Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The Sound of Steam

The day job beckoned on Saturday, however I was fortunate enough to have a firing turn on Sunday... well, if you regard prepping and operating a loco in storm Callum fortune, then I was fortunate.  Occasionally the rain diminished to the point of merely being torrential.  As an indication of how bad it was, a tray of tea soon filled up with rain water. 
After just a few minutes stood out in the rain!
Not only was it raining, but we have got round to the time of year when it's dark when you start in the mornings.  Clearly the number one priority was to get the tea under cover, so as the Saturday crew hadn't put the storm sheet up for us, we had to do it ourselves.
Storm sheet up, the tea would be diluted no further.
It wasn't too cold, but Steve (Dinmore Manor's driver on Sunday morning) decided that he wanted the "cab heater" switching on:
I duly obliged
 Ben had sent me an email saying that I should expect a footplate passenger called Alessandro who would be making sound recordings for possible use in DCC chips for model railway locomotives.  I am very much hoping that this means that there will be a modern version of a OO gauge Manor class locomotive offered by one of the model railway manufacturers in the near future. It is a glaring omission that needs rectifying at the earliest opportunity.  It seems that Alessandro had made a start on Saturday, as there was already a bunch of cables snaking their way around Dinmore Manor's cab when I arrived.
Cables in the cab...
...and trip wires more cables on the running plate
 Back in the mess coach, more books had appeared for reading by the discerning.  These two appear to be extolling the virtues of Sir Nigel Gresley and in particular his A4 class of locomotives.  I'm not sure if the donor by leaving them on the same table as "Great Train Disasters" was trying to make some sort of a statement.
Gresley books
Not a Gresley book!
Speaking of the things left in the mess coach, the Dinmore Manor jigsaw puzzle mentioned last week has been completed by Mrs blogger & myself:
Dinmore Manor in 1,000 pieces
 I have to confess that Mrs blogger did most of it.

 Meanwhile, there was real work to be done out in the yard if Dinmore Manor (the locomotive, not the building or come to that the jigsaw puzzle) was to be ready for work.  Peter rather wisely decided that cleaning the underneath of the front bogie would be as dry a place as any.  I stuck to cleaning inside the cab once I had the fire going and had done the tool check.
Peter cleaning the front bogie
 Alessandro on the other hand needed to attach microphones to all of the cables that he had put in place previously.  In order to keep them dry, the more exposed ones were temporarily encased in plastic bags
Not a poor man's safety valve bonnet, but a bag over a microphone
Alessandro connecting up his microphones...
...there was even one under the buffer beam to record the drain cocks...
...and a number scattered around in the cab.
 I'm not entirely sure how many microphones he had set up altogether, but I don't doubt that I would have needed to take my boots and socks off to count them all.
Alessandro checking the volume levels on each channel
The recording equipment looked far too expensive and fragile to survive for long on the footplate
 Alessandro's day started off badly, when we attached to the stock, we found ourselves parked up next to the class 20, AKA the "Whistling wardrobe" owing to the distinctive and rather loud sound that it makes.  I'm sure that he was picking up little else on any of his microphones.
The whistling wardrobe.
 Having said that the footplate is probably no place for modern digital sound recording equipment, I also take the view that it is not the best place for mobile phones either.  Steve has got round the problem by getting some armoured cladding for his phone and happily used it to check the timetable.  There was no point in him checking the weather forecast, we already knew full well what was in store for us.
Steve checks the timetable
 It was a pink timetable on Sunday, I don't think that I had done one of those before.

In spite of the fact that our recent coal deliveries have been of Welsh coal, Dinmore Manor appeared to have a tender full of Scottish coal.
Scottish coal, the clue is in the thick smoke
 Steve rather wisely inched a little way past the 8 coach stop board when we pulled up at Winchcombe to spare us from having both the chimney and the cab underneath the road bridge
No good would have come of it
 The rain was still quite relentless
Alessandro made use of a hi-viz vest to protect his sound recorder from the elements
 We even collected breakfast as we passed the buffet car during the run round at Cheltenham race Course to save getting wet.
Better than the average drive-through.
Allesandro took off his headphones for long enough to eat a bacon roll.
 Dinmore Manor returned from the West Somerset Railway facing south this time, so it was tender first into the rain all the way up to Broadway
Running round at Broadway
 That was it, one round trip and then we handed over to the afternoon crew of Andy M  (driver) Eleanor (fireman) & Andy T (cleaner).
Eleanor bolstering the fire before departure...
...whilst the two Andy's fill the tender.
Eleanor found the same seam of Scottish coal that I had.
 Sunday is a relatively quiet day for volunteer activity, but the work on 3850 and its tender still carried on:
Anthony painting the tender horn ties...
...Sam wire brushing the horn tie mounting points
And somebody had gone some way towards priming a cab side.
Roger meanwhile put what I think is the final top coat on 3850's wheels
 The people working on the Peckett, John had disappeared by the time that I turned up with my camera, but there is much evidence of work having taken place on it.
Plenty of primer and undercoat applied
Much of the motion and other fittings were in primer
A cross head and slide bar looking ready to be fitted
 Later on, when Dinmore Manor returned for disposal, Alessandro needed to spend some time removing his microphones
He could have at least used copper capped microphones!
No, a dog hadn't died in the yard, that's a microphone!
There had even been one down by the fireman's side injector
Evenually, the fruits of Alessandro's labours will be available via his website.    I'm looking forward to hearing the Manor when it becomes available.

And finally, you may recollect that I said last week that I had no photos of 4920, Dumbleton Hall when it ran on the GWSR, well one of this blog's readers has come up trumps and provided the following four photos.  Many thanks to Neil Herapath for sending these to me.
Dumbleton Hall with express lamp codes at Winchcombe

Dumbleton Hall having it's tender filled from the parachute tank at Toddington (since relocated to the yard)

Dumbleton Hall at Toddington

Dumbleton Hall at Winchcombe
The last photo is of particular interest as it predates the footbridge and building on platform 2 as well as the C&W extensions to the goods shed, never mind the Tim Mitchell building.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

It's a Washout

The plan was that Dinmore Manor would run during the West Somerset Railway's gala on the last weekend of September, cool down on the Monday, return to Toddington on the Tuesday, be put back together, have a FTR exam and have a warming fire lit on the Wednesday and be ready on the Thursday for a steam test, followed by running on the Dinmore Manor supporters' day.  The timescales were a little tight, but achievable, what could possibly go wrong?  Well, what could, and indeed did go wrong was that the person who was supposed to organise the transport could forget to do so (name withheld to protect the guilty).  There are relatively few companies that can shift a steam loco and tender and they tend to need booking well in advance.  We are extremely grateful to Reid's who pulled out all the stops to squeeze us in and get Dinmore Manor returned to Toddington on Wednesday evening.
Long shadows on the ground, Dinmore Manor puts in a belated appearance
One way of stopping grit getting into the injectors!
The sun is now over the yard arm, and Dinmore Manor descends onto the unloading road
 Ben is a fireman on the WSR as well as a driver on the GWSR.  He had prepped Dinmore Manor before departure from Bishops Lydeard, the grate had been cleaned and the start of a warming fire had been put in place, all it needed was a match... and of course some water in the boiler.
Sam connects a hose to the blow down valve
 The recently installed hydrants in the shed were then swiftly filling the boiler with water.  Once we had about half a glass, the fire was lit and the warming fire commenced.
One match applied and off we go
Dinmore Manor was returned to us from the WSR spotlessly clean
 The tender was following some hours behind,
The tender arrives
All that was left now was to squeeze them up together and connect up the draw bar and safety links, and drag the tender round to a pit via the parachute tank to fill it up.

Regrettably, the day job kept me away from the DMLL supporters' day on Thursday, however by all accounts Dinmore Manor's supporters had a marvellous time driving and firing their own loco for the day.

Dinmore Manor, ready just in the nick of time (photo courtesy of Martin Ginger)
Dinmore Manor and friends (photo courtesy of Martin Ginger)
 The following day, Mark & Martin paid a visit to Riley's to inspect the progress with 3850's boiler.  As can be seen from the photos below, the boiler is now upside down, the door plate and the lower half of both side plates have been cut away.  The front section of the barrel has also been removed.
3850's boiler (photo courtesy of Martin Ginger)
The boiler is now at the stage where no more bits have to be removed and it is now starting to go back together.As you can see in the photo below, the  throat plate has already been replaced
New throat plate (photo courtesy of Martin Ginger)
Saturday morning arrived, and so did a significant quantity of rain, the hot sunny days and associated line side fire risk seems like a very long time ago now.  Dinmore Manor was by now cool from the supporters' day on Thursday and was due for a washout.  

Amongst the collection of odds and ends left in the mess coach looking for a new home was this jigsaw puzzle of Dinmore Manor... not 7820, but the building after which 7820 was named.  It's a pretty grand looking place and I wouldn't mind betting that you could get a pretty good sized model railway in some of those rooms. I don't think that I'd want to have to keep the gardens in order though... my fingers are rather more black than green!
Dinmore Manor... in 1,000 pieces
 Concerns that the jigsaw puzzle may not have all 1,000 pieces were allayed by that fact that the pieces were all still in the original sealed plastic bag inside the box.  I took pity on it and since Saturday, Mrs blogger & myself have progressed some way towards completing it.  I wonder if there is a jigsaw out there of Foremarke Hall (the building that is, there are some of 7903 to be found in shop on Platform 1 at Toddington)

Getting back to business, being the diesel gala weekend and truly miserable weather, most of the steam dept volunteers chose to spend their Saturday elsewhere, only the brave or foolhardy turned up.  The principal task of the day was to make inroads with washing out Dinmore Manor.  Normally a loco on washout would be shunted out onto a pit and the whole process done in the open however we elected to do as much as possible indoors in the dry.   Yours truly squeezed under the cab floor and fitted a hose to the blow down valve, this time to let the water out.
An advantage of having a standard hose fitting attachment on the blow down valve

Slacken off and move aside the lock arm, then undo the valve...
...and the boiler empties out of the far end of the hose which had been placed in a pit.
 I know that there is a lot of steam in the photo, but I must stress here that this was a freak of the atmospherics on the day, the water was in fact a very pleasant 43 degrees C, we know this as Mike measured it with his new infra-red temperature gun.
Mike demonstrates his new toy
Next stop was to remove the hand hole/mud hole doors and enough washout plugs
Sam removing a hand hole door, note the magic tool to stop it falling into the boiler.
 Whilst Sam & Mike removed the washout plugs, Eleanor and I ventured into the firebox to clean the grate and remove the accumulated deposits on the various stays
Eleanor, lost in a cloud of dust in Dinmore Manor's firebox
 One of the less obvious tasks for a washout is to change the glass in the gauge frame and rod through the feed holes from the boiler to make sure that there is nothing blocking them and potentially causing an inaccurate reading.
Gauge glass removed
 Why the glass needs changing so often is readily apparent from the photo below, note that the steam has cut away much of the top of it.  NB, the wasted section is all in the top nut of the gauge, the part visible in the gauge starts where the tide mark is at the very bottom of the picture.
Steam etched glass
Mike rods through the feed holes to the gauge frame
Eleanor undoing washout plugs in the smoke box.
 Once Dinmore Manor was un-boxed, it was time shunt it outdoors onto a pit and give it some therapy with high pressure water to clean the accumulated sludge out of the boiler.  We now have an electric pump on one of the hydrants in the shed, which is far easier (and quieter) than the petrol powered pump that we used to use for washouts.
Electric pump, fed from a hydrant in the shed
 Soon enough, a small team of people were taking it in turns to get themselves wet whilst jetting water into each of the hand/mud hole doors and washout plugs.
Mike started the process off
 After inspection, Martin took the washout plugs and mud/hand hole doors into the machine room for a clean up using a very gentle rotary brush
Martin cleans a washout plug
Jamie has a go at getting wet, Mike supports the hose
 It's a bit like cooking a chicken, just wait until the juices run clear and it's done!
Water draining out of the bottom of the boiler
Sam hosing through a washout plug's hole in the cab
At the end, Mike washes through the mud hole doors and the washing part is done
Jeremy rolls up one of the hoses
 Mark & Len were around on Sunday to finish off the washout by reinserting the washout plugs, changing the fusible plugs etc and giving the boiler a thorough inspection.  All being well, Dinmore Manor will be running on every day that the railway is open from now until the end of October.

35006 was in the shed receiving some attention to its brakes.  A couple of the brake shoes had worn thin and needed replacing.
Brake shoe removed
One of the worn shoes
John takes the opportunity to clean up some of the accumulated grime under there
Steve (top) and Dave refit one of the shoes
 With many of those present from the Dinmore Manor group being tied up with the boiler washout, there were few to work on the tender for 3850,

Tony, wire brushing old paint and rust off of the tender
Nigel wire brushing the tender's horn ties
 Later on, their progress was obvious
Freshly primed...
...and underneath behind the drag box
Neatly primed horn ties
 During the last week, somebody has even got as far as getting 3850's tool tunnel into undercoat.
Nicely undercoated tool tunnel.
 2807 underwent an official steam test on Wednesday and also a mechanical exam.  The steam test was passed successfully and all is well on the mechanical front.  She spent Saturday sat in the shed sheltering from the rain and benefiting from some TLC from Alex who has a rare talent in getting steam locos to look their best.
Alex cleaning 2807's running plate.
Ben emptying 2807's smoke box.
 Being a diesel gala, only diesels were running of course.  As we were finishing the washout, the green class 37 pulled up alongside Dinmore Manor.
The green class 37
 It's hard to spot in the photo above, but a close up reveals that the steam heat bag has been rested on a plastic chair, obviously it was tired and in need of a rest.
Putting its feet up!
 The reason for this soon became apparent, the crew wanted to expel the last steam from the steam heat boiler.
Not fooling anybody, we all know it's a diesel really
2807 is rostered for all the services in November, including the race trains.  The owning group have decided that the steam heat bag is looking  a bit tatty now and want to replace it.  Unfortunately it is of the GWR variety which is a different pipe diameter to all of our other locos (BR variety).  As the GWR diameter of pipes are no longer available, this will involve replacing not just the pipe itself, but also the fittings on either rend of it for BR ones. My initial reaction was to think that it was a great shame to lose an original fitting, but of course 28XX's being freight locos never had steam heat originally at all, the steam heating currently fitted being a heritage era modification.
GWR steam heat
And finally, it's a sweeping generalisation I know, but the demographic of the Steam Loco Dept could with a fair degree of accuracy be described as male, pale & stale.  Yes, there are a small number of ladies (who punch well above their weight) and a few who are on the right side of forty, but the sad fact is, we are predominantly male and middle (and I'm being generous here) aged.  Collectively, we have long since recognised the reality that all that we manage to achieve within the department is very much down to the fact that our wives are extremely understanding (that may well be a euphemism for long suffering) and don't give us too much grief if for sake of example we are late home for dinner because we ended up helping to reunite Dinmore Manor with its tender until late at night, or return home looking like a chimney sweep because we've been working in a firebox or smoke box.  Without their support we just couldn't do all the things we do.  It came to pass on Sunday that a number of us treated our better halves to lunch at Dumbleton Hall as a way of saying thank you and to meet some of the other members of the department of whom they had probably heard much, but never met in person.  I'd never been there before, but, it was a sizable place and quite imposing.
Dumbleton Hall hiding behind some cedar trees
Of course some better halves are already familiar characters on the railway
 To be honest, most of us didn't recognise each other, we're usually clad in grubby overalls and smeared in soot/oil & grease.  Some of us even scrubbed up quite well
An excellent time was had by all
John (head of department) is usually to be found working on the railway three days each week, in spite of a lengthy commute.  In recognition of the amount of work that he puts in, he was presented with half a dozen bottles of wine along with flowers for his wife Margaret by Chris one of the steam department's inspectors. 

Dumbleton Hall was of course the inspiration for the name of Collett Hall class loco number 4920, which is happily still surviving having like so many steam locos been saved via Barry Island scrap yard.  She is currently resting between boiler tickets at the South Devon Railway.  She ran on our line for a while, but I'm afraid that was before my time and I have no photos of her back then. 
Dumbleton Hall awaiting restoration on the South Devon Railway