Saturday, 22 June 2013

Give my regards your money to Broadway

A little railway related quiz for you. 

1) What is the connection between the following disused railways; the Whitehaven, Cleator & Egremont Junction Railway, the Stainmore Railway, the Rosedale Ironstone Railway and the Scarborough & Whitby Railway?

2) What is the connection between the following existing network rail lines; the Cumbrian Coast line, the West Coast Main line, the Settle & Carlisle Railway, the East Coast Main Line and the Esk Valley Railway?

3) What is the connection between the preserved Stainmore Railway Co (Kirkby Stephen East) and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway?

4) What do all of the above have to do with Broadway station on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway?

If you failed to answer all of the questions correctly, then you are cordially invited to sponsor me as I walk all approximately 192 miles of Alfred Wainwright's famed Coast to Coast path from St Bees on the Cumbrian coast to Robin Hood's Bay on the Yorkshire coast. The answers to questions 1 to 3 are that they all lie on the route of the Coast to Coast path and the connection with Broadway station is that I'll be walking the Coast to Coast path to raise money for the extension of the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway from our current northernmost point at Laverton on towards Broadway.

For those of you who wish to know more about the Coast to Coast route, it traverses three of England's National Parks and as far as is reasonably possible avoids using roads or passing through major habitations. Starting from St Bees, it meanders around the headland for a while before heading into the Lake District, through Ennerdale and Borrowdale to Grasmere, then via Grisedale and Patterdale to Haweswater. Leaving the Lake District the path continues on to Shap (on the West Coast mainline). From there through to Kirkby Stephen (on the Settle and Carlisle line) and over the rather mysterious Nine Standards Rigg to Swaledale, the northernmost of the Yorkshire Dales. The path carries on through Reeth and Richmond before crossing the North Yorkshire Moors (meeting the NYMR at Grosmont, old Alfred Wainwright was a bit of a steam buff too) and then one last gasp to get to Robin Hood's Bay. The gory details can be found
 here and here.

A map of the route can be found here.

If you're really keen, an excellent DVD of the route made by the BBC and presented by the utterly delightful Julia Bradbury can be purchased from a variety of outlets, as can Alfred Wainwright's original guide book of the walk, which is a work of art and a rattling good read even if you don't intend to walk the route.

Broadway is of course a major tourist attraction in its own right and more details can be found here.

Having such a prestigious destination for our steam hauled services can only be a boon to the railway.

Although Alfred Wainwright suggested a route and direction of travel between the two points, he actively encouraged making up your own route and even offered several alternative options for various sections. I intend to use a few of his suggested alternatives and possibly even one or two of my own.

It is customary when walking the Coast to Coast to take a pebble from the beach you start on and deposit it on the beach you finish on. I shall expand on this fine tradition by collecting a piece of ballast from Toddington on Saturday 21st July, take it to St Bees and deposit it on the beach. I shall then collect a new pebble and carry it to Robin Hood's Bay, depositing it on the beach there. I shall then collect a third pebble and bring it back to Toddington. During the course of Sunday 4th August I shall take one of the day's steam services to the current northern limit of operations at Laverton (thankfully it is a purple timetable day), alight from the train (not something that the general public can do of course) and carry the pebble the last few miles along the trackbed to Broadway station where it will become part of the ballast and patiently await the arrival of the next train. Hopefully, with your help, that train won't be too long in coming.

Just to make it interesting, I'll be doing it the hard way. I'll be carrying a tent & sleeping bag on my back and only making occasional use of a B&B when hygiene or the craving for an internet connection compel. You know what the weather is like at the moment, it will rain, I will get wet. In fact I will get very wet. The cab of 2807 running tender first into the rain will seem like joy ride in comparison. Borrowdale which is on the second of my projected day's walking is on record as being the wettest place in England. The four miles from Nine Standards Rigg to Ravenseat is the most dreadful bog you'll have ever seen and the propensity for getting blisters along the way is not to be underestimated. I did the walk once when I was younger and fitter. The following photo is of the soles of my feet one week after getting back and having just removed the bandages.

Not a pretty sight
The blisters on my heels were quite impressive too.

So what part do you play in all of this? Well that's easy, if you want to see me go through approximately 12 consecutive days of blisters, pain, getting lost and soakings, then please pledge to sponsor me by contacting the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway's head of Commercial Dept, Steve Sperring using his gwsr email address:

The railway gets helped back to Broadway and I get to suffer. I know a lot of people in the steam loco dept who will be pleased at the prospect of both.

Monday, 17 June 2013

A Streetcar Mess Coach named Tina

As promised in last week's blog, Tina arrived wearing make-up and ready for her photo shoot with the mess coach which has recently been named after her.
Fame Frame at last
Just in case she forgets her name
All she needs now is lining out and she'll be finished.... that's Tina the mess coach of course, not Tina the fireman.

Not everybody gets their name on something as prestigious as a mess coach,  Ben for example only warrants a wheel barrow:-
Ben's barrow
When interrogated on the matter later, Ben claimed to know nothing about the fact that he now possessed his own personal wheel barrow, nor did he know who might have put the writing on it.  I was at least pleased to note that whoever the culprit was had correctly used an apostrophe. Judging by the standards of punctuation in the comments left on various forms of social media, that eliminates a fair proportion of the possible suspects. Having said that, I now fully expect that the punctuation police and grammar Gestapo will be analysing my every word in the hunt for any mistakes that I might make.  People in glass houses etc.

Continuing with the subject of naming things after people, I can't fathom out who the austerity that has been loaned to the Avon Valley Railway was named after.  We don't seem to have too many Earls named David in the steam loco dept.
Just who was this loco named after?
 Anyway, back to the plot.  Saturday was a crew training day, Cliff would be out driver training on 5542 whilst Chris would be training as a fireman on Foremarke Hall. Dan cleaned 5542 whilst I got to work on with Foremarke Hall.
Dan gives 5542's safety valve bonnet a bit of therapy with the Brasso
Cliff caught oiling up 5542
Chris about to set off on Foremarke Hall
Cliff a bit later in the day after what was clearly an enjoyable day learning to drive 5542
 Ade was Chris's firing instructor, but he still lent a hand with cleaning some of Foremarke Hall's brass work:
Ade buffs up the brass work
5542 & Foremarke Hall, not long before leaving shed
Once they were gone, Dan had to sit his 'Shunting & Yard Safety' exam.  I have to sit it myself in a month or so, and consequently I was interested to learn how he got on.  Needless to say, Dan romped through the exam with no trouble at all, even though the pass mark is 90%.  When I come to sit the exam, whilst it is technically possible that I could do better than Dan, I'd have to get every question right to do so.  Dan is a very tough act to follow.

There was still plenty left to be getting on with around the yard whilst the trains were off down the line:
5542 setting off with Cliff at the regulator
2807 needed a bit of a clean up. Once again there were three locos out on the Sunday, but only one cleaner booked on. It would be something of an act of kindness to at least make a bit of a head start on cleaning her, so I spent a short while doing that.   It had also been noticed that one of the planks that retained the gravel of the walkway to the wood store was starting to raise up above the level of the track.  Dan & I disassembled it and put it back together so that it was now flush with the rail head.
 On the subject of the path to the wood store, my less than subtle hints seem to have been heeded and stock is now rarely to be found blocking it.  That might of course owe more to the fact that several items of stock have left the railway completely or temporarily disappeared off to other railways to take part in their mixed traction galas.

The wood store had been a bit light of wood when I arrived, but there was a considerable stock of old pallets waiting to be broken up.  More arrived later on the back of a starfish wagon which had been sent up from Winchcombe during the week with more wood for the wood store.
Ben unloading wood from the starfish
The wood store is now replenished and should last a little while now.   The parking brake on the starfish had been noted as being defective, so a small team of people took a break from breaking pallets to fix the parking brake instead:
Somewhere under there, the parking brake is being adjusted
The process did seem to require rather more people to spectate than actually do the work.

I bumped into Andy Marshall of the 35006 group who informed me that all his volunteers inconsiderately away on holiday this week. I wonder if they went south.
Even the Southern Railway can't always get the use of apostrophes right
Before they had all disappeared off in search of the sun in what was probably more of a triumph of hope over experience, the 35006 team had started work on installing the motion on the right hand side:
The recently installed combination lever and union link
You're impressed that I knew that those bits were a combination lever & union link weren't you!  Be impressed no more.  I'll confess to having first checked on Google (thereby informing the CIA of my ignorance) and when it turned out that Google wasn't my friend after all, looking it up in a book, not even a Kindle, but a proper old fashioned book with real pages.  Who needs this 21st Century technology!

And finally, I was being slightly disingenuous earlier when I said that Chris Brooks was down for a fireman training turn.  In fact, Chris was down to be assessed as a fireman.  I am extremely pleased to be able to inform you that Chris did indeed pass out and is now a fully qualified fireman.  I had expected when I was asked to kick off this blog that I would find plenty to fill the pages keeping the world informed about people passing out as firemen (mostly by the name of Chris to be honest, there are a lot of them in fireman training) or drivers, yet here we are more than half a year down the road and Chris Brooks has turned out to be the very first to get through in all that time.
An elated Chris Brooks at the end of the day

I offered to clean out the ash pan for him, but Chris was keen to get under Foremarke Hall and do it himself.

Hosing out the ash pan
I think Chris fancied taking a shower before he went home

Congratulations Chris.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

All Change

There are only nine runnings of the purple timetable during the course of the year, and they're all on Sundays.  The purple timetable has two normal steam service trains plus a third steam loco on the lunchtime Elegant Excursions dining train.  I was rostered down for the second steam service train, hauled by prairie tank 5542.  Although she is easily capable of handling a seven coach train on the relatively light gradients of our railway, 5542 is only about half the size and can be cleaned quite quickly.  What I hadn't appreciated until I arrived was that no other cleaners had signed up for yesterday, so I was there on my own with three locos to clean, the 8F, Foremarke Hall and of course 5542.  I've managed two locos on odd occasions before now, but three I thought might well be stretching things, no matter how many Shredded Wheat that I'd had for breakfast.  The best plan seemed to be to wash over the boilers of each loco in order of being scheduled to leave shed, then do the smoke boxes of each and finally clean over the wheels and motion.  I wasn't far along the road of washing over the boiler of the 8F, when Stuart appeared.  Apparently Steve who although a driver was down to fire Foremarke Hall had decided that perhaps I might be rather outnumbered and had contacted Stuart to twist his arm into helping out.  I suspect that the promise of a free lunch by being part of the crew for the dining train had been part of the deal.
The extremely welcome sight of Stuart on Foremarke Hall
I don't think that I've ever been quite so glad to see another cleaner appear before.  I left him to crack on with Foremarke Hall whilst I got on with the 8F and 5542.

So far so good, I flitted around between the 8F and 5542, I even found time to grab a photo of one of the two traction engines that had come for the gala that were still inhabiting the car park, apparently they were now off to Banbury.  They needed a top up of water before setting off:
Derailed traction engine
All was well, my two locos were pretty much cleaned, the 8F was just about to set off, what could possibly go wrong now?
8F just departing from the shed
It was of course all too good to be true.  The reverser of the 8F wouldn't fully travel in one direction and sadly she was failed.  This was a bit of a blow for Dan, as this was his first trip out as a trainee fireman.  Plan B was swiftly enacted... once it had been thought up. 5542 would now take the first service train, the 3 car DMU would be started up and run as the second service train and Foremarke Hall would remain on the lunchtime dining train as planned.  Steve Oddy was the only person present who was signed off as a DMU driver, so he and Stuart took that, Dan, Ben and Adrian took over 5542 so that Dan got his firing lesson which left Andy Beale & Andy Meredith (both drivers) to take out the lunch time diner.  They'd take it in turns to fire one way & drive the other.  Steve Burnett who should have been firing 5542 lost his loco altogether and wound up helping Ian Carpenter with 2807's boiler washout and getting the springs back onto the Peckett.  I think I'm right in saying that absolutely nobody ended up with whatever loco that they had started with, with the possible exception of Andy Meredith.  I ended up being invited out with the two Andys on Foremarke Hall.  When it comes to firing locos, drivers fall into one of two camps; either they long nostalgically for the shovel which they had to relinquish when they became drivers and will seize any opportunity to have another bash at it, or alternatively think that it's all far too much like hard work and throw the shovel at a cleaner and enjoy watching him make a fool of himself instead.  The two Andys both fell into the latter category and decided that it would be preferable to let me shovel the black stuff whilst one or other of them supervised.  Consequently there are few photos of the dining train service as I was too busy concentrating on firing.  Apparently Andy Beale and Ben should have been out together on the 8F according to plan A and when they get rostered together, they have a tradition of sharing a packet of sweets.  Andy had the sweets with us on Foremarke Hall and is sat here in the drivers seat preparing to taunt Ben with them as he comes the other way on 5542
Andy and the confectionary of doom
Now remember that this was the dining train.  Free lunch for the crews passed over to the footplate during the run round at Laverton loop.  Training manager, Steve Oddy had been rostered down for this service, so this should by rights have been his lunch.  I made a career limiting remark to him about how nice his lunch had been as he was leaving in the DMU a bit later on in the day.
Sunday lunch, Elegant Excursion style
It's not easy eating your lunch whilst trying to build up the fire, but somehow I managed to shovel enough coal into the firebox to get us back as well as shovel the food in my mouth.
Steve laments the loss of his lunch with a passenger whilst waiting to take the DMU out
Andy and Andy relaxing at Winchcombe whilst the diners finish off their desserts
I called out for the water to be switched off just a bit too late.
My plan had been to get a few posed photos of Dan on his first fireman training turn along with Ben (his instructor) before they set off in the morning. The last minute change of plans because of the failed 8F got in the way and it didn't happen.  5542 drew up alongside us as we waited for the diners to finish their lunches at Winchcombe, so I sneaked up to their cab and grabbed a photo of them on the footplate.
Ben and Dan
In many ways it is an appropriate pairing of instructor and pupil, Ben passed out as a fireman the day after his 18th birthday (18 is the minimum age).  Dan will hopefully better Ben's record by 24 hours.  In the current edition of Heritage Railway, in an article on the current coal shortage, Ian Crowder (GWSR spokesman & fireman) mentions that firemen get their legs pulled if they allow a loco to blow off. He's not kidding either. I'm pleased to be able to report that neither Dan nor myself tested the safety valves on our locos, thus avoiding any leg pulling.  I understand that the safety valves of the DMU didn't blow off either.

At the end of the day, we disposed and coaled up Foremarke Hall again.  Andy Beale loaded Foremarke Hall with coal. 
Andy coaling up Foremarke Hall
He even loaded some of it into the tender, but most seemed to end up on the footplate
And finally.  I had intended to leave this until next week, but the cat is now out of the bag.  The lettering on the mess coach has been done and jolly good it looks too.  The mess coach now has a name, 'Tina' after our facilities manager.  I had gone to the trouble of photoshopping out her name on one photo so that Tina wouldn't get to find out that she had a coach named after her until her next firing turn on Saturday however somebody had dropped cryptic clues to her that something had happened to the mess coach. Knowing that I would probably know what had happened she beat a confession out of me. As mentioned in a previous blog, she punches far above her weight, but below her height.
No mistaking which department's mess coach it is
Tina, photoshopped out
The non-photoshopped version
And just in case you couldn't spot the difference
Tina is delighted that she has a coach named after her and has promised to let me take a photo of her by her coach on Saturday... she'll even wear make-up and smile for the occasion.  You read it here first!

We seem to have had a lot of retirements lately (apparently Tim Bazeley announced that he was stepping down from the footplate on Saturday) and fewer new people stepping in as volunteers.  Much as it would amuse certain parties if I ended up cleaning three locos every week, we could use a bit more help.  Hopefully this blog won't have put you off too much, though I fear that it probably has.  If you think that volunteering in the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway's steam loco dept is for you, then please make contact in the first instance through the railway's website.  I certainly can't promise that you'll get a coach named after you, the days will start early and finish late, you'll get so grubby that all you'll want to do is soak in the bath as soon as you get home.  Don't ask about the laundry... I live in hope of being 'door-stepped' by some Z list soap opera celebrity doing a commercial for the latest all singing all dancing washing powder.... I'll show them some stains that their precious washing powder won't shift.  In some strange way though, you'll enjoy it all the same and want to keep coming back.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Trade Descriptions Act Breached!

After six wonderful days on the railway, preparing for and then being involved in the Cotswold Steam Celebration gala, going back to work last Tuesday was something of a trial.  It was no worse than usual really, but it just wasn't the same. It's hard to believe, but just a couple of generations ago, footplate men considered working with steam locos a job and found something different to do with their free time at the weekends.  It's a strange old world at times.  

Having been rostered down for Sunday to clean the first train off, I was curious to find out what it was going to be.  The B12 and Cheltenham had returned to the North Norfolk & Mid Hants railways respectively, but there had been a question mark over whether or not the BR Standard 4, 80072 would still be with us.  As it turned out, she was still at Toddington and Sunday was to be her last operating day.  5542 was the other loco in steam, so unusually for us we were having a tank engine day.
Mark cleaning 5542
Tanks a lot
Although a driver, Ben had rostered himself to be the fireman and John to be the driver. There is never a dull moment with Ben around, though sometimes inexplicable things happen.  Try as I might for instance, I can't explain this:
Ben defying explanation
This next bit can be explained... well sort of.  819 is the reporting code of the Cornishman (Penzance to Wolverhampton), the only named train to have run on our line. It would more normally have seen a Castle turned out for the service, a BR standard 4 would have been highly unlikely, but  that didn't deter Ben.
More of a grockle than a Cornishman
We were lucky to get away with just using the 819 reporting code, if Ben had got his way, 80072 would have been out with 83N on the front.

Anyway, John & Ben set off on the first round trip.  I decided to join Bill up in the signal box to grab a few photos of 80072 setting off on the first trip before grabbing a bacon roll from the Flag & Whistle.
80072 approaches Toddington signal box
Ben takes the token from Bill, somebody in the first carriage takes a photograph
5542 came out to move onto her stock as well
As I was sat in the signal box with Bill, enjoying a cup of tea, I noticed Dan walk past on the footpath in the field behind.  He'd managed to get a very nice shot of 80072 as she had passed Didbrook:
80072 on the Cornishman by Dan Wigg
The bubble car had set off on the DMU turn but it should have been the three car 117 out instead. One of the cars of the 117 didn't want to start, it had a flat battery.  I joined Ian and Ian (Dept Chairman Ian and Boiler Responsible Person Ian, we have for too many people with the same first name around here) in the search for the problem. They soon established that the battery was flat because somebody had left the destination lights on.  
This is how the destination light switch should be left
I left Ian & Ian to get the DMU's battery on charge and got changed to join John & Ben for the second and third trips down the line on 80072.  Ian (Dept chairman Ian as opposed to Boiler Responsible Ian) decided to join us as he hadn't been out on the Standard before.  Ben very kindly decided that he would let me loose on firing to Cheltenham on each run.  Never having fired from the wrong side of the cab before, I was mildy apprehensive.  I'd heard lurid tales of right handed firemen failing to hit the front left corner, or shooting it all off down the right hand side leaving the left bare.  Curiously I experienced none of these troubles, every round went where it was aimed.  In fairness though, the baffle plate was almost completely worn away, if there had been a rather less threadbare one in there it might have been a different story.  I didn't need to try to fire over the half moon plate either, though Ben did on one of the return trips, with some success.
You don't get too bad a view when running bunker first
Crossing 5542 at Winchcombe
Ian took a turn in the driving seat for one trip
Ben driving, John checking the road ahead, Ian checking the fire
The sun shone, we were never short of steam and all in all a great day was had by every one.  All good things come to an end though and eventually, it was time for disposal on the recently reinstated ash pit:
80072 on the ash pit
I like to think that I'm relatively observant and one of the things that I had noticed at the beginning of the day and had been very pleased to see was this:
If you're a cleaner, you tend to notice things like this
No, not the 6D  (I looked it up later, Chester Northgate, 1950 - 1960, then Shrewsbury, 1963 - 1967), but the SC...  Self Cleaning!  The self cleaning mesh should have pulverised all the bits of ash in the smoke box to a fine enough powder to be easily ejected out of the chimney by the force of the draught.  All I should need to do would be check that there was no signs of water where it shouldn't be and close the smoke box up again.  Simples!
You can imagine the look on my face when I opened up the smoke box door expecting to find a nice clean smoke box only to find that there was no self cleaning mechanism, only a couple of bin loads of ash to clean out.  I've instructed my legal team to start proceedings under the Trade Descriptions Act.  There probably was an ash pan sprinkler on board somewhere as well, but we didn't manage to find that (found the sprinkler for the bunker though), so it was underneath with a hosepipe to damp down the ash pan as well. 

Other things that are newsworthy; Owsden Hall has set off for pastures new.  She has disappeared off to the Swindon and Cricklade Railway to progress her restoration there.  Well most of her has, her boiler is still sat in the yard but will doubtless follow sometime soon. 
Owsden Hall before she left
Ian's (Boiler Responsible Person Ian) Peckett 0-4-0ST is now back on her wheels:
Dwarfed by 35006, but back on her wheels again
I was disappointed to miss out on the re-wheeling, if nothing else I was curious to see how it was done.  She may be the smallest steam loco on the railway, but you don't just grab hold of the buffer beam with one hand and slide the wheels under with the other..... or do you?