Sunday, 2 July 2017

Merchant Navy Sets Sail for the Watercress Line

No less than about 3 weeks after Dinmore Manor left us for a summer down at the WSR, the magnificent Merchant Navy 35006 is also packing her bags to be one of the starring locos at the Watercress Line for their summer gala, commemorating fifty years since the end of Southern steam. By the time you read this she will have already left and arrived at her destination!

As always at the GWSR we pride ourselves on the appearance of our locos and this is certainly no different when they visit other lines - making a good impression is always at the top of the list so a plea for a willing gang of volunteers was requested for the weekend, to make her look as good as possible.
P&O sits in the yard on Friday afternoon having a scrub-up and a polish.
Injector pipes shine in the afternoon sun!
A handful of us (myself, Roy, David, Ash, and another gentleman whose name I didn't get) turned up on the Friday to start the process of beautifying this lovely southern engine - cleaning the frames, springs, wheels, and rods... anything that was dirty. I took to the Brasso and set about polishing up quite a bit of the copper pipework on the outside - and there is an awful lot of it on this engine, in comparison to her GWR stablemates.

A work in progress
Ash arrived a little later in the afternoon and set about polishing the outside of the boiler. 

Ash polishes the boiler

One of the jobs that needs to be done prior to transportation is the splitting of the tender from the engine. The draw bar on this engine about 6 feet long - at the tender end of the bar sits a very large nut which Chris had slackened off in preparation. To get to the connection on the engine side, an access panel on the cab floor needs to be lifted up - once done, this is what you are greeted with:

The top of the pin that forms the connection between tender and engine
This long and heavy pin had been thoughtfully made to include a convenient lifting eye which makes removal so much easier. I looped some string through it whilst Chris went underneath the loco and prepared to hammer away at the bottom of the pin so that it could be freed.


It's important to take the weight of the pin whilst freeing it up, especially when it starts to move as there's a danger it could fall back down into its original position, meaning you have to start all over again - not ideal for a heavy and slightly awkward job. Once completely free, it's a good idea to move it to the one side as soon as it comes out to stop it from falling down the hole from whence it came.


Pin out and safely moved to one side

This short period of being out of action in readiness for transportation also gives the department a chance to fix any small issues that have arisen since being in service - in particular, the front damper handle assembly had come apart and was in need of some careful disassembly to make sure nothing fell out into the deepest depths of P&O's inner workings never to be seen again... namely, a small grub screw used to keep the collar fixed in position.

The damper handle in question

The first job was to remove the four nuts from the studs that hold the bracket down, being careful to keep everything in the same orientation as when it was removed. 

With instructions from Andrew Marshall, one of the main engineers behind P&O,  Chris and I set about taking it all apart. With the brackets removed it was possible, with some assistance underneath to push up the damper door, to unscrew the handle from the shaft, revealing the collar underneath.
 
Handle off, it was time to locate the grub screw
Feeling confident that we hadn't heard anything drop, we started to hunt for the grub screw - only, it was nowhere to be seen. It was not on the cab floor, nor was it buried in the grease on the collar. On closer inspection of the collar, to our surprise there was no provision for a grub screw anywhere on it! So, it was time for a clean-up of the collar in preparation to have a grub screw fitted over the next few days before she went away to the Mid Hants. 

Is your collar as clean as this one?
On Saturday, work continued on sorting out various small jobs...

P&O looking fantastic on Saturday
Photo by Dan Wigg

The ash pan was cleaned out, as was the smoke box, and the boiler was drained which was completed by Dan and Chris S. In the workshop, some axle box packers were being machined up ready for when the loco is transported on the HGV.

On Wednesday it was time the big move from Toddington to Alresford, a journey of roughly 95 miles or so. It was quite a tense move for all involved, this being the first time that the loco has been out of Toddington since its restoration began in 1983.

P&O sat happily in the Mid Hants yard after her big trip
Photo by Dan Wigg
As always though, the move went well and P&O can currently be seen running alongside an impressive lineup of locos at the Summer Gala.


35006 at the Mid Hants Summer Gala, commemorating 50 years since the end of Southern Steam.
34052 Lord Dowding (Battle of Britain Class) can be seen in the background
Photo by Dan Wigg

If you'd like an opportunity to see P&O for yourself scampering on the 10 miles of the Watercress Line, the gala continues this weekend of the 8th and 9th of July.

Meanwhile at Toddington, there have been preparations to get more of the shed floor cleaned, sealed and painted after much of it had been concreted over the last couple of years.

Now that most of Broadway canopy has been assembled and moved, one of the last sections of the shed floor is now empty. It has been very thoroughly cleaned and was looking like new as of last Friday!
A clean shed floor
Once again there was a call for volunteers to help out with sealing (Thursday 29th) and painting (Friday 30th). I came in on the Friday afternoon to get stuck in. I found Roger T busy mixing the next batch of paint.

Roger mixes the next batch of paint

The morning gang, David H and Martin G, had already painted a third or halfway down the three sections by the time myself and fellow afternoon painting companion William N arrived.
You've missed a bit!
With three of us on the rollers it didn't take very long at all. Happy to report that this time around, no rollers snapped during the painting of the floor - which is what happened last time - I have memories of having to finish most of the floor on my hands and knees!

All done - just one more small section left to concrete

The coming week at a glance at the GWSR

Tuesday 4th July Blue Timetable 7903 Foremarke Hall
Wednesday 5th July Blue Timetable 7903 Foremarke Hall
Thursday 6th July Blue Timetable 7903 Foremarke Hall
Saturday 8th July Red Timetable TBD
Sunday 9th July Red Timetable TBD

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Dinmore Manor Heads to WSR / 1450 Photo Charter / Classic Vehicle Day / SVR visit by DML

It's a blisteringly hot June so far and last week 7820 Dinmore Manor left a pleasant Toddington for the even sunnier climes of the West Somerset Railway for her holidays.


"Are we nearly there yet?!" she said
(Photo by Mark Young)

Meanwhile, loco 1450 and auto coach Chaffinch from the SVR stayed on awhile after our Workhorses of Steam Gala for a photo charter that occurred on the first Saturday following the opening of Hayles Abbey Halt on 5th June.

The symbolic image of a 14XX class loco and an auto coach harks back to the days where this combination regularly worked the local services of the Honeybourne Line - affectionately called 'The Coffee-Pot' (due to the fact that before 1920 the services were worked by Great Western Rail Motors which resembled the shape of a coffee pot). Ray was there to capture some great shots - some of which are below... thank you Ray.

Recreating that classic Hugh Ballantyne shot of 1424... this time with
a bit less H2O and more steam!


1450 charges through the Cotswolds putting a smile on everyone's faces


An excellent panning shot, showing off the compact dimensions
and proportions of the 14XX class
Sunshine glints over the top of her boiler in this stunning silhouette 


Beautiful sunset colours define the outline of 1450 and Chaffinch


An interesting fact is that now that Hayles Abbey Halt has opened, there are officially more heritage railway stations/halts in Gloucestershire than there are national network examples.

Sunday 11th June saw the latest of our bi-annual Classic (and Modern Classic) Vehicle Days. Yet another exceptionally hot day, I was beginning to wish I'd prepared a bit better and done the sensible thing and applied some sun screen - at the end of the day I rather resembled something like a lobster or a beetroot...

Now, if you like your cars as well as your steam locos, you are in for a treat in this part of the blog. It was a very successful show this summer, with, I think, about 219 vehicles in all paying a visit to our friendly line in the Cotswolds.


Views of the Show I


Views of the Show II


Exhibitors to the show entered for free, with many receiving 2-for-1 vouchers to take a trip out on the line behind one of our fabulous engines. There was an enormous variety of different vehicles - motorbikes new and old, classic cars, some daily drivers, and even super cars. Coventry Transport Museum also brought along a couple of impressive vehicles, remarkably both in running order, which is so unusual to find with 'museum pieces'.


This Austin fire engine from CTM certainly attracted a lot of attention



The oldest vehicle at the show - also from CTM, this stunning Napier

From the oldest to the newest, and perhaps most technologically complex at the show- this Ferrari 458 Italia
Another example from the stable of the prancing horse, this 2003 Ferrari 360 Spider


a close-up of the beautifully sculpted headlights

...and now to the most unusual and basic of vehicles -
a GN, of British origin


The amount of fresh air used in the creation of this vehicle really is quite something!
A quick internet search suggests they were quite sporting


The most basic of interiors - functional. Everything you need... and nothing you don't


There was even a vintage lorry on display - I forgot the make, but the sign writing on
the side was a real eye-catcher. I'm not sure I'd ask them for a quote though! 


A pretty and seldom seen Alfa Romeo
This pair of daily driven classics sport the patina of life!


This 1989 Volvo 440 was in immaculate condition - once a common sight on our roads in the 90s,
now getting rarer and rarer.

Examples from fairly local marque Morgan Motors of Malvern were not hard to come by, with many a Roadster on display, and this unusual 2015 three-wheeler - the owner clearly likes a certain local fashion label (other brands are available) - it wears it well.

A Morgan Three-Wheeler proudly showing off its 2.0 V-Twin engine
with chrome accents


A most unusual rear end makes for some interesting and entertaining
driving characteristics 


"Caution - Hot!"


An impressive Roadster - perfect from every angle
If you've liked what you have seen why not come and pay a visit at the next show? Sunday 10th September 2017 is the next Classic Vehicle Day and if you have a classic yourself and would like to come along, you can enter here.

In other news, a number of Dinmore Manor Locomotive Limited members paid a visit to the Severn Valley Railway to travel behind sister loco 7812 Erlestoke Manor on a special wine and cheese evening train, on Saturday 3rd June.

We arrived at just before 6pm if my memory serves me correctly, which gave us plenty of time to sample the local fish and chips from the establishment just across the road from the station. It was very good, I must say.


7812 waits patiently to join her train at Platform 2

Quietly simmering away


Gleaming brass work on the nameplate.

This evening was the first time I had travelled on the SVR since I was a child so it was a nice opportunity to see it again as I don't remember any of it from the first time! The line is longer than on the GWSR, at 16 miles compared to our 13, now that the line has opened up to Little Buckland.

Scenery-wise, the line is extremely pretty - very similar to that of the GWSR, perhaps if a little more hilly in places.


Erlestoke Manor rounds a corner and goes under a bridge on the way to Bridgnorth

We had quite a long stop at Bridgnorth which gave us time to admire some of the locos in the sidings that were gently smoking with warming fires ready for services the next day.

Sister to our own 2807, 2857 sits just ahead of 7802 Bradley Manor.
Meanwhile, GWR pannier tank sits towards the back left with Taw Valley and Sir Keith Park
to the right

Meanwhile, a local cat decided to pay a visit to the station.
He didn't pay attention to the sign, however - what a naughty cat.

As the sun began to set, it cast a beautiful orange glow over the Shropshire/Worcestershire countryside, resulting in some lovely images, even if they were only taken with a mobile phone!

Bewdley Station bathed in the orange glow of a summer sunset

Back at Kidderminster, it was time for a quick group photo before everyone left for home... some people pre-empted this and managed to escape before I had chance to snap a photo, but here are the few I managed to round up!

(l-r) Will, Mike, Chris (7812), Dan, Mark, Mark and Sam

Thank you very much to the 7812 group for inviting us along to this wonderful evening!

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Gala Event - Workhorses of Steam

The Spring Bank Holiday weekend saw the culmination of a year's hard work come into fruition for the Steam Dept Gala Committee. After a difficult final week of preparations, Saturday morning came along as it inevitably would do and delivered a lovely sunrise over the yard to herald the start of what would be a great weekend of steam.

2807 and her shedmates bask in the pinky-orange glow of the late spring sunrise
Photo by Jeremy Booth

On the Friday afternoon before the Gala, it was a blisteringly hot day. It didn't stop a gang of volunteers coming in to do some loco cleaning, however, to give the rest of the cleaners over the weekend a head start. Myself, Graham and Alex were there to name just three and we decided to start on the BR Standard Class 4 76017. She had not long come out of overhaul so she was a pleasure to clean, and as you can see she came up beautifully. Many thanks to the Watercress Line for such a nice engine. 

76017 shines in the sun

Of course it's not just the locos that need to keep up our reputation for well-presented stock - from time to time the carriages require some attention, particularly the 'spare set' used for busy times such as this. If anyone has an older red car (or anything red, really) that's ungaraged the sun can bleach the paintwork and make it appear pink. Not always the desired look! So someone had to break out the polish and get to work on that paintwork and as you can see it was really coming up well.

A bit of a polish = a vast improvement!

35006 was also out on the line, double-heading with Dinmore Manor for a pre-Gala test run to check some repairs:

35006 on test with the Manor
(Photo courtesy of Ray)
I'm glad to say that she passed and was allowed to start her duties during the busiest weekend of the year.

There were some more final touches to apply to Dinmore Manor's new tender - everyone's favourite - more water-slide transfers! 

Andy (l) and Sam preparing for the transfers - the essential washing up liquid in-hand
(photo courtesy of Ray)

The transfer ready to go on, with holes to allow for the rivets in the side of the tender
(photo courtesy of Ray)
Throughout the Gala weekend, there featured many double-headed trains on the timetable, which of course attracted a lot of photographers to capture these iron horses working together and using their enormous power. It was quite a sight... 

Foremarke Hall and Dinmore Manor create quite a show when leaving Toddington on the Saturday morning

Carriages full of excited passengers travelling behind 35006 and 76017
Photo by Leonard Wisbey

A close-up of a gleaming Dinmore

On Saturday Ray was firing on 35006 which was double-heading with 76017 with Dan W on the shovel.  

35006 waiting at Gotherington Loop for Dinmore Manor

On Saturday, it was the opposite for both of them, Ray on 76017 and Dan on 35006.
Here 76017 waits next to the mess coach as 4270 and the freight train comes by

76017 at Winchcombe, while Dinmore pulls into the platform

The highlight of the weekend, as with last year's Gala, was a 14-coach special top-and-tailed with Foremarke Hall and 35006, which departed on the evening of 27th June. It was a very pleasant evening after some very changeable weather. During the trip, 7903 worked Toddington to Cheltenham Racecourse, while 35006 worked Cheltenham Racecourse to Little Buckland, then 7903 was leading once again from Little Buckland back to base at Toddington. 


Amongst the various attractions of the weekend there were some Footplate Experiences (which were fully sold out), enabling members of the public to book up a slot and enjoy the sights and smells of the footplate, plus to see the driver and the fireman at work, for a single trip between Toddington and Cheltenham.

Additionally there was the opportunity to ride in one of our brake vans on the authentic looking freight-train, seen here at Cheltenham waiting for its next load of excited passengers:

Freight Train at Cheltenham

A gleaming Foremarke sits at Cheltenham with the freight.
John proudly stands in the background with a guard

Always popular, the brake van rides offer almost panoramic views of the line to the rear and an up-close-and-personal look at whichever locomotive is pulling it. Of course it also means being at-one with the weather - and if it's raining, you get wet. Still, all in the name of fun. 

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noted that the Starfish was not to be found amongst the wagons - this is because it was, in fact, on display in the main car park at Toddington, itself displaying a model of The Flying Scotsman.

Shunter 11230 sits with the Starfish...

...as it displays a miniature Flying Scotsman

However this wasn't the only model on display - Dinmore Manor Group had been kindly loaned an impressive example of a model of 3850 for their stand in the marquee. Being new to these fully operational models, I was taken aback by the detail of all the parts, in particular the miniature gauges, and the fact that it generally still functions in much the same way as the full size versions.

A fully operational model of 3850. This is what we are aiming for with the real 3850 just on a bigger scale!
Another unique attraction of the gala was the opening of the privately owned platform and gardens of Gotherington station to the public - many thanks to owners Bryan and Savita for the privilege, and also for supplying food and drink to those attending.

It was also possible to take a ride on the handcar - a very different way of experiencing rail travel!

Eleanor on the handcar
For myself in particular it wasn't until the Monday of the gala that I could get my camera out and be creative - the weather was shocking in the afternoon, what felt like torrential downpours, but finally in the closing stages of the gala the clouds broke, making way for some sunshine and some interesting photo opportunities. 

A romantic shot of 76017 in the (rare) golden sunshine 


Vintage-style 4270 and the freight train at Winchcombe

1450 and the Chaffinch attract a crowd

BR logo on 1450

A moody-looking 76017 pulls into Toddington

Sam surveys the scene out of the cab of the BR Standard Class 4


Goliath and David

Sam and Mark discuss something important

Aaron (l) and Phil take a breather. Almost the end of a long day

Reflections of 1450

The Toddington station sign reflected in a glassy puddle

35006 thunders in to Platform 1 to unload her last passengers of the day

Engines await their turn for disposal. Dinmore Manor is in the foreground with 35006 wearing her 'Canberra'
board towards the rear

76017 on Platform 1, Toddington

Yes. They might bite. 

7:30pm on the last day of the gala. All is silent... and awaiting the whistle
of the next arrival...

So as another Gala comes to an end, planning for the next one will be be starting again before you know it. The most exciting thing about the next one so far will be that by then, Broadway will have already opened... 

Broadway Beckons

Having 76017 here at the GWSR has got a lot of volunteers thinking about our own (albeit privately owned) 76007, currently residing along one of the sidings, dismantled, and waiting for her turn to shine once again like her sister. Maybe one day...

Finally I'd like to say, and I'm sure you will all agree, that the team had done a fantastic job this year against all the odds to deliver yet another fantastic Gala. Also well done to the cleaners who kept up the condition of the locos during the event - they all looked fabulous and while carrying out my chaperoning duties I received a number of compliments on how nice the fleet looked.


Lastly, I know how you all like your facts and trivia about all things GWSR, so I thought I'd add that on the Saturday we had rostered the youngest steam locomotive here (Dinmore Manor), with the oldest crew here at our railway - Driver Jeff Madge and Fireman Clive Norton!

Driver Jeff(r) and Fireman Clive show the youngsters how it is done
If you were here at the weekend and enjoyed your visit, why not leave a comment in the comments section below? We would love to hear from you.

On a separate note, there is an update to the 'A Look Back to 1996' blog - a report and photos kindly sent in by ex-steam dept member Dave Scott, recalling the time when the Goods Shed floor was being put in. If you'd like to see this, click here and scroll to the end of the 1996 feature!