Friday, 29 April 2016

Announcing Erlestoke Manor as Our Third Gala Visitor

With thanks to the Severn Valley Railway and the Erlestoke Manor Fund, I am delighted to be able to announce that our third visiting loco for the Cotswold Festival of Steam Gala "Swindon Built", is Collett 4-6-0, Manor Class, 7812, Erlestoke Manor:
Erlestoke Manor on the Severn Valley Railway
Erlestoke Manor will of course be running alongside our own Dinmore Manor.  Ostensibly the same, Dinmore Manor was built by BR in 1950, whereas Erlestoke Manor was built in 1939 by the GWR.  Both were of course built at Swindon.
Erlestoke Manor, seen from Dinmore Manor on the Severn Valley Railway
Erlestoke Manor spent the final few years of its working life allocated Oswestry, Croes Newydd & finally Shrewsbury and was commonly reported hauling the famed Cambrian Coast Express, a duty that our own resident Dinmore Manor often performed as it too finished its working life at Shrewsbury.  Both locomotives being withdrawn from Shrewsbury on 30th November 1965 and sent to Barry Island scrapyard, from where both were ultimately saved.
7812, Erlestoke Manor on a 30742 Charters event
As a reminder of our other guests to the "Swindon Built" gala, celebrating the 175 years since the founding of the legendary Swindon works, we also have, courtesy of the Great Central Railway, BR standard 9F, 2-10-0, 92214.
92214 at the West Somerset Railway
9F's were common visitors to our line during their relatively short working lives.  Built in 1959, 92214 is the youngest steam locomotive built at Swindon that is still capable of being steamed, although there are two others (92219 & 92220, Evening Star) which are younger still, though neither of those are capable of being steamed at the moment.  92214 bookends nicely with our own resident Churchward, 2-8-0, 2807 which was built in 1905 and is the oldest Swindon built steam locomotive capable of being steamed.  92214 is turned out in a lined green livery, the same as 92220, Evening Star (the last steam loco built at Swindon, and the last steam loco built by BR).

Our other guest, also courtesy of the Great Central Railway is Ivatt, 2-6-0, 46521.  You might be surprised to see an LMS loco included, but Swindon built a number of LMS locomotives of both the Stanier 8F class and Ivatt 2MT class.  None of the Swindon built 8F's are capable of being steamed at the moment, but two of the Ivatts are, including 46521.
46521 on a Don Bishop photo charter on the South Devon Railway
46521 on a Don Bishop photo charter on the South Devon Railway
46521 has only just been turned out in BR express green, a livery which she hasn't worn for many years, and is one of the few members of her class that wore that livery during BR service.  

This is all on top of our own home fleet of Churchward 2-8-0, 2807, Churchward, 2-8-0T, 4270, Collett, 4-6-0, Dinmore Manor and Bulleid 4-6-2, 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N Co which will be making its debut in public service in the heritage era at our gala.
Churchward, 2-8-0, 2807 in full flight
Churchward 2-8-0T, 4270 on a demonstration goods
Collett, 4-6-0, 7820, Dinmore Manor
Bulleid Pacific, Merchant Navy Class, 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N.Co.
The three days of the gala will feature an intensive timetable, including a late running of a 14 coach train on the Saturday, hauled by 35006 & 92214 top and tailed.  Trade stands and traction engines at Toddington (plus a bouncy castle for keeping younger visitors entertained) as well as the narrow gauge railway (rides included in the gala ticket price), a beer tent at Winchcombe and refreshments at Gotherington, along with rides on the demonstration track on a Wickham trolley or possibly hand pump trolley.   As with previous years, Brake van rides (£10 surcharge for a round trip, Toddington to Cheltenham Race Course and back) and footplate rides are available too. Discounted advance tickets are also available by following this link.   The timetable is now available online and can be found by clicking here.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Is Your Journey Really Necessary?

This weekend saw the "Wartime in the Cotswolds" event taking place.   At first sight, it seemed like any other day when we are running steam services:
4270 setting off from Toddington as usual...
 What was rather less usual, was that this was done under the gaze of a Sherman Tank which just happened to be parked in the car park:
It would be a brave traffic warden that put a ticket on that.
Odd name for a tank... "Lily Marlene"
 Elsewhere in the car park were a variety of other military vehicles.  I rather liked the half track with the anti-aircraft machine guns on the back.
I bet it would clear the road of "Sunday drivers" too.
In fact there were rather a lot of military vehicles on display...
...Very nice, though I dread to think what the fuel consumption figures are like.
 Also, on the edge of the car park, I couldn't help but notice this tent with a stove pipe emanating from one of the door flaps.  A running joke in the steam loco dept is that a certain fireman will get relegated to firing the waiting room fire during the gala... it will be the tent stove from now on.
It must get pretty smokey in there.
Dinmore Manor and 2807 were the other two locos running (in fact outside of the gala, the wartime weekend is the only occasion that we have three locos in steam this year). Tina has recently been promoted to the rank of firing instructor and was training Graham on this occasion.
(L-r), James, Jamie, Graham & Tina)
 I'm not sure why, but the local constabulary was paying close attention to Dinmore Manor, perhaps it was suspected that there were fifth columnists on the footplate.
Dinmore Manor and the long arm of the law.
 I think that Dinmore Manor managed to get under way before anybody was arrested.  I somehow doubt that wartime railway stations had young ladies singing songs into microphones on the platform, but the fact that Toddington did, added to the general (and indeed other ranks) ambiance of the occasion.
Chanteuse on platform 1
 There were plenty of suitable wartime signs to be found scattered about the place:
It seems that the RAAF were a little short staffed.
 On a slightly more serious note, so is the GWSR in certain departments. I understand that the station shops need a few more volunteers. 
If you like meeting people and have a bit of time to spare...
 This next sign met with my approval
Julie Andrews for me please!
 There were plenty of vendors of beverages, food and militaria in the car park.  Most were charging their customers in 21st Century currency and prices, but ostensibly at least, not all...
Cue Monty Python
 Another sign that caught my eye was this one:
How tidy is your kitchen?
 My favourite though had to be the following one, there is a touch of irony to the one on the left.
Is your journey really necessary?
 Hopefully none of our passengers saw that and thought twice about getting on our trains.
They'd have had a few problems if they'd wanted to travel anyway
 Many people got into the spirit of things and wore 1940's era clothing (no I didn't, I have nothing quite that modern in my wardrobe).  The 21st century popped up every now and again though.
Caught on his mobile phone... probably texting Herman Goering
 The rather excellent RAF control room re-enactment team were at it again in the diesel shed.  None of our diesels can quite claim to be of 1940's vintage (it's a fair cop, neither can Dinmore Manor... nor our three rakes of BR Mk 1 coaches), so one left in the shed was concealed with camouflage netting.
RAF Control Room
OK, perhaps the camouflage netting wasn't quite large enough to completely conceal the class 37
 Back to the signs again, we now have a few banners scattered about in a variety of locations advertising the Cotswold Festival of Steam gala on May 28th -30th
You really don't want to miss it!
 Bulleid pacific, Merchant Navy class, 35006 will make its first public trips during the gala, including heading a 14 coach train on the evening of Saturday 28th May.  Guest locos, BR standard 9F, 92214 and Ivatt, 2MT, 46521, both courtesy of the Great Central Railway will be in attendance, plus a third guest loco shortly to be announced.

Footplate rides as well as  advance tickets are now on sale.

Andy is one of the gala committee, he was caught round behind the David Page shed about to pass on details of the third guest loco to a Nazi spy.  Fortunately the army was on hand to detain him before he could leak any state secrets.
Andy, for you the war is over!
 Various battles were being fought during the day in and around the David Page shed, as well as out along the line.  I'm not sure why, but 35006's injectors were the location of one of those battles:
Steve (l) and Dave grapple with 35006's injectors
Chris was on hand to supervise.
 One of the automatic brake tensioners under 35006's tender needed to be machined slightly to stop it fouling on something when it was operating.  Steve and Dave later refitted that after the machining had been done.
Dave (l) and Steve fitting the automagic brake tensioner.
 The track work in the yard was coming in for some attention too, the Permanent Way team lifted a section of track on road seven and replaced the life expired wooden sleepers with concrete ones. 
Permanent Way team at work in the yard.
 Dinmore Manor's own tender is now in the latter stages of restoration, one of the remaining tasks being to straighten out the steps on the driver's side which were bent slightly down.
Mark demonstrating how to change a tyre?
 The trolley jack was there to apply pressure under the step, Ian then applied plenty of heat, and the jack was pumped enough to correct the angle of the step.
Ian applying heat to the step
The finished job, it will need a bit of a touch up to the paint of course, but it's level
The information that I provided last week about that tender appears to not have been entirely factually correct, and several people have pointed this out to me.  Here is a fairly comprehensive explanation from Mark Harding:

"It seems you have fallen into the minefield that is GWR tenders! The tender that is being built for Dinmore is indeed a Collett 3500 gallon tender, however the chassis is from a Collett 4000 gallon tender (identical chassis) that either came out of Barry with 3850 or came from Gloucester or Swindon I forget which. The tank is a new build to the original design, so not original per se. The Collett 3500 gallon tenders were originally designed to be used behind Manors and Granges etc but in the event only one Manor, 7814 Fringford Manor is known to have had one. The tenders Peto refers to are what were termed 'Churchward Intermediate tenders', which were a batch of 10 (plus another 2 later) Churchward 3500 gallon tenders (like Dinmore currently has) rebuilt by Collett to have a greater water and coal capacity. These have higher sides, a full length fender, a capacity of probably 4000 gallons and a weld line about 2/3rds the way up. 6 of these were fitted to the Manors and pictures of them are common. I'm pretty sure there aren't any originals left but I think 7325 has a replica one built on a Churchward 3500 chassis. Hope that clears things up. Dinmore will be unique in having a proper Collett 3500 gallon tender, it won't be totally original, but is anatomically correct."

My skills at tip-toeing through minefields appear to be somewhat lacking.  Thanks for the correction to Mark and others who wrote/commented.

And finally, the evening saw a 1940's dance with a live big band in one of the marquees in the car park.  Dancing is strictly a spectator sport in your humble scribes view, something to do with having two left feet.  On this occasion, Ed and Laura were present along with their families and friends from the GWSR to celebrate their impending marriage.
Ed (r) with his brother Tim.
Guarding their truck as 4270 makes good its escape down the line
Fear not, those rifles whilst of a similar vintage to 4270, have, unlike 4270,  been deactivated.

The truck behind them is owned by Ed, and they drove it many miles to get it to Toddington.  His new vehicle is not exactly frugal when it comes to fuel consumption though, the headline figure of 6 MPG would deter many.
Ed demonstrates the calibrated fuel depth measuring stick
Amongst Ed & Laura's guests last night, was George, who lacking any suitable 1940's attire wore a suit.  I'm rather more used to seeing members of the steam loco dept, wearing either their blues, or more usually grubby overalls.  It's easy to forget that we all have lives outside the GWSR at times.
George, he scrubs up well.
George, with Ed and Laura in their Home Guard uniforms
 Best wishes to Ed & Laura for a long, healthy and happy life together.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Don't Cry Because it's Over, Smile Because it Happened

It's been a good week for reports from other people.  The first message I received was from Roger saying that he had managed to free up the boiler of 3850 ready for lifting.  Boilers acquire an amount of rust on them over the years, which effectively "glues" them into place in the frames.  It's not unheard of for a crane to try and lift a boiler off of a loco and find that the whole loco comes up... or more likely, the crane goes down.  The trick is to tease the boilers up from the frames with a few jacks, just to break the grip of the rust, then when the time comes, you can be relatively confident that the lifting off of the boiler will go according to plan.  Roger had spent some time doing exactly that, and now the boiler is ready to be craned off when the time comes (within the next month).
3850's smoke box free of its saddle (photo courtesy of Roger Tipton)
Roger enjoyed the job so much, that he went on to do the same to 2874:
2874's smoke box saddle raised a bit (photo courtesy of Roger Tipton)
The first time daylight has shone through there in over 50 years (photo courtesy of Roger Tipton)
Another job that is well on its way to completion is the water tank in the yard.   It has been stood up for a little while now, but missing much of its internals and the delivery arm.  More work has taken place recently, the next six photos all courtesy of Peter Gutteridge.
Neal up a ladder
The ball-cock.  It's just like a big lavatory inside...
...well OK, you don't find too much scaffolding in a lavatory.
The delivery arm being lifted into place
Neal attaching the delivery arm
Job done.
I said job done, whilst it looks pretty complete, there is still as yet no water supply available for it.  It is hoped that a temporary water connection can be rigged up in time for the gala, which will be a considerable help.  I am informed that although the only person visible in the photos is Neal, that also Mark, Tim & Peter were involved in the work too.  I have just noticed from his email that Peter described the delivery arm mechanism as the "swivel and trunk" and professed to have no idea if they are the correct words.  I have no idea either, "swivel and trunk" sounds a lot better to me than my guess of "delivery arm".  No doubt somebody will turn up and tell us both what it is really called.

Saturday morning started dreary and wet when I set off from home.  I was a little surprised to find that when no further than 5 miles from Toddington, I could see snow on the hill tops.  By the time that I reached Toddington, not only was snow still falling, but there was quite a fair amount of it settled on the ground.
Snow on the cleaning rag collection bin
 Whilst we're on the subject of the cleaning rag bin, the pile of rags squirrelled away in the oil store has diminished.  We will certainly need many more rags before the Cotswold festival of Steam gala (theme, "Swindon Built") at the end of May.  If you happen to have any suitable rags to spare, please donate them by means of the bin photographed above, attached to the fence by the entrance to the yard at Toddington.  Once you have done that, please come along to the gala with a feeling of pride that you will have helped the locos look so clean.  We are also now accepting advance bookings for the footplate rides, see here for more details.

It's not every day that we get snow on the ground, so I grabbed a few Christmas card shots for posterity.  The service loco on Saturday was 2807:
Sat on her stock, waiting to set off with the first train
Some evidence of steam... hopefully the crew were managing to keep warm
Setting... and largely obscured by the emissions from the cylinder drain cocks... fact at times, she was completely obscured
Emerging from a cloud of her own making...
...and heading off down the line.
 Dinmore Manor is fresh back from her stay on the Llangollen Railway and has been trial fitted with her new tender.  When Manors were first built, by the GWR (and later BR), they didn't make new tenders for them, they just recycled Churchward 3,500 gallon ones from withdrawn locos.   Later on, half a dozen Manors received a Collett version of a 3,500 gallon tender, only one of which survived into preservation.  The tender that you can see below is that sole survivor
Yes, the tender is in green undercoat at the moment, it will go black to match Dinmore Manor soon.
The fireman's view of the tender
 In the above view, the tool boxes haven't been put in place yet.  Note the nifty doors for holding the coal back, which aren't present on the Churchward tenders.

Foremarke Hall is coming together very quickly now, all the cladding is in place.
Foremarke Hall in the David Page shed
Grinding the smoke box door to the correct profile
Many of the cab fittings are in place, though the big red handle is an obvious omission, there are others
 One of the items that was fitted on Saturday was the ejector
Man-handling the ejector pipe across to the engine.
The ejector pipe in place
Lastly with the ejector attached to the ejector pipe.
 Sean was at pains to highlight to me how well painted the ejector body was, and how heavy it was too, he had been worried that it might break his kitchen table when he was painting it...  well where else would you paint one?

There is going to be a rearrangement of various containers etc in the yard, which will enable the provision of a permanent route for the pipe to deliver water to the parachute tank mentioned near the beginning of this post.  To permit this work, some items needed to be "lost" elsewhere.  The erstwhile mezzanine floor from the work shop was one such collection of things that needed shifting.
The first of many piles of what had been the mezzanine floor.
 Once that had gone, there was room to set up a stack of old sleepers, which will be used to place 3850's boiler on when a crane is hired in to lift everything else.
A couple of old sleepers Len (l) and Martin took a break to supervise
Job done, (l-r) Len, Kenneth, Martin and Andy survey their handiwork
 You'll note that by this time, that the sun was out and all the snow had melted away.

And finally, I spotted a notice on the wall of the mess coach from Nick Jones, a director of "Locomotive 5542 LTD".  With Nick's permission, I am including it here
Farewell 5542, we hope we see you again soon.