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.


  1. Brilliant entertaining blog, as usual.

    I hope your walk goes well and you are getting lots of sponsorship. Bill Britton has been plugging your sponsored walk on his Broadway blog, so hopefully this will help.

    Terry (BAG Volunteer)

  2. Very sorry you sweltered on'42.(I really am, honest!) To get the Air Con version you just have to go a bit faster!! Just remember the few hot days are very much outnumbered by the cold wet days (when no doubt you'll be on 2807). This is Britain after all. (just remember the inches lost around the waist!!) John