Sunday, 9 December 2012

The long weekend (part 1)

I'm not entirely sure how this happened, but somehow I found myself booked on for three days this weekend.  Don't worry, I'm rarely entirely sure how or why things happen to me, it's just situation normal as far as I'm concerned.  Just in case you're wondering, in this case the weekend included Friday afternoon as well as the more usual Saturday and Sunday.  My presence yesterday (Friday) is an easy one to explain, I needed to get in an assessed warming fire done and had arranged for Roger Molesworth to scrutinise my every move in getting a warming fire going in Foremarke Hall.  The student notes on how to do it made no reference to what you should do if you turn up and there is somebody inside the firebox fixing loose stay nuts.  "loose articles on grate - spanners, brushes etc", yes, people no. Eventually I decided that I should wait for him to finish before lighting the warming fire, though frankly it was a bit nippy yesterday, he might have appreciated it if I had.  Roger & I had a cup of tea whilst we waited and when we got back Adrian had finished, so I checked the grate again and noticed a large die about half way down, which was later claimed to have been left as a test to make sure that I was doing the job properly.

There are no photos of the light up of the warming fire, however here is a shot of 4270 complete with boiler which turned up yesterday.  A report on it's arrival and fitting into the frames is anticipated shortly.
4270 with boiler
Lighting a warming fire is all well and good, but to learn as much from it as possible, you really need to turn up the following morning to see how it burnt overnight.  Ideally somewhere between 10 & 20 PSI would be nice, the great fears are that you either under did it and the fire went out overnight and the loco is stone cold or worse still, you seriously over did it and the loco blows off all night and runs out of water in the boiler.  60 PSI was probably erring towards the latter, but Sean Nielsen the booked fireman for Foremarke Hall seemed to be very happy with that.  Personally I was just happy that I'd not managed to break the engine somehow. 

There were two trains out running Santa Specials today, the 8F was out first with Chris Brooks & Cliff Faulkner, here lost in a shroud of steam as well as Jamie Christie who managed to elude my camera today.
Chris & Cliff
8F Heading off to find Santa
Foremarke Hall was off soon after, here watched by some of the people who cleaned her today, Andrew joined us only last week, and today was Paul's first day.  I hope they enjoyed their time with us.
Andy, Andrew, Matt & Paul
The pole is the one installed in one of the early log entries, no sign of lights having been attached to it yet, but I am informed that it is imminent.
Andy looks unconcerned as he is about to be engulfed in steam

Backing towards the empty coaching stock
John Cruxon, Andy Meredith & Paul Stratford
Paul turned the tables on me during the course of the as he spent a fair bit of time on the lineside photographing Foremarke Hall as she went past with the Santa Specials.

About to receive the token at Toddington signal box
Exiting Greet tunnel
So far so good, empty coaching stock move to Cheltenham Race Course station to pick up the passengers to take to Winchcombe (AKA North Pole) to meet Santa.  Cheltenham Race Course station was swarming with young kids.  If I'd known that there was going to be so many I'd have set traps. Not just kids as well, but hordes of Elves, I thought I'd died and woken up in Middle Earth.  I was half expecting Bilbo Baggins & Gandalf to appear at any moment.  Anyway against my better judgement we allowed the kids on board and set off for Winchcombe the North Pole.  Yet more elves..... and a snowman!  I was beginning to fear that that it  hadn't been PG Tips in my morning cup of tea in the mess coach after all! 
Elf and safety Snowman
Much later, the kids had finished visiting Santa, amazingly all of them seemed to have made it onto his 'nice' list and it was time for him to wave them off back to Cheltenham.
Santa and his helpers
Somehow Sean managed to convince the tea room staff at Winchcombe that there were 6 people on the footplate (rule book says no more than 4) so we ended up with 2 mince pies each rather than one.

Meanwhile, back at Toddington, Andy Webber and his helpers set to work on 2807.  Thanks to Dan Wigg for the next two photos.
Andy Webber

Andy Webber
After this, the photo trail dries up as Sean threw the shovel in my direction, and frankly shoveling is hard enough without trying to take photos at the same time. I'd only have shoveled my camera into the firebox.  Actually when I say 'threw the shovel', he passed me one of the 'pool' shovels on the engine rather than his own pride & joy.  He'd already seen how expertly I manage to clout the firebox door before and knew better than to risk his own.  He said afterwards that towards the end of the day after it had got dark, he couldn't see much, but had a clue as to how well it was going by the series of clangs and expletives as we went along.  
Other points of note were that some regular members of the steam dept came along as passengers along with various family members.  Ade Showell was caught taking photos of some of his family:
Ade Showell
We changed drivers as well part way through the day, Andy Meredith stepping off the footplate to be replaced by Ian Carpenter.  One of the nicer features of the day that we had plenty of time sat waiting in Winchcombe and were able to welcome lots of the kids and their parents onto the footplate, which some of them seemed to enjoy even more than meeting Santa. I was impressed by the nature of the questions that some of them asked and both Andy's & Ian's capability to describe how a steam locomotive works in the sort of language that a five or six year old can understand.  The only down point to the whole day was that I need to get an assessed disposal of a locomotive done, and after we finished, Foremarke Hall was down to haul the Carol Service special down the line, so there was nothing for us to do.  Never mind, all being well I'll be able to manage that tomorrow.

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