Monday, 26 August 2013

About to be fired?

My plans for the weekend of the 7th & 8th of September have been deferred until later in the year, so with an unanticipated free weekend, I decided to use the time wisely and I belatedly volunteered for a cleaning vacancy on the 7th of September using our online rostering website.  On Friday evening I received an email saying that my offer had been accepted.  This is the email that I received:
That might be slightly difficult to read, but if you look carefully, I have not been rostered to be the cleaner, but to be the loco.  This has caused some amusement amongst the other volunteers in the steam loco dept who are quite keen to see me try to suck on the vacuum pipe hard enough to release the brakes on seven coaches and then pull them to Cheltenham and back at line speed.  I presume that I would also be expected to give the rostered driver & fireman a piggy-back and be fed coal and water as I go.  Several firemen have said that they will try to get the roster changed so that they become the fireman for the day and get the job of feeding me the coal.... one way or another. That's nearly a fortnight away, hopefully our apparent shortage of steam locomotives that hitherto I was oblivious of will have been remedied by then. 

Anyway, on to Saturday.  Once more I found myself bright and early at Toddington for the day.  This was rather different though, as it was my first official firing lesson with Ade who has drawn the short straw and ended up as my instructor.  Although Ade would be on the footplate with me all day, I would end up with two drivers doing a split shift, Ian in the morning & Neil in the afternoon.  It seems that neither could face the prospect of a full day of me firing for them.  5542 is noted for being very easy to get to produce steam, too easy in fact, many firemen over-cook it and find themselves blowing off.  I was determined to try to not make the same mistake and was quite pleased with myself that by departure time for the first trip down to Cheltenham I had a decent fire, the pressure gauge was pretty much on the mark, I still had a bit of water space left in the glass, yet the safety valves still hadn't been put to the test. I baled in a few more shovels full of coal just for good measure in the last couple of minutes before we were off, the guard blew his whistle, waved his flag and off we went.  Looking back now, those last few shovels full of coal were my undoing.  In no time at all we were out of water space, 5542 was making steam like there was no tomorrow and much of it was roaring out of the safety valves... all the way to Winchcombe. Being held up at the outer home signal for a while didn't help matters much either. I'm informed that it caused some amusement for the crew of 8274 which we crossed when we got to Winchcombe. Later that evening, Ian Chilton contacted me via a well known social media website and asked "how much bloody coal did you put on this morning?".  So it appears that it wasn't just the crew of 8274 who had noticed.  Ian went on to say "poor Clive missed the train because he couldn't see it :-~". 
Chris pours the teas.  He would be amused later, on 8274 at Winchcombe
One of my earliest blog posts involved the fitting of this light pole at Toddington.  It still has no lights, but has acquired this impressive fungus instead. Hopefully it glows in the dark.
Dan's handiwork on the wood store, note the nice new and for the time being white panels
8274 setting off to pick up her stock for the first train of the day
Emptying out the ash pan on 5542 before setting off
There are no photos of what took place during the day, I was too busy doing other things.  Although improvements on the first time, I still managed to over do the firing when leaving Toddington on the subsequent trips. Afterwards Ade gave me a lengthy list of things that I should be working on in order to improve.
Filling up 5542 at the end of the day. Ade holds the pipe, Neil operates the water tap
One thing that did stick in my mind from the day was that whilst standing in the platform at Cheltenham, a passenger said "That doesn't look very authentic" as I fished my phone out of my pocket to check the time.  I assured him that it was a much sought after genuine Collett 1930's GWR iPhone, examples of which commanded astronomical prices on the rare occasions that they appeared in railwayana auctions.  I'm not convinced that he believed me, but he laughed anyway. 

Somehow I had been rostered not only for fireman training on Saturday, but also as a cleaner on the Sunday, so it was back to Toddington again on Sunday morning.  The same two locos were out again, and I had 5542 to clean.  There isn't that much to do as far as cleaning 5542 is concerned, so I wound up cleaning up the grate that I had left behind from the day before and lighting her up again.  It was interesting to compare the light thin fire of the night before with the small amount of ash scattered about on the grate in the morning.

We also had Matthew, a new cleaner start on Sunday.  Keen as mustard!  I noticed from my vantage point on the top of 5542 that whilst every body else was stood about chatting, he was still cracking on with cleaning 8274.
Matthew hard at work on the tender of 8274
After spending a bit of time in the morning showing Matthew the ropes, introducing him to the delights of breaking up wooden pallets for the wood store etc, I went out for a couple of trips out on 5542 in the company of Derek (ex Gloucester Horton Rd fireman) and Neil again from yesterday.  Obviously Neil is a glutton for punishment.  Derek's first comment when I arrived on the footplate was.  "I'm jolly disappointed in you, unless you've got it well hidden, you've left your camera behind".  He needn't have worried I did have it, it was just cunningly concealed:
Derek is a firm believer in well ventilated footplate attire
Derek on the shovel
Whilst 5542 comes complete with a seat for the fireman, no such luxury is provided for the driver.  If the driver wants to take the weight off of his feet, he needs to perch himself somewhere above the reverser:
Neil perching above the reverser
I spotted a passenger wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt at one point which prompted Neil to spend much of the rest of the day singing Pink Floyd songs as we trundled along.  Not being able to sing a note myself I refrained from joining in, even though I knew all the words.

5542, not having a tender can fit on the platform at Toddington as well as the coaches. This meant that much of the time we were waiting there Derek was engaged in chatting to passengers and inviting them up onto the footplate. He even managed to find a chap celebrating his 85th birthday on the railway who had worked as a young conscript on the Longmoor Military Railway in 1946 & 1947 before embarking on a  career with the LMS and then BR. At various times I tried engaging some of the passengers in conversation.  I asked several young children if they were intending to come along to the Thomas weekend in September, getting varied responses.  For some children and parents, this came as news and they were keen to come back, though one little chap wanted to know why the engine that I was on wasn't wearing a face.  Oops!  Well this one was of course just an ordinary steam loco, it's only special steam locos on the Isle of Sodor that have faces and they would be the ones to visit us in September.  

You often find that parents, usually the dads are keen to get their offspring onto the footplate for a minute or two when ever possible in stations.  An elaborate charade is sometimes played out where a disinterested or occasionally even frightened child is offered up as an excuse for dad to bring the child up onto the footplate. Everybody knows that it's really dad that wants to be there and not the child, but the crew will usually play along and try to encourage the child before finally saying something like "Well perhaps dad would like to come up instead then?".  On other occasions the child concerned needs no second bidding.  In the hurried run around at Cheltenham, one such keen little lad arrived on the footplate with his dad.  Not only did he want to know what everything did, but he also wanted to put some coal onto the fire.  At that point in time, the last thing the fire needed was any more coal, but I bunged a lump of coal or two onto the shovel and let him tip it into the firebox anyway.  For me it was another of those tables have turned moments similar to the milkman story of a couple of weeks ago.  About ten or so years ago I was driving to Cornwall on holiday.  My wife, mother-in-law and eldest daughter had gone ahead in one car, my youngest daughter, Emily and myself plus more luggage than you could shake a stick at were in another car.  Well Cornwall is a long way to go, so you need to break the  journey somewhere and I chose to detour away from the usual route along the A30 and take a break on the South Devon RailwayAfter doing the child friendly things at Buckfastleigh, Emily started to get to be rather bored with dull old steam trains.  The fireman on small prairie 5526 noticed that Emily wasn't looking best pleased at hanging around on the platform and invited her up onto the footplate.  "I've got to make the train ready to go in a bit, I need to get that needle up by the red line" he said pointing to the pressure gauge.  "How do you think we do that?"  Emily didn't know, but looked interested.  "Well I've got to take some of that coal in the bunker there and shovel it onto the fire.  Would you like to have a go at doing that for me?".  All of a sudden, steam locomotives became very interesting as far as Emily was concerned, she perked up considerably and talked about if for days afterwards. Needless to say it made my day rather more enjoyable as well.
Emily building up the fire on 5526
Family groups make up a fair proportion of our visitors.  Having long enough platforms to accommodate carriages and locomotive as well as gaps long enough in the timetable to allow visits to the footplate is important to our visitors and will keep them coming back, just like I still visit the SDR regularly even though it's a fair trek from home for me.  It may seem a bit strange that we are going to the trouble of building such long platforms at Broadway and a second lengthy platform at Cheltenham, but little things like that really do make a world of difference to the visitors experience.

Unrelated to the above story, but still involving the SDR, is the fact that they have a GWR Monster van, from 1918 which was built for moving theatrical scenery around the country.  I believe that just one other survives, and it is currently being restored alongside the carriage and wagon department at Winchcombe.  I have noted as I've passed on the train that it's restoration is coming along nicely.  The one on the SDR lives alongside the platform at Totnes station and makes an interesting and popular backdrop for photos:
My little monster and the SDR's monster
I have no idea who owns the one we have on the railway, or what the plans are for it when it is finished and I'm probably speaking out of turn, but I'd like to think that when not in use it could be found a home alongside a platform at  one of our stations such as Winchcombe where it too can form the backdrop to treasured family photographs.

Finally, recent social media debates have raged about what can be cooked on a steam loco. Last year during the Santa specials, we tried mince pies on the back head and sausage and bacon on the shovel.  Ben informed me on Saturday that 10 miles wrapped in tin foil in the smoke box is not nearly enough to bake potatoes.  He needed to take them over to the Flag and Whistle to get Val to finish them off in a micro wave.  If anybody out there can come up with a sensible idea for something to be cooked in a smoke box, I might just give it a whirl sometime.  The results promise to be amusing though unlikely to be edible.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

It's not over until the fat lady sings

I rather like the purple timetable.  It only runs on certain Sundays throughout the year, but sees us with three locos in steam during the day. Consequently there are plenty of people around and plenty to do.  I was down to clean train one (which was 8274) driven by Sean (under the instruction of Andy) and fired by Paul.  Whilst cleaning 8274, I noticed that some of the wooden panels of the wood store had been removed and Paul was stood nearby looking guilty.  Paul has some previous when it comes to burning the wrong wood so I feared the worst.
Paul caught in the act
Disappointingly, it turned out that it was Dan who had removed the rotten wooden panels, with a view to replacing them with new ones.

The crew of train three (the dining train) had a very leisurely day ahead, late start, early finish and a long lunch break with free food somewhere in the middle.  They decided that getting rostered down for train three had been a wise choice:
Andy, Tina and Paul.  The three wise monkeys.
The GWSR publicity machine is gearing up for next year and a 2014 brochure has been commissioned.  Shots of suitably photogenic railway volunteers doing whatever it is they do are required.  To that end, Jack Boskett had been requested to do a photoshoot of some of the more visually appealing volunteers last Wednesday at Toddington.  Obviously Tina had been invited (I guess my invite must have been lost in the post) but was unable to manage to be there on the day due to work commitments.  She rather foolishly asked me if I would bring my camera along on Sunday to take some publicity type shots of her on the footplate for possible inclusion in the aforementioned brochure.  This was a first for me, people usually run for the hills as soon as I pull my camera out of its bag, even my own daughters run and hide.  People who are cornered and can't escape try all sorts of tricks to get out of it, such as Andy here:
Nice try Andy, you'll have to do better than that.
I had planned to try to get Tina to wear a grease top hat, or possibly even a flat cap and bought along an example of each to try out on her.  Before I even got myself fully up onto the footplate of Foremarke Hall, she had sussed out my cunning plan and informed me that she doesn't do hats!   I decided to quit whilst I was ahead not too far behind on that one. I distracted her with the last of my stash of Jelly Babies, which she still claims not to like, but eats anyway and proceeded to grab a few photos of her at work on and around Foremarke Hall.  I even roped Ben in to operate a reflector to try and reduce some of the harsher shadows caused by the strong sun.
Not quite like that Ben!
That's more the idea
I'll be working over the shots in Photoshop in a few days time.  I asked Tina if she'd like me to tweak them a bit for her.  She replied "Can you fix the wrinkles so that I look about 30?".  I now have the highly unusual task of having to add enough wrinkles to age her by 9 years.  With a bit of luck one or two of the resulting shots will find their way into the relevant publication next year.

Meanwhile, train one had departed without me, but I had arranged with the crew to join them when they got back from the first trip down to Cheltenham.  Hanging around on the platform for ten minutes or so before they arrived was rather pleasant.  As I was loitering on the platform in footplate gear, several conversations with passengers ensued who thought that I would be able to assist them.  Two separate groups had arrived at Toddington looking for the dining train, which was a pity as it starts from Winchcombe.  I was at least able to give them directions to Winchcombe and assure them that as the loco for their train was still stood on the ash pit, that they had plenty of time to get there.  For several others, it was a case of demystifying the timetable to enable them to see as much of the railway as possible in the limited time available to them.  I can see now why the platform staff enjoy their job so much.
Train two setting off from Toddington whilst I wait for train one to arrive
The other nice thing about the purple timetable is that steam gets a lamentably rare outing up to Laverton and back, so when 8274 appeared bang on time, we didn't simply run around the train and head for Cheltenham, but took the scenic tour over Stanway viaduct to Laverton.  

Either Andy was a little slow in switching off the water when we filled up at Toddington, or I called stop a bit too late, either way I found myself with my own private swimming pool.
In at the deep end
The timetable permits a half an hour break at Toddington for train one. Sean and Paul took advantage of the break to work out how to get out of being with me on the footplate for the rest of the day:
Paul eventually decided that feigning death would get him out of it:
Paul plays dead (not sleeping at all).
I offered to save his relatives the cost of a funeral by shoveling him straight into the firebox there and then, at which point he made a miraculous recovery.

For the next round trip, Paul decided that his best hope was to throw the shovel at me and hide in the corner of the cab.  It seemed to go fairly ok, thanks Paul.

The third trip gave me an opportunity to grab a few photos along the length of the line.  It seems that real wild life along the route is no longer enough.  I noticed a green woodpecker, several buzzards and a kestrel at different points along the line which isn't too unusual.  What was unusual though was a pair of giraffes peering over the fence of the Harvest Home at Winchcombe:
Giraffes at Winchcombe
The consensus of opinion on the footplate was that logging into eBay on a Saturday night after a few too many beers was not a good idea.  

Not only did the line now have giraffes, but down at Laverton we seem to have acquired a python:
According to the sign, it's 'The Laverton Python'
 It looked a bit dodgy to us, so we made the guard get out and operate the ground frame for us rather than risk getting off the footplate ourselves:
Nigel operating the ground frame
Nobody was too sure if orange hi-viz would have the same effect on pythons as red rags do to bulls, but I can happily report that no guards were injured in the making of this blog.

 Later on back at Winchcombe, Ben was waiting with the dining train to taunt us with how good his free lunch had been.
Ben taunts us.
I've often fancied taking a few footplate shots by the light of the fire whilst in Greet tunnel, but not done so before.  I gave it a whirl on Sunday and quite like this study of Andy that I came up with:
Asleep on the footplate?
 I know his eyes are shut, he just blinked at the wrong moment, he wasn't stood up fast asleep.

The footplate of a steam locomotive lacks many creature comforts.  Yes you can cook on the shovel (if the regulator isn't open or blower on) and yes you can keep a can of tea hot on the warming plate, but aside from that it's fairly spartan.  The most obvious thing that it lacks is a convenience.  I'm sure that in days long past, when steam ruled supreme, crews caught short between stations would just judge carefully which way the wind was blowing then stand in the doorway of the other side of the cab to attend to the call of nature.  A bit unfortunate for any passengers who might be leaning out of a carriage window perhaps, but effective nonetheless.  In these rather more enlightened times, such a recourse isn't really on, so when Sean informed us that he needed to make a pit stop somewhere around Winchcombe yet still hadn't done so by the time we had turned round and were leaving Cheltenham again, we were all getting a bit concerned. Eventually Sean told us that it was not a problem, he found it easier to stop the train at the right point on the platforms when his legs were crossed.  He also mentioned that he really ought to be more guarded in what he says when I'm around.
Sean drives cross legged, Andy blocks the doorway just in case
So there you have it, if you are a trainee driver and find that you have difficulty judging where to stop the train, just drink plenty of fluids and omit to attend to the call of nature until you sign off at the end of the day.  Remember, you read it here first, you don't get advice like that anywhere else.

Speaking of Cheltenham, Andy very kindly purchased refreshments for the crew:-
Yes I know the point of focus is on the background rather than Andy. In my defence I was too busy eating the one he had bought for me at the time to concentrate on operating my camera properly.  Lets hope I did better with the photos of Tina.

Gratuitous shot of us crossing train two (5542) at Winchcombe
Finally, we have yet more good news.  Chris Blake passed out as a fireman during the week.  There are no photos from the day itself, but his agent has provided me with this publicity shot of him:
Fireman Blake (photo courtesy of Chris Blake)
A little bit of artistic licence has been employed here as Chris is apparently firing from the wrong side of the cab.  Chris spent over 30 years working for the Fire Service, so he has done extremely well in overcoming his natural instinct to put fires out rather than keep them burning.  Chris's first turn out after qualifying was on a particularly rainy day.  Footplate crews are hardy souls and just get on with the job, regardless of what the weather chooses to do.  Not so some of our signalmen.  Chris was offered the token at Toddington on the end of a broom to spare the poor signalman from having to lean out of his nice warm and dry signal box into the pouring rain.
Photo courtesy of Ben Evason

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The Firebox Blues

Back in my student days, I used to cause the milkman some concern.  I would not infrequently find myself arriving home from where ever I had been at the same time that he was starting his rounds. As he had a daughter at university somewhere or other, it bothered him that she might be leading the same sort of decadent life style that I apparently was.  Just a few years have passed since then and it seems that the tables have now turned.  On Saturday morning I found myself setting off for Toddington at the same time that my neighbours were arriving home from which ever night club they had been to.  A sure fire sign that I'm getting old.

Last week, I left off with the fact that Steve Burnett had now passed out as as driver, but that there were no photos available.  Here we have the next best thing, a photo of Steve out on his first solo turn on Sunday as a fully fledged driver:
L-R Jonathan, Dan, Steve & Ben.  Photo courtesy of Neil Carr
My handy table of GWR reporting codes failed to list SO5 however reports coming my way suggest that it was from the little known destination of 'The Creek', in the up direction.

So what has happened around the railway that would qualify as news?  Well for one thing, the ash pit now has a fully connected up pump in it:
110V of water pumping goodness
I understand that Mark Young connected it all up the night before.  The good news is that it works perfectly and we now no longer need to trail a cable out to the pit in order to pump water out any more.  Magic!

Work continues in the David Page shed to prepare the ground for a concrete floor:
Largely cleared, but not quite yet ready for concreting
Sean, Steve & Ben, clearing out more of the shed floor
Sean has been rather tied up with other things lately, so it was nice to see him back with us again.

Progress is being made on 4270 as the boiler cladding had seen a coat of primer applied:
Cladding primed
 So what was the important lesson learned today?  Well the key one is that clinker is not your friend.  We seem to have hit a new seam of coal with our suppliers and as I discovered to my cost on Saturday, not only is it a bit smokier than before, but it seems to be rather more prone to producing clinker.  From what had appeared to be a fairly good round trip on the shovel, approaching Gotherington on the climb from Cheltenham, Foremarke Hall suddenly didn't want to produce steam.  A glance inside the firebox revealed not as I had suspected, a hole in the fire, but a lot of blue flame up at the front of the firebox indicating that there was a lack of oxygen getting through.  I got a fire iron in at Winchcombe and again rather more thoroughly during the long lay over at Toddington which seemed to fix it, but she did the same again though not quite so badly on the next trip.  According to Ian who was driving, 'we were never anywhere near having to stop for a blow up', but I definitely didn't feel too comfortable.  Speaking of Ian, he feels that he hasn't been getting enough exposure in the blog lately.  I reminded him that he still hadn't responded to the interview questions that I sent him much earlier on this year, but he decided that probably wasn't what was needed.  The answer lay in sex appeal and a big cleavage is exactly what was required to achieve that.
Ian adjusts his cleavage
I'm afraid that the photo is a bit blurry as I was too busy laughing.  Strangely enough his tactic not only assured him an appearance on the blog, but as it happened there was a passing American film maker who had been shooting something else nearby and wanted to spend a while getting some footage of the major personalities on the railway.  It will find its way into some forthcoming promotional material eventually.  Ian's new found sex appeal seemed to do the trick and after we had disposed of Foremarke Hall, Ian was busy starring in this much anticipated blockbuster production. 
Lights... camera... action, Hollywood beckons Ian
I'm holding out for opening night tickets in Leicester Square. Ian said he'll remember to thank us all in his overly emotional Oscar acceptance speech.

I've often heard tell of passengers asking footplate crew 'how do you steer this thing then?' and for the first time it happened to me.  I pointed out Toddington signal box and said that there's a chap in there who decides where it's going to go, which seemed to satisfy the curiosity of the questioner.  Better still was this one, from a different passenger directed at the rostered fireman for the day.

Passenger:  'And what do you do on the railway?'
Fireman: 'I'm the fireman'
Passenger: 'In case there's a fire, that's a good idea'

Needless to say, after all that, there really was a fire. It was pretty much out by the time we got to it, but George sprang into action and made sure by dousing it with water:
George demotes himself from driver to fireman
Finally, I haven't chased Steve Sperring for the total sponsorship for the coast to coast walk in aid of the Broadway extension appeal, I'll leave that for a few weeks to allow any last remaining cheques to be sent and accounted for.  A number of people however have asked to see the photos that I took on my way.  I can't decide if they were just being polite or effectively demanding proof that I had actually done the walk.  What ever the reasons the poor misguided souls might have, I have created an account on photobucket which contains a selection of what really are a dreary collection of holiday snaps.  I've set up twelve 'libraries', one for each day of walking.  You can see each library as a slide show or if you click on each picture individually, you'll find a description.  You would be remarkably ill advised to actually go and take a look at any of them, but if you do and you die of boredom, don't complain to me. You have been warned. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Giving My Regards to Broadway

It wasn't until today that I discovered that the update that I thought I'd posted from my phone last week hadn't gone anywhere.  No wonder I was getting so many texts from well wishers asking if I had made it yet. It seems that whilst Google are quite capable of informing GCHQ and the NSA of my every move, they can't be bothered to inform the readership of this blog. 

Anyway, to recap a bit, I walked Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk of approx 192 miles, plus an extra bit to Broadway.  The gory details and how to send sponsorship money is covered in the last few blog entries.  Here are a few photos from the final day of walking the Coast to Coast, which was the fifteen and a half miles from Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay:-
Spontaneously combusting sheep ahead?
The road out of Grosmont climbs for some distance at a gradient of 1 in 3.  As I was returning to Grosmont that evening, I had left my ridiculously heavy backpack behind at the B&B.  Even up a 1 in 3 slope, relieved of that burden, it felt like I was walking on air.
Falling Foss waterfall near Littlebeck
The first road sign to my destination.
Only three and a half miles to Robin Hood's Bay. Wainwright of course decided that you shouldn't take the direct route, but go a few more miles out of your way along the coastal footpath.  To get to the coastal footpath, you have to pass through 'Bottoms Lane'.  You couldn't make this up!
I thought I was making a bit of an arse of myself in doing this.
A bit of the coastline
At last, Robin Hood's Bay is in sight
You're supposed to take your boots off and get your feet wet...  not a chance!
It was time to cast the pebble I'd carted along with me from St Bees into the sea and collect a fresh one to take to Broadway.
The pebble from St Bees (note the dog in the sea)
The dog in the sea spotted me throwing the pebble into the sea and chased after it, unsurprisingly he failed to find it.  When I collected a fresh one to take to Broadway, he stood there expectantly waiting for me to throw that one for him to chase.
For all I know he's still there waiting
Me, taken by a passing stranger, just before heading into the bar of the Bay Hotel for some refreshment
So how did I get back to Grosmont that night?  Well if you walk back up the hill (yet another 1 in 3), you can catch the X93 bus to Whitby.  From Whitby, you can catch one of the North York Moors Railway's steam hauled services back to Grosmont.  75029, Green Knight (once one of David Shepherd's locos) was the motive power on the day.
75029, Green Knight in the sun at Whitby
The only other steam in operation (they seem to have something of a shortage right now) was the B1, 61264, which for reasons that were unclear to me had been renumbered 61002 and named Impala.
61264 AKA 61002, Impala
So that was on Thursday, fast forward to Sunday and once more I was at Toddington for a cleaning turn.  I had sent a postcard to the steam loco dept addressed to the mess coach at Toddington.  I noticed that it had failed to arrive. 

Over the weeks leading up to the coast to coast, I had stocked up on bags of jelly babies every time I went to the shops. They're useful hits of sugar if you need a bit of energy whilst out walking. I had ten bags of them before I set off.  On leaving home, I had removed five bags in order to save space and weight in my backpack.  Upon arrival at the start point at St Bees I forgot that I had done this and removed five more bags.  Consequently I had set off with no Jelly Babies at all in my backpack... doh!  When I got back to Toddington I had ten bags of jelly babies to get rid of. I put a couple of bags out for general consumption when the first tea round happened:
George bites the head off first
Howard about to scoff one whole
Don't ask, I have no idea what Ian was up to!
In my absence doing the coast to coast, I received an email saying that it had been arranged for me to do a phone interview live on Radio Winchcombe.  Heaven knows why, and I was struggling to imagine who might be up at 09:00 on a Sunday and tuned in, but if you were I apologise for the incoherent rambling.  I was definitely well outside of my comfort zone.  Just because I have a face better suited to radio, doesn't mean to say that I'm actually suited to radio.  Where was Ian Crowder when I needed him?
Foremarke Hall, my steed for the day
Queuing for the ash pit, 2807 then Foremarke Hall
Eventually I set off on Foremarke Hall in the company of George and Ian for the day
Platform 2 at Cheltenham Race Course Station is starting to take shape
George usually complains that I only show photos of him eating biscuits, so here he is doing what he does best:
George in 'the office'
If George had fallen for Ian's booby trap, he'd have probably complained about that too:
Could be painful
Ian kindly threw the shovel in my direction for one round trip.  I seem to have now swung back to where I started and had the water and pressure gauges a bit too high.  I didn't blow off, but it was a close run thing on a few occasions.  

The final task for the day was to take the walk from Laverton to Broadway and deposit the pebble collected from Robin Hood's Bay as part of the ballast.  Several people had suggested that they'd quite like to accompany me on that little jaunt, but in the end it was only Tina that could make it.  George for instance was keen, but it would have left Foremarke Hall without a driver which wouldn't have gone down too well.  Tina joined us on the footplate at Toddington for the run up to Laverton where we got off to start walking (NB, there is no platform at Laverton and the general public can't alight here).  I will be murdered slowly, horribly, and painfully for this next photo, but it's far too good not to share;
Tina, the twins and Foremarke Hall at Laverton
No, it isn't twins!  Tina has a white raincoat which she was keen to make sure stayed white whilst on the footplate.  She just stuffed it under her top to keep it clean.  Note to self, wear a cricket box when next visiting the railway.
Ian operates the ground frame as George drives Foremarke Hall into the passing loop
Once Foremarke Hall was on her way back to Toddington, Tina and I set off to inspect the trackbed for the two and a half miles to Broadway.  The track itself stops after only a few more hundred yards from Laverton loop.
Lost in the undergrowth, but this is the end of the line.
We encountered five bridges along the route in varying states of distress. Renovating/replacing the bridges will form the bulk of the cost of reinstating this section of the line.
The first bridge, looks ok from this angle...
but it's coming apart at the seams... the bridge that is, not Tina
The second bridge didn't look too good either
The third bridge didn't look too bad
The fourth bridge left something to be desired.
There are few original GWR buildings along the line.  One of those is the former goods shed at Broadway.  It is now owned by a caravan park and has acquired a few modifications along the way.
Broadway goods shed
Tina spotted the legend 'GWR' written on one of the internal walls through those non-original square windows at the front.
The fifth bridge, the busy B4632 runs under this one
Finally after the fifth bridge, we had reached Broadway station itself.  The 'Broadway Area Group' have made excellent progress in reinstating the platforms.  There is still the station buildings and signal box to go of course.
The platforms at Broadway
All that remained for me to do was plant the pebble that I had fetched from Robin Hood's Bay as a piece of ballast:
Me with the pebble from Robin Hood's Bay
Fresh from the footplate, I wasn't exactly looking my best.  When I asked Tina 'does my hair look a mess', she instantly replied 'yes'. No attempt to sugar the pill at all. Sometimes people can be too honest.

With the walking part of the coast to coast walk finally finished (total raised and photos will appear later), it was back to Toddington for a well deserved much needed cup of tea and then to help out with disposal of the locos.  Normally this would be an uneventful process, but all the good wheel barrows obtained for the gala had disappeared.  Tina struggled on with a particularly ancient example and failed to get it up the ramp onto the ash pit:
Tina losing her grip on reality the wheel barrow
Chris who was in the pit shoveling out the ash from 2807 thought that I was leaping to Tina's aid and was disappointed in me when I whipped out my phone to grab a photo instead.  The age of chivalry is long past I'm afraid.  The only other wheel barrow around was the one I got stuck with. It had seen better days.  It only had the one wheel, but that didn't stop it steering like a supermarket trolley:
Note the wonky wheel
Whilst the wheel barrow could just about be propelled when empty, when fully loaded with ash it just locked up solid and refused to go anywhere.
Pushing hard, going nowhere.  Story of my life.
Those last two photos were taken by Tina who was getting her own back for me not having come to her aid when she was struggling with her wheel barrow.  Serves me right I suppose.

Thank you to all who have supported me in my fund raising efforts, either with kind words of support or by sponsoring me.  Special thanks are due to Steve Sperring who dealt with the financial aspect of the exercise and to Tina in helping me ferry my car to Broadway and joining me on the Laverton to Broadway section.  Not that I'm averse to my own company, but after 192 miles of walking solo, it was a very pleasant change to have somebody to converse with.  Many thanks too to George and Ian for a great day on the footplate and for dropping us off at Laverton.

Finally, it's nice to end on a particularly high note.  Whilst I was away, Steve Burnett passed out as a driver and on Sunday, Phil Grange passed out as a fireman.  Congratulations to both of you.  No photos of Steve have surfaced from the day itself, but here is one of Phil just before being examined:
Phil looking cool, calm & collected before his firing exam