Sunday, 2 December 2012

Santa Specials

Yesterday marked the first day of December and the first of the season's Santa Specials. It was also blooming cold.  The temperature gauge in the car on my drive in was indicating figures that would cause alarm to brass monkeys never mind GWSR volunteers.  Not being a complete fool (no sniggering at the back) I elected to get a bucket of warm soapy water and clean the warm boiler barrel of 8F, 45160 rather than clean the motion & wheels which wouldn't have been warm.  Dan was obviously feeling the cold even more than I was and decided that he was going to clean the outside of the smoke box, which gets very warm, in fact usually too warm for comfort.  You can just make out his legs on the left of this picture, the rest of him was lost in the clag emanating from the chimney:
Strict instructions had been emailed that the Santa Specials should be jollied up with decorations and to that end, nearly everybody present at some time or another attached various decorations to the hand rails or smoke box door:
Dan gets decorating
Andrew & Ed
Note the battery powered sparkly lights on the smoke box door grab rail.  The "not to be moved" board has appeared because somebody (probably Cliff Faulkner) had gone underneath to attend to the locos lubricating points.  It was Andrew's first day as a member of the steam loco dept. If you read this Andrew, I hope that you enjoyed your day with us and that we managed to make you feel very welcome.

Today marked a few more firsts as well.  This was Steve Oddy's first trip in his new capacity as driving instructor and for Cliff Faulkner, this was his first official driving lesson.
Cliff Faulkner & Steve Oddy
Firing instructor Clive Norton and his pupil Chris Bristow spent much of the morning hiding from my camera on the footplate, their excuse was that it was much warmer up there beside a roaring fire.

Santa couldn't be kept waiting and soon enough the 8F was disappearing off shed to collect children to take to Santa's grotto.  
8F,45160 setting off
Now that word of the existence of this blog has got out, somebody decided that it would be a nice idea to have a shot of the posse of people who had turned up to prep the engine today.  Senior Firing instructor Sean Nielsen was present too, but like me feels more comfortable behind a camera rather than in front of it so he neatly side-stepped out of the way.
Dan, Ed, Andrew & Tim
After the group photo, it was back to the nice warm mess coach to try and thaw out by one of the radiators and consume tea and biscuits.  I notice that Tony Stockwell has provided a department wide Christmas card.  Rather than go to the expense of getting a card for everybody, just sign this one and put a donation into the 'tea fund'.  Tony chose a rather enchanting wintry scene including Collett 0-4-2T, 1442 in the happy carefree days before she was bricked into a museum in Tiverton.
1442 as she is today
1442 on the steam loco dept Christmas card
After copious quantities of tea and biscuits had been consumed, Sean, Dan & myself set off to grab a photo or two of Princess Elizabeth as she ran along the mainline from London Paddington to Worcester through Honeybourne. Before the Santa Special had set off, Clive Norton had provided us with directions to a suitable viewing spot by a level crossing near Honeybourne where the line went through open enough countryside for photography purposes.  Roughly speaking the directions were to drive through some small village or other then turn left four or five times until you reached the crossing. Personally I was convinced that we would end up driving around in circles, but amazingly enough we found the right spot.   Honeybourne is of course the ultimate goal of the GWSR. Currently we are working on getting as far as Broadway where we are rebuilding the station, after that, only four more miles to Honeybourne.  Once we get there of course, the dream is that mainline railtours will run from London to Cheltenham Race Course along the GWSR.  Something to look forward to indeed.
Lizzie nearing Honeybourne
Dan was convinced that I wouldn't be able to Photoshop all of the electrical wires running across the field out of the scene without it being noticeable.  Never forget Dan, the camera always lies!  Princess Elizabeth's boiler ticket has nearly expired now, so sadly there are very few more chances to catch her at work for a while.

Back at Toddington, there were several tasks that needed attending too.  Most of them involved being stood out in the freezing cold and shoveling ballast from one place to another.  The one that didn't, involved painting up the vestibule of the nice warm mess coach.  Did I mention that it was warm?  Still not being a complete idiot, that is the one I decided to do.  The vestibule is at the end of the coach nearest the toilet block, I lost track of the number of people who having had too many cups of tea, had to squeeze past, usually getting paint on themselves in the process only to repeat the process as they came back.  Speaking of the toilet block, it appears to have delusions of grandeur and thinks that it is rather like the Hotel California, "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave".  It appears that once you have shut the door behind you, it refuses to open again.  Plaintive cries for help in escaping were heard several times throughout the course of the day. 

Eventually of course, Santa had been visited by all the children and departed in his sleigh leaving the 8F free to return to shed at Toddington.  Note that the pits here have lights in them, a luxury that we didn't have when operating out of Winchcombe.  
45160 at the end of the day


  1. Nice to see the blog up and running, helps keep in touch with what you're all up to.

    If you thought yesterday was cold, ask George about the time He and I tried to defrost tender pipe connections in the old dowty shed ....

    Mike Belham

  2. Hi Mike,

    I'm glad to be of service. I'll be seeing George on Sunday, I'll ask him about it, hopefully he won't have been too scarred by the experience.