Things didn't start off too well:
|Thomas eats his driver|
|Getting ready to play, Thomas and Henry, the big green engine|
After a short while, we too were on our way down to Winchcombe with a full complement of seven carriages. We established that Thomas starts blowing off light, 160 psi rather than the 170 psi marked by the red line on the pressure gauge and that she starts to struggle to hold the brakes off at 120 psi. The trick therefore was to try and keep her somewhere in the 140 to 150 psi range if at all possible. We also noticed that her exhaust had quite a pleasant bark to it as she had to work a bit to pull seven coaches. Sean has emailed me a sound recording that he made on one of the trips of the sound of my hard shoveling going up the chimney. At least it was going out the chimney rather than out the safety valves. I think Sean was disappointed with that. Other things of note are the cab was tiny, not that you needed to swing the shovel far, but hitting the front of the grate without clouting your hand on the bunker in the process was an achievement. I'd probably have been better advised to have just thrown a few lumps in by hand every now and again.
Upon arrival at Winchcombe, Thomas was of course the star attraction. Hordes of kids descended on us and queued up to get on the footplate. One or two of them even queued patiently. Most seemed to be happy to just have their photo taken, some were just a bit frightened and others were keen to know how you made Thomas go. Next it was back up the platform a bit for the infamous routine of catching the fish in the water tank. The Fat Controller was supposed to interrogate Thomas' driver and establish that Thomas wasn't feeling too well, then ask if he'd stopped to take water in the brook. The driver would confess that they had and Thomas' water tanks would then be inspected, a fish found and removed. The only problem was, that nobody knew where the fish was. We had misplaced the plaice. We secretly suspected that the Fat Controller had eaten it for his breakfast. Anyway, it was game over on that, so we did a bit of getting the kids to fetch buckets of water up to Thomas to refill his tanks with. I was stitched up with doing the first lot of filling the water tanks, however Ade did it on one of the later trips.
|Ade filling Thomas' water tanks the hard way|
|Ade looks rather more relaxed filling Thomas this way|
|The Fat Controller|
|Paul demonstrates how to catch a fake fish convincingly|
|Henry runs round her stock at Winchcombe|
|A diesel arrives with our stock|
My great niece and three great nephews were in attendance too. They all enjoyed their day out with Thomas, though one of my great nephews was a little disappointed that Thomas couldn't take them all the way home to Severn Tunnel Junction. Come to that, the crew were a bit disappointed too.
There was one other item of note from the day, a young couple had chosen Saturday to get married and to have the event hosted on our railway. Apparently they were informed when they booked that they would clash with the Thomas weekend, but that didn't seem to deter them. Well it won't be something that they'll forget in a hurry.
|Thomas and the happy couple|
And finally, several of the dad's asked questions about Thomas. What kind of engine was she? Was she a patriot? Well even I knew enough about her to know that she wasn't a patriot, but I could do little more than point to the makers plate on the cabside and say that she was an industrial Hunslett 0-6-0T from 1937: