Monday, 25 September 2017

Elephants & Steam

It is with great sadness that I learned this week of the passing away of David Shepherd, the well known artist.  As you are probably aware, he bought two steam locomotives direct from British Rail in the late 1960's, and for some years, one of them, BR standard 9F, 92203, Black Prince, was based on the GWSR.  His artwork reflected his passion for both wildlife and steam locomotives and he will be remembered for his immense contribution in both of those arenas.

An interesting obituary can be found by clicking on this link to the BBC radio "Last Word" programme.
David Shepherd (By NotFromUtrecht - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Black Prince approaching Greet tunnel

I was present on Thursday and as the booked cleaner had had to drop out at short notice, I demoted myself for the morning and lent a hand getting Foremarke Hall ready for the day's duties.  All wasn't entirely well with Formarke Hall's grate, one of the firebars was in a very sorry state, John (the driver on Thursday) went into the firebox to swap it out.
Seen better days
 I was a little disappointed to find (not for the first time) that a previous crew had emptied out a smokebox and left the ash in a wheelbarrow by the pits, rather than take it round to the ash dock.
The wheelbarrow of shame!
 Yes, I did empty it and the bin full from Foremarke Hall too.
Foremarke Hall, off on her way
 Newly arrived, and in need of preparation for the weekend, was a certain "really useful engine".  John spent the morning doing a mechanical FTR examine on it, before he and Alex got on with cleaning it.  They also put in a warming fire in readiness for a steam test on Friday.
Alex (l) and John being "really useful"
 I noted that the Wednesday gang had made some progress with the concreting of the final section of road 6 in the shed, a line of sleepers had appeared in the right place:
Progress in the shed
My task for the day was to help get the underside of Dinmore Manor's old tender ready for re-wheeling.  I was assisted by Roger.  We were no fools, we were in the nice dry David Page shed, we could hear the rain beating down on the roof.
Roger continued removing 20 years worth of accumulated grime
Not hard to see where he'd been
 I de-greased and then painted some of the already cleaned areas under the tender
A useful start
 Unfortunately painting something above your head is quite tiring on your arms, and you have to be fairly careful not to brush against bits that you have already painted.  The top of my cap now has a few specks of green primer that it didn't have before... fact, so do my boots.
I noted that somebody had recently put a coat of primer on one of the vacuum cylinders that was in need of attention, I think this one was 3850's:
Vac cylinder body...
...and one of the end caps
 Outside, once the rain had finally stopped, a local farmer had chosen that day to do some muck spreading on his fields:

It didn't half pen & ink!
Keith hands over the token at Toddington to Eleanor
 I had quite an interesting conversation with Keith in Toddington signal box, just as I have a rating scale of drivers depending on the amount of steam that they will require, so does he of firemen and cleaners regarding their ability at token exchanges, Eleanor will be pleased to know that she was somewhere around the top of the list.

Our locos are always turned out nice and clean on the outside, but in the mornings before a normal running day, there is no time available to clean between the frames.  The public don't see under there, but it still matters that it is done, as the driver is less likely to spot any defects such as cracked springs, or loose bolts etc, if everything is coated in a thick layer of oily grime.  Accordingly, it is essential that periodic cleaning underneath the locos takes place as well.  On Saturday, Alex led a small team of people cleaning under 4270.
Alex (l) under 4270
 The work under Dinmore Manor's old tender continued on Saturday:
David scraping away 20 years of accumulated grime
 I noted that the wheels for the tender had arrived back from being turned at the South Devon Railway.
Tender wheels
No further work took place on 3845's old boiler, but Mike sent me this picture of the conditions that he had endured last week.
Full of scale
 The amount of scale in the boiler speaks volumes of how poorly they were treated in their last days in service, obviously nobody could be bothered to wash it out if it was soon to be sent for scrap.

2807 was in the shed for some attention to her clack valves.  They are sealed on their joint against the boiler by a taylor ring gasket, however they wanted to try the type that have been used successfully on 3850 made of PTFE.  This involves cutting a groove in the seating face.
One of 3850's clack valves on the left, 2807's on the right.
Note the groove cut into 3850's
 Meanwhile of course, the railway was hosting Thomas the tank engine and his friends.
Daisy, amused that herself and "Dr George" are now internet stars.
The 04 shunter was in the parlour road at Toddington, however the naughty troublesome trucks had nobbled its starter moter, so it was unable to run up and down siding one as usual.
The 04, sadly sidelined...
...the troublesome toad seemed happy enough though (photo courtesy of Gwendolyne Wood)
Thomas was present too of course... (photo courtesy of Gwendolyne Wood)
...and he helped his crew to cook a delicious breakfast on the shovel...

...before heading off to Winchcombe to entertain the children
 The big green engine's crew wanted to split the shift (it's a fairly long day otherwise) and I had volunteered to take over for the last 2 runs. 
The lineside clearance gang was doing a good job...
...probably producing more smoke than we were
Martin topping up the tank
Gwendolyne made herself very useful by pulling coal forward
 One young lad was a bit confused and asked me why Henry was wearing a nameplate that said "Foremarke Hall".  I replied that Henry was a rather shy engine and preferred to travel around incognito.  He wasn't one for letting fame go to his head.
The rather shy engine.
 There were several of the diesels running during the event as well, though as they weren't recognised Thomas characters, they didn't have faces.
The class 37 arriving at Winchcombe
 Peter, one of the steam loco dept's Wednesday gang had been moonlighting as a platform announcer at Winchcombe for the Thomas event on Saturday.  Apparently one little lad had lost his shoe somewhere on the railway.  After an all stations broadcast, the missing shoe was recovered and a TTI on one of the trains managed to reunite the shoe with its owner.  Such are the dramas of a Thomas event.
The lost shoe (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 You never know quite where losing your shoe will end up, poor old Cinderella got stuck with marrying the prince after losing her's.  I believe there was a happy ending in this case though.

At the end of the day, Gwendolyne remembered the old saying that you can't get passed out on the big kettles until you have mastered the small ones:
Gwendolyne brews up, Martin eagerly awaits a cuppa'.
The big green engine watches as his crew empty the ash pit.
And finally, we have the good news that we have one more firewoman  fireperson fireman in the team.  Eleanor was assessed by Inspector Irving on Thursday and has successfully passed out.
Eleanor with Inspector Irving
 The bunch of flowers has caused something of a stir on social media, and several trainee firemen are now looking forward to receiving a bouquet when they pass out. One previous fireman on the line has mentioned that he feels disappointed that he didn't receive any flowers when he had qualified.   The flowers were not from the inspector, but from Eleanor's husband who was present to congratulate her.  Any future firemen who want flowers on passing out, should find romantically inclined spouses of their own.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Murder Mystery and the Handsome Prince

4270 has recently returned from a visit to the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, where she was a guest at their gala.  She had been shedded there back in BR days, so she was a very appropriate loco to pay them a visit.  The line is little over 2 miles long, yet features gradients of as much as 1 in 24. 
4270 at the P&BR (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
4270 with a demonstration freight train (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
4270 on the left, home fleet austerity, 71515, Mech Navvies on the right (photo courtesy of Andy Beale)
There are also a couple of videos of the event that have surfaced on Youtube, both of which feature 4270.  The first one can be found by clicking on this link, and the second one by clicking on this link.

At Toddington on Saturday, I noticed that a gala brochure from 1993 had found its way into the mess coach.  That year, the line up included a certain well known pacific locomotive that recently needed rescuing by Dinmore Manor
Good value at 20p

Several people spent a while clearing up the accumulated grime that had built up in various places in the David Page shed.  Whilst helping to clear out the indoor pit, Eleanor discovered what she claimed to be a frog, but which looked more like a toad to me.
Ok, perhaps it's not a GWR brake van after all
When asked if she had kissed it to see if it turned into a handsome prince, she replied that she hadn't because she "Already had one of those".  I imagine several members of the steam loco dept have spluttered their cups of tea across their computer screens at this point.
Should have gone to Specsavers
 The boiler from 3845, that will be fitted to 3850 is now largely cleaned and primed externally.  Attention is now focusing on the tubes, which are in the process of being cut out.
3845's boiler
A selection of the removed tubes
An indication of progress thus far
The wheels for 3850 are busy being painted into gloss black
Wheel painting in progress
 Tender T1761 is still being cleaned of grot & grime underneath, with a view to painting prior to the wheels being refitted.  This will then allow the tender to be removed from the lifting jacks as there is a queue of other projects patiently waiting their turn to be lifted.
After considerable cleaning, it's slowly getting better under there.
Water scoop still in situ.
 35006 has come to the end of a run of steamings, and was in the shed for some general fettling.  Clive & Dan were to be found inside the firebox, checking on the state of the fusible plugs, grate, and tubes etc.
Clive & Dan inside 35006's firebox
35006 in the shed.
 With their loco out running the service trains and the prospect of a heavy general overhaul in a few short years, the 2807 group got on with one of their fund raising activities, turning old chairs into boot scrapers.
Bruce wielding a rotary wire brush
This particular one dates from 1898...
...and appears to be from the Midland Railway
 The finished articles make fine gifts for that person in your life who probably appears to already have everything and who you would otherwise just end up getting yet another pair of socks for Christmas.  They are on sale in the entrance of the Flag & Whistle at Toddington, and excellent value at £40.
Boot scrapers in the Flag & Whistle
 Foremarke Hall was receiving a little TLC from it's owning group, some attention was required to the speedo drive which appeared to have been in the wars lately.
Speedo drive partially removed for some fettling
 The final part of the shed floor to be concreted, the south end of road 6, had seen some attention from a roller, in readiness for reinstating the track.
Road 6, after rolling.
I was booked on to fire the evening train, a fish & chip special the loco for the evening was 2807, which had been running as train 2 on the red timetable during the day.
Coal was added for the evening
Clive kindly emptied out the ash pan
"Cheltenham Fryer" headboard attached
As it turned out, it wasn't just a fish and chip special, there was a murder/mystery event taking place as well.  The first I knew about it was when a group of thespians started some last minute rehearsing on platform 1 at Toddington.
"Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York"
OK, so we're not in York, but once in costume, the cast did include 6015:
King Richard, the third of that name
The actor confessed that although he had made a model railway for his five year old son, the lad had wanted diesels rather than steam.  He was wondering if he would ever live it down!

Speaking of diesels, our first task of the evening was to shunt release the class 20, which was returning with train 2, which it had taken for the last round trip of the day.

Returning with train 2
Heading off to shed after we had released it.
 Finally, after depositing the maroon rake in the north siding, we attached 2807 to the chocolate & cream rake in platform 1.  You can tell that summer is over, the guard requested that we provide steam heat.

Steam heat connected, at least nobody will be mysteriously murdered in the cold
The turn had seen some changes to the crew, George had originally been rostered to drive, but in the end had to attend a meeting of the DMU owning group instead, so Jamie took over as driver.  Ash had been rostered as cleaner, but had managed to double book himself, so Eleanor took the cleaning turn in his place.  Not being one to do any work myself if I could get somebody else to do it, I passed the shovel over to Eleanor.
Eleanor, building up the fire before departure
There was no exact timetable to follow, but the turn was roughly to leave Toddington for Winchcombe at about 7pm, wait there for about 45 minutes whilst some theatrics took place, then head off to Cheltenham Race Course Station for about 45 minutes more for the fish and chips to be delivered, then back to Winchcombe for ten minutes or so for ice cream, and finally back to Toddington.  From the firing point of view, a bit of an exercise in boiler control with all those lengthy stops to deal with.
Drama on the platform at Winchcombe
I didn't hang around on the platform to find out what went on, so I don't know the plot of who died and the mystery of "whodunit".  I'm reliably informed that it's usually the butler, but I don't think that there was a butler present.  Must have been the guard then... I'm pretty sure that it wasn't any of the footplate crew anyway.

From the nice warm cab of 2807, I could hear the occasional gasp from the audience and at one point, even a few blood curdling screams (hopefully from the actors and not the audience).  By the time that plot had thickened and it was time to move on, it was getting to be quite dark.
Eleanor's first shot at firing in the dark.
Winchcombe and 2807 in the gathering gloom
Cheltenham Race Course Station after dark

The star attraction of the turn for the crew was of course the fish and chips waiting for us at Cheltenham Race Course Station.
Jamie, tucking in to his supper.
Jolly nice it was too.
Even the actors had fish and chips
Headboard on the smoke box, ready to depart
Putting 2807 to bed at the end of the day
And finally, we are getting round to that time of year when trainees start passing passing out. I am pleased to be able to bring you the news that Clive has passed out as a driver.  His mantle as our oldest fireman has now been passed on to Chris. 
Clive (l) with Inspector Lacey. (photo courtesy of Ed Brooks)
I recently noticed a rather nice portrait of Clive on Flickr, which you can find if you follow this link.  Congratulations Clive.