Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Bricks & Trains 2017 / Ash the Master Signwriter

Now that one of the most important events in the GWSR calendar has finished (report to come soon) now is the time to fill you in on some of the older news that has been there in the background whilst important Gala announcements and updates were being made.

You may recall that a group of us were tasked with the job of painting the wheels destined for 3850 as they were due to go down to the South Devon Railway for machining.

The wheels loaded up ready to go down to the SDR
The wheels have now had their machining and Mark Young went along to capture the moment - the below photos show that the crankpins have been machined and quartered, thrust faces machined and the axle journals skimmed and polished. The tyres were re-profiled to P1 for the leading and trailing axles and P9 for the driving and intermediate driving.

Whilst we are on the subject of 3850's overhaul, if you would like to help the cause then you can do so by either becoming a member of Club 3850 or by Sponsoring a Part - every little helps they say, to get 3850 Steaming Back.

While some overhaul projects are underway, we are just putting the finishing touches to others.

Dinmore's New Tender (T2928) was looking fantastic after its final coat of black last month, and it has just had the BR cycling lion added to the sides of it by way of a waterslide transfer.

Applying the graphic...
(Photo by Mike Solloway)
...hard work but worth it
(Photo by Mike Solloway)
I'm sure you'll agree on how great it looks - if you visited over the weekend you will have seen Dinmore out and about with her new tender. I believe the old one is being overhauled now (but don't quote me on that one). 

The Starfish wagon was finished last month also. However as with most projects they are never really finished - there was just a final finishing touch left to complete - the task of painting the lettering on the sides.

As you can imagine it requires an extremely steady hand, plus basket loads of patience and commitment.

One side finished

Ashley Haines, 18, stepped up to the paint tin and undertook the task. This is the largest project of its kind that Ashley has taken on and I'm sure you'll agree that he is doing an absolutely first class job.

A steady hand is needed as Ash makes the curve on the C

Ashley first joined the railway around 6 years ago, joining the Youth Group and has since become involved in the DMUs and is now also being trained as a fireman in our own Steam Department.

The Starfish is diagram P14 wagon. P14s are easily distinguishable from other Starfish as they are the only starfish diagram with GW self contained buffers. They were built from 1911 to 1914 and comprised a total of 270 wagons.

There are seven P14s known in preservation - two at the Dean forest Railway, one at Pontypool and Blaenavon, one at Choseley & Wallingford, one at the Severn Valley and one at Tyseley along with 14111 at the GWSR. The GWSR also currently has three other Starfish wagons - one P2, a P15 and a P20. The P15 and P20 are seen regularly in the railways freight train.

14111 is a reasonably early example of a P14 dating from 1911 or 1912 and may be the earliest preserved example. 300 wagons were originally ordered but production was curtailed by WW1. The wagons were used by the railways construction department for the conveyance of ballast and spoil along with other construction related materials.

The Starfish in a previous life

It could have been supporting its own miniature ecosystem!

14111 was purchased by Mark Y and Ian C from the Dean Forest railway back in 2012 and it was in a pretty sorry state having part of the floor missing and had a tree growing up through it!

The floor had seen better days
After a brief spell at a private site where a lot of the rotten platework was removed and other parts stripped away it was moved to Toddington where restoration began in earnest by the GWSR volunteers culminating in its current state of near completion. It has been restored to as near to as built condition as possible, the only exception being a through vacuum pipe which will be installed to let it run in the GWSR freight train.

Photos to come in the next report, but the wagon was on display in the car park this weekend featuring a 10 1/4" model of a certain popular locomotive.

The 13th/14th May saw the GWSR hold its first 'Brick Event' - no, not an exhibition of builders merchants, more of a show for those that are fans of those little plastic building blocks whose name we cannot mention. A family event for everyone - kids, adults and big kids alike arrived over the weekend to gaze upon the amazing array of models on display.

It has to be said that the main attraction was 'Manchester Brickadilly' - a plastic brick-based replica of Manchester Piccadilly station, with around 11,000 clear blocks making up the two curved canopies alone. Its builder took nearly 7 hours to set up this work of art on the Friday evening.
The Flying Scotsman and a French TGV do what they do best

There was quite a variety of brick-based engines to be seen hurtling around the tracks...

My personal favourite - a Maersk container train

An LMS engine complete with coal wagons - note the 'coal', small round black bricks!

The Flying Scotsman passes Platform 3. Probably the closest we would ever get to seeing it at Toddington!
Spot the Henry on Platform 6 

A Virgin Pendolino makes its way around the outside of the track.
Its weight means it runs much slower and is more battery-heavy than the other examples

A view showing more platform detail
It didn't seem to matter how long you spent looking at it, there was always something else to catch your eye - the attention to detail was second to none.

Other exhibitors were also showing their sets both in the marquee and in the diesel shed - some more high-tech than others:

This train featured a fisheye video camera built into one of its cameras. The video feed was then presented on this screen for 'realistic' viewpoint
Others went for a different kind of realism, by naming their signal box Swindon Junction
 "Is this my train?"

For some it was just business as usual - he looks very happy to be going to work, I wonder what he does...?

The weekend was a success with some 50& more visitors at the GWSR than the equivalent weekend of the previous year. I believe it will be re-appearing on the calendar for 2018

In other news, Hayles Abbey Halt is as good as complete, and is due to open on 6th June 2018. You can find more information here. Gala visitor 1450 and autocoach 'Chaffinch' (or Chuffinch as I like to call it) is staying on for the occasion and running on both weekends either side, with a view to perhaps re-create the iconic Hugh Ballantyne image of loco 1424 in the same spot. It will be a request stop only and is only available on railcar or auto coach services.

What is going on in the coming week?

Now that the Gala is over it's time to look ahead and see what else there is to look forward to in the next few days:

Thursday June 1st 
Loco: 7903 Foremarke Hall

Saturday June 3rd 
RED TIMETABLE (with autocoach)
Locos: 7903 Foremarke Hall, 1450, 4270
Sunday June 4th 
RED TIMETABLE (with autocoach)
Locos: 7903 Foremarke Hall, 1450, 4270

Tuesday June 6th 
Loco: 2807

Wednesday June 7th
Loco: 2807

Thursday June 8th 
Loco: 2807

RED TIMETABLE (with autocoach)
Locos: 1450, 2807, 4270

Sunday June 11th Classic Vehicle Clubs Day
RED TIMETABLE (with autocoach)
Locos: 1450, 2807, 4270

That's all... for now. Stay tuned for the report of the 2017 Workhorses of Steam Gala!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Gala Timetable Published

Following on from the disappointing loss of USATC, S160, 6046 from the gala's line up announced yesterday, our timetable wizard has been locked in a darkened room, connected to an intravenous drip of industrial strength coffee and tasked with sorting out the myriad things that will have been affected.  He has at already churned out a revised timetable and is currently hard at work on the crew & signalling diagrams.  For those of you who are lucky enough to have booked places on the footplate rides (now sold out), you will be pleased to know that there will be no changes to the published times for those, please arrive on the time and date specified. An unfortunate consequence of the loss of 6046 is that we will no longer be able to offer a "driver for a tenner" at Cheltenham race Course Station.  Our apologies for the late withdrawal of this feature.

The process of getting the timetable published on the main GWSR website is surprisingly arcane, requiring skills more associated with the dark arts than information technology (though some might say that they are one and the same). I have nevertheless managed to do it, more by luck than judgement, and with no small amount of assistance from Maxine in the GWSR's admin office.

You'll be able to find it for yourself by following this link.

Having spent the last two days flying a laptop rather than doing the fun things that gala prep should entail, I wrenched myself out of the admin office, put on my overalls (not exactly the weather for that today) and put a fire in 76017 for its steam test (not the weather for that either).
35006 at the new northern end of the line yesterday (photo courtesy of Dan Wigg)
The trade stands marquee going up in the car park at Toddington
 The steam loco dept's main focus is on the gala at the moment, but it is still business as usual for the railway, Dinmore Manor running on the blue timetable.
35006 on the ash pit, Dinmore Manor sets off with the first train of the day
Visiting loco 76017 (from the Mid Hants Railway) during her steam test

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

And Then There Was Seven

We'll start with the bad news, we regret to have to announce that a failure of a big end bearing on one of our visiting locos, USATC, S160, 6046 will preclude it from visiting our gala this year.  This is of course extremely disappointing news, but it is the way of things in the world of steam locomotive preservation.  It is very much hoped that we can arrange for 6046 to visit us for a gala in the next year or so.  Unfortunately, at this late stage there has been no possibility of obtaining a replacement, try as we might.  I note that another heritage railway has cancelled its gala scheduled for this weekend through the inability to obtain locos.  It's the downside of having a gala on a popular bank holiday weekend I'm afraid.  

The change has come too late to be able to be reflected in the brochure however  the online timetable timings will remain the same although the locomotive allocations will need to change.  At the time of writing, the revised timetable hasn't been completed, but it will hopefully be on the GWSR website sometime late on Thursday.  The printed copies of the timetable wil have the correct details.

On the good news front, the remaining guest locos have now arrived on site, 1450, along with its auto-trailer, W238W, Chaffinch (both by kind permission of the Severn Valley Railway & Push Pull LTD) and 76017 (by kind permission of the Mid Hants Railway).
76017 being coaled shortly after arrival
1450 awaiting its steam test
W238W Chaffinch
The home fleet (2807, 4270, 7820, Dinmore Manor, 7903, Foremarke Hall & 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S.N. Co) are all still available for service and will be appearing.

Also under the heading of good news, is that we can now confirm that we will be running some trains more than 200 yards (I refuse to use the metric equivalent that the confirmation message employed) beyond Little Buckland bridge.  A round trip of approximately 8 miles from Toddington, and to within about a mile of Broadway Station. This is around 2 miles further north than Laverton, which had been our previous northern limit of operations. Our 3 car 117 class DMU made the first passenger carrying trip up there on Tuesday.  1450 and auto-trailer W238W will be taking shuttles from Toddington to Little Buckland each day, and several of the longer trains will top and tail there as well.  See the timetable for further details (note, not yet revised at the time of writing). 

One final bit of good news is that we now have a new fireman, Graham passed out at the weekend. 
Graham (r), being congratulated by inspector Irving.

Congratulations on making the grade Graham, and welcome to the firing team.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

All You Wanted To Know About The Gala, But Were Afraid To Ask

The Cotswold Festival of Steam Gala (May 27th - 29th), "Workhorses of Steam" is less than two weeks away, and there are a number of updates.  Last time we brought you a gala update, we announced that scheduled works on Black 5, 45305 were going to over-run and that we had lined up a replacement in S&DJR 7F, 53808.  Unfortunately, the West Somerset Railway have suffered a failure of one of their other steam locomotives, which meant that they can no longer spare 53808 as it would be needed to cover their own bank holiday services.  Fortunately, courtesy of the Mid Hants Railway, we are enormously grateful to be able to announce at such short notice that we will be running BR Standard 4MT, 2-6-0, 76017 instead.
45305  53808  76017, photo courtesy of Ben Evason
The BR Standard 76XXX class were allocated to all regions except the Western Region, but Midland allocated examples of the class would have traversed our line on occasion.  Like all BR Standards, they had a relatively short service life in BR ownership, (12 years and 1 month in this case) before being swept aside in the rush to abandon steam in favour of diesel or electric motive power.  Of the 115 members of the class built, 4 survived into preservation, all by virtue of being sent to the legendary Barry Island Scrapyard.  Students of the GWSR will of course be familiar with fact that there are the mortal remains of a steam locomotive quietly awaiting its turn in the restoration queue in Toddington's north siding.  That steam locomotive is 76077, a sister to 76017.  Hopefully in the fullness of time, 76077 will be returned to steam and running on our line.  Until then , 76017 can be considered to be a foretaste of what is to come.

76017 will be appearing alongside our other two guest locomotives. 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.
Around 400 S160's found their way to the United Kingdom during WWII, before being shipped on to mainland Europe after D-Day.

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. 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.

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).

USATC, S160, 2-8-0, 6046
On the evening of Saturday 27th May only, we will once again be running a 14 coach train.  At the southern end of the train will be 6046, whilst at the northern end, we will have 35006 from our home fleet.  This proved to be extremely popular last year, fortunately with 14 coaches, there should be ample room to accommodate a fair number of passengers.

Our third and final visiting loco is Collett 0-4-2T, 1450, and autocoach W238W, courtesy of the Severn Valley Railway and Push Pull LTD.
1450 in action on the Dean Forest 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.

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. 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.

1424 screeches to a stop at Hayles Abbey Halt, photo courtesy of Hugh Ballantyne
The timetable for the gala will feature 1450 & auto-trailer W238W running shuttles from Toddington to Laverton (and hopefully beyond to Buckland) as well as a full round trip of the line.

The above visitors are all in addition to our home fleet locomotives, which will be all be running an intensive timetable.
Churchward, 2-8-0, 2807, built in 1905

Churchward, 2-8-0T, 4270
Collett, Manor class 4-6-0, 7820, Dinmore Manor
Hawksworth, Modified Hall class, 4-6-0, 7903, Foremarke Hall
Bulleid, Merchant Navy class, 4-6-2, 35006, Peninsular & Oriental S. N. Co
The preliminary timetable includes double headings of 76017 with 35006 and 7820 with 7903 amongst others. 

The locos will be facing in the directions shown below:

1450     Facing Cheltenham Race Course
2807     Facing Broadway
4270     Facing Broadway
6046     Facing Cheltenham Race Course
7820     Facing Cheltenham Race Course
7903     Facing Cheltenham Race Course
35006   Facing Broadway
76017   Facing Broadway

The mainline steam locomotives are a big attraction to any gala, and once again, we've done ourselves proud on that front, however they're not everything.  We like to expand the appeal of the event beyond just the mainline steam locomotives, yet stay true to our steam power roots.  Included in the price of the ticket, will be entry to the North Gloucestershire Narrow Gauge Railway, which will have locomotives from its home in operation.  As if that wasn't enough, in the car park at Toddington, we hope to have four steam powered traction engines, including Burrell Showman's Road Locomotive 3950 'Progress' and vintage fairground organ.
3590, Progress, photo courtesy of Ben Evason
Progress' fairground organ, photo courtesy of Ben Evason
 If all that steam is too much, and you'd like to let of some steam of your own, then pump trolley/Wickham trolley rides will be available at Gotherington, as well as refreshments.  Winchcombe will once again play host to a beer tent and there will be a trade stands marquee at Toddington.  There will be a bus service from Cheltenham Spa Network Rail Railway station to our own Cheltenham Racecourse Station.  As ever, for visitors by car, the recommendation is to park at Cheltenham Racecourse Station (for directions, follow this link) and some parking will be available in the field (not the main car park) at Toddington (for directions see here).  

Once again, we will be offering brake van rides on the freight train (spaces are limited) and footplate rides on some of our home fleet locomotives.  The footplate rides are book in advance, and as of Saturday 13th May, just two places remain.  Book now to avoid disappointment.

More details and advance ticket sales can be found on the main GWSR web page