Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Thanks a Million

One million pounds has been raised, Chicken curve embankment has been rebuilt and today was the grand reopening of the line.  For the first time since 1979 trains can run the whole distance from Cheltenham Racecourse to Laverton.  Local radio and television all reported on the event and rather more humbly, your roving correspondent pitched up with his camera to take a few pictures too.  Trains were hauled by Modified Hall, 7903 Foremarke Hall, class 37 diesel, 37215 and the 117 class DMU plus bubble car running as a 4 car set. Thank you to everybody who made it happen, those who so generously supported us financially and those who organised and assisted in this milestone event for the railway.

On the starting blocks, Foremarke Hall and the class 117 DMU

Salubritas et eruditio

Foremarke Hall's crew, L - R, Steve Oddy, John Cruxon & Roger Burrows

Foremarke Hall sweeps round Chicken Curve into Winchcombe on the first service

Pulling into Winchcombe

Foremarke Hall returning under three arches bridge into Dixton cutting

In glorious sunlight, the class 117 DMU plus bubble car on Chicken Curve


Arriving at Winchcombe

The second run for Foremarke Hall.  Mark Young gazes out of the leading window of the second carriage

John Cruxon looks out through the cab window of Foremarke Hall

The bubble car leads the class 117 DMU back across Chicken Curve to Laverton

Bubble car and class 117 DMU

Formarke Hall pulls away from Toddington towards Laverton

37215 pulls the train across Stanway Viaduct, Foremarke Hall pushes from the rear


Foremarke Hall crossing Stanway Viaduct

37215 has disappeared off to Cheltenham with the train, Foremarke Hall follows on behind to return to the shed

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Turkish Delight

Today the railway played host to Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz the Turkish Ambassador and also Brian Simpson MEP.  The background to this visit can be found here in the news section of the railway's website.  Here are a selection of photographs recording the event.

Stanier 8F, 8274 reverted to her Turkish guise, 45160 for the event
A group of members of the steam locomotive department decorated Winchcombe station with the Turkish national flag and the Union flag
Mike Hoskin stands alongside 45160 at Winchcombe
Chris Brooks and Mike Hoskin

Mike Hoskin, Brian Simpson MEP & Kevin Hoskin

Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz the Turkish Ambassador

Brian Simpson MEP and Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz

The Ambassador's wife relaxes in the cab of 45160
Brian Simson MEP is more than happy to take a turn at driving 45160
Turkey's Ambassador, Ahmet Ünal Çeviköz shows a deft touch as he takes control of 45160
Transporting the representative of the head of a nation permits the use of the 'Royal Headcode', so father and son team, Mike and Kevin Hoskin proudly stand in front of 45160 sporting lamps on all four lamp brackets

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A little bit of history made

First the sad news, today I learnt that 5542, the planet's favourite prairie is to leave sometime later this coming week for a bit of winter season fettling on the South Devon Railway.  She has been a popular engine amongst the passengers and crews alike and will be greatly missed. Many are the steam loco dept members who will lament the loss of her nice warm enclosed cab during the anticipated cold wet winter months. Here is a slightly unusual view from underneath her in the pit at Winchcombe along with a rather more conventional shot of her working the 'Spooky Special' Halloween service train:-

I had to stand very still to let the ripples caused by my feet come to rest

The spooky prairie glides gracefully into Cheltenham Race Course station as the Fire & Drive train waits to depart
The good news is that she will be returning in the new year to continue her successful stay on the line.

The other train running today was the 'Fire and Drive' course which used Churchward 28XX, 2807 on a maroon rake of BR mk1 stock.  Tony Stockwell was the driving instructor and Cliff Faulkner the firing instructor on this occasion.

2807, all revved up and ready to go off shed this morning

2807 poses with the instructors and participants on today's 'Fire and Drive' course at Winchcombe
On a cold day like today (brass cabside number plates as well as monkeys manufactured in the same metal were experiencing extreme difficulties) it was a joy to spend the day on the cushions with the fire and drive participants, watching them set off for the footplate in anticipation and then return grinning from ear to ear.  It can get to be seriously addictive can this steam loco malarkey.  At the time of writing, details for the 2013 season of steam fire and drive courses are not yet available on the official website, but when they are, they will be found here

An unexpected bonus to the day was that after the 'Fire and Drive' course, 2807 was to return to Toddington for a boiler washout, thus becoming the first steam locomotive to cross the recently resurrected Chicken Curve since the embankment collapse under her own steam (Stanier 8F, 8274 had already crossed, but towed by a diesel).   It wasn't a widely anticipated movement and to my surprise there was no gallery of photographers on the lineside and just a few of the steam loco dept and the Cotswold Preservation Group on hand to see her arrive at Toddington.  Thankfully your roving correspondant was able to record this momentous event for posterity from the vantage point of the footplate.

Just set off, the view along Chicken Curve

The outer home signal for trains back into Winchcombe is obscured by our own exhaust

The outer home for Toddington hoves into view

Tony Stockwell drives whilst Cliff Faulkner hands over the line staff at Toddington signal box

After a long absence, 2807 simmers gently at Toddington whilst Tony Stockwell and Andy Beale look on.
Students of this blog will recognise the telegraph pole in the background of the final shot as being the same one that was being erected in the previous blog entry. 

Finally, many thanks indeed to Tony and Cliff for inviting me along to record this little piece of history being made and of course, heartfelt thanks to all the many people who banded together in the railway's hour of need and contributed to the fund to restore the collapsed embankment at Chicken Curve.  Thanks to their support, steam will continue to thrive in this corner of the Cotswolds.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Nearly home now

Only blog entry number two and already it's time for a confession.  Your humble scribe had been seduced away on Friday night by the lure of an evening photo charter with three A4s at Shildon (300 miles from home).  Consequently when I turned up at Winchcombe at 06:00 to start cleaning the service engine for the day, I had benefitted from rather less sleep than I would have liked to have done.  I can't tell you therefore quite how thankful I was that Nick (on the left) and Dan, two of the steam loco departments younger members had made the effort to join me and we soon made short work of getting Churchward 28XX, 2807 buffed up and ready.

As it turned out, it wasn't just 2807 that needed to be brought into steam, Hawkesworth Modified Hall, 7903 Foremarke Hall was having a boiler exam today (needless to say she passed with flying colours) which gives me all the excuse that I need for a couple of gratuitous early morning shots of 2807 moving forward to pull 7903 onto the pit.

The big news at the moment on the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway is that the landslip at Chicken Curve has now been fixed and that the steam locomotives are shortly to return to Toddington.  Indeed the 8F will be going there tomorrow for some attention (for more details and the reason why, you'll have to wait until Sunday 28th), but the rest of the steam fleet is expected to remain at Winchcombe for a further week or so.  Fixing Chicken Curve isn't the only bit of work that needs to be completed before the steam fleet can return, and after the service engine was off shed, all available hands proceeded to Toddington to assist in clearing ash from roads 8 & 9 in readiness for a fresh ballasting of the track by the Permanent Way dept.  While we were at it we also erected a telegraph pole onto which floodlights will be installed illuminate the pits.

Feel free to come up with as many 'how many steam loco dept volunteers does it take to install a light pole' jokes as you can.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Getting steamed up

Since before daybreak, the steam loco dept of the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway has busied itself in its temporary home at Winchcombe raising steam on today's service engine, ex Great Western Railway 28XX class, 2807.

 Once the pressure gauge is starting to move in the right direction, cleaning is well underway and much tea has been consumed, a brief walk up to Chicken curve to inspect progress on rejoining the two halves of the railway takes place.  Work has continued at a dizzying pace recently, the track has been laid, ballasted and tamped.  All that remains before the line is fully reopened again is to recable the signalling.  The much anticipated reopening date has been set as October the 30th.

Later on, reports of a broken steam heating bag on 2807 filter through.  The middle bag between the locomotive and tender has suffered a catastrophic and very loud failure, much to the consternation of the crew.  During a pit stop that would have been the envy of even the finest formula 1 racing team, John Cruxon swiftly removes the deceased bag and replaces it with a new one.  The passengers on the service train once again resume their journey in steam heated as well as steam hauled luxury.