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. 


  1. Interesting article, greeting from Belgium

    1. Greetings from Toddington.

      Thank you Louisette, I'm glad that you enjoyed it.


  2. Who was the 'American film maker'?

    1. A remarkably good question Chris, and one to which I'm afraid that I don't readily have an answer to. I will see if I can ferret out more information on him and exactly what he was up to this coming weekend.