Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Back to Toddington

Sunday marked the end of the regular timetabled running season, all that is left now is the Santa/Mince Pie specials and then the steam loco dept goes into hibernation until the spring.  Well ok, hibernation isn't quite the right word, the locos won't be running, but the railway will be a hive of activity with the locos undergoing winter maintenance and the numerous other projects around the railway will continue unabated.  Sunday was also the last day of operation out of Winchcombe; henceforth all engines will be prepped & disposed at Toddington again.  

November is shaping up to be the wettest on record, rather like most of the other months this year and Sunday was of course the day after half a week's worth of the sort of prolonged rain that had people building arks and rounding up two of every kind of animal.  Building an ark is quite a challenge at the moment as most ash trees have succumbed to chalara fraxinea and apart from the ducks, all sensible animals were hiding themselves out of the rain.   This intensity of precipitation presented a number of issues; my usual route from the M5, the B4077 was badly flooded, the inspection pit at Winchcombe was flooded and kept filling up from leaks even when pumped out and finally, the sheet covering the wood store had failed abysmally in its task of keeping the wood for lighting up dry. This last detail was of particular importance to me as I had arranged to do another assessed light up with Paul Richardson.  Last time round he had been concerned that I was taking quite a while to explain everything that I was doing and so this time I elected to turn up half an hour early and after signing on/reading the notices, checking the loco was safe etc. I cleaned the grate which gave me something of a head start for when Paul arrived.  So that is exactly what I did, and I was particularly pleased to note that today's service loco was the 8F, complete with its 'Happy Handle'.  The job is so much easier with a rocking grate!  Anyway, 6am arrived and I was ready.  Unfortunately Paul didn’t show up.  Kevin Hoskin did appear though and agreed that I should start the light up procedure under his supervision, which we did.  Paul appeared about quarter of an hour later, it turns out that he hadn't been quite as foolhardy as me and had turned round at the flood on the B4077 to try and find an alternative route rather than just ploughing on through as I had done.  Anyway, the light up went pretty smoothly; the only foul-up was that I lit the fire before re-installing the baffle plate.  I have now made a note to myself to place it on the driver’s side of the cab in future where I'll notice it, rather than hide it behind me.

Since last week, the existence of this blog has been officially announced to the entire steam loco dept.  It has had the desired effect of attracting one article for inclusion written by somebody else other than me (thanks Geof), hopefully more will follow.  Now that it is public knowledge, I am now either actively encouraged to take photos of people for inclusion on these pages..... Or more usually people have now taken to avoiding me even more than before, especially if I have a camera in my hand. 

Coming in under the category of the less camera shy are:

Ian Butler, busy oiling up Foremarke Hall in readiness for the Elegant Excursions dining train on Sunday lunch time.
Ian Butler

Ex-BR fireman Derek Smith, who was busy getting Foremarke Hall into steam.  I'm not completely sure that his hat is standard BR issue!
Derek Smith
Ben Evason was the guard for the service train on Sunday, a bit of a busman's holiday as he is also a guard on the big railway and as if that isn't enough he also passed out as a driver on the GWSR earlier this year.  At some point during the day he quoted a rhyme to me relating the high esteem in which drivers and guards hold each other in.  Sadly I can't remember exactly how it goes however suffice it to say that it came under the heading of NSFW.  I'm also now in his bad books for omitting to switch on the steam heat during one of the earlier runs of the day.
Ben Evason
People less eager to be pictured, but who were captured on the digital equivalent of film anyway included Paul Richardson, here preserving for posterity with his own camera the last day's running from Winchcombe.
Paul Richardson and 45160
Chris Chewter was caught with his hands in the sink of the mess coach under the supervision of George Forrest.  Apparently you have to get passed out on all aspects relating to domestic kettles before you get let loose with the 4' 8.5" variety.  Marks will definitely be deducted if you get it wrong and put coal in the tea pot and shovel tea bags onto the grate, though there are some who would say that even decaffeinated tea bags would probably burn better than the coal that we had in last week.
George Forrest & Chris Chewter
The wooden patio set used for tea breaks on the rare days that it wasn't raining had somehow found its way into the wood store and was unceremoniously launched into the firebox of 45160.
The demise of the patio set
An unexpected bonus was the appearance of David Shepherd who owns Black Prince, which until relatively recently was based on the GWSR.   
David Shepherd
David  was here to take a few pictures of Foremarke Hall for a painting that he has been commissioned to make.    Here are a couple of photos of Black Prince when she was based here, many would love to see her return again, including me.
Black Prince at Winchcombe
Black Prince approaching Greet tunnel from Gotherington
Andy Webber who was fireman of the 8F on the afternoon shift has kindly provided me with this shot of Phil Grange installing the new hose pipes at Toddington a few weeks ago.  It's a bit odd that a couple of firemen were busy installing kit to put fires out with, perhaps they have got confused and think that they are the kind that arrive on big red engines with blue flashing lights rather than green engines with copper chimney caps.
Phil Grange
Speaking of Andy Webber, here he is chatting with Dan Wigg at clocking off time at Toddington after a hard day on the footplate of 45160.

Andy Webber chatting to Dan Wigg
Finally, yours truly has been working away this week, spending the first half of the week in Manchester and arriving in Crewe today for the rest of the week.  What on earth as this got to do with the GWSR? Well the answer is that that Pete Waterman’s loco restoration workshop, LNWR Heritage is at Crewe and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pop in and see how the boiler for 4270 is coming along.  Even though the place was closed to visitors, they were very welcoming and more than happy to let me wander around and grab a few photos.  
The frames & cab of 4270 at Toddington
4270's boiler at Crewe
The chap in the foreground was busy fabricating the boiler cladding.  I asked when they thought it would be finished, without expecting an answer more informative than "when it's finished" only to be told that they were hoping to send it down to Toddington on Thursday the 6th of December.