Phil would cover the second and third trips.  The good fortune for me being that I would be able to spend a reasonable amount of the morning sheltering from the rain in the nice warm cab of 4270, rather than trying to clean her in the rain.  In the end, the rain eased off enough for me to both bring 4270 into steam and to give her a reasonable clean as well.

One of the diesel shunters (Des) had been left parked in front of 4270.  Thankfully John C turned up, who is passed to drive it, otherwise the best we could have done with it was to shunt it off into the south headshunt and leave it there.

Des, a parking ticket is in the post.
 The appeal for cleaning rags has turned up all sorts of interesting items, including a complete set of Thomas the Tank Engine bedding.  It's a shame I didn't spot these a few weeks ago when Thomas was here.
A really useful cleaning rag
 One of the lamps for 4270 was missing a red shade.  In time honoured manner, I nicked one from another loco's lamps.   5542 will be at the South Devon Railway for some time yet, so nobody will notice for ages that one of her sets of lamps is missing a red shade.
4270's lamps, now complete with 2 red shades
 Although the weather was back to rain again by the time that we set off down the line, that didn't seem to deter the volunteers from many of the railway's various departments who were out and about doing their jobs.  I suspect that in a number of homes near and far, conversations had taken place along the lines of "It's raining, I can't mow the lawn today dear, I'll just head off to the railway instead", or perhaps "It's raining, we can't possibly take the children/grandchildren to the beach today etc".
Digging a trench at Cheltenham Race Course (CRC) station
Bringing lamps onto CRC platform 2
At the time of writing, no report had appeared on the CRC2 blog as to exactly what was happening, but when it does, this is the place to look for it. 

It wasn't just CRC that was seeing the volunteers out and about, there were plenty by the line side too:
Andy Protherough at work on the lineside drainage just south of Bishops Cleeve
 Andy's flickr pages give more detail on what was wrong here.

The Permanent Way gang were out and about along the line between Greet tunnel and Gotherington.  I had assumed that they were doing a bit of 'spot sleepering', but a quick check of their flickr site revealed that they were removing ash trees which had self-seeded in various locations.

Permanent Way at work
 This was the first time I'd seen Cliff since he passed out as a driver a few weeks ago, it seemed like a good idea to get him to pose in front of his steed for the day.
Cliff and 4270
 The other train running was 2807.  We tried not to look too smug as 2807 crossed us at Winchcombe, it was raining, that open and exposed cab on 2807 wasn't going to be much fun in the rain when they came back tender first.
2807 rolls into Winchcombe
 Upon arrival at Toddington, the relief fireman, Phil was waiting for us to arrive:
Phil, leaning on a lamp post
 I really should have seen this coming having been caught out like this before, five minutes before we're due off, Phil said "You'd best start building your fire up Ray".  Having expected Phil to be firing, this came as a bit of a surprise. The pressure gauge was close to the red line and the water out of sight in the top of the glass. Not too bad a start, though I'd have liked a bit more water space, the problem was that the fire hadn't seen a fresh lump of coal since John and bunged a round in on Chicken Curve, about an hour ago.  Although there were no holes in the fire bed, it was now very thin, one sharp yank of the regulator and what was left would be off up the chimney.  What happened next was a bit predictable, I baled in plenty, built the fire up, without blacking it out and not too far down the line 4270 was blowing off, much to Phil's amusement.
Phil, reading and plotting my demise
 It seemed that I wasn't the only one with too much fire, the lineside clearance team were out and about getting rid of the worst of the vegetation.  No news of their progress on their website at the time of writing, but doubtless something will appear in the near future.
Lineside clearance team at work
 The sun having come out, meant that the crew of 2807 were looking a bit more cheerful and rather less bedraggled.
Chris exchanges tokens as we cross at Winchcombe
Last trip, Phil rakes through the fire bed as we pass Hailes
4270's water tanks need filling on each round trip, and because the balance pipe between the two sides is relatively small, it takes quite a while to get both tanks full.  If you cunningly stop 4270 such that her water tanks fillers line up with the water column on platform 2 at Toddington, then the pipe is long enough to let you fill both sides:
First the left hand side...
...and then the right.
Getting the tanks full like this takes a fraction of the time it takes to fill up using just one filler.

Before we had set off in the morning, we had pulled Dinmore Manor out of the shed and onto a pit.  After just having had a boiler washout, she is now refilled with water again and ready for steam testing.  New brake blocks have been fitted along with a new seal on the left hand side cylinder cover and a joint repair on an injector steam pipe.  The original ash pan door had buckled a bit, so that has been replaced too.
New ashpan door (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
7820 on a pit (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
New brake blocks (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)

 I'm normally a fairly organised person, managing to juggle my diary to fit around all the various calls on my time from my job, the GWSR and my various domestic commitments.  Last Monday, when the new steam loco dept roster for August was published, I was horrified to find that I had managed to double book myself somehow.  I could have sworn that I hadn't marked myself as being available for the first weekend of August, but there it was, I was down for a fireman training turn.  Oops!  Actually, I didn't say "Oops", I said something else altogether, but "Oops" conveys the general meaning.  Saturday August 2nd was now in my diary as not only fireman training, but also it was the penultimate day of the sponsored walk along the Cotswold Way with Tina and others for the benefit of the Broadway Station Appeal.  When you fire as badly as I do, every training turn is a precious chance to learn how it properly, so I was keen not to have to defer or cancel it.  I rang Tina that evening and she suggested that what we do is just start a day earlier (Friday 25th July), finish on Sunday 3rd August as planned, with the 2nd down as a rest day.  Well the 2nd would be a rest day for her, I'd just switch to exercising my arms instead of exercising my legs.

Tina, demonstrating how it should be done
 So that's it, a minor change of plan, but the route etc remains the same. Our Itinerary now looks like this: 

Start Point
Distance (Miles)
25th July
Bath Green Park
26th July
Hawkesbury Upton
27th July
Hawkesbury Upton
28th July
29th July
30th  July
Cleeve Hill
31st July
Cleeve Hill
Wood Stanway
1st  August
Wood Stanway
Chipping Camden
2nd August
Rest/fireman training day
3rd August
Chipping Camden

[1] Depends on catching the last train from Laverton, otherwise add a further 2.5 miles.
The Broadway Station Appeal fund is seeking to resurrect the station at Broadway, which was demolished by British Railways in 1963.  A selection of photos showing how it used to be can be found by following this link.  With your help, our intention is to return it to its former glory and once again run train services there.  The platforms and signal box are already well advanced in their replacement, but there is still much to be done.

For those of you who have got to grips with this interweb mularkey, donations can be made by clicking on the following link and providing credit/debit card details:

Alternatively, donations can be made by a good old fashioned cheque:
Please send cheques to:
Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director)
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Tina Sutton and Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.