Monday, 10 December 2018

All Change Please

This week, we have a Wednesday report from Chris.  It has been known for some time that the wood store has pretty much reached the end of its life and that a replacement is required.  The embankment behind the wood store is also not as stable as might be wished, so we are waiting for a JCB to be hired in to deal with the foundations, then a 40' container will replace the existing grounded Fruit D body that currently serves as the wood store.  Roger is the man in charge of keeping the wood store filled, and he was delighted to hear that a replacement had just turned up.  His joy was short lived though, when he discovered that it was in fact a 5" scale covered wagon body that had been delivered.
Roger inspects the 5" scale replacement wood store (photo courtesy of Chris Blake)
The "new" wood store is now apparently stored in the old wood store waiting its turn to be used to light up a loco (photo courtesy of Chris Blake)
 The 76077 group have taken delivery of a new 20' container to replace the old one which had succumbed to the attentions of the tin worm.
Richard watching as a container arrives (photo courtesy of Chris Blake)
Moving on to Saturday now.   Regulations relating to working hours have meant that like last year, we need to split the shifts.  That is a bit tricky with the locos being prepped at Toddington, then spending the day running between Cheltenham Race Course Station and Winchcombe The North Pole as there is no easy way to get the relief crew to a location where they can take over.  The deal is, that we have a prep crew to do the light ups in the morning, then a day crew turns up and does everything from there on.  The Santa specials start early meaning a correspondingly early sign on time... which for those of us who live a fair way away from Toddington setting our alarm clocks for a time roughly half an hour before we go to bed.  So my plan for Saturday was book on at 04:45 (just don't ask about the alarm clock time), light up Foremarke Hall and Dinmore Manor, spend the morning finding something useful to do around the shed, a railway related meeting in the afternoon followed by the steam loco dept's Christmas dinner in the evening.  There was even talk about taking a few minutes off in the morning and buying a Christmas tree from Toddington garden centre.  All in all it was going to add up to a very long day indeed.  I wasn't exactly distraught then, when I got a message from Ben (roster clerk) on Friday lunchtime saying that Andy T (fireman on train 2) could no longer cover his firing turn, but he was available for the prep turn if I was happy to swap.  Ben went on to say that he that he could even wangle it so that I got train 1 instead of train 2 which would mean that I was back in time for the Christmas dinner.  Confused... you should be!  I still had my meeting to deal with of course and after a swift phone call to Eleanor, we arranged that I would do the start of the day and she would take over from me at the North Pole when train 1 pulled in at 13:36.   I like it when a plan comes together, particularly when it means that I get an extra few hours in bed in the morning.

I arrived at Toddington as the sun was beginning to show the merest hint of being about to rise, Andy was on hand with Dinmore Manor and Foremarke Hall nicely warming up ready for the day's services.
Andy T, smoke at the chimney and pressure on  the gauge.
 My steed for the day, or at least that part of the day that I was doing, was Foremarke Hall, Andy M was the driver and for the first trip, Inspector Irving who would be conducting Andy's biennial reassessment.
Andy M (L) and Inspector Irving.
 Needless to say Andy passed again with no problem at all.
 
 I had fetched along sausages and rolls to supplement the bacon rations provided for the prep crew, however as I was now no longer part of the prep crew, I declared them to be for the day crew.  I had even remembered to fetch along some oil to cook them on the shovel with. What I had forgotten was a knife and fork... the knife to separate the sausages out as they were linked and a fork to turn them with whilst cooking them.  Doh!   Mike was on first aid duties at Cheltenham Race Course and on the promise of a share of the sausages, he disappeared off to rustle up a knife & fork.
Mike having located some cutlery
 Mike is better known on this blog for his role at maintaining the loco lamps, we break 'em, he fixes 'em!
Andy got on with the cooking...
...done to a turn
Crossing Dinmore Manor at Gotherington
My relief fireman taking over in the office
 My 14:00 meeting tied in perfectly with a 13:36 arrival at the North Pole... if only the 13:36 had been on time.  It seems that these days the boys and girls visiting Santa are taking rather more time than they did in previous years, spending too long posing for selfies with Santa, or "Elfies" with Santa's little helpers.  Never mind, it means they leave happy and many social media accounts are buzzing with how good our Santa trains are.  

Not quite so good is the fact that Dinmore Manor has yet to be adorned with any festive tinsel... although there are a few of the bah humbug brigade in the department who see that as a good thing.  I tried to find some in the shops last week and failed to turn any up, I have managed to find some this week, so unless I forget to bring it with me, she will have some next week.
Dinmore Manor, a tinsel free zone, photo courtesy of Matthew Harris
 Meanwhile, back at Toddington, the DMU was in service on the northern section of the line with some chap in a red suit and white beard on board.  There were plenty of assorted elves on hand to make the day go well.
Assorted elves and festive folk at Toddington, photo courtesy of Chris Blake
On the good news front, 2807 has had her valves re-installed and subject to a successful steam test during the week, will be back on Santa duty at the weekend along with Dinmore Manor.

I mentioned last week that you could take advantage of Ecclesiastical Insurance's Christmas Giveaway to benefit 2874 to the tune of £1,000.  The link I initially posted appears to have been erroneous, it is fixed now, but here it is once again if you didn't manage to get it to work last week.  Please nominate "The 2874 Trust" quoting charity number 1166258.  Speaking of 2874, there is a very nice article on it in the current edition of Steam Railway magazine.  The article is slightly out of date now as the plaques commemorating the staff of the GWR who died in military service during both world wars have now been cast.
2874's commemorative plaques
 The steam loco dept's Christmas party was held in the Corner Cupboard in The North Pole Winchcombe as it has been for the last few years.  The food was excellent as always and this year, Tina's quiz was fiendishly difficult.  In spite of including me, team "No Hopers" came in top with a score of 13 out of 29 indicating just how tough the questions had been.  One team was disqualified for having nicked the piece of paper with the answers on out of Tina's hand bag.  Mark romped off with the Christmas jumper competition prize, sporting his elf outfit.
Mark (in the middle flanked by the other contestants)
He'd even sprayed his boots gold!
And finally, by tradition, the last working Wednesday before Christmas sees the delivery of a Christmas cake baked by John's wife, Margaret.
Margaret applying the marzipan (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
Ready for icing (photo courtesy of John Cruxon)
I have been fortunate enough to have sampled Margaret's Christmas cakes in years gone by and can attest to the fact that they are excellent.  Here's hoping that some survives again to the following Saturday.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

All Dressed Up & No Place to Go

As mentioned last week, 2807 which should have been running on the Santas over the weekend has had a lubrication issue, no oil arriving at the valves, and the valve's piston rings had become gummed up and were stuck in their channels thereby preventing a proper seal from forming.  Bruce, Geoff, John, Stuart & Mark leaped into action on Saturday, removing both piston valves and going a long way down the road of freeing up the piston rings.  Meanwhile John H has stripped and cleaned the W valve and the feed pipes have been blown through.  The hydrostatic lubricator is known to have been working, so hopefully the lack of lubrication will have been sorted.
One of 2807's valves on the valve bench (photo courtesy of Mark Harding)

Bruce & John freeing up one of the rings (photo courtesy of Mark Harding)
Meanwhile, the Santa season had kicked off, with Dinmore Manor and Foremarke Hall (deputising for 2807).

Dinmore Manor was in steam, but no tinsel (photo courtesy of Matthew Harris)
 The Santa timetables are great fun, with plenty of breaks in excess of an hour whilst small children go to see the chap in the red suit...  plenty of time make full use of the GWSR's finest mobile BBQ's.

It's what the shovel's for (photo courtesy of Matthew Harris)
 Dinmore Manor's crew even sent in a selfie

And not a tie between them (photo courtesy of Matthew Harris)
Curiously, Foremarke Hall (the deputising loco) had been adorned with some tinsel, whereas Dinmore Manor hadn't.

Foremarke Hall on the ash pit at the end of the day (photo courtesy of Graham Radband)
Moving on to Sunday, yours truly had a firing turn on Dinmore Manor, with Steve (driver) and Angela (cleaner).  For the Santa's, we have prep crews every running day who turn up at 04:45 and bring two locos into steam. I didn't have to sign in until a much more civilised 08:00. 

Dinmore Manor waiting to be coaled up in the morning
 Before anybody says a word, I hadn't touched the shovel at this point.

One of the nice features of the Santa turns is that the crews get free cups of tea and mince pies.
Very welcome indeed
The Santas inevitably mean that we end up with lots of young people visiting us, some of them extremely young.  One of the youngest managed to lose a knitted woollen boot on the platform at Cheltenham, causing Steve to have to call out to try and reunite it with its owner.
I think somebody claimed it in the end
Small children are not the only visitors we had to Cheltenham, there was also a large bee around as well, possibly a queen looking for a new home?
It was placed carefully in the garden in the hope that it would survive there
There's much more to firing than just shovelling coal you know!
Angela had a go at using the shovel, but she's doing it all wrong...
...first you need to clean the shovel with the pep pipe...
...add the bacon...
...and heat on the mobile BBQ
Why stop at bacon, you can do sausages too.

That's better!
Angela did fine too, when it came to shovelling the black stuff... and I don't mean that the sausages had been cremated by that.

Many of our volunteers double up as elves or Santa etc over the festive season, and I know that some of them are a little sensitive about being caught on camera, David H in his elf outfit did his best Usain Bolt impression as soon as produced my camera.  Yes, I did get a photo of him sprinting into the distance, but I won't embarrass him by putting it here.  Others of course are only too happy to be seen getting into the Christmas spirit, such as Alistair who was foolish enough to say that he hadn't seen me get my camera out all day.  The answer of course is that most people are wise to the fact that they'll end up on here if they're not careful, so I have had to become a little devious when it comes to taking photos.
Alistair with festive hat attachment
Second sitting for sausages & bacon...
...and of course tea & mince pies
For the Santa season, it seems that there is to be no evening disposal, the prep crews in the morning will empty the ash pans.  All we had to do was top Dinmore Manor up with coal and water, then tuck her up in bed in the David Page shed.
Steve coaling up Dinmore Manor
Inside the shed, 2807 was to be found, adorned with tinsel, but with her piston valves still removed.  Regretfully, as of Wednesday, she still wasn't back together, so unless something happens in the very near future, it will be Foremarke Hall standing in for her again at the weekend.
All dressed up and no place to go
Here's hoping that she gets sorted out soon. 

I know that a number of the people who read this blog are in far flung locations and for whom being actively involved in the railway is not a practical option.  Never mind, here are three excellent opportunities to help the railway and some of it's locomotives, without having to leave the comfort of your armchair.  Of course people who live a lot closer and do actively volunteer are equally welcome to join in as well.

First, An opportunity to obtain an exclusive print from a Nicolas Trudgian original “3850 at Dawlish” – limited numbers available by donation towards paying for the current overhaul of the loco – but please be aware it will cost us at least £4.00 in postage/packaging to send in the UK. Your chance to help get this wonderful Great Western loco back into steam and own a rare print. Payments can be made by going to the the Dinmore Manor payments and donations page, making a donation and then emailing dmll7820@btinternet.com with details of who you are and where you would like it sending.

3850 print
Secondly, last year 2874 benefited to the tune of £1,000 from the Ecclesiastical Insurance Christmas giveaway.  They are doing it again, please click on this link and nominate "The 2874 Trust", quoting charity number 1166258.  Simples!

And finally, the GWSR is one of the ten nominees for the Steam Railway Magazine award at the Heritage Railway Association in February.  Whilst the other nominees are all extremely worthy, I'm sure that you'll agree that the Broadway extension should win.  Just point your web browser at this link and vote for number six.

Friday, 30 November 2018

A Telegram from the Queen

You can't have failed to notice that the festive season is nearly upon us, in fact we ran the first Santa specials on Sunday, a charity event for local disadvantaged children.  John moonlights in other departments as well as ours, often being seen working as a guard.  One of his other roles on the railway involves a red suit and a fake white beard... even though he has a perfectly good real white beard of his own.  He was to be seen on Saturday getting in some practise at getting up and down chimneys by getting in and out of 35006's tender to remove the build up of rust and general gunge from in there.  I'm sure that I overheard him mutter something about having had too many mince pies.
Santa John getting in some chimney practise
 3850's tender draw bar clevis has been mounted on a lathe in the workshop to freshen up the thread.  The associated nut came off a poor second after putting up a brave fight  when being removed and a replacement will need to be turned up.
Draw bar clevis in the lathe
Elsewhere in the workshop, Tom and Steve were attending to a lathe that had managed to lose its drive belt
Tom (L) & Steve
 Tony & Devindra were milling Dinmore Manor's smoke box locking arm to achieve a flat face once again.
Tony (L) & Devindra
  Tony & Devindra also made a new smoke box door spacer ring:
New spacer ring (photo courtesy of Mark Young)
The recently acquired buffers for 76077 have been dismantled and will now be refurbished
76077's buffers in their constituent pieces
 It was rather cold outside, a brazier had been lit, but every time that I went past it, nobody was around to benefit from it, most people finding something to do in the shed.
All we needed was some chestnuts to roast on it
 Ben & Ade meanwhile were busy applying a coat of bitumastic paint into the coal space of Foremarke Hall's tender.
Ben wielding a paint brush
 An outstanding task for 3850's tender is to scrape the tender journal bearings.  Engineer's blue was applied to the axle and the bearing rotated around it.  The dark blue spots on the bearing reveals the high spots which then need to be scraped gently.  Obviously this is an iterative process with many repeats until the bearing is making contact with the axle over the whole of its length rather than just in a few spots.  Without this process, only a few high spots of the bearing face would be making contact with the axle, which would get very hot in use.
Steve rotates a bearing on an axle
Engineer's blue transferred from the axle to the bearing surface
Steve re-profiles the bearing with a scraper
 It's a long and slow, but very necessary process.

Several people used a bunch of life expired sleepers to create a new mini ash dock in the yard.  I presume that this is for use in the event of ashing out locos on the new pits

The new ash dock
 3850's pony truck frame stays have had the necessary welding done by Rob
Pony truck ready to continue with painting & assembling (photo courtesy of Mark Young)
Sam & Rob have repaired Dinmore Manor's grate and ash pan
Sam in Dinmore Manor's firebox
Moving on to Wednesday, it transpires that 2807 has suffered a bit of a set back.  What had initially been thought to be a broken piston valve ring simply turned out to be gummed up piston valve rings, but unfortunately there was also a lack of lubrication reaching the piston valve in question.  Whether or not it gets sorted in time for the Santa Specials at the weekend is not clear at the moment and one of our stand by locos may have to stand in.
Piston valve removed (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
Piston valve on the valve bench (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 Meanwhile, just in case it turns out to be necessary to run Foremarke Hall instead of 2807, her steam heat pipes were being lagged.
Foremarke Hall's steam heat pipe lagging (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 Whichever locos turn out to be running at the weekend, I can probably state without fear of contradiction that it won't be 76077.  That didn't stop work taking place on the various tender parts that the owning group have for it.
John (at least I think it's John under all that PPE) working on the tender horn guides (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
 Having had so much work done recently, it was deemed prudent to give Dinmore Manor a steam test to make sure that she would be OK to run on the Santa Specials over this coming weekend.
Mike raising steam (photo courtesy of Matthew Harris)
I'm working on the principle that no news is good news, and that as nobody has told me otherwise that everything was OK.  I hope so, I'm rostered to fire her on Sunday.

A recent item of note is that the GWSR has started providing branded clothing direct from the manufacturers which can be obtained by clicking on this link.  With the festive season almost upon us, you might well discover that otherwise elusive perfect Christmas gift.  Do note that you can also obtain branded items for Foremarke Hall, 35006, Dinmore Manor and 2874 as well if you wish.

 Which leads me nicely into the fact that I have delayed this blog post slightly until Friday 30th November as it is 2874's 100th birthday. Steam locomotives don't get telegrams from the Queen for attaining the age of 100, but if they did, 2874's would be arriving today.
2874 during BR ownership at Shrewsbury, (photo courtesy of M.L.Boakes)
The 28XX class of locomotives were designed by George Jackson Churchward of the Great Western Railway company for heavy freight work.  The prototype originally numbered 97, but later renumbered as 2800 first steamed in 1903.  In 1905, production commenced continuing until 1919. The class remained at work until the last one, 2876 was withdrawn on 31/01/65, so the class as a whole had a service life in excess of sixty years. The 28XX class was the first UK design of 2-8-0 locomotive. 

The principle work of the 28XX class was long haul heavy freight trains.  The sealing of the internal steam pipes was one of the few problems encountered with the class and commencing in 1934, most of them had external replacements.  2874 was among the few that retained internal steam pipes and is the only one of those in preservation likely to steam again.

From 1909, all 28XX locos were fitted with super heaters and ones built before that retrofitted. When in 1938, Collett embarked on building the 2884 class of heavy freight locomotives, his design differed from Churchward's in few material ways, the most obvious being the use of external steam pipes from the start and a side window to the cab which bears testimony to how essentially correct Churchward's original design had been.

2874 was built in Swindon to Churchward’s design and was part of a batch of 28 to Lot 210, Diagram I and had Works Orders of 2762 - 2789 respectively. Work started in 1918 and was completed at the end of November. The recorded cost to build was £4992 and when the tender was included £6193. It was rated 8F with a tractive effort of 35,380 lbs weighed out at 92 tons 12cwt with its tender.  The tenders used by these locomotives were almost exclusively the Churchward 3500 gallon models.

Coming into traffic on 4th December 1918, 2874 was just too late to help with the major war effort where its class colleagues provided valuable assistance to the Royal Navy in hauling coal from the Welsh coalfields to numerous ports in the Western region and up into Lancashire for onward movement to Scapa Flow – the so-called “Jellicoe Specials”. The first shed was Old Oak Common where it worked turn and turn about on the coal trains from Wales to London - later homes included Reading, Leamington, Tyseley, Neath, Cardiff, Banbury (1947), Stourbridge Newport , 
Aberdare and her final one again at Neath. She was condemned on 24th May 1963 and sold to Woodham Bros on 9th October that year after a working life of 44 years. As we all know, many of the locomotives that ended up in Dai Woodham's scrap yard lived to steam another day.
2874 in Barry Scrapyard
2874 when at the Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway
Shortly after arriving at Toddington
On display in the car park at Toddington during a Cotswold Festival of Steam Gala
2807 of course reached her 100th birthday thirteen years ago and at the time was yet to return to steam in preservation.  Likewise, 2874 has reached 100 years of age and has yet to return to steam in preservation. She doesn't have enough puff at the moment to blow out 100 candles, but watch this space, one day she will steam again.
2874 contemplating a bright future