Monday, 25 March 2019

Ego Trashed

Saturday morning, and your humble scribe was down for a prep turn on a red timetable.  The plan is that crew 1 turn up at 05:30, prep two locos (2807 & 7820 on this occasion), hand over one loco to a second crew, then take the other one for a round trip of the line before handing it over to a 3rd crew.  This expedient keeps all three crews comfortably within a 12 hour working day.  Bringing two locos into steam on a morning is a bit of a tall order, especially when you don't have a cleaner to help (the rostered cleaner had gone down with some sort of stomach bug).  I was therefore more than a little pleased to see an email ithe night before suggesting that the crew 2 cleaner should turn up at 05:30 as well. I was even more pleased to discover that not only Mark put in an appearance at 05:30, but Mike did too. Mark took on the task of lighting up 7820 under Mike's supervision, all I had to do was crack on with 2807.  Many thanks Mark & Mike for all your assistance.
Mark, about to empty 7820's smoke box
 As noted recently, the first train to run is now designated as the "Cotswold Express", stopping at neither Hayles Abbey Halt, nor Gotherington. Being on the first train, one of the tasks that I needed to accomplish was to locate the headboard and put it on 2807.  Unfortunately it hadn't been returned to the headboard repository, I had to head off and hunt for it. I wondered if the last crew to use it had simply forgotten about it and left it attached to their loco... a quick check in the shed revealed that I had been right and it was still attached to 35006's tender.
The missing headboard...
...finally, put where it was supposed to be.
 There was another minor issue, 2807 had only had a first test run since her winter maintenance finished on Friday, the front cladding for the steam chests was missing on both sides, along with the curved inspection hatches on the running plates. 
Not quite all there.
 A team of early arrivals was soon on the case, tracking down and fitting the missing items.
Eleanor & Steve wrestle with one of the steam chest covers...
...John applies some foot power to get the cover's screw holes to line up, so that Steve can do up the screws
 Eventually, 2807 was restored to her former glory and ready for traffic.  Bruce & Gilbert of the 2807 group turned up to do the job just as soon as everybody else had finished, perfect timing really.

There was a casualty of the morning,a piece of glass in one of the lamps had been cracked for a while, yesterday it finally gave up the ghost.
It's now off to be repaired by Mike
Richard (L) and Steve emptying the pit

Ready to depart
 Dinmore Manor joined us in Toddington station, but after we had gone and she had finished her brake test, she would head round to the other end of the train and depart for Broadway.

I noticed that the recent gales had taken their toll...
...I'm sure that the lineside clearance team will shift it soon
 Paul, driver for the day was obviously in a musical mood and spent a fair bit of time singing and doing the actions to this.
Unfortunately he always stopped just as soon as I got my camera out
The paparazzi were out in force on Saturday, I was requested to fire left handed whilst in the platform at Cheltenham Race Course for the benefit of various photographers.  Not something that comes particularly naturally to me, but it seemed to work OK.  Perhaps I'll try that again next time I'm on 35006.

Almost as soon as we had started, it seemed that it was time to hand over 2807 to the afternoon crew and head off for lunch.
2807, off without us
  There were relatively few people around on Saturday, but one of the main tasks going on was the removal of some angle brackets from 3850's cylinder block.  They will be re-used. 
Cutting the head off of a rivet...
...Mike, encouraging the remains of one of the rivets to budge.
Much brute force and ignorance later!
It was a fairly difficult job, I can't imagine how much harder it would have been if the cylinder block hadn't been turned upside down.  Apparently that's how they used to do it at Swindon back in the day, and if it was good enough for the GWR, then it's good enough for us.

Now that the brackets have been removed, the next task is to remove the frame extensions, which will be needed as a pattern for new ones.

Another project on the go is the addition of a light in the yard.  This will provide illumination for many of the points further away from the lights of the David Page shed and will be of assistance to crews returning to shed after dark whilst trying to negotiate their way onto the correct road.  Currently the light is being stripped back and about to be painted.
Soon to appear in the yard
 3850's tender is back on the agenda after 7820's winter maintenance is over.  Fresh paint being applied to some of those hard to reach places.
Kenneth painting under 3850's tender
 I missed whatever happened to 35006, but I understand that it had been receiving some attention to its handbrake.
35006's handbrake.
Frustratingly, I don't seem to be able to reply directly to comments on my own blog, something to do with my recently enhanced security settings I imagine. Anyway, it seems after last week, that I had misjudged the number of GWR 8 wheeled tenders by a factor of two. Never mind, maths was never my strong suit.  To the person that asked after 76077, I spoke to the group's treasurer yesterday, they are waiting for a vacancy in the works of Locomotive Maintenance Services LTD before work on the rolling chassis can commence.

And finally, the day started badly for me yesterday, a conversation with an elderly lady just before we set off with the first train in the morning did nothing for my ego.  She was obviously well enough versed with our line to know that all but a handful of people who work on the GWSR are volunteers, so she asked "Did you start volunteering here when you retired?".  It will be a very long time yet before I can retire... and the goal posts seem to keep moving further away every year. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

GWR 8 Wheel Tender Discovered

The 2019 season has got off to an excellent start, the race trains all went ahead as planned, in spite of the weather which threatened to cancel some of the races,  all three of our named locos getting in on the action.  The Friday of the races saw three race trains running down to Cheltenham Race Course and for the first time in the heritage era, a non-stop express passenger run from Cheltenham to Broadway.
7903 & 35006 about to set off with the race trains on Wednesday (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
With 2807 still out of action following valve repairs over the winter, it was necessary to get 4270 back to act as a standby in case of failure.
4270, standing by inside the David Page shed on Saturday
2807 was having her valves put back in over the course of the weekend and is expected to get a test steaming during this week.  If all goes to plan, she may be returning to traffic at the weekend.
2807, nearly ready to run again now.
To the best of my knowledge, the GWR only built one 8 wheeled tender (I am now confidently expecting to be corrected by a more knowledgeable reader). That tender was originally paired with the one and only GWR pacific, 111, The Great Bear.  For a little while at least, there is now another one.  Dinmore Manor's old tender, which is next expected to see service behind 3850 was to be found with 8 wheels.  To be fair, 4 of them were not the usual size of wheel that you might expect to find on a GWR tender.
Accommodation bogie on the front
It turns out that the draw gear is not yet completely ready to be fitted to the tender, which in turn meant that the vacuum cylinder couldn't be fitted, which in turn meant that the leading wheel set couldn't be fitted.  That was all a problem, as the lifting jacks are coming up for their annual inspection, which can't be done whilst the tender is hoisted aloft. After their inspection, the jacks will next be required for fitting the centre axle to DES, one of our collection of diesel shunters.  Kenneth & Martin were to be found preparing the last pair of axle boxes for the tender in anticipation of the day that they can be re-fitted
Kenneth (L) & Martin.
At the close of play on Saturday, the tender finally had to move, and the plan was that it should go on road 6 between 3850's frames and the Peckett.  The upshot was that just about everything on roads 5 through to 11 that had wheels had to be shunted, and if it didn't have wheels had to be moved out of the way.

The wooden blocks supporting one end of the tender were marked up so that they can be returned to the same place when the tender returns to the jacks.
Something like a large jigsaw puzzle, with hints!
A full ballast train on road 5, which was blocking road 6 was first to have to move, in this case, up towards the car park .
Ballast train being shunted.
Then the bubble car, scrap class 20 (without a draw hook on one end) and the well wagon with 76077's boiler on it moved across to road 5 from road 6.
And then the Peckett was moved...

The Peckett & 76077's boiler on the move
Somewhere along the way, 2807 and 4270 were fetched out and back in on different roads to free up space for 35006 to go into the shed at the end of the day.

The last wheel set for the tender also needed to be moved from road 7 to road 6.

Neal uses the telehandler to swap the wheel set from road 7 to 6
At last, the tender itself could be shunted across.  The accommodation bogie had been specially modified by Mark & Mike to fit into the place of the missing axle, but even so, it was shunted at a very slow pace with people watching it carefully as it moved to make sure that nothing untoward occurred.
The 8 wheel tender on the move
All went as planned, and all that remained to be done was to put back just about everything else to where it had come from.
The Peckett and 76077's boiler, back off to where they came from
Just in case you weren't sure about the identity of DES (short for Diesel Electric Shunter), the next engine to be lifted on the jacks, here it is.  It was just about the only engine that wasn't included in the mega shunt on Saturday.
Spot the missing axle

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The Cotswold Express

As you'll have noticed, blog posts from me have become a little sparse lately. My employers don't take the same creditable stance that the GWSR does regarding working hours. For those of you that are fans of Scott Adams' cartoon strip, Dilbert, the one for yesterday pretty much summed up my life since the start of the year:

The light at the end of that particular tunnel has hopefully just about arrived and I was able to get along to Toddington on Saturday for the first time this year.

Before we get round to that though, my spies have been sending in photos of some of the activities within the steam loco dept lately:
Richard steam cleaning the pits...
...Fitting new piston rings on 2807...
...Creating foundations for the new wood store
The above photos all courtesy of Peter Gutteridge.

All of our home fleet have now passed their boiler insurance steam tests for the year...
Foremarke Hall being prepared for her steam test
 The 2019 timetable features train 1 each day running as "The Cotswold Express".  This means that it doesn't stop at Hayles Abbey Halt or Gotherington.
Foremarke Hall tries out the "Cotswold Express" headboard for size.
35006 has had her lamps painted and a red lens fitted to the lamp without one.
The above three photos all courtesy of John Cruxon.

Dinmore Manor too has had new piston rings fitted:
Mark(L) & Gilbert fit one of 7820's pistons (photo courtesy of Keith Smith)
Saturday was a blue timetable, which according to the new "Crew Confuser Simplifier" has a split shift, crew 1 turning up horrendously early, prepping the loco (which now includes emptying both the smoke box and the ash pan in the morning)  and doing one round trip. crew 2 (which included me) are supposed to turn up at a leisurely 11:45, empty the pit and then take over from crew 1 at 12:31.  I turned up at 09:00 only to find that Alex (the crew 1 cleaner) had already disposed of the ash in the pit... thank you Alex.
Foremarke Hall heads for her stock ready for the first train of the season.
 Winter maintenance hadn't quite been finished at this point, both Dinmore Manor and 2807 both had their valves out and awaiting reassembly.  I'd like to say that this was a result of my inability to get to Toddington lately and that my presence would have made all the difference, the truth of the matter though is that Tyseley's supplier of piston ring blanks for machining had gone bust, which had held up supply.
Dinmore Manor, no valves fitted
Where one of the valves should be...
...and where it was.
 Our job was to remedy this situation, the bore was coated with steam oil, as was each of the piston valve rings in turn.  They start off going in easily enough, but persuading them across the running plate is a bit challenging... a liberal application of brute force and ignorance is required.
Richard "encourages" the valve to move, Eleanor holds a sacrificial piece of wood
 Richard denied that he was thinking of all the lorry drivers that had taken excessively heavy vehicles over bridge 8 over the years, or of any of the lorry drivers that had struck our bridge at Broadway as he hammered.
Eventually, the valve spindle dropped into its well in the frame
Richard applies some steam oil...
... and eventually the valve is fully reinserted.
By the end of the day, both valves had been installed, and Dinmore Manor was dragged out of the shed for a warming fire to be put in, prior to a test run in the next few days.

2807's valves were still being reassembled on Saturday.
New valve rings on the work bench
2807, awaiting its valves.
Mark reassembling 2807's valves with the new rings.
 35006 was apparently pretty much done as far as winter maintenance was concerned, she was being brought into steam for a test run to make sure that everything was OK.
35006 coming in to steam
 4270 is the only member of our home fleet that hasn't been mentioned yet, she is still away on her holiday at the East Lancs Railway, but she'll be back with us in the very near future.

My afternoon was spent on the footplate of Foremarke Hall,
The line side clearance team were doing excellent work at Bishops Cleeve
 The line side was noticeably cut back over long distances of the line, they've been doing some excellent work over the winter period.  
The new "Cotswold Express" headboard looks rather good.
 Saturday was a driver training turn for Mike
Mike in the driving seat.
 We passed 35006 at Winchcombe, apparently everything was in order and she'll be hauling the race trains along with Foremarke Hall during the week.
Passing 35006 at Winchcombe
We didn't spend long at Broadway, but it was pleasing to see that the steps for the footbridge are coming along nicely.
Footbridge steps coming together on platform 2
 Jeremy (cleaner) had a go at firing from Broadway to Cheltenham Race Course, he made a pretty fair job of it.

Jeremy building up the fire at Broadway.
And finally, at the risk of uploading a photo that may find its way into some of the less salubrious corners of the internet, now that we have finished running events with a certain really useful engine, the owners want their faces back. To that end, they have been wrapped up in something akin to cling film and will shortly be dispatched whence they came. 
They might well have suffocated by then of course