Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Sponsored walk for Broadway update 3

Just in case you've missed out, I'm currently walking the thick end of 200 miles across England from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire hoping to raise money for the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway's extension to Broadway.

Details of the walk can be found
 here and also at the end of this article.

What can you do?  Well, unlike me for a couple of weeks, you can just sit back, relax and take it easy.  Oh, and if you happen to have a few quid burning a hole in your pocket, you could choose to sponsor me too.

Please send cheques to:
Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director)
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.

So, here is the update:

I have made it to:Grosmont

I have covered approximately 180 miles so far.

The weather since the last update has varied  between hot sunshine, torrential downpours and all shades of options in between.

Number of blisters so far: 1 (left heel)

I have been via:  I took the low level option through Swaledale due to the threat of thunder storms. Camping out on the top of Nine Standards Rigg was something of a highlight as was the B&B near Colburn that had no electricity when I arrived.

I'm currently steaming on all four cylinders and have  managed to get myself one day ahead of my advertised schedule. I'll finish the walk to Robin Hood's Bay tomorrow and spend Friday in Grosmont.  I wonder what I can find to do with my time there. :-)

The final few miles from Laverton to Broadway will take place as advertised on Sunday.  I hope to blag a lift up to Laverton with George and Ian on train 2 on Sunday.  George is reportedly extremely pleased that a recent royal baby has been named after him. Apparently nobody has had the heart to break the news that the new arrival was named after a certain loco in the care of the NRM with the number 6000 in brass on the cabside and a rather nice bell up at the front end.

Still not too late to sponsor me if you like.

I'm afraid that the iPhone app is a poor substitute for a real web browser and Safari is worse again.  Normal formatting style will be resumed as soon as I get access to a proper computer. Next stop the Station Tavern to consume some blister numbing medicine and berate anybody who will listen about the shortcomings of iPhones.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Sponsored Walk for Broadway Update 2

Just in case you've missed out, I'm currently walking the thick end of 200 miles across England from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire hoping to raise money for the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway's extension to Broadway.

Details of the walk can be found here and also at the end of this article.

What can you do?  Well, unlike me for a couple of weeks, you can just sit back, relax and take it easy.  Oh, and if you happen to have a few quid burning a hole in your pocket, you could choose to sponsor me too.

Please send cheques to:
Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director)
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.

So, here is the update:

I have made it to: Gunnerside (between Keld & Reeth)

I have covered approximately 96 miles so far.

The weather since the last update has been: warm but not excessively so. 

After an excellent day out last Saturday on the 8F with Andy & Paul.  1 piece of ballast collected to carry to St Bees.
Me at 'mile zero' St Bees
The cloudy summit of Helvellyn, just before the thunder & lightning started, forcing me to beat a hasty retreat from the summit.

So far so good, on track and over half way there. Unfortunately the weather is about to change to heavy rain for the next couple of days. Amber weather warning for tomorrow.

Sponsored Walk for Broadway Update 1

I'm currently walking the thick end of 200 miles across England from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire hoping to raise money for the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway's extension to Broadway.

Details of the walk can be found here and also at the end of this article.

What can you do?  Well, unlike me for a couple of weeks, you can just sit back, relax and take it easy.  Oh, and if you happen to have a few quid burning a hole in your pocket, you could choose to sponsor me too.

Please send cheques to:
Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director)
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.

So, here is the update:

I have made it to: Shap

I have covered approximately XXX  miles so far.  No idea, not enough wifi bandwidth here to check.

The weather since the last update has been: varied between the hottest day of the year and violent electrical storms.

Number of blisters so far:.  None, but I fell flat on my arse on the first day

I have been via: the High Stlie Ridge, Helvellyn , St Sunday Crag (long story to follow) and High Street rather than Kidsty Pike.

That was roughly where I was going to leave this update, but it has been a bit eventful so far.  I tackled the High Stile Ridge on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. By the time I hit Honister Pass I had got through 4 litres of water and discovered too late that I had left my supply off Jelly babies in the car.  It doesn't help that my backpack weighs about the same as 2807's tender. By the time I eventually got to Homister I was out of water, rather light headed and had been vomiting.  Not very good.  At Honisterr pass, Ibumped into a doctor that I had met the day before who was also doing the coast to coast and she started to take a professional interest in me.  In railway terms, by this point, the fire was out, the pressure gauge plummeting and the water bobbing about in the bottom  nutt.  Completely down the pan!

The following day found me in an electrical storm on Greenup Edge in the morning, thunder was never less than 2 seconds after the lightning, so it made for an interesting and relatively safe spectacle.  That night I had just reached the top of Helvellyn where I was intending to camp when another electrical storm kicked off.  This time I was 3117' up and at the highest point for quite a few miles.  The delay from the lightning to the thunder was too short to measure, I beat a hasty retreat down to the safety of Grisedale Tarn and camped down there, going to Patterdale the next day via St Sunday Crag.  So far so good, but it has all been rather more eventful than I had hoped for.

To add to that,I discovered last night that my nice little 1 man tent is not as waterproof as it was last time I used it.  Camped out last night on High Street (2717') in a rain storm was where I made this important discovery.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A tale of two Locos

I imagine that it's the same on all heritage railways, mention that you have a favourite big four company or even particular type of loco and in no time at all you will be fending off good natured jibes from no end of people with a differing point of view.  Some braver souls will do it purely with the intent of winding somebody up, but most people if they have any sense at all will steer well clear of the subject.  The old saying that you should never discuss religion or politics has a corollary, on a heritage railway you should never discuss the virtues or otherwise of any pre-grouping/big four company, BR or any particular CME.  You'd be ill advised to start a debate on the pros and cons of diesels versus steam too.  At certain times of the year though, hostilities are suspended, the Christmas period for instance will usually see a truce in place.  The truce will not be attributable to seasonal good will, but seasonal weather.  Even the most die hard GWR fan for instance will grudgingly admit that in falling snow or heavy rain that they would sooner be on the footplate of the 8F, (with its nice large tender that does such a good job of fending off the worst of the elements when running tender first) than they would like to be on 2807 (with its 3500 gallon tender which provides nothing by way of protection from the elements).  They would doubtless also point to the nice cozy warm cab of 5542 that is a delightful place to be on a cold winter's turn on the footplate. 

I imagine that most of you will have spotted that it's not Christmas at the moment and will therefore have assumed that the seasonal truce is not in place.  Well you'd be wrong, the truce is indeed in place once more, though this time for the opposite reason.  England is currently sweltering in a heat wave, the usually welcomed protective cabs of 5542 and the 8F are now being shunned by footplate crews in favour of nice open airy cabs like that of 2807.  All sorts of trades are being worked out by crews to try and swap engines.

In the relative cool of the early dawn on Saturday, I set to work on cleaning the first loco to go out, 2807.  Mike Hoskin appeared a little later on to start prepping 5542 which was to be the second train out.  Things weren't going quite so well for Mike as no cleaner had been rostered for 5542.  Ben was heard to say that I was taking on the role of 'super cleaner' as I once again valiantly set about cleaning both locos.  So where did I find myself for the day.... yep, you've guessed it, I ended up lighting up 5542 before joining Mike & Kev on its footplate. 

Note the fully enclosed cab of 5542 on the left
Dan looking more than happy to be in the cool and breezy cab of 2807
Before we could get out onto our train, we had to empty the ash pan.  The owners of 5542 have fitted a hydraulically tilting grate and hydraulically opening ash pan doors to her.  That's all well and good, but if you don't light up on the ash pit (and we don't) then you need to make sure that you follow the instructions printed in the cab to open the ash pan doors without tilting the grate. Never having had to do this before, I really didn't want to see my fire disappear into the ash pit along with the ash.  Mercifully the instructions were clear enough and the fire remained where it was supposed to be.

As predicted, the cab of 5542 was like a furnace.  All possible windows and openings were opened and still it was unbearably hot.  The outside air was at 30 degrees Centigrade, yet as you entered the cab you were hit by a wall of heat.  At one point after the run round at Toddington, I realised that I was left in the cab on my own, yet I could hear voices.  It turned out that Mike and Kev were both hiding from the heat of the cab by standing in the shade of the loco:
Mike and Kev hiding in the shade
Kev and Mike at work
The lucky crew of 2807 were seen to taunt us as they glided past into Winchcombe enjoying the breeze:
Ben finds our plight amusing
Andy Beale was driving 2807 at this point.  He caught me a bit later in the day and said that I should be sure to mention on this blog that he was booked on from 2pm until midnight.  I think that he was hoping for some sympathy, but he's not going to get it.  Andy was enjoying the cool air in that nice open cab of 2807, whilst Mike, Kev & myself roasted in 5542:
Risking soot in the eyes, but anything for some cool air
Sadly I missed it with the camera, but at one point Kev turned a hosepipe on himself to try and cool down.  Recent reports of Swedish train drivers wearing skirts to work suddenly seemed quite reasonable, though no crews on the GWSR have been seen so far wearing skirts.... well not on the footplate at least.

When 5542 next disappears back of to the South Devon Railway for maintenance, please could they see their way clear to installing some air conditioning.  Pretty please.  You'll make a lot of GWSR crews very happy indeed if you do.

I popped back into Toddington for a few hours on Sunday as well.  There was a bus rally taking place in the car park:
A variety of buses
I remember going to school in buses like this
Apparently our heritage DMU's share many common engine parts with a number of the vintage buses that were on display on Sunday.  The owners of the buses would be well advised to make sure that their engines are still present and correct, as several members of the DMU group were to be seen brandishing tools and looking like they might be about to send out a raiding party into the car park.

Meanwhile, in a cunning ploy to defeat the twin perils of sunburn and heatstroke, Nick & Laurence cleaned Foremarke Hall, which was nicely in the shade in the David Page shed.  A wise move.
Nick & Laurence, not to me moved into the sunshine
And finally,  apparently my quest to make available a means of donating to my sponsored walk clean across the country have "hit the buffers". Such a means of donating will eventually be set up, but not in time for this unfortunately.  Somehow that seems appropriate, we are a heritage railway after all and all of our operating procedures are based on 1950's technology.  It is only fitting therefore that supporting us should be done via 1950's technology.  You don't expect us to just wander up to one of our steam locos and press the start button five minutes before we're due off shed do you!  Having to send a good old fashioned cheque in the post can only enhance the nostalgic experience.  After all if the banks had stayed operating as they did back in the 1950's, the country wouldn't be in the dire financial straits that it's currently in.

For those of you who were at all interested in my itinerary, I have amended it slightly to take account of the fact that after studying the train times I can just about get a train back from Whitby to St Bees and arrive early enough to be able to drive back to Toddington all in one day.  That has meant that I have the luxury of an extra day to play with, so I have broken what would have been the longest day into two.

As a reminder of how to sponsor me to raise funds for the railway's extension to Broadway, please send cheques to:

Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director)
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.

The walking starts on Sunday, I will endeavour to make my progress known as access to wifi along the way permits.
  That is unlikely to be very often though.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Fire Steam Locos in the Midday Sun

Anybody who lives in the UK at the moment can't fail to have noticed that it has been hot lately.  Not just the sort of hot that means brass monkeys have something rather different to worry about, but the sort of hot that could melt a loco's fire bars without the fire even needing to have been  lit.  It was just shaping out to be that sort of a fire bar melting day on Saturday when I arrived at Toddington for a cleaning turn.   I was booked on to clean the 8F.  Cliff was down for a driver training turn with Steve as his instructor.  No fireman had appeared on the roster, but I assumed that there would have been a flurry of emails over the preceding days and that one would have been found and that I just didn't know about it.  As we all know, assumption is the mother of all cock-ups.  I discovered from Cliff when he turned up that no fireman had been found to be available and that consequently he would be forgoing his driver training turn and I was now supposed to fire the 8F under his tutelage for the day.  Nothing like being pitched in at the deep end.  The stack of wood that I had fetched from the wood store for the mystery fireman to use to light the 8F up I now had to put to use myself.  Whilst I got on with that, another new starter appeared for his first day with us.  Paul used to be a cleaner on the East Lancs Railway, but couldn't keep up with the considerable commute and has now joined us.  Needless to say as I was now tied up with lighting up the 8F, I was extremely glad to have him around to clean it.
Paul smartening up the smoke box of the 8F
Cliff proceeds to oil up the 8F while Paul watches
All we need now is the bacon & eggs.... and sausages and....
A bit of shunting was required before we could set off
We had to queue a bit in order to be able to get onto the ash pit to clear out the ash pan.  In fact we had to hang around until 10:00 before 5542 set off down to Cheltenham, thereby allowing the DMU to set off for its platform which would then clear the way for us to get onto the ash pit.
At the back of the queue, watching 5542 set off
Firing on a hot dry day means you have a couple more things to think about.  Firstly you need to have a fair supply of bottled water to hand on the footplate and secondly you need to keep the coal damp to suppress dust. On the plus side, you don't have to worry yourself too much about connecting up the steam heat pipes. Suppressing coal dust is particularly important when running tender first as the dust will just get blown straight back into your face if you don't keep it damp.  
Giving the coal a good hosing down before we set off
Just damping the coal down at the start of the day isn't enough of course and I found myself repeating the process on each arrival at Toddington prior to the tender first run down to Cheltenham.  Steve informed me on one of those occasions that the over spray managed to hit the train's guard who was walking past on the platform at the time.  The guard concerned was Claudette, Steve's wife.  Sorry Claudette.

As this was now an official fireman training turn, I was too busy most of the time to grab any photos of what went on, which considering how I did was probably just as well.  On one of the runs, we got held up at the outer home signal for Winchcombe:
Steve waits for the signal, somehow Cliff manages to wear a jacket and remain cool
Steve tried to catch me out by asking how long we should wait at the signal before the fireman was supposed to ring the signal box.  I didn't tell him that Sean had asked me exactly the same question at the same signal a month or so ago, which was how I knew that the answer was two minutes. 

As it turns out, trying to manage the boiler whilst doing all the other things that you're supposed to be doing (observing signals/exchanging tokens/watching crossings/coupling/uncoupling/watching out of tunnels/in/out of platforms etc) is something of a juggling act.  I definitely made a hash of it for the first round trip and the third wasn't much better.  The first few times you fire a steam loco, you work on the principle that too much steam is better than too little and you just sling coal in regardless and end up with the loco blowing off in all sorts of places.  After a few times of doing that, you try to acquire some finesse and be more selective about how much and when you fire.  This time round I probably went too far in that respect and ran the fire and consequently water levels down a bit further than would have been desirable.  Something to work on there.  On the plus side, there was no blowing off whilst I was on the footplate, though she did blow off on the first and third trip whilst I was coupling the loco to the stock.  Having said that, I had a bit of an excuse on the third trip out as I couldn't get back onto the footplate after coupling up.  A bride and groom who were using the railway to host their wedding reception had taken up residence on the footplate for their wedding photos and I didn't feel that I could just barge past to stick an injector on.
The happy couple
In modern parlance, Steve 'photobombs' the wedding photos
Mercifully the bride wasn't wearing white, the footplate of a steam loco is no place for a white wedding dress.  Their story was reported on in the Gloucestershire Echo.  If you want to plan a steamy wedding with plenty of coupling, you now know where to go. 

Another thing that I learned during the course of the day was that short sleeve shirts and firing don't mix too well.  Allowing a bare forearm to contact the fire hole rim whilst aiming a shovel full of coal into one of the back corners is something that you don't do twice. In fact if you've got any sense at all, you don't do it once.  Hot days on our Merchant Navy, 35006 P&O SN Co will be fairly testing when she enters traffic. Her grate is just as long yet double the width of any of our other tender engines. Keeping the back corners fed with coal without burning yourself on a day like this one had been will be a bit of a challenge.  There are a number of trainee drivers who are keen to pass out before then so that they won't have to try.  Personally I'd rather take my chances with the shovel than have to clean her.... it took me forever when I cleaned her ready for display at the gala.

As someone who works in the world of IT, I'm used to taking professional certification exams on a regular basis, computer based multiple guesswork kind of affairs, each question having four possible answers, just select the correct one in each case.  The GWSR being a heritage railway is stuck in a 1950's time warp and so I shouldn't really complain that the exams are paper based.  So it was with the 'shunting & yard safety' exam.  It doesn't actually qualify you to take part in shunting operations and I'm not going to tempt providence by saying that it makes you safe.  What it does do however is force you to re-acquaint yourself with a biro and make you try to scrawl legible answers on a few pieces of paper. I had been hoping for a quill and parchment, but apparently they had been phased out in the 1955 modernisation plan.  Being a safety related exam, the pass mark is 90%, so no pressure there then.  It also on at least one question expects you to draw a diagram.  Art was never my strong suit at school.  Anyway, I am pleased to be able to report that I got through with just one mark docked.  I won't be giving too much away by saying that there is a question on buckeye couplings and I either wrote that I'd shorten the buffers when I should have been lengthening them, or the other way round, I can't remember which now.  Either way in the real world, I'll probably only get to do any buckeye uncoupling in anger in the hopefully unlikely event that we have a carriage on fire in the train and I find myself trying to separate the burning carriage from the others.  Under those circumstances, I doubt that I'll be caring too much about what position I leave the buffers in, or the French pins either come to that (something to do with Gallic hand grenades I understand).

And finally, the long walk to Broadway will be kicking off in just over a week's time.  Before then I am hoping to be able to bring you good news about being able to sponsor the extension to Broadway online.  Watch this space.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Gotta' pick a Peckett or two

Somehow or other I seem to have got a week or so behind in keeping this blog up to date (you just can't get the staff). This covers the weekend starting Saturday the 29th of June. I was returning from a week of breaking in walking boots and testing waterproofs in preparation for the impending rather circuitous walk to BroadwayIt seemed to make sense to just stop in at Toddington over night rather than drive all the way home and then turn round and drive all the way back at the crack of dawn for my cleaning turn on the Sunday.  

It seems that there had been a wedding charter booked during the day on the Saturday and there was plenty of food left over. You'd be hard pressed to find any member of the steam loco dept who doesn't come running at the merest hint of free food.
Even Rod was enticed out of the machine shop by the prospect of free food
George spotted a bag of scones, strawberries and clotted cream.  He has mentioned in the past that I only ever seem to show photos of him on this blog eating chocolate biscuits, so just for a change, here is George tucking into a cream tea.
How does he remain so skinny on a diet of cream teas, chocolate biscuits & beer?
Tina emerged from the footplate of 5542 after a hard day of firing looking more like she'd been eating the coal rather than shoveling it into the firebox.  That is quite a rich diet. At the current price of coal it would be cheaper to run the locos on caviar. I hadn't been going to upload this photo, but this last weekend she complained that it hadn't appeared on the blog yet and that I was slacking.
Has my mascara run?
 Far be it for me to offer anybody hints and tips on fashion or any matter related to domestic chores.  Suffice it to say however that you won't find many footplate crew turn up to the wearing anything white.   Few and far between are the members of the steam loco dept who can cajole their better halves into doing their railway related laundry in the first place, never mind wash anything that might have once have been meant to be white.  Tina can carry it off, but I don't think that any of the rest of us could.

Pretty much the last thing to happen on the Saturday evening was that the 8F was failed with a broken spring.  As she was meant to be out on the Sunday, that meant that the first thing that I needed to do on Sunday morning was assist Mike, Kev & Chris with getting the broken spring swapped out.
Bust spring on the right, dropped down, new spring on the left ready for installation
Meanwhile, we appear to have benefited from a defection.  Nick who is currently passed as a Traveling Ticket Inspector (TTI) has decided that his true vocation lies with the steam loco dept and turned up to help out with the cleaning of 5542.  I was pleased to see him as I was supposed to be cleaning 5542, but was spending rather more time underneath the 8F changing its spring rather than doing what I was supposed to be doing.
TTI defector Nick becoming assimilated into the steam loco dept
Nick appears to have quite a liking for making brass gleam and later spent much of the day getting the brass on Foremarke Hall to sparkle.
A nicely buffed up 5542 setting off for Cheltenham
Once the locos were off shed and earning their keep on the day's services, the next thing to do was give Foremarke Hall a bit of a deep clean, so whilst Steve & John got on with giving her an exam, Ed, Dan & myself got underneath and started removing as much crud as we could.  Steve was heard to complain that the cleaners usually only clean the clean bits and it would be nice if even the dirty bits that the public rarely see were cleaned regularly too.  Dan collected all the oily goop that he managed to remove from underneath the front bogie in a green bucket.  Ed and I being no fools chose to start Steve off on a long discourse on the why's and wherefore's of vacuum brakes which meant that we didn't end up having to do much real work at all..... sorry Dan!
Dan with his bucket of goop
 I am given to understand that in certain circles, ladies with rather more money than sense will pay extortionate amounts of money for face packs made with mud/oil from various obscure places.  We intend to market this stuff as the 'Foremarke Hall Face Pack'.
We'll have to work on the packaging a bit though
Now who can we get to model it for our advertising campaign I wonder?

After lunch, Ed, Dan and myself decided that Ian Carpenter's Peckett would benefit from our attentions.  Ian must have thought that it was Christmas when he found that he had three willing volunteers to help out. 
Dan needle gunned the frames
Ed started sanding the con rods to a mirror smooth finish
This thing was the counterweight for the reverser... I removed the red paint from it
And finally, more work has taken place on 35006:
The radius rod is now attached on the fireman's side
The driver's side return crank rod is in the process of being installed
And the smoke deflectors have arrived, though as can be seen, not yet unwrapped, painted or fitted

Monday, 1 July 2013

A Really Useful Engine

Just over a week ago, that well known and well loved, 'really useful engine', Thomas the Tank Engine paid us a visit.  The Thomas days are always good fun and this one was no exception.  Of course before the fun can start for the young visitors that are attracted to the Thomas events, the locos for the day need to be cleaned and prepared ready for action.  Ed has just become our 'new volunteers liasion manager' and was busy showing Mike, a new volunteer the ropes:
Ed (left) & Mike
Congratulations Ed on your new appointment, I'm sure you'll be perfect in the role.

Mike was soon hard at work sprucing up our visiting loco, whilst Paul set to work getting Thomas's fire lit:
Paul seems happy with his fire
 My steed for the day was Foremarke Hall Henry.  Or at least I think it was Henry.  I've just trawled the interweb looking for green locos in the Thomas family of engines and the 'big green engine' looks more like a product of Doncaster rather than Swindon, but I suppose that a bit of artistic licence can be got away with when you are entertaining guests from Sodor.
I just couldn't bring myself to upload a photo of her wearing a silly face
 Of course, the addition of a smiling face doesn't mean that locos suddenly acquire 'really useful' additions like self cleaning smoke boxes or self-emptying ashpans, if only they did.
Damping down the ash pan the old fashioned way with a hose pipe
 The timetable was a bit of an odd one, Thomas just shuttled between Toddington and Winchcombe, whilst we covered the line between Winchcome and Cheltenham Race Course.  Daisy did the same route as us. 
Daisy passes us at Gotherington
If Thomas had been such a 'really useful engine', he'd have come down to Cheltenham and fixed the leaky water feed pipe.
Just in case the barrier fails to keep the public at a safe distance, the leaking water feed will
Henry's gallant crew on this occasion were Steve (on a driver training turn), Mark who was the driving instructor and Neil, who although a driver was booked on as the fireman today.
L-R, Neil, Steve & Mark
Steve taking it easy at Winchcombe
 Neil was kind enough to let me fire for a couple of round trips, pleasingly there was no testing of the safety valves at any point during the day.  That was more than could be said for the crew of Thomas. On one of our return trips to Winchcombe, we found that Thomas wasn't sat waiting for us in platform 2 as usual, but he had disappeared off into the carriage sidings.  It seems that Ed had been a bit over enthusiastic when he had fired Thomas on the run into Winchcombe.
Thomas hiding in the carriage sidings
Thomas is looking pleased with himself, but his crew are hiding in the cab
The safety valves make quite a racket when they go, and rather than terrify the children on the platform, the decision had been taken to sneak off into the carriage sidings to blow off. Quite what the children made of this I don't know, but Henry's crew found it all very entertaining.

Reports after the event from the crew of Thomas turned out to be rather amusing.  There is a set piece script that the volumetrically challenged (we live in rather more enlightened times these days, you can't just call somebody 'fat') controller and Thomas's driver.  I can't quote it verbatim, but went something like this:

Salad Dodging Controller: "Hello driver, is Thomas not well?"
Driver: "No he isn't"
Clinically Obese Controller: "Did you do something different today?"
Driver: "Er... I don't know"

What the driver should have said was that they had stopped to pick up water in the stream and that would then lead to the discovery of fish swimming in his water tanks, followed by a spot of fishing to rescue the fish.  The driver shall remain anonymous, purely to protect the guilty, but if you're particularly interested, just think of English patron saints and the slaying of dragons.  Thankfully the overweight controller was on the ball and recovered the situation by asking the question "Did you stop for water at the stream?" and the fishing story was able to proceed  as planned.

The day was slightly marred by the fact that just before the Thomas event had started, some juvenile louts had decided that it would be a good idea to lurk in the track side undergrowth at Bishops Cleeve and throw stones at one of the passing trains.  The result was that one of the windows of one of the carriages was broken.  Mercifully no passengers or crew were injured.
The broken window
Being on the corridor side of the coach, meant that the whole coach had to be locked out of use rather than just one compartment and of course the volunteers in the railway's carriage and wagon department now had to step in and replace the window. The topic surfaced in conversation several times during the day and options for retribution when the culprits are apprehended were discussed in some detail. Most preferred the biblical and indeed rather poetic justice option of stoning the miscreants though a significant number favoured the rather more up to date (by which I mean medieval) use of fire irons heated to a nice cherry red colour in Foremarke Hall's firebox. 

Finally, as you'll have seen from my
last post, I am daft enough to be intending to walk from coast to coast towards the end of this month in order to raise money for the railway's extension to Broadway.  I have to confess that throwing that little bombshell out last week and then promptly disappearing off for a week's holiday in the North Pennines and Yorkshire Dales to break in my new walking boots and test the efficacy of my water proofs was probably not my smartest move ever as it raised lots of questions which I wasn't in a position to answer.  Here are a few updates which should deal with most of the questions that I have received thus far.

1) Should you wish to sponsor per mile, here is my itinerary giving approximate locations and total distance from the start by the end of each day:

Sat 20th July:  Cleaning turn for train 1, drive to St Bees afterwards.
Sun 21st:  St Bees to Ennerdale Bridge, 14.5 miles
Mon 22nd: Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale, 31 miles
Tue 23rd: Borrowdale to Grasmere, 39.5 miles
Wed 24th: Grasmere to Patterdale, 47 miles
Thu 25th: Patterdale to Shap, 63 miles
Fri 26th: Shap to Kirkby Stephen, 83.5 miles
Sat 27th: Kirkby Stephen to Keld, 98 miles

Sun 28th: Keld to Reeth, 111.5 miles
Mon 29th: Reeth to Colburn, 128.5 miles
Tue 30th: Colburn to Ingleby Cross, 148.5 miles
Wed 31st: Ingleby Cross to Blakey Ridge, 169 miles
Thu 1st: Blakey ridge to Grosmont, 183 miles
Fri 2nd:  Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay, 198.5 miles
Sat 3rd:  Public transport to St Bees, then drive to Toddington
Sun 4th:  Normal cleaning turn, plus walk from Laverton to Broadway (Maybe another 2.5 miles)

Mileages taken from the 5th edition of "Coast to Coast Path" by Henry Stedman.

2) Some people will want to see photos from everyday along with a detailed description, rather more I suspect will be satisfied with a handful at the start/finish and a few selected high spots in between.  The much abridged version will appear on this blog. To satisfy the curiosity of others, a fuller version of events will appear online somewhere at a location yet to be decided.

3)  Please send cheques to:

Steve Sperring (Fund Raising Director) 
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway
Toddington Railway Station
GL54 5DT

Please make cheques payable to GWRT with ‘Ray O’Hara’ written on the back.