Monday, 6 October 2014

Some of our locos are missing

Sunday came round and once again, long before the sun had even thought about poking its nose over the horizon, yours truly was busy getting one of our locos ready for a hard day's work.  At the moment, we seem to have loaned out more of our running locos to other railways than we have left at Toddington, so there was only 4270 & 8274 to choose from.  In this case, 8274 was down to be my steed for the day.

The Elegant Excursions dining train should have been out to day as well as the service train however since the demise of the dining train, we have been putting out a freight train on its path instead offering both footplate and brake van rides.  4270 would be covering that turn.
The sun wasn't yet up, but your scribe was.
Some time later with the fire going
 The Signal and Telegraph dept seemed to be having one of those days.  On our first trip, we (dirver Jamie plus myself) were allowed to proceed as far as the signal box where we were told that they couldn't get the section signal off or a line token out of the machine.  I had visions of us having to implement pilot man working.  After a bit of a wait, a token was eventually extracted from the token machine under threat of being hit with a very big hammer.  It's amazing how compliant machines can become under extreme duress.
Red flagged at Todington signal box.
 The S&T problems didn't finish there either, the token exchange at Winchcombe was a one sided affair, I handed over our token, but the signalman didn't have one to give us in return.  Jamie ended up wandering back down the platform to collect it from the signal box. 

Jamie, back in the office
 One of the things that I had noticed earlier on in the day, was that although we had a fairly full tender of coal, there was no sign of the coal rake.  By the time I had shoveled enough coal to be able to open up the tender doors, the handle of the rake had emerged from under the coal.  As coal rakes aren't noted for burrowing into piles of coal by themselves, I concluded that somebody had overlooked removing it from the tender before coaling up. It emerged no worse for its ordeal in the end though.
Who left that there?
 Normally, the DMU runs on the weekends, but for October at least, the diesels are getting a bit of an outing.  We found the peak (45149) resplendent in BR blue with yellow cab fronts coming the other way when we got to Winchcombe
45149 arriving at Winchcombe
 The pink timetable calls for train 1 to proceed all the way to Laverton, rather than terminate at Toddington.  It's a very long time since I fired this section of line, probably March or April.  I was pleasantly surprised that I got there and back without either  running out of steam or blowing off.

First time over Laverton viaduct in ages
Running around at Laverton
 Back at Toddington for a 40 minute or so rest, it was nice to bump into Dan who was back from his studies for the weekend.
Fireman Dan
 The rules for operational staff are quite clear, you shouldn't wear clothing that could be confused with flags that have a meaning.  That is why most of them wear blue or black, white shirts reserved for those that don't have jobs that could get them grimy.  Our passengers have no such restrictions placed upon them of course.  One of them was waving an arm out of a window at passers by whilst wearing a red coat.  both Jamie and myself had to look twice to be sure that it wasn't the guard waving a red flag.
Not waving, but drowning.
 The Santa season isn't that far off now, you can't imagine how confusing all those red and green lights on Winchcombe The North Pole's platform are going to be.

James was signalman at Cheltenham.  He had the nerve to post on a social media site this morning that he had been good and resisted the urge to visit whatever event that was going on in the the car park of Cheltenham Race Course and partake of the doughnuts that he could smell from the signal box.  He didn't confess that he had paid a visit to the buffet car on our train and bought a large slice of cake though.
Caught red handed
 We had a bit of a surprise on the way back, the Peak had apparently morphed into a class 26.  It turned out that they were double heading, the Peak was hiding behind the 26.
The class 26, apparently running light engine if the disc indicators are to be believed
 As mentioned earlier, the freight train was running as a replacement for the dining train.  Footplate passengers were on 4270 and in the brake vans.  We crossed them as we waited at Toddington to go back down to Laverton for the second time.  You have to look fairly closely at this shot to realise that it isn't double tracked here.
Freight train returns
Back at Toddington, Jamie and I realised to our horror that this time, the timetable only gave us 8 minutes before we set off again.  In that time, we needed to replenish the water in the tender, I needed to build up my fire and Jamie needed to take the staff for the Laverton section back to its hut at the far end of platform 1.  This was no mean feat, but we managed it, Jamie leaving me to fill the tender single handedly after he had started the water running.

Steve had been chaperoning the brake van passengers and as he had cleaned the 8F in the morning, he joined us for the last round trip from Winchcombe onwards.  I didn't think that much would go wrong if I let him fire the rest of the trip.  Not only is he a trainee fireman here, but has previously held the rank of driver on another nearby heritage railway. 
Steve on the shovel
He even kept the office tidy.
As I had expected, he didn't let me down, pressure and water were maintained at safe levels and the safety valves remained untested.  His only faux pas was to call out that the crossing ahead was clear, when what we were approaching was in fact a bridge. Still, he was right, there was nobody crossing on it.

At the end of the day, I noticed that more work had taken place on 2874.  Steve has got quite a few tubes out of the boiler now. It's always good to see progress being made.
 And finally, Mike very kindly invited me along to act as an owner's representative of Dinmore Manor whilst she was away on the West Somerset Railway for their Autumn gala. Dinmore Manor had been invited at very short notice indeed when the originally planned visitor, 3802 became unavailable.  My varied commitments elsewhere meant that the only day I could manage was the Thursday of last week, so not being a complete idiot, I took Mike up on his offer.  

The day started off with a bit of light cleaning
Mike polishing Dinmore Manor's tender
 Mike and I weren't the only GWSR staff present, Steve was there was well
The tender was polished so well, Steve could see his face in it
 In fact, there seemed to be more of us on the WSR on Thursday than there would have been back at the GWSR:
Yes, Jonathan and Ben were there too looking after their baby, Kinlet Hall
Dinmore Manor comes off shed at Bishops Lydeard
 At 09:50, we were off up the line.
Steam from the drain cocks obscuring the view ahead
The thing that sticks in my mind the most, apart from the glorious sound of Dinmore Manor storming over the Quantock hills was when we crested the summit at Crowcombe Heathfield, the full glass of water dropped alarmingly in a very short distance indeed. The fireman would want to be very sure that everything was in order before he got there.
We crossed Kinlet Hall (running as 4932, Hatherton Hall) at Williton.
Kinlet Hall in disguise
 When we arrived at Minehead, Dinmore Manor needed turning on the turntable.  This was a first for both of us as Dinmore Manor had never graced the Minehead turntable before and I had never operated one either.  The driver was very keen that I should give it a go, and I soon found out why.  No need to apply for a gym membership if you regularly turn locos on that thing.
Dinmore Manor in a spin
 Once off the turntable, we posed for a bit alongside an erstwhile GWSR resident loco, 6960, Raveningham Hall, although she too was in disguise, in this case as 7909, Heveningham Hall.

Hall and Manor
6960 7909 sets off for Bishops Lydeard
 Next stop for us was to get more coal, plus a chance to line up the two currently operating DMLL locos, Dinmore Manor and 3850 which you may remember visited the GWSR for our most recent gala.  3850 was running as 3863.
3850 3863 and 7820 at Minehead
 The GWSR connections didn't stop there, The Planets Favourite Praire, 5542 was running as well, here she arrives in the bay platform at Minehead whilst we wait to run onto her stock.  Curiously, 5542 was running as herself rather than anything else.
5542 arriving at Minehead
 Then it was back off down the line.  Dinmore Manor and 3850 were booked to get just one trip during the whole 4 day gala as a double header and this was it.  I lurked back on 3850 (train engine) whilst Mike stayed with Dinmore Manor (pilot engine). 
Approaching Blue Anchor

A bit of clag as we leave Blue Anchor
Blowing off in Washford station
 It was interesting to note the different working practices between the WSR and ourselves.  For instance, on the GWSR, the fireman is supposed to make sure that there are at least two shovels on the footplate however I noticed that there was just the one on 3850.  When I asked the question what happens of you drop one overboard or into the fire, the driver looked rather sheepish and said that "You join a rather select club".  He went on to explain that he had once managed to lose his grip on his shovel and watched helplessly as it sailed off into the firebox.  He had to make an embarrassing phone call to request that a shovel was to be waiting on the platform at Williton for him to collect, meanwhile he had to fire as best he could by hand or by using the water bucket to get his train there.  What price a footplate video from that day!
Mike looking back from Dinmore Manor

It's hard work getting Welsh coal to clag like this.
 Another first for me, I had never been around the triangle at Norton Fitzwarren, this was my chance
Off to Norton Fitzwarren
Turning on the triangle whilst a HST zips by on the mainline
It was a cracking day out checking up on some of our missing locos, thanks Mike.  A bit of video of Dinmore Manor and 3850 approaching Washford to finish with.


  1. No coal rake? Good! They're not on the check list of tools for the footplate, and frankly they are down-right dangerous. Use the coal pick and shovel that are supplied for the purpose.

    1. I'm afraid that we shall have to agree to differ there, the rakes are far more efficient at pulling coal forward and particularly so if you need to pull some forward whilst on the move. You'd be hard pressed to find much in the cab of a steam loco that isn't dangerous, in the grand scheme of things the rake is about as safe as it gets.

    2. Ah, 5542 was running as 5542 because she was a Taunton engine for much of her working life, that being the theme of the Gala. Have you forgotten already the TN on the running plate from the distant days when you were 'just' a cleaner ;-).