Monday, 29 April 2013

Don't mention the war!

Well it seems that Wartime in the Cotswolds kicked off a little early.  All it takes is to make one innocent little mistake on this blog regarding the number of one of our locos and all hell breaks loose.  I managed to amalgamate the numbers of surviving 4F's 44027 and 44123 into 44023, which sadly was cut up around 50 years ago.  At least I now know that some of you out there are paying attention, though heaven only knows why.  Anyway, I digress.  The Wartime Weekend kicked off bright and early on Saturday morning for me.... and dozens of other members of the steam loco dept.  Cleaning the three locos that were rostered was done in short order and quite frankly, most people then seemed to mill about drinking tea & eating biscuits.
Ben wasn't to be moved
In fact, most of the volunteers present weren't moving
Sean, Cliff & Andy are now passed out at leaning on shovels
Kev gets into the wartime spirit with his tin hat
Somewhere, Ed has a picture of me taking a picture of him
and unusually, Cliff had brought along his camera to capture the proceedings for posterity
Eventually, after enough tea to float a decent sized battleship had been drunk, the locos started setting off for their front line duties.
2807 sets off for the front
2807 will shortly be off to Great Central Railway for a little while to help them through a loco shortage.  (Edit:  apparently not any more, she's stopping with us now)

The planet's favourite prairie had only arrived the day before and was already passed fit for active service.  I don't know who her rostered cleaner was, but he managed to overlook buffing up those rusty smokebox door locking arms in his quest to drink tea on Saturday morning.  You just can't get the staff!
5542 fighting fit and ready to take on the Nazis
Meanwhile, the 8F has been kitted out in war dept livery for a short while.  Wearing her WD 348 numbers and sporting an air compressor plus two compressed air tanks, she made a fine sight.
WD 348 AKA 8274/45166
The war dept livery will have to be replaced shortly with the LMS numbering in readiness for the Big Four Five Cotswold Steam Celebration Gala at the end of May, so if you want to see her running like this, you'll have to get your skates on.

Out in the car park at Toddington, all sorts of merriment was taking place, military vehicles and re-enactors of all shapes and sizes were to be found along with Morris dancers and what purported to be an unexploded bomb
IED in the car park
Cleaners were deemed to be expendable, so I was nominated to defuse it. I decided that if discretion was the better part of valour.... and indeed if cowardice was the better part of discretion, then I should leave the Luftwaffe's calling card for somebody else to deal with.  All of a sudden, the long list of duties waiting to be performed around the yard took on a whole new appeal.  Chief amongst those was to erect a new fence alongside the West boundary between the yard and the narrow gauge line.  We had made an attempt to do this last week, but had met with only limited success.... limited mostly to abject failure in fact.  Even employing the Matbro to press the fence posts into the ground had only resulted in around two or three of the posts being solidly installed, the remainder of the thirty or so posts had struck something solid before they had gone in far enough and were looking decidedly wonky.  So it was that we rolled up our sleeves for round two of this frankly unequal fight.
Tim & John tried the subtle 'hit it with a sledge hammer' technique
Ed & Tim look on as Mark puts the full weight of the Matbro into the job.
It's quite disconcerting to see the front end of the Matbro raise itself by 6 inches or so as the fence post strikes something solid and refuses to budge. In the end we managed to get all of them in far enough, though many had to be concreted in to keep them solid. 

You'll have noticed from the last blog entry that I had been around on Wednesday.  Whilst I was there, Mike Hoskin had collared me and asked me if I could do a spot of videoing of the 8F in it's WD livery for him.  He had been roped into helping out in the Flag & Whistle on Saturday and would be driving the 8F on the Sunday, so he couldn't do it himself.  That was all the excuse that I needed to come along on the Sunday and indulge in a little line side photography.  Mike loaned me his video camera which turned out to be remarkably easy to operate. I just perched it on a tripod and let it run, whilst I grabbed a few photos with my own camera.  In spite of the dreary weather forecast, the sun actually shone for a bit in the morning and in fact it turned out to be a distinct improvement on the Saturday when we had been on the receiving end of a fairly heavy shower of hailstones at one point.  Here is an edited selection of photos from the day.
5542 approaching Dixton cutting.  Note the fine display of primroses.
WD 348 in Dixton cutting.
Sadly the sound of the hill climb at Prescott will have spoiled the sound track of the video
The gala freight train assembled at Winchcombe, 14 vehicles plus 2 brake vans
2807 approaching Greet tunnel
5542 exiting Greet tunnel
5542 again
WD 348 about to enter Greet tunnel
At this point I headed back off to Toddington for a bit of a look around as all of the locos would be facing the wrong way for a while.  As I wasn't booked on to do any particular duty, I thought that I ought to pay my way in rather than wave my work permit at the people on the entrance.  I'd like to think that it was because of my youthful good looks that they only charged me the price of a child ticket however my illusions were shattered when they informed me that it was just because it was so late in the day.

Late in the day or not, the car park at Toddington was still a seething mass of activity.  The Morris Dancers caught my eye, several had appropriate WWII slogans painted onto their faces:
Shh!  Walls
Have.... ice cream?
OK, cue a very old joke....
Q.  Why did God invent train spotters?
A.  So that Morris Dancers would have someone to laugh at!

I even found time for a rather belated breakfast in the Flag & Whistle before setting off down to Chicken Curve for the final shot of the day.  This would of course be the spectacular shot of the setting sun glinting off the side of the 8F as she rounded the curve.  Unfortunately, although Mike did as he had been requested and gave the 8F plenty of chuff as he came round Chicken Curve, my instructions to the sun had fallen on deaf ears.
WD 348 rounds Chicken Curve
If the video turns out to be any good, I'll see if I can get it onto this blog along with ones that I have or have been promised of the double headed halls of a few weeks ago.

Finally on a sad note, one of the railway's better known supporters Brian Peacey passed away on the 12th of April.  He would always give a cheerful wave from his garden at the first train of the day as it passed his house in Bishops Cleeve.  Brian will be much missed by the members of the steam loco dept and several expressed an intention to attend his funeral which was held this afternoon.  Yesterday, Ben halted the first train of the day outside his house and presented a card and some flowers as a mark of respect before carrying on to Cheltenham. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The Wednesday Gang

Readers of this blog could be forgiven for thinking that interesting things only happen on the GWSR at weekends.  This is of course far from the truth, it's just that being a humble wage slave, I can usually only get along to the railway at weekends.  This week, work had me more or less passing Toddington on Wednesday (well with only a minor detour) so I thought that I'd pop in for an hour or two and see what the Wednesday gang were up to. Besides, the Saturday crowd have been starting to complain that they seem to be the only ones who have to suffer the indignity of appearing on this blog and would like the misery spread further afield.  My apologies in advance, I didn't manage to catch everybody's names and there is a sporting chance I've got a few of those I did scribble down wrong too.

Things didn't get off to a good start, pretty much the first person that I bumped into when I got into the yard was Gilbert.  He was curious to find out what I was doing at Toddington midweek and when I told him that I was here to find out what the Wednesday gang got up to, his reply was "Very little".  Undeterred I ventured further into the yard, to be rewarded with the fine sight of 4270 basking out in the sunshine.
4270 catching some rays
I'm not sure which is rarer, 4270 appearing outside or the sun shining, either way I decided that I should investigate.  Ian Carpenter was keen to show me recent progress, not only were all the smokebox fittings now in place, but both injectors and associated pipework were now fitted too.  Access underneath to fit the injectors & pipes were why 4270 had been pulled out onto the pit.
Driver's side injector
There were still a few bolts to hold the smokebox in place that needed fitting, Ian machined up some new bolts whilst Bob removed several plates to gain access to the location where the bolts would need inserting.
Ian turning up the new smokebox securing bolts
Bob works on gaining access to where the bolts will be fitted
Later on, Paul turned up to fit a bracket to keep one of the injector pipes in place
Paul got slightly distracted and started chatting about camera lenses for a bit...
...but he soon got cracking on the job in hand.
Ian managed to get a bit side-tracked by several members of the 2807 group who needed a steam feed pipe to the condensing coil for the hydrostatic lubricator soldering up... apparently it had been leaking recently.
Ian gets distracted by Bruce & Geof with their steam feed pipe
In the background to the above shot, you'll notice the 8F.  She has been largely turned out in war dept guise in readiness for the Wartime in the Cotswolds event this weekend.  She now carries the WD smoke box number plate 348 and has had an air compressor & air tanks fitted above her running plate.  The LMS logo & number were still in place on Wednesday, but will have been replaced in time for the weekend with the appropriate WD items.  She will of course be reverting almost immediately back to her LMS guise after this coming weekend in anticipation of the Cotswold Steam Celebration 2013 at the end of May, so if you want to see her in her WD guise, then you'll have to be quick.  The weather forecast for the Wartime in the Cotswolds event is looking extremely good, so why not come along?
8F, with WD 348 smokebox number plate & air tanks
8F with air compressor
Outside I discovered Roger busy restocking the wood store.  I hadn't noticed that the wood store had opening doors at this end before.
Roger & friend replenishing the wood store
Meanwhile, over near platform one, Chris, Pete & Nigel are busy erecting some fence posts
Chris wields a sledge hammer, Pete looks apprehensive
Nigel turns out to be less trusting and employs a piece of wood
The new water tower stands next to this point and there are a few open manholes that needed covers manufacturing.
The new water tower
Two of the three exposed manholes
Neil, Tom & Tim in the process of fabricating the covers
The finished manhole covers in place
The weather being fine, more painting was taking place in various locations in the yard and even on the station:
Peter refreshes the white paint on the platform edges
Tim paints the coal dock gates
Chris & Peter measure up the mess coach for the cream part of the chocolate & cream primer
Chris applying cream primer
David also applying cream primer
In an act of selfless dedication to the task, Chris checked the chocolate primer against a large sample of chocolate biscuits just to make sure that the shade was correct.  You don't get such exacting standards on just any old railway you know.

Meanwhile sections of scrap rail were being cut up into suitable sizes to fit into the scrap skip.  Some of them would be temporarily pressed into service to weigh down some of the marquees which were being erected in the car park for the coming weekend.
John cuts up the rail
Peter, Mike, John & John working on breaking up the old rail
Ben is on holiday this week and is spending much of it working on the railway, here he is shifting the cut up rail
Finally, plenty of work was taking place on the restoration of the National Railway Museum's 4F, 44027
The rolling chassis of 44027 in the David Page shed.
Clive & Dave making up a lubrication pipe for 44027
Meanwhile, outside in the sunshine, work was taking place on the boiler of 44027:
The inverted boiler of 44027
Mike at work on the firebox tube plate
Kev at work on the lap seals
Enlarging some of the stay holes, once again I'm afraid that I don't know the names of the people involved

So if this really was Gilbert's idea of "Very little", I'd love to see Wednesday gang at work on a busy day.

Edit:  Subsequent to scribing this little lot yesterday, I've been informed (thanks John) that I managed to miss some of the most important events of the day.  Firstly, before I arrived, all the service locos had their grates/ashpans/smokeboxes thoroughly cleaned ready for the impending services on Friday/the weekend.  As somebody who has occasionally found themselves lighting up a loco at the weekend, it's always extremely nice to find that the grate is clear apart from the remains of a warming fire.  Secondly 2807 had been red-carded due to the defective steam feed pipe to the condensing coil for the hydrostatic lubricator, so the Wednesday gang had already stripped down the condensing coil pipework of 2807 in readiness for Ian Carpenter to re-solder the joint at one end.