Monday, 27 March 2017

A Quiet Week - Or Was It?

As we trundle through March, the weather is slowly getting better and more and more people are going out to see and enjoy what the Cotswolds has to offer - which meant the start-up of the first mid-week service of the year at the GWSR.

After being the Thunderbird engine over Race Week whilst 7903 and 35006 carried the race-goers, Dinmore Manor has been the engine of choice all week, working alongside the DMU on the Blue Timetable.

After the rush of the winter maintenance schedule and the races, it all seems rather quiet in the shed this week.

In fact you could say it is starting to look like the Broadway Canopy Works as long lengths of green steel are slowly spreading out across the shed like slow-growing lichen. It is going to be an impressive canopy when it is finished.

Inside the DP Shed Broadway Canopy Works at Toddington

In the machine shop, I found Neale busy drilling one of the many, many, holes need to allow for the fitting of rivets.

Neale drilling holes in sections of canopy

One hole down... the electromagnetic drill gets to work

Neale was happy to chat to me and furnished me with some interesting facts about this build:
  • There are around 3,500 holes to be drilled
  • Rivets used are either 3/4 inch or 5/8ths thick
  • 3 thicknesses of steel are used; 8mm, 10mm and 12mm
  • In various places, parts that require joining are 5 widths thick!
On the subject of Broadway, the share scheme reached a massive £1,200,000 over the last couple of days - and with 34 days left to run and £34,000 to go, will it make the target of £1,250,000?

Have you bought your shares yet?
Have you been putting it off? 
Well, maybe it's time to buy before it's too late!

Back to the locos. As mentioned, on the face of it, it's been fairly quiet - but, dig a little deeper beneath the surface and actually for one loco group here at the GWSR it's been a bit hectic.

2807 is going off to Didcot Railway Centre next month, for their '50 Years' gala from 14th April - 1st May, so the team from the Cotswold Steam Preservation Group have been working hard to get her up and together and looking tip top. On Wednesday it was a group effort to polish her up and at some point during the week she had had the front running board repainted:

2807 looking exceptionally shiny from the front
...and not looking too shabby from the sides either! Not bad for 112 years old
A clean footplate means a well looked-after engine
Meanwhile, one of her fire bars receives attention to remove some clinker 

If you would like to come and see 2807 before she goes and/or are interested in becoming a volunteer at the GWSR, 2807 will be on display during the Volunteer Recruitment Fair on 1st and 2nd April. 

The view in the shed almost resembled a museum of its own, with one viewpoint showcasing various eras of rail heritage.

Meanwhile work on Dinmore's tender is continuing - David and Kenneth have been tasked with the laborious job of sanding down the black paint ready for one more coat of black.

David and Kenneth (hiding) sanding down the paint on Dinmore's tender
Some of you may know that I have been working on some photography for the new guidebook ready for when Broadway opens - and on Saturday 25th March, finally the weather was perfect, beautiful blue skies with mare's tail clouds. It was a good opportunity to get some shots of Dinmore Manor in action as well.

7820 approaching Winchcombe

Dinmore steaming up to Platform 2, Winchcombe

Dinmore makes her way to the front of the
carriages to haul the lunchtime train out of Toddington
The sunshine brings out the best in everyone and everything - and today was no exception. Dinmore looks lovely in black with her red and brass contrasting colours anyway, but on a day like today, with the sun glinting off the brass features, it really was a sight to behold. It is a testament to the cleaners who have spent their valuable time to volunteer and get this loco - and the rest of the fleet - looking like a million pounds. 
Beautifully polished nameplate glinting in the sun
Basking in the sun - one stunning loco
Wowing the crowds on Platform 1
Everything disappears in a haze of steam
Not quite full steam ahead... but impressive nonetheless!

John at the helm handbrake

And with a loud whistle, off to Winchcombe she goes with 7 carriages

But, there is no rest for the wicked as they say - normally after 3 trips it's time to dispose of the locos and tuck them up in the shed with a cup of cocoa and a bedtime story (one about a certain blue engine, of course). Not today, though. Dinmore Manor gets to stay out late tonight and haul the Volunteer Special Fish and Chip train.

The Black Manor simmers at Toddington

This particular Fish and Chip special was a token of appreciation for the volunteers of the railway. However, with some 850 working volunteers across the railway in various departments, it wasn't possible to take every single one. So, spaces on the train were on a first-come first-served basis, limited to 150 volunteers.

Fairly busy, even at 6:20pm
Volunteers trickled in for a 7pm departure

Steam rising from the carriages
As the light started to fade, the carriages began filling up, ready for a twilight trip to Cheltenham, where fish and chips would be served and enjoyed by all. Unless of course, you don't like fish, then perhaps you might have a sausage instead!

Volunteers awaiting the off and having a merry time
Many drinks of various kinds were consumed!

Finally, Dinmore Manor is out for a Volunteers Special Fire & Drive later in the week, which yours truly is going to be a part of. Very exciting!

If you (or someone you know) would like to wield a fireman's shovel or get your hands on the regulator at the GWSR, you can find out more information here. But, be quick - 2017 Footplate Experiences are selling out fast with only September and October left!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Chris Evans' Breakfast Show BBC Radio 2

The beautiful rostered locos for the Races - 35006 and 7903,
whilst Thunderbird 7-820 sits as a backup.

There has been a flurry of excitement at the Railway and on social media today, following the news that Andrew Beale had a telephone interview on BBC Radio 2 this morning, during Chris Evans' Breakfast Show, as part of 'Great Job Wednesday'.

As you may know, Gold Cup week is in full swing, when thousands of revellers descend upon Cheltenham to watch the finest racehorses in action and hopefully leave with more money in their pockets than what they arrived with. A few race-goers decide to travel in style and book a ticket on one of the GWSR's glamorous 'At The Races' specials. They are generally fully booked each year which just goes to show how popular they are - however not everyone knows about them, it seems - Chris Evans being one of them.

The interview came out of the blue when someone mentioned to Chris that you could go to Cheltenham Festival via steam train! Andy did an excellent job in the interview, and who knows, maybe Mr Evans will pay us a visit in person soon?

You can find the full interview/topic here from 2:08:11 - 2:16:50 (available until Thursday 13th April 2017).

Driver Andy, Fireman Chris and the Merchant Navy

Monday, 13 March 2017

Gala Loco Announcements

We are now in the position to be able to announce the next two visiting locomotives for the Cotswold Festival of Steam gala on the 27th - 29th of May.

As you may recall, we have previously announced the attendance of Black Five, 45305 courtesy of the Great Central Railway and the 5305 Locomotive Association:
45305 passing Kinchley Lane on the GCR
  We are now proud to present the second loco in the line up thanks to the Severn Valley Railway & Push Pull LTD, Collett 0-4-2T, 1450 plus autocoach W238W.
OK, so this is 1450 with autocoach 178, but you get the idea
 The train can be driven from either end, with the driver in the locomotive cab when running loco first, or in a cab at the end of the autocoach, operating the regulator, brakes & whistle, whilst the fireman back in the loco does the rest.
1450, plus an unidentified autocoach on the Dean Forest Railway
1450 with goods at Dunster on the West Somerset Railway
 The 14XX class were no strangers to our line, with eight or nine of the class being shedded at any one time at Gloucester Horton Road.  Regular duties for the class were on the Cheltenham St James' to Honeybourne locals.  An autotrain working was a sensible choice as the turn involved working from Cheltenham St James' to Cheltenham Malvern Rd, which involved a change of direction at Malvern Rd.

1450 has been a guest at our railway on occasion before this, the last time being for the 2010 gala.
1450 sandwiched between 2 autocoaches on Stanway Viaduct in 2010.
It hopefully hasn't escaped your attention that the GWSR is in the process of rebuilding Hayles Abbey Halt.  The very first blog post from the team that are recreating it included a photo of 1424 which judging by the water overflowing from its water tanks had just screeched to a stop at Hayles Abbey Halt.  That blog post can be found by clicking on this link.   The halt is now substantially complete, but won't be open for use during the gala, yet seeing 1450 pass through with an autocoach will see another bit of our line's history recreated.
Running alongside the river Dart on the South Devon Railway
1450 was built in July 1935 (originally numbered 4850) and spent almost all of its working life at either Oxford or Abingdon.  Its final few years were at Taunton, Exeter & finally Exmouth Junction, from where it was with drawn in May 1965.  Unlike most surviving GWR locos, it didn't suffer the ignominy of waiting for many years in Barry Island Scrapyard before being saved, but was instead sold directly to the Dart Valley Railway.  It was one of the last two 14XX's in BR service.
1450 at Staverton on the South Devon Railway
We are now also in a position to announce a third visitor for our gala in the shape of is USATC S160, 6046, which comes to us courtesy of the Churnet Valley Railway.
6046 at Cheddleton on the Churnet Valley Railway
  The United States Army Transportation Corp's S160 is an American design of 2-8-0, built primarily for hauling heavy freight trains on the railways of Europe at the close of WWII.  Some 2,120 were built by a variety of manufacturers and shipped to Europe.  Manufacture commenced in 1942 and continued through to 1945.
6046 departing Consall on the Churnet Valley Railway.
 Around 400 S160's found their way to the United Kingdom during WWII, before being shipped on to mainland Europe after D-Day.
6046 on the Ipstone branch at the Churnet Valley Railway
 6046 was one of the last batch of 55 S160's locomotives, built by Baldwin Locomotive Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and delivered direct to France.  Although many were scrapped in France at the end of their service there, 6046 was later exported to Hungary. 
No prizes for guessing the location, note the air pump on the smoke box
 At the end of her working life in Hungary, she was brought to the UK for restoration and eventually ended up along with sister S160, 5197 at the Churnet Valley Railway in the ownership of Greg Wilson.
5197 (l) and 6046 at the Churnet Valley Railway
  174 S160's were allocated to the Great Western Railway during WWII, and they were a regular sight on our line during that period.  Unfortunately I have unearthed no photos from the time (wartime railway photos in general are fairly rare). 
5197 leads 6046 up the incline to Ipstone.
 The home fleet of 2807, 4270, 7820, DInmore Manor, 7903, Foremarke Hall & 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co will of course all be in steam as well for the gala, along with the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway (entry included in the gala ticket price).  Why on earth would you want to be anywhere else? Book your tickets online now.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Testing, Testing...!

The final few days before the first running weekend of the season involved getting most of the steam locos ready for their steam tests on Friday 3rd March. As anyone familiar with steam engines will know it's easier/better to get a warm loco going rather than starting with a stone cold one - this means lots of warming fires to be lit in preparation. Wednesday 1st March saw the first batch of fires going into 35006, 2807 and 7903, and then the same again on Thursday. On Thursday they were all due to have their pre-test test, to ensure that any niggles, if there were any, could be ironed out ready for the real steam test with an inspector on Friday. 

On the Wednesday while making my way down to the department, there was the really lovely smell of locos in steam in the air (a smell that's hard to beat, and much missed over the winter period!), and the yard and shed were buzzing with activity. Something else that was hard to miss was the impressive sight and sound of 4270 happily blowing off in the yard, having a pre-test test of her own, it was a real feast for the senses:

4270 blowing off whilst 7903 quietly sits with smoke gently rising from her chimney

4270 hit the redline

Quite a sight!
Meanwhile in the shed, there were quite a few visitors to the GWSR all capturing the occasion for themselves with their cameras and camcorders. I tend to take my photographs in RAW format these days as it gives you greater control and flexibility over the resulting images, using real-time data to process the image at home and potentially being able to 'rescue' shots that would have previously gone into the rubbish bin. I had one such image, seemingly over-exposed beyond use, with 90% of it being pure white. But a quick play around with the settings and I appear to have created a vintage style image of 4270 which I thought was worth sharing with you all.

4270 from the 1920s maybe?!

Meanwhile in the shed, 2807 was having a new set of brake blocks fitted ready for the new season, however one of them was proving a little stubborn to fit, it was too tight and needed to be removed for some light fettling...

New brake blocks on 2807...
...but this one was misbehaving...

...time to show it the angle grinder!
It is awkward and heavy work at the best of times, but today it appeared that most of the brake blocks needed some adjustment for one reason or another. It was a real team effort involving quite a few 2807 Group/Steam Dept volunteers, and by the end of the day all but one had been fitted.

Elsewhere in the shed, Dinmore and Dinmore Ted sit in readiness for a mechanical inspection. It is also nice to see the buffer beam has had the glossy top coat of red. Looking fabulous. 

Dinmore and Ted
Also looking fabulous, is 7903 - Alex was hard at work cleaning the loco so she looks her best for the coming season. Alex, along with a number of other volunteers, has kept the locos clean and shining over the winter period - it really helps the rostered cleaners on running days to keep the locos looking tip-top, as well as maintaining a good image for the GWSR.

Alex doing a good job of cleaning the locos, as always
But as we all know, where there is work going on, there is dust and dirt - as an example, after having most of her brake blocks adjusted with an angle grinder, by the Thursday morning 2807 had gained an orange coating from the sandstorm of metal particles in the air, which Roger M had to wash off.

Steam Test Day (Friday 3rd March) arrived, I wasn't able to come in to capture anything but I have an extract from a report from Brian from the 2807 Group to share.

 "I was is at 05:45 after leaving London at 04:00 to light up 2807. We brought her into steam very slowly and only lifted the safety valves at 13:00. Clive Norton (Driver) with me (Fireman) and owners rep (Bruce) then spent a few hours trundling up and down testing, and braking in the new brake blocks as well as looking for any issues following winter maintenance. 

I am very pleased to say that at 16:30 this afternoon 2807 was signed off as "Fit to Operate" and rostered as the loco to open the 2017 season at the GWSR. FANTASTIC!

Other good news today was that 4270, 7903 and 35006 also completed their annual boiler exams."

So there we have it - the locos are go for 2017!

Saturday 4th March came along, and again I was unable to come in and annoy people with my camera but thankfully Ray had kindly agreed to come in and do the honours for me. All the photos from Saturday are Ray's. 

Dinmore Manor had quite a bit of work done on her on this day to get her ready for the season, including a test run to be done on Sunday. Eleanor got to work re-fitting the vac hose on the front, now that the buffer beam had been finished:

Vac hose being re-attached

Job done!
But that wasn't all - her bogie underkeep bolts had to be tightened up, the hand brake was requiring some adjustment, and the valve timing needed to be set.

Last but not least, the all-important warming fire had to be lit ready for the morning.

Warming fire courtesy of Eleanor
2807 hauls the first passenger service out of Toddington in 2017 with Steve O, Paul G and Andrew W on board.
35006 now has a flexible roof between the tender and the cab

As there was only one steam loco in service, the other locos that were having steam tests the day before needed cleaning or to be disposed ready for their turn out on the line. 

4270 having her smokebox cleaned out

7903 sitting in the sun

Alex at work

Wednesday 8th March there was another big cleaning session, but this time Dinmore Manor and 2807 were getting some attention.
Alex at work again!

Terry and Bernie cleaning 2807 after being out on the weekend - the 'de-grease monkeys',
they called themselves. Catchy!
The tamper was sat in the yard after giving the track a once over to make sure it's the best it can be for the new season:

You can read about the tamper and see it in action in this post from the Broadway Extension Blog.
The tamper's job is to pack the ballast under the railway tracks to make them more durable. With a smoother lying track it also makes the rail journeys more comfortable for those travelling aboard.

7903 gently steams while poking her nose out into the sunshine. Spring is on the way!

Inside the David Page Shed, the final touches of paint are being applied to the Starfish by Tim. He's painting over the anti-corrosion primer with a grey undercoat, with the top coat of black going on next.
Tim paints the chain on the wagon
Just behind, the usual gang could be found riveting sections of Broadway canopy together.
Riveting stuff
Out in the yard again, I found Peter G trundling up and down the road with bucket-loads of gravel to try and fill in some of the holes that have developed in the ground over the years. Neale and Mike are busying themselves arranging it in the right places. Now that this has been done it will make the moving around of fragile items from the workshop to the shed much less treacherous!
Mike telling Neale how it is done!

Looking back across the yard made for a nice view. A simmering Hall, a 28XX and a Manor all in shot.
Locos in the yard

After being disposed of earlier in the week, 4270 was back inside the shed. She's now had her reverser cover painted to match the rest of her bodywork.

Reverser cover - looks great!
Meanwhile the other parts that Chris had primed last week were now drying in the relatively dust-free container after having a coat of green of their own.

When these parts are fitted, 4270 should be much less draughty.

In Dinmore's container, she had some parts of own hanging up and drying:
Dinmore's Valve Chest Covers
This is where they would normally sit - note the bolt holes 
The wood store is looking good and full - you may recall the large lorry-load of pallets we received over the winter. A lot of these pallets have been pre-cut and neatly stacked ready for use and stored in an old wagon off to the one side of the yard.

Neatly stacked wood, protected from the elements. Photo courtesy of  John Cruxon

But, it hasn't always been this way; the wagon we use now was probably installed in about 2007, and the image below shows how things were done before hand. Wood chopping was a regular activity for many members of the department, out in the elements, with wood stacked how you can see below.

Ade S (l) and Clive N on woodchopping duty in 2004/5
(Photo sent by Clive Norton)
Now, the wood store is managed and maintained by two gentleman - Roger 'King of the Woodstore' Burrows and Philip Bulford, who week in week out restock the woodstore. Good job!

You could say, the firemen have never had it so easy!

On that note we have quite a lot of people on fireman training at the moment in March and April - many of the cleaners have moved up a level during 2016 and are now being taught the fine art of keeping a loco safely in steam. Best of luck goes to Bryan, Eleanor, Ashley, Alex, Graham, John and Andy on giving the drivers as much steam as possible. And also to Blog Companion Chris B, Chis H, Clive and Paul who are on driver training in March/April whose job it will be to take the steam away again. Maybe we will see some of you later in the year with your passing-out photographs!

This weekend 11th and 12th March it is a Blue timetable once again, and you can find 7820 Dinmore Manor out and about on the tracks.