Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Best in Show

I knew that I wouldn't really feel like I had passed out as a fireman until I had got my first solo turn under my belt.  Sunday was the date of that first solo turn.  Summer has seemingly passed us by as it was still dark when I turned up at Toddington.  I signed in on the crew roster sheet without having to put a (T) against my name any more to signify that I was under training and put myself down as crew for 4270 as that is what I had been down for when I had checked the loco roster last week.  Needless to say, the loco roster in the mess coach had been changed when I rechecked it on Sunday morning, I was now down for 7820, Dinmore Manor although I still had Steve as my driver.  No problem, I was keen to renew my acquaintance with Dinmore Manor, so I dutifully checked over her fault reports and set off to light her up.  A little while later, when I had just finished the pre-flight checks, emptied the firebox and was just about to reach for my matches, Steve showed up, extremely concerned that I was lighting up the wrong loco as he had seen me sign for 4270 at the signing on point.  He was quite relieved to see that I had spotted the change and was on the correct loco.

Nobody had signed up as a cleaner for either of the day's locos, so it was a case of once the fire was going and a cup of tea had been quaffed (priorities are important), it was a case of getting cracking on the worst bits myself.  I say that nobody had signed up to clean the locos, for some time the online rostering web page had me down as both the cleaner for train 2 as well as the fireman for train 1.  Eventually Ben decided that was probably asking a bit too much and he removed the entry for cleaning train 2.
Washing over the boiler barrel
You never seem to quite escape from being a cleaner it seems.  Steve gave the motion and some of the brass a going over too.

Some weeks ago, I recollect seeing one of this year's crop of new firemen looking sheepish as he set off for his first solo trip on 2807 which if the racket coming from the safety valves was anything to go by had enough fire to get all the way to Penzance without needing to put any more coal on.  I was determined not to make the same mistake.  Dinmore Manor had other ideas though and even though I had been what I thought was extremely frugal with the coal, she was soon up on the red line.  I'd had just about enough water space to test the injectors and that was it.  Oops!

There was a classic vehicle event on in the car park at Toddington, which is always nice.  The only draw back is that the crews with non-classic cars are expected to hide their more humble modes of transport behind the Flag & whistle.  Being off on the first train, I missed seeing all bar the earliest arrivals.  I'm not sure what kind of car this is, but I got Chris (Finance Director), Neil (Operations Manager) and Ian (Trainee Duty Operations Officer) in front of it.
(L-R), Chris, Neil & Ian with the unidentified classic car
Being more of a 2 wheeled enthusiast, I had no difficulty identifying this rather nice BSA A10 though.
1960 BSA A10 & owner
One of the unwritten jobs of footplate crews is to entertain the customers.  That can range from showing people around the cab, to explaining how a steam loco works, or providing some of the background history of the loco and answering common questions such as "How much coal does it use?"  I noticed Steve on the platform engaged in conversation with one of our visitors.  My best guess is he was explaining how big the fish is that Thomas the Tank Engine seems to find in his water tanks each time he visits:
"It was this big!"
Speaking of that "Really Useful Engine", Thomas and friends will be visiting us again this coming weekend.  Do round up your children/grand children and come along, they'll have a wonderful time.

Once underway and we'd used up the surplus steam, everything was good.  The fact that I'd brought my little tea spoon sized shovel that I usually reserve for use on tank engines rather than the larger one didn't seem to matter much,  I could still get enough coal to where it was needed fairly easily.
Crossing 4270 at Winchcombe
Steve in the office
 I get the impression that most drivers regret not firing any more, most of them will grab a shovel and start shifting coal at the merest hint of an excuse:
Steve moving coal forward in the tender
 I was informed that water stops were not photo opportunities and that I should be paying very close attention to Steve when he called for the water to be switched off.
No wet boots this time
Between the first and second trips, Chris appeared on the footplate asking if we minded having a footplate passenger with us for the third trip.  Chris was wearing extremely light coloured suit, which was quite a daring choice of attire for visiting the footplate.  I think that he got away with it though.
Chris looking dapper
Later on, when our visitor arrived for the third trip, it turned out to be retired Air Chief Marshal, Sir John Allison.   Even Steve was out-ranked, he'd retired as a Squadron Leader.  My own dreams of being a pilot in the RAF had been thwarted at the tender age of 7 when it was discovered that I needed glasses.  The RAF requires nothing less than 20/20 vision.

When he arrived, Sir John insisted on shaking my hand even though it was coated in a think layer of grime & coal dust by then. 
Sir John in the cockpit of Dinmore Manor
Sir John's Wiki page (I don't think that I've met anybody with an entry on Wikipedia before) is rather remiss in failing to note the types of aircraft that he flew when a pilot.  I can inform you that he flew Lightnings, Phantoms and Tornadoes.  Lucky chap.  Steve calculated that Dinmore Manor probably weighed about the same as a Vulcan bomber, though it wasn't blessed with the same turn of speed.  

All in all, it was an excellent day out, Dinmore Manor is a delightful loco to fire and she sounds magnificent pulling seven coaches.  Aside from the bit of excess steam at the start of the day, the worst thing that happened was that I got distracted and left the injector on for too long just before we departed from Cheltenham on the last run.  We set off with just 180 PSI on the clock and a full glass of water. Not to matter, she soon came round again.

Back at Toddington whilst putting Dinmore Manor to bed, I was informed that there had been awards handed out to some of the cars on show in the classic car event. Derek who was firing 4270 had managed to leave his car in the car park amongst the classic cars rather than hide it away behind the Flag and Whistle.  Ian decided that Derek's car was worthy of an award too, and so when Derek returned to it, he will have found a notice proclaiming that his car was "Best in Show, Banger Class".  
"Banger Class",  photo courtesy of Ian Carpenter
Not quite a classic yet, photo courtesy of Ian Carpenter
 I've already been admonished for being later than usual with this week's blog post.  Heaven knows what will happen next week, as although I'll be around on Saturday for the Thomas event, I'll be off on holiday straight afterwards, a blog post is highly unlikely.

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