Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Tea and Thunder

35006 is now back in service, an issue with a clack valve having been identified and corrected.  She should be running on Tuesday (today as I write this) & Wednesday as well as this coming weekend.  These will probably be the last days she runs now until the 2017 season.  Unusually on Saturday, she was running as train 2, which only gets 2 round trips as opposed to train 1, which gets 3. 

Jonathan, being a fan of all things Southern Railway was delighted to be getting a turn on 35006:
Jonathan checking 35006's fusible plugs.
 Yes, the temptation was strong!

John, being the manager of Foremarke Hall, might have preferred to have swapped locos for the day, as she was the other loco running.
John boarding 35006
I was rostered for the day on Foremarke Hall, with Chris (trainee driver), Andy (his instructor) & James (cleaner).  As always, a steam loco's crew are powered by prodigious quantities of tea:
Chris (l) and Andy with the first brew of the day
Jonathan, delighted to be out on 35006.
James cleaning Foremarke Hall...
...whilst Neil cleaned 35006...
...it seems that cleaning 35006 is a two man person job
 The most recent weather forecast that I had seen suggested that the day would start off with light rain, which would get progressively heavier as the day went on.  I took the view that putting up the storm sheet would be a sensible course of action.
Storm sheet just fitted.
 Just to prove that it's all we ever do, yet more tea was consumed:
(l-r) Neil & Jonathan
(l-r) Chris, Andy & Jonathan
We had a bit of a conference regarding the weather, conflicting forecasts on mobile phones were consulted and the decision was taken that it probably wasn't going to rain after all and the storm sheet could come down.

The maroon rake had been left overnight in the north siding.  Just as we were about to go off shed and hook onto our stock, the Duty Operations Officer decided that we needed to go to the north siding and pull the maroon rake into platform 2, and then hook onto our own stock. 
Pulling the maroon rake out of the north siding
 Andy had arranged for OTC to deliver (yet more) tea to the footplate, along with bacon rolls for breakfast when we arrived at Cheltenham Race Course station.  Thanks Andy.
A very welcome delivery
 As you have probably worked out by now, I prefer to remain largely anonymous, the man behind the camera.  I wasn't expecting to be asked by somebody if I wrote the steam loco dept blog.  I denied it of course.
Chris & the chap who had rumbled my identity.
I remained cool, calm and collected, and despite the distraction, called for Chris to shut off the water supply at just the right point.
Full, but not overflowing.
Chris checking for hot bearings
 Just to make a change from tea, I bought us all ice creams
Chris & Andy, engaging Clive in conversation.
In my usual inimitable style, I let James have a go at firing for the second trip and attempted to put him off by distracting him with ice cream, just as he was building up the fire.
Off on the second round trip
 At the end of the first round trip and the start of the second, there was a drone flying near Hayles bridge.  There are of course a number of regulations regarding drone flight, this one as far as I could tell was being operated perfectly responsibly.
No, that's not a spider on the camera lens.
 James made a pretty good job of firing the second trip, we never lacked for pressure or water, nor was there any blowing off.
James firing Foremarke Hall.
The lineside drainage team were in action near Chicken Curve.
 It was actually quite warm, the coal needed plenty of damping down with the pep pipe to suppress the dust.
James damping down the coal
We weren't the only ones to be found drinking tea of course
James uncoupling.
Bill, in Toddington signal box
 It was at this point, that James dropped down off the footplate to head over to the mess coach and fetch us even more tea, whilst we carried on to our stock back in platform 1. No sooner had I hooked the loco to the stock and clambered back up into the cab, than the heavens opened. The downpour was heavy enough to obscure the section signal.  Needless to say, the storm sheet was refitted in a hurry.
It's somewhere out there.
 Some of our visitors were still keen as mustard, one carried on taking photos from the shelter of a tree at the end of platform 2.
 It is a little tricky to depict the intensity of rain in a photo, but here goes:
Coming in under the storm sheet...
...Dripping down off the cab roof
A flash of lightning, extremely closely followed by a clap of thunder was more than a little disconcerting.  In theory, the cab of a steam loco should act very much like a Faraday cage, and the crew should be entirely safe.  The theory is all well and good, but I wasn't too keen to put it to the test.  Mercifully, although the rain continued unabated for a while longer, the lightning didn't return.  Damping down the coal with the pep pipe was no longer a necessity.

In spite of the torrential conditions, not only did James make it back with the teas, but Andy also braved the weather by going back to the restaurant car and getting us all cake.  He returned muttering something about getting the tender modified to have a corridor connection.
(l-r), Chris, Andy & James with our afternoon tea.
Found the section signal at last!
The rain was still coming in sideways under the storm sheet
 We took shelter in Greet tunnel, where it was significantly drier.
Dry at last
 Emerging from the other side of Greet tunnel, we found that the rain had stopped and we continued in the dry.
James' gloves drying on the warming plate
 Seeing where you are going when running tender first with the storm sheet up is not the easiest of tasks.  Using the coal rake as a prop to hold the storm sheet up and provide a small window to see through is about as good as it gets.
A room with a view
For reasons that weren't at all clear to me, there were a few balloons outside the TPO coach that houses the model railway at Winchcombe.  Was it somebody's birthday?
It caused some amusement anyway.
The end of the day, Chris checks for hot bearings one last time
 The day wasn't quite over though, normally we'd push the stock into the north siding and go to dispose, however the electrical generator under the buffet car was playing up.  Some representatives from the Carriage & Wagon dept wanted the buffet car pulling onto the crossing at Toddington, where they could get at it and effect a repair.
C&W Waiting for the buffet car to arrive
Loosening the generator
Dragging it out onto a trolley.
 Once that was sorted, and the stock pushed back into the north siding, we set off to the pit for disposal.  Hardly had I finished raking through the fire, and checking the smoke box, than Jamie kindly disappeared underneath Foremarke Hall to empty out the ash pans.  Many thanks Jamie.
Jamie, a blur of action underneath Foremarke Hall.
Once more, tea was graciously provided for the hard working crew, this time by Eleanor.
Tea with a smile
Needless to say, Jamie got a well earned cuppa when he emerged.
 I had been assured that a number of people would send me photos of the various activities on Saturday, including continuing work on 3850, 2874 & 2807 plus the foundations for some new containers that will be delivered soon.  Sadly my spies have all let me down on this occasion... I will of course be docking their pay!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Real Ale and Football

Yours truly was down to fire 35006 on Saturday, but upon my arrival on Friday evening to put in a warming fire, all was still not well with the front injector.  Dan was investigating the problem when I arrived.
Dan, investigating the injector issue.
 Unfortunately, the issue remained unresolved on Friday evening, and I wound up being assigned Foremarke Hall for the turn on Saturday instead.  Given the recent dry spell, and the danger of lineside fires, I was tasked with fitting Foremarke Hall's spark arrester before lighting it up (fitting anything in the smoke box is better off done before lighting up in my experience).
Foremarke Hall's spark arrester, prior to installation.
 That was of course the kiss of death on the weather, no sooner was the spark arrester fitted, than the heat wave of the last week or so came to an abrupt end.

It wasn't just rain falling from the sky that got people wet.  Safely cleaning the upper reaches of a steam loco can be a challenge, and one technique is to use a hose pipe and a long handled brush.  This is all well and good, as long as the person with the hose pipe is accurate.  The protestations from Eleanor (cleaner) and Phil (driver) whilst John operated the hose pipe suggested that his aim left something to be desired.
John operating the hose pipe
 A little later, when all had switched sides:
Phil notices that he is suddenly getting rather damp...
...and ducks for cover.
 There is only one way to dry out after being accidentally dampened, and that is to warm yourself off in front of a good fire (I knew where one could be found) whilst frying up a hearty breakfast.
Phil dry's off as he attends to cooking breakfast
 We don't usually cook breakfast on the shovel, but when we do, it's always a very welcome event.
A pile of bacon and sausages on the plate, a few eggs to finish off with on the shovel
 I cunningly waited until he had cooked ample for three hungry people, before mentioning that Eleanor was largely vegetarian... all the more for me.
Grub up!
Bacon, sausage & egg sarnies... what better way to start the day!  Thanks Phil.
Aaron sneaked over from 4270 and grabbed a spare sausage
 The day progressed in the usual way, uneventfully shuffling our way to Cheltenham Race Course and back.
Crossing 4270 on the way back.
Phil checks for hot bearings
 Well there was something a little out of the ordinary, for the last few weeks, a football has been beside the track just south of Bishop's Cleeve crossing.  There was a danger that it might lure children to stray onto the line to retrieve it, so Phil arranged with the guard that he would stop on the second trip and remove the temptation. 
Phil fetches the football up onto the footplate...
...ball safely stowed away, we set off again.
 The football was in a fairly sorry and deflated state, I offered to put it out of its misery by putting it on the fire, but Phil seemed confident that he could resurrect it once more.  I'm not sure why he'd bother though, last time I heard, his team lost 12:0.

The weekend was another of the successful Real Ale events, with beer available at both Winchcombe & Toddington.  This is something of a torture for the crews, as we have to remain sober throughout, in fact as most of us drive to and from the railway, we can't even visit the beer tent after we've finished our shifts.
There seemed to be a healthy turnout for the beer tent (other side of the waiting room)
Entering Greet tunnel...
...and leaving it again.
Eleanor firing Foremarke Hall.
The third round trip involves a ten minute layover at Winchcombe, before we can cross train 2 (by this time diesel hauled).  It's not uncommon for one of the crew to head on over to the signal box and speed up the process a little by collecting the token directly from the signal man, rather than getting him to come across to platform 2.
Foremarke Hall looked very nice from the signal box

 I've managed not to ash out Foremarke Hall since she came back into traffic.  Getting the ash out of the various nooks and crannies is something of an art, and there are now a variety of hosepipe attachments to facilitate getting water into all the necessary places.  John kindly volunteered to demonstrate how it should be done.
John washing out the front of the ash pan
...and later on the rear.
 The hot tip, was that I needed to have got Foremarke Hall positioned slightly further forward on the pit, to reduce the likelihood of getting wet.
Decidedly damp trousers
 It's fairly common to encounter birds of one sort or another sat on the track as we're going along, they usually fly out of the way in good time... usually.  Evidence under the tender suggested that a pigeon had not been quite quick enough in taking to its wings.
The tender had been tarred & feathered.
Phil leaving at the end of the day with the football
For what was probably the first time in very many years, 2874 found itself indoors and receiving a little TLC.  2874 has the later Collett version of driving wheels, whereas 3850 has the earlier Churchward ones (Don't ask, I believe the difference between them is minimal).  The opportunity to swap them over is to be taken, so each loco will ultimately have the correct type.  To that end, the brake rigging from 2874 has been removed, which is necessary to lift it off its wheels.
Ian heating up a retaining pin, before removal.
2874, in a nice warm shed for the first time in a very long time.
Brake linkages, removed, cleaned & primed...
...whilst some were still awaiting attention
And finally, 2874's last fire (from, or shortly before her withdrawal date of 31st May 1963) has been rather belatedly cleaned out of the grate by Roger.  What little was left of the ash pan, grate & brick arch came out with it, along with a couple of the pipes from the exhaust steam injector.
Remains of the fire/brick arch/exhaust steam injector pipes (photo courtesy of Roger Tipton)