Wednesday, 10 July 2019

All the Benefits of a Convertible Car With the Heater Stuck on Full Blast

A recent conversation with Tony (Broadway Station Master and retired steam driver) revealed that he too knew Dennis Herbert who had been coaxed into joining Mike on the footplate of 6023, King Edward II as was mentioned in my last blog post.  He also mentioned a book that Dennis had written of his experiences on the footplate at Tyseley and later on Saltley, which spanned pretty much the entire BR era.  He also said that it was out of print and you couldn't find a copy on Amazon.  I regarded that as a challenge to my internet navigating skills and fairly swiftly managed to locate a copy in a bookshop in Bath.  Monies were exchanged and the book duly arrived in the post a few days later.  The tardiness of this blog post can in no small part be attributed to the fact that I have spent what little free time I have had lately reading this book rather than chained to my laptop.  If you can manage to track down a copy, I can thoroughly recommend it.  There are a number of references to journeys along our line, as well as to Colin Jacks who was a driver on the GWSR in our formative years.  Having recently had a turn on a B1 just after the gala, the reference to Dennis' one and only trip on one, having taken it over from another crew and failing to locate the drain cock lever to shut the cylinder drain cocks made for amusing reading. 
Best of luck in finding your own copy
You may have noticed lately that it has been rather warm. I have been out and about on the footplate on some of the hotter days.  If you cast your mind back to the 29th of June, I was firing Foremarke Hall.  This was also the hottest day of the year so far, I overheard the guard say that he had recorded 33 degrees Centigrade in the guard van.  The footplate doesn't have a thermometer, however I have no doubt at all that with the fire going, the footplate temperature was well in excess of that.  Suffice it to say that the brass monkeys were nowhere to be seen, on this occasion they were concerned that the heat would melt away the parts that they hold most dear!

We weren't the only ones out and about who had been foolish enough to light a fire, the lineside clearance team were at it too:
Lineside clearance team...
...and their fire
 You'll note that the lineside clearance team had the good sense to work on the other side of the track from their fire.  Unfortunately I needed to be rather closer to mine.

I have no idea who the chap is in the photo below, but for the first few trips, every time we appeared at Winchcombe, he appeared on the platform with 3 bottles of cold water for the crew.  I can't possibly stress enough how welcome this was.  He wasn't there for the last trip, and we had to resort to dropping Tom (cleaner) off at Toddington signal box to fetch us more water before we departed for Broadway.
Thank you very much, it was highly appreciated
 Even the C&W volunteers had erected a parasol to protect them during their tea breaks.
Looks like a nice spot to have a brew!
 Such was my desire to get as far away from the source of the heat as possible, I let Tom (cleaner) do much of the firing.  He's right handed, but confusingly shovels left handed.
He tried right handed to start with...
...but did rather better when he switched sides.
 We do have one driver who has threatened to pinch the bottom of any fireman who dares to fire from his side of the cab, I gave Tom some advice on how to use the shovel to change that driver's mind should this actually happen.

The drainage team were hard at work in the blazing heat too
Somewhere there is a photo of me taking a photo of them, taking a photo....
I was also out on 2807 last Thursday on a blue timetable, i.e. we were the only steam train running.  Some wag in the GWSR's official social media dept advertised the day as "With GWR 2-8-0 Heavy Goods engine 2807 on train 1 today, the crew get all the benefits of a convertible car with the heater stuck on full blast"  It was an annoyingly accurate description.  On this occasion there was no kind soul at Winchcombe dispensing cold water to thirsty crews, we had to make frequent trips to the buffet car to order tea (and yes, cake too).

For my sins, I was back on the footplate again on Friday, this time for a footplate experience day with Foremarke Hall.  This was more like the day before, except that we didn't have the benefits of a convertible car.
Mark (driver) prepping Foremarke Hall
 Before we got to the point where we started the footplate experience day, Mark noticed that a couple of the glasses on the hydrostatic lubricator had gummed up with cylinder oil.  What followed next was an impromptu lesson on how to clear them, Mark showed me how to do one, and I then did the other.  Useful stuff to get to learn.
Mark cleaning the first gummed up glass on the lubricator
 It was a silver footplate experience day, so I think that meant we had 12 participants in total.  I have occasionally been curious as to who reads this blog, as far as I can make out it is mostly the spouses of members of the steam loco dept keen to find out what their other halves have been up to, or members of the steam loco dept keen to spot any error that I may have made. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pair below (a father-in-law & son-in-law) were both readers.
John (L) & David

I suggested to Mrs Blogger that we might book a place on a footplate experience course for my father-in-law.  She suggested that it probably wouldn't be the ideal gift for him, but that perhaps it would be better suited to my mother-in-law. 
(L-R), Brian, Paul and Mark (driver)
The day relies not just on footplate crew & sticky buns, but a small number of volunteers who come along to assist in various ways.

Richard operating the water column at Cheltenham Race Course
Mark clinging on to the delivery hose
 Coming up the hill from Cheltenham Race Course is the most interesting bit as far as the firing is concerned, one of the participants managed to keep the needle just shy of the red line and the water at the top of the glass. 
Better than many of our firemen manage
 The GWSR volunteers who help out on these events usually take it in turns to accompany us on the run round.
My Wednesday correspondent, Peter was one
There is a working timetable published for the crew showing the the train movements and times, albeit the times are suggested rather than cast in tablets of stone.  I had taken the precaution of printing one and taking it with me.  It clearly showed that after lunch at Toddington, the train was to set off again at 14:00.   I had allowed the fire to run down as we arrived at Toddington at 12:45 and Foremarke Hall sat as good as gold in the platform.  At 13:20, I had just sprinkled a few lumps on the what was left of the fire at the back of the grate to keep it alive.  I was more than a bit surprised when the next two participants arrived at the footplate having been told that we were due to start again straight away.  I had to build up and push forward the fire in rather a hurry.

Meanwhile, there was much noise on the platform, some of the pine trees were being chopped down and mulched
Chopping down trees...
...converting them to sawdust
I'm not a fan of chopping trees down, but when you looked at the ones they had cut down, the innards had been hollowed out by either age or disease and I daresay that they presented a hazard.
As hollow as an election promise!

The footplate experience courses are all sold out for the rest of this year I'm afraid.  Should you wish to sign up for one next year, all the information that you'll need will found by clicking on this link.

The preparations for the new mess building are ongoing.  The area to the south the goods shed will be cleared shortly.  The new container with a side entrance functioning as the oil store will be moved to where the existing oil store is.
The side entrance in use (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
The old oil store container will become the new wood store, and the old GWR fruit wagon body that was the old wood store has now gone to Lydney on the Dean Forest Railway to be used as a S&T store.
The old wood store departing for Lydney (photo courtesy of Mark Young)

The preparations for the big move around included a big shunt, that amongst other things saw 2874 to and fro around the yard
2874 being shunted (photo courtesy of Martin Ginger)
And finally, a number of members of the Steam Loco Dept, including its current head have received long service awards.
Finance director, Richard W (L) gives John C his 15 year long service award.
John C in his capacity as head of dept, in turn handed out long service awards to Steve B, John H and Mark Y.  Thanks to all of you for a combined 60 years of contributing to the GWSR in general and the Steam Loco Dept in particular.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Regal Reminiscences

A little progress has been made with 2874's cab.  As you may recollect, the side & front sheets were rather the worse for wear and had to be replaced, whereas the rather thicker angle brackets/hand rails etc have survived in a state fit for further service.  New front/side sheets had been ordered as per the original Swindon drawings, all that was required was to marry up the old and the new into a serviceable cab. Where complex shapes occur, such as the rail around the cab side, you would expect some fettling to be required.
Angela trims the cab side to allow a side rail to fit
With both side rails in place, it was time to try the rear roof support for size.
Rear roof support temporarily clamped in place
Unfortunately, all didn't go quite to plan, the side sheet at the rear was too tall, if the rear support sits where it is supposed to, then the side sheet will prevent the roof fitting correctly.
That's not going to work!
 Slightly baffled at this turn of events, the obvious thing to do was to compare 2874's cab with 2807's.  The fact that 2807 was busy at work on the line was only a minor setback, we just had to wait for it to arrive at Toddington and take a few quick measurements.
Confirmation that we had the roof support in the right place
Angela & David take measurements whilst Andy (2807's driver) watches on.
The Swindon drawings show the top and bottom of the cab to be parallel, i.e. the top of the cab is level.  The cab of 2807 however has a roof that slopes downwards from front to back by 18mm (yes, I told them off for using metric measurements and docked them a week's wages!).  This slope makes sense if you think about it, as it would encourage rain to drain off the roof.  It looks like we are going to need to take a bit of a wedge out of the new side sheets on each side to make them fit as intended.

It turns out that it's not just the side sheets that are a bit adrift, the hand rails on the side don't fit in the holes drilled as per the drawing.
David offers up a hand rail, the holes are to narrow by about an inch
Nothing is ever easy in the world of steam locomotive restoration!

My correspondent from the Wednesday gang has sent photos of the new oil store being kitted out with the kerosene, steam and motion oil dispensers.
Kerosene dispenser being installed in the new oil store (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
A stock take of our fire bar spares was also carried out. (photo courtesy of Peter Gutteridge)
You may recollect that for a brief while, our home fleet has been rather depleted with 4270 at the Epping & Ongar Railway for their gala, 7903 at Didcot Railway Centre for the launch of the Saint and 7820 at the Dartmouth Steam Railway.  Whilst 7820 remains away, both 4270 and 7903 have returned.
4270 in the shed
7903 on the unloading road on Friday
 4270 has already been in service since returning, Foremarke Hall will be running this coming weekend.

I had a firing turn on Friday on 2807, an email the night before had suggested that oil/kerosene/lighting up wood might have been relocated and suggested places to look.  The existing wood store is falling to pieces and the area to the south of the goods shed is about to be cleared to allow the foundations of the new mess facilities to be built, hence the current upheaval.
Inside the new oil store
A nice tidy bench for prepping the lamps
2807 had been left without much by way of coal
Won't get far on that
The King needed coal too
It's not just the locos that need fuel either ;-)
Neil attended to the signal cables for Broadway
We acquired a couple of footplate passengers... here's one.
Graham grapples with a large elephant's trunk...
...and then, Graham (top) and David (somewhere underneath) grapple with smaller, but no less recalcitrant elephant's trunks.
Our second footplate passenger.
I made a bit of a school boy error, I went to the GWSR on both Friday and Saturday, two of the three days of the real ale festival.  A nice beer after signing out at the end of two very hot days was extremely appealing, however Mrs Blogger stayed away both days and having to drive myself home afterwards, I had to avoid the beer tents.  Note to self, plan this better next year.
Beer tent at Winchcombe.
We had to make do with cake instead:
David scoffing cake.
Crossing 6023 at Winchcombe.
Moving on to Saturday, I was back again to help out with 3850.  There was a long list of mostly extremely grubby jobs wanting doing on her tender.  I started off with trying to free up the water level gauge.  My task was made no easier by the fact that Ken & Keith were also inside the tender valiantly hammering/chipping/scraping away the accumulation of scale & rust that it had acquired.  This is on top of the fact that the inside of the water space of the tender is divided up by a series of baffle plates to minimise the sloshing around of water when the loco is on the move.  The ideal candidates to negotiate their way through the various small orifices between the tender's internal compartments would be young, supple and lithe as well as highly proficient in the arts of limbo dancing and contortionism.  Suffice it to say, I don't quite meet all of those criteria, in fact if the truth is told, I don't get remotely close to any of them.
Keith inside the tender, waging war on the scale & rust
Keith was inconveniently occupying the compartment with the float that I was trying to get at, fortunately, the actuating mechanism was all on the other side of the tender.  It turned out that the float arm, which slides up and down in a slot in the longitudinal baffle plate had simply rusted in place.  A subtle blend of psychology and beating hell out of it with a hammer freed it up.  Keith was a bit surprised to find himself being accosted by what he had previously considered to be an inert float.
Keith being molested by the now freed up float.
Some therapy with scrapers removed enough of the rust and scale to enable to float to move quite freely in the end.  There was an issue however, the float arm, where is passes through the slot in the longitudinal baffle plate had worn quite thin.  Ultimately it was deemed not fit for a further 10 years or so of service, and it would be advisable to take it out now and fix it, rather than have it fail in several years time in service, at which point it would be much more difficult to correct. 
The view from my side
I spent a while examining the mechanism, looking for an easy way of removing the float arm, but it would have involved removing brackets that were held in place by extremely corroded rivets that had absolutely no intention of moving, along with extracting a tapered pin which had rusted through the the arm and the rod that it was pinning together.
The other end of the float arm.
In the end, I agreed with Mark's initial suggestion of simply hack saw the arm off in the middle, so that he could build up the worn bit with weld and grind back into shape and then weld the two halves of the arm back together inside the tender.
The removed float arm, highlighting the worn bit
 Meanwhile, outside the tender, Roger was busy painting on a coat of anti-corrosive primer.
Roger in his prime!
The tender isn't the only bit of 3850 to have received attention lately, the front drag box which had seen some dubious BR era repairs has been looked at and cracks in the welds noted for attention:
Weld here!
The 2807 group's loco was in service, so they spent their day working on their boot scrapers.  Their task would have been easier, if their trolley for transporting boot scrapers on hadn't developed a couple of punctures.
Roger pumping up the trolley's tyres.
The workshop has benefited from the addition of a couple of cranes to assist with lifting heavy items on and off the various machines. 
One of the cranes...
...and the other one
As of last Saturday, they still hadn't been wired in to the mains, but that shouldn't take long.

And finally, last week, on one of the days that I was out on 2807, Mike was out driving 6023.  In Mike's own words:  "Weird day today, finally managed to organise taking my late grandfather's good friend Dennis Herbert for a trip on 6023. This was the first time he had been on the footplate of a King since 1962 and the first time back on a full size steam loco since he drove Union of South Africa in 1973 on a farewell to the Gresley's rail tour; a career railway man until his retirement in 1994, around the time I first met him. Felt somewhat odd to be under the watchful eye of a man of such experience but he seemed to really enjoy himself. Though now 85 he had a little go with the shovel and certainly didn't seem to have forgotten anything...! Grateful thanks to my fellow crew members Tom and Harry for making Dennis feel so welcome and to Reece for bringing Dennis down to the GWSR, himself also enjoying a ride out on the King."
Dennis on the footplate of 6023 (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
Mike & Dennis with King Edward II (photo courtesy of Mike Solloway)
Mike even provided this photo of Dennis in 1962:
Dennis and 6018, King Henry VI in 1962
The photo came with the accompanying text from Dennis:

"This locomotive came on to Tyseley shed when I was on shed duties and had to put in readiness to go into the factory for repairs. The photograph was taken by Dick Potts , a lifelong friend.  When I signed on duty a while after at 08:00am, the shed foreman instructed me to prepare the ‘King’ and take it to Birmingham Snow Hill to work the 1.00pm departure Pullman train, as the blue diesel train was out of service. Whilst I had ample time to oil the engine, when I saw the work that had been done in the factory, I did question the wisdom of rostering the engine on such a prestige train without a lighter running in turn first. The Pullman stopped only at Leamington Spa and Paddington; in addition, the ‘Wells Fargo’ coaches make a very heavy train. The work done in the factory had involved all the valve gear being re-metalled, along with connecting rods and crossheads. These were now bone dry and every cork was missing. The foreman shrugged his shoulders, saying, it would have to go.

 The foreman had also paired me with a young fireman who was well known for his contrary attitude, nevertheless, I asked him not to make a big fire up in the engine too early; we did not want this big boiler blowing off in the shed.  However, within forty minutes the safety valves lifted at 250lbs per square inch and the engine blew off for the next two hours inside the shed. The ear shattering noise continued whilst I walked to and fro to the stores to refill the oil bottles. I had to be absolutely certain every working part on the four cylinders was lubricated.  I finally got the engine outside to finish off and left the shed just after mid-day.  Just before we left the shed however, my mate decided he needed to replace the coal watering pipe, something he had four hours to get right!

Whilst I was really concerned that the engine may develop a problem, I had no repercussions.  This was little doubt, down to the wonderful skills of the artisans in the Tyseley factory.  A factory that was shortly to be demolished."

Dennis sent a very nice thank you note to Mike afterwards, which I have included here:

"Dear Mike 

Thanks for the great photos and a lovely day out. I was really impressed with how you all coped and the professionalism everyone acted upon. I was amazed too at the quality of the coal that you were burning, I am certain that the National Coal Board unloaded all it’s rubbish on British Railways knowing no one ever checked. The last time I got off a ‘King’ my wrists were so painful I had to wrap my arms around the handrail and fall onto my feet on to Snow Hill platform. I then had six weeks off work ! We had worked the ‘Up’ Inter City from Snow Hill to Paddington, returning with the 8.10pm to Birkenhead for the previous three evenings. Stafford Road Shed was earmarked for closure and in their wisdom management decided to clear the coal stack from the ground, which I fear had been there since the nineteenth century. The coal was a dirty brown and looked like you would have seen in the’ Merry-go-round’ trains to Didcot Power Station in later times. There was not a lump to be seen and the digger had picked up with it clinker, ash, ballast and discarded baked bean tins. The final trip was a nightmare, much of the brick arch was missing, it appears they had none of the correct bricks in the stores, there was no long fire-irons on the engine and the shovel had a cracked blade.   The G.P. I saw next day had recently done a spell in a hospital in Kings Cross and knew when he saw my swollen arms exactly what my problem was. He had often seen it occur on footplate men of the Eastern Region. However, he sent me to hospital where my arms were put in plaster. Whilst we were never paid for being off work, I did get Industrial Injuries Benefit which was rarely paid to anyone. We had 6026 King John on the’ Inter City for three evenings, which was in super condition, but it had worked up from London on an earlier turn and had been coaled with this awful coal, obviously the fire was getting clinkered when we took over. The 8.10pm engine had also worked an earlier turn to Paddington and also had the same coal with a very dirty fire. So we couldn’t win."