Thursday, 16 August 2018

Too Many Steves

I need to start this week with an apology, Peter sent these two photos of Dinmore Manor being loaded for transportation to the West Somerset Railway several weeks ago, whilst I was on holiday and I managed to overlook them in the last blog.
Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge

Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge
You will note that the skies are a lovely shade of blue, that all seems like such a long time ago now.   Dinmore Manor will return to us at the end of September and hopefully bring the blue skies back with her.

Since the opening to Broadway and the splitting of shifts, turns on the footplate have become more frequent, and often shorter.  On Friday, your humble blogger was down as crew 1 on a blue timetable, which according to the relatively recently issued "Crew Simplifier" meant that I lit up a loco (Foremarke Hall on this occasion) and then fired it for a full round trip of the line, before a relief crew took it over for the rest of the day.  No cleaner had volunteered for the turn, which meant that I had no help with fetching wood, oily rags, emptying the smoke box, nor emptying the ash pan again.  On the plus side, there was plenty of room on the footplate.
We started the day with a bit of a shunt, 4270 was on the pit on road 9 and wanted to go inside the shed on road 8, then 2807 (which was rostered to run on Saturday) needed pulling out of the shed and onto the pit on road 9.

Shunting 4270 with Foremarke Hall

Foremarke Hall, entering the shed to collect 2807
 Fortunately, the light up and shunt were all accomplished in the dry, but by the time that we were hooked onto the maroon rake in platform 2, the heavens had opened. Foremarke Hall's storm sheet had seen remarkably little use recently, and looked a bit surprised as we dragged it out of the tool container.

Andy (driver) staying nice and dry before departure
 The old trick of wedging a broom under the storm sheet to permit rearwards visibility was swung into action.

Amazingly it managed to stay in place without falling out
 The results were a bit mixed though, as an enthusiastically filled tender meant that the coal obscured visibility a bit, and there was no option but to stick your head out through the cab window and get wet if you wanted to see where you were going when running tender first.

On the plus side, we weren't going to run out of coal
 Unexpectedly, we had the maroon rake, which unlike the chocolate & cream rake doesn't have a griddle in the buffet car. This is important stuff, a crew can't set off without a good breakfast inside them.  The buffet car attendant rang through to WInchcombe and ordered bacon rolls for us to be delivered to the footplate as we passed through.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Breakfast keeping warm until we were on the move again.
 As already mentioned, it was persistently raining, I noted that one farmer near Gotherington had paid heed to the old adage, "Make hay while the sun shines"...

Hay bales awaiting collection
 Whereas another farmer near Broadway had only got half way through the job

Too late!
 The combine harvester was still in exactly the same place on Saturday, perhaps the farmer had given up and decided that sampling some of the refreshments on offer during our Real Ale Weekend was a better idea.

The lure of real ale wasn't sufficient inducement, nor the rain a sufficient deterrent to deflect the various line side groups hard at work over the weekend, P Way, Line side Drainage and Line side Clearance all being spotted at various locations
P Way at work near three arch bridge

Running round at Broadway
 Then, all too soon, it was time to hand over Foremarke Hall to Jamie and Mike for the afternoon shift
Mike... not quite quick enough to evade my camera & Jamie (with the headboard)
It seems odd handing over to another crew in the middle of the day

It's been a while since the yard flooded.
Moving on to Saturday, it was now the other way round, I was supposed to sign on at 09:00 and discover my loco (2807 this time) already prepared and ready for me to take over.  As anticipated, Steve F had already done all the pre-flight checks and lit the fire.  Steve B meanwhile had oiled up 2807, so my driver, Steve O was able to sign on at 09:00 and just pick up the loco and go.  I felt rather out of place not being called Steve.

There was a cleaner rostered on Saturday, Angela, who did her best to clean both Foremarke Hall and 2807 for the day's duties. 

Angela about to use the hose-brush on one of the locos
 Steve B is in the throes of becoming an inspector and joined us for the morning on 2807 as a practise session.  Aside from watching Steve O like a hawk, Steve B chose to ask him lots of awkward questions on the whys and wherefores of various different braking systems.  

Steve O (l) looking for the right away, Steve B dreams up cunning questions
 Steve B spent most of his time perched on the tool box inspector's seat and until I pointed the camera at him, usually in a recumbent position.  He complained that there were neither cushions, nor steam heat available for the inspector and that any half decent fireman would have rigged up steam heated cushions for him.

Steve B... spotted my camera and swiftly sat upright and looked alert
 An inspector is supposed to observe the crew in action and assess whether or not they are competent in their roles.  They are not really meant to participate in crewing the loco, however Steve B very kindly shovelled coal forward on several occasions.
Steve B bringing coal forward

Crossing Foremarke Hall at Toddington
 Although the rain over the weekend has dampened things down a bit, line side fires are still a major concern.  Spotting smoke in the distance as we left Toddington, we feared the worst, but were relieved to discover that it was only a bonfire in somebody's garden at Didbrook.

An intentional conflagration
Speaking of smoke, we still have odd lumps of the Scottish coal appearing in the tenders, you never really know what you're going to get... a glance at the chimney soon gives the game away though.
A Scottish lump, surrounded by Welsh
That shovel full was Scottish alright, hope the signalman has the windows closed
No photos I'm afraid, but 2807 now has a set of ash pan guards fitted behind each damper door.  Hopefully this will prevent the egress of ash whilst running and mitigate against line side fires.  Many thanks to Jeremy for hanging around after Foremarke Hall had finished ashing out to assist with ashing out 2807.

More news from Peter, the oil store has taken delivery of 4 drums of motion oil and one of steam oil, the Wednesday gang got them shifted to where they want to go.
Oil in motion, l-r, Ian, Richard & Martin. Photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge

Peter also mentioned that the Building Services dept generously helped out in their lunch break to collect a truck load of pallets for the wood store. 

And finally, inter-departmental help is not the only kind we have, in a spirit of inter-loco owning group cooperation, the 2807 team, flushed with the success of installing an excellent set of ash pan guards on their own loco have gone ahead and done the same for 4270.
One of four ash pan guards on 4270, photo courtesy of Roger Molesworth
I know that it's turned to rain for a while, but the longer term forecast suggests that we will be needing these in the near future.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Home and Away

The silence these last few weeks can only signify one thing, your humble blogger has taken some well deserved holiday.  The start of it can be easily pinpointed as the moment that the hitherto unseasonably lengthy period of unbroken sunshine came to a sudden end.  Now that I am back, the heatwave has obviously decided to continue.  So, what do you do on rainy days in the Lake District?   Well for a starter, there is the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, home to the last two surviving Fairburn tank engines, one of which was in steam when I called in: 
Fairburn tank, 42073 departing Haverthwaite
The primary reason for taking that particular week as holiday was not to avoid the diesel gala (I'm quite fond of diesel hydraulics as it happens), but to attend a photo charter in Threlkeld quarry.  Heritage steam being a small world, I discovered that Mike W, a one time fireman on the GWSR and now member of the water team (they sort out the RO water, nothing to do with water polo) was also on the charter.
Rail mounted steam shovel... it's huge, there is a three man crew in there.
Max, one for four visitors from the Statfold Railway
Five locos in steam, Blencathra provides the scenic backdrop
A day trip across country to the NRM at Shildon isn't out of the question either, where the next GWSR coincidence occurred, no sooner had I walked in, than I bumped into Jonathan (one of our firemen), along with his family.

Churchward heavy freight loco 2818 was probably the most interesting exhibit on display as far as I was concerned, but I was rather amused at the Bagnall fireless loco, just in case the hefty buffers behind it weren't enough to make sure that it didn't roll backwards, somebody had placed a chock behind one of its wheels to make absolutely sure. 
Belt & braces
Note the cylinders are under the cab floor rather than at the front.  There is no need for them to be at the front, as there is no smoke box to exhaust the blast pipe through in order to increase the draw on the fire, as it doesn't have a fire.

As already mentioned, 2818 held the most attraction for me, note the inside steam pipes, the lamp bracket in the early position atop the smoke box, rather than on the smoke box door, no steam heat and the squared off rather than curved drop at the front of the running plate.  Hard to see from this shot, but it also still has its exhaust steam injector fitted.  If I had to find fault with it, the coupling had not been stowed in the appropriate GWR fashion.
One day, our own 2874 may look something like this.
The next stop was the Tanfield Railway, where I bumped into Jonathan and his family once again... steam enthusiasts obviously think alike.  We had inadvertently arrived on a teddy bear themed day, which went down well with Jonathan's children.

I was particularly impressed with the rolling stock at the Tanfield Railway, and paused for a while when I spotted this in their carriage shed. 
Definitely not a MKI
Closer inspection revealed that the axle boxes came from somewhere closer to home than I had expected.
The plot thickens
It turned out that this carriage was actually a converted Mink D.  One of their other carriages was a converted Fruit D.

The last, extremely rainy day was spent on the Stainmore Railway at Kirkby Stephen East.  I have called in here on dozens of occasions before and never caught them on a running day... until now.  The bad news was that their normal Peckett, F.C. Tingey wasn't in steam (another GWSR coincidence, its owner also owns shares in 35006).
The good news was that recently arrived Peckett, Lytham St Anne's was in steam.
Lytham St Anne's
We treated ourselves (yes, Mrs blogger was there too) to a footplate ride... and you thought 4270 was cosy with 4 on the footplate. Nevertheless, it was extremely enjoyable, and the crew very friendly and happy to answer our questions about the railway.  The current length of their running line may only be a similar sort of length to Gotherington loop and the motive power rather small compared to our home fleet, but it is an absolutely charming railway and well worth a visit if you get the chance.  The GWSR was probably not too dissimilar in its early days, in fact one of our earliest locos, another Peckett, called John is even now in the David Page shed and slowly taking shape again.
John, in the David Page shed
Back from the Lake District, I returned to Toddington on Friday for a firing turn on 4270.  There was little else going on, though Alex was hard at work as usual, cleaning Foremarke Hall ready for running on Saturday.  Her other half, Chris was busy cleaning the mess coach, it's best not to ask just how old some of the items were that he threw out of the fridge.
Alex, working her magic on Foremarke Hall
You may recollect that 35006 had broken a coil spring on her bogie, that has now been replaced.
35006, ready for action again
The fence in the car park has been replaced, and was being treated to some preservative when I wandered past.  The old fence has of course already been recycled into the wood store and will have been used to light up several locos by now.
New fence being coated with creosote substitute
In the new era of split shifts, I arrived to sign on at an incredibly civilised 11:30, ready to take over 4270 from the morning crew at 12:30.

As you may well have noticed, aside from the week that I was on holiday, there has been something of a heatwave going on and the risk of lineside fires is high.  The mainline has banned steam, unless it is mostly being pushed along by a diesel, and several heritage railways have banned steam altogether.   This is an issue that we cannot be complacent about and in order to mitigate against the risk of lineside fires, all of our locos have spark arresters fitted in their smoke boxes and many have spark guards in their ash pans.  Where no ash pan spark guards are yet fitted, there are instructions to keep all dampers closed, except the one highest up, which will therefore keep ash in the longest.  In the case of 4270, it is the very front damper that is to be kept open.  When I arrived on the footplate, I instantly noticed that some red tape had been put round the dampers as a reminder.
Do not adjust your dampers, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible
4270 had only just returned to us from having her driving wheel balance weights repaired, it had been over a year since I had last had a turn on her.  My recollection of her was that she was extremely easy to fire, a comparatively small grate, no trouble making steam, and injectors that worked faultlessly, first time, every time.  I had been disappointed to note that her fault record suggested that her injectors were not as quick to pick up as they once were, however as it turned out, they worked perfectly for me.
Ade, over on the driver's side of the cab
Something that I had noticed elsewhere is that the Carriage and Wagon 03 shunter (built in Swindon) has been treated to a rather nice paint job.  In keeping with its Swindon heritage, it has even been equipped with a copper capped chimney... well, OK, I didn't look too closely, but I suspect that it is copper coloured paint.  Nevertheless, they have made a stunning job of it.
Puts the steam loco dept's shunters to shame
Perhaps if we accidentally park our shunters down at Winchcombe, C&W will take pity on them and do the same?

Being a tank engine with relatively limited water capacity, water was taken at every opportunity.  The balance pipe between the two side tanks is not all it could be, so refilling is a slow process.  It is possible to have it overflowing on one side, yet still very low on the other.
Unfortunately I missed the overflow photo
Jeremy (cleaner) grappling with the coupling
It was of course back to being unbearably hot on Friday, though the cab of 4270 wasn't as hot as I had feared that it was going to be.  
Ade provided welcome refreshments, here being consumed by Jeremy
The car park at Broadway is now taking shape
4270 running round at Broadway
Feeling unusually brave, I let Jeremy make his own decisions about what to do and when, when I let him have a turn on the shovel, holding back on my normal instinct to micro manage.  After an initial over firing, he recovered very well and made an extremely good job of it.
Jeremy feeds the fire
If we thought it was warm on the footplate, I imagine that it wasn't easy out in the fields harvesting the crops.  They still found time to wave at us though.
I wonder what the crop was.
Something that had concerned us at the start of the day, was that the maroon rake was in platform 2 at Toddington, and we arrived at the end of the day from Cheltenham, meaning that we would be trapped at the north end of the station.
The solution as it turned out, was to hook onto the maroon rake and propel it out beyond the bracket signal by the signal box and leave it there, which would make things easier for the crew of the first train going to Broadway on Saturday morning.
We stopped to take water as we went...
...and once again I missed the water overflow shot.
Instructions on the mess coach notice board, also said that 4270 should have a full bunker of coal to make sure that it had enough to work a full day.
Ade duly obliged... he struggled to see over it as we went round to the shed afterwards
The maroon rake, left on the running line for Saturday
Foolishly, I was back again on Saturday, though this time, not for a firing turn.  In the relatively near future, 3850's old boiler, which is currently parked on 2874's frames will be removed to Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD's private site to join the frames of 3845.  The tubes have been removed, so some extra weight at the front of the boiler is required as a counter balance when the crane lifts it.  The 2807 group have kindly loaned some chairs from their stockpile that will eventually be turned into boot scrapers.
21 chairs, a considerable counter weight.
Speaking of 3850, a bit of a blitz took place on getting her frames painted.  The underside of the driver's side of the running plate has still not been fully stripped of paint, or even completely cleansed of the usual oily grot and grime that accumulates under there.
More work required under here
Keith at work with a wire brush
Meanwhile, Sam was encouraging the bolts holding the frame stretchers to the cylinder block to free up.
Sam, putting his back into it
Richard was giving one of the tender wheels another top coat
David E painted the tender's axle boxes
David F wire brushed the suspension mounting points
Martin took photos for the DMLL working volunteers weekly newsletter...
...before hoovering up the dust created by the wire brushing.
Yours truly found it easier to simply remove one of the wheel splashers to clean the grime off of it, as well as provide improved access to the area under the running plate.  It made painting it rather easier too.
Splasher in primer
 The hand brake mechanism from the tender was also brought my way whilst I had the primer out.
Tender hand brake
Meanwhile, 35006 was coming in for some TLC, with it's tender axle boxes being repacked with grease
Bob, greasing up one of 35006's tender axle boxes
35006 was also having some new dampers for it's suspension put together, initially, Dan & Will were busy gluing the damping elements together, but by the time I got there with my camera, Dan had been replaced by Sam.
Sam (l) & Will making dampers for 35006's suspension
And finally, if you were afraid that borrowing 21 chairs for 2874 from the 2807 group was going to leave them short of raw materials for their production line of boot scrapers, then fear not.  There were many left to be converted, as well as some that they had in best Blue Peter fashion, prepared earlier
Roger with a trolley load of boot scrapers that had been prepared earlier.