Tuesday, 14 January 2020

And it's Goodbye From Him

You will have noticed by now, that my blog posts have become less frequent in recent times.  The truth is that your humble scribe has been struggling to keep up with the demands of my employers (who cling to the quaint notion that I should be at their beck and call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to receive my meagre stipend), my grown up children and the expanding brood of grandchildren.  Somewhere in amongst all this is shoe-horned an ever increasing amount of GWSR related activities.  To be fair to the above list of diversions from blog writing, there are only a limited number of ways that you can relate the events of a day on the footplate and make it interesting. If only I had managed to find one of those ways.  The good news for anybody who reads this blog, is that the time has come to hand over the reins to somebody else... in fact three somebody elses.  Between them, they should make a rather better and indeed more frequent job of it than I have.  

The only blog post that I wanted to do, but never actually got round to was a comparison of all of our home fleet locos from a fireman's point of view.  They all have features that are infuriating and they all have features that are so good that you wish the others had them too.  My ideal loco would have a centre section drop grate and one piece ash pan like Dinmore Manor (makes it a dream to dispose), a Swindon number one boiler like 2807 & Foremarke Hall, two water gauges (you won't often hear me say that Churchward got something wrong, but...)  and dual handled blower like 35006.  It would have the all round visibility of 4270 & 9466, yet a capacious tender with tender coal spray like 35006.  The injectors would be from 4270 (always work perfectly first time) and I am quite fond of the combined steam/vacuum brake on 9466 (it speeds up the uncoupling process considerably).  A roomy cab like 35006 along with its infinitely adjustable dampers would also be good.   I'll spare you from a description of the worst bits of our home fleet.

The big advantages of writing this blog by myself is that I have enjoyed the luxury of keeping any of my own shortcomings from being broadcast to the world, along with keeping pictures of me out of public view.  I expect that will change... you can't have everything.

The gallant team who will be keeping you up to date with all the latest occurrences in the steam loco dept are:

1) Luke,
Luke passed out as a fireman late last year.  My first impressions of Luke were favourable, he always turned up for cleaning turns with enough bacon & rolls to feed the crew and he was a dab hand at brewing tea.  These are unsurprisingly the ideal attributes for any cleaner who aspires to becoming passed out as a fireman. Luke has the dubious distinction of being the only person to pass out as a driver or fireman whilst this blog has been going to have missed out on having a picture taken for posterity.  I shall make up for that now by posting this picture of him:
Luke, on King Edward II (photo courtesy of Ian Crowder)
2) Tom,
Tom has just started fireman training and had his first official training turn in December.  My most vivid recollection of Tom, is that although he is right handed, he fires naturally left handed and did much better when that way round.  Still, he's moved on from being a problem for the blog writer, to being a problem for the training manager now.
Tom, on Foremarke Hall, firing the wrong way round for him
Tom, with a bacon buttie... quite possibly cooked on the shovel by Luke.
 3) Bryony,
Last, but not least, Bryony is starting to learn the fireman theory and will have sat through a lesson or two on Rules & Signals by now. She has a distinct advantage in that she is already qualified as a guard on the GWSR and will have covered a lot of the footplate rules and signals already.  It will be refreshing to have a lady's view of the steam loco dept, I'm sure that she will notice and report on no end of things that I wouldn't have spotted.  Unfortunately photos of Bryony on this blog at least are a very scarce commodity indeed.   I can find one of her dad who she organised a footplate ride for during the last gala:
Bryony's dad posing on Foremarke Hall
Photos of Bryony herself though, well the best I can manage is this, when she was the guard for the most recent Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD supporters' day:
Bryony, fourth from the left sat on the platform
I will not be completely retiring from this blog, I will still pass on photos to Luke, Tom & Bryony, hopefully with some explanatory text. In the run up to the gala, I'll be throwing in the odd post all by myself regarding the visiting locos.  Keep the late May bank holiday weekend free for the Cotswold Festival of Steam!

Thank you for reading this far.  Thank you too to the band of people who regularly sent me photos for inclusion in this blog, it always helped when I couldn't make it along to interesing events if somebody else was there to take pictures for me.  For now, it's over to the dynamic trio, please be gentle with them.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Come in Number 2807, Your Time is Up!

It's been a bit of a busy end to the year for your humble scribe, over the 5 day period commencing on Christmas Eve, I was doing something on the railway for four of those days.  I have always enjoyed being on the footplate on Christmas Eve, this year, it was with John as my driver and Matt as the cleaner... our steed was the lovely Dinmore Manor:
Deck the Hall Manor with boughs of holly...
...plenty of time for sausages & bacon, Matt making good use of the shovel here...
...and here in the more conventional manner.
Crossing 35006 at Gotherington
It was quite sunny some of the time...
...quite a pleasant day in fact.
Coaling up at the end of the day
Christmas Day was a non-running day, aside from Roger who was rostered to put in the warming fires for the Boxing Day turns, not many people would have been about.

I was back again on Boxing Day as a relief fireman for the last trip of the day on Dinmore Manor.  The Santa specials were over now, we had progressed on to Mince Pie specials, running to the usual red timetable
John was my driver again
Mrs Blogger was riding on the cushions for this trip and very kindly fetched me a cup of tea whilst we were running round our stock at Cheltenham Race Course. 
Most welcome
All too soon, we were back at Toddington and putting Dinmore Manor to bed again.  Not everybody enjoys firing in the dark, but I find it to quite be an interesting challenge.
Waiting at the bracket at Toddington
Waiting to be coaled up again
Moving on to the 27th, I had planned to do some stripping of paint off of a selection of 3850's motion along with a few admin tasks. In the end, whilst I did a bit of that, I also allowed a small tortoiseshell butterfly (at least Mrs Blogger identified it as such, don't blame me if it's some other kind of fritillary) to escape from the ops office.  It was obviously a bit too warm in there and it decided that it wanted somewhere a bit cooler to hibernate.
The price of freedom is having your photo taken of course!
9466 trundled by
Unexpectedly there was a swift stock relocation undertaken and I got roped into helping out... a couple of carriages that had been requisitioned by Santa and placed in the parlour road at Toddingtion now wanted taking back to Winchcombe, whilst a flat wagon wanted to come back to Toddington.  It all had to interleave seamlessly between the service trains of course.
It was on unusual traction for me though... where do you put the coal?
Lamps have now been fitted to the lamp stands in the yard at Toddington, they come on automagically when it gets dark and look absolutely wonderful.  It's little touches like this that complete the ambience of a heritage railway and they are extremely useful as well.  I understand that they have been noted and commented upon favourably by representatives of other heritage railways who would like similar lamps on their lines.
First yard lamp (photo courtesy of Jo Roesen)
Second yard lamp (photo courtesy of Jo Roesen)
 One lamp stand came from Fencote Station and the other from auction, but it had previously been installed at Dumbleton Village Club.  Both lamps are modern replicas.

Moving on to the 28th, which was a Saturday.   Saturdays are usually quite busy at Toddington, however I suspect that one or two may have overdone the festivities as it was fairly quiet.  I finally got round to finishing off stripping paint off of a couple of lifting links, one lifting link bracket and a hanging link from 3850.  Into the bargain I cleaned out all the oil pots and blew the oilways through with an air line to make sure that there were no obstructions.
Blowing through an oilway
A selection of 3850's motion parts, freshly de-painted
I think that the plan from here is that they will be non-destructively tested (NDT) before being painted and re-installed on the loco, all the bearings were showing no sign of wear and were deemed to be fit for further service.

There are a few loco restoration projects that grabbed my attention over the years for one reason or another, frequent family holidays in North Cornwall ensured  that 34007 Wadebridge being restored only a few miles away from the town it was named after at the Bodmin & Wenford Railway was one such. 6023, King Edward II which I remember as a school boy seeing parked in the fish dock at Bristol Temple Meads for a while was one too.  I have been fortunate enough to have fired both of these after their return to steam at the GWSR. Another restoration project that grabbed my attention more than most was 2807 and checking up on its progress whenever I visited was a must. It was something of a privilege therefore to be rostered on her for her last day in traffic during her current boiler ticket on New Year's Day.  To tell the exact truth, I was originally rostered down as crew 3 on New Year's Day, taking over 9466 at lunchtime. I proposed a switch with Jonathan who was the crew 2 fireman (on 2807).  Jonathan decided that my offer to let him fire 9466 in my stead (which he had yet to have a turn on) with its nice fully enclosed and warm cab would be the ideal turn for him on a doubtless cold, wet & miserable winter's day.  In the end, it was dry (admittedly overcast), not too cold, and 9466 failed so he didn't get a go on it in the end anyway.  He did benefit from an extra few hours in bed, not having to sign on anywhere near as early as me, so I don't feel too guilty.

Condensation in the wood store meant that the prep crew had a bit of a struggle getting 2807 lit up in the morning, but she was still ready to go on time.
2807, coming round for the last time
Driver for the day was Chris... he brought all the ingredients for bacon butties on the shovel
As might have been expected, the great and the good of Cotswold Steam Preservation LTD (CSPL) turned up for a last ride behind their loco in her first boiler ticket and were duly lined up in front of the loco for a photo call.  Ian, the GWSR's press officer was on hand to capture the scene for posterity.  Unusual for it not to be me behind the camera.
Ian doing the honours with his camera
The star of the show
CSPL had reserved a coach for their members, but just to put them off the scent, the coach had a reserved notice in the window declaring it to be 2897's final journey.  The real 2897's final journey had been to Cashmore's in Newport, shortly after her withdrawal from 86G (Pontypool Rd) on 31st Jan 1964 (yes, I looked for that online, I don't simply know all this stuff you know)
The perils of not proof reading are well known to me as well
Crossing Dinmore Manor at Toddington
Once again, Mrs blogger knew exactly what was wanted and delivered tea to the footplate... several times during the day.  I sometimes wonder if she secretly harbours the desire to volunteer with the On Train Catering team.
Most welcome, yet again.
Ten extremely successful years done, 2807 relaxes at the end of the day
Rather than look up a whole load of history about 2807 to bring you, I thought that somebody must have done that bit of research already, so I asked Gilbert of CSPL and he sent me a 17 MB file. Here are the edited highlights:
  • No. 2807 is the oldest remaining Churchward standard locomotive.
  • No. 2807 is the oldest remaining British 2-8-0.
  • No. 2807 was the first steam locomotive to arrive at the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway.
  • No. 2807 is the oldest survivor of the 2800 class.
  • No. 2807 is the oldest locomotive built by the Great Western Railway and now owned privately.
  • No. 2807 is the oldest locomotive to have been saved from Woodham Brothers scrapyard at Barry.

Steam locomotive No. 2807 was built by the G.W.R. at Swindon and completed in October 1905, as part of the initial batch of the G.W.R. 2800 class of 2-8-0 heavy freight engines.

The 2800 class was designed during the period when Churchward was Chief Mechanical Engineer of the G.W.R. Under his stewardship, nine highly successful locomotive types, with maximum component standardisation, were introduced. Boilers, cylinders, pistons, wheels etc. were standardised and interchangeable between classes. Churchward's design practices were ahead of their time. They were adopted by Chief Mechanical Engineers of other railways and were still in use as late as 1947.

On 26 February 1906, identical sister locomotive No. 2808 hauled a record-breaking train from Swindon to Acton. The trainload of coal was made up of 20 twenty ton, 6 twelve ton, 78 ten ton, 2 nine ton and 1 eight ton capacity coal wagons. Assembled at Swindon, the whole train totalled 2012 tons, including the dynamometer car and brake van. This record by a production locomotive stood during the whole steam era, surpassed only by the one-off prototype G.W.R. locomotive The Great Bear which hauled 2375 tons in 1909.

Following early shed allocations to Westbourne Park and Old Oak Common in the Paddington area, in 1911 No. 2807 embarked upon eight years of coal traffic in South Wales, operating first from Aberdare and later Pontypool Road.
An early photo of 2807 with inside steam pipes, squared front end and lamp bracket on top of the smokebox. She has the earlier tall safety valve cover. She also has her original copper capped chimney at this point too.  She's not entirely as built though as the smoke box has already been lengthened beyond the saddle and support arms added.
The first World War saw No. 2807 performing on the famous "Jellicoe Specials", hauling Welsh steam coal destined for the Grand Fleet at Scappa Flow. GWR 2800 class engines worked the South Wales to Lancashire section of this round the clock service.

After the First World war, No. 2807 moved to Bristol and later, in 1924 to Tyseley, from where she is believed to have frequently visited the Stratford - Cheltenham main line, passing through Broadway, Toddington and Winchcombe. Subsequent pre-nationalisation shed allocations included Newton Abbot, Bristol St Philips Marsh, Llanelli, Wolverhampton Stafford Road, Cardiff (Canton) and Hereford.
A later photo, outside steam pipes, curved front end and the top lamp  bracket is now on the smokebox door. The smokebox number plate says this is in the BR (post 1948) era.
After she moved to Worcester in 1951, No. 2807 once again became a frequent visitor to the Stratford - Cheltenham main line. After brief postings to Chester, Newport (Ebbw Junction) and Newton Abbott, No. 2807 moved to her final allocation, Severn Tunnel Junction, in April 1960.
2807 at Barry, the cladding has come adrift revealing asbestos heritage insulating material.  She still has her coupling rods, but her connecting rods are missing, CSPL had to get new ones made.
Preservation Milestones:
Saved from Barry scrapyard

Dismantling begins

Chassis and wheels moved to Tyseley

Tender tank moved to Brierley Hill

Chassis and wheels back to Toddington

Tender tanks back to Toddington

Locomotive re-wheeled

Smokebox and chimney fitted

2807 towed to Winchcombe for display

Coupling rods fitted

Boiler fitted for the first time since 1982

Last main motion rods fitted

Boiler and LHS Cylinder cladding fitted

Boiler moved to Llangollen for repairs

Tender operational and features at Llangollen ‘Steel, Steam and Stars’ Gala with No. 3802

Repairs to boiler structure completed

Chassis moved to Llangollen ready for fitment of boiler

Wheels removed to fit new tyres

Chassis reassembled and boiler tested

Tender painted and sent to Llangollen

Boiler fitted to chassis, tender connected

Test running at Llangollen, loco & tender return to Toddington for service

Finally, here are a few of my memories of her over the years.  My first encounter with her would have been at Barry in 1978 (alas no photos of her from then) and since then during numerous visits to the GWSR prior to me volunteering there.  The earlier of those would be pre-digital and I can't face ferreting about in the attic for my old photo albums.  We'll have to start from my digital era.
A boilerless 2807 during restoration at Toddington 16th July 2004...
...and again 15th May 2005, approaching her centenary
 Not too long after she returned to steam in 2010, she paid a visit to the West Somerset Railway
Getting ready to depart Bishops Lydeard, 19th March 2011...
...Pulling out of Bishops Lydeard.
 I started volunteering at the GWSR during the time of the Chicken Curve landslip, when steam operations only ran from Winchcombe to Cheltenham Race Course, with the steam dept temporarily accommodated alongside the C&W dept. 
2807 being lit up in the early morning light at Winchcombe
 2807 was the first steam loco to return from Winchcomeb to Toddington once Chicken Curve's landslip had been fixed, I was lucky enough to be the cleaner that day.
27th October 2012, 2807 becomes the first steam loco to cross Chicken Curve since the landslip was fixed.
Exiting Greet tunnel 24th March 2012
2807.. well her shadow anyway, 11th May 2013
Taking her place in the line up for the "Big 4 Gala", 27th May 2013
Crossing Stanway viaduct, 29th December 2013
Making Friends with Thomas, 22nd June 2014
 A memorable photo charter with 2807 on 16th March 2015 produced the scene below.  Laverton loop looking just like a section of double track line and the stationary p-way train on the left made it look like she had just crossed another freight train going the other way.
Doing what she was built for
 My favourite photo that I have taken over the years of 2807 is this glint shot at Gotherington at the very end of the 2016 season
2807 on 2nd Jan 2017
 It has been a privilege to have spent much of her ten year ticket with her in one way or another.  She is an absolutely wonderful loco and I can't wait until Cotswold Steam Preservation LTD return her to steam once more for another ten years.