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.

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