Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Steam Loco Dept on Tour - Part One

My pathetically transparent attempt to evade the GWSR's red tape has come to nothing.  An accident form only marginally less difficult to fill in than an income tax form has duly been filled in and will be returned to the admin office at the weekend. I'm sure that they make the forms so painful to fill in as a means of encouraging people to avoid injuring themselves for fear of having to complete one of the things.  Somewhere a box has been ticked and a blog writer has been ticked off.

If you cast your mind back to this time last year, you may remember that a number of the steam loco dept members packed their buckets and spades and set off to the seaside, well ok, various heritage railways in the vicinity of Kent and Sussex.  We had such a good time, that plans were formulated to do something similar this year.  This time round, the chosen victims destinations were to be the Talyllyn Railway and the Vale of Rheidol Railway.  The reason for the choice was because Bill Tyndall, one of our signalmen moonlights as a passed fireman on the Talyllyn Railway.  Well, to be more precise he moonlights on the GWSR, as he first volunteered on the Talyllyn at the tender age of 9 in 1958 after a visit on a family holiday, but only joined us around 5 years ago. Bill took a break to get married and start a family from 1972 by which time he was a fireman until 1985 and has been there ever since, currently as a passed fireman since 2002.

The plan was to meet up at Toddington on Friday and set off as a group in a 7 seater car.  Our numbers were 2 down on last year, Dan being too preoccupied with his studies and Mark with the winter repairs for Dinmore Manor.  Friday isn't one of the GWSR's busier days, but I thought that I'd turn up a bit early to see what was going on.

First thing to note was that some kind souls have spent some time cleaning up Dinmore Manor. A couple of weeks of being left uncleaned for the benefit of photo charters and she was definitely looking a bit unloved.  It was nice to see her looking her old self again.Thank you to all those who took the trouble to restore her to her usual pristine condition.

Clean once more
 Work has been progressing on 35006, one of her steam pipes is ready to be fitted
Steam pipe
 Ian was to be found lurking underneath 35006 painting anything that looked like it might benefit from a coat of paint.
At first he didn't want his picture taking...
...but soon ignored me and got on with his work.
 Back in the David Page shed, there has been another pour of concrete, this time between the tracks of road 9
It's coming along nicely.
 As is often the case on a Friday, a fire and drive train was about to depart, on this occasion with the 8F.  I notice that the booking dates for the 2015 fire and drive courses are now featured on the website if you're interested.
Fire and drive, you too could be at the controls
  I also noticed that 4270 has returned from her holiday on the Mid Hants Railway.
4270, back with us again
A little later, we'd all arrived and were off.  It seems to be becoming a tradition that a particular one of our number writes off a car a day or two beforehand, as it has happened again.  Name withheld to protect the guilty.  The good news is that he wasn't hurt and wasn't on the railway at the time so he won't need to fill in one of the GWSR's accident report forms.  The bad news is that he'll have to fill in a form or two for his insurance company.

We decided to take the scenic route through the Elan Valley, simply because it looked like it might be pretty from the map.  As it turned out, it was an excellent choice of route, with three large dams and associated lakes along the valley:
The first of the dams, and the GWSR tour party
The third dam, Ed did a very passable Dambusters impression on this one
The Talyllyn Railway is the oldest heritage railway in the world having been founded in 1951, a time when most of today's heritage railways and the locomotives running on them were still part of a recently created British Railways.  The 2'3" narrow gauge linewas opened in 1865 to transfer slate from the Bryn Eglwys quarry to connect with the standard gauge line on the coast at Tywyn.  In 1951, when the line opened as a heritage railway, the first season's trains were all hauled by the railway's then only serviceable locomotive, number 2, Dolgoch.  We were honoured to have the very same locomotive all these years later to haul the trains that we would be taking.

Part of the plan was to meet up with Paul Stratford who retired to mid-Wales earlier this year and consequently gave up being a fireman for the GWSR. 

Paul and Dolgoch
A view into the cab
 It seemed like a good idea to take a photo of the assembled participants in the day's activities.
(l-r) Derek, Ian, George, Bill, Tina, Andy, Laura, Ed and Paul.
 With a few minutes to spare before the first train set off, we were treated to tea from the staff mess room which we took on board with us.
Paul and Ian chinwag about restoring 4270
George and Tina
Ed & Laura
 Derek was missing from these few early shots as he was up on the footplate with Bill and Andy.  A little while later, I went up to the front for a spin on the footplate
Andy Robinson (fireman) and Bill aboard Dolgoch
 As usual, I took my camera along with me to record the event for posterity
Off up the line
Through the round window
If you go down in the woods today.....
Dolgoch passed across Dolgoch viaduct whilst I was on the footplate, which was a bit of a bonus.  There is a well known painting by Terence Cuneo of Dolgoch crossing Dolgoch viaduct, it was easy to imagine him up ahead to the left with his easel and brushes capturing the scene.
Dolgoch crossing Dolgoch viaduct
 Water was taken from this rather quaint water tower which draws water from a stream. 
Topping up the tanks
 Later on back in the carriages,  Laura is missing from this shot, so she must be up on the footplate

Ed with bunny rabbit ears
 The views around the Fathew Valley from the carriages were delightful.  Somewhere just out of sight to the right of this frame, Cadair Idris rises to a height of 2930', by way of comparison, that's not far shy of three times the height of Cleeve Hill. If only I'd had more time and my walking boots with me.
A view across the Fathew Valley
Running round at Nant Gwernol
Cadair Idris is somewhere in those clouds I think.
 Back at Abergynolwyn (cut and paste from the TR website, I couldn't possibly spell that unaided, never mind pronounce it), we were crossed by one of the other two trains in service on Saturday.  It was a wedding special, carrying a just married fireman and guard (I think).  The loco was of particular interest to me being "Edward Thomas", one of two locomotives that the Talyllyn Railway had bought many years ago from the nearby Corris Railway.  Along with "Sir Haydn", these two were once on the books of the GWR as the Corris Railway that they originally ran on was sold to the GWR in 1930, subsequently becoming part of BR in 1948.  Sir Haydn unfortunately was away from the railway on a tour of its own, so we missed seeing it.
Edward Thomas at Abergynolwyn
For the sake of completeness, here is a photo of Sir Haydn, taken at Tywyn the last time I was there:
Sir Haydn
 Several weeks ago, Bill had popped into the steam loco mess coach to chat about the plans for this weekend and he let slip that the guard on the day was somebody else with the same surname as him who was "Nothing but trouble".  Much speculation ensued, but nobody guessed that it was one of his daughters that he was referring to.
Juliet and Bill
 Juliet is to be congratulated as she passed out as a guard on the day that we were there.  The Talyllyn operate a different grading system to the GWSR, they don't have Traveling Ticket Inspector and then Guard as we do, but Trainee Guard, Assistant Guard, Passed Assistant Guard and finally Guard.  It was this last transition that Juliet had achieved.

Meanwhile, Derek was busy making friends of the four legged variety:
Shaking paws
Derek plots how to take his new friend back home with him
 Back on the return journey, we took advantage of the observation coach to watch the scenery slide by.
Tina decided to take some video on her phone
As usual when a camera gets pointed in my direction, I hid behind my own.
 This formation of trees was apparently planted in the shape of a dragon, but I'm struggling to spot it myself.
Cadair Idris the Dragon?
 Somewhere along the line we crossed Number 7, Tom Rolt
Tom Rolt
 A little further along the line, we arrived at Pendre for a guided tour of the workshops.  Our guide, Paul, eluded my camera, but was extremely informative about everything that was to be found there.  From the steam point of view, that included Talyllyn:
Number 1, Talyllyn
 Built in 1864 by Fletcher Jennings, Talyllyn along with Dolgoch are the two original locomotives on the line.  Talyllyn is tastefully turned out in lined BR black.  

The last of the line's steam locos to be accounted for was number 6, Douglas. 
One of the diesel shunters, called Alf, but not having even 'alf a cab was being used to transport surplus wood up the line a little way to construct a bonfire. 
Cabless Alf
The bonfire, with a hi-viz Guy on the top.
 I hope the weather cheered up a bit for them, it looked pretty grim as we set off to back to the lodgings in Aberystwyth after the last train had finished running

 Edward Thomas passed through with the wedding train and returned a little later with the now empty carriages before disposal.
Token exchange with the bobby at Pendre
 Taking on coal doesn't require a fork lift truck like we have at Toddington
Just a few shovels full and she's ready to go again
 A little later, Bill returned with Dolgoch to pick us up for a second round trip of the line.
Dolgoch passes Edward Thomas
Bill and Ian discuss the finer points of Dolgoch
 We couldn't possibly have been made to feel more welcome at the Talyllyn Railway. It's a delightful line set in over seven miles of beautiful Welsh countryside with a fascinating collection of locomotives, never mind being the heritage railway that blazed a trail for others including the GWSR to follow.  If you're ever in the area, I can't recommend it highly enough.

And finally, we stopped for dinner in a pub in Machynlleth on the way back to Aberystwyth.  Ed realised that he had made the mistake of his life by wearing a England rugby shirt and had to spend the evening with his coat on over it, even though it was very warm in the pub.
Ed in his England rugby shirt.... and coat.
Did Ed live to tell the tale?  Find out in part two of the "Steam Loco Dept on Tour" blog post in a couple of weeks time.

1 comment:

  1. A great summary of the day Ray. Most friendly railway I have been to by far!