Thursday, 7 November 2019

Messy McMessFace

I have been berated in some quarters for the dearth of blog postings lately, the commencement of the busy season in the day job, allied with enhanced duties at the GWSR have conspired to keep me away from recording the activities of the steam loco dept for a while.  The pressure of the day job will not relent for a while longer yet, but I will do my best to keep you informed.
The "Welfare Building" is progressing incredibly well, the ground floor is now in place, complete with ceiling and scaffolding has temporarily blocked the unloading road to facilitate the construction of the next storey.
A view from earlier in October, ground floor complete...
...and more recently, second floor in progress
The brickwork is in keeping with the goods shed to which is effectively an extension and so far, it looks marvellous. It is hoped that the shell of the building, including the roof, will be erected by the end of the year assuming that the weather doesn't bite us (fingers crossed).  The building will contain mess facilities as well as showers, toilets, training rooms and more workshop space.  An official competition has been launched to name the building.  I understand that over a dozen entrants have this far been received, two or three of which were "sensible".  My personal favourite, and one by which the building will probably be unofficially yet affectionately known forms the title of this blog.  The official name will be determined by a panel of the GWSR's great and good at some point in the future.  Regardless of its name, it will be a major step forward in the facilities currently available to the steam dept, which would be best described as Spartan.

More has happened to 2874
Stuart & Tracy cleaning up 2874's pony truck
2874's sanding levers have been parted from the frames...
...and the cab fittings are now completely removed.
The running plates have been freed but not removed.
2874's frames will soon be moved into a tent placed on road 6, where contractors will grit blast the frames and then give them a coat of rust inhibiting primer. 

35006 has had a boiler hydraulic test.  This involved removing lots of bits to seal the boiler including the regulator.  The good news is that she passed the hydraulic test and will be back in traffic for the last five Santa specials leading up to Christmas.  At the time of writing, many dates for the Santa Specials are already sold out.  If you want to take your child(ren) or grandchild(ren) to see Santa at Winchcombe The North Pole by steam train, then this is the link to click on.
35006 ready for her hydraulic test
Unusually for me, I had a turn on a Wednesday (16th).  This was with Chris & Steve on Foremarke Hall.

The thing that struck me, wasn't that we had bacon rolls for breakfast, that's pretty much par for the course.
Chris (L) and Steve with the usual order for breakfast
Nor was it that Steve was pretty good with the shovel or at hooking on and off:
Steve at work
It wasn't it that Hunting Butts now had stop boards whilst vegetation clearance took  place
Not that we wanted to go down there anyway
The thing that struck me was the sheer quantity of biscuits that they consume on a Wednesday:
Several packets and a whole box of biscuits
And as if that wasn't enough, there was a sizable selection of home made cake as well.
I think that the idea is that they all get dosed up on sugar and then go out into the yard and work it all off on the many jobs around the place that need doing.  It's that or their wives/significant others don't let them eat cake and biscuits at home, and they use that as an excuse to binge when they get to Toddington.  If the latter is the case, then I've just dropped them in it... sorry chaps!

I was back again on the Saturday (19th), a morning spent painting the coal space of 3850's tender.
David & Tracy applying primer to the coal space of Dinmore Manor's tender
With thanks to inspector Meredith, in the afternoon I was "pre-assessed" as a driver.  In other words I drove well enough for a round trip of the line to be deemed of a sufficient standard to be worth training as a driver. 

9466 has done a few trips up and down the line.  The usual prelimary checks were done which included amongst other things weighing the loco to make sure that the weight was spread evenly between the axles.
9466 moved onto the scales... (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
...springs being adjusted. (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)  
9466 went out for a double headed proving run, then successfully ran on her own for a weekend.  My camera chose the day that I was there to have a flat battery, so in the end I had to make do with a photo of the event on my mobile phone at the end of the day:
Eleanor alights from the cab of 9466 at the end of its first weekend in traffic
Fans of this delightful engine will be pleased to know that it is rostered to run on all the Santa specials up until the 15th of December and then again from Boxing Day until New Years day inclusive.

Dinmore Manor has enjoyed a successful couple of weeks at the Battlefield Line's gala and is now back with us:
Dinmore Manor arriving back at Toddington (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
Friday the first of November was an owner's day for Dinmore Manor Locomotive LTD (DMLL).  The plan was to run Dinmore Manor up and down the line for a couple of round trips, with various of the DMLL supporters being given the chance to have a go at firing and driving as a way of saying thank you for all that they had contributed either financially or in practical terms over the previous 12 months. Mark & I were the qualified crew showing them how to do it.

Martin had organised the whole event.  He had decided that arranging On Train Catering (OTC) to be on board would be an excellent way of keeping the DMLL supporters fed and watered during the day. He also rather wisely in my opinion decided that just one bacon roll for breakfast wasn't really enough and that we should have two each.  This is the sort of commendable thinking that I heartily approve of.
Martin even had a turn on the footplate himself.
One of the DMLL supporters grabs the regulator, Mark enjoys his second bacon roll.
That big red handle thing seemed to be popular
 The opportunity arose for other footplate related tasks such as filling the tender with water
Turning on the water...
...Roger is more used to painting tenders, but here he is filling one instead.
 The obligatory group photo capturing most (it was like herding cats I'm afraid) participants and GWSR volunteers involved in the day took place at Broadway.
DMLL supporters
 Just in case you had run away with the idea that restoring/operating steam locos is an all male preserve, you will notice that the guard (fourth from the left sat on the platform edge) is a lady.  Bryony (for that is her name) is in the process of joining the steam loco dept with a view to becoming footplate crew.  She will still be maintaining her commitment to the guards dept as well, and no doubt she will appear on this blog from time to time has her career with us progresses.

Some of the DMLL supporters are ladies as well, this one brought along her dad too... or was it her dad brought her?  Never mind, they both appeared to be enjoying their time on the footplate.
I'm sorry to say that I didn't catch their names.
 The dad was left handed, but that didn't stop him firing by holding the shovel as a left handed person would, but stood in the right handed orientation to fire.  I was more than slightly amazed when it turned out that he could actually manage to get coal into the firebox where it was needed.
This shouldn't be possible
Somebody seemed to enjoy using the whistle more than the regulator
 Devindra is more at home in the machine shop turning up whatever items DMLL needs for its fleet of locos, however he had a go on the footplate too, along with the GWSR commercial director, Graham.  In the dim and distant past, Graham was a fireman on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, so he was more conversant with how to operate Dinmore Manor than most.
(L-R) Devindra, Mark & Graham
 The various emails that I have seen subsequently suggest that everybody had an enjoyable day on Friday.  That included Tom, who will be starting practical fireman training shortly. 
Tom, off to a poor start as he's on the wrong side of the footplate for firing.
 In contrast to the left handed gentleman mentioned earlier, Tom is right handed for most things, but fires best left handed.  It's a confusing world at times!

One of the things that I had noticed on Friday was that the new wood store had acquired a concrete apron in front of it, and a gate, but no fence had been added. 
Preparing the ground (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
Pouring the concrete (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
Waiting for it to set (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)

 I had intended to take a photo on Sunday of the solitary gate and title it something along the lines of "A gate that only a purist would use".  Come Sunday morning, when lighting up Dinmore Manor for another turn, I was too late, the fence had been largely erected around the gate.  The Saturday gang were too efficient by half... and it had been pouring down with rain all day as well.  Whoever put it up deserves a medal.
A gate that has taken offence.
Dinmore Manor on the "Cotswold Express"
 Sunday turned out to be a nice sunny day for the most part, unlike Saturday
Tom (cleaner) did very well when handed the shovel
A nice enough view from the office window
 And finally, there is much to report on the assessment of trainees front.  Alex has been moonlighting as a trainee signalman as well as being a cleaner in the steam loco dept.  I am now extremely pleased to be able to report that she has qualified on Toddington signal box.  She has been a signalman on the big railway before, so there was no doubt that she would pass.
Alex, on the day she passed out as a signalman in Toddington signal box
I thought that I had the inspectors well trained, they have been very good at getting photos to me in the past of firemen & drivers passing out if I haven't been around to capture the event for posterity myself.  I am afraid to say on this occasion they let me down,  newly qualified fireman Luke, managed to elude the paparazzi on the day that he passed out.  I have had to scour previous blog posts to find a suitable picture.
Library photo of Luke at work on the shovel.
The inspectors redeemed themselves when driver Smith qualified
Inspector Irving (L) congratulates driver Smith on passing out. (Photo courtesy of Chris Irving)
Congratulations to all three in attaining their qualifications, with grateful thanks as well to the team that trained them and also to those that inspected them and passed them out.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Pheonix From Ashes

Environmental issues are at the forefront of all our thinking these days.  Until fairly recently the ash that was generated from running our locos was sent off to become land fill.  I am now pleased to be able to inform you that the ash gets taken away, combined with cement and gets turned into breeze blocks.  Who knows, the new welfare building inner walls could have started out life in the fireboxes of some of our locomotives.
The digger, getting a bucket load of ash... (photo courtesy of Chris Blake)
...and loading it onto the lorry. (photo courtesy of Chris Blake)
Somebody somewhere is bound to say "Like a pheonix rising from the ashes", so I might just as well say it first.

Last Saturday saw a continuation with work on 3850's tender, specifically needle gunning and wire brushing inside the coal space.
David getting on with the wire brushing
 I made a start on the places that still needed needle gunning.
I'd done the bit on the left, the right was about to be done
 By the end of the day, I'd wire brushed and and put on a coat of rust inhibiting primer as well.
A start has been made at least
 The outside of the tender has seen much more progress, Roger has moved on from applying primer to grey undercoat.
Or perhaps it's "Work's Photographic Grey"?
Meanwhile, Martin and Keith have been continuing to dismantle 2874.  It is going to be shot blasted and primed by an outside contractor in the near future, but first some more bits need to come off and of course some items need protecting from the shot blasting. 
2874 on its accommodation bogies
The target for Saturday was to remove the reverser.  2874 is 101 years old now, and the reverser had probably not been removed in all that time.  It had grown quite accustomed to being where it was thank you very much and not at all inclined to go somewhere else now.
Keith applied some heat.
The mortal remains of the AWS box did come off
 At the end of the day, all bolts holding the reverser in place had been teased off, but the rust still holding it in place was a force to be reckoned with.  It will have to wait until a telehandler driver is available to lift it off.
Refusing to budge
 Meanwhile, David had been removing some of the grime from the frames and found them for the most part to be in excellent order.  One or two of the frame stretchers will need to be replaced and the drag box is also far past being fit for further service.
David, cleaning the frames...
...the drag box... or what is left of it anyway.
Just in case there wasn't enough work to be done on the locos, we seem to have adopted a wagon to repair.
John putting the brake mechanism to rights.
 The welfare building is shooting up, the breeze block inner walls have stopped for the moment and the brick external walls have been started.
The larger view...
...and a close up of the brick work.
 The standard of the brick work has come in for compliments from many quarters.  The aim is that it will blend in seamlessly with the original GWR goods shed.  It's looking pretty good thus far.

 2807 was out running on Saturday, so its owning group had little to do other than continue with their boot scraper production line (available from the Flag & Whistle).  All proceeds towards funding 2807's heavy general overhaul starting next year.
Bruce painting a boot scraper
 35006 has been having issues with its brakes, Saturday saw a team of people gathering around it.
Or at least there had been, I obviously wandered past at tea break time.
 Testing brakes when a loco is not in steam is a bit tricky as you can't use the ejector to pull up a vacuum. The 35006 group weren't to be defeated though and used an electrical vacuum creating device instead.
 This new-fangled electricity will never catch on!
 I was back again on Sunday, this time as the rostered fireman for Dinmore Manor.  The driver, Mike had hatched a cunning plan.  It was the cleaner's (Mark) birthday.  He arranged for Mark's dad to join us for a round trip of the line without Mark knowing. Mark was dispatched to the Flag & Whistle to obtain bacon rolls for the crew.  Once Mark had gone, Mike sneaked his dad onto the footplate.
Mark returning with breakfast
 We had expected Mark to be surprised when he returned to Dinmore Manor, but as it happened, he had spotted his dad's car in the car park on his way to the Flag & Whistle and put two and two together.  Best laid plans...
Mark & his dad.
Dinmore Manor running round at Broadway
 Being on the prep turn, I only did one round trip before handing over the fire to Tina for the remainder of the day.  On Saturday, just before he left, David had rather cheekily said "If you fancy hanging around until midnight, you can prime the section of 3850's tender that I have needle gunned & wire brushed".  For some unaccountable reason, I didn't fancy hanging around until midnight... I'd have been in breach of our lone working rules & working hours rules if I had.  On Sunday afternoon there were plenty of people around (the DMU group prefer to work on the bubble car on Sundays), so I got out the rust inhibiting primer once more.
Another section of the tender coal space in primer.
 It seems to be the season for painting stuff,  Bryan had fetched his 04 shunter into the shed and was busy wire brushing off the old paint
Bryan wire brushing...
...and Dan followed behind with the primer.
 You may remember from the last blog post that Anthony was my cleaner and I was keen to let him fire a round trip.  I knew of course that he was only a week away from being assessed as a fireman and wanted to make sure that he had a bit of last minute practice. He fired perfectly then and obviously fired perfectly again on Sunday, as he has now been passed out as a fireman.  Congratulations Anthony.
Inspector Meredith (L) with Anthony
A new head of locomotive training has recently been appointed who I have it on very good authority was extremely pleased at this first passing out of an engine man during his tenure. His enthusiasm to update the online operations website didn't go entirely to plan. It turns out that when you try to upgrade somebody from cleaner to fireman, it is possible to convert them to being a locomotive for rostering purposes. Although the new training manager had the permissions to make this change, he didn't have the necessary permissions to undo it. For a couple of days, Anthony existed as both a fireman and a locomotive. A grovelling email had to be sent to the Operations Manager to get the anomaly corrected. The reply when it came was "Done. No chance of anyone accidentally lighting him up now 😉"

That is normally where I would leave off a blog post, however on this occasion, there is one more thing to add. For the last few years, the GWRT website on it's volunteering page has included words to the effect that the steam loco dept is full and don't bother applying. It has been recognised that with the recent change to running split shifts that we need more footplate crew and also we need more people to work on our running fleet and restoration projects. The web page has now been updated with rather more welcoming words. It takes a few years of cleaning locos to get to the point of being qualified as a fireman like Anthony and there is classroom training, written exams, a medical and of course a practical assessment to go through. The hours are long and antisocial, you'll get roasted/frozen/soaked to death depending on the season, never mind getting more than than slightly grubby (Swarfega will become your new best friend). If this is for you and you would like to know more, then please click on the now rather friendlier link.