Monday, 27 July 2015

Play Day for the PFP

Yes, I know, nothing posted here for almost a fortnight, a shocking state of affairs.  You just can't get the staff.   To misquote the late Sir John Betjeman, I was "Summoned by Fells" and consequently out of interweb access for a week or so. I like to think of it as "Time off for good behaviour", but I don't think that I'm kidding anybody apart from myself.  Before I embarked on my ramblings in the Lake District though, I had a couple of firing turns, a week ago Wednesday and a week ago Saturday. 

Before that though, the last blog post feature on 35006 having passed her boiler test prompted Roger to send me the following photo of Ian setting 35006's safety valves. 
Photo courtesy of Roger Bush
Not a job for the faint hearted.

Anyway, Wednesday 15th, was a firing turn for me on the "Planet's Favourite Prairie", 5542.   It was also a driver training turn for John under the tuition of Mark.  Chris appeared early to clean the PFP on what started out as a fairly miserable morning weather wise.
Chris cleans the PFP in the damp.
 Meanwhile, in the David Page shed, I noted that contractors have made inroads into fitting the shuttering on road 7 in readiness for further concreting
Road 7
 The only other train running on the blue timetable was the DMU, which we crossed at Winchcombe.
Tony exchanges tokens with Bob.
 At weekends, we run the red timetable for much of the running season, so I rarely get to do a blue timetable.  As far as steam is concerned, the blue timetable is rather like train one of the red timetable, but with the added bonus of a run out to Laverton on the first trip.  It was so long since I'd had to fire a loco out there, that I'd almost forgotten what to do.  NB, for next year, the loop is being lifted and relocated to Broadway station.  If you fancy going out to Laverton behind steam, then this season will be your last chance for a few years, except for special timetabled events like the steam gala when trains will be top and tailed.
Running round at Laverton
 Peering closely at the above photo, you can just make out a 360 degree digger at work on the embankment in the distance.  For more information about what was going on, please take a look at the Broadway Extension Blog.

There's always a lot to do in a short space of time if you have to run out to Laverton and back, we got the Station Master to assist with refilling the PFP's water tanks.
"Ooh, I've never done this before!"
John (l) and Mark, in the Planet's Favourite Office
 At the end of the day, there was an unexpected bonus.  One our resident locos, Dinmore Manor has won the prestigious "Engine of the Year Award 2014", from the Everything GWR website.  The award was waiting collection in Mark's in tray.
Mark and the plaque.
I believe that the plaque will end up being mounted somewhere in Dinmore Manor's container at Toddington for her volunteer support group to inspect.

 Come Saturday, I made a late start as I was down to fire an evening train.  As usual, there was plenty going on with Foremarke Hall's tender
John wields a paint brush
(l-r), Steve, John, Tim & Phil admiring their work
Work was also taking place on Dinmore Manor's tender.  Mark spent a while cleaning up four new tender safety links, two for Dinmore Manor's tender and the other two for 2874.
Mark at work
Tim went on to paint them with rust inhibiting primer
 The wheels for the tender got a second coat of paint
Eleanor painting the wheels from 7820's tender
 More riveting was taking place by the drag box
Phil inspects the work and consumes a lollipop
Ian heats the rivet, Rob holds the rivet in a pair of tongs
Rivet being inserted, Mark prepares to turn the head of the rivet over

Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD have set up a display board advertising their locos (2874, 3845, 3850 & of course 7820, Dinmore Manor) and the benefits of share holding/volunteering alongside the one that the 2807 group recently installed by the coal dock.
David painting the supports
David, David & Mark, fixing the display board in place
 Mark thought it was rather unfair of me to take his picture when he was in a position that he couldn't really escape from.  On the contrary, all is fair in love, war & blogging!
The finished display board.
 Hopefully some of our other loco owning groups will erect similar displays in the near future. 

For the evening, I was booked down as fireman on an owner's evening with the PFP. 
Driver Andy makes the cabside number plates sparkle before we set off
Sat at Toddington awaiting the 5542 group's guests
 Owner's evenings are always good fun, crucially, there is invariably free food laid on for the crew, in this case fish and chips. There is no more surefire way of guaranteeing a happy crew than free food.  

Directors, shareholders and their relatives/friends all wanted to come up and see their loco and as expected a few wanted footplate rides too.
Andy with John Wood of the 5542 group.
Our first passenger, I seem to recollect that his name was Keith, sorry if I got that wrong
The PFP's shadow on the hillside
Andy, posing for the camera rather than tucking into his fish and chips.
Fish and chips scoffed, Andy set off to find out who was to be our footplate passenger for the way back and the departure time.  "We're off at five past" he said.  "Ok, what time is it now?"  I asked with the thought that I needed a bit of time to prep the fire and get the water level up.  "Four minutes past", Andy replied.  I seem to recollect that I said something like "£$&@%*#~", but it could quite possibly have been "#*>%&£@".  Anyway, some ferocious shovelling followed and somehow we made it back without needing to stop for a blow up.

Once the PFP had been safely tucked up in bed, a cup of tea consumed and a shower taken, it was straight off to Lake District for me to trample over the fells and also to sample some narrow gauge steam on the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway and at Threlkeld Quarry.  

And finally, modern men are supposed to be "In touch with their feminine side".  I haven't a clue what that's supposed to mean, quite possibly that we're expected to take more than one bath each year or even change our underwear occasionally.  There again, it might not, what do I know!   What I do know however is that if I had to have a dark side to be in touch with, then diesel hydraulics would be that dark side. Hymek, D7076, which was the guest loco for this year's diesel gala is one that I'm pretty sure that I haven't clapped eyes on since it last ran for BR.   Anyway, Neil (who was driving D7076) kindly pulled the lever marked "Clag" when he noticed me on the over bridge between Toddington and Laverton.
D7076 on its way to Laverton (thanks Neil)
 The return from Laverton was just a bit too late for a full blown sunset, but it didn't make for a bad photo anyway.
D7076 silhouetted on Stanway Viaduct
Do not adjust your web browsers, normal steam service will be resumed next week.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Tick Tock

If like me, you read all of the GWSR's blogs, then you'll have been missing your regular fix of the Broadway Station blog.  The good news is that its resurrection is imminent.  On Wednesday evening, I met up with John and David from the Broadway Area Group and helped them set up a new blog.  I even told them all I know about running one (obviously that didn't take long).  The bonus for me was a quick tour of their lovely new signal box.
No levers installed yet, but the frame for the interlocking mechanism down below is in place
One of the windows has been fitted
The roof is done, one level of scaffolding has been removed
 The Braodway Station blog, like the station itself is in good hands, I'm looking forward to hearing more news of their progress.

Leaping forward to Saturday, I was rostered to fire 2807 as train 1 on the red timetable.  Eleanor was rostered as cleaner and I had arranged beforehand for her to do the light up.  The draw back to that is that the poor old fireman ends up doing half of the loco cleaning as well.  Apparently I've been passed out as a fireman too long and forgotten how to clean locos properly if the comments from some of the others who were around are to be believed.
The "not shiny enough" safety valve bonnet
 The driver for the day was Ian, who judging by the hi-viz attire was keen to make sure that he wasn't overlooked by this blog's photographer.
Ian oiling up 2807.
Eleanor sorting out the smoke box after getting the fire lit.
 Meanwhile, over on 5542, rostered as train 2, its crew are preparing for the day ahead:
Driver Steve oils up.....
.... Firing instrutcor Clive cleaned 5542.....
.... and trainee fireman Ed scoffed mini apple pies
 Ed did rather more than scoff apple pies, he drank tea too for instance:
Ed drinking tea.
 Ok, alright, Ed did do some proper work too, he even took my bin load of smoke box ash to the ash dock along with his own.
Ed shifting 2 bins of smoke box ash.
 I have no idea how Ed got on during the day, but at least he had everything under control each time we passed him at Winchcombe.  One of the golden rules of firing, is that if you're going to have the loco blowing off at all, for heaven's sake, don't do it where anybody else in the steam loco dept will see you.  Pulling out of Toddington or at Winchcombe are the two places that you really need to avoid.
2807 & 5542 getting ready for the day's duties.
 It's a while now since the gala, but 34092, Wells has only just left.  She has just gone to the East Lancs Railway for an event there before returning on the mainline to her home on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway.
34092, Wells at Toddington on Saturday.
I've already mentioned the Broadway blog and the fact that it is soon to return, but there are many other means of disseminating information in the digital age than a blog.  Andy Protherough of the lineside drainage management team uses the photo sharing site Flickr to keep us informed of their activities.
Andy at work in culvert 33A at Dixton on Saturday
 Before you ask, no, I had no idea that it was culvert 33A that Andy was in when I passed him on Saturday, I found that out from his Flickr site.
Ian in the office
 It was a fabulously warm day on Saturday, perfect for a spending on 2807.  5542 of course, with its small and fully enclosed cab would have been unbearably hot,  I defintely had the better choice of loco for the day.
Crossing 5542 at Winchcombe
 I have no idea who the crews were on Sunday, but given that it was raining heavily pretty much all day, I can probably say without too much fear of contradiction that the crew of 5542 were more than a little grateful that they were aboard the PFP, whilst 2807's crew would have gladly swapped.

Not unusually, there was a slight water overflow issue when we stopped to fill up the tender for the first time.  Curiously this always seems to happen when I have my camera handy,  you'd be forgiven for thinking that there was some kind of conspiracy going on.
Eleanor tries to keep her feet dry.
 One of our carriages had a fairly new vac bag on it, the connectors being set about 90 degrees apart from the ones on 2807  Not the easiest of things to couple them up at all, definitely like wrestling with a couple of elephant trunks.
Eleanor doing battle with the pugnacious pachyderm proboscises
Eleanor had a go at firing a round trip and made a pretty good job of it.  She managed to keep the pressure and water levels where I wanted them to be, though I was amused to note that she after firing, she would watch the pressure gauge like a hawk, to see if what she had done had achieved the desired effect.  Certain people used to complain that I did that when I first started.
Eleanor feeding the fire.
 I noticed that platform 2 at CRC was receiving some attention
"Quick lads, run away, he's got his camera out"
As I write this, no news of their activities has appeared on their blog, but I'm sure it will in the fullness of time.

It seems like we're struggling to find enough crews for the DMU, not for the first time I received a message from Jeff during the week asking if I was free to help out as second man.  Already being rostered to fire during the day, I couldn't assist, but Tina stepped in to cover at least some of the trips.  Clearly she's not a second man and as there were no other women crewing the DMU, I suppose that made her the first woman.
Jeff & Tina relax on a bench at Toddington before setting off to Winchcombe on the DMU.
 At one point during the proceedings, whilst waiting to depart Toddington platform1, a lady on platform 2 pointed at 2807 and said "You're on fire".  Fearing another burning lamp incident like the one that one of our crews experienced last week, I glanced along the running board at the spare lamp, but there was nothing amiss with it.  The lady pointed underneath the loco, so I got down to investigate.  Sure enough, some tar on one of the wooden sleepers had been ignited by a bit of hot ash falling out of the ash pan. 
Fire on the tracks
 I threw the contents of the water bucket from the footplate over it, which did the trick. 

Whilst we had experienced no difficulty at all in setting fire to a sleeper, the gauge frame lamp on the other hand kept going out and needed relighting several times.
Ian relighting the gauge frame lamp.
 Last trip saw the 47 take over train 2 from 5542.
Crossing 47376 at Winchcombe
There are three items of news.  First, it has been agreed that Collett, 2884 class, 2-8-0, number 3850, owned by Dinmore Manor Locomotve LTD (DMLL) will come to Toddington for her 10 year overhual.  3850 has spent the last 10 years based on the West Somerset Railway, with few excursions elsewhere, though as you may remember, she was one of our guest locos for the 2014 "Back to Black" steam gala.
3850 at work on the West Somerset Railway
As a bonus, the West Somerset Railway have very kindly agreed to allow her to move to the GWSR in mid September so that she can see out the last couple of weeks of her boiler ticket running here.  Aside from a DMLL owners group evening and running some of our scheduled timetable services, she will also star in a 30742 charters photo charter on Monday 28th September using our freight train.  For the photo charter only, she will be specially weathered to look as she would have done at the end of steam on the western region of British Railways.  At this point in time, it is believed that the photo charter will be her last day in service.

The second piece of news that I can bring you is that another milestone in the return of 35006 to steam has taken place, one of her con rods has been trial fitted for the first time. 
Fireman's side con rod in place.
35006 sat in the David Page shed, one down, two to go
Finally, the third piece of news is that 35006 successfully passed her steam test today.  She has had a few trial steamings of her boiler over the last few months, enabling a number of minor niggles to be identified and corrected.  I'm afraid that the cosmetic restoratoin for display at Winchcombe during the "Speed to the West" steam gala at the end of May caused some delay in the process, but she has finally got there, her 10 year boiler ticket is now ticking away.  I have been hoarding photos from a number of sources of the trial steamings, which the 35006 group didn't want publishing until the official steam test had been passed.  Here are just a few of them:

The first warming fire was on 19th April and light steam on the 20th, these photos all courtesy of Steve Parker:
Ian putting in the first fire since BR
Evidence of combustion at the chimney
The cylinder drain cocks appear to be working ok
A bit of oresssure on the gauge
The following few came to me from Ian Chilton at a later date:
Getting pressure up
Ok, perhaps a lot of pressure now
Dan Wigg provided the following from other steam tests in June:
Getting the fire going
Off the mark
Evidence of steam
At the red line
 And finally, from today's official steam test, all photos courtesy of Dan Wigg:
Hitting the red line
Blowing off
Being inspected by the boiler inspector
Smiles all round, she's passed
Thank you to Steve, Ian and Dan for providing photos of 35006 during her various steam tests.  There are still a number of things that will need to be finished off before 35006 can enter traffic, not least of which are the remiining two con rods, and these things may take a while yet to complete however the owning group and the volunteers who work on her are to be congratulated on achieving this significant milestone in the resurection of their magnificent steam locomotive.