Monday, 24 November 2014

Steam Loco Dept on Tour - Part Two

It's been three weeks now since the steam loco dept's weekend away in mid-Wales playing with some rather delightful narrow gauge locos, but I've finally got around to catching up with the second and last railway that we visited, the Vale of Rheidol.  Bill Tyndall had mentioned that he had a contact or two at the Vale of Rheidol Railway during the first day of our tour at the Talyllyn and contact details were acquired and phone calls made. 

Upon arrival we were greeted by a sign informing us of the train times, that the trees were in their Autumn colours and that I shouldn't forget my camera.  Many might wish that I would, but of course, I didn't.
As if I'd forget my camera
 We were also greeted by Bill's contact, Will Smith who gave us a tour of the running shed which housed their two serviceable steam locomotives, number 8, Llewelyn of 1923 and number 9, Prince of Wales of 1932.  Their third steam loco, number 7, Owain Glyndwr of 1923 has been the subject of a long term overhaul since 1998.

The trio were famously the last three steam locos operated by British Railways, staying under their ownership until privatisation in 1989.
Will describing the finer points of number 9
All three locos were built by GWR and were sent back to Swindon when they required major overhauls.  Unsurprisingly, given Swindon's desire for standardisation, many components on these three are common to other GWR classes.

Llewelyn is tastefully turned out in GWR green.
Cleaning number 8 prior ti running the day's service trains
Prince of Wales is currently in a fetching shade of Cambrian black:

Will fielded many questions from the GWSR contingent

I was impressed to hear that the whole operation is covered by just 24 full time staff with no operational volunteers.  That's quite an achievement and involves many people wearing a number of different hats.  It's not all good news though, the running shed has some major structural problems on the later extension that had been attached as an afterthought on this side.

Tina made a new friend
Llewelyn was soon coupled up to the stock
Ready for departure
Regardless of the time of year, the VOR include at least one open sided carriage for the hardier passengers.  As can be seen from this shot, most of us were finding it a bit cold, even before we'd set off.
Ed was still in just a shirt though.
Setting off on the first of 2 round trips
Nice views were to be had across the valley
The side tanks required replenishing along the way.
In spite of testing gradients, the little loco put in a gutsy performance
The best of the Autumn colours were over by the time we got there, two or three weeks earlier, the views must have been even more spectacular
Arrival at the line's terminus at Devil's Bridge didn't mean much of a rest for the crew as they were soon hard at work cleaning up anything that might possibly have got grubby on the way.
Cleaning the motion
It was interesting to note the use of mechanical lubricators, the sort of thing you'd expect to find on a King or a Castle, not on much smaller GWR locos.
Oil delivered the easy way
The buffer  and brake pipes (air brakes, though earlier on they had been vacuum) were tidily arranged on the front of the loco.

The cylinders are the same as fitted to the Steam Railmotor

Running round at devil's Bridge
Going in to hook on was a simple process taking just a few seconds to achieve.  If only it was as easy as that with our trains.
I made the most of the opportunity to spend the first section of the return journey on the footplate.
The controls were pretty much laid in standard GWR style
Pulling away from Devil's Bridge
The line at the Devil's Bridge end twists and turns through some remarkable scenery:
Sometimes in tight cuttings....
...sometimes through rain...
... and sometimes clinging on to a narrow ledge for dear life.
The firebox was wider than it was long:
And before long we were back down in Aberystwyth waiting for the next round trip.
Coaling up from a wagon on the far side
Ashing out was a simple job, open a small flap on the ashpan and pull out the tiny amount of ash.  No need to get underneath the loco with a hose pipe and rake here.
If only all of our locos were this easy to ash out.
In no time at all, they were building up the fire again for the next round trip:
Number 8 at Aberystwyth
The mortal remains of number 7, Owain Glyndwr are mostly to be found under these tarpaulins:
Hopefully not too much longer before she steams again.
I had another trip out on the footplate for part of the way up, this time the weather was rather damp, though mercifully the cab was nice, warm and dry.
Into the rain

Taking water again
I switched with Derek for the last section, he got the better of the weather:

It was quite a pleasant view when the sun did choose to shine.
The second trip saw a fairly lengthy lay over at Devil's Bridge, long enough to take a walk around the three bridges and Devil's Bridge Falls.

Why it took three bridges is beyond me, the Severn is a much bigger river near Bristol and only has two.  Three is just being greedy!
Three bridges.
The usual suspects poked their faces through one of those photo frame thingies, only one of whom managed to pull the look off with any credibility.  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to decide which one.
Waterfall photos work best if you can slow the shutter speed down to around a second or two, so that you get a nice ghosting effect on the water.  Not having brought a tripod with me, I had to improvise a bit using anything that looked like it might be stable enough to rest a camera on.  I think that I got away with it.
Devil's Bridge Falls
Devil's Bridge Falls
Devil's Bridge Falls
Most of us lined up for a photo by the falls.
Ian was hiding
Ed & Laura wanted a souvenir photo of the weekend as well, which I have yet to forward to them.  Very remiss of me. I'll send it soon Ed!
Ed & Laura
A final glimpse of number 8, Llewelyn at Devil's Bridge in the fading light, before it was time to catch the train back down to Aberystwyth and then set off on the long drive home. 
Ready to head back
It was a fabulous weekend, enjoyed by all concerned.  Thank you very much to Bill Tyndall for organising our day at the Talyllyn Railway on the Saturday and Will Smith for the same at the VOR on the Sunday.  Thanks to the crew, Jack & Chris on the VOR, to George for driving us all there and back and to Tina for organising the weekend for us.  Needless to say, plans are already afoot for a similar tour to some different lines for the same time next year. 

The Cornishman came through my letter box a few days ago and a quick flick through it in a moment when I was procrastinating from writing this blog revealed that the Permanent Way gang had paid a visit to the Vale of Rheidol Railway in July.  Sometimes it's a very small world indeed.

And finally, there really is no getting away from the GWSR.  This last weekend involved yours truly being tied up with one of those contractual obligation family event weekends in darkest Cornwall.  Chapel Amble is about as far from what used to be the North Cornwall Railway at St Kew Highway as Winchcombe station is from Winchcombe.  You'd be forgiven then for thinking that the pictures for sale on the wall of the village pub would be mostly local Cornish coastal scenes and the few railway related ones would be of West Countries or T9's hauling the Atlantic Coast Express over Little Petherick Bridge into Padstow or perhaps a Beattie Well Tank trundling a load of china clay wagons on the Boscarne to Wenford Bridge line.  Well you'd have been right about the Cornish coastal scenes, they of course were much in evidence, but for the railway related paintings, there was this delightful water colour entitled "Toddington".  It seems that the artist has relatives in the vicinity of the line and occasionally draws inspiration from it.  The loco is 6960 Raveningham Hall which hasn't been on the line for quite some time now and curiously it is sporting a light engine head lamp code, yet there is no stock in platform 2 for it to be running around.  Still, it was very reasonably priced and needless to say is no longer for sale.
Raveningham Hall at Toddington Station

Monday, 17 November 2014

Champagne and Chips

 This week starts with a couple of items from other people, the first from Peter Gutteridge who posed the following quiz:
Identify the safety valve cover, photo courtesy Peter Gutteridge
Yes, for a while, last week as locos were going through boiler washouts/steam tests etc, we had a line up of three GWR safety valve covers.  Feel free to try to identify which safety valve cover belongs on which of our locos.  All safety valve covers have since been refitted, hopefully to the correct locos.

I have also received a collection of photos from an anonymous source regarding work taking place on Friday.  We had both 7820 and 4270 lined up for boiler insurance tests and both needed putting back together after their boiler washouts and warming fires put in before the steam tests could take place on Saturday.

The day started with a shunt, to get the milk wagon topped up with RO water ready to be pumped into the boilers of the locos that have just been washed out.

Until mentioned in the notes, the following photos were provided by my anonymous source.
The 04, collecting the 8F and milk tanker
Filling up the milk tanker
I've heard of watering down beer before, but never watering down milk.

Mark may like his steam locos to be nicely cleaned, but that doesn't extend to his car it seems, which was to be seen in the car park sporting the phrase "Doris the Dirty Dutton" scrawled on the bonnet:
Perhaps he's keeping it that way for the benefit of an upcoming photo charter?

 A newly welded up steam pipe for 35006 arrived on Friday, and the last one for attention was sent away at the same time:

Newly welded steam pipe arriving
 The steam pipe was hydraulically tested the following day.
The last one just about to go off for welding
 Dinmore Manor was the focus of most attention during the day, here Len (l) and Mike refit the safety valves:
Len & Mike at work
 All of the washout plug holes in the boiler needed tapping out to clean up the threads followed by the washout plugs being reinserted.  Then mud hole doors needed refitting too.  The weather over the previous night had involved rainfall measured by the yard rather than the inch.  The puddle in Dinmore Manor's smoke box was as a consequence of that rather than anything more concerning.  Apparently it made the tapping out of the washout plug hole threads a decidedly damp experience for my anonymous correspondent:
Soggy smokebox
 Mark discovered the same thing as he refitted the washout plugs
He forgot his snorkel
 After a long day, 4270 and 7820 were ready for warming fires in anticipation of the steam tests to come on Saturday:
Pete has just lit a warming fire in 4270
 Ray and Graham from the 5542 owing group were on hand to do some winter fettling on the Planets Favourite Prairie too:
Bit of a clue there relating to the identity of the third of the safety valve cover competition locos.
 Our anonymous correspondent signs off with a couple of views of 7820 and 4270 in the gathering gloom at the end of the day on Friday.
7820 & 4270 with warming fires lit
Dinmore Manor with a warming fire at the end of the day
 That's the end of the photos from the anonymous source.

Saturday (in fact Friday too) was a day of race train specials from Toddington to Cheltenham Race Course for race goers who wanted to arrive at CRC in style.  The fact that they would miss the traffic jams around the race course would be an added bonus for them.  The one steam train would run passengers to CRC in the morning and return with the empty coaching stock .  At lunch time a fish and chip special would take place and then at the end of the day, a third round trip taking the empty coaches down to CRC and fetching back the race goers.   The day had been split into two shifts for the crews and I had the luxury of the late shift, something of a gentleman's turn, arrive very late, go down to CRC on the cushions, then just one and a half round trips later, a very relaxed day would be complete.  None of this getting out of bed at stupid O'Clock in the morning to be at Toddington in time to light the fire and bring the loco into steam.  I set my alarm for half past lie-in and dozed through the morning, bliss!

Upon arrival at Toddington, I still had a bit of time to myself to check up and see what was happening.  That steam pipe for 35006 that had been delivered the day before was now undergoing a hydraulic test.
Pumping up the pressure
Sat at 375 PSI or thereabouts, all welds held tight.
As has been mentioned on here before, Dinmore Manor was still rather grubby from having been 'weathered' for a couple of recent photo charters.  The monsoon a couple of nights before had not had the desired effect, so Ben set to the task of getting 7820 presentable again:
Ben restoring the shine to 7820
You'll be pleased to know that both 7820 and 4270 passed their boiler tests with flying colours.

For some considerable time now, a certain party has nagged mentioned on a number of occasions that it would be nice if I arranged for a trip out on the footplate for her.  Stupid O'Clock in the morning is not really her thing, so Saturday with its civilised start time seemed like the ideal opportunity.  I negotiated with the relevant drivers and procured a pass, we were all set to go.  The party concerned is an annoyingly talented (by which I mean better than me) photographer and most of what follows from here on, unless otherwise stated is courtesy of Fiona Sami.  Needless to say there were many photos of me which have ended up on the cutting room floor.  
A fine study of 4270, 7820 and 5542
The early shift fireman was Ade and our steed for the day was 2807.  
Ade relaxing before the start of the lunchtime fish and chip special
The Cheltenham Flyer Fryer
For the trip down to CRC, we were going down on the cushions, according to the OTC staff on board, the first class coach at the back was the place to hide out away from all the diners.  I needed no second bidding.
All was in good order when I arrived on the footplate at CRC
 Although Ian (driver) and myself were kicking off at a civilised time, Aaron, the cleaner had been on the go since well before dawn.  He's a keen lad and had obviously made a good job of cleaning 2807, as it was shining like a new pin.  I gave him to opportunity to fire back from CRC to Toddington.  Being left handed, he was at a little disadvantage on a GWR loco, but he did ok anyway.
Better suited to a left hand drive loco
Ian on the regulator.
The racing fraternity are noted for quaffing liberal quantities of champagne during the trip down to CRC and then consuming even more on the return trip to either toast their successes on backing the right horses, or more likely to drown their sorrows.  Consequently the buffet on the train starts the day well stocked with bubbly.  Surprisingly, the diners on the fish and chip special managed to polish off the last of the champagne at lunchtime, requiring more stock to be procured in a hurry, ready for the last train to fetch back the race goers. 

 For the last round trip, I took the shovel.  Looking back at it now, I'm not entirely sure that we should have had the Races Express head board in conjunction with the empty coaching stock lamp code, but what the hell.
Empty coach express
It has been brought to my attention that there are certain miscreants on other heritage railways who peruse this blog with the sole intention of discovering mistakes, mishaps and misdemeanours with which to harangue some of our volunteers.  Such occurrences are of course few and far between, but occasionally one or two sneak through.   Here's another one:
Aaron called for the water to be switched off just a bit too late
Note that it was Aaron that called for the water to be switched off too late, not that (I think it was Ade) reacted too slowly.  Rule number 1, it's always the cleaner's fault.

The return trip was the first time that I had fired in the dark for quite a while, I'd forgotten how different it is. It's still extremely enjoyable though.
Aaron posing.... in wet boots....
....whilst yours truly empties the smoke box
 I got sweet talked into doing a little light painting at the end of the day.  I'm much more used to being on the other side of the camera for this sort of thing, it's more difficult than it looks.  The following shot was the result of at least half a dozen retakes.
That's supposed to say "2807"... you just can't get the staff!
And finally, another correspondent (thanks K.M.) has pointed me in the direction of an interesting video titled Steam Locos in Profile: GWR Manors . The video features a number of scenes shot on the GWSR featuring Dinmore Manor.  In particular there is a short footplate sequence featuring Neil and Phil at 7:28 as well as Cliff at 10:37.  A further video from the same production team "Steam Locos in Profile: the GWR 28XXs" features a great deal of footage from the GWSR, mostly of 2807 and 3850 during the 2014 "Back to Black" gala, though our resident 8F, 8274 manages to sneak in briefly near the beginning.  

I know that there are more than a few people who scour this blog looking for mistakes to beat me up with, so I take no joy in pointing out that there is an error in the 28XX video, at 12:14.  If you want to know what it is, here is a pretty heavy (about 75.5 tons) clue:

They also had 3801 listed instead of 3802.