Tuesday, 26 August 2014

On Holiday in Norfolk

Last week, I left you with the surprising news that I have passed out as a fireman.  That means that I am now qualified to do several things that I wasn't before.  The obvious one is to fire steam locomotives on the GWSR, but that isn't all.  Although I passed a written "Shunting and yard Safety" exam sometime last year, that didn't authorise me to take part in shunting operations until I passed out as a fireman.  Added to that, I can now legitimately act as a second man on the DMUs or diesels.  Not that I'd have much idea of what to do as a "second man".  I once have a cab ride in 40 074 from Edinburgh to Carstairs and for a while L had my hand on the handle, but frankly 1977 is a fair while ago and after all this time, I really wouldn't have a clue what to do any more.

Those delights will have to wait of course, the cleaning sessions that I'm rostered for until the end of September still need to be fulfilled, so on Sunday, it was a case of rolling up at Toddington to clean the 8F for a day's work.   I thought it a good idea to document exactly what is involved in a cleaning turn.  Well it starts in very much the same way as the late Robin Williams movie Good Morning Vietnam,  "It's 06:00, what does the 0 stand for?  0h my God it's early!".    

Even cleaners need to sign on, check the notices and confirm which loco they are cleaning, it would be a bit embarrassing to clean the wrong one.  Not quite as embarrassing as putting a fire in the wrong one, but bad enough.  A cleaner will go far if he (or indeed she) puts the kettle on as soon as they arrive at the mess coach, so that it has nicely boiled by the time that they have put on their overalls and safety boots etc.   After providing the crew with tea, the next step is typically to get the things that the fireman is going to need.  Whilst the fireman does his (or her) pre-flight checks of the firebox and smoke box etc, the good cleaner will be fetching a supply of wood from the wood store and a bucket full of oily rags to get the fire going with:
Wood stacked by the cab and a bucket of oily rags
 Once the fireman has been provided with all that is needed to get the fire going, the cleaner can then turn their attention to cleaning the loco.  Familiarisation with the oil store and where to find the necessary cleaning materials is a good start:
Buckets for hot soapy water and scissors/knife for cutting up cleaning rags
A variety of cleaning materials
Curiously, the Brasso lives on the locomotives, each one having its own supply.   The fireman is in the process of putting a fire into an already warm loco, most cleaners learn fairly quickly that cleaning the things that are going to get hot first is a good idea.  Personally, I prefer to kick off with the smoke box as that will get to be the hottest. If you leave it too late and the fireman has already started his fire, you'll end up cleaning it in a haze of acrid smoke. It's best to get cracking with it as soon as you can  A swift wipe over with a dry cloth to dislodge the worst of the soot followed by a coating of a 50:50 mix of motion oil and diesel or lamp oil does the trick.  It's easiest to apply with an old paint brush from a recycled baked bean tin.
Smoke box being attended to
Next on the list of things that are going to get hot is the boiler.  The boiler is cased in a cladding with insulating material between the two, so it doesn't get quite as hot as the smoke box, but it certainly gets hot enough to be uncomfortable.  Warm soapy water applied with a rag and then cleaned off with a dry rag before the water evaporates and causes streaks is the way to go.
Washing the boiler
 It's not usual for the fireman to ask a cleaner to pull coal forward in the tender,  but on this occasion Martin has gone into the tender to do it himself.  Another advantage to cleaning the boiler early on is that if the fireman builds too big a fire, the loco may blow off.  I really wouldn't want to be up there with those safety valves blowing.  Best to get it sorted before there is too much pressure on the clock.  It is tempting to wash over the running plate as soon as you've finished the boiler, but it's important to leave it until the driver has been round and oiled everything up.  There's no point cleaning it only to find that a load of oily footprints appear soon after you've finished.  I tend to leave the running plate to the last 10 minutes before the loco disappears off shed.

Great Western locos come with brass safety valve bonnets and some even have copper chimney caps.  Should your loco be one of these, then a bit more time aloft in the hot places is usually in order.  I say usually, because on Sunday, 2807 had been pressed into service in a hurry for reasons which will be explained shortly.  Her safety valve bonnet wasn't in place, so Graham and Ed could polish it up at ground level without it being too hot to touch:
2807, no safety valve bonnet
Graham and Ed buffing up 2807's safety valve bonnet
Other things that can be cleaned with Brasso are cabside number plates and name plates if the loco has any of these.  2807 has brass cabside number plates that have been coated with varnish, so getting at them with the brasso is futile.  If you're really lucky, somebody will point that out to you before you spend too long trying to get them to look even better.If not, you'll end up expending a considerable amount of elbow grease and wondering whyevery body else is trying to stifle a laugh.

Once the hot bits have been done, the cleaner can their turn their attention to the things that won't be hot.  The motion, wheels and frames are next.  Just get a bucket of diesel, apply it with a brush and clean off with a rag.  Care must be taken to avoid removing oil/grease from any bearing surfaces.
Motion, wheels & frames
I've always found it beneficial to clean from the outside in towards the middle, that way you're not reaching past and brushing up against things that are still filthy.  To be honest, it's a steam loco, you could easily spend forever trying to get this little lot clean, just do your best.  Eventually it will have to disappear off shed and you can then turn your attention to important things like a cooked breakfast in the Flag and Whistle.

On Sunday, 2807 had been pressed into service at the last minute as 4270 had suffered a broken spring on Saturday.  We haven't suffered from many spring failures lately, but usually when they've gone, it has only been when the loco was inspected at the end of the day that the failure has been noticed.  On this occasion, there was big enough bang passing through Bishops Cleeve to alert the crew that something was amiss.  They stopped the train and located what remained of three of the leaves of a spring in the 4' and proceeded to Cheltenham at walking pace.  The train was rescued by one of our diesels, 47376 leaving 4270 to return much later in the day under her own steam at walking pace.  Apparently that takes a very long time.  On Sunday of course, we needed to get the spring changed, which as it turned out was not as easy a process as I had hoped.
The broken spring before removal, note the lower three leaves on the left are AWOL.
The missing sections of the lower three leaves
Needless to say, the broken spring was located right by the ash pan, where there was the least access to get at it. The spring is held in place by a pin running through the buckle in the centre, which is in turn held in place by a split pin running through it.  At either end is a threaded bar dangling from another pin (secured by two split pins, one on either side) passing through a bracket.  On one side the bracket is riveted in place, on the other it is only bolted and can be removed.  Undoing the nuts that secure the threaded bar (I don't doubt that the "threaded bar" has a proper name, but to the amusement of the many in the steam loco dept who read this blog with the sole intent of scouring every sentence in search of mistakes and errors to gleefully point out to me later, "threaded bar it will have to remain as Google has been uncooperative in disclosing its real name) to the brackets (they probably have a name too) is straight forward enough, even if it required a very large spanner.  Getting the split pins out was a different matter altogether.
New spring ready for fitting  plus a pair of jacks.
Ed fetches a bit of an old sleeper...
....and uses it as a base to jack up the front end
George having a spot of bother with the split pins
 Eventually the broken spring was persuaded to part company with the rest of the loco and after a late breakfast, we had a stab at installing the replacement.  That it took five grown men until lunch time to get it in place should provide something of an idea of the difficulty of the operation.  Not only is the spring extremely heavy (you really don't want to drop one on your foot), but the access past the ash pan to get the relevant bits back in place was tight to say the least.  Ergonomics, is just one of many words that didn't feature in Churchward's dictionary. 
Some slight remodeling was required before the replacement spring would fit
 The trick was to get the new spring connected at the end nearest the front of the loco by levering it up into place and inserting the threaded bar and pin, then simply lever it up in the centre to get the central pin in place and finally replace the bracket at the other end and install the threaded bar and pin, then tension it up.  Sounds easy doesn't it.  You'd be be being deceived.
Ed and Aaron wondering how to get the first of the threaded bars and pins in place
 None of the pins went back in without a fight, but the centre one caused some amusement.  Ian was tapping it with a hammer as several people shifted the spring around so that the holes that the pin would locate in lined up.  All of a sudden, we managed to get the holes lined up, and one tap from Ian's hammer sent the ping flying straight through a launching itself out the other side.  Take 2 saw us repeating the exercise with Ian pushing the pin into place by hand, once more after a period of frustration the holes lined up and the wretched pin shot straight through and out the other side.  The third time we got lucky and it stopped in place.
Finally, George re-tensions the spring
Here's hoping that we don't end up having to change too many more springs.

After a lunch, a quick check in the shed revealed that more progress had been made towards the concreting of the floor.  Road nine had been largely reinstated and now needed leveling off.  Road 8 had yet to be started on.
More progress in the David Page shed
 The afternoon was spent working on 2874.  The task in hand was to remove any items that need to be removed prior to lifting the boiler (don't ask about timescales, it'll happen when it happens).  Steve R shifted some of the plates that secure the boiler to the frame, Steve J, Aaron and I worked on the cab fittings:
Steve R:  Bolts removed, but still won't shift
As far as the cab fittings are concerned, there is precious little left, even most of the floor has rusted away.   Everything that was still there however had survived the last 51 years at least since withdrawal without being removed, so it wasn't going to give up without a fight.  What was still there?  Well the obvious items were the pole reverser and the sanding mechanism.  Less obvious was judging by its location, part of the cylinder drain cock mechanism and one of the damper levers.  Everything else had disappeared over the years.
Getting this cover plate off of the reverser proved to be surprisingly easy
 Under the cab floor once it had been removed was this tapered pin holding the reverser operating arm to the reverser arm (another not sure what it's called moment).  In an act of solidarity with the others of its kind that we had encountered earlier on 4270, the split pin had absolutely no intention at all of parting company with the pin and castellated nut that had been it's home for at least the last half a century. It was eventually shocked free by liberal use of Anglo Saxon.
The recalcitrant split pin.,
What there was of the floor was perforated with rust.
Aaron and Steve J encouraging the reverser arm to become free
 The sanding lever was equally tough to budge, it was rusted on at the top:
Aaron gas-axed these off from the outside
Underneath the floor, the sanding mechanism was buried under a congealed mess of oil, coal dust and rust.  It was hard work digging it out.
The operating arm eventually appeared after digging through 6 inches of crud
From the underneath, we never did free this up before it was time to call it a day
So a few small steps taken in the direction of restoring 2874.  I'm hoping that she'll be in steam before I'm too old for footplate duties.

Finally, as I'm sure you're aware, Dinmore Manor has packed her bucket and spade and set off for a holiday on the North Norfolk Railway (NNR).  Andy and Dan went over to act as 'owner's representatives' for a few days.  Dan has very kindly provided me with this report for of his time on the NNR, our erstwhile resident, Black Prince along with Dinmore Manor were the locos that were in service while they were there. 

"7820 had recently had a water change and a small washout as it had had priming problems earlier in the week. The washout seemed to do the trick, certainly for the two days that we were there as there were no priming problems to report. We went light engine down to Sheringham on "The Breakfast Run" and got our free breakfast bap from the buffet which was lovely! The manor did 5 trips on the Saturday, roughly equating to about 55 miles in total. On the last trip Alan (the fireman for the day) offered me the shovel and it would have been rude to say no! The one thing I had noticed since arriving at the NNR was that the coal that they were using (Scottish) was a lot more smokier than ours (welsh)! Unlike the Welsh, the Scottish coal burned with almost instant heat. This meant I didn't start building up the fire until about a minute before departure. All seemed to be fine until I over did it slightly on the approach to Weybourne, where I miss judged the time in which we would be sat around and the safety valves may have been tested whilst we waited for the 9F to arrive from Holt. This excess steam was useful as Weybourne is right on the start of the 1 in 80 Kelling Bank and other than one quick bit of firing when leaving the station, the fire was sufficient to get the train up the bank sitting between 210 and 225 psi all the way. The line leveled off after that so it was more a case of keeping it quiet on the approach to Holt. On the return the main task was to keep the engine quiet as it is pretty much downhill to Sheringham. This involved just keeping the back, front and sides of the firebox warm, whist trying to put as little in the middle of the box (other than to cover holes) and keep the water at a sensible level. After a good run back to Sheringham we were then shunt released and went light engine back up the line to Weybourne where we raked though the fire (no clinker!!) and disposed of the engine before putting it back on shed.

On the second day, Andy spent the morning looking after 7820 and I had managed to arrange a footplate ride on 92203 which brought back a lot of memories as it was one of the first locos I worked on in the department, and before I had even joined the department had had numerous footplate rides on the run rounds at Toddington, especially on evening trains (with one driver who will know who he is!) which really helped spark my interest in joining the department!

A most enjoyable couple of days at the NNR"

Black Prince, photo courtesy of Dan Wigg
Dinmore Manor & Black Prince, photo courtesy of Dan Wigg
Black Prince's cab, photo courtesy of Dan Wigg
Dan firing Dinmore Manor, photo courtesy of Andy Beale
Dinmore Manor at Weybourne, photo courtesy of Andy Beale
A room with a view, photo courtesy of Andy Beale

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

There has been some good news on the sponsored walk for Broadway station.  I noticed one day last week that there had been a late flurry of online sponsors (I get an email every time there is a donation).  I had no idea what to put this renewed interest down to until I caught up with the other blogs.  The "Steaming to Broadway" blog had mentioned us and the publicity had summoned up more sponsors.  Shortly after I noticed this, the online sponsorship total was sat at £876 (not including gift aid).  I had set what I thought was an unrealistically high target of £1000, and some kind soul anonymously donated £124 to bring the pre-tax recovery amount to exactly £1000.  Thank you very much to that person and indeed to everybody else who has sponsored Tina and myself.  I am pleased to be able to report that cheques and cash posted to the railway for the appeal amount to £214.20 and the current online total including recovered gift aid is £1,277.50, making a grand total of £1.491.70. That's a very worthwhile sum which I'm sure will go some way towards getting Broadway station resurrected.  Thank you very much to everybody who has contributed.

I had planned today to write about the process from start to finish of becoming a volunteer on the GWSR in the steam loco dept and the steps you would take to get passed out for footplate duties.  That was plan A, but whilst formulating the things I was going to say and checking for corroborating information on the main GWSR website, I realised that it had already been done.  There isn't much point in reinventing the wheel, so I'll settle for plan B which covers the last bit of the process of passing out as a fireman.  The actual passing out bit itself depends on not only having made it onto fireman training, but having fooled enough people into thinking that you have become sufficiently competent that you get recommended to go forward to one or other, or sometimes both of the inspectors for final assessing.  In my case, last week I managed to fool Cliff into thinking that I could do it and he put me forward. Thank you Cliff.  Being put forward for assessment isn't a formality, a number of people have dropped out of fireman training part way through in recent years. Even when you get to the day of assessment itself, it is still very possible to fail.

The inspectors wasted no time and it was arranged that Dan would forgo his firing turn on train 2 on Sunday and that I should be assessed instead.  It was very kind of Dan to make the slot available, and I am pleased to be able to report that he found something else extremely interesting to do with his time which will feature in a soon to come blog report.  Step number one of course was information management, the last thing I needed was to put more pressure on myself by letting everybody know that I was about to be assessed.  Best to keep it very quiet to save embarrassment when I failed. Fortunately as I'm the only person with the password for this blog, I felt reasonably confident that the news wasn't going to escape that way.  When good luck emails started arriving in the middle of the week, I knew that my information suppression plan wasn't working.  It turns out that somebody had amended the roster in the mess coach to say that I was being tested. 

You get no choice in which loco you are to be assessed on. Currently serviceable and on site, we only have the three, 4270, 2807 and 8274.  In my case, it just so happened that I got 4270.  At first I was quite pleased with that, however after a bit of thought, I worked out that I had only been out on her once for a fireman training turn and I think once as a cleaner with Derek as fireman when I would probably have fired for half the day.  Of the other running locos, I had only been out on 2807 once in the last year, which had been a bit of a mixed bag when it came to the firing.  I had spent much more time on the 8F, including the past two weeks, with fairly pleasing results, so I'd probably have done best on that.  Regardless, 4270 it was going to be, which to be fair had several benefits.  The biggest benefit as far as I was concerned is that the injectors on 4270 pick up very cleanly, the injectors on the other two available locos are running rather wet at the moment and it's quite a job to get them trimmed when on the move. 

Preparation for the exam starts well into the week before, amongst the things that are inspected is your footplate uniform.  My blues were freshly washed and ironed, my shirt had never been worn on the railway before so there were no oil stains from coupling/uncoupling and the collar didn't have coal dust ingrained into it.  My boots had been polished to within an inch of their lives.  I usually favour wearing a neckerchief as it can double as a dust mask when emptying out the smoke box, but on this occasion I wore a BR tie for the first time.   When it came to it, I was marked down for having boots that were shinier than the inspector's and for wearing a BR tie rather than a GWSR tie.  I considered mentioning that we were supposed to be recreating the past in a "living museum" and therefore my BR tie was more appropriate, but I took the view that if I did, I'd only get docked even more points for being a smart arse.

Sunday morning arrived and I set off earlier than I would usually do.  It hadn't been lost on me that not only was I supposed to be firing 4270, but I was still rostered as the cleaner as well. Mercifully 4270 is fairly quick and easy to spruce up, but even so, I knew that I'd need plenty of time as I'd effectively end up doing both jobs.  I also knew that questions would be asked about the notices at the signing on point and 4270's repair log.  Few of the outstanding repairs were of interest to a fireman, but the one that said that she was blowing off light at 190 PSI caught my eye along with the fact that the baffle plate apparently fouls the fire hole doors. Mercifully, neither seemed to be true, I had no problems with either. 

Finally arriving at the loco, I ran through all the pre-light checks and found nothing amiss. Usefully she still had 40 PSI on the pressure gauge however the water level was only just below the top of the glass.  By the time that she was up to working pressure, the water would have expanded enough to take up all the remaining space, it was going to be a very tough call to get her ready to leave without blowing off.  Being mid August, the weather is still warm enough not to require steam heating, which would otherwise have been a very handy way to have disposed of any excess steam.
40 PSI and no water space
4270 now sports a cover to dampen the sound of the whistle in the cab
One of her lamps has a broken catch, still worked ok though

Ok, so pre-flight checks done, it was time to start the light up.  I wanted every bit of help that I could get, so I didn't bother using a fire iron to sort of clean the grate, I just let Jonathan (who was there for a fireman training turn on 2807) know that I was going into the firebox and dived in to clean the grate from the inside.  A bit later, with a good fire going, I started on the cleaning.  I had been given the hint that the inspectors like to see a clean cab with the plenty of attention paid to the back head, so that is what I did.  Only when the cab was as good as it was going to be, did I venture outside and give the paintwork and brass some therapy.  Somewhere along the way, Neil, the driver for the day turned and got on with oiling up 4270, later again, inspector Chris Irving appeared and went through the process of checking that I'd read the notices and repair log as well as checking that I had the things I was supposed to have with me such as rule book & work permit etc.

Trip One:

    We moved onto the stock over an hour before we were supposed to set off.  You'll remember that we had no water space when I lit her up, well we still had none.  I had long since made my excuses to Chris hopefully preparing him for the inevitable blowing off that was to come.  I discovered that given no dampers, firehole doors open and the merest hint of the blower to keep the smoke out of the cab, she'd sit quite happily at 150 PSI.  For that last hour I was reduced to occasionally sprinkling on a few lumps of coal wherever the fire bed was starting to turn grey, just to keep the fire alight and amazingly she just sat there good as gold.  I managed to build the fire back up at just the right time and when it was time to go, 4270 was sat nicely at 190 PSI (red line is 200), still no water space, and with a good fire.  We were off to Cheltenham and we still hadn't tested the safety valves once. Nobody was more surprised than me. The trip to Cheltenham turned out to be uneventful, pressure and water always where they should be. The Signal and Telegraph team were working on various bits of equipment up and down the line just to catch us out.  For the first couple of trips that meant that Gotherington signal box was open and that we needed to perform a token exchange there even though we weren't crossing another train in the loop.  There was also a team of S&T people on the platform at Cheltenham, including Bill.  Noticing that Chris Irving was on the footplate with me, he put two and two together  and asked "Are you being assessed?".  I sheepishly admitted that I might be.  He smiled and wished me good luck.

The return to Toddington was fair, pressure was well up, water probably slightly too far up, but still no blowing off.  Arrived at Toddington with plenty of water space for the lengthy wait until the next trip.  Lunch was kindly provided by Chris who fetched over burgers for Neil and myself.

Trip two:  

    Having had little first hand experience of 4270, I found myself bearing in mind the reports of other firemen.  Two different firemen had recently confessed to having had bad trips on 4270, with the pressure dropping to 140 PSI before they managed to recover it.  I was determined that this wasn't going to happen to me, and it didn't, far from it in fact.  Let's just say that the safety valves finally got a bit of a testing between Toddington and Winchcombe on this trip.  As we were approaching Cheltenham I had to demonstrate that I knew how to stop the train in an emergency.  This time there was no amateur dramatics, Neil just stepped back and said "Off you go then".  Chris took over the injectors and dropping off the token.   Knowing that you're supposed to slow down to 10 MPH for the station is all well and good, but if you don't have a speedo, how are you supposed to tell?   Neil asked me how fast I thought that we were going.  I didn't have much idea, but decided to answer with the speed that I knew that I should have been going, 10 MPH.   "This is more like 5 MPH" he said, which I took as a cue to speed up a bit.  Better to be a bit too slow than a bit too fast.  We managed to stop somewhere in the platform and make the train safe.

At Cheltenham, Chris got off and made the return trip on the cushions, I think that was mainly because he wanted to put some distance between himself & the safety valves. This meant that for the first time I was out on the running line with just a driver in the cab, nobody else at all.  It felt both rather strange and I have to say rather good.
Neil seemed to be fairly relaxed about it though
I haven't mentioned it so far, but the weekend was one of the "Real Ale" events, with beer tents at both Winchcombe and Toddington.  Derek had been firing on Saturday and therefore had to miss out on the beer, but today he was back and not on duty.  He wandered up to wish me good luck whilst we took on water:
Derek with the beer, Neil makes do with the water
The obligatory hand shaking shot with Chris in front of 4270

 Trip three:  

    Chris had decided that he'd seen enough, or to be more accurate heard more than enough and beat a hasty retreat to the mess coach for a cup of tea, leaving Neil and me to it.  Needless to say, from a firing point of view, this was the best of the lot, I managed to avoid blowing off at Toddington even though the station master and the guard conspired together to send us off five minutes late.  I'm sure that they have secret web cams set up in all of the loco cabs, if the fireman is out of water space and the needle is on the red line, hold the train up for ten minutes, on the other hand if the fireman is in trouble with no water, pressure or fire, blow the whistle and wave the green flag bang on time if not a few minutes early.

One of the duties of the fireman is to keep the cab clean and tidy, the floor should be swept free of coal dust and the pep pipe should be used periodically to wash the cab floor and  dampen down the coal in the tender/bunker to keep the coal dust down.  4270 was rushed into service just in time for the gala, and thus far, no time has been found to catch up on some of the jobs that haven't quite been finished.  One such job is the pep pipe, which is yet to be installed.  From the cab floor point of view, just do your best with a broom.  Dust suppression however is a different matter, there's not much you can do with a broom in the tender or bunker to keep dust down.  Neil had a cunning plan.  On each trip so far, when we'd got to Cheltenham, we'd stopped at the water crane and dribbled some water into the bunker to damp down the coal in readiness for the return journey.  It had worked fairly well it has to be said.  On trip three, for a change, Neil clambered up into the bunker and it was me that operated the water delivery lever.  It turns out that I was a bit too heavy handed with the water.  The result was that enough coal was washed out of the bunker and into the cab to completely cover the floor.  As a technique for pulling coal forward, it was remarkably effective, at keeping coal dust suppressed it worked a treat.  As far as keeping the cab clean and tidy, it left quite a lot to be desired though.  I spent the run around shoveling some of it into the firebox, leaving Neil to shovel the rest back into the bunker whilst I went under to do the hooking on.  Getting the cab floor swept clean again after that took some doing.

After disposal, I had been intending to take a photo of an L plate on the shovel, about to be dispatched  into the firebox.  I was just a little slow on pressing the shutter, and Neil opened the regulator a moment to soon.  If you look carefully, you can just make out the L plate up at the front left of the firebox having been sucked off of the shovel by the draught. 
Too late.
 Anyway, that was it, somehow I have managed to get passed out as a fireman.  I'd best learn how to do it now.  The list of people to thank includes just about everybody in the steam loco dept for words of advice and encouragement, so I won't even try to give a list of their names. Ade of course ought to be singled out for thanks as he was my instructor, and clearly a man of great patience.  He still has a 100% record at getting students passed out, which speaks volumes for his ability to teach people how to fire.   

Sometimes the advice from various people was contradictory, but always well intentioned.

"Don't panic fire"

"If the pressure's falling and you've got a hole in the fire, don't waste time looking, just spray coal everywhere."

"Big lumps travel furthest"

That last one was from the days when I struggled to get coal up to the front of the firebox and it came in very handy for a while.  It's not a problem I have now, in fact quite the opposite, stopping coal just a foot or two short of the front is the challenge.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Four's a Crowd?

The concrete floor of the David Page shed has made significant progress lately.  I have received a few photos from Chris Blake of work on sealing and painting the section that has already been laid.  The work here being done by Tim, Tim, Peter & John:
Photo courtesy of Chris Blake
Photo courtesy of Chris Blake
I poked my nose in the shed on Saturday morning to find that this section now finished and that the Peckett and Foremarke Hall's tender had taken up residence:
First section of floor finished
Not only that, but a fair bit of work had taken place on the next section, road 9's track had been lifted and some work was taking place on installing drainage channels:
Road 9 gone, 360 degree excavator at work on the drainage
 Just in case you were worried about where the rest of Foremarke Hall is, the bottom end is over on road 7 (boiler at Tyseley).  Just because she is currently out of service doesn't mean that she has been forgotten about, a team of people were around to carry on working on her.
Foremarke Hall
Jamie kindly sen me a few photos of Dan out on his first solo firing turn during the week on the 8F.  Dan's been wandering around looking like "the cat who got the cream" ever since he passed out as a fireman and who can blame him:
Dan peering out of the office window
Fireman Dan at work
Both the above photos courtesy of Jamie Christie.

Saturday was another crew training day.   Ade was down for driver training and me for fireman training:
Ade oiling up 2807 from underneath

Meanwhile Tina and Steve got on with some cleaning once the fire was going
My steed for the day was the 8F.  She hadn't been out on Friday, so I arrived expecting to find a largely clean grate with just the remnants of a warming fire at the back end.  This wasn't at all what I was expecting to find:
80 PSI
Nor was I expecting to find this rather nice BR Lucas firing shovel:
Worth a bob or two!
The 8F had been brought into steam the day before for work on her injectors. The BR Lucas shovel has now been reunited with its owner, so no need to rush over to Toddington in the hope of "liberating" it.  My problem was that not only did the 8F have 80 PSI on the pressure gauge, but the water was nearly out of sight in the top of the glass.  I am pleased to be able to report that somehow I managed to get her ready to leave on time without blowing off at all.

To create space for the shed floor works to take place, 35006 needed to be pulled out of road 8 into the sunshine:
2807 starts off the shunt
35006 works on topping up her suntan
Work is proceeding well on 35006, a quick look inside the cab revealed that most if not all of the fittings are in place and piped up now:
35006 cab interior... looking good
 My firing instructor for Saturday was Cliff.  Cliff had a cunning plan which was that I should do the light up and the driver do the oiling up, thereby leaving Cliff free to appear at some point much later on.  It proved to be a difficult to get a driver to take the turn and eventually Steve was signed up for it.  Unfortunately, Steve was also driving the evening fish and chip train, if he arrived early enough to oil up the 8F, that would have taken him over his permitted hours.  The solution of course was that Cliff should arrive early and do the oiling up, so that Steve could arrive late and sign in just before departure time.  Best laid plans etc.

Usually on a fireman training turn, there are just three people on the footplate, the driver, the instructor and the trainee.  This week was rather different.  For the first round trip, Val, the wife of Mike, one of the members of the 8F's owning group appeared with some friends for whom she had organised footplate passes.  We took one of them down to Cheltenham on the footplate and then they changed over and we fetched the other back to Toddington.  Chris Bristow did the same thing for the second round trip.  For our third trip, we'd promised Graham, a new cleaner (but already a fireman on the Llangollen railway) a trip out.  We worked it out later, that there had only been just the three of us on the footplate for just one trip from Toddington as far as Winchcombe in the whole day.  I'm afraid that there were just too many of them and I was too busy with the firing duties to do any noting of names or take many photos etc, but here are some photos of a few of our visitors:

They all seemed to enjoy themselves and they also managed to keep out of the way enough for me to get on with firing etc.  Traveling on the footplate is a very pleasant way to spend your time.  I believe that there are still a few spaces available on the 7th of September and 5th of October if you'd like to try it

Part of fireman training is to be able to safely bring a train to a stop in a station in the event that the driver becomes incapacitated.  Steve thought that a good way to learn would be to drive the loco away from the stock in platform 2 and up to the water column on platform 1.  Steve would tend to my fire whilst I did that, and sure enough he baled some in.  When we got back on the stock, I was informed that "We're off in 20 minutes, best get your fire sorted".  Needless to say there was a little at the back of the grate and a fair bit up the front, with nothing in the middle.  Expletives have been deleted at this point.  I made a valiant attempt to get fresh coal on the live fire, get them caught alight, spread them across the grate, get more coal on, and by the departure time of 25 minutes to four, I was ready, with well over 200 PSI on the clock and somewhere over three quarters of a glass of water along with a good fire. At this point, Steve took delight in telling me that he had "misread" the timetable and we weren't actually off for another twenty minutes. Even more expletives deleted.   I'm not exactly sure how, but somehow I kept the 8F from blowing off until the real departure time.  Another valuable lesson leaned, never trust your driver!
Steve (L) and Cliff.
New cleaner, Graham at work on the 8F
 Normally a cleaner wouldn't expect to get to do any firing on somebody else's fireman training turn, but for the last trip, Steve decided that I should try and stop the train in Cheltenham Race Course Station.  On previous occasions when this has happened, the "dieing" driver has launched into some Oscar winning performance leaving me in no doubt as to what was going on.  Steve's performance was rather less dramatic and I had to ask him "Have you just died?".  The reply was "Yes" (apparently dead men do tell tales), so I grabbed the regulator and carried on in his place. This was a little further back up the line from Cheltenham Race Course station than might have been expected. As Cliff claimed to be dead too, I asked Graham to grab my shovel and keep any holes that may appear in the fire filled, run an injector whenever the pressure got a little high along with dropping off the token at Cheltenham.  I am rather less confident with the brakes on the 8F than on a Western loco, but it all went ok, speed limits were observed, horn sounded at the appropriate points, though Steve, (in spite of being recently deceased) did sound the horn once just as I was reaching up for it.  We even stopped somewhere in the platform rather than just short or way past it in Hunting Butts tunnel.  Graham seemed to relish having a few minutes on the shovel too.  I was looking to blame him if we blew off in Cheltenham (if there is one thing that I've learned in my time at the GWSR, it's that the cleaner always gets the blame).  Graham was wise to what was going on and kept the fire in good shape for me to prepare for the return journey without causing us to blow off.